I have yet to see a show at O’Brien’s Pub in Allston and regret having shown up. At this point, that’s a pretty good track record, since I’ve far and away spent more time in that room than anywhere else since moving north last year. Last night was Holly Hunt and Hollow Leg on tour from Florida, joined by Newport, Rhode Island’s Balam and Boston’s own Ichabod for a persistently heavy but still varied four-band bill of doom and sludge. I’d had no coffee owing to a dentist appointment in the afternoon and have no problem admitting that I’m still reeling from being laid off last week from my last remaining income-providing job, but I was ready to see a show, and I got what I went for, Balam starting off with their well-honed take on doom.
Vocalist Alexander Carellas mentioned on stage that he and a couple others in the double-guitar five-piece were sick, but the band sounded no worse for the wear up to and including his own voice, which had also impressed when I saw them last summer with Olde Growth and Keefshovel (review here). They were starting off a week-long stint of shows around the Northeast — Boston, Providence, Portland, Burlington, Poughkeepsie, New Bedford, Providence again — and fresh from a gig at Dusk in Providence with Magic Circle, playing songs from an upcoming full-length for which the recording is reportedly in progress, so it wasn’t really a surprise they were tight, but it made for a solid start to the evening nonetheless, their riffs adding trad doom edge that the sludgier Hollow Leg would contradict almost immediately upon stepping on stage.
My desire to see Hollow Leg was twofold. First (spoiler alert) they’re good. Second, they seem to be in a state of transition. Their 2013 full-length, Abysmal (review here), followed in the muck-caked Southern sludgy footsteps of its predecessor, 2010′s Instinct, albeit with more of a focus on songwriting than the debut. Their 2014 single, “God-Eater,” on the other hand, came with word of seeking out a new direction “sonically, visually and lyrically,” so I was curious to find out how that played next to Hollow Leg‘s ultra-aggressive prior approach. Sure enough, “God-Eater” was pretty easy to pick out as the second song of their set, but it wasn’t necessarily incongruous with what surrounded.
Maybe hearing it once through in a set isn’t the best way to get a feel overall, but from what I heard, the new song worked well next to “8 Dead (in a Mobile Home)” from Abysmal, though I imagine the context of Hollow Leg‘s next studio output will make the shift more obvious. I look forward to finding out, and wasn’t sorry to hear their abusive crunch in the meantime, somewhat cleaner than Sourvein but definitely of that ilk. Last I saw them was before Abysmal was released, and they had a commanding presence then, but they got on stage and clicked immediately, which was only fitting for being five shows deep into the tour. The duo Holly Hunt, also from Florida and whom I hadn’t seen previously, would soon follow suit.
Holly Hunt also had new material from an EP called Prometheus that’s set to release next month as the follow-up to the Miami-based instrumental two-piece’s 2012 Year One full-length debut. They’re one of those bands that I’ve heard from several reliable sources that “you gotta see.” Sure enough, as heavy as their recorded stuff is, it does little justice to the volume emanating from guitarist Gavin Perry‘s dual Hiwatt heads or the distinct crash of Beatriz Monteavaro, who celebrated her birthday in lumbering style. Sound-wise, they are as elemental as you’re likely to hear — elephantine riffs cycled through in vicious nod, played very, very loud. On paper it’s a simple formula, standing in front it’s enough to shake your ribcage. At one point I heard a crackle and was convinced the O’Brien’s P.A. wasn’t long for this world, but fortunately it held out under the tonnage of tonal heft Holly Hunt supplied.
Given the unromantic duty of closing out a four-bander on a Tuesday night, two-guitar fivesome Ichabod answered Holly Hunt‘s demolition with their own brand thereof, frontman John Fadden shifting with intimidating ease between clean vocals and sit-tight-because-I-can-do-this-all-night screaming, lending the set a sense of drama to go with the alternately rocking and crushing riffs of Dave Iverson and Jason Adam, the steady and inventive bass of Greg Dallaria and the drums of Phil MacKay, which somehow prove to be the uniting force between the band’s space-rock push and their seething, malevolent sludge. Their psycho-delia was fluid through two new cuts from their upcoming LP, Merrimack, as well as favorites “Baba Yaga,” “Huckleberry” and “Hollow God” from 2012′s Dreamscapes from Dead Space, the latter of which closed out the evening on perhaps its angriest note — no small accomplishment considering the company Ichabod were keeping.
With the evening-long assault of volume as a comparison point, Allston seemed especially quiet on my way out of the venue. Holly Hunt and Hollow Leg roll into Brooklyn tonight, March 26, to share a bill at St. Vitus with The Scimitar, Kings Destroy and Clamfight as a benefit show for Aaron Edge of Lumbar to help with medical bills in his continued fight with MS. Info on that gig is here, and no doubt it’ll be one for the ages. Me, I’ll take what I can get, and was glad I got to see these acts at all, let alone on a show that was so dead on, front to back. No complaints.
More pics after the jump. Thanks for reading.