by Ryan Buege
It's that time of year again! The snow has melted, birds are flying home, and soon all the trees in Minnesota will once again enter their rare period of leaf-bearing. As you're probably well aware, it's also the time of year when the nation's finest names in underground music descend to Austin, TX for a weekend of music and good times. Virtually every city in the country sends some talent to the capital of the lonestar state during the SXSW weekend each year, and here it's no different. In Minneapolis, we were proud to send off quite a few great names to Austin this year (EMPIRES, GAY WITCH ABORTION, the BIRTHDAY SUITS, and many others immediately come to mind)… but not before our beloved locals left us with some of the inevitable send off shows!
One nugget of fruit from these circumstances came on Saturday March 13th, a date that proved to be very fortunate date for local metal fans of the doom, sludge, and post-metal persuasion. As luck would have it, A STORM OF LIGHT – the prophetic avant doom metal band helmed by the Josh Graham of BATTLE OF MICE and NEUROSIS's art department and featuring alumni of TOMBS, BATILLUS, and RELIGIOUS TO DAMN – were traveling across the country from west-to east on the last leg of their tour at the very same time that BATTLEFIELDS – fellow Minnesotans as well as the progenitors of one of the most lethal strains of raging doom and experimental post rock I've recently been privy to – were preparing to set out on a short run of dates down to Texas. My friend Jimmy and I assumed that it might be as good of a time as any to gather some cheap camera equipment and film a multi-cam video to capture the night – and that's what we did. (..eh.. two cameras qualifies as multi-, right?)
After more than a year and a half on the road supporting their critically-lauded album Thresholds of Imbalance, BATTLEFIELDS sounds tighter than ever. It's hard to describe, but they have now refined songs that sounded stellar on the record to any entirely new level of haunting awesomeness. Considering they only had time for a tightly packed 3-song, 30-minute performance, the super-heavy-yet-altogether-entrancing set that they delivered left me craving for a new album. We recorded the opener to their set that night, their 11-minute segue from "Nibru" through the mammoth "Blueprint".
A STORM OF LIGHT ended the night with a set of foreboding avant-metal and doom that easily surpassed most expectations. With the wailing, primal roar of the band's new album Forgive Us Our Trespasses serving as the focus of the night, the quartet pummeled hypnotized onlookers with a grinding yet infectious avalanche of experimental doom. Early in the set they locked in on a deadly, methodical dirge, creating a perfect meditative backdrop for Graham's powerful visual presentation to coalesce with. Having witnessed his work with RED SPAROWES live in the same venue a few years ago, I was well aware of what he'd be capable of in the visual department. However, I'm also well aware that he's a pretty mysterious guy and that I couldn't quite know what to expect. For all I knew, a depressive doom metal hymnal like "Mass" might translate just as appropriately with a dark, lightless stage show. Thankfully, he didn't agree, and we were treated to an expertly-curated visual presentation of the trippiest degree. We recorded the second song of the set, the brand new "Across the Wilderness".