Concert Reviews

A Report From the Newly Renovated Lost Lake Lounge

If you haven't been to Lost Lake in a little while, it's very different inside. Where the black-walled room and the small stage once stood is the bar with a shelved wall. The area where the bar used to be has been opened up and looked like it was incomplete, with exposed drywall like it was a newly lived-in warehouse space. Except for, you know, the cash register in its usual spot. The larger stage is along the western wall and can accommodate a full rock band rather than the older, smaller stage. It felt more open overall and not somewhat claustrophobic as it had in its previous two formats.

That open feeling of the room, even with the unfinished aspect of the place, suited the music for the night as well. The kind of heavier music with expansive atmospheres and more than a step removed from its obvious stylistic antecedents isn't really a new thing. Groups like Godflesh, Neurosis, Isis, SunnO))) and Sleep expanded the emotional range of heavy music as well as what that music can sound like and still have a leg in metal. When Kylesa and even Napalm Death openly cite My Bloody Valentine as an influence it was a matter of time before some bands would blur the line even further and even perhaps defy limiting categorizations. And not even just within metal but also punk and other musical styles as is the case with Nothing and Merchandise, who are performing together at The Marquis Theater on Wednesday, May 27.

True Widow last played in Denver at Larimer Lounge in 2013 with Chelsea Wolfe and it seemed like the perfect pairing as Wolfe herself has records out on Sergeant House as well as having Ezra Buchla recording on her Pain Is Beauty album. Buchla having been one of the main songwriters in experimental guitar group GOWNS. True Widow's excellent 2014 album, Circumambulation, was released through Relapse, a label known for heavier music, but the engineer for the record was Matt Pence who is perhaps most well-known for his association with Centro-Matic and for recording mainly indie rock projects.

Live, True Widow had a vibrant heaviness that was reminiscent of Denver's now defunct band Bright Channel, which itself borrowed ideas and techniques from heavy metal bands like High On Fire in terms of the creative use of low end. And like Bright Channel there was a brooding, dreamlike quality to this band on stage. Both D.H. Phillips and Nicole Estill sang with a melodic quality that floated above the dark hues of the instrumentation while swimming in synch with the gentle swirl of the gritty ebb and flow rhythm of sounds.

Reinforcing the connection between the heavy low end of the music of True Widow and melodic atmospheric music were the two opening acts. Denver's Palehorse/Palerider was more like a dream pop band but the quality of the bass sound could have fit in with a doom band or a psychedelic metal band because while it complemented the dynamic drum style that accented the group's drifty melodies, it had that dense, fiery quality that Joe Preston brought to High On Fire.

Cloud Catcher may have brought a bit more of a lively boogie rock quality to the show but its own effusive energy had a heavy and heady atmospheric quality of its own. Although its songwriting was more conventional and less abstract than the other two bands on the bill, Cloud Catcher was in line with them in how the low end of the band was emphasized in a way that is put well into the background in many rock bands as well as a knack for solid, transporting melodies—just not in long form.

Having the higher ceiling and uncluttered, open feeling of the room resulted in the music of each of these three bands having the psychological space to push outward, giving the heaviness of the music an expansive momentum instead of weighting the mood down.

Critic’s Notebook

Bias: Been a fan of True Widow for a handful of years.

Random Detail: Ran into Kurt Ottaway of Emerald Siam and Adam Rojo of Voight after the show.

By the Way: Anyone that enjoyed True Widow should consider checking out Nothing, Wolvserpent, Megaton Leviathan, The Body, The Funeral and the Twilight, Deafheaven, Merchandise, Pallbearer, Earth and the aforementioned acts.

If you'd like to contact me, Tom Murphy, on Twitter, my handle is @simianthinker.
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Tom Murphy is a writer, visual artist and musician from Aurora, Colorado. He was a prolific music writer for Westword and a documenter of the Denver music scene.