Review: Scorched Tundra Fest Brings a New Side of Metal to Empty Bottle

Sumac This weekend the Empty Bottle hosted back-to-back soldout shows for the annual Scorched Tundra festival. Since 2011, Alexi Front has been curating and highlighting some of the most innovative acts in metal, distinguishing itself from other fests by thoughtfully selecting and booking artists that bring something new and unique to the table. Couch Slut certainly embodied that spirit, spewing some of the rawest material that combined punk, black metal, and extreme metal elements. Partly voyeuristic, partly confrontational, singer Megan Osztrosits weaved throughout the crowd, barefoot with a can of Hamm’s in hand. Behind her on stage, drummer Theo Nobel busted out thunderous double bass, slightly overpowering the guitars as bass as Osztrosits screamed directly at anyone she stumbled into.   Changing gears, In the Company of Serpents delivered a refined sampling of sludge/doom. Their level of intensity was equally matched by their musicianship--executing precise and methodical riffs that were tight and brutal. The Colorado natives also occasionally deviated from the anticipated molasses-laden tracks with some thrashier songs and kept it interesting with a subtle Spaghetti Western vibe that felt eerie and mysterious.   Chicago’s very own, Yakuza, brought an unequivocally unique flavor to the lineup, proudly indulging in the more avant-garde side of metal. Formed in 1999, the quartet features saxophone as a prominent sound along with the guitars and drums. Much like with Colin Stetson, the uninitiated were intrigued and a bit flabbergasted by the display of not one, but two saxophones, on stage at a metal show. The integration of the sax is no gimmick though--they seamlessly incorporate it within the rest of their sound along with aspects of hardcore, free jazz, and post-rock. Despite how well this mashup works, there were brief moments when the mix of old school aggression and abrupt tempo changes almost seemed too fast for them to keep up with. Witnessing those moments was akin to the brilliant, overly talkative kid in school who couldn’t keep up with his own thoughts. But overall, it was a blend that was exciting and entertaining, particularly for those new to Yakuza.   Opening with the new 15 minute epic, “Attis’ Blade,” Sumac came out swinging, with deafening low end and crushing riffs. The trio consisting of Aaron Turner (Old Man Gloom, ISIS, Mamiffer), Brian Cook (Russian Circles, These Arms Are Snakes, Botch), and Nick Yacyshyn (Baptists, Hard Feelings) brought a ferocious energy, with intermittent moments of relative calm and introspection. Their upcoming album, Love In Shadow, is a ultimately a reflection of the darker side of love and all that it encompasses. They allow themselves to explore that duality, and their live performance reflected that as well. For every heavy, guttural moment, they matched it with a more intimate and experimental side, inviting everyone into an emotionally charged space to feel both sides of what love and passion entails.   Photos by Jennifer Roger
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Jennifer Roger