Thursday, February 14, 2013

Gig: Quest For Fire

Quest For Fire (Shooting Guns / Holy Mount)

The Silver Dollar Room. Friday, July 15, 2011.

As I think I've said before, I've never been especially partial to straight-up metal. But add something hyphenated in front of it — especially "sludge" — and it's closer to my zone. There's just something I like in using the slow drone of creeping heaviosity as an alternate route to psychedelic bliss.

That'd be enough to draw me out for a Friday night that might be a bit tangential to my normal fare, but it was pretty quiet in the room as Holy Mount led off the night. Their evolution took them ever-closer to a pure, elemental primordial tar pit of sound, their ultimate three-piece configuration (with Brandon McKenzie on bass, Troy Legree on drums, and Danijel Losic on guit) really honing in on a befitting terrain of heaviosity.

Featuring lyrics pitched somewhere between suburbia and Ragnarök (see, respectively, "Meadowvale" and "Garm of Hounds"), Losic's workmanlike vox never upstaged the effortless muscular crunch, and even if they didn't offer much in the way of presentation, it meant there was less to distract from the tasty presentation of songs like "Breeze Blows West". This time out, they were playing a slightly-longer set than I'd seen from 'em before, but given their preferred speed, that still only meant seven songs in forty minutes, presented without deadtime in between — or much in the way of chatter, besides reminding the crowd to check out their 7".1

Listen to a track from this set here.

I didn't know anything about out-of-towners Shooting Guns, but from their first sludgy riff from their Gibson SG's (Satan's own guitar) I could tell the Saskatoon quintet would fit right into the night. The band would subsequently get some Polaris attention for their then just-released Born To Deal In Magic: 1952-1976, but even as they were making their first foray across the country, they had a few enthusiasts on hand.

Stereotypes are a terrible thing, but I must confess that, at some level, the band played right into my preconceived notions about Saskatchewan. Which is to say that this crew — some with beards, some with long hair, and some with beards and long hair — looked like they could have bonded while hotknifing after a fight in a parking lot. But that's probably a narrow view to take of a whole province.

The set opened with "Sky High & Blind", a grinding instrumental heavy enough to curdle your Vi-Co — and it slowly become apparent that that was the band's predominant mode. "Harmonic Steppenwolf", another song here, could act as a genre tag or statement of purpose. Without vocals, the riffs sometimes blurred together from one song to the next, but the songs usually managed to have unique sonic personalities. "Cheater's Justice", the last one in the set, came with with a cymbal-riding groove and shimmering keyboard line that approached, say, Moon Duo. Steven Reed's double-decker keybs set the five-piece apart and added a bit of a cosmic edge — rarely playing melodically, their function was sort of phased-out whitenoise wheedling underneath the grind, biting and hissing like a prairie wind on a minus forty winter day.

Listen to a track from this set here.

Another band whose members were sporting long hair, beards, or both, it was surprising to hear Quest For Fire singer/guitarist Chad Ross note that this was the band's first time playing the Dollar. And, given their fairly large fanbase, it was even more surprising to observe that they were playing to a half-filled room on a Friday night.

After the slow lurch of opener "Sessions of Light", the band switched over to their faster gear for a couple songs (including "Bison Eyes") before really settling back in at their optimal speed with "Hawk That Hunts the Walking". As they wandered into "The Greatest Hits By God" — arguably their best song — I suddenly felt like I'd found a Golden Ticket for a lifetime supply of cough syrup. I was so relaxed that a few minutes later I realized I was almost drooling on myself. I don't know the details of the physics behind it, but I'm given to understand that something this gravitationally heavy has a propensity to dilate time in its immediate area, manifesting in a sort of blissed-out state where the forty-five minute set (just enough to tackle seven songs) felt like it passed in a mere thousand light-years or so. They actually came back to encore with "Strange Waves", wherein Mike Maxymuik's floor tom tumbled over, but they managed to ooze through it with no more damage than flowing lava leaves on a mountainside.2

Listen to a track from this set here.

1 Holy Mount have since disbanded. Losic is now playing with a new unit called Surinam, which features members of Anagram and Town Ship. They'll be opening up at tomorrow's QFF show.

2 Quest For Fire have recently announced their dissolution. Their last gig will be tomorrow (February 15, 2013) at The Horseshoe.

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