YOB, Voivod & Amenra annihilated Brooklyn’s Warsaw (pics, review)
The YOB / Voivod / Amenra tour landed in Brooklyn for a show at Warsaw last night (4/4), and though YOB and Voivod were technically co-headliners and Amenra were technically openers, it really felt like an all-around equal triple bill. Each band played a full-length set, the place was packed for all three bands, and each band sounded phenomenal in their own way. Amenra started the night with an intimidating, dead-serious stage presence and a slow-building pace, Voivod kicked up the tempos and the lightheartedness significantly, and YOB basically occupied the middle ground between those two bands. All three acts fit together perfectly, and there was just enough musical diversity to keep you from ever feeling like you were seeing too much of the same thing.
Amenra, who are celebrating their 20th anniversary this year, are on Neurosis' Neurot Recordings (which YOB were also on for their 2014 album, before moving to Relapse for last year's Our Raw Heart), and they take after Neurosis a lot but they clearly put their own spin on what they do. Like Neurosis' live shows, Amenra's set had long stretches of clean, post-rocky material, and then out of nowhere the sludge would come bulldozing in, with a thunderous low-end that you could feel in your gut. The intensity of their performance was matched by the ominous on-screen visuals playing behind them, and it all came together to create an atmosphere that was truly mesmerizing. Their sets are the type to completely overtake you, not get you to mosh and sing along, and this was further emphasized by vocalist Colin H. van Eeckhout spending the majority of the show with his back to the crowd. Only rarely did he turn around and hover over the crowd with his mic like a more traditional frontman.
As you'd expect, Voivod took nearly the opposite approach. Snake is the kind of frontman who runs around the stage all night, never stops smiling, and encourages constant crowd participation, and their projections, like their music, were more colorful, cartoony, lighthearted and futuristic. The crowd followed suit, bouncing around and throwing up devil horns and shouting the words back in the band's faces all night. Every band on this bill has been around for a while, but Voivod are true veterans and legends, with music dating back to the original thrash era like their 1987 prog-thrash classic Killing Technology (and they still have Snake and drummer Away from their original lineup). They played some Killing Technology material last night, but they also played songs from last year's The Wake and proved that the new songs are as effective in a live show environment as the classics. Their newer members Chewy (now in the band over 10 years) and Rocky are no slouches either. They closed their set like they often do, with "Voivod," the first song from Voivod's first album (1984's War and Pain), and they had the whole crowd screaming along, fists in the air ("Voivod!"). Snake mentioned on stage that they'd be back in November, so stay tuned for more info on that.
Then YOB finally took the stage. It'd be tough for any band to follow both Amenra and Voivod, but YOB had no trouble putting on a masterful set that entranced from start to finish. Mike Scheidt mentioned on stage that they were playing old songs, and I am not 100% positive of the exact setlist but if Setlist.fm is right, they actually didn't play anything off last year's great Our Raw Heart. That didn't matter in the moment though. The career-spanning set they did play was full of gem after gem.
Even more so than on their albums, live YOB kind of just come across like a (very heavy) psychedelic rock band, especially during Mike Scheidt's mind-bending guitar solos and the trippy clean passages. As much as they are of course staples of the metal community, they seemed like they'll work just as well when they play hometown-area festival Pickathon this year, alongside some rootsier acts and headliner Phil Lesh of the Grateful Dead. Scheidt is the ideal metal frontman/guitarist in a very classic sense. His presence is huge, his riffs crush, his solos are searing, and his voice wails and cuts through the mix. And along with rhythm section Aaron Rieseberg (bass) and Travis Foster (drums), YOB are a true power trio. With his bass alone, Rieseberg keeps those riffs sounding like there's somehow a second guitar in the mix whenever Scheidt solos, and Foster is a beast. I spent just as much time watching him pound away at those airtight fills as I did watching Mike Scheidt. Not only are they pros at performing, they're pros at constructing a setlist too. Their set had a true rise and fall, like their albums do, with the centerpiece being Clearing the Path to Ascend's 18-minute closer "Marrow." YOB got so locked in to their jams in the song's middle section that you could forget where you for a second, until Mike Scheidt returned to the main guitar riff and brought everyone back down to earth.
After that epic song, another special moment came when YOB brought out Amenra bassist/backing vocalist Levy Seynaeve (who also fronts Wiegedood and plays in Oathbreaker) to take center stage and provide guest screams on "Gasping Air." After Levy left, YOB said their goodbyes and sent us off with one last killer song. Scheidt also said during the show that, after this tour, they'd be working on new music. And in recent interviews, he said he's making both a new YOB album and a new solo album. Stay tuned.
Pictures of YOB, Voivod, and Amenra at Warsaw are in the gallery above. Some videos below...
photos by P Squared