I really don’t like doing concert reviews, mainly because I feel like I need to take notes or something during them so that I can cogitate a bit on what I saw, which better allows me say something halfway analytical or critical about the show itself. But with that said, I am going to take a stab at briefly reviewing the show I saw last night at Downtown Brew in San Luis Obispo. The first band that played was billed as “Kylesa,” but I don’t think that the were actually Kylesa. I looked up Kylesa and they seem to be characterized on online reviews as much more sludgy, hardcore inspired doom. The band that we saw on Monday night, let’s call them “Mostly Overweight Dudes Playing with an Evanescence-esque-voiced chick,” was more like a pop-punk hardcore band. At first I thought it was kind of interesting that the band would mix hardcore vox with a more sung delivery, granted the heavy music stayed present. The opening song had the heavy element; however, the band did not maintain this heavy feel, and quickly devolved to a pop-punk-eque D-beat and a three chord progression that made them sound un-fresh and downright annoying. They were about half way through their set when we decided to go outside for a smoke. Band 1 down.
Next up was Lair of the Minotaur, the band that I had primarily gone to the show to watch. They are a Doomey/thrashy/heavy metal band from Chicago on the ultimately heavy Southern Lord label, which in my opinion puts them a leg up on most other extreme bands (you can see my bias here). Anyway, plainly speaking, they rocked, especially after we had been subjected to “Mostly Overweight Dudes Playing with an Evenesence-esque-voiced chick.” Not sure which song they opened up with but it had good sludgy, thrashy proclivities and Steven Rathbone, the lead guitarist/vocalist blasted through it, and the rest of the songs with the utmost of alacrity. Every song was great; they played them just like they sound on their records, only louder and badder. (See, there’s my poor concert review skills at work.) But what really impressed me about them was Steven’s approachability after the show. When he was cruising around outside after their set I had a chance to congratulate him on the rockin’ show and also got to ask him whether he had read the Borges short story “The House of Asterion” (La casa de Asterión), which mocks, Asterion the Minotaur’s intelligence. He hadn’t, but he said he would check it out. Cool.
After Lair of the Minotaur came Intronaut. I hadn’t heard this band before, but I had checked them out in regard to their genre: a sludgy, hardcore, progressive sound. I know, sounds like pretty disparate genres, but they made it work pretty well. Each instrument shined equally brightly on all their songs. This shows in each band members diverse musical backgrounds. What struck me first about them was that they were almost fashionless. They weren’t the typical metal head, black shirt wearing, cut-outs–refreshing.
Musically though, they stood out even more. The bass player, Joe Lester, trained in jazz, samba and classical, playing a 5 string bass, carved out an insidious low end that I could not help but be drawn to. Sacha Dunable provided lead guitar and adequately hardcore sounding vocals. If anything I could have done without the vocals, but his guitar work was diverse, conservative, and eloquent at the same time. They had a fill in guy (Dave Timnick I think) replacing Exumed’s Leon del Muerte , who played quite well. He was behind a pillar that blocked his position on stage, so I couldn’t get a good look at what he was doing, but I definitely heard some battles going back and forth between him and Timnick. The drummer, Danny Walker (ex-Uphill Battle, ex-Exhumed), shined as well. He had a Tomas Haake of Meshuggah sound going on. He played like a car wreck happening, yet it was candy for the ears. When listening to Haake’s drumming, you could consult a scientific calculator and extrapolate where a given cymbal crash or snare hit would land in a measure relative to the previous measure. However, I don’t think that this would be true for Walker. His sound is not mechanical like Haake’s (not that mechanical is bad), but more organic, and, as odd a task as it sounds to be, his drumming fit the music perfectly. It flourished and ebbed at all the right times. I’ve never heard their albums, but I am definitely going to pick them up as soon as I can.
Lastly, The Ocean played, and boy did they rock! First of all, they brought their own light show, something that I don’t recall seeing at a low-budget show. Somehow they timed the lights to flash in sync with each instrument. Again, each band member played extremely well. I found myself getting overwhelmed by their musicianship and focusing on each individual member, which proved to be just as enjoyable as listening to the whole band play together.
I think “Lake Dissapointment” might have been my favorite song in terms of ups and downs and lyrical power. It has that Isis feel; although some would argue that this song has emo leanings, it just sits well with me. I won’t go into it any more than that.
I found myself more attracted to the aesthetics and composition of their longer, more “epic” songs, especially “De Profundis,” which has lyrics that depict a medieval village scene, which doesn’t resonate too much with me, but still, the song is elaborate and provides a good venue in which to become engrossed. But the song is composed of probably six or so main sections, and in one part the two guitar players trade off playing an alternating and building bridge section that plays with your mind. From this section they segue into a wall of sound then back into verse. It’s a great song. Okay, I’m done. My recommendation is that you should see LotM, Intronaut, and The Ocean the next time they play near you.