Metal Show Of The Week: Pelican

Who? Pelican
When? Saturday, November 2nd
Where? DC9 (map)
How much? $15 cash at the door or on Ticket Fly

I won’t lie, there’s a ton of great shows coming up in the next week (and beyond) on the DCHM upcoming concert calendar. Dying Fetus/Exhumed, Watain/In Solitude, Orange Goblin, Finntroll… but this week’s pick for metal show of the week goes to a gig that’s a bit more obscure. Chicago’s Pelican is headlining a show at DC9 (right by the 9:30 Club, Velvet Lounge, etc…) this Saturday, November 2nd, and if you don’t know who they are you should check come them out. They’re an instrumental band and they’re not particularly brutal by any means. In fact they’re often labeled as post rock, though they did play at Maryland Deathfest back in May. They’re not overly soft like some instrumental bands though, they’ve got some big riffs in there and they really jam out live. They just put out a new album, Forever Becoming, this month and I’m pretty excited to hear them play some material off of it, particularly the song Deny The Absolute.

Pelican isn’t the only band worth seeing on this bill though. Coliseum is from Kentucky’s punk scene though they’re not your typical punk band. Their songs are actually really well put together with riffs that are very catchy. When I saw Coliseum play a Deathfest after show back in May they were super energetic on stage and they should be a perfect warm up set before Pelican. Coliseum will also be selling tour posters for that look like this so bring a few extra bucks to snag one (or some other merch). There’s also a local punk band called Highway Cross opening the show. I’ll be honest, I’d never heard of them before but they remind me of Fugazi some. You can check them out here and be sure to listen to the tracks I’ve posted by Pelican and Coliseum below as well. I hope to see some of you at the show, it should be a lot of fun!

Review of Akris’s Self-Titled Album

Band: Akris
Album: Akris
Release Date: 24 September 2013
Record Label: Domestic Genocide Records
Buy from Bandcamp (digital) for $9.99: Here
Buy from Blue Collar Distro (CD) for $9.99: Here

Cover of s/t Akris release

DCHM album reviewer Grimy Grant gives us another album review, this time for the self titled release by Northern Virginia natives Akris. Usually I embed a couple of songs for you to listen to at the end of the post but the only place I’ve been able to find their music streaming is here at the Obelisk where you can stream the entire album. Try opening it in another tab and give it a listen while you read Grimy Grant’s review below.

Blasting their intense bass riffs out of Frederick, Virginia, Akris has released a full-length for 2013 named after themselves: Akris. Helena Goldberg performs the bass and vocals – you can see her on the Akris band page giving the mic due punishment. What comes through the headphones in this album is a bit of Burning Witch via riot grrrl – a kind of noisy, punk-y, jazz-y rock that “creates an avalanche of bass and drums, with a layer of celestial noise on top” (from their own bio). Metal Archives lists them as stoner/sludge metal but I feel that they strive for way more than just that. The fact that they have different “multi-instrumentalist[s] and noise provocateur[s]” in addition to a drummer, Sam Lohman, is a testament to their striving to be more than just drum-and-bass sludge metal. As further proof of their eclectic roots, they are listed under their Bandcamp as “noise rock”, “hardcore punk”, and “blues”, all of which are comparable to Akris’ sound but also different.

As cool as that may be, the experimental, compositional music of this album was hard for me to enjoy. Akris leaves a weird taste in my mouth – not a bad taste, just weird enough to not make me want to go back too often. The sound of Akris to me comes off as if they rushed the release of the album, resulting in a lot of technical glitches. “Fighter Pilot”, the opening track, starts with about 5 seconds of dead space followed by some confusing bass notes that changed the pace of the song several times. It may have been intentional but comes off as amatuer. That’s not necessarily a bad thing – at times in the album I enjoyed the fuzziness of the songs – but it does cause some songs to leave a funky taste in the mouth.

The fuzzy, clunky bass is a kind of ode to punk and riot grrrl music. I mention riot grrrl only because Goldberg’s vocals remind me of Bikini Kill’s Kathleen Hanna a bit. It also resonates similarly to Kylesa’s guitarist-singer Laura Pleasants. Goldberg’s voice alternates between lullaby-like harmonies and screaming on all of the tracks. Even so, while it sounds heavy – very heavy, in fact – the guitar riffs tend to be repetitive by the third or fourth track. Akris does better overall in the vocals department. Goldberg’s voice stays with me after every song as a beautiful but deadly thing, both harsh and melodic. In “Fighter Pilot”, after the bass settles down and her voice comes through clearer, it makes the song enjoyable, or at least easier to wrap my brain around.

Akris definitely does the job right for a sludge band by being utterly depressing despite having some rough edges. Every song, while ignoring the context, is a bummer. There’s a fascination with the spiritual and other-worldly going on, too. An example of this is in the track “Row of Lights”. Goldberg sings of how she “Went to the mountain/ To find my escape” which resulted in her looking into the sky and the moving stars. The imagery fits more with a sludge song and I liked the bass breakdowns despite it being a bit similar to the other songs. As in much of the album, there is a balance between the fierceness of Goldberg’s voice and the slowness of the bass. “Row of Lights” keeps that crazy funeral march of bass and drums just enough to keep my heart from racing too much. “Riverbed” creates a funeral bass riff coupled with a dual harmony from Goldberg. It’s a kind of darkened farewell song talking about how her “heart is broken, beneath the riverbed” followed by Goldberg screaming “what happened to us?/ Why?” in a kind of frustrated cry to the dark river she’s beneath. Despite the clunky bass it has a way of blotting out any happiness in the room and drives home its message. The unusual harmony and composition pay off in these songs well.

The flipside of the experimental noise is that it sometimes hurts the songs. The following song after “Riverbed”, “Vomit Within” has disjointed harmony along with some stranger lyrics that I wasn’t able to make too much sense of: “There is a place inside my head/ That opens up when I am dead” followed by mentions of a shadowy figure. Piecing together how the lyrics of this song play with the rest of the “Vomit Within” caused some head scratching. Is the opening and the “shadow” that Goldberg sings about what we’re vomiting into? The metal name of the song just clashes too much with the sweet singing for it to make sense for me. It’s also hard to follow at about four minutes into the song when a male voice joins her (possibly a member of Admiral Browning) and the song gets weirder and more disharmonious. I love weird stuff, don’t get me wrong, but this just rubbed me the wrong way. All the parts were there for a great song like in “Riverbed” but they just didn’t pace well and it sounds unfinished.

Akris would be a great live band and I’d love to see them perform. In the studio, there is too much thumping, rusty Sunn amp bass distracting me from the rest of the songs. There are moments I found myself nodding to the rhythm though, and I feel that the technical glitches would go forgiven in a live setting, particularly in a DIY venue. At Hole in the Sky, Corpse Fortress, or Girl Cave there were some great bands that took the experimental route. At those shows I remember descending into each house’s basement, someone turning the lights off, and hearing some blasting, out of this world noise. Those are happy memories and I feel transported to those basements when I listen to Akris. I don’t remember anyone, including me, caring about glitches or the content of songs – it was more about the moment. Time has made me a grown-ass man now so maybe that’s my problem with this (feel free to digi-hurl old man jokes/rotten tomatoes at my Twitter handle @jgrantd – I don’t get a lot of traffic on Twitter as it is). Akris aims at a higher goal of doing something compositional and creative with their work – something that I gather from their band bio on their page. While it’s hard to get into at times I still like how they are trying something new. And Akris should be commended for their bravery in doing the unusual without being afraid of occasionally sounding off.

Hush at the Velvet Lounge

It’s been a little while since I wrote a proper concert review but last weekend I saw a great, mostly local, metal show at the Velvet Lounge. The Velvet Lounge is located in the heart of DC U Street corridor, just around the corner from the 9:30 Club. It’s a much smaller venue though, catering to mostly DIY shows in its tiny, upstairs stage area. Unfortunately the bar upstairs was serving as the merch booth this night so if you wanted a drink you had to awkwardly find your way to the downstairs bar through a maze of buzzed DC socialites grinding on each other to some of the most mind numbing techno music I’ve ever heard. Back upstairs were piles of gear covering a good portion of the floor space. I’ve been to the Velvet Lounge many times but I’ve never seen so much gear squeezed in the upstairs level before, not to mention all the amps stacked on stage. Marshall, Orange, Sunn, you could tell this was going to be a loud night the second you looked at the stage. Anyone can be loud but were the bands any good?

The first band to play was Thrain, a new black metal three piece featuring two guitar players and no bass guitar. The guys in the band are friends of mine so I’ve tried to catch most of their shows. That said, I thought this was their best performance to date. New bands can take some time to gel and find their direction and while I don’t think they’ve completely finished that process, they’re definitely headed in the right direction. Plus they just have some damn cool riffs in those songs. Thrain is definitely a band to keep an eye on.

The second band of the night was Hush from Albany, New York. They’re a sludgy doom metal band with harsh vocals that sounded more hardcore than metal. The band was pretty good overall though the vocals became a bit monotonous after a while, they didn’t have a lot of variation to them. Also, some members of the band, including the vocalist, faced backwards the entire show. I’m not sure who enjoys it when bands do this, it makes the show seem more like a practice than a performance. Still, their sound was thunderous and crushing and I really enjoyed the instrumentation of the band.

The next band up was Fortress, a band that has become a local favorite of mine, if you consider Hagerstown, Maryland local at least. They are probably the loudest band in the area but they back it up with incredibly heavy doom riffs. When these guys play you take notice! The three piece performed some new songs at this show that fit right in with the material from their demo (download it for free here). The maniacal stares from vocalist/guitarist Chaz Campbell only add to a performance that will leave you feeling like you just lived through an earthquake. This was definitely my favorite set of the night.

The final band of the night is Northern Virginia based doom metal band The Osedax. They weren’t as loud as the previous band, and the addition of keyboards makes them sound a bit different than most doom bands. They are quite atmospheric in fact and you can get caught up in their hypnotizing longer songs. The band does a great job of building up and releasing tension. Out of all the great bands this night The Osedax were probably the best at working as a unit, each member knows their role and they trade off with each other seamlessly.

In all it was a great show, four excellent bands for just $8 is a hard deal to beat, especially in the expensive U Street area of DC. This show was my pick for Metal Show Of The Week last week and it lived up to it. Be sure to check out the photos of each of the bands below. Thanks for reading everyone and remember, get out to see some metal bands and support the scene you’re a part of!

Thrain:

Thrain at the Velvet Lounge

Thrain at the Velvet Lounge

Thrain at the Velvet Lounge

Hush:

Hush at the Velvet Lounge

Hush at the Velvet Lounge

Fortress:

Fortress at the Velvet Lounge

Fortress at the Velvet Lounge

The Osedax:

The Osedax at the Velvet Lounge

The Osedax at the Velvet Lounge

Metal Show Of The Week: Hush

Who? Hush
When? Saturday, October 19th
Where? Velvet Lounge (map)
How much? $8 cash at the door

This week’s pick for the metal show of the week goes to Hush at the Velvet Lounge on Saturday, Oct 19th. All of the bands on this bill are worth checking out in their own right even if you can’t make this show. I’m not just saying that to be nice either, it really is a stacked line up. First up the band Hush comes from Albany, New York and brings a dark and angry form of sludgy doom metal to town. If you’ve never heard them before then be sure to download their Untitled I album here (you name the price, even free). If you like slow and heavy metal then you’ll like these guys.

Hush is a good band, no doubt about it, and it’s definitely worth checking them out in a close up live setting like this, but this show has an excellent line up of local metal bands playing as well. The Osedax is a local atmospheric doom metal band and I can tell you these guys are an excellent live band. Their songs are doomy and yet leave you energized. You can download a song of theirs for free here. Also on the bill is Fortress, a local favorite of mine (if you count Hagerstown, MD as local). Their live show is Motörhead level loud but slow and heavy like lava oozing from a volcano. You can download their demo for free here but you’ve really got to see them live to truly experience the force of their sound (tip: bring ear plugs!). And let’s not forget local black metal band Thrain. The three piece has no bass player but they make up for it by not giving a shit about bass and writing some shredding dual guitar black metal anyways. Some of you may recognize the band’s ginger front man James Healy, the guy who fixes up guitars for metal heads around the area at Old Town Lutherie. You can also grab Thrain’s demo for free here.

In addition to the four bands the Philly based indie label Dullest Records will be setting up shop for the night so you vinyl collectors might want to bring a few extra dollars cash. In all, this is a great line up with a dark touring band and three excellent local bands, and it’s just $8! The Velvet Lounge is on U Street right around the corner from the 9:30 Club and as such it’s easily reachable by Metro. Doors open at 9pm and the first band goes on at 9:30. Please note that it is ages 21+ only. I hope to see some of you there, it’s going to be a hell of a dark show! Now check out these clips of the bands from YouTube, a couple of them are live recordings so you’ll have to excuse the low sound quality on those.

Review of Alma de Guerrero by Metanium

Band: Metanium
Album: Alma de Guerrero
Release Date: 19 September 2013
Buy from iTunes (digital) for $9.90: Here
Buy from CD Baby (digital) for $9.99: Here

Cover of Alma de Guerrero by Metanium

Tal is back with her second album review for DCHM and it marks a first on the site. Specifically, this is the first time we’ve reviewed a non-English album on the site. Alma de Guerrero by DC locals Metanium is, except for an alternate version of one track, entirely in Spanish. As always you can stream a few songs from it at the end of this review and you can also find more of Tal’s writing on her regular blog here.

I first became acquainted with Metanium’s music when I saw them open for Spanish folk metal band Mago de Oz in May. I really enjoyed Metanium’s set – a groovy mix of heavy metal right on the edge of power metal, with a cover of Helloween’s “I Want Out” that the singer delivered effortlessly. I wasn’t able to attend their album release party on September 19th, but I was looking forward to hearing the new release, Alma de Guererro, hoping for more heavy metal and Helloween-esque goodness.

Alma de Guererro (Soul of a Warrior) is a solid, enjoyable album, and pretty ambitious, too, reaching for the heights of the vocalist’s range and striving for hard-hitting heavy metal power. It has some really cool moments. But in contrast to the singer’s breezy take on Helloween at their show in May, here he frequently sounds strained. The recording quality is also rather low, which detracts a little from the ability to enjoy the guitar goodness – but for an underground, self-produced album, it’s a pretty good effort. The album cover and booklet, by contrast, are very professional and nicely designed. The digital design of a horned skull reflects the aggressive and (mostly) straightforward heavy metal direction of their music. Inside the booklet, one finds quality photos of the band and a simple but effective layout for song lyrics and the band’s thank yous.

The first song, “Veneno Mortal” (“Deadly Venom”), is a solid heavy metal track. It starts out a bit low key, but the random shreddy guitar bits scattered throughout the first two verses keep it interesting. After ending the second verse with a wail, the pace picks up, galloping for a few moments before settling into an aggressive NWOBHM sound. Toward the end is a fun segment where the drums and guitar thrash furiously for a couple seconds. The song provides a good taste of what’s to come on the album – solid heavy metal riffs, unfortunately a little obscured by the fuzzy production, gritty vocals with some wails thrown in, and random moments of amazing inspiration.

The title track, “Alma de Guerrero” (“Soul of a Warrior”) is also very strong. Starting off with a dramatic intro, epic guitar strains and a nice clear wail, it seems destined to be a thundering heavy metal attack. The vocals are quite powerful and gritty, although the singer seems to lose control a little at the end of the verses. The song urges the listener – the metalhead – to fight on in the face of evil, to keep pressing forward confidently, never to look back or give in to weakness; and the guitars and the strong vocals pack the energy the theme needs.

The album also includes an English version of this song which I didn’t enjoy as much. Some of the lyrics sound far too simple in English; the Spanish version is a little more poetic. For instance, the second verse of the song:

En este mundo, tienes que luchar
Siempre adelante tienes caminar
Con pasos firmes, y sin mirar atrás
Mantente fuerte, y sin debilidad

Vocalist Marvin Serrano, who wrote the lyrics, has translated this almost word for word:

In this world you must learn to fight
Always look forward when you’re walking down the path
So keep your head up and remember don’t look back
Remain strong and don’t ever give up

It’s still a great message, and conveys the literal meaning of the Spanish lyrics pretty closely, but in translation, especially of evocative works such as song lyrics, capturing the feeling and rhythm of the original is just as important as the literal meaning – and this translation is a little lacking in that department. Still, including an accurately translated English version of the title track is a nice touch for any listeners who don’t understand Spanish.

The two versions do differ slightly in more than just language. The Spanish version is sung solely by the vocalist, whereas the English version includes gang vocals in the chorus which sound a little disorganized. On the other hand, the verses sound a bit better on the English version.

My favorite song on the album is undoubtedly “Perdiendo el Control” (“Losing Control”), and I think it’s their most solid piece as well. It’s fast-paced, with strong, aggressive vocals throughout, and has some unusual guitar work for this genre – a thick, very distorted tone, with segments of buzzy tremolo picking and racing drums that have quite a black metal feel. Ironically, the song is called “Losing Control,” yet the vocalist seems much more in control of his vocals in this song than in some others.

The rest of the songs aren’t as memorable, though they do have their cool moments. “Al Filo del Metal” (“At the Edge of Metal”) is an old school heavy metal song with a decent rocking energy, but didn’t really hold my attention. “La Marcha Vikinga” (“The Viking March”) is another decent, moderately-paced song with a few snatches of shreddy guitar. The ballad, “Hace Mucho Tiempo” (“It’s Been a Long Time”) starts off nicely with an acoustic intro and then some beautifully mournful electric guitar, but the singer’s gritty vocals seem a little rough for this song at first, while his clean vocals on the agonized chorus are a bit weak, wavering as he tries to sustain notes. As the song goes on, though, the forceful singing style seems more appropriate, conveying the intensity of the persona’s grief and loneliness. “Victimas de la Religión” (“Victims of Religion”) starts off rather monotonous and plodding, but soon picks up the pace with a bit of a thrash vibe. Admittedly the dangerous-sounding bridge, about halfway through, is pretty ear-grabbing, as is the ending where the singer insists, “No seas victima de esta religión” (“Don’t be a victim of this religion”) over more of those dark and intense tremolo-ish riffs. “Sangra el Corazón” (“Bleed the Heart”) is notable for its polka rhythm, which makes it a fun song, in spite of the repetitive lyrics (several songs on the album suffer from those). The beginning of “Sangra el Corazón” is also the only song where I could actually hear the keyboard – if I hadn’t seen the keyboardist’s picture in the booklet, I would probably not even have known the band has one.

Besides the English version of “Alma de Guerrero,” the album also includes another bonus track, a half-acoustic alternate version of “Veneno Mortal.” I’m not a fan of acoustic versions of metal songs in general, since they usually lack the punch of the electric versions, so I was relieved when, about a minute and a half in, the electric guitar and drums started to pick up. About two thirds through, the same thrashy heavy metal vibe as in the first track took hold – so much for an acoustic version. I prefer the sound of original song, but hey, some people may enjoy the acoustic part.

I was surprised that the high-pitched and clean vocals on the album sounded so forced, compared to my fond memories of the singer’s wails at the show in May, and a little disappointed at the low production. The latter is perhaps to be expected for an underground album, though. As for the former, it doesn’t take away too much from my enjoyment of the album, since the aggressive vocals are still very strong, and there are some solid riffs to back it up as well as some flourishes of brilliance. I’ll be following these guys with interest to see how they progress on their next album.

Perdiendo el Control:

Veneno Mortal:

Saint Vitus ticket give away

Saint Vitus

Many years ago Scott “Wino” Weinrich was told, by Ian MacKaye (of Minor Threat and Fugazi fame), of a doom metal band out in LA called Saint Vitus. Wino ended up moving from the DC area to California to become the front man for Saint Vitus and doom metal history was made by this perfect matching. Now Wino and Saint Vitus are coming back to the area to play a show at Empire on Sunday, October 20th and we’ve got a free pair of tickets to give one of you lucky readers! To enter just leave a comment on this post telling me what song you’d like to hear Saint Vitus play live the most at this show. You can see their discography here if you need some help. At 5pm EST this Friday, October 11th, a winner will be chosen at random (using Random.org) from all valid entries to win the tickets. Be sure to use a valid email you check regularly so I can contact you if you win. Don’t worry, I won’t add you to any spam lists or sell your info or anything sleazy like that. If you can’t wait to see if you win or the contest is already over when you read this, then you can get tickets from Amped & Alive for $17 here.

Along with Saint Vitus on this tour there will be psychedelic sludge band Zoroaster performing as well as a high energy set by punk/metal/rock band The Hookers. Local support will be from DC’s stoner riff masters Borracho. In all that’s a damn solid line up! Now check out these songs below by the bands playing and tell me what song you want to hear Saint Vitus play live.

Metal Show Of The Week: Acrassicauda

I figure that running this website is simply not taking up enough of my free time already so I’ve decided to start a new feature that I’ll call Metal Show Of The Week. In these posts I’ll write about an upcoming metal show to feature that I think people should know about and I’ll give it a little more back story than is given on the calendar. It could be huge national or international touring bands or it could be a locals only show or anything in between. Despite the name I probably won’t write one every week, particularly if there isn’t a metal show that I’m really fired up about in any given week. As always feedback is welcome so if you like the idea let me know. If you think I could make things better let me know how. Feedback is always welcome as long as it’s constructive.

Who? Acrassicauda
When? Sunday, October 6th
Where? Tally Ho Theater (map)
How much? $15 day of show, $10 advance

This first metal show of the week post is going to be about Acrassicauda coming this Sunday, October 6th, to the Tally Ho Theater in Leesburg, Virginia. These guys are a thrash metal band originally from Baghdad, Iraq and they’re probably most famous for being featured in the documentary Heavy Metal In Baghdad but they’re a damn good band too. They’ve only played the area once before, opening for Destruction at Jaxx (now named Empire) back in May 2011, but unfortunately their set was cut considerably short. This time they’re headlining and it’s sure to be a much better show. Acrassicauda, named after a black scorpion in their homeland, is getting ready to record a full length album and since this is the first show of their tour we may be the first ever to hear some of the new material live!

The venue is the Tally Ho Theater, a recently renovated theater that now can put on concerts (more info about the venue in this Washington Post article here) and to my knowledge this is their first ever metal show. Hopefully a good turn out means they’ll get more great metal shows like this one in the future. I haven’t even mentioned the openers but they are worth getting there to see, particularly Iris Divine, who are probably the area’s best progressive metal band right now. There will also be sets by Dispellment, a local black metal band and Silence The Blind a thrashy ‘core band. Tickets are $15 but you can get them in advance for $10 here. And I know it’s out in Leesburg but if Acrassicauda can get out of their war torn country on the other side of the world to bring the thrash then your ass can find a ride to Leesburg for this rare opportunity to see them play live. Now headbang to this Acrassicauda song, “Message From Baghdad,” and I hope to see a lot of you there!