Sea of Tranquility's Ken Pierce was on hand at the new rock and metal club The Lit Lounge on June 11th to see a showcase for two The End Records bands-Canada's unexpecT and headliner Virgin Black. Read on for Ken's full review of the night's festivities!
When I say that this gig came faster than the taxman then you must believe me. I had only just finished enjoying the newest release by Virgin Black on The End Records (an interesting CD entitled Requiem: Mezzo Forte) and suddenly, like a bolt of lightning there was a New York gig scheduled. The performance would be held at The Lit Lounge, a club I had yet to visit, and would also be on a Monday night. This fact alone presented a problem based on work demands so it would definitely be one of those last minute decisions for me. I have to admit that my mind was made up when I learned that opening for the band tonight would be the one and only unexpecT from Montreal. The uneXpect had tried to return to the States a little over a year ago but were stopped at the gates for some odd reason. As I walked into the Lit Lounge, I found the upstairs to be a rather sizable bar but the bands were going to be playing in the clubs basement area - so down I went into the abyss. The downstairs area is quite small and confined but there is a spot to set up equipment and places to congregate should you have a very minimal crowd attending. There is a bar in the back and a spot for merchandise to be sold as well as an area where the bands can prep and ready themselves to perform. The stage size is small by regular standards but with a trio this would work. The unexpecT are a large group with a full seven members making them up so this was going to be tight. So cramped were they for space that I teased guitarist/vocalist Syriak that should he need a little more room that perhaps he should fire someone for the night. He remained up on the stage with their stunning vocalist Leilindel and bassist Chaoth while guitarist Artagoth and new violin player Blaise Borboen-Leonard stood in the front of the stage and were literally inches from the audience. The great thing about this band is that adverse situations seem to feed the beast all the more and despite being cramped up in the space they had they exploded into their set of material which was primarily comprised of songs from their debut release on The End Records called In A Flesh Aquarium. Their sound is very difficult to explain and even harder to get after only one listen so finding them performing is a fantastic thing. One needs to see the group perform live as they are intense and electrifying on the stage.
While I love this group and became an instant fan when I saw them perform with The Gathering that first time last year, I was growing very uncomfortable by the violin player's manic movements with his bow. Almost immediately after he began his furious playing I expected that either my own or the young lady next to me would have our eyes taken out. Oh well, at least we still would have heard them. The sound down in this venue was not as bad as I expected and the group was delivering. Leilindel has incredibly long hair and it spun like a tornado during the set and often remained caught on the ceiling which made for an interesting visual. You need to get their album if you have not done so already because there is such a unique blending of Black Metal, Hard Rock, Spoken Word and everything but the kitchen sink put to music that you are left fascinated and exhausted at the same time after hearing it. I can never gauge which songs of theirs are my most favored based on the level of sensory assault that gets put forth when they perform – just take it as this, I enjoy everything they do equally and never worry about laying preference on particular tracks to be fair to them all. The unexpecT are in my opinion the type of band that looks at acceptable conventions in music and replies "no thank you". Instead they opt to give you whatever they can think of to keep it interesting. They are truly one of the most progressive talents in Metal music today. Watch this band closely as bigger things are clearly awaiting them.
A short break and equipment change found Virgin Black up on the stage and to my knowledge they had not been to the States in about three years. If you are only just hearing the name well let me explain to you that they are a mixture of Gothic and Symphonic styles that tosses in doses of Metal to make their sound all the more captivating. The group was founded by guitarist Samantha Escabe and vocalist/keyboardist Rowan London. They are completed by Grayh on bass and Luke Faz who handles drums. During live shows they have the added presence of another guitar player to make the sound all the more full. The US tour they were embarking on would find Mark Kelson handling these duties. They have a big sound and since there are often orchestrations present during the songs Rowan has many samples programmed into his keyboards to allow them to present the music the way it is done on the album. From their latest effort on The End we found the band only performing two numbers out of the eight they would execute tonight. The sound of Virgin Black is more suited to a concert hall as opposed to a place like the Lit Lounge but as you watched him perform you would think that he was standing proudly in front of thousands instead of the dozens who had crammed into this club. His gaze is intense and determined during the set and his voice passionate and full of purpose. Escarbe herself is able to mesmerize you with her guitar work and one seldom sees her face as she keeps it hidden by her hair as she plays. Whether this is accidental or done on purpose I have not yet determined. Grayh sings as well to assist in the presentation of their dramatic music and this set was really keeping the audience riveted as they brought these songs to life. The music does not cause the crowd to go crazy and mosh during it but instead finds them focused on every chord and line until they are completed. When a song has completed the audience reacts in kind just like this were a kind of symphony. London does not really speak to the crowd or interact with them much and as you observe you would find that he carries himself in a regal fashion as if some Gothic King addressing his subjects. I definitely would want to see Virgin Black again but it would have to be in a different club setting the next time around as I felt this particular venue took more away from the performance than it brought to it.
Overall there was a decent crowd for a late Monday night event but there clearly could have been more attending had the venue not been restricting entry for those who were 21 and over. The nearby Knitting Factory had a sold out show tonight and there were kids just looking for some live music after finding themselves shut out of that place getting turned away when they found something up over at Lit Lounge. I might be wrong, but I felt that this practice was finding the band performing primarily to those who already knew what they were in store for as opposed to finding some stragglers to convert among them. This particular club is more for a smaller time group or some unsigned stuff as opposed to label bands with a few albums under their belt if you asked me. Despite these couple of reservations it was a great performance and these are both bands that I can safely recommend that you look more into.
Unexpect Set List
The Shiver : Another Dissonant Chord
The Shiver : Meet me at the Carousel
In velvet coffins we slept
Virgin Black Set List
I Sleep With The Emperor
Walk Without Limbs
Opera de Romanci
Our Wings Are Burning
Stare, And The Kiss of God's Mouth
Lacrimosa (I Am Blind With Weeping)
Official Web site: www.virginblack.com
Official Web site: www.unexpect.com