The Ocean / The Atlas Moth, Toronto, April 2, 2014

The Ocean and The Atlas Moth with Kosmograd and The Parallax at the Hard Luck Bar in Toronto, April 2, 2014

Review by Laura Wiebe
Photos by Adam Wills

As we walked up the stairs into the Hard Luck Bar, The Parallax were nearing the tail end of their set, witnessed by several (unsurprisingly) dark clad figures breaking up the space in front of the stage or seated at the tables filling the back section of the room. The environment registered just the right amount of grungy and gloomy.

After a short break the second local opener, Kosmograd, stepped up to take their turn. While they played, the audience size slowly increased and expanded, working its way toward a critical mass. At the same time, Kosmograd’s performance forged the beginnings of a suitably hypnotic atmosphere, with their more abrasively heavy blasts balanced against many slow and doomy, almost psychedelic, moments to create a pulsingly effective groove.

The rest of the night belonged to the Americans…

Chicago’s The Atlas Moth were next, their relationship with label Profound Lore giving them a regional connection. With a new album on the near horizon they promised us “a bunch of new jams” alongside some older tracks, and eventually dedicated the title track from the upcoming record (The Old Believer) to tour mates The Ocean. The Atlas Moth perform like a finely calibrated organic machine, every part in delicate alignment for maximum power output. Their expertly delivered compositions are rich in texture, the interweaving of clean and growled vocals providing the crowning touch.

It wasn’t long before The Ocean took over for their headlining set, a watery video projection shifting and flickering behind them. Like their latest album, Pelagial, their performance seemed to start out fairly mellow but get progressively heavy and doomy with each moment that passed. The bands before them had already established a sense of heavy fluidity, but The Ocean epitomized this viscous quality, their songs flowing like impossibly cold lava. It wasn’t alienating cold though but inviting, maybe in part from the sense of collegiality marked by the earlier shout out and The Atlas Moth’s singer briefly joining The Ocean on stage.

Lately I’ve been, more so than usual, captivated by musicians’ use of rhythm, and this show gave me plenty to absorb. Although, at one level, much of the metal flowed at a slow, gradual pace, there was a rhythmic depth to these performances that meant there was always so much more going on. The collective result was a kind of restrained vitality, and music that appeals to the mind as well as the body.

Laura is associate editor of and co-host of weekly metal show Kill Eat Exploit the Weak on CFMU 93.3 FM. She loves doom, prog, cats and basketball, believes in equity and social justice and is not cool with any form of discrimination, marginalization, harassment or oppression.