Monday, May 20, 2013

Gorod @ Saint Vitus, 5.19.2013

If Chuck Schuldiner had survived, he would have turned 46 this May. As luck would have it, Gorod and a handful of other tech/death bands on the "Bloodletting North America Tour" played Saint Vitus the week of his birthday. Schuldiner was most responsible for taking death metal from its primitive origins and twisting it into its more progressive and technical forms; it would have been interesting to know his thoughts on the seemingly irreconcilable divide between the current old school revival and prog/tech death. Would "Evil Chuck" side with the kids slavishly devoted to the one-dimensional bludgeon of Scream Bloody Gore and Leprosy? Or would Schuldiner the fearless innovator find kinship with those that use his work from Human onwards as a jumping off point to push the style to dizzying new heights?

There's no question as to which side of the divide I stand on. Halfway though Kamikabe's first song, I realized that I haven't heard anything this fast and technical since I moved to Malaysia, where old school is the norm (and has gotten really, well, old). Even if they don't currently have a bass player, one is hardly missed. There's a debt to the likes of Cryptopsy and mighty Origin in their razor sharp guitarwork and tricky time signatures, as well as a certain deathcore-ness; but since it's the unrelenting Red Chord kind and not the silly Winds of Plague kind, all is forgiven. Besides, when the blasts are this fast you won't hear me complaining. Somewhere in that unreadable logo is a name to remember.

Apparently Santa Cruz, CA is becoming a hotbed for death metal. Decrepit Birth call the place their hometown; Inanimate Existence are probably on their way to being just as recognized. Almost in rebuttal to the choppy morse code rhythms of thrash, the faster they play it seems the slower their songs get. Or maybe they succeeded in making time move backwards with their strange convoluted riffs. Either way, the whole thing sounds like an underwater car crash - in a good way.
Gorod are a technical death metal band from France - there's a joke in there somewhere, possibly involving cheese. [I never said it was a good joke.] Apparently they're a big deal in tech/death circles, because Saint Vitus is suddenly filled by the time they start their set. With their Meshuggah-nated rhythms and florid leads, they're probably pioneers of that awkward beast called "djent," but there's more to them than palm muted chugging. Gorod integrate death metal at its most blasting with a cerebral edge. They've even found a way to pull off Atheist's weird funk digressions without sounding too hokey. A bass player who does more than just fill out the lineup doesn't hurt either.

Their stage presence was just as gonzo. Grinning from ear to ear, they seemed downright giddy in playing their own music. Maybe they were stoked to finally tour the US; maybe they just love their own material that much. Either way, their enthusiasm was infectious, and it wasn't long before something resembling a pit was in progress (or at least a couple drunk guys tried to make one happen while the rest of us were content to headbang in place). It was all over sooner than I'd hoped, and calls for one more song went sadly unheeded - the city that never sleeps has stricter noise curfews than most, I guess. But the whole night was a needed reminder that there's more to death metal than simply rehashing Altars of Madness. I can't wait to take that news back to Malaysia with me.

Dreams of Consciousness is on Facebook, saying more even mean things about the old school bandwagon.