Thursday, May 8, 2014

The Body, Whitehorse, Gnaw, and Theologian @ Saint Vitus, 05.08.2014

I turned 35 on this 8th of May, 2014. Most of my afternoon was spent standing in front of The Colbert Report studios hoping for stand by tickets. I ended up not getting in, but those three hours I spent waiting were in the greatest city in the world, talking to interesting people. And there was a metal gig for me to go to right after. It could have been worse. I could have spent my birthday in Malaysia.

When I was still a teenager, someone impressed upon me that noise was the next step after metal. The sentiment didn't make sense for a long time, but maybe I just needed a band like Theologian to appeal to my hesher sensibilities. The trio do the industrial/noise thing in a way that feels like blackened doom, and without playing a single recognizable riff. [It's probably not a coincidence that mainman Bartow is also in Batillus.] Amidst the screaming and the oppressive drums, the abstraction appealed to me in a way most avant acts don't. I may be alone in this: as the feedback came to a close and the band started disassembling their equipment, one guy at the front sputtered, "That's it? You've got to be fucking kidding me!"

I saw Khanate a dozen years ago; even as disparate sources as The Village Voice and Terrorizer sung their praises, I couldn't shake the feeling that they were incredibly over-rated. It should follow that I wouldn't like GNAW either, which features Khanate vocalist Alan Dubin and is cut from much the same noise/FX heavy cloth. But I actually found myself appreciating their tuneless nihilism. It did dawn on me, while nodding along to what essentially amounted to a guy yelling over feedback that there is a danger in taking this kind of stuff too seriously. But if John Zorn can get a genius grant, then GNAW should be able to inspire some unselfconscious rocking out at the very least.

All the same, it was a relief when Whitehorse's set signaled a return to actual metal. The Aussies don't exactly reinvent the wheel, but do integrate noise into their earthshaking rumble in a way that's fun and fairly noteworthy. More than anything, I was struck by how much the sludge metal of today has in common with the doomy hardcore of 20 years ago over traditional doom metal. If you played Damnation AD or Unbroken at a quarter speed, the result would probably sound a lot like Whitehorse. [I'm also inclined to believe most of today's bearded sludge dudes were yesterday's backpacked hardcore kids.]

I wasn't sure what to expect from The Body. The Portland duo represent what I like to think of as "NPR metal", and indeed there were a significant number of tote bags in Saint Vitus that night. [Or maybe it's like that every night. You know, being in Brooklyn and all.] As a two piece, their music is incredibly direct, more Bastard Noise than Black Sabbath. Guitars and drums marched in ominous lockstep and we nodded in unison, seekers and worshipers of the riff.

It wasn't quite the thrill of spending my birthday with Stephen Colbert, but it's impossible to take for granted that I was able to go to a metal show without being sure there was one. Thanks again, Saint Vitus.