Weary, sore, and overwhelmed by so much incredible music over the past two days, a race to the finish had begun. Would I be able to withstand one more eight-hour assault? Only the gods would be able to determine that.
Brooklyn’s Pyrolatrous, a band new on the scene, quickly became the band to defeat, blotting out the sun with their melodic Immortal deathstorm/blizzard and early Venom savagery along with a NWOBHM-level mastery of riff.
Philadelphia’s Daeva almost caught Pyrolatrous with their cocktail of early Celtic Frost, 1349, and Lost Society, their confident, somewhat sardonic frontman recalling a number of the great thrash singers, particularly King Fowley and Steve Souza, taking charge of the stage in a maniacally whimsical anarchic manner. So now there were two acts to dethrone in this tournament of iron.
Toronto’s percussive, and cunningly creepy Tomb Mold sculpted a Demilich/Autopsy/Convulse death metal golem that sought to protect death metal by bludgeoning pretenders and detractors. Drummer/vocalist Matt Klebanoff worked the skins like Hoglan and roaring like Barnes with rabies as hatchetmen Payson Power and Derrick Vella beheaded us as if they were Karl Sanders and Brian Kingsland on a vengeful rampage. Rotten morsels of Entombed and newer Carcass could be heard as well.
The Cancer Conspiracy asked the then-sparse crowd if they liked jazz, this recently reunited veteran progressive rock (!) trio from Vermont made up of reformed hardcore (!!) hooligans challenging the audience with King Crimsonian instrumentals to clear palates and enlarge brains.
The US version of Hell (not to be confused with about nine other bands, coincidentally) slithered out onto the stage, their sick union of doom, sludge, and drone, black metal screams emanating from both their guitarist and cymbal crasher along with occasional spoken word samples.
False brought an epic, majestic, mythological, at times almost ambient, but mostly wrathful black metal chest with them from Minneapolis, their frightening, psychotic frontwoman opening it before our eyes as if she were Pandora. Keyboards complimented rather than distracted, laying a fog of mystique over False’s intense and severely underground performance.
Thou added a marshy, innovative cupful of Louisiana sludge/drone/doom to the brew, stirring in a rootsy bluesy/noise rock/acoustic touch to a metal genre hybrid that at times lacks soul, feeling, and humor. A slight Melvins influence could be heard as well along with harsh and clean vocals, showing that the trip between the South and the Pacific Northwest isn’t as far as one would think.
Gathering a second wind, I prepared myself for Mournful Congregation and was unsuccessful in doing so. The venerable Australian quintet devastated the audience with tidal waves of grief and loss. A funeral procession of the grandest and most exquisite kind, harmonized twin leads attempted to console to no avail. Fans could been seen with tears in their eyes, Mournful Congregation’s seminal blackened doom turning the hall into a cemetery littered with open graves for an hour, these incredible pioneers of such aural dread demonstrating their rapturous and inevitable impact.
Atmospheric in the most profound of senses, Panopticon brought us all back to life, their truly American black/folk metal widening expectations and breaking down limitations, teaching us that black metal can be about far more than evil and the occult and that human concerns, particularly those of Appalachia and its ruin can be just as compelling. Black metal knows no bounds, be it geographical or musical, and Panopticon are blazing trails as much as any other band in this genre. In awe of nature and raging and howling at man’s exploitation of it and his fellow man, their chiming, nearly steel guitarish, centuries-old, intricate riffs and wafts of emotion bringing to mind melodic death kings Dark Tranquility. Whatever energy was left in the 800 attendees was exhausted by Panopticon who turned the wheel of life amidst fires that never stop smoldering.
This was an uncannily well-run event at which I had an amazing time, was exposed to myriad new sounds, and forged new friendships. Migration’s organizers deserve thanks and praise and respect for this gift to our scene which we can only hope will keep giving every other year. Migration 2 and its roster exceeded my expectations. May it become a decades-long tradition complete with a blood moon to send us home.