Battle Hag lets its notes hang heavy on the air like the fake fog they pump out before their set. But only for a few moments—soon enough, they’re back to hammering down a fat, rocky riff with their ponderous doom tones.
I love Battle Hag like I love any Sacramento metal band: passionately, and with an inclination toward automatic praise. But if you’ve seen or heard Battle Hag, you know that they’re a good choice if you’re feeling like being crushed by the despair of doom metal without getting your mind numbed by the genre’s tendency to drone into the void. (Let’s note that I adore that about doom, but I remember the days when I didn’t.)
The audience seemed to enjoy the set as much as I did, but one dude in particular was most definitely more committed than the rest of us. Standing out from the usual plaid-and-beard looks, the guy in the red polo and ball cap took to the front of the stage with a fistful of ones and started dismissively chipping bills at the band, occasionally stepping back to hold his arms out and look kinda angrily at the rest of us.
Never thought I’d see a dude making it rain on a doom band, but so it goes. Bro at the metal show, I salute you.
Shadow Limb took over next, and their prog/doom/psych sound was a revelation. Whereas Battle Hag mires itself in the deep, peaty bogs of the lower register, Shadow Limb employs some delicate and bright guitar work atop its bedrock foundation of metal.
The band is clearly well rehearsed, effortlessly transitioning from periods of crushing walls of sound to open air where notes have space to breathe, with timing changes in between. And this precision makes sense: Shadow Limb is what remains of La Fin du Monde, a long-running, high-quality band out of Chico.
By the time Helms Alee came on, it was already about 11:15 and I was dead tired. I went into the show ignorant of their music—I sometimes find simple joy in learning of bands at the shows—and by the time they closed, I knew why everybody was so excited for them.
My exhaustion kept me from getting into the first few songs. At first, it just seemed like pulsing indie rock with some metal influences. But the more I listened and watched, a few things became clear. First, the members of Helms Alee just love this shit. They wore these expressions of simple joy that you don’t really see at every show, and that alone invigorated me. Second, holy hell does this sludge/noise band rock. The drumming is deceptively complex, the bass just fuzzy and driving enough, the guitar reverby and gritty, the vocals both smooth and screamy in good measure. Check them out on Bandcamp here.
On a side note, we’re in the midst of an incredible time to be going to local shows. Tonight, we’ve got the Butch v. Femme reunion (check them out here), and on Thursday we’ve got Jucifer coming to crush us all (with one of my favorite new bands, the doomy Church, opening), and on Friday, Castle is coming to Starlite Lounge. There’s more going on this week, but this is what I’m spending my time and money on. I’m particularly excited about Castle—the band sounds like a brilliant synthesis of early Black Sabbath, Dio Sabbath and Heart. Plus, local bands (waning) and Astral Cult open. It’ll be great. Get to the shows.