Entertainment, Music, We Love Music

We Love Music: Agalloch @ Sonar (Baltimore), 3/21/11

All photos courtesy of Agalloch

On Monday, I drove up to Baltimore to check out Agalloch, rising stars in the American black metal scene. You know, I try to defend DC’s metal scene, but what does it mean when a critically acclaimed band passes us by? Are we not metal enough for a band from Portland? Are our local venues discriminating against the longhairs?

Anyway. I usually scoff at black metal as being too Satanic, too repetitive, or too grim – but Agalloch bring something unique to the genre, mixing in elements of folk (including acoustic and orchestral instruments), psych metal, and post-rock. It coalesces into something heavy and complex, something that rewards multiple listens. Despite some weak opening bands and a late set (running past 1am), I left the show sold on their vision for the future of black metal.
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Entertainment, Music, We Love Music

We Love Music: Abigail Williams/Melechesh/Rotting Christ @ Jaxx Nightclub, 03/09/11

all photos by Michael Darpino

Guest reviewer Mark Hensch is a freelance writer based in Washington DC. He has been writing about Heavy Metal since he was in High School back in Michigan. He currently contributes to the Washington Times online as Heavy Metal Hensch and is senior editor of Thrash Pit.

The “Apostles of Darkness Over The Americas” tour launched their nationwide sonic assault at Jaxx Nightclub on Wednesday night. The first stop on a two-month tour, the lineup read like a roster from the embassy of evil: leading the charge were the grim ghouls of Abigail Williams, followed by the Middle Eastern heavy metal of Jerusalem’s Melechesh and the battle-ready anthems of Athens’ Rotting Christ. It was a concert of musical carnage that wasn’t just great it was global; fire-breathing proof that the heavy metal scene still thrives at home and abroad.

Thanks to Jaxx’s layout, DC-area heavy metal fans were treated to a trio of intimate performances. The crowd was small but vocal, filling the floor space in front of the raised stage with an energy that surpassed their numbers. There wasn’t much space between band and fan, letting the two collide in uproarious confrontation. Guitar necks brushed past thrown devil horns as the fans and bands became one in an extreme metal meltdown.

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We Love Music

We Love Music: Darkest Hour @ 9:30 Club, 2/25/11

Atticus Tour @ 9:30 Club
All photos by Erin McCann

How was your weekend? Mine started off with a bang – as soon as I got off work, I headed straight for the 9:30 Club to check out a handful of metal bands on the Atticus Metal Tour. This was an early show, running only until 9pm, since rockabilly queen Wanda Jackson had a later that night. So who shows up for a metal show at 5pm? High school kids. Drunk people. And me. I got my dose of metal that left me pumped for the rest of the weekend.

DC’s own Darkest Hour headlined this tour, along with younger metalcore groups Born of Osiris, As Blood Runs Black, and The Human Abstract. Four bands in four hours meant the show moved at a brisk pace – it felt like every band could’ve played a few more tracks, especially the headliners. I enjoyed all of these bands, but with 15 years of experience under their belt, Darkest Hour stole the show.
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Entertainment, Music, We Love Music

We Love Music: Weedeater @ SONAR (Baltimore), 2/23/11

all photos by author.

Step right up folks. Here we have the genuine article. A regular nine-toed, Jim Beam soused, hard working, son of the South. Brought straight out of the backwaters of North Carolina and direct to SONAR Baltimore’s side stage to both bewilder and terrify you with his gravel voiced howls and suffocating sludge bass guitar. The wild man reputation of “Dixie” Dave Collins has preceded him for a decade and on Tuesday night I finally got to experience this force of nature front man for myself.

“Dixie” Dave fronts Weedeater, a Stoner Doom metal band with a sound that is a little more Southern-fried than most of their peers. Accompanying Collins on drums is Keith “Keko” Kirkum, an imposing mountain of a man who would look equally at home guarding the gates to Mordor with a giant war-hammer or roughing you up for the change in your pockets. On guitar is Dave Sheperd; tall, slender, eyes hidden beneath the brim of his camouflage cap; lurking in the background like your uncle’s weird hunting buddy or that unassuming neighbor that turns out to be a serial killer. All three of these guys look like they could deliver some serious damage with any assortment of WalMart supplied bows, shotguns, and lawn darts. Weedeater trade in their firearms for instruments every couple of years to cut an album and tour behind it, unleashing an entirely different type of punishment than the kind they delivered to Ned Beatty’s ass in “Deliverance”.

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Hot Ticket: Thursday & Underoath @ 9:30 Club, 2/22/11

Thursday - Full Collapse [2001]

It might be easy to lump the group Thursday, playing tomorrow at the 9:30 Club, in with other aging emo bands such as the Get Up Kids. But Thursday have come a long way since they first cracked the scene in 2001 – their full-length debut “Full Collapse” spawning the hit singles “Cross Out The Eyes” and “Understanding in a Car Crash”. Well, they were hits in my mind, at least. This was always one of my favorite emo bands – they were dramatic and serious, and just a bit heavy. Tomorrow night, they’ll be playing this album in its entirety.

Since then, they’ve consistently revived their style on each album. Lately, frontman Geoff Rickly has been working with a side-project, United Nations, which is sort of a tribute to extremely heavy 90s hardcore bands like Orchid and Pg. 99. Geoff’s instincts have consistently driven Thursday in a heavier direction – even 2003’s “War All the Time” was much darker and angrier than “Full Collapse”. Since splitting ways with Island Records in 2007, Thursday have toured with bands that don’t quite match their emo style – heavy bands like Converge and Envy.

Tuesday night’s pairing with Underoath is a perfect example. Underoath is a metalcore group from Florida, combining the vocal style and attitude of hardcore punk with metal riffs. I personally love this style of metal – it means I can scream along with the lyrics, or just bang my head to the riffs. A Skylit Drive do something similar, with alternating screaming and melodic vocals – but I’m most excited about Animals as Leaders, one of my favorite progressive metal bands. This DC-based group delivers quick bursts of heavy, jazzy, complex riffs without the pretention or epicness of bands like Dream Theater.

I caught Thursday last year at the Black Cat, and it had one of the most energetic crowds I’ve seen in DC. Dozens of kids shove their way to the front of the pit for the chance to shout lyrics in Geoff’s face. Look out for me – I’ll be the guy in the black hoodie in the front row.

Thursday & Underoath
w/ A Skylit Drive, Animals as Leaders
9:30 Club
Tuesday, Feb. 22nd, 2011

Entertainment, Music, We Love Music

We Love Music: Kylesa @ Black Cat Backstage, 1/20/11

All photos by Michael Darpino

Obviously, last week in DC’s music scene was all about Dismemberment Plan. Except for on Thursday night when a hundred or so dedicated metal fans packed the backstage at Black Cat, oblivious to any legendary reunions, for one of metal’s best new bands. Kylesa brought a set full of huge metal anthems that would’ve been large enough to entertain a festival-sized crowd.

Kylesa are one of the bands at the forefront of a new style of “sludge metal” that’s emerging from the South. Sludge metal takes elements from doom metal that were once too grim and frostbitten for the average listener, and adds the styling of psychedelic rock to create something more fun and exciting. You get dark, brooding riffs cranked up loud combined with bright melodies and screaming lyrics instead of demonic growls. Also, everything is played faster – fast enough that only the truly talented can crank out the riffs with such speed. Bands like Baroness, Black Tusk, and Mastodon have been doing this for awhile, but Kylesa has perfected the craft over their ten-year career.
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Hot Ticket: Kylesa @ Black Cat Backstage 1/20/11

Kylesa - Spiral Shadow

As a huge metal fan, I’m always looking out for the rare “crossover” show that I know I’ll love, and will appeal to someone who’s not versed in metal will also enjoy. Tomorrow night, Kylesa are bringing their Southern blend of sludge metal to the Black Cat Backstage – a rare chance to see these guys in a small, intimate venue. Honestly, their sound is so huge that they need two drummers, so I don’t know how the Backstage is supposed to contain them.

“Sludge metal” lies somewhere on the spectrum between psychedelic rock and doom metal. This means on Thursday you can expect some huge, looping riffs played on fuzzy guitars combined with the kind of bass you can feel in your bones. The vocals are angry and loud, but not gothic or growly like most doom metal. If you’re a fan of any other Southern sludge metal groups like Baroness, Black Tusk, Torche, or (dare I say?) Mastodon, you probably already know that you belong at this show. For a taste of what’s in store, be sure to check out my favorite track “Running Red” on their myspace page.

Fellow Georgians Zoroaster and New Jersey’s Fight Amp round off the bill for what should be an epic show. Both these bands are really solid, so I’m looking forward to catching them. Don’t miss it!

w/ Fight Amp, Zoroaster
Black Cat Backstage
Thursday Jan 20th

Entertainment, Music, We Love Music

We Love Music: Jucifer @ Black Cat 1/11/11

look at those goddamn speakers.
all photos by author

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.
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Entertainment, Music, We Love Music

We Love Music: Suicidal Tendencies @ 9:30 Club 11/12/10

all photos by author.

Thrash veterans Suicidal Tendencies played an early show at 9:30 Club on Friday night to a small but dedicated crowd of punks, skins, skaters, and scene survivors. This So-Cal outfit that carved out the Punk-Metal hybrid sound known as Thrash nearly 30 years ago, has been hyper-active in recent years with several recordings and tours designed to remind the world of the sound that they originated and their place in music history as its trailblazer. Suicidal Tendencies made a strong case with their performance on Friday night that they deserve to be remembered as the godfathers of the skater Thrash sound.

The show was billed as Suicidal Tendencies playing material from their critically-ignored second album “Join The Army” and also from lead-singer Mike Muir’s little-known metal band No Mercy. ST recently released “No Mercy Fool!/The Suicidal Family” on which they re-recorded several tracks by No Mercy and from ST’s “Join The Army”. Was it necessary to re-record this music and tour on it? No, it probably was not. Critically, Suicidal Tendencies’ first and third album are their best and their sophomore release has always been regarded as a misstep. Critical reception is not everything though, especially for hardcore punk bands who often look to the blood and sweat of their fans as the more genuine stamp of approval. Am I glad that ST decided to re-record this material and tour on it? Hell, yes. While not necessarily the defining moment of punk-metal crossover Thrash, this material definitely represents the genre well. The new album of old tunes sounds remarkably fresh in 2010 and the show on Friday night demonstrated just how awesome Thrash can be when played well live.

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