Thursday, December 16, 2010

Job For A Cowboy, Skeleton Witch, Misery Index 12.16.2010

I've decided that deathcore was death metal's awkward adolescent phase. It appeared when the genre was in its teens, was characterized by questionable fashion choices and corrupting influences, and is looked back on with scorn and embarrassment. Which is only fitting as some of the biggest names in the sub-genre, Job For a Cowboy included, were in their teens when they broke big. I missed the boat on most of the deathcore zeitgeist, leaving the States just after the Red Chord's first album was released, and returning when the scene was saturated and most of the founding fathers had wisely decided to move on to something else. So I'm always curious to see these bands live, even if they are for the most part interchangeable to me.

With perfect timing, I arrived at Santos just as Misery Index were finishing their soundcheck. This is a band who I try to catch every time they play NY, as there are few things as reliably neckwrecking live as these road dogs and the dual vocal onslaught of their Terrorizer-esque political grindcore. With a mix of songs culled heavily from their newest album Heirs to Thievery as well as 2008's truly excellent Traitors, Misery Index kicked off my night of metal in epic fashion. If I wasn't trying to shoot their set, I would have headbanged with my fist in the air for its entirety. Seriously, with their work ethic and fan-friendly presence, they should be headlining places like Santos. Here's hoping for bigger things in their future.

Beer bellies. Skintight jeans. Threadbare moustaches. These could be reasons to avoid a thrash revival, but Skeleton Witch wear them with pride. Honestly, I'm as weary of thrash revival bands as I am of deathcore bands; by my count, thrash has already had 3 waves of revival since the mid-90's. Maybe my antipathy towards revivalism stems from the fact that I'm at an age where everything I grew up with is being repackaged and sold back to me as kitsch - from casette tapes to casette tapes that transform into evil robots. But Skeleton Witch are as lovable as any Teutonic thrash band, and tighter than most of the Bay Area's detritus. And the crowd LOVES them. There wasn't a moment when Skeleton Witch didn't have them in the palm of their spiked hands, driving them into a frenzy with their brand of black-tinged thrash. Clearly, the night belonged to Skeleton Witch. Their songs may be a little samey for me, but I couldn't deny their presence.

Job for a Cowboy, possibly more than any other deathcore band, encapsulated the Myspace metal generation. They were able to market and promote themselves largely on the back of social networking, and won over live audiences with their catchy, breakdown-centric style. Inevitably, a quick rise to fame resulted in an equally quick backlash. None of which is Job For A Cowboy's fault, but in an attempt to distance themselves from their deathcore roots, they seem hellbent on removing anything resembling fun from their catastrophic results. By the time they got on stage, they were playing to half the audience that Skeleton Witch enjoyed.

Unlike the Red Chord, who arguably enjoy frustrating their audience's expectations, JFAC seem slighted by the fact that their newer material isn't connecting with even their most die-hard fans, who dance like happy prospectors when songs from the debut Doom EP are played.

After an audience member entreats the band to cheer up, their singer deadpans, "I'm in a great mood. How about you?" Which is of course, not true, and easily negated when he takes each heckler on personally. A spirited cover of the Crown's "Total Satan" ultimately won me over, but left the rest of the crowd with confused looks on their faces. Which leads me to believe that JFAC are in a kind of identity crisis. Maturity isn't panning out for them, their older material is sounding increasingly more dated, and they don't seem to know who they want to be.

I left before the end of the set; it was painful watching such a young band get gutted by their own early success. Like a boxer mounting an offense round after round only to lose by decision, JFAC's prowess as musicians did little to dispel the fact that for most metalheads, deathcore is dead. But don't worry, deathcore; if wave after wave of reunions and revivals has taught us anything, it's that tastes come and go in cycles. Like any surly teenager, deathcore can take comfort knowing "they'll miss you when you're gone."