When: Sat., Aug. 6, 7:30 p.m. 2016
For its fifth annual festival, Wisconsin metal label Gilead Media has gone west to Olympia, Washington, home of the fellow travelers at 20 Buck Spin, for a collaborative blowout called Migration, whose lineup is so good it almost makes me angry: the three-day event, which begins August 12, includes sets by the likes of False, Vastum, Vhol, Mournful Congregation, Christian Mistress, Mizmor, and Kowloon Walled City, as well as the first-ever public performance by Panopticon. Fortunately two bands on the bill, Boston doom five-piece Forn and New York black-metal outfit Yellow Eyes, are stopping in Chicago on their way out.
Forn’s two Gilead releases—the 2015 EP Weltschmerz and their sole full-length, The Departure of Consciousness, released in 2014 and reissued by Gilead last year—roar and tremble with subterranean dread and melancholy. The guitars combine a dense, viscous down-tuned growl with faraway keening and ringing, their melodies and countermelodies tugging at your body like a river with currents at different depths. Beneath the hoarse, clotted vocals, the riffs move at a stately pace, like the slow implacable drip of underground water that builds huge columns of stone, but the drums leaven the bludgeoning repetition with occasional tumbling and galloping. On the longest songs, the labyrinthine structures take so long to return to a pattern you recognize that you feel like you’ll never find your way back to where you started.
Yellow Eyes’ third album and Gilead debut, last year’s Sick With Bloom, sounds like a swift mountain stream after the thaw: cold, tightly channeled, and carrying its own broken skin of ice in a million jagged pieces. The thin shriek of the vocals almost feels lost in its lunging, turbulent fury. The bass carries its own melodies, adding weight to the brittle blastbeats and the tremolo-picked blur of the swooping, hovering riffs (something I’m glad to hear more and more black-metal bands doing). Frequent sudden changes in density and feel set Yellow Eyes apart from the relatively pastoral groups working similar territory—this beauty comes freighted with violence and threat, like a spectacular spring flood. You want to watch the river rise, but it just might chew the bridge out from under your feet—or simply explode from its banks and swallow you.