Friday, July 11, 2008

Epic in Concert

Last spring some friends from Portland invited me to hang at a local concert in Eugene. They had some friends who were traveling down the coast on tour, opening up for a band called Loom. True to college form, I ended up taking the opportunity to avoid my schoolwork in favor of a show and drinks with friends. I sadly missed most of openers, including their friends, but I did get to see all of Loom’s set. They came off like a band that was either five years behind the scene, or five ahead. I was given quick rundown of what to expect, At The Drive-In post-hardcore intensity with a violin that brings to mind Cursive’s instrumental formula. What got left out were the skirmishing math breakdowns that pass through briefly, then disappear behind an angry chorus. By the end of the show, I had joined into the crowd.

The night only got better. My friends picked me a Loom T-shirt and E.P., Angler (2006), as well as the record label, Exigent, sampler mix, The Colors of Sound Breathing V. 1. I gave the sampler a listen and really liked two bands, Gaza and Sweet Jesus. Sweet Jesus has release just a S/T, two song EP, and I have not heard any noise about future recordings or happenings, which is sad because they played a badass hybrid of punk spazz and metal sludge. Gaza has gained some attention and have released an EP, East (2004), and an LP on Black Market Activities, I Don’t Care Where I Go When I Die (2006), to solid reviews. The bands lyrics are whimsical, citing American Idol's Ryan Seacrest amongst others. In the end though, the lyrics are unintelligible, like most extreme metal vocals since the late eighties. Debating over the lyrical strengths is dwarfed by the intensity of the vocal performance, and Gaza's are nasty. What makes them stand out is that they demonstrate little concern for a specific genre convention; the guy is just trying to heave his lungs from his chest. The bands sound is a Math/Grindcore combo, somewhere between Botch and Meshuggah. The guitar work and grind-wall are bound by some chunky time signatures that stomp all over each other. In the broad world of metalcore, I can see these guys getting some love from the Dillinger/Converge pack that’s ready to step outside and go on the prowl.

This month I decided to check back in after not hearing much from the label. While Gaza has moved on to bigger things and Sweet Jesus hasn’t really moved at all, I was happy to see a new band making a their presence felt. Exigent is based in Salt Lake City but has recently moved into Portland and signed a band called Diesto. Isle of Marauder is Diesto’s first release with Exigent is some of the best doom metal I have run across this year. While Neurosis has been the genre’s bulldozer since the early nineties, bands like Isis and Pelican have brought progressive doom to the surface from the underground and are headliners of a recent trend in American metal, and now with Marauder, Diesto have begun carved their name in landscape. Their approach, in an already crowded room, grabs your attention almost immediately by scraping against the hammer throw with some Industrial-style production. It’s still heavy as hell, but rings coarse when compared to dominant codes in the scene. On their band web page they list "soul" as an genre influence, and you can hear it on the guitar solos strangely enough. The band also shows an early affinity for rock dynamics, like on “Monarch,” when instead of just rolling down a long treaded path, a seven minute march charges ahead into fist-throwing punk glory. The epic closer "Black Water" ceeps in with leading guitars, punishes for over ten minutes, then has the guitars return only to put the album to rest. Isle of Marauder is doom metal churned out of a junkyard compactor, and for Diesto, a very promising start. Check these guys out.

No comments: