When radio listeners in Canada want to listen to something a little off the beaten track, for they most part they have to turn to college radio (much as they do in the U.S.). For several years such a stalwart of unusual sounds has been Carleton University’s CKCU, and as part of the station’s 35th anniversary one of its programs, 'Crossing Boredom', seduced a quartet of thunderous acts up from Toronto and environs to test the limits of local blues venue the Rainbow’s wiring.

The first band on stage was Gypsy Chief Goliath, a relatively new outfit formed by some veterans of Toronto’s metal scene. The band has a taste for Lynyrd Skynyrd blended with Black Sabbath, topped by an exceptionally growly singer in Dave Ljubanovich. Unlike many bands rocking the southern style, they also complement their sound very effectively with a part-time harmonica player, Brodie Stevenson.

They were followed by Electric Magma, a three-piece with a serious debt to such heavyweights as Fu Manchu and Dozer. They have four albums under their belt and largely focus on the instrumental side of things, with only some occasional, largely unimportant vocals from guitarist Tim Reason. They also were the first band on the bill to blow a fuse. The culprit wasn’t the amplifier stacks but the band’s smoke machine, whose unpredictable huff-and-puff finally overloaded the club’s stage power, leading to an unexpected rum solo and a quick restart.

The next band on the bill was the main draw for a big chunk of the crowd. Toronto’s Sons of Otis has been soldiering through the sludge since the early 1990s, with 1996’s ‘Spacejumbofudge’ and 1999’s ‘Temple Ball’ both widely considered to be highlights of Canada’s stoner rock scene (such at it was). Sending out waves of low-octave riffs, the band soon had the crowd’s heads bobbing in a sort of slow-motion head-banging. Unfortunately, they also tried to use a smoke machine. While the clouds of green and red smoke behind them provided a suitably toke-friendly atmosphere, they too proved to much and once again the band’s amplifiers blinked out at an inconvenient moment.

Fortunately, things were up and running again and the band crunched their way through the remaining two songs in their set.

Blood Ceremony closed things off. The avowedly retro band largely eschews the stompbox-friendly doom of Sons of Otis and those who came before, opting instead for sideburns, Yamaha Artists, and a flute-playing frontwoman in a fringed vest to invoke a Black Sabbath who might, in fact, be up for attending the occasional black sabbath, or any convenient pagan convocation. There was yet more shaggy headbanging from the audience as the band worked its way through tunes from its sole album and a few fresher offerings, all spookily sung by the vaguely witchy Alia O’Brien. Introducing songs dedicated to revelling deities and supernatural siblings, O’Brien sounded a bit like Nico and looked like she had just come back from Woodstock.

And since they eschewed the smoke machine, the band also managed to get through their set uninterrupted by electrical failure.

Blood Ceremony Set List:

Master of Confusion
The Great God Pan
Coven Tree
My Demon Brother
Return to Forever
Children of the Future

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