Kylesa/ Blood Ceremony/ White Hills Lee's Palace, Toronto ON, June 11

Kylesa/ Blood Ceremony/ White Hills Lee's Palace, Toronto ON, June 11
Photo: Charnelle Stöhrer
Brooklyn, NY-based space rock outfit White Hills blended a dirty, distinctly '70s-inspired rock feel with a brash, modern heaviness. Their fat, fuzzed-out guitar tone and psychedelic influences bled into the liberally employed smoke machine, the billowing clouds seeming to embody the stoner-influenced haze of their sound. Guitarist Dave W.'s shirt was a floral masterpiece, loud and flared and exquisitely retro, serving as an effective metaphor for their entire aesthetic.

Blood Ceremony have a habit of stealing every show they are part of, as their urgent, organic witch-rock and arresting energy is always captivating. Weeks into their current tour supporting Kylesa, this show was a homecoming for the occult rockers, whose third album The Eldritch Dark was just released on Metal Blade. Though members looks pale and wan after their long trek, in contrast to their usual gothic elegance, their performance was still impeccable. Alia O'Brien's flute performance was particularly wild and abandoned, the shimmering notes slicing through the heavier elements of their sound. Their set list was a mix of newer material, including "Goodbye Gemini" and the title track from The Eldritch Dark, but they also played some classics for the hometown crowd, closing with a thunderous and menacing rendition of "Oliver Haddo."

Savannah, GA's experimental sludge slingers Kylesa put on a dark and dynamic headlining set. Their current live lineup includes two drummers, Eric Hernandez and Carl McGinley, and the power that this wall of throbbing percussion brings to their live set can't be overstated. Their sound has become more dense and layered, especially on their latest record Ultraviolet, and to capture some of the same sound live, guitarist Phillip Cope performed with a vast array of effects pedals and a multi-tiered synth board that included a theremin. More than once, bassist Chase Rudeseal assisted with these additional elements as well, adding an extra set of hands to the board. While this certainly added to the intricacy of their sound, what made this performance excellent was the sheer muscular force of the music: insistent and compelling riffs, the emotive power of the duelling vocals of Cope and Laura Pleasants, and the gale force of the drums. The drum break (drum solo? drum duel?) in the middle of their set was a moment of simplicity that stood out, and their rendition of "Scapegoat" was infused with a raw, bloody intensity. While they employ intelligence and complexity in both their songwriting and execution, it will always be the emotional authenticity and unrestrained catharsis of their performances that sets Kylesa apart from their peers.