Wednesday, January 29, 2003

Never EVER Enough Earplugs Department

As Devin Townsend might put it:


I was a bit dumb Sunday night. In my anxiety to get out of the house in time for the Nile show, I forgot to bring earplugs. Thea had a pair in her purse, so she was OK during the onslaught. Fortunately I found that the bar section of the club had earplugs for sale, but not before having to endure Napalm Death without 'em. As is, my tinnitus was very short-lived, but could've been avoidable if I had paid attention the first time I was at the bar.

See, I remembered the M�torhead/Morbid Angel/Today Is The Day show last May. Oh, that was a FUN show, as readers of this blog will recall. But my ears rang for over two days afterwards. My pal Hellpope Huey recalled how a mutual friend lost his hearing working in the aerospace industry and needed acupuncture just so he could hear something except deep bass frequencies--so he warned me to wear earplugs. I sorta heeded. I tried, anyhow. Sorry, Huey.

I didn't need earplugs as badly for the first three acts anyhow, as the amps weren't THAT cranked, and we were in the back of the club anyhow. The Graceland has an elevated area with tables and benches, and Thea needs to sit some of the time lest her endometriosis get the best of her. We got to the club an hour before the doors opened, after enjoying a lovely Thai dinner with our new friend Robert, co-subscriber to the Yahoo! group queerMETAL, his boyfriend Justin, and their friend Shaunda. Thea got the Volcano Hen, a small roasted bird set aflame at the table after being baked and basted in a delicate broth of Thai spices. I had a couple of bites--it was tasty. Plus, I got to make metal-signs and evil faces when it was lit, while Thea muttered something about offerings to her Dark Lord. Fun fun.

Back to the club: Since we arrived early enough, before a line had formed, we found a table in a corner with ample bench seating all around, and thus were relatively comfortable during the onslaught. And what a wonderful onslaught it was! First, The Berzerker from Australia came out with their rubber demonic monster masks and cranked some industrial-tinged death metal that was rather mosh-worthy, if a bit repetitive. In time they'll be a force to be reckoned with, once they've become more seasoned and well-rounded.

Next was former Steve Vai vocalist Devin Townsend and his splended chaotic "cybermetal" band Strapping Young Lad, providing hands-down the most insane, energetic, balls-out, no-holds-barred, fantastic performance of the evening. In fact, given the energy level of the band, it's a wonder that they let 'em be a supporting act! I guess it helps that Devin is funny and freaky--he started the show by mentioning that on the tour so far they've been in ten cities, eating shitty Mexican food, and spraying their stool in bathrooms everywhere, but since being in Seattle and eating our food, he's had, to quote him, "FOUR... PERFECT... MARBELIZED... TURDS!!!" And then the band launched into their most crazed song to my knowledge, "Oh My Fucking God!"--which you can actually hear on in its live, uncensored form. For that matter, you really should check out the website for his personal label, Hevy Devy Records--the man's got four SYL albums, four solo albums, one punk parody side-project, and two bands he personally produces, with more brilliant metal music for practically every taste except the boring heard-it-before kind.

After a short intermission, Sweden's melodic death metal champions Dark Tranquility came out and played a set of very nice music. But, while they are quite talented, they should not have played after SYL!!! After The Berzerker, their talents would've looked better. But they just don't have the energy to compete with madmen like SYL. Indeed, while I did enjoy Dark Tranquility, they would've been better off playing an open-air concert, with couples laying on the grass, smoking pot and hooting their support. But a nightclub with a young, mosh-hungry crowd is not their best possible venue. They were there mainly for the acts yet to come.

And Napalm Death didn't disappoint that mosh-hungry crowd, or me for that matter. While there was concern for a while that Napalm Death was getting old, soft, and predictable, their last two releases have the band returning to their hardcore-influenced death/grind roots with a vengeance, and that was reflected in their savage and LOUD performance. They covered every nook and cranny of their career, from their early Scum album to their latest, included a brutal version of "Greed Killings" from their underrated Diatribes album, and didn't let up one sweat-soaked moment. My personal highlight was when I shouted out "NAZI PUNKS FUCK OFF!" in reference to their Dead Kennedys cover--and then they played it in all its glory. In between they had plenty of vindictive moments of lambasting wars fought for corporate interests (like the present one), the British Royal Family, and their current nemesis, the music industry. My heart was full of joy and pounding bass, and while my aging ears might've wanted some protection, I was happy to experience that show in its total rawness.

But even as I ran to the bar for those earplugs, I was eager to hear the saviors of death metal, Nile, whose total devotion to Egyptian and Assyrian themes--in contrast to the worn-out sophomoric satanism of many of their peers--provides a much needed contrast and endless inspiration for revived atavistic brutality. Nile uses three vocalists in rotation during each song, each with his own unique deep demonic growling style, and couples it with Middle-Eastern styled riffing in balance with the precision thudding of the lower registers. A bit testosterone-poisoned they may well be, but they seem to know how to use it on stage, as they set off the most ferocious moshing of the night. Even their appropriation of Grieg's "Mars" from The Planets Suite, renamed "Ramses, Bringer Of War," could've sounded hokey but instead was used like a warclub to smash down upon weaker pretenders to the death metal throne. And they smashed away the whole of their set, not letting up until the very end. Despite the earplugs I was still blown away, and when they come to Seattle again I will be there.

My only regret was that the mighty Voivod, originally scheduled to be on the tour, had pulled out so they could record their new album with former Metallica and Flotsam Jetsam bassist Jason Newsted, who I'm happy to report is now a permanent member of the band. Voivod has been a favorite of mine since their Dimension Hatr�ss album, and it does my heart glad that Newsted left the corporate bloat that Metallica has become to join a band that is both sellout-proof and dedicated to producing weird, innovated extreme metal. I missed not seeing them at this show, but I wish them all well and can't wait to hear the results!

And there you have it--a somewhat mutilated report, not covering everything--like the guy in the Harodl Arthur McNeill painted leather jacket who accidently gave Robert a shower with his wet hair, or the friends of Robert we met whose name I only vaguely remember (Bill?).... Uh, I think I just added those details. That's a sign that I should go to bed soon.

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