Photography and Text by Ben Manzella
Continuing with one of the few routines I’ve picked up since moving to Portland last summer, I headed to the Tonic Lounge for a night of music. While the lineups can certainly vary, if a show is going on at Tonic, it’s more than likely worth checking out (and they have some good food options as well). I was especially excited because I had been trying to see At the Heart of the World for a while now, and they were set to open the show along with fellow Portland locals Atriarch. This with Mirrors for Psychic Warfare (a project by Sanford Parker and Scott Kelly) headlining the evening.
Bands that perform as a duo can be unpredictable; sometimes the music is great quality, but ultimately, the band isn’t much for performing. At other times, there are just too many theatrics and not much music to care about; At the Heart of the World not only pummeled theirs into your ears, but are the more than ready for their audience on the performance. With a good-sized wall of amps behind them, guitarist Daniel Porter and vocalist Joshua Greene were ready to be heard in and beyond Portland. Utilizing various effects pedals across the spectrum of instrumentation (including vocals), I described the sound to a friend later as a mix of Godflesh and the darker moments of My Bloody Valentine, with the vocals reminding me of some black metal influences as well in their harsher, scratchier moments. I don’t intend to use these associations as a way of journalistic pigeonholing; it was merely what came to mind upon my first impression. I can honestly say that they’re possibly the first local band I’ve seen here from whom I immediately bought a CD after their set ended. If you’re a fan of harsh industrial, I’d highly recommend checking out their recently released LP, Rotting Forms, through Glory Kid.
Next in the lineup for the evening would be Atriarch, whom I hadn’t seen them live since 2014. After the release of their latest LP, Dead as Truth, it was a particularly rewarding experience to be able to see Atriarch live again. The encompassing and dark nature of their music makes an Atriarch live show a consuming experience; Lenny Smith‘s vocal delivery was already stunning on recording and was honestly overwhelming in intensity in a live setting. The shifts of rhythm range from funeral march of plodding drums and thick bass to charging drums and thunderous, dissonant guitars as Smith’s vocals howl into the void. I don’t know for certain if Atriarch are planning any tours in the remainder of 2018, but the dark/heavy music scene needs this more raw approach to music brought back to the forefront. I believe Atriarch has a sound that people would do well to be familiar with.
Finally, the last hour of the evening would belong to Mirrors for Psychic Warfare. As has been documented on Heathen Harvest and the few other websites I’ve contributed to throughout the years, I’m a long-time fan of Neurosis and have been aware of Sanford Parker’s work as a musician/engineer for some time now with bands such as Minsk, Buried at Sea, Corrections House, and High Confessions to name a few. As is heard on the self-titled LP, this collaborative project lies somewhere between industrial and ambient to varying degrees. To be clear, I don’t mean ambient in the Brian Eno sense of the word, but rather ambient in the sense of artists/releases you might hear on labels like Chondritic Sound and Dais Records; sure, there are moments that may start soothing the listener, but there is an overall dystopic and unsettling atmosphere making the gear turn. If you’re familiar with Kelly’s vocal delivery in Neurosis and/or Corrections House, this is still a bit of change and a very interesting one at that. The lyrics could even be considered to be similar to a mantra; both a lyrical device as well as a natural component to the rhythm course through the song courtesy of Parker’s programming and samples. If you’re looking for a different approach to how ambient soundscapes and industrial can be combined, I highly recommend listening to the debut LP from Mirrors for Psychic Warfare. As is befitting of music that is rather suffocating and cold in atmosphere and personality, the end of the set was fairly abrupt, leaving the audience to settle ourselves as we all went our separate ways. With a new LP in the works, I’m even more excited to hear what Parker and Kelly are continuing to create together.