Concert Review

REVIEW: Downfall of Gaia w/ Black Table

Bad luck was narrowly avoided for Germany’s Downfall of Gaia and their American tour-mates, Black Table, last week. After scheduling conflicts at The Shop almost led to the cancellation of their Pittsburgh tour date, the show was relocated in a somewhat truncated form at 222 Ormsby. Rather than the original plan of Horse Drawn Death Machine opening for the touring acts, Downfall of Gaia and Black Table played shortened, back-to-back sets at the end of a previously booked show featuring various hardcore/post-hardcore acts. (Somehow the organizers managed get seven bands to play between 7 and 11:30 – surely a record for a DIY Pittsburgh show!)

For the purposes of this review, I’m still counting the first five bands as a separate show, although Pittsburgh’s own Pray for Teeth could have easily been an opener for the originally-planned show with their epic post-rocky hardcore. Both Downfall of Gaia and Black Table have been variously described as post-metal, post-black metal, experimental metal, and the other such monikers. For the sake of understanding I’ll just say both bands draw from a similar array of sludge metal (of the Neurosis/Isis variety), black metal (the epic, atmospheric kind), progressive metal, and yes, some post-rock.

Black Table was the more “sunnier” of the two, although in this sense I still mean it as a scorching sun depicted in a jagged baroque style. Although the studio tracks I heard online featured vocals from guitarist Mers Sumida, the pieces they played live were all instrumental, but were no less powerful with their churning rhythms and dueling guitar melodies. Also deserving of credit was the band’s wonderfully dramatic physical presence: guitarist Ryan Fleming would nearly leap as he thrust his guitar in the air at particular stabs of riffing, while drummer Mike Kadnar’s fluid movements looked almost like some sort of seated dance.

Downfall of Gaia had a more prominent black metal vibe, though I’m told they have their roots in crust punk and d-beat, an influence that sounds equally prominent in their current music. In one section of a song they might chug along like latter-day Tragedy, only to give way to a buzzing tremolo ambience worthy of Wolves in the Throne Room, then descending again into a crunching, lurching sludge squeal. Also present were blast beats, something noticeably absent from the drumming in Black Table, as well as harsh vocals, somewhere in between black metal’s animalistic howls and the angry snarls common to hardcore and sludge. If Black Table burned like scorching heat, DoG burned like a gust of chilling wind on a below-zero winter’s eve.

Downfall of Gaia and Black Table are finished touring, but you can check out each band’s music on their respective Bandcamp pages:

Downfall of Gaia

Black Table