Mutilation Rites @ The Triple RockJul 22, 2014
There is this thing about metal concerts, a stigma--if you will--where some people who have never attended a metal concert think that these concerts consist of bearded 30-somethings letting out all of the angst they’ve built up working at Kinko’s on the face of another 30-something who works at Office Max. I, too, was a person who thought about metal concerts in this way. I was absoutely sure that I’d see at least one person get punched in the face. I was certain that the lead singer of one band would spit into the audience (Heller Hex’s singer had the courtesy to spit next to his pedals). But I know nothing about black metal, which, a fan named Andrew (who gave me consent to mention his name in this review), explained was a world apart from the sub-branches (and metal has a ridiculous number of sub-branches) that cater to crowds who are prone to broken jaws, B.O., and Hamm’s. This crowd, although they were dressed exactly how I expected, black shirts with twisted white fonts displaying each person’s respective favorites, was super chill, super friendly, and super into the music. This, aside from the bands (Ash Borer especially who were SO AWESOME), is what made this concert so incredible.
Hexer is interesting because nearly every member in the band is also in Mutilation Rites. Their set rocked. So hard. And the crowd was basically non-existent--I walked around and took pictures from different angles. In what I later realized was an hallmark of this genre the vocals were essentially impossible to comprehend. The levels, which the band set during their onstage sound check (all the bands soundchecked onstage), were perfect on every level but the vox--the guitars and bass clashing and bashing in a speedy/tweaker-esque way that was at once intense but never off-putting. But for some reason I feel like this vocal dissonance was the goal. Their lead singer, skull belt buckle clad, didn’t really sound like a girl at all; metal, as it turns out, is mostly a lot of guttaral, andogynous, music.
Their set was super short, or at least it felt short because all of the other bands played uber epic songs that lasted between nine and fifteen minutes. Hexer played jams that were fast, and that went by at the speed of an ass-kicking guitarist dominating his Ibanez. The riffs were the highlight of the concert (as a whole: literally no one else was such a potent mixture of neo-classical shred, hardcore and post-black metal) and even my plus one, a girl who listens to terrible music (seriously her programmed radio stations made me grimace and smile at the same time) realized that the dude was making the fretboard his new Tinder friend.
Sludge. Slow, slow, meandering, headbashing sludge: that’s how I would describe Lychgate’s set. They were certainly the outlier. I can’t make comparisons because I just don’t know enough about the genre, especially this facet of the genre, but this music was noticeably slower than the music of every other band there. The headbanging was equally hard, and I’m not saying that it wasn’t exhilarating, perhaps their drummer was even using a double-kick (by this point I was a ways back, overtaken by men with long hair and beards), but if he was (starting to realize that this is a male dominated genre) it wasn’t necessary, he could have kept pace with a single kick.
The highlight of Lychgate’s set was their final song, an extremely long medley (~10 minutes) that began just as the crowd was really starting to pack in for Ash Borer. It was moody, it was muddy; I have no idea what they were saying, but it was the first time that there were a lot of people in the audience and that really added to the band’s (and in turn, the audience’s) energy; I think their hair got longer as the crowd filled in.
Dude, Ash Borer is so awesome. They're so fast as they openly shred. Their drummer changes rhythm seemingly on a whim (and Nate, our resident metal head could probably give you like 100 reasons why they’re awesome--I’m not as versed or as actively playing metal on Radio K, so these are the things I noticed). By the time Ash Borer took the stage the crowd had filled in, more males with long hair in black shirt--flagships for their favorite bands who couldn’t make it that evening, and their set, undoubtedly due to their speed and concision, really took the crowd in and provided the energy necessary for Mutilation Rites, who took the stage nearly five hours after doors. By this time I had a pounding migraine--I rocked out way too hard during Hell Hexer--but that didn’t take away from the show at all.
Loud. Fast. Headbang-ready. All these terms come to mind. Ash Borer played less “songs” (as a whole), but if you know the band you know that their songs are extremely long--they played five songs and had the longest set of any artist there, excluding Mutilation Rites. Yet, due largely to the complexity of their songs, which center around three minute intros of clean guitar (and effected guitar, they refuse to be pinned down) and bass that lead into absolute face melting riffs and double-kicking heart-popping drums, with more breaks that MGMT’s “Siberian Breaks,” the set never felt long. This music sounds like it may be improvisational at times, but for some reason I feel as if it was in no way improvised--it was calculated but it wasn’t cold, and over the course of their set I started to realize why, wearing my dad’s polo and Converse (the only article of clothing at the concert that made me feel like I actually fit in) I had come to this concert in the first place. Ash Borer will melt your face, but they have the added benefit of making a migraine go away, perhaps because it wasn’t so important anymore (somehow Lychgate’s set kept reminding me I have one, because of the speed of the headbanging--so slow) or perhaps because Ash Borer is a cure for all ailments; the Make-A-Wish foundation should employ them full-time.
It was weird seeing all the people from Hell Hexer come back on stage, rocking a different flag. I know the bands (especially garage rock and post-rock bands) around here share all kinds of members, like that crowd in high school (generally the theatre/arts kids and yes I was one of these, guilty as charged) where everyone dates everyone for like two weeks before breaking up and moving onto some dude named Nathanael who doesn’t like to be called Nate: “It’s Nathanael.”
Mutilation Rites is considerably more technical than Hell Hexer, who seem married more to the hardcore half (black metal being the other half) of their sound, and the guttural noises that come out of their lead singer’s mouth were...well they were Satanic. At some point I thought the guy next to me, who had the weirdest beard (it was split in two! like some kind of sidewinder greased-up with oil from an ‘87 Camaro) was screaming, “WHOARRRR,” into my ear, when I turned he just grinned and I was like: “It must not be him, he doesn’t have fangs.” As it turned out it was Mutilation Rites’ bassist (as I said before metal bands apparently do not care to be “heard” so much as seen, crooning) who stood like three feet away from a mic that was already panned and not quite loud enough. Seriously, though, it sounded like a demon was whispering (not so) sweet nothings in my ear.
Their set was long, but like Ash Borer they didn’t play a lot of songs. Andrew told me that some of these songs don’t actually meld into each other on the album--that we were experiencing a special treat. For me, the entire concert was a special treat--a new experience that I (well to be honest I thought I would regret it, I was sure someone with a ponytail was going to headbutt me) will definitely repeat again, as long as Nate from Metal Music Machine advises me to attend. The best part of the concert was the people that attended it (sorry bands, y’all are awesome too) because they explained the subtle nuances that are necessary to understand metal, which is the most complex genre in terms of subgenres. So shouts out to all the very nice people (and the rude ones too, for making me realize just how stupid and ill-informed I was--FYI NOT AS MANY PEOPLE LIKE DEAFHEAVEN AT THESE CONCERTS AS PEOPLE AT SAY: P4K FEST) who told me stuff they spent years learning on the pretext of my actually caring. Soon I’ll buy a black t-shirt with a white twisted font and fit right in at these concerts (I already have the black monotone Chucks).