On Saturday the 25th of March, many people found a reason to visit the capital. The majority went to look at a bunch of heavily overpaid guys running after a ball with some Greeks, but the happy few knew there was an awesome stoner rock evening scheduled at the Magasin Quatre. Due to all the soccer fanatics on the roads, the first tones of the opening act were already resounding as we entered the very cozy venue of Magasin Quatre in the heart of the northern area of Brussels. With a foyer wall made of old, retro posters and a quite minimalistic light show, the general atmosphere was one of a nineties dive bar in downtown Manhattan. It’s really a cool place, you should totally go there sometime!
High Fighter (***1/2)
In their very first Belgian show ever, the German lady and gentlemen from High Fighter were the first band to conquer hearts. With the very sympathetic and refreshing Mona Miluski on lead vocals and former members of A Million Miles and Pyogenesis, nobody will be surprised to hear that this band presents a very comfortable and yet heavy mélange of sludge, stoner and heavy metal. Largely due to Mona’s hypnotising clean vocals, the band seems to be grabbed straight from a Woodstock roadtrip movie, like a hippie van blazing down route 66. On the other hand, High Fighter is also a very groovy band and the ease with which Mona produces her energetic high pitched screams is amazing. Some very catchy riffs passed by, as expected from a proper opening act. And yet, previous experiences in other bands notwithstanding, we feel like the band (founded in 2016) hasn’t quite yet found its balance between the different styles they want to unleash upon the audience. We would like to see the music blend into one great mix of different influences, one great bigger picture, rather than presenting us with a lot of individually great solos and riffs. Other than that, in terms of a show, the band really put their best effort into it and gave themselves a hundred percent. The oldschool heavy metal spirit was running rampant once more! A band we’ve seen the first, but definitely not the last from.
In spite of High Fighter’s previous experiences and in light of our earlier remarks, we feel like Hark got their act together just a bit more. These Welshmen have published two albums so far, so maybe they have had more time to get accustomed to each other. Either way, Hark proved to be a technically strong band with fast and tightly played sludge/stoner and a frontman (Jimjob Isaac) with a lovely punky attitude. There was more Southern Groove and sometimes a little rock and roll in their music. At the same time, softer and more sensitive pieces brought more depth to the show: it wasn’t just highly entertaining, but also sophisticated. These guys know what they are doing: it was a pleasure to see them at work.
Downfall of Gaia (****)
Downfall of Gaia, with their Crust-infused atmospheric black metal, looked a bit odd between a line-up of stonerdoom bands. Let there be no doubt that despite being the lonely stranger, Downfall of Gaia was a worthy co-headliner on this tour. Armed with their latest and third album, Atrophy, the Germans stormed the stage. Although the sound was a bit blurry during the first two songs due to the insane amount of bass, Downfall of Gaia immediately impressed. After the sound engineer realized he wasn’t mixing Conan yet, things rapidly got better. After a false start, Downfall of Gaia blew everyone away. From intimate and melodic passages to fiery blast beats, the four-piece made sure they wouldn’t just go by unnoticed as ‘that weird band’ on the bill, but would instead be remembered as ‘that black metal band with three vocalists and an extremely intense live set’.
Speaking of intense live sets, there was nothing to top Conan on this evening. Being one of the biggest stoner doom exports from the United Kingdom, the band has a live reputation of being fucking MASSIVE. On their latest album, Revengeance, they had a sound as if a road truck hit a brick wall, and on its predecessor Blood Eagle, the heaviness was no less intense. Having seen them at Ieperfest 2014, I thought I already knew what to expect…
But boy oh boy was I wrong. During Conan the sound engineer must have had the great idea of just putting everything on maximum. Reverb, distortion but above all, bass. The sound Conan produced wasn’t that of a truck hitting a wall anymore, but came closer to standing right next to a Boeing 747. The wall of sound they created was so massive and immersing, that when I closed my mouth my teeth were chattering.
The well-oiled machine that Conan is, kept on steaming for about 75 minutes and never lost any of its intensity. Next to the heavy sound, they just played their slow, melodic stoner doom on point. Especially the drummer, Rich Lewis, never missed a note. It’s clear all three members knew exactly what they were doing, and they were enjoying it to the fullest. So did we, and judging from the amount of heads going up and down at every bass punch Conan delivered, most of the attendants were just blown away. Or deaf. Or both…