It was a hot, sweaty night of nerdery at Jaxx Nightclub yesterday. The line of the black-shirted went all the way to the gas station on the other end of the parking lot; I was surrounded by people who were talking about things I actually new things about, like Gene Hoglan’s middle name and the release date of Strapping Young Lad’s first album. It was a pretty glorious thing. Eventually I got inside and decided to once again try out the main floor instead of heading to the elevated rear, which might have been a mistake, again. I managed about 3rd or 4th row from the front, and had an intermittent view of the stage. Not too bad but not great.
So the first local band hit the stage pretty quickly, pounding out some kickin’ death metal with touches of Lykathea Aflame. It really was a very solid performance for such a young band, and I enjoyed it quite a bit. The vocalist had both the look and the attitude down pretty well, and his vocal style reminded me a bit more of a grindcore mentality. All the musicians performed great and it was probably the heaviest showing of the night. I wouldn’t mind seeing these guys again.
As soon as the drummer and the bassist started setting up their stuff I could tell what their deal was. The drummer had a Cynic t-shirt and the bass was something like an 8-string fretless. This could only mean one thing: jazz metal. Jazz metal is something very few bands have been able to pin down right, and it’s still not something that can really be enjoyed. One of the more important points of metal is to be focused in its brutality and not to meander too much, which jazz is wont to do. These guys did bring on the heavy for some bits, but they only managed to play two songs because of the ridiculously long noodling-sessions in which the lead guitarist tried desperately to be Allan Holdsworth, and pretty much failed. I suppose it might have been more fun if I’d been high. They did play well I guess, aside from that. You can download their debut EP for free at http://www.existband.com.
I’ve been aware of TesseracT for I think about four years. I was first introduced to them in a forum thread about the possibility of the existence of something as awesome as Meshuggah’s “I” EP, which is pretty much impossible to top. However, there were some good recommendations, the best of which was TesseracT’s song Concealing Fate (Part 1), which at the time was just a few demos. Their demo sampler was listened to many times on my walks to and from class back at school. Theirs is a style similar to Meshuggah’s in the use of low-range palm-muted “chuggas", known nowadays by metal nerds as “djent.” They distinguish themselves from their Swedish masters by using more melodic non-growled vocals for the majority of their lyrics, and lots of chimey ambient guitars to give the music a more dynamic feel. They aren’t a unique band now, but they might have been back then if it weren’t for Textures. Still they’re distinct enough to be recognizable, and very enjoyable.
As for their performance, it was outstanding. They’ve gone through a number of vocalists, and I think they found a keeper in their current guy, who was an entertaining frontman and sang quite well considering the range of sounds he has to make. He does sound a little bit too much like the guy from Coheed and Cambria but it’s not so bad that it makes me sick. The instrumentalists of course were all spot-on; they’ve been playing the same small set of songs for about half a decade, it would be kind of amazing if they screwed up at all. A weird thing that happened during their set was a large dude in front of me passing out. The singer had to find a dry spot in the song and notify security, after which the limp body was swiftly carried away. He came back for Devin’s set though so I guess it all worked out.
I bought their Concealing Fate EP for $10, and there will probably be a review forthcoming.
Periphery is another djent band who has gone through a ton of vocalists. Their current screamer joined the band only just recently, just in time to record vocals for their debut eponymous album. The widespread reaction to the CD was one of admiration for the music, but disgust for the vocals, an opinion I share. He’s supposedly improved his style recently (after releasing the album of course, good move there), going so far as to post a re-recorded version of one of the album tracks on his myspace page. I don’t really see it as much of an improvement. I was all psyched to see if he could do better in a live setting, but first his mic didn’t work for the first song and then it turned out he was sick and couldn’t handle the stress on his throat, so he left the stage half-way though the set. What little I did manage to hear of his voice sounded okay, but even after he got the working mic it wasn’t really mixed high enough for me to make any judgment. Compared to TesseracT they played a lot more intensely; the music was very dense and complicated. It was so loud though it kind of sounded like mush. After their travesty of an album I wasn’t expecting much, even after respecting their founder Misha Mansoor for quite a while.
Devin Townsend Project
Devin Townsend has been near to or at the top of my list of favorite musicians for a number of years now, and the only reason I bought a ticket, although noticing that TesseracT and Periphery were on the bill was a great surprise. I managed to catch him during the Between the Buried and Me tour earlier this year in Baltimore, but a 30 minute set is simply not enough Hevy Devy. His new positive outlook is a refreshing thing in metal, although I sure wouldn’t mind a few Strapping Young Lad songs. His set consisted largely of songs from Ziltoid, Addicted, and Infinity, with a couple from Ocean Machine and Terria. I’m pretty sure there wasn’t single Ki track, which was disappointing, and Earth Day was omitted as well. Sad. Still, Bad Devil was featured, which is pretty awesome because it was probably the first track that actually got me interested in his solo material.
As usual Devin was an extremely charismatic frontman, starting out with a joke about the amount of ball-sweat in the room and a rapid-fire story about taking a shit in the CVS across the street. His array of funny faces made him a joy to watch, and at one point he actually came out into the crowd and played a section of a song while all the sweaty nerds patted his shiny bald head. It was obvious that he was well-loved by everyone there. His vocal performance was pretty incredible, much better than most footage I’ve seen on youtube and all that. He seems to be really enjoying these tours, contrary to the time when he swore off ever touring again and promised to become a hermit in the Canadian mountains. I’m very glad he’s found his new life in music and hope he’ll continue to be his prolific self for many years to come.