St. Luke’s stands alone in a strangely vacant lot in eastern Glasgow, a hulking and menacing monument not too far from the Necropolis cemetery. Out of habit, I arrived a bit late, but I truly wish I hadn’t. Arriving on time would have allowed me more time to watch and listen to Jo Quail, a London-based experimental electric cellist. Opening for two of the heaviest music acts in history as a solo string instrumentalist must be nerve-wracking, but Quail’s set was brilliant and deeply moving. Using only a loop pedal, Quail manages to summon sounds out of her cello that seem impossible. Each song is expansive and and includes dissonant wails and sounds that could have been mistaken for a kick drum had she not generated the sound with a bow and some strings right in front of the audience. Just a couple minutes into her set, it becomes clear why Boris invited her to join them – in her music was some similarity to the early soundscapes of post-rock groups like Godspeed You! Black Emperor, and Boris’s reverence for that sound runs deep. That being said, Quail's sound is truly her own, and is asbolutely incredible.
Jo Quail’s set ends, and Boris begins to set up. Boris is a legendary boundary-pushing metal band from Japan that has been fundamentally changing the field of heavy music for over 20 years. Among the objects on the stage are a gong, a double-necked guitar, and more amplifiers than one band should ever need. Boris walks on stage, and the crowd goes wild. And then the music actually starts. I’ll preface this section by saying that, in my opinion, Boris’s latest album was just good – a great exhibition of their sound, but nothing groundbreaking. None of that mattered when they began to play. The pure weight of Boris’s live performances is well known, but nothing prepared me for the solid wall that hit me. Sound structure as a concept dissolves, and the next hour or so is spent embracing loudness as an art form. It is bliss. This is not to say that that the musicianship itself isn’t amazing, because it is. Atsuo’s ferocious stamina on the kit is awe-inspiring, and Wata’s wispy vocals are an incredible accompaniment to the heaviness. But when songs meld together and you can feel the guitar tone in your core, more traditional measures of a live set are less consequential.
The set ends (with a brutal wall of noise), and Amenra enters. A Belgian atmospheric sludge metal band with their share of critical acclaim, Amenra excels at pairing heaviness with unadulterated passion, and this set is no different. The band alternates between ambient interludes and head-banging heaviness, with the lead vocalist Colin van Eeckhout wailing his heart out. Hair-raising black and white visuals are projected on the back wall of St. Luke’s, and the audience throbs in time with Amenra’s hypnotic down-tuned riffs. Amenra’s music is formulaic, for better or for worse, and for someone who isn’t as familiar with their individual songs, the set begins to get slightly repetitive. This, however, is my only critique; Amenra was fantastic overall.
Do these bands sound interesting? You can purchase Amenra’s latest record here, Boris’s latest record here (although my favorite of theirs is Flood), and Jo Quail’s latest record here. Support independent music, buy music on Bandcamp.