The sheer number of shows I’ve attended over the past six weeks is patently absurd. Since wading hip-deep into my thirties, I’ve averaged a few shows plus a certain amount of Maryland Deathfest each year. Now, in a little over a month, I’ve had the opportunity to check out Fallujah, Devin Townsend, Gojira, Leprous, the Dillinger Escape Plan, Thank You Scientist and Haken, and soon I get to see Meshuggah (for the first time!) support their exceptional new slab of cybermeat. On Friday, I added to that feast an unmissable show: Gorguts, supported by three truly powerful acts. Here’s the rundown.
Horrendous always makes me wonder what the hell promoters are thinking, putting them at the bottom of a bill. They opened MDF last year, when they surely deserved to play a few time slots deeper. At the Mudrian-curated Choosing Death Fest in April, they lay down an admirable set between West PA workaholics Taphos Nomos and Derkéta. They also led off this killer lineup, but really, these guys have a sound that transcends sundown-fodder. Within their deathly constructs, they play melodies that matter. Rather than bludgeon and splatter, their songs revel in discernibly well-written parts that rise from an engaging core full of emotion and intelligence. Judging from the faces they make (and the positions they pull) while playing, these guys are having more fun than just about any other metal band I’ve witnessed. Anyone who showed up late (we’re looking at you, Grindfather!) missed a key part of the evening’s experience. I look forward to seeing Horrendous scale the heights they so deserve to reach.
The real wild card of the evening (for me, anyway) was Brain Tentacles. I had listened through their new album once, but I hadn’t formed much of an opinion. Until they took the stage. They absolutely owned every moment of their performance, as evidenced by the women I saw gettin’ their dance on throughout the set, as well as the ferocious pit that had not been present during the Horrendous songs. Brain Tentacles build songs with palpable care and precision, but even so, there’s a frenetic energy that manifests in Bruce Lamont’s haunting sax tone, Dave Witte’s impeccable swing and timing, and Aaron Dallison’s howling vocals and bowel-bursting bass playing. As the final song wound to a close, three extra drummers made their way to the drums waiting for them at the front of the stage, and the four percussionists elevated a polyrhythmic beating into pure noise ecstasy. I’m not sure how many times a person can withstand that kind of auditory annihilation, but I’m very willing to find out.
Full disclosure: Intronaut have not made an extraordinary impression on me with their past couple records. I really dug Prehistoricisms and Valley of Smoke, but there’s a self-conscious progginess to Habitual Levitations that turned me off, and I honestly haven’t spent that much time with The Direction of Last Things. They played a perfectly competent set, and they certainly took their fans on a sonic journey that seemed worth taking. It wasn’t until their closer, Hab Lev‘s “The Welding,” that I got particularly excited. That was a great finisher, though, and they definitely exited on a high.
Now seems like the right time to effusively thank the sound guy for his between-set song selection. I’m rarely engaged by those filler tracks, but while gear was being loaded in, loaded out and rearranged, we were treated to Deftones’ “Digital Bath,” Mastodon’s “Oblivion,” Strapping Young Lad’s “Love?” and Neurosis’ “The Tide.” There were others, most of which I didn’t recognize, but whoever was making those choices had somehow tapped into my own internal playlist.
Gorguts filled their headline-sized shoes to the breaking point. Before the show, Luc Lemay could be found setting up the shirt racks at the merch table and welcoming fans like an eager dad welcoming family to a once-annual holiday meal. Hopefully that doesn’t sound snarky, because what I mean is the man is extremely friendly and clearly pleased with the undertaking at hand. Upon taking the stage, though, the deviant noise that Lemay wrenches from his throat and his guitar strings simply defies all that pleasant demeanor. The house was packed, the pit was unceasing, and these kings of dissonant death displayed a stamina and focus that was simply incredible. Drummer Patrice Hamelin landed each beat with power and grace, and the Dysrhythmia duo of Colin Marston and Kevin Hufnagel poured their talents into the chunky Gorguts riffs. The dexterous interplay among these musicians turned their show into a true spectacle. The droning interludes from this year’s Pleiades’ Dust played neatly off the chaos elsewhere in the music. Afterwards, fans could be heard questioning how the band could have adhered so closely to the sound of the album in a live setting.
In all, the event was satisfying, surprising and inspiring… Now, for Meshuggah…