Hello dear reader(s)!
First and foremost, I would like to begin this post on this here blog-type-thing by stating that extreme technical death metal is not my favorite style of music. That said however, as a musician I can respect much of it. (Everything except the vocals on most bands, really. Anyone can scream growl.) So when my cousin messaged me a couple of weeks ago to attend a metal show on Sunday night (last night for those of you playing at home or in different time zones), I thought to myself, “Myself, what do you think?”
“Well myself, what the hell?” I replied to myself.
My stomach was hurting bad, since about 2 in the afternoon. But because I wanted to hang out with my cousin, and do something a bit out of my comfort zone, I decided to push through. Because it was a Sunday night, I knew I could avoid the crowds that one might normally encounter at a show, so the threat to my immune system would be minimal. The crowd did not disappoint in that area.
The venue was what used to be The Underground, which for reasons you may have read in this here blog-type-thing in the past, is one of my favorite places in town. It is now called PB&J’s. The sound system, I believe is the same as it was, which is a serious issue. I’m sure the sound guys were doing their best, but when every speaker is a giant woofer, precision gets lost under the heavy low-end. This was certainly the case for the first act we witnessed (the second of the night), Transient Dawn. (By the way, there is an established trance act with the same name, so they may want to change it.) Which is a shame, because if their set didn’t sound like mud, they might have been my favorite.
They were the most original act up there, in a genre that I, quite frankly, think hasn’t been original in some time. Too much of that music is composed of blast beats, with a stop thrown in here and there, before another blast beat. The guitars on many of the acts are the same 4 drop-tuned chords (played really, really fast, so I will give them that), and then a screechy lead player doing nothing but scales that don’t even seem to fit the key, over the top of it. This with unintelligible growl screaming dominating the rest.
Not Transient Dawn, however. Yes, there was a blast beat in each of the songs that they played, but there was also a lot of technical drumming, with quality, original (for that genre) fills, and different patterns within the fast double bass and on the snare and toms. However, I think I am the only person who realized that, because I watch drummers play. Nobody could hear anything from the drummer except his two kick drums, because the sound was that muddy. I can’t totally blame the sound system, because the other acts didn’t seem to have as much of a problem, so it is possible that the bass player was just turned up so loud, that there was no compensating on the board. But it was all low-end noise. That act had something that set them apart too, (gasp!) singing. There was a male and female vocalist. The female actually sang and then the guy would scream (less growl) words in a sort of duet fashion. Again though, the low-end muddiness made the female almost impossible to hear. Too bad, because I was legitimately impressed with the talent and originality I know I couldn’t hear.
The next act we saw (the third, Purification By Fire) was pretty good, but awfully typical of music of that genre. Still though, their precision and breakdowns made it enjoyable.
It was the third act (the fourth of the night, for those of you keeping track…I’d tell you their name, but can’t read their logo on the flyer) that absolutely reminded me why I don’t usually go to these kinds of shows. Hyper-aggressive and sloppy. The screamer (because I can’t call him a vocalist in good conscience) yelled for everyone to, “Get the fuck up to the front!” right after the first song. To which I felt compelled to shout back, “Give us a reason!” They took forever to set up and sound check, for sloppy, uninspired music. They rode the time slot they ended up with well though, and the crowd was peaking during their set, making them seem like they were doing a lot better than I thought they were. The drummer and screamer particularly pissed me off, as there was nothing but badly done, wavering blast beats hitting each cymbal and with no meter. They also played so long, that they pushed the evening’s headliner into playing about 4 or 5 songs before being done.
The 4th act we saw (5th of the night) didn’t even take the stage until after 11. On a Sunday. They are called Alterbeast. Two words. Technical precision. These guys were so tight, it was like they had been playing together since they were in the womb. The speed and technicality of their playing was amazing. The lead guitar played leads that actually fit the music. I only know this though, because I got so close to the stage as to just about ruin my remaining ear, so that I could hear the highs and mids a little better. The muddy low ends were still there, although not nearly as bad. The patterns within the beats, combined with the speed, is something that made me understand why hardcore fans of the genre feel the way they do about it. However, they played about 4 or 5 songs for a half hour to about 20 people. I don’t blame them for stopping early, but I bet they’re pissed at that sloppy second to last band.
All in all, I would say the best act was Alterbeast, though my favorite was Transient Dawn, because they had an originality I feel has been lacking in that genre for some time. Alterbeast was tighter, but the scream growl was definitely something that I feel can only be done in small doses.
I am obviously biased though. What can I say? I’m a sucker for real singing.
Happily, this marks the last time I will be going out at night until I go to Alaska. Thank goodness, I’m tired.