Sunday, May 31, 2009

show: black dice, wolf eyes, sir richard bishop & earthless

black dice at the escarpment
So this was my first show since moving to LA, and what a killer line up it was. It was also in some warehouse out in the warehouse district, so it was pretty deep in the cuts. I guess the same incarnation of this show that happened in SF last night was shut down by the fuzz. No police problem tonight, though, and everyone seemed to be having a good time. Although we arrived late, Earthless had not yet started their set when we entered the cavernous warehouse. Despite the fact that there seemed to be a reasonable amount of people at the show, it wasn't difficult at all to get up right in front of the bands, so we got a good view.
Earthless played one long, grooving psych jam that was pretty fucking killer. I think the drummer was probably the best part of the group, to me; the guitar player was mostly off in his own world, and the bassist was locked into his own groove. But the drummer kept the momentum going, even when the guitar playing was getting aimless, the drums provided interesting fills and the necessary intensity.
Sir Richard Bishop was up next, and I have to admit that I was really stoked to see him play. I'm not super familiar with the Sun City Girls catalog and I've only heard some of his solo stuff, but I've liked what I've heard. It surprised me that he was playing with a full band; it was even more surprising that what he played was a south-Asian surf-guitar prog-rock sound. It was good, and fun, but pretty goofy. I was expecting something more like when I've seen Tom Carter play, who can rip it up. But this was good too. The fat kid in the Black Flag tee, who had been headbanging to Earthless, did a nice little jig to Bishop's set.
The area in front of the stage got more packed for Wolf Eyes than it did during any other point in the night. Wolf Eyes are some funny looking dudes. It's interesting to me to think that probably most of the performers tonight were 30+ years old, despite the young and hip demographic that came out to watch them. So after an extended mic check, Wolf Eyes launched into their dark and threatening take on noise. It was cool, and super fucking loud, but maybe not totally engaging. I enjoyed it mostly for it being an overwhelming aural attack, rather than being very substantial. We went outside midway through the set, and the sound outside the warehouse was phenomenal. It sounded as if a massive demon had been conjured from the dark pits of hell, and was thrashing to escape the warehouse in which it had been imprisoned.
Finally, Black Dice took the stage. The last time I saw Black Dice, if you'll recall, we spent most of the time drinking in front of the Great American Music Hall, rather than enjoying the set. I think that this performance was a lot more engaging, in part because I was not intoxicated, but also because it seemed a lot more rhythmic than last time. There was a great visual show going on behind the band, and they guys did their best to find hypnotic and grooving loops in the squall they were generating. They didn't always manage to find those moments, but when they did, it was pretty captivating. In all, it was a great show, I had an excellent time, and I'm looking forward to similar shows in the future.

Monday, May 18, 2009

gojira - the way of all flesh (2008)

This was one of my favorite metal albums last year, although that came as a surprise to me, and I'm still very much getting to know it. I didn't really care for their previous album- 2005's From Mars to Sirius- despite the fact that I had read some fantastically positive reviews for it. The issue I took with that album (at the time) was that I felt it lack intensity and focus- it felt choppy and violent, but ultimately directionless. I don't know if I would still feel that way, if/when I go back and give that album another listen, but Gojira's new album seems more cohesive and even catchy in places. They sound really heavy, and they are "death" metal in the more earlier sense of the term- they aren't as harsh as some of their contemporaries, and are closer in spirit to bands like Cynic or even Metallica. The downtuned, chugging guitars and complex rhythms bring to mind a catchier version of Meshuggah's Nothing, or Strapping Young Lad, but the most obvious point of comparison for this band is maybe Sepultura. Both Gojira and Sepultura are from non-English speaking countries, both bands are composed of a guitar playing/singing brother and a drumming brother; both bands are politically left-leaning- in Gojira's case, the focus is on environmentalism. The similarities must not have been lost of the Calavera brothers (of Sepultura) because they invited Joe Duplantier (Gojira guitarist/vocalist) to be the bassist in their new band, Calavera Conspiracy, last year. Aside from the biographical coincidences, Gojira made me think of Sepultura in their down-tuned proto-nu metal phase on Roots. The Way of All Flesh sounds thick and supremely heavy, but at the same time very active and energetic. Also, "The Art of Dying" is AMAZING. I think that this album still loses steam in certain points, but when it all comes together, this is really technical, intense and supremely listenable metal.

Gojira - The Art of Dying

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

dødheimsgard - supervillain outcast (2007)

Although they started out as a black metal band in 1994, by the release of Supervillain Outcast in 2006, Dødheimsgard (or DHG) had morphed into something very strange and hard to label. A good point of comparison might be Ministry, given the predominance of dancey industrial tempos. But instead of starting out as a pop group and morphing into a metal band, Dødheimsgard took the opposite path. That's not to say that this is pop- its still very much metal- but its really, really strange metal. Blastbeats, harsh vocals and down-tuned guitars are present, but in odd time signatures and joined by electronic squeals and occasional choral singing. Songs lurch from point to point, thrashing at one time, grooving at another. I get the sense that the band has a fairly healthy sense of humor- the name of the record alone indicates so. I also get the feeling of confidence that older, technically experienced bands have- despite the oddness of the record, it doesn't sound like they had any doubt about what they were creating. That fact becomes even more impressive when you consider that the last album they released before this one had come out seven years prior. I don't know if "true" metalheads care for this one much, but personally I think this is one of the best and most unique metal albums I've heard in the last few years.

Dødheimsgard - The Snuff Dreams Are Made Of
Dødheimsgard - Apocalypticism