Something happened at Black Cat on Tuesday night that I was completely unprepared for.
I thought I was set. I took one look at Jucifer and their wall of speakers, and I knew it was my kind of music. I’ve seen drone-metal bands like Sunn O))) before. I listened to Jucifer’s latest album and knew I’d enjoy that sort of American black metal in person. I brought my nice earplugs, designed for drummers who play for hours straight. But, my God, I was not expecting to have such an amazing metal night.
This band Jucifer already intimidated me with their wall of white speakers. Even their first note was super-loud, enough to make me desperately shove in my earplugs and cease any coherent conversation with my friends who had invited me. Once their set began, I was completely enthralled with the noise they created.
Jucifer is just two folks – one dude on drums, one woman on guitar. Is it even a normal guitar? It looked like a normal Flying V, but the riffs were so bass-y that it had to have some thick, low strings on it. The entire show was a constant assault of fuzzy riffs and angry drums. This band didn’t let up for one second. I wanted to pause for awhile to applaud, you know, maybe yelp about how awesome they were…but this wasn’t my destiny. For a solid 90 minutes, Jucifer weaved in and out of noise without even pretending like they were crafting typical “songs” with beginnings and endings.
Throughout the set, the band shifted between slow, drone riffs and frantic attacks. When the guitars were too drone-y for too long, all I wanted was for the band to break into something fast, something heavy that I could head-bang to. And I would get it, occasionally…but it was never enough.
I’d look at their drummer, and he’d have one of two looks. One was a look of extreme pain, like it was taking every ounce of effort on his part to bang on these drums. He’d bang on the toms with his fists. He’d stand up and hit cymbals with two drumsticks in hand. He’d break into a fast riff, hitting his drums like a madman. His other look was a shit-eating grin, like he knew exactly what he was doing to us, like he couldn’t help but smile at the power he was delivering.
This band never even acknowledged that they had an obsessed audience, one where nobody could even walk away if they wanted. I’m pretty sure the guitarist never even looked up at us once, her blonde hair overwhelming her face as she shrieked into the mic. It’s amusing to me that earlier in the night, I had been talking about how I didn’t even know any of these hundreds of female-fronted metal bands, and I couldn’t even put together a modern female-fronted metal mixtape, yet here I was, witnessing a woman totally annihilating all my expectations.
As an audience, we got one reprieve, where we were allowed to clap and cheer before Jucifer launched into an “encore” of more drone-metal bliss. They left us with a wall of noise, and I trekked off into the snowy night. I thought cigarettes would be enough to help me calm down, but of course they weren’t. My ears are ringing with a bassy note unlike anything I’ve heard before. I know that any time I whine to my friends about DC winters, I’ll just think back to this black-metal night and the two- or three-dozen people who shared this experience with me, and smile with that same shit-eating grin.