Spellcaster & Starkill
February 1, 2017
Since their latest release of Night Hides the World, the Portland-based NWOTHM band Spellcaster has been endlessly touring with equally hard-working bands such as Striker, Exmortus, and Holy Grail. This year, they embarked on a North American tour with label mates Starkill—a new melodic death metal band from Chicago. Luckily, this tour made it to the southeast, and I was able to see Spellcaster’s second ever performance in Atlanta.
With attendance anticipated to be low (due to the fact that both of these bands are fairly underground), I was not surprised to see no more than 10 people against the barrier in the Hell room of the new Masquerade venue. After reuniting with the Spellcaster guys, watching the attendance level fluctuate, and enduring 3 ill-fit local openers (Mosura, Iron Throne, and Dead Reckoning), it was time for the band I came to see to get onstage.
With new guitarist Sebastian Silva on stage right, the five-piece quickly set up their gear onstage and cued their intro track (the song “Spellbound” on their first album Under the Spell). Singer Tyler Loney started off the set with the usual line “We are Spellcaster from Portland, Oregon, and this first song is called (insert title here)”. Their first song on this tour ended up being “Ghost of my Memory” from their self-titled, second album. I smiled with uncontrollable anticipation and welcomed them onstage as the song kicked in. Up next, drummer Colin Vranizan helped the band transition smoothly into one of my absolute favorite songs of theirs, “Aria” from the new album. At this point, a few people had decided to come inside from their smoke and chat breaks in the courtyard to check these guys out, but there was still no more than a row and a half of people up front. I couldn’t fathom how I was basically the only obvious fan in attendance, but I didn’t let that bother me and continued singing along to their next song “Locked On” from Under the Spell.
In my opinion, the major turning point in their set was when they played another new song, “Betrayal”. I saw maybe 4 other people getting into this motion-inducing song, and I now had hope for the conversion of more people into fans. The combination of the imagery-laden and emotional lyrics with the beautiful tempo changes and overall sing-along feel in this song make it almost impossible not to like.
After a few more new songs, Tyler introduced a new cover song the band had never played on tour before: “We Go Together” by the band Mindless Sinner. I was thrilled they chose this as a cover, and I’m pretty confident I was the only one in the room who knew this song. It helped me combine the lovely attributes of this band that I enjoy with the memories of hearing this song performed live by Mindless Sinner at the Frost and Fire festival last year in Ventura, California. This served as an interesting, new song for the band to showcase while acting as an energy recharge for the musicians. You could tell how much they enjoy performing this song as it is a nice break from their typical setlist they’ve been playing for more than a year already.
And before I knew it, they announced their final song “The Accuser”. I was stunned how fast the set had gone by and became sad as I forgot they weren’t headlining (even though I went there primarily for them). I showed one last display of my dedication to these hardworking musicians by headbanging and singing along. I was glad to see that a few other people were doing the same—one of them wearing a Spellcaster shirt. There is hope for this city yet! The song came to a close, and the band said their final thank-you’s and goodbyes and loaded their gear offstage.
I tore myself away from the barrier and slowly walked to find a good place to stand in the back of the room for Starkill up next. Even though I have seen Starkill a few times before, they have never really been able to capture me.
Starkill came onstage fairly promptly and began their set to all 30 or so of the people in attendance (most of whom were up on the barrier). After about 3 songs (that I vaguely recognized), I decided to explore the new venue a bit and find new vantage points. Because there weren’t that many people there, you could basically see well from anywhere; this made it difficult to find potential favorite or secret spots for good viewing.
I spent most of their set up in the empty balcony within direct sight of the band, so they probably saw how bored I was. They should’ve known better than to have Spellcaster go on before them…Upon watching them for my fourth time, the same aspects of their set bothered me. I do not care for all the pre-recorded tracks and harmonies they use in their show. I feel like it takes away from the experience of seeing a band actually play everything you hear and being in awe of how great it sounds. Also, there was an absence of amps onstage meaning everything being played was coming through the P.A. I prefer the look of the amps as opposed to towers serving as stands for the strobe lights.
With that being said, I will complement their musicianship and energy. There are some parts of their songs that I enjoy—mainly the parts that contribute to the of Children of Bodom vibes coming from them. The solos are also very intricate, and singer/guitarist Parker Jameson creatively shows his influences from Randy Rhoads. Finally, this band maintains a nice energy about them, as the other guitarist and bassist frequently move around to different parts of the stage and come forward to sing to the crowd.
In all, it was nice to see that a group of fans came out to a small weeknight show like this and enjoyed themselves. I hope that a few Starkill fans in the crowd enjoyed Spellcaster and that they would return to see them next time they’re in town. These guys work so hard and put on an amazing live performance every time no matter how many people are in attendance. What’s even better is that they are genuine people who truly appreciate your support, and that’s why I love them.