When heavy metal promoter Ryan Avery talks about his upcoming Midnite Communion event, the phrase “depressing yet beautiful” tumbles from his mouth.
That phrase is a very accurate summation of the bevy of dark graphic art and doom metal that will be on display this Friday, Nov. 13 and Saturday, Nov. 14 at the Breakers Hotel in Long Beach. On both evenings, artists from all over the world will converge with hand-crafted expressions of darkness to complement loud, gloomy doom-metal from headlining acts such as New York’s Unearthly Trance and Boston sludge purveyors Morne.
Avery’s third annual Midnite Communion event is an extension of metal shows he has promoted since 2009, first under the name Ear/Splitters and more recently as Midnite Collective. Avery had been inspired by metal scenes in other cities and wanted to revive a sense of community among metal bands in Los Angeles.
“There’s a Portland scene, a New York scene; there’s tons of these bands in other scenes out there and a lot of times those bands will go on tour elsewhere together,” Avery says. “I wanted something like that here in L.A. I would go to these killer shows at places like the Relax Bar and there’d be two or three other people in the crowd besides the bartenders and the bands that were playing.”
Taking his cues from the early days of prominent heavy metal record labels such as Relapse, Neurot, and now-dormant Hydra Head, Avery began cultivating a burgeoning Los Angeles doom metal scene that has fostered rising bands such as Yidhra, Deathkings and Ancient Altar. He regularly promotes live shows throughout the Los Angeles and Long Beach areas, but it’s the annual Midnite Communion events that have become his calling card.
Expanding to a two-night celebration this year, Midnite Communion aims not only to bombard attendees with the haunting sounds of apocalyptic doom-metal, but to also batter additional senses with art galleries and installations that complement the sounds rumbling from the stage. For Avery — a graphic designer by trade — it’s only natural that music and visual art be presented together.
“You have the music which takes time and energy to make and by itself it’s exciting, but then when you attach art to it, it becomes this whole other entity,” says Avery. “If you put handcraft to it, it really enhances the creative vision.”
The din generated by doom metal bands is often a depressive one. A hallmark of the genre is to go against the fast-paced, speedy orientation of traditional heavy metal and slow things down to a sludgy crawl. Songs stretching the sonic punishment out to 10 minutes or longer are not uncommon in the genre. But when the best bands in doom metal are at the top of their game, there is a sense of emotional release once the arduous musical journey has climaxed.
“The tranquility of it all is somewhat unexplainable,” Avery says. “What is happening [musically] is bleak and almost destructive on a sonic level. These bands play loud and aggressive, but they are also generating beautiful soundscapes.”
The artists that Avery has curated will present visual expressions that match the aural combination of beauty and gloom of Midnite Communion's musical lineup. Graphic designers from as far away as England, France and Russia will be showing that doom and gloom are universal languages.
“They are depicting things that make you think of death and rebirth, but also life,” says Avery. “There’s a lot of grim imagery associated with those concepts. But even in the bleakest moments there’s still a glimmer of beauty amidst the grim nature.”
To properly showcase Midnite Communion's many sonic and visual elements — which also include a craft fair that can be best described as “Etsy for metalheads” — Avery picked a non-traditional venue, the Breakers Hotel. A fixture of downtown Long Beach since 1926 and a designated historic landmark, the hotel will give Communion an aura unique for a metal event.
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“It’s a beautiful space with mirrored columns and chandeliers," says Avery, "and we’re going to drown it in darkness.”
Midnite Communion III takes place this Friday and Saturday, Nov. 13-14, at the Breakers Hotel. More info and tickets available at www.midnitecollective.com.