On Tuesday night I went to the Music Hall of Williamsburg to see High on Fire with Unearthly Trance and Natur at the behest of my buddy Josh. It was a pretty good show, but I didn’t stop thinking the whole time, primarily because I wasn’t drinking. Hah! Some thoughts in chronological order.
I had never heard of or heard this band before Josh asked if I was going to see High on Fire, but as it turns out the band is comprised of a bunch of friends of my friend Angela, dudes I’ve partied next to, if not exactly with. I walked into the venue part way through their set and immediately recognized them as the dudes in the Black Metal shirts I used to see at Motor City all the time. Small world. That also meant that I knew a bunch of folks in the crowd which was pretty fun.
Musically, Natur is a thrash band with heavy reference to the old school. I thought they rocked, and I particularly liked that the drummer Tooth kept throwing the upside down cross with his drumsticks. Fuck yes. My buddy Joe Hogan noted that he’d seen them play twice before, but that this was the first time he’d actually heard them. I was glad for that. There’s nothing to spoil your first impression of a band like bad sound.
I couldn’t really tell you much more about the songs they played save that I enjoyed the set and would be excited to see them again.
Unearthly Trance is the main band of Ryan Lipynsky, who has been mentioned here before, so I was pretty excited to see them play. Loud as fuck, doomy as hell sludge, they totally rocked. Apart from a blown bass head, the set went off without a hitch that I noticed.
Though I didn’t know any of their songs going into it, I’ve really been enjoying The Howling Wind record I won. Not the same exactly, but in the same realm. You know when something is so loud that you actually feel your eardrums vibrate? Yup. Unearthly Trance did that to me. Now, you’ll say, “Joe, why aren’t you wearing earplugs?” to which I’ll reply, “SHUT UP. YOU’RE NOT THE BOSS OF ME.”
Why is it that the metal bands doing the most interesting shit in metal are typically the dudes who look least metal? Apart from the drummer’s Nile t-shirt, you’d never think these guys were metalheads if you saw them walking down the street. I like to call guys like that sleeper agents, ready to bring the fucking metal any time but can blend in to regular society, insidiously spreading the message. It’s a term I coined to describe myself when I’d meet new people and they’d find out I’m way into metal. They would inevitably say something like, “Wow, I never would have thought you’d be into death metal.” And I’m all, “I’m a sleeper agent, baby.”
As with any metal band, Unearthly Trance’s real centerpiece was their drummer. Darren Verni worked up a hell of a sweat on stage and totally fucking killed it. He was attacking his drums with pure rage. Recommended. I feel sorry for Josh who decided to sit the set out. Your loss, buddy!
I’ve never understood High on Fire. They’re a metal band and all, but their appeal has always been a mystery to me. I’ve heard their records, seen the music videos, and whatever, but their music has never really clicked with me in the same way as so many other bands. After seeing them live, though, I feel like I get it a little better now. I’m still not a fan, but I at least understand sort of where they are coming from in terms of the metal they make. I described them to my friend JJ as “tough guy hesher party metal.” I think that’s pretty accurate. They definitely rocked the venue and the crowd was way into it. I enjoyed the set, but I don’t think I’d go out of my way to see them play again.
Their energy was undeniable, but by the time the set ended and they went backstage for their “Let’s pretend the show’s over, grab a beer, and then go back out and play our mandatory encore” I seriously considered leaving. I think the crowd threw me a little. It must have been the most aggro crowd I’ve seen in a while.
There’s something funny about metal that many of you non-metalheads don’t understand. The heavier a band gets, the more extreme their music, the less aggressive the crowd becomes. It’s not that there isn’t aggression, it’s that the people at the shows are less aggressive to each other. For example, if you go to see Portal and Gorguts as I did a while back, you get a crowd who is way into the music but not being a bunch of fucking dicks to each other. Same for Pig Destroyer or Brutal Truth or any incredibly heavy metal show.
Now, you get these bands that are heavy but somewhere in the middle ground, like High on Fire, and the meathead cocksucker contingent comes out in force. They’re the guys who are aggressive as fuck, but intimidated by genuinely extreme music. They also don’t really get the metal show etiquette and think that it’s all about fighting and aggression and shit, when it isn’t. It’s about release and rocking out and the music, but never ever about fighting. If you knock someone over in the pit, you help them up. That’s rule number 1. You try to avoid the chick who doesn’t know better and is standing on the edge of the pit. No fucking karate dancing, asshole. If someone bumps you, don’t get all bent out of shape about it. Am I the only person who thinks these rules are real? I doubt it. I’ve seen similar etiquette at shows since I’ve been going in my early teens. You learn it. You follow it. Everyone has a good time.
But the crowd the other night seemed to be ignorant of these common, unspoken rules of the metal show. I nearly got barreled over by some fucking 6’9″ giant of a man a few times who couldn’t be bothered just to take his time working through the crowd. He kept coming and going pit to bar, pit to bar, pit to bar. Anyone who’s been to a bunch of shows knows how to work his way through a crowd. I like to call it “the hand on the back”. It will move anyone, it’s not dick, and it works. People don’t mind being touched when there’s a billion people all around you to see Slayer or whatever; it’s unavoidable. But just pushing your way through is rude. Bad etiquette.
So there you go, a bunch of arbitrary opinions and bullshit. If you wanted informed analysis, go read Cosmo. If you want senseless blathering, The Black Laser is your jam.
If I had to rate the sets from 1 to 10, 10 being the highest, I’d do it like this.
- Natur: 7
- Unearthly Trance: 9
- High on Fire: 5
More show reviews as I go to them.