Salute, It is amazing how twisted some history can become with a little pop culture proliferation. Saint Valentine, the Catholic Martyr for whom many assume the now secular holiday of Valentine’s Day is so named, must really get a kick out of all the pink candied hearts and chocolate truffles in his honor tomorrow. Seriously, as much as history can document, he was bludgeoned to death for failing to renounce his faith in Christ, not because he was any kind of extraordinary purveyor of romance. Dates of his passing, accounts of his imprisonment and even his feast day itself remain controversial in a very rock and roll sort of way. Its always the artists that die before their time in some over-the-top, nearly unbelievable passing that get the attention. It is always the allure of the artist as seen through the eyes of rose-colored glasses that gives them the iconic status the masses crave. Stories in both life and death are always better told a little embellished, be it saint or rock and roll sinner. So, was Saint Valentine “metal?” Well, one could made the argument. After all, there was a dark side to those so-called letters he left and there’s rumor now red is the new black. And then, there’s always the St. Val’s Day Massacre in Chitown too. So, you deduce it on your own. Just remember, there is nothing more metal than standing up to a bunch of people throwing stones (or whatever else they happen to find in the “pit”) at you.
Thursday, a trek out to Brooklyn’s hipster home for rock, North Six, brought a diverse bill of regional acts before the rafters really started to rock. Level Plane record’s best-kept secret, Gospel, transcended the grainy textures of the earlier bands by combining a balance of primitive power and progressive prowess to express themselves. Encasing solos reminiscent of 70’s art-rock with the darkened layers of the post-Neurosis era, Gospel modulated between their diverse sonic personalities with ease and earnest. After all, how often will you see a band begin with a solo on a 12-string guitar, while the second guitarist balances his axe with a couple of keyboards, the bassist sports a 5-string and the drummer is a pounding percussion nightmare? Not many, and yet with the technicality they maintain a titanic flow, right through their nearly 20-minute epic closer. Starkly contrasting was the bombastic presence of Some Girls hardcore horsepower. Although the band’s emotion seemed devoid during most of the set, the rawness of the performance kept the energy high as they tore through song after song of their Epitaph debut. By the end of the evening things finally felt inspired as the kids crashed the stage to join in the final few songs reflecting the frustration of the youth with the state of the world in a juxtaposition of social commentary. Special thanks goes to the Street Syndicate and Epitaph for the hookup.
Friday began by visiting friends at 89.5 WSOU along with Relapse and the High on Fire crew. After another solid on-air interview and some brew and wings around the corner it was time to head into New York’s Bowery Ballroom for a long evening of rock. Buried Inside’s burst of blistering tech riled the sparse crowd up and drew in the lolligaggers piddling around outside. The intriguing disillusion with the convention of music is what makes the Canadian’s stand out among the spastic approach of their piers. Completely changing the tempo, Big Business brought a more bombastic rock approach to the stage with straight-forward rhythms riveting eardrums with a rigid authority. The depth of the guitars is what drives their delivery and its seemed to drench the audience throughout. Beckoning a bolder aural-visual backing were the Bronx. Irreverence at an indulgent level is the key for the Bronx and in both showcasing new material and recycling the old favorites they achieve it in spades. If their current set is an indication of what’s to come it might be time to hide the women and children if you haven’t already. Headlining the night were High on Fire. The equilibrium they establish in the modern reincarnation of the post-70s influence results in a doom-laden slab of sound. Sometimes it is impossible to imagine only comes from a trio until you witness the creation live. The clichhe ‘wall of sound’ description does little justice to inspire how dense the undercarriage is during each of the perversely thick sounding solos. Trudging through their set into the wee hours of the morning High on Fire did little more than completely overwhelm in a wash of sound and drown the audience. Special thanks to Dave and Relapse for the whole day of metal.
Early evening shows in New York are always trying, especially getting into the city for BB Kings dinner-time doors. It was worth the trip to catch the crusted sounds of Raging Speedhorn. They seem an unusual match for a primarily death inspired bill, but the British outfit bring an aggressive attitude meant to match even the meanest scowls of blackness. The anger pent up inside of their music literally melds the mettle of punk rock with the weight of a supercharged stoner and with a dueling vocal front Raging Speedhorn make themselves impossible to ignore for any fan of hard music. The swirl of the pit was whipped into a Katrina-esque frenzy when NOLA stalwarts Soilent Green took the stage. After so many unsuccessful attempts at breaking the bayou boarders (including van wrecks, deaths and even an enormous power-outage) it took the pain coming home to get them on the road successfully. It was well worth the wait as the thundering swell of sound pummeled the audience while towering front-man Ben Falgout reminded the crowd “all that crazy kung-fu pit shit happened hypocrisybecause you metal heads got lazy” as he riled the crowd into a chaotic frenzy. The ever-prolific Pete Tagtgren led the relentless onslaught of Hypocrisy to a more-than-eager crowd of infectees worshiping the Swedish metal virus. Spectacular command of riffing and solos only begins to allow and understanding of how Hypocrisy attempt to transcend the bounds of traditional death metal. Watching their commanding stage presence as they execute perfectly the technical precision of the songs shows why they were the draw of the night for the regions metal elite. Closing out were mythological metallurgists Nile. If you thought the Sphynx stood out among the sand dunes of the Eastern Sahara than you can begin to envision Nile’s impact on the current death metal landscape. Their epic endeavors inspire visions of more than just sonic sacrilege as they progress into the aural abysmal. Thank you to Dave and the Relapse crew for their hospitality at the show – and Dave, watch for the dragons in Central Park!
Closing out our weekly shows romp was another trip to Montclair’s Bloomfield Avenue Cafe and Stage. The return of Anterrabae proved a first-hand chance for many young fans to check out the revamped line-up, featuring new vocalist Erik Boccio. His pipes fit perfectly with the throttling presence of the Long Island quintet and it almost feels more commanding and throaty than where they were coming from. The extra girth and the excited fans kept the floor moving clear back to the merch area throughout the majority of what felt like an extremely truncated set. Even blowing through the fan favorites Anterrabae managed to showcase a number of new songs, previewing where they are headed under the new lineup. No sooner had the hum of the guitars dimmed from Anterrabae’s set and the quazi-progressive tones of solo-guitar noodle-ing began to invade the monitors and Fall of Troy took to the stage. There really is not an accurate comparison for their sound as it twists and turns between blurry bursts of post-hardcore and wanking guitar interludes. Deciding what to make of Fall of Troy requires indulging in the textures they present and allowing some of the incongruencies to invade your ears. In the end it is a matter of taste and an open mind to embrace their top-tier live show. Thanks to the Anterrabae crew for the help with the show.
THE QUOTE AND A NOTE
This edition’s QOTW goes to an anonymous grass roots marketing representative handing out comedy flyers on 42nd street near BB Kings. While strolling along with Dave from Relapse records, we were approached by said street teamer who zealously inquired while shoving flyers in our face, “Are you all headed to that there death metal show? Wouldn’t you rather be laughing than dying right now?” Apparently, death was too great a calling.
NOTE: If you thought the iPod was just about music, you got a rude awakening last quarter when Apple introduced the first generation of video iPods and saw not only record sales of the new device (dwarfing the Nano’s sales only two quarters before) but also of early downloadable content. Now, look for toy manufacturers to get into the mix. The American International Toy Fair trade expo happens this week and compatable content for the iPod is at a premium. Last year Zizzle Inc.’s iZ and Hasbro Inc.’s I-Dog both linked up to the now “outdated” iPods last year and the next generation of now fully interactive youth media is all the rage. Our best guess, in a relatively short peroid of time mp3’s will be second fiddle to more multimedia functions for mobile A/V devices. Apple has sold more than 42 million iPods total, and nearly 30 million in just 2005, making the gadget a huge marketing opportunity for companies in a range of industries. It might seem like the music industry’s savior now, but imagine what competing industries are thinking with the increasing scalability and market reach.