Sunday, 30 May 2010

Live Review: Portal, Krallice, Bloody Panda (May 23, 2010)

It seems like most music is designed to get people to move in some way. Techno, house, and disco all want you to dance until you drop. Salsa is both a musical genre and a style of dance. But what of metal? It's music to bang your head to, and perhaps to push/shove/fight to. However, that is not always the case. At a recent metal show I attended, the music ellicited mostly staring. How exactly do you move when listening to Bloody Panda, Krallice, and Portal?

The first band on the bill proved the exception. Nekrofilth, a punk-ish death metal band native to Cleveland, played some straight-forward head-bangin' tunes. It was not the stuff of legends, but it put me in a good mood, with some fun riffs, misanthropic lyrics, and a quick tempo. The band didn't even introduce themselves, much less banter on the small, bar-side stage of Now That's Class. Indeed, after they finished the rapid set, someone called out "Who are you?" It would have been to their benefit to say so, as I wouldn't mind seeing them again, certainly others agree with me.

Bloody Panda, who had soundchecked earlier, got down to business on the stage in the other room of the establishment. The sound was not great and the vocals were too low, but the set mostly held my attention. Unfortunately, BP's music just doesn't appeal to me much, and during the set I was able to pin down what I don't really like about the band: the drummer. For their droney, hypnotic songs, the drumming is always too fast or wholely unnecessary. It's too complex for this slow, sludgy music. Despite my complaints about the nature of their music, the band does perform well and I wouldn't complain one bit about their enthusiam for their music.

Third of the night was the band I explicitly came to see, Krallice (see my vow to see a Mick Barr band live in an earlier post), whom I thought were the headliners. I really loved 2009's Dimensional Bleedthrough and anxiously looked forward to their set. The band put forth all their might, each member moving his hands dextrously across his instrument, but the overall sound didn't translate well. I don't know if it was the sound in the club or the nature of this particular style of music, but it didn't sound great. I had a hard time identifying the songs (I think they did "Autocthon" and "Aridity," but I'm probably way off base). The comlexity of the music, aided by clean production in its recorded form, comes off as a mess of noise in a live setting. Now, I would have prefered to hear something more like the record, but I still enjoyed the energy of the band and the spectacle of watching them pull off such complex and long compositions.

The above two bands played to a crowd of nearly motionless individuals, but things picked up a little when Australian headliners Portal took the stage. Just beforehand, a few over-eager (and probably drunk) fans were yelling in their best cookie-monster growl: "PORTAAAL!" This surprised me, as I never thought Portal was that big of a deal (in terms of popularity, not quality of music), but they certainly have a few fans on this side of the world. On a unique bill of bands, Portal win for most unique. The members donned costumes in the 80+ degree heat, the vocalist wearing a black version of a cardinal/pope-type outfit. His gestures were theatrical and exaggerated, a good match for ripping, noisy death metal. He threw up the metal claw quite often and so did the audience (I guess that's some movement). The other bands didn't sound so great in this club, but Portal's music was perfectly suited to this environment. Noisy band, less-than-stellar sound, it all worked out. I have no clue what songs they did, since I just picked up Swarth at the show.

There was some disappointment during this show, but Portal really made the evening with their theatrics and skull-pounding heaviness. I do hope that Krallice (or maybe Orthrelm??) comes back to town in a better venue sometime, somewhere with better sound.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Live Review - Converge (May 7, 2010)

I've been waiting over 5 years to see Converge live. Converge is one of my favorite bands and I've been a fan since I first pirated the song "Homewrecker" (for preview purposes, as I later purchased the album) from Jane Doe back in 2002/2003 (can't remember the exact year). The band has been churning out an interesting brand of metalcore for a long time now and throughout the last decade, they've maintained a stable line-up and released consistently excellent releases. Last year's Axe To Fall was an invigorating mix of trampling hardcore, crunchy metal, and searing rock and roll riffage. It's probably my favorite release after Jane. On the strength of Axe and the fact that I had missed Converge the last 2 or 3 times they came to Cleveland due to being away at school, my anticipation level was through the roof, and the experience lived up to my expectations.

However, the were thorns that needed to be weeded through before I got to the (black) rose. The first band of the night, Touché Amoré from Los Angeles, went on around 8:30. They played a quick set of bland hardcore, which was interesting for about 2 seconds. They did do a song about the importance of legalizing gay marriage and the frontman sported a stylish "I support same-sex marriage" shirt, so I can at least say that they spread a good message.

Next up was a local Cleveland band who's name I did not hear (I didn't hear Touché Amoré's either, I had to look them up). Apparently, they got on the bill pretty last minute. They weren't much different from TA, other than the stage banter. Their mouthpiece was asking for the score of the Cavs/Celtics game and the crowd obliged. I thought perhaps their songs were too long, in addition to just being kind of rull-of-the-mill.

I changed my location at the Grog Shop for the next band, Lewd Acts. I had previewed a few of their songs online and was only slightly amused. The live set, sans vocalist, wasn't much to behold. I liked that the band gave it their best shot and tried really hard to appeal to the crowd, even getting them on the stage during the last song, but the music really didn't do anything for me. There's only so much hardcore that is actually interesting musically and has the all-important authenticity...

Which brings me to Converge. Maybe it's just the fact that I (and the crowd) actually know their songs very well or that the C is a veteran touring band, but everything seemed to change when they took the stage. The whole room just became chaotic, matching the intensity and ferocity of the music. I certainly didn't stand in the back and quietly observe, I was near the front, being beaten and shoving everyone in my sight (I'm still sore). The set was a nice mix of all the last decade's releases, focusing mostly on the hardcore side of things, as I expected. Here's a partial setlist (what I remember of it), not in order, except the first two songs:

Dark Horse
No Heroes
Axe To Fall
Reap What You Sow
Dead Beat
Distance And Meaning
The Broken Vow
Last Light
Hanging Moon

Jake Bannon had the good sense to say the name of each song, and sometimes album, before they played it. Converge mostly swept through without too many interruptions. There was a moment when Bannon gave props to the city and the only three bands from it that are actually good (Keelhaul, Integrity, Ringworm), which I appreciated.

Black Breath played last since their merch guy had a seizure, which prevented them from making it to the city on time. I only stuck around for a few of their songs since I wasn't really in it, but BB wins the award for second best band of the night, since they injected some much-needed musicality into their brand of rockin' hardcore.

Despite the boredom I experienced from the non-Converge bands, I still had a good time, as I was finally able to see a band that I love so much. I did walk away from the show with nasty, smelly beer in my hair, but it hardly detracted from my enjoyment.

A final note about the crowd: I did expect a mostly hardcore crowd, but was still a bit surprised by just how overwhelmingly hardcore-oriented the crowd was. I've always considered Converge to be a band that brings different types of fans together, but this night seemed to disprove my impression. And I also postulated that there would be more females, since I have some weird idea in my head that women like metallic hardcore music (especially among female metal fans), but I suppose that's also untrue. I didn't feel out of place in the pit, though. It was almost as if the pit erased all sense of sex and identity. It didn't matter there, only the music did.