The hubby and I finally got to see Karyn Crisis live in Brooklyn with her new band Gospel of the Witches at Saint Vitus. In a previous review of GotW’s album, Salem’s Wounds, on metalriot.com, I wrote about how powerfully influential Crisis has been to early female death metal musicians within the scene. Well, during her Brooklyn performance, she showed that same power and force hadn’t lessened one bit.
As part of feminist scholar Kristen Korvette’s brainchild event, Legacy of the Witch, GotW performed as part of a fully-packed feminist program. Informative and ritualistic, the program began at 6pm and opened with invocations and explanations of the history and lineage of witches. Unfortunately, the hubby and I arrived a little late, but were lucky enough to catch the tail end of Karyn’s talk at 6:30, in which she delved into her personal journey with mediumship and spiritualism and spoke about the history of witchcraft, particularly in Italy, and how the Church engineered a smear campaign against women who practiced it – even as healers and herbalists – which resulted in the tarnished reputation that witches have in Western society now.
After a brief FaQ interlude, the official “performance” part of the event began with an interspersing of burlesque dancers, artists, and musicians. Marketed as a feminist event, it was no surprise to see more women than men at this show, and that was just fine. I couldn’t have felt – sad as it is to say – safer. However, having never attended a feminist event (though I totally self identity as one) I had no idea what to expect. It did come as a surprise to see the gothy 20-30 year old crowd, as I was coming to this event as a previous Crisis deathhead fan. Again—this was no problem, just an observation. It made sense in a way that we were attending a “witchy” event, and what better way to celebrate the inherent spirit of women and witches than with a little goth representation? Altogether, the festivities of the night, which included tarot and palm readings, feminist artwork for sale, dancing and alcohol, lent itself to quite an enjoyable evening.
The first musician to play after the lively burlesque dancers was Delphic Oracle, a one woman show, fronted by vocalist and violinist, Christina Key. Emblematic of her band’s name, Key’s performance exuded enigmatic mystery, with gothy tunes evoking a trance-like hypnotism over the audience. Utilizing a mixer for drum and bass, Key layered her own vocals and electric violin playing to create music that was equal parts ritualistic and sensual. Attired in a flowery pink dress, the petite Key looked like a fairy straight out of the woodlands, setting the mood for a complete juxtaposition with the band Azar Swan, who followed.
Azar Swan, made up of singer-songwriter, Zohra Atash and two backing vocalists-Nikki Sneakers and Hether Fortune, Kristen Korvette on keyboards and Dee Dee Penny on guitar, continued the witchy feel of the evening, presenting a typical goth sound built on synth and groove.
Though music critics have likened Atash’s voice to that of Kate Bush, I didn’t find anything appealing about it’s fragile soprano singing- but her fans appreciated it and the danceable pop-quality of her music. I probably got soured during set-up, where it seemed Atash and the Saint Vitus’ sound guy were purposely annoying each other.
At one point Atash even stopped singing during a song and was yelling at the sound guy….I can’t even recall how many times she said, “Can you add more reverb?” I clearly remember her ending their set saying, “Thank you and please stick around for the last band,” as if to imply that she had been the headlining act. In all honesty, the individual members of the band seem to me, to be the more skilled and creative players but instead, ended up playing second fiddle to Atash’s spotlight.
Now I can chalk it up to perhaps the show not being one of their best – as I’ve never seen them perform before, but overall, her Diva antics left me with a sub-par taste for the night’s offerings.
That is to say, until Gospel of the Witches appeared—and then the night exploded with an intensity that was either hiding or missing in the previous gothic mood of the evening.
THIS was what I was waiting for.
GotW opened with their potent Omphalos, which really got the crowd excited. It was great to hear an actual rhythm section on top of the vocal interplay between Karyn Crisis and Ross Dolan. Accompanied by ritualistic decor and objects such as a crescent moon, candles, and Druidic wooden branches, their sound and visual enhancements evoked a melodic heaviness laced with worship for an a Elysian Karyn. Her ascending vocals calling out, “I am no one, I am nothing, I am nowhere,” only served to further invigorate the audience. Powerful and succinct, the first song initiated the mostly goth crowd to the reality that Karyn Crisis’ material as GotW was still very much that of a heavy band.
Another standout of GotW’s set-list was the song Mother, evidenced by the fans singing along, myself included. With all of the incense floating in the air, singing the lines, “Mother, I can smell your flesh burning” couldn’t have felt more real. Followed by the songs Salem’s Wounds and Alchemist, the whole experience felt like a church service gone wild.
With Robert Vigna’s and Davide Tiso’s guitar play interweaving with Dolan’s bass and Charlie Schmid’s drums, the powerful tribal composition created a heady and impressive harmony. Not surprisingly, both Dolan and Vigna’s death metal backgrounds added a heavy tonality to Karyn’s new spiritualistic project, different than what one might have expected from the Immolation duo, but not lacking in intensity.
The bigest highlight of the night for my husband and I, was being able to meet and talk with Karyn, Ross and Davide. Because my current thesis work deals with women in NY’s extreme metal music scene, I’d been following Karyn since her Crisis days. Needless to say, I wasn’t disappointed at all in meeting them, as all three were humble, friendly and metal!
Overall, GoTW’s performance ended on both a high and extreme note, adopting new fans and very much appealing to old Crisis fans who now wait with bated breath for what’s next.