By Cesar Villatoro
(photos by Andrew Bansal)
March 28th 2017, The Roxy, West Hollywood CA: While I admittedly haven’t been to very many shows that are held at the various legendary venues on the Sunset Strip, I can at least say that I’ve had the good fortune of seeing phenomenal shows each time I have made a visit to this part of town, and tonight was no exception. Continuing their promotion of their latest album ‘Rheia’ which was released in September 2016, headliners Oathbreaker brought with them a very diverse set of bands with them on this tour which spans multiple countries. While it’s unfortunate that King Woman and Sannhet wouldn’t be on this leg of the tour, doom rock band Khemmis and the one-of-a-kind Jaye Jayle filled that void and brought with them their own sound and energy. With three distinctively different but equally talented bands on the line-up, tonight was practically guaranteed to be a no-filler, straight-to-the-point experience. By the time doors opened at 7 PM, there was already a modest number of fans in attendance waiting to experience the first band of the night, and luckily they didn’t have to wait very long as the show promptly (and surprisingly) started right on time at 8 PM.
Starting the night off was Jaye Jayle and immediately you knew they were offering something much different than the other two bands slated to play after them. With a very minimalist set-up in terms of gear, the band let forth such rich, full, encompassing compositions that reverberated throughout the venue. Pulsing bass lines, haunting keyboard melodies, eerie yet beautiful guitar riffs, simple hard-hitting drumbeats, and a trio of harmonized vocals, Jaye Jayle brought it all together so effortlessly. Another distinct trait about their performance that stood out was that the band decided to use only the lights they brought with them on stage, which consisted of 3 dimly lit yellow light stands, creating this mysterious dark aura. The music itself is hard to classify since there are so many influences that can be heard: folk, rock n’ roll, doom, and old blues. To try to nail it down to one single genre is near impossible, so if you want something resembling an accurate description of their sound and live experience, imagine a group of 18th century undertakers from the Old West who decided to make music in an old decaying barn on the frontiers of early America, and you’d get the picture. As their set concluded, the band walked off stage to the universal approval of just about everyone who managed to show up early and catch their act.
A brief intermission between sets was all that was needed for Colorado doom rockers Khemmis to change the vibe and energy from the previous band, and it was change that went well-received. The band opened their set with their distinctive harmonized guitar leads, thunderous bass lines, and pounding drum work. With a more easy-to-grasp sound than Jaye Jayle, Khemmis easily won over fans with their catchy songwriting and high energy performance, with vocalist/rhythm guitarist Phil Pendergast often engaging with the audience, inciting them to throw up their fists in the air with him. While not wholly a traditional doom band but also not bringing anything new to the table for the genre, Khemmis had no problem keeping the crowd entertained and lively for the duration of their set. One aspect about the band that makes them stand out from the wave of doom rock acts is the clean vocals, which were sang nearly perfectly live and with such power. The band played mostly newer material from their latest album ‘Hunted’ which was released last year in October, all of which were solid songs that any fan of heavy metal and doom would highly appreciate.
Last but not least were headliners Oathbreaker who immediately captured the audience’s attention with the beautiful and haunting vocals from Caro Tanghe as she sang ’10:56′, the opening track off their groundbreaking and highly acclaimed latest album ‘Rheia’. Like the calm before the storm, Oathbreaker quickly went from serene to unrelenting, diving straight into ‘Second Son of R’ and letting forth into a frenzy. Frontwoman Caro had such a strong live presence with her powerful and emotional vocals, and her choice of apparel made her resemble a witch on the verge of losing her sanity. The band’s live sound was equal parts incredibly loud and dynamic, with the clean sections of their songs offering a brief respite before plunging the audience back into waves of distortion. Oathbreaker somehow managed to find a way to harness the somber atmosphere from Jaye Jayle’s set and combine it with the energy that Khemmis put out and make it completely their own, showing that the diverse line-up was well thought-out and works great as a whole experience, since the bands compliment each other’s sound as opposed to it being this competition as to who is better. While the band did suffer one technical issue due to a guitarist Gilles Demolder’s guitar or amp acting up during ‘Stay Here/Accroche-Moi’, the band quickly recovered by playing the relentlessly heavy ‘Needles in Your Skin’ instead, which was very well received by the audience. Being a band like Oathbreaker and successfully treading new waters while pushing the boundaries as to what “heavy” really is and can be in extreme forms of metal and hardcore is no easy feat whatsoever. Somehow though, they managed to do just that and bring that level of intensity to their live performances which results in a truly captivating experience that requires you to witness firsthand to understand how special it really is.
Every band at this show brought forth and presented their own musical style which as a whole culminated into a very wide-ranging show that easily catered to the numerous musical interests of the audience in attendance. This particular line-up has a little more than a handful of shows left before Khemmis swaps with Sannhet in New York, so if you’ve been curious to check out these bands then I highly recommend you catch them on this cycle of the tour.
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Oathbreaker set list:
2. Second Son of R
3. Being Able to Feel Nothing
5. Where I Live
6. Where I Leave
7. Needles in Your Skin
8. Glimpse of the Unseen
Oathbreaker remaining tour dates:
04/01/2017 – Boise, ID @ The Shredder ^
04/02/2017 – Salt Lake City, UT @ Urban Lounge ^
04/03/2017 – Denver, CO @ Marquis Theater ^
04/04/2017 – Kansas City, MO @ Riot Room ^
04/05/2017 – Chicago, IL @ Subterranean ^
04/06/2017 – Detroit, MI @ El Club ^
04/08/2017 – New York, NY @ Studio at Webster Hall %
04/09/2017 – Allston, MA @ Great Scott %
^ = w/ Khemmis & Jaye Jayle
% = w/ Sannhet & Jaye Jayle