An unassuming woman in Milo glasses ascends the stage and squints into the (relatively dim) bar lights with a frown. The guitarist backing her seems to shy from the dull yellow light, using his long locks as a screen from his eyes. A couple jokes are made before a small voice asks through the speakers,

“Can we turn those down please? Y’know…make it dark and creepy in here?”

The woman gestures vaguely at the dimly lit main space of The Lexington, a bar that has been hosting an incredible array of extreme bands on the metal/doom/death/grind spectrum for some time now, located just on the precipice of Skid Row downtown. With hardcore in ascendance, metal underground metal is seeing a fervent and incredible proliferation of talent that is going largely unnoticed at the moment, but The Lexington seems to be catching every single metal band of note. This night was no different, boasting the last night of Vale’s national tour, supporting Velnias, and two local bands–Bourne Ultra and Northwind Wolves.

As someone who has only recently begun to truly appreciate metal and not just the niche subgenres that run up against my other tastes, it’s fun to be an outsider to the scene. Metalheads seem to alternate between a vague embarrassment and a frightening earnestness when it comes to their genre of choice. Northwind Wolves, who put on a technically ferocious show with their blend of tech-death and symphonic black metal, embodied this in particular, introducing their morbidly-titled songs with sheepishness, before absolutely shredding.

With Vale, it was like a light switch. After asking politely about their lights, vocalist Kate Coysh quietly folded her Milo glasses and placed them carefully in her leather vest, and closed her eyes. The music started. When she opened them it was like she had been possessed–her eyes, wide with manic intensity, stared out like she meant to swallow your soul. She made small, esoteric gestures that drew you further into the performance all backed by a quartet of musicians that played at the top of the game. Drummer Justin Ennis, in particular, though cramped at the very back of the claustrophobic stage, made his presence felt through understated and absolutely killer drumming–his precision and writing choices really coming to the fore in the live setting.

Some bands just have ‘it’–a presence and gravity that is an alchemy thats impossible to replicate. Vale has it leaking out their ears. They might have started the night off wanting to spin their web in the shadows, but this is a band destined for much, much bigger things.