Saturday, April 17, 2010

Knu from Knut: Wonder

Two months of waiting 'til this is out ain't so bad considering I've already waited for 5 years.


So let's say that one of your favorite bands puts out an amazing record in 2005. Here's a standard timeline of events, using the release date as a reference point:

6 months later: stop listening to last record once a day
1.5 years later: actively await news of new record
2 years later: suffer through pointless EP, B-sides, live or remix record
3 years later: forget band ever existed
4 years later: rediscover last record while searching through record collection
5 years later: find out that band broke up two years ago

I was prepared to give up on Knut (one of only two bands that ever convinced me to wear their hoodie), despite my undying reverence for their last record Terraformer (Hydra Head, 2005) and each of their previous Hydra Head releases. That remix album Alter from 2006 did nothing to assuage my slide into apathy. But now it looks like it's time to recalibrate my timeline.







"Descent" (from Bastardiser)






"Kyoto" (from Terraformer)

Hydra Head just announced the June 29th release of Knut's new album Wonder. It's reportedly both "A commentary on the human capacity for creative thought and numinous experience in the face of a violent and oppressive global-market ethos" and "Testament to our will for survival and defiance in times of adversity and crippling doubt." That's a lot of touting for 40 minutes of music, but I guess Knut have had plenty of time to develop creative thoughts about survival and defiance in the interim.

So...is anyone else excited about Wonder?

Click here, here, here and here to check out the progression of that glorious album cover by Aaron Turner.


BUY:

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

CHAINMAIL: Fuck the Facts - Unnamed EP (self-released, 2010)

The CHAINMAIL section reviews bands that were proactive enough to contact me directly. Here at Cerebral Metalhead, initiative is rewarded.

Go listen to your Repulsion and early Napalm Death records. Now listen to the new Fuck the Facts Unnamed EP. Lordy, how grindcore has changed. Frequent changeups and breakdowns and beat-flippings keep the 'core as prevalent as the grind, the headspin as prevalent as the gutpunch. Grind isn't just for speedfreaks anymore. This stuff is as impressive for its pure composition as it is for the fury it channels.







Fuck the Facts: ". ."

There's little room for imperfection on Unnamed EP. It's surgical in its savagery. Performances are ship-in-a-bottle-builder precise, instruments cleanly separated. I could never call the group's pixie of death vocalist Mel Mongeon "caged," but here's she's less frontwoman than vocal accompanist. This will change when you see Fuck the Facts live. A Mongeon performance is not conducive to upstaging or forgetting.







"La Tete hors de L'eau"

Fuck the Facts habitually pick at their own bones and reassess their catalog. Founding guitarist Topon Das et. al cobbled together 2008's Disgorge Mexico from jam tapes and riffs dating back to the band's founding, nearly a decade prior; Unnamed EP finds the band re-recording "La Tete Hors De L'eau" from a 2004 split with Sergent Slaughter and "Doghead" from Mullet Fever. I like the idea of a band that's proud enough of its past to incorporate it into its present. Self-sampling, if you will. There are subtle differences between new and old on Unnamed EP, mostly in the more straightforward tonalities and structures of the two re-records, which compare favorably to The Red Chord (Frankensteiny combos of grind, groove, pinch harmonic and roar). It's remarkable how consistent Fuck the Facts are on record, especially considering how prolific they are. Unnamed EP upholds the band's fact-fucking quality.


BUY:

Consider Fucking the Facts live:

Apr 23 2010 8:00P The Alex Brantford, Ontario
Apr 24 2010 8:00P Hard Luck Bar Toronto, Ontario
May 14 2010 8:00P CSMA Ithaca, New York
May 15 2010 8:00P Bug Jar Rochester, New York
May 16 2010 8:00P Now That’s Class Cleveland, Ohio
May 17 2010 8:00P Mac’s Bar Lansing, Michigan
May 18 2010 8:00P Reggies Chicago, Illinois
May 19 2010 8:00P Fubar St. Louis, Missouri
May 20 2010 8:00P Conservatory Oklahoma, Oklahoma
May 21 2010 8:00P Renos Dallas, Texas
May 22 2010 8:00P War Legion Amarillo, Texas
May 23 2010 8:00P Red Seven Austin, Texas
May 25 2010 8:00P The Bar New Orleans, Louisiana
May 26 2010 8:00P Firehouse Birmingham, Alabama
May 27 2010 8:00P Hideaway Johnson City, Tennessee
May 28 2010 8:00P Sleep On It Harrisonburg, Virginia
May 29 2010 8:00P MD Deathfest Baltimore, Maryland
Jun 1 2010 8:00P Club Hell Providence, Rhode Island
Jun 18 2010 8:00P Montebello Marina Montebello, Quebec
Jun 19 2010 8:00P Bar Le Magog Sherbrooke, Quebec
Jul 23 2010 8:00P Friendship Cove Montreal, Quebec

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Lair of the Minotaur interview


Nate Olp, Steven Rathbone and Chris Wozniak of Lair of the Minotaur


The new Lair of the Minotaur album is out this week. Those of you who were worried that the Chicago trio were going to drop their Greek mythology shtick will have to go find something else to worry about, because Evil Power sticks it to the Olympian pantheon over and over again with an even more brutish approach than LOTM's last few. Screw that Clash of the Titans abortion. This is the real shit when it comes to Greek god-busting in 2010. I caught up with the band's main man Steven Rathbone for a soon-to-be-published Decibel feature. Here's how the talk went down.

///////////////

You’re at work right now?

Technically, yeah. I work at home.

What do you do other than rock the mic?

I run a business called theGrind-House.com and we sell movie poster t-shirts. The label that’s putting out the new record is kind of like a sister company of the Grind-House. It’s called The Grind-House Records.

Why did you decide to go the self-released route with this record?

Our contract was up with Southern Lord. We had them behind us with distribution and whatnot. We just wanted to take it in our own hands. It’s kind of in the original spirit of the band. We got signed with them (Southern Lord) early. When we first signed the demo had only been out for six months. And so it’s something we always wanted to do, and I thought it was the right time, and it was the right record, and so far the response has been really great.

Is there much of a difference in making this record as an independent band distributed by a larger label as opposed to going straight through Southern Lord? Or have you not noticed that much in terms of what you have to do on a day to day basis?

It’s definitely a little more hands-on as far as the label aspect of it, but the approach with this record is exactly the same. I mean if this record would have come out on Southern Lord, it’d be the exact same record, you know? It is a different aspect of trying to act as a salesman a little bit more for your record. I think that’s something that I find a little bit hard to do. It’s one thing to write and record an album and make music. It’s another thing to go like “Aw, you gotta check out this band! They’re fuckin’ awesome!” Like, do what labels do. Which is sell a band.

I imagine you taking off your Conan helmet and instead of saying “I’m going to destroy you!” saying “Will you please buy my record?”

That’s also where some help comes in handy. My good friend Josh Diebel is partnering with us on this label. He used to own Alleysweeper Records back in the mid-90s, and they put out some of the old Tribes of Neurot stuff, and solo Justin Broadrick stuff, and Mick Harris – experimental, ambient/noise stuff. So he has a little more experience with the label when it comes to sales and that kind of thing. It definitely helps to have someone else doing that and not the guy from a band.


Let’s talk about the new record a little bit. Evil Power has a much simpler, more straightforward vibe than the last one. Did you try to strip it down for this record?

Yeah! The storyline is a continuation of the storyline from War Metal Battle Master (reviewed here), which was about Ares. If anyone doesn’t know, our stuff is about Greek mythology. So it was about him becoming a god. And it was also about this period of peace ending, and this period of – it was sort of a violent period, where men became very violent. And so the music – it’s also about celebration, about the celebration after a big victory, a bloody victory. That was the overlying theme behind this record. To create a record that was celebratory, kind of like a party record. When I started thinking about that, I had some older stuff I had worked on, that was working out real well with this. And it’s basically we wanted to make a really kickass record could put on at a party. The kind of stuff you would listen to – Judas Priest, Motorhead, that type of thing and that type of vibe. And it’s also about drunk-driving as well.

Really! Tell me how drunk driving fits in to the equation.

Well, it kind harkens back to when I first started driving, growing up in Detroit. We didn’t really have much to do, and that’s all we did, drink and drive. Listen to music. I definitely look back fondly on those times now. Don’t want anyone to get a DUI, but… ::laughs:: it’s one of those records that’s good to put on if you’ve had a few and you’re driving real fast on the freeway.

Got it. So it’s more of a throwback to those heady days of driving under the influence than a recommendation that your listeners do the same.

::laughs:: That’s right. You’re just begging for a DUI if you buy this record.

That’s a subliminal message you don’t want to record backwards on your album.

And then there’s the overlying story of the Greek mythology, and there’s a lot of movement in the marauding type thing, with these bands of soldiers, so there’s also that. The marauding type element to it, you and your friends get in a car and jammin’ some tunes. Havin’ a good time, going somewhere or whatever.

I was going to ask if, after four albums of Greek mythology, you were starting to see some sort of overarching allegory in your music, or a connection to modern living. And I guess that would be it.

Yeah. That’s pretty much it right there. I dunno if we would ever make it out that all of the songs are about partying and getting pussy, but…::laughs::

A lot of them are! So the War Metal Battle Master DVD (reviewed here) was one of the most over-the-top blood and tits fests I’ve ever seen. Do you have something similar planned for Evil Power?

Actually I’m supposed to see the final edit of the video tonight. The Deciblog is doing the premiere at the end of the month.


What song is it for?

It’s for the song “Evil Power.” And yes, this video makes the last one look like crap. It’s gonna blow people away. The artistic element is way over the top, the blood and the gore and everything else is tenfold. I’m really happy. I promised myself that we wouldn’t do a video for this album. ::laughs::

Was it just for financial reasons?

It was such a headache. That War Metal Battle Master – it took like a year to put that together. It was like, a lot of time. And it was cool, and it did its job, it created a buzz for the record, and a lot of people saw it and a lot of people really enjoyed it, and it was fun to make, but when I started thinking about doing something like that again, I was like “aw man! I don’t wanna like, unless I have some HUGE budget.” But we started talking with Ryan Oliver, who directed it. He had done some of the special effects for the War Metal Battle Master video. And he lives here in town in Chicago. And we just started talking, and one thing lead to another, led to another, led to another. Next thing we know the scope of this thing just grew tenfold. Yeah, I’m real pleased. But yeah, it’s insane.

Are you using the same actresses that played the Keres in the last one?

No. This is a different story. There is a minotaur, and it’s basically what goes down in the lair of the minotaur. It follows the storyline, the myth of virgins would be brought to the lair of the minotaur to be sacrificed, and that’s what you see! ::laughs:: It’s brutal. It’s fuckin’ unbelievable.

It’s just concentrating on that part? It’s not Theseus coming in and saving the day?

No.

It’s just the sacrifice of the virgins.

Theseus doesn’t come in on this version. I mean it’s a two-minute song. So of course we’d love to keep adding all this stuff but it’s a shorter song. I think it fits well with the song, and it fits well with the album. We have definitely one-upped the last one so I’m happy about that. I don’t feel like we’re putting out a lesser video. It’s definitely…MORE.

What makes the Grecian war concept more badass than what Nile’s doing with Egyptian mythology, or what Unleashed is doing with Norse mythology?

I am personally just attracted to it for the D&D aspect. I grew up playing D&D, and Greek mythology was sewn into the game. And so that’s how I got into it, along with old Ray Harryhausen movies like Jason and the Argonauts, Clash of the Titans, Sinbad and all that type of stuff, and then I started reading early on the Aeneid and some of these early writings, and it’s just something I’ve always been into. As far as metal lyrics go, it’s perfect. It’s filled with lore, and monsters, and death and fuckin’ horrible shit. And it expands on themes…some of these stories are as old as man. You can’t really trace how far. Half of these stories weren’t written down until around 1 BC or something. And so that also interests me too, the lore aspect of these stories, sown and told down through the ages. When it comes to metal lyrics, there’re a lot of bands doing stuff about Satan, and so with that ground being so well covered, we figured the Greek mythology angle would be perfect for us. I had the name of the band first before I started writing any of the lyrics, so it was grown out of that. When I first started writing lyrics, I was like “Oh, we’ll just kinda roll with this.”

So that concept was always with you. As soon as you had the name Lair of the Minotaur, did you know that you would forever be writing lyrics about Greek mythology?

Heh…yeah. I remember the look of dismay when I tried to tell the rest of the band.

I can’t imagine this band singing about anything else. But what do you think? If you ever moved on from Greek mythology, are there other themes that you’re interested in exploring?

Probably not with this band. I’ll robably keep (Lair of the Minotaur) along these lines. There’s just such a well of stories. I’ll make up stuff, too. I’ll use some of the characters and just make up stories as well. So that’s fun too.

Why do you think that American metal bands so rarely engage American mythology? Yeah there’s not as much history, but it’s always been interesting to me that usually when you hear about a band working with lore, it’s Scandinavian lore, or pagan lore, or Greek or Egyptian lore.

Right. All we have is Christianity.

Well you know, there’re the myths of the west, there’s Paul Bunyan, there’s Native American lore they can work with.

I don’t think I’ve ever heard of a band using Native American lore in metal. Probably in types of world music. But yeah, I’m not really sure what bands’ lyrics are about these days. I don’t really have much of a clue.


There’s a lot of consciously retro metal going around these days. Do you consider yourself aligned with that at all?

No. I’m kinda in a bubble and I don’t really listen to a lot of new bands. When you hear Lair of the Minotaur sounding the way it is, it doesn’t sound that way to be cool or retro, it sounds that way because that’s the kind of music I listen to, and that’s the kind of music I want to write. As far as any kind of scene, we’ve always existed outside of any scene. Even as being part of Southern Lord, we were never really sounded like any of the bands on Southern Lord. It seems like there are little cliques of bands that for together, and kinda sound similar, from the same region. We’re friends with plenty of the bands around here but I wouldn’t say that we sound in any way in the same vein.

At the same time you’ve got this other band 7000 Dying Rats (reviewed here), which is totally different and also going for something completely different than most grind bands. Let’s talk about that. It’s basically a satirical grind band. Would you say that humor is an important part of Lair of the Minotaur as well?

I tell you what. I grew up listening to metal, laughing and having a good time with my friends. And most of these bands that try to portray an image of being really serious, when you meet them, they are just as goofy as me and you. And so there’s never been a big façade or anything that we try to pull to try to be super serious. But at the same time, the music is serious to me. The way I’m singing, the song names, the albums, the reason it’s so over the top is to cut the wheat from the chaff. The impetus for doing that was that there are so many bands that would take little elements of metal but you could tell that they still thought of metal as cheesy. There’s that popular kind of misconception about all those shitty glam bands from the 80s, that that is what metal is. Or when they have the “Top 40 Metal Videos of the 1980s” on VH1, and it’s all Poison and all that. And so I think there’s a generation now that think some aspects of it are cheesy, whether it be Dio, or that type of thing, the sword and sorcery type of thing. Spinal Tap made fun of it as well. But to people that grew up listening to metal, that’s what metal was. Metal was fantasy, and sword and sorcery, and monsters and Satan and having a good time. And so that’s a big part of why we do what we do. It’s to draw a line in the sand and just have something that’s so over the top metal that if you don’t like it, you should move on.

You’re saying Lair of the Minotaur forces you to address why you listen to metal to begin with?

Right. In some ways. It depends on the listener, you know. When people grew up.

I started listening to metal way after you did, so to me the Dio stuff seems silly, but it’s something I embrace as part of metal’s history. And an essential part of its development, too! Even without the fantasy theme, getting up there on stage and brutalizing a crowd is a form of escape, you know? So why not match that with lyrics, too?

Right, right. That’s what it’s supposed to be. Slayer, Celtic Frost, so many of these old bands wrote fantasy-type lyrics.

General Diaboloical Slaughter from Usurper guests on a track, yeah?

He’s a good friend. And we actually wanted to get him out o n the last record, and he wasn’t able to. So we made sure this time we got him out, and laid down some shit.

Which track is he on?

He’s on four or five of the tracks. Just backup stuff.

Tell me about the switcheroo between bassists DJ Barraca and Nate Olp. How and when did that come about?

That came about two years ago actually. Our original bassist DJ – his wife had gotten pregnant, and he was not going to be nailed to doing this nonsense. And Nate from Demiricous – we’re good friends with those guys, we’ve played with ‘em several times down in Indianapolis –he was the first person I called, and he’s a super awesome dude, and we’re happy to have him in the band.

So he’s a full-time member now?

Yes.

So he’ll be touring with you whenever you come out.

Yes.

A lot of people accused Demiricous of sounding exactly like Slayer. But I don’t care. Slayer’s great! Demiricous write amazing riffs!

Kerry King loves them, too.

That’s enough for me.

Nate has actually hung out with Kerry before. He’s a huge fan of the band.

So tell me about Sanford Parker. Obviously he’s all over the place these days, especially for Chicago bands. You’ve used him for pretty much every record that you’ve put out. What works so well about him and the Lair of the Minotaur aesthetic?

He has a really good ear and he’s really easy to work with. We’ve recorded everything so far with him. And he’s one of the very few people that I will actually take suggestions from concerning a song.

You mean the writing itself?

You know what I mean. Effects on the vocals, that type of thing. He’s got a nice little setup over there (at Volume Recording). He’s moved into a larger spot than where he was originally recording us. And it’s really comfortable. Nice, big place. I consider him a fourth member when we’re in the studio.

Has he ever suggested adding keyboards or anything beyond your normal band setup?

I mean all the keyboard stuff is stuff that I’ve done. It’s not so much changes in the songs, as much as little studio things. Doubling up parts of vocals, that type of thing.

I’ve got one more question. And this one is killing me, because it’s about lunch time out here. You’ve got your own Kuma’s Corner burger with caramelized onions, pancetta, brie and bourbon-soaked pears. I’m assuming you’ve eaten it a few times?

Yeah, it’s pretty good.

Do you ever feel this weird auto-cannibalistic lust when you’re eating your own burger?

::laughs:: Yeah it’s crazy. I guess it’s the best-selling burger there. And still to this day, probably twice a week I’ll get a drunken e-mail from someone going “Dude! I just ate your burger!”

“You taste great!”

It’s funny. When I’m there, I can hear people ordering it behind me, and I cringe.

There’s really nothing that metal about pears. But I guess you’re soaking them in bourbon before you put ‘em on there.

I saw just recently one of the shows from the Food Network. And some guy went there, and they prepared the burger and he ate it, on the show. Some blonde guy that has the show and runs around and sees all these food places. That was weird as well.

It’s a pretty dubious distinction to add to your press pack, you know? That you have the best-selling burger at Kuma’s Corner in Chicago?

Have you ever been?

No, I haven’t been to Chicago in years. But I need to go. It’s a mecca for metal definitely, but I’ve been hearing so much about the burgers over there. It’s like a hangout spot for the Chicago metal crowd, right?

Yeah. It’s become very popular, so sometimes it’s a little unbearable. There’re a lot of people there. But all the food’s really good. They have this killer mac ‘n cheese. It’ll blow your mind.

Steve, you’re making me salivate. Is there anything else you want to say about Evil Power?

No, I think it speaks for itself. Personally it’s my favorite of our albums. I’m stoked for it to come out.

///////////////


BUY Evil Power:

See Lair of the Minotaur live:
4/16/2010 Melody Inn - Indianapolis, IN w/ Coffinworm
4/17/2010 Peabody's - Cleveland, OH w/ Solopsist
4/18/2010 Sonar - Baltimore, MD w/ Revolta, Wolfnuke
4/19/2010 M Room - Philadelphia, PA w/ Ludicra, Tombs, Krallice
4/21/2010 The Charleston - Brooklyn, NY w/ The Binary Code, Elks
4/22/2010 Velvet Lounge - Washington DC w/ Ol Scratch, Admiral Browning
4/23/2010 Broadway Joe's - Buffalo, NY w/ Cattle Decapitation, Gaza
4/24/2010 The Summit - Columbus, OH w/ Fools Crown

Monday, April 12, 2010

CHAINMAIL: Karloff - Bled Dry (Midwestern Decline, 2010)

The CHAINMAIL section reviews bands that were proactive enough to contact me directly. Here at Cerebral Metalhead, initiative is rewarded.


I love the idea of a hardworking local hardcore band with few ambitions beyond playing some gigs, releasing a few records and staying passionate about its music. Hardcore is nothing without passion. That's definitely Karloff, a four-piece group of straight edge DIYers out of Ft. Wayne, Indiana. When last we visited the band, they were recording 12-minute EPs of drum machine punk and Joy Division and Suicidal Tendencies covers. Things have changed for the better. Karloff now have a beast of a drummer in a dude named Austin, and a cool command over hardcore's groove-to-grind continuum that keeps the gears shifting, the songs short and the rage undiluted.







"Desolation"






"Faithless"

Fault the clunky production job all you want -- Karloff's resolve still shines through, whatever style they attempt. The bristling fastcore of "Desolation" is all in-the-red energy and bowel-loosening bass breaks; "Bled Dry" track compacts a Crowbar album into 2 and a half minutes. With its snarled soliloquies, gang-chanted title phrase and d-beat midsection, "Faithless" might be the most traditional hardcore song on the album. Also traditional: Karloff spit their anger with no filter or compunction: "I believe nothing that you speak/I care nothing for what you believe/Spew my curses/I spit my rage/Your bribes of an empty paradise/Cannot sway my fucking disdain/Fuck you." Fuck me indeed. By the end of this record's 12 minutes, I'm starting to believe that I deserve the hatred.


BUY:

Sunday, April 11, 2010

CHAINMAIL: Peopleperson - The Kids Are All Done For (Fictionband Mechanics, 2009)

The CHAINMAIL section reviews bands that were proactive enough to contact me directly. Here at Cerebral Metalhead, initiative is rewarded.


You are reading a review of an album by the retardedly prolific Darryl Robbins and his band Peopleperson. This is one of at least four albums that Peopleperson released in '09. By the time you finish reading this review he will likely have put out another one. What sort of person is Robbins? This is how he introduced himself to me:
"I too am a cerebral metalhead. I make music, not necessarily metal, but a bit may come through. Thought you might like. If not, whatever. Thanks for the time spent reading this riveting email of mine."
Short and to the point. He doesn't have time to spend on elaboration; gotta record that music. Words are stumbling blocks for this band. Peopleperson have no use for words.







"Rainman on the Silver Mountain"






"The Hinderer"

For a man of such pithy messaging, Robbins sure is discursive with his compositions. There's as much rockabilly and surf guitar twang as there is blastbeating and riffage on The Kids Are All Done For. In fact, way more of it. But I don't hear the work of a Mr. Bungle biter, mashing up genres with no business hanging out for the sake of juxtaposition. I hear a guy who's striving for something new, trying to find the commonalities between Liturgy and Link Wray (two of the band's top MySpace friends). And strangely, it works. Substitute a distorted guitar tone and a bit of dissonance, and you've got the same smeary guitar texture of Deathspell Omega and Glorior Belli. I like this stuff. Maybe you will too. If not, whatever.

BUY:

Thursday, April 08, 2010

CHAINMAIL: Batillus - Beard Destroyer Tour EP (self-released, 2009)

The CHAINMAIL section reviews bands that were proactive enough to contact me directly. Here at Cerebral Metalhead, initiative is rewarded.

An upside-down photo of the Beard Destroyer Tour EP
Courtesy of the ESEF Industries Blog

Why aren’t there more instrumental doom bands? Simple. Shit’s boring. Great as it feels to have a riff crumble on top of you, slow metal gets old real fast without some human presence to bring us outta plodlandia. On their self-titled debut EP, Batillus crawled outta the Brooklyn muck with some ho-hum doom bashing. Twasn’t bad so much as overly workmanlike, nice for a toke (or so I’m told) and occasionally a vigorous headbang but lacking in any defining features that might inspire a second traversal of its 10-minute bummer sessions.







Batillus - "Beyond the River (excerpt)"

Batillus drafted Fade Kainer, from Inswarm and Jarboe’s band, to add vocals, synths and samples on their second eponymous EP. What a difference a growl makes. Now there’s a ring-wraith diffusing its howls over the trippy thunder on “The Division,”a skeleton riding side-saddle atop the bumpy end of “Beyond the River.”Batillus’s guitars sound hungrier, Geoff Summers’s sturdy drumming more flagellant. The songs here rumble forward like medieval war machines with a dangerous sense of momentum. And Fade’s choked keyboard atmosphere adds the perfect amount of humidity for the growth of doom fungi. It’s a snappy Electric Wizard homage that Batillus have on their hands. Moshless tour with Naam, Samothrace and Laudanum, por favor.

BUY:
EP 2 is currently sold out. All the material will appear on a 12” split set for release in 2010

Slow yer heartbeat to a crawl at Batillus's MySpace page!

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Cynic - Live @ House of Blues West Hollywood, 1/17/10


Crappy video of Cynic playing "Nunc Fluens" --> "The Space For This"
@ House of Blues, West Hollywood, 1/17/10

God wants me to write this review. Two months after I promised Cynic frontman Paul Masvidal that I'd cover the L.A. date of the band's tour with Between the Buried and Me, Devin Townsend Project and Scale the Summit, I ran into this almost-as-belated review of the same show by my Metalsucks bro Anso DF. Then two weeks later, the first edition of Masvidal's new "Metta Mind Journal" column appeared on Metalsucks. Look, I'm four nights deep into Passover. I'm sensitive to plagues. So when God sends a hailstorm of Cynic references my way, it is my duty to read the hieroglyphics on the wall and "Let my review go," to paraphrase Moses.

Kenny G also wants me to write this review. The Prince of Pap was right in front of me in the ticket line on that rainy Sunday night in West Hollywood. "My 16-year-old loves all of these bands," quoth Mr. G, "but he could shred any of them into the ground." Uhuh. Of one thing I can be sure: whether you loathe or go into fantods over this tour's lineup, there wasn't a single member of any of the bands on the bill that didn't have total mastery over his instrument [much like Mr. G has total mastery over his hair (Seriously, it's like he's wearing extensions made of lasagna noodles)].

If my tone's irreverent, it's only because this show was laughably good. Especially the meat of the prog-metal sandwich, Devin Townsend Project and Cynic (the only two full sets I saw). I love all those Strapping Young Lad records because they've got so much personality. Now I love Devin Townsend because he isn't afraid to promulgate said personality, even if he comes off as the doofus that he most assuredly is. In between his god-heavy musical devastations, often in bewildering major keys, the bald-pated, suit-clad Devy announced such unironicisms as "Don't be afraid to be the nerd that you truly are!" and "I may look like a fool, but I'm a hippie at least!" The dude sings magnificently, cracks the sky with his guitar solos, and smiles the whole time -- this wasn't a band playing, it was a factory of light and love. Of the many strangenesses presented that evening, how a band this jubilant could be so gravitationally intense was one of the strangest (only Torche can touch them in that regard). New favorite live band.

Cynic offered complementary joys. I overheard an audience dude saying "I like their first album, but the new one is gay." I laughed at how inadvertently spot-on he was. Cynic's masterful last album Traced In Air felt free-flowing and contoured, compared to the jagged masculine thrust of most death metal. It's tantric sex to death metal's doggystyle. The live show was no different. Their energy was introspective instead of projective; Masvidal's guitar solos came as offerings, and Sean Reinert's drumming, refreshingly free of blastbeats, tapped into some internal continuum that flowed through the entire set, and probably beyond. This is the only live metal band that can play soundbytes from spiritualist Eckhart Tolle over the PA, then engage its audience in an impromptu yoga session, and leave an entire sold-out venue's worth of metalheads more endeared to them than before. No new material, not even "Wheels Within Wheels," which they "rolled out" elsewhere on this tour. But I have a feeling that Traced In Air will be remembered as their finest achievement, and I'm lucky enough to have seen them twice in support of the album. 'Twas remarkable how emotionally diffuse the two songs they played from Focus sounded in comparison.

Good as Between the Buried And Me are, and gawd can those boys play (and play, and play), their neverending series of riff forests and melodic clearings felt like several steps backward from the clarity and elegance of the last two bands. They've definitely improved as a live band over the years, but they've also learned to equate increased compacted songwriting with progress, and I've taken the opposite route. Could this be the true meaning of the title of their most recent album The Great Misdirect? Maybe. I left about three songs in to their set, and it felt like I could have been one song or ten songs in. In retrospect, I probably should have stayed in case Kenny G was a surprise guest on their encore. Damn my impatience!