There are few labels that consistently churn out heavy albums of the high calibre we’ve come to know from Southern Lord Records. As such, a tour featuring a handful of the label’s favored charges posed the potential for a night of exceptionally good heavy music.
Headlined by what may be the only current band with the sonic clout capable of restoring the fire in the belly of even the most jaded of metal fans, Seattle’s Black Breath, the Southern Lord Tour shook the the intimate 529 Bar in Atlanta’s hip east village right to its very foundation. The first of Southern Lord’s purveyors of bombast to take the stage on Sunday night was Atlanta locals, Dead in the Dirt. The trio played a set of bone shaking, grindcore infused punk that, between the unbridled beast of feedback they allowed to roam free between songs and the band’s incredible volume itself, felt like a war of sonic attrition.
Milwaukee-based hardcore metal hybrid Enabler took the stage next. I was initially vexed by how familiar the drummer looked, yet I failed to place the face with a name before the band unleashed their set of slack-stringed fury. Enabler forced the growing coven of metal fans into a unison involuntary head-bang. Their final song, “They Live, We Sleep”, ended with a riff that will swim around the memory banks for ages; some gargantuan sounding chunk not too far removed from something Disembodied might have written, though the band’s sound was refreshingly original. And, it turns out the familiar face behind the kit was Fall Out Boy’s Andy Hurley, who showed he still had his heavy chops from his days in Racetraitor.
Some classic Samhain played over the PA as Canada’s Burning Love set up their gear, without a doubt the perfect way to prime the room for the most rock ‘n’ roll oriented group of the night. Burning Love’s frontman is Chris Colohan, formerly of the mighty Cursed. Colohan is potentially the most underrated lyricist, vocalist, and frontman in the world of heavy music. The band thundered through their set with the calamity of MotÃ¶rhead, the riffs of Black Sabbath, and the rage of Black Flag, to make for a final product that is as purely rock ‘n’ roll as anything available today.
Colohan climbed the building’s exposed plumbing as he screamed his way through love songs, songs about serial killers, and the odd Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds cover. The cover was a rare live performance of the song, “Jack The Ripper”, that the band recorded and released as a B-side to the “Don’t Ever Change” 7″. As they introduced the Cave classic, the room split in two with a volley of beer cans flying about overhead and the room pulsated in unison as Colohan continued to climb around in the venue’s glowing red bowels.
Next up to play was Swedish band, MartyrdÃ¶d. The band’s sound is a mix of black metal, death metal, and d-beat crust, and they look exactly like you would hope a Swedish metal band would: long hair, mutton chops, bullet lined belts, and few shirts in sight. The band’s set started with a sound that could only be described as musical retching with a Swedish accent, and the band continued through a breakneck series d-beat fueled metal that sounded both heavy and distinctly Scandinavian.
Closing out the night, Black Breath took the stage. As lead singer Neil McAdams checked his mic, the stage was absolutely cluttered with amplifiers, bass drums, black Les Pauls, and hair. The fervor of impending metal domination was palpable in the room as the band’s frontman continued with his mic check.
Finally, the band let loose with the opening track from the critically-sound Sentenced to Life, and the snugly packed room swayed under the release from both audience and band. As McAdams stalked the area in front of the stage, the group’s twin guitar assault chugged away and the crowd vied for the opportunity to share the microphone. The audience was one with the band for the entire duration of the performance as the small room chanted along with McAdam’s demonic howl and. drummer, Jamie Byrum, hit every single fill from the albums with absolute accuracy. Though songs like “Razor to Oblivion” from the band’s first EP of the same name enjoyed great reactions, the new songs were received by a small sea of raised fists and banging heads.
The show was a relatively small affair that sort of belied the success Black Breath appears to be enjoying via the hype machine. However, a Sunday night crowd at a small bar made for a night of headbanging, earsplitting and completely enthralling heavy metal, courtesy of a band that will most likely find themselves free of the burdens of such intimate club performances sooner than later, and a label that appears to have found one hell of a stride.
Photography by Joshua Shomburg.