Live Review: Junius, InAeona, Corpse Light and We Were Black Clouds @ Metro Gallery in Baltimore, April 18, 2017

Metro Gallery is easily one of my favorite venues in Baltimore.  It’s small, of course, maxing out at fewer than 250 attendees at any one time.  It’s unassuming, laid out simply, with couches along one wall and a well-stocked bar near the back.  Without any backstage nooks for band members to skulk in (not that many in our scene have much interest in skulking), the club floor becomes a relaxed mixing bowl of fans and bands; in fact, those roles become interchangeable as the evening’s later performers admire the music of the opening bands, and the openers stick around to enjoy the headline acts.  The venue’s austere presentation encourages the best inclinations of underground music culture.  That doesn’t make it unique, certainly, but these features make it an easy repeat destination for great metal shows.  Last Tuesday, I had the opportunity to check out Junius and InAeona on the second date of their week-long run through a few mid-Atlantic states.

Washington D.C.’s We Were Black Clouds opened the proceedings with their colorful brand of instrumental post-metal.  Their set was spirited and enjoyable, as they worked through strong (if occasionally unfocused) songs.  Their blend of atmosphere, melody and undeniable heaviness made for a bracing first impression.  They clocked out with “Santorum Sunday School” and the ominous repeated sample of a male voice speaking the line, “Everything is not going to be okay.”

Baltimore quintet Corpse Light quickly dispelled all the light and frivolity from the evening, laying down their expansive, punishing doom in leaden layers.  They lured the audience in with a familiar psychedelic plod, then set about blowing away that hallucinogenic haze in favor of a heap of crusty sludge patties smothered in Jim Webb’s one-note roar.  Their grinding heft never subsided, and they delivered the night’s bleakest set.

InAeona definitely offered up the WTF performance of the evening.  After digging into their 2015 break-out Force Rise the Sun, I was left unsure if the band’s impact was organic and lit from within its members or if it was built mainly on external elements, like the textural fog that overlays their atmospheric rock songs.  Their live show never really answered those questions.  They’re a forceful rock band, for sure, and they are absolutely committed performers.  But that night they brought neither the tight musicianship nor the stable of hooky songs that their style seems to demand.  The purple-maned Bridge Lavaizar is an energetic frontwoman, but she appeared to power her performance all by herself, expending all that energy without inviting the audience to give much back.  The crowd nodded and swayed along, but it was all more polite than enthusiastic.

I said “crowd” earlier, but I should mention that attendance for the show was the most anemic I’ve seen at Metro Gallery.  That fact aggravated me throughout Junius’s potent set.  The whole situation was absurd:  This charged performance, spent on fewer than 100 people on a Tuesday night, could have – should have – packed a venue a dozen times Metro Gallery’s size on a Saturday night and inspired full-body devotion with the band’s confident, emotional rumble.  After setting up their amber lighting elements and setting the mood on stage, Junius launched headfirst into a show that drew heavily from their freshly released third full-length, Eternal Rituals for the Accretion of Light.  It was the right move.  Their audience moved excitedly, sang along and exhibited all the facial expressions that vocalist Joseph E. Martinez absolutely would not, his head secreted away in a hoodie for the entire set.

It’s unlikely that such a short tour will do much to expand the Junius fanbase to the size it deserves to be… but here’s to hoping?