June 21, 2012

CHAOS IN TEJAS: THE RECAP

By Andy O'Connor (TX)

Rattails spanging you. Split heads. All the right patches in all the right places. Broken 40s next to broken hearts. Vegan barbecue. Barbecue barbecue. A flyer that featured Absu, Antisect, and Best Fucking Coast. Bangovers that last longer than the hangovers. Metal dudes blasting club bangers in their car.

Just another weekend in Austin.

STARTING OFF THE WEEKEND WITH A GRIND FINALE

The way I anticipated the festival to go was an escalation of raging from Thursday to Saturday, with Sunday as the cool-off/hangover day. Sunday was just that, but I was not expecting Thursday to be the pinnacle of turning up. The very reason: Nasum. Whatever you may have thought about the reunion, they confirmed their legacy that night. This wasn’t a seance, this was a party. Rotten Sound’s Keijo Niinimaa was at the helm, and he wasn’t playing the part of deceased vocalist Mieszko Talarczyk. Niinimaa had his own energy, delivering a fine performance and getting the crowd buck. Unlike Chicago and Baltimore, there we no barricades to save you from getting kicked in the noggin. Stagedives were going down with no regard for concrete floors and hoop earrings. “A Stinking Breath of Fresh Air” already had one of the hardest breakdowns in grindcore, and live, it was that much more intense. Sweat and beer polished the ground, and it’s a miracle we could walk after the battle.

Front to back, the rest of the show also banged. Canadians Mass Grave opened up the show with a dual-vocal crust assault, bringing the spirit of Extreme Noise Terror into the room. Definitely recommended. Innumerable Forms, who live are Mind Eraser’s Justin Detore backed by Mammoth Grinder’s Chris Ulsh and Brian Boeckman, pretty much played the same set from their appearance last year opening for Autopsy. That would be their Dark Worship tape front to back plus a cover of Master’s “Funeral Bitch”. Was it as awesome the second time around? You bet it was - that sick groove in “Contaminated” will never tire. Phobia’s set was a bit odd, as they performed as a three piece of vocalist Shane McLachlan, now-permanent guitarist C.C. Loessin, and drummer Bryan Fajardo, also of Kill the Client, Noisear and Gridlink. The Texas-by-way-of-Orange-County group did a fine set, picking from various bits of their long discovery. ‘Twas pretty clear the crowd was saving it all for Nasum, though. One question lingers: much like Cianide’s Scott Caroll sporting his own band’s backpatch on his vest at Rites of Darkness, was Loessin’s jacket, complete with a Phobia patch, faux pas? Whitehorse brought a heaping dose of doom to the evening, and while they were great, I felt I was a little oversold on the band. I was expecting next-level heaviness, like The Body or Jucifer. Many doom bands can assault you in the front, and Whitehorse certainly did that, but few can really get your whole body in a trance. (And if you missed them at Chaos, they’ll be playing Saturday at Mohawk right after El-P.)

One band in that bill, however, really stuck out.

HOW DID A BAND CALLED GAS CHAMBER NOT GET BOOTED OFF? PEACE PUNKS CAN’T WIN ALL THE TIME

Really, considering that Nyogthaeblisz got kicked off for their anti-Semitic stances, and Disma dropped on their own accord(?) because the band faced mounting questions on vocalist Craig Pillard’s past, it’s a miracle that a hardcore band named Gas Chamber didn’t face picket lines. Now, Gas Chamber have no ties to fascism at all. Surprisingly, Metal-Archives shows no results for “Gas Chamber,” so it looks like the Buffalo quartet beat some angry Germans/Italians/Argentinians/Guatemalans to the punch. The closest comparison one could give for Gas Chamber would be The Endless Blockade or Column of Heaven, and even then that’s not entirely accurate. While noise and grind coalescing is the basis for Gas Chamber’s sound, but the noise is more a texture than a blast. Gas Chamber space out their playing too, incorporating moody breaks to offset the grind. There’s definitely some Melvins riffing at work. It actually is a bit difficult to describe, which is perhaps why I thoroughly enjoyed them.

EVEN WITH A LAME HOUSE SHOW, I AT LEAST MANAGED TO GET THIS AWESOME PICTURE

Any house down with the Turtleneck Terror is down with me. You fashion crusties can’t get me down.

RED 7 ISN’T DIRTY DOG, AND THAT’S THE LEAST WE ASK OF THEM

Saint Vitus at SXSW were nothing short of spectacular, but we’ve made a vow to never return to the Dirty Dog again. They’re not even deserving of a one-star, self-righteous, creatively grammar-ed Yelp review. So yeah, props for Saint Vitus playing Red 7 this time. Is there a band called Red 7 that’s played Saint Vitus in New York? Anyway, Saint Vitus made such a racket, one wonders if their former label boss Greg Ginn could hear it from Taylor. “Dying Inside” struck everyone engaged in decadence throughout the weekend. They did take quite a bit of their set to display new jams, and while part of me wishes they would have included “Saint Vitus” or “White Magic/Black Magic,” at least their new jams weren’t from Lulu. Saint Vitus, true to themselves, closed out with “Born Too Late,” the anthem for all of us out of step with nearly everything. Dave Chandler went berserk during the ending, rubbing his guitar on Church of Misery vocalist Hideki Fukasawa, the amps, and getting into the crowd like a 70s guitar god in an 80s punk world. Nothing can keep Saint Vitus - bad record deals, changing frontmen, underappreciation - down.

Church of Misery, the Japanese stoner doom band with an obsession for singing about serial killers, were highly sought after by festival-goers, and the madmen did not disappoint. The band cranked out solid groove after solid groove. Half of the group looked like Judas Priest pre-leather, and the other half looked like average bros on the street. Interesting cognitive dissonance, but the jams were most rocking. Most of the supporting bands were honestly not awe-inspiring, but Magic Circle cut through the fluff to bring one of the most surprising sets at Chaos. Boston hardcore dudes playing Trouble riffs? We’re down with that. Metal and punk’s coexistence, when in sync, really brings out some great stuff.

STICK TOGETHER PLAYED A VENUE CALLED BEERLAND. TL;DR MIDNIGHT WERE WAY BETTER

You ever seen those old cartoons where a fat dude walks into a sauna and comes out rail-thin? Pretty sure I came close to that at Red 7 at the height of Saturday afternoon. Hatred Surge, now a trio with bassist Alex Hughes also handling vocals, were pounding it out when I came in. For as much as I’m an Insect Warfare fanboy, it seems like losing Rahi wasn’t much of a hassle for the band. Hughes has those lows down, so much so that it’s astonishing he hasn’t used them as an interrogation device to get Ribz out of Ancient VVisdom and reform Iron Age. There was no McDonald’s in the near vicinity to lock Dropdead in - although that Wendy’s across 35 may have been close enough - and someone had to keep count of all the stagedives in the monitors. Beerland it was. After Gas Chamber put on another excellent set, Wilkes-Barre straight-edge hardcore band Stick Together proved just how nutty Chaos’ scheduling can be. A straight-edge band? At BEERLAND? With MIDNIGHT? “Lust, Filth, and Sleze” and hardcore posturing do not match at all. Dallas’ Power Trip immediately followed, and they were Andrew W.K. compared to Stick Together. Was Timmy Hefner trying to troll Stick Together, or was he fucking with the other bands on the bill? Who knows for sure, but Power Trip put the fun back in with a raucous set of crossover thrash. Yes, they just signed to Southern Lord, but they don’t sound anything like Entombed. Quit hating.

Midnight were the band people mainly came to Beerland for, and let me assure you, they got things TURNT UP. Athenar won best stage banter of the whole fest alone for just dropping Eli Porter quotes. They the best mayne, the deed it. Perfectly dry black shirts got soaked in sweat within seconds from Midnight’s demonically dirty club bangers. There weren’t nearly as many stagedives as Rites, but the energy was still undeniable. Hotter than hell in the front, people managed to last all the way until “Endless Slut.” And then, it wasn’t endless. We need more Midnight.

WINTER? IN AUSTIN? YOU HAVE TO BE SHITTING ME, HAVE YOU FELT HOW HOT IT IS?

Before Chaos in Tejas, I was never the hugest Winter fan. Their doom is heavy, but I’ve heard heavier. They sure are slow, but I got into Sunn O))) before them. With Absu’s cancellation due to Proscriptor not recovering from knee surgery in time for that Saturday’s show, I decided to check out Winter anyhow.

After downing a Kansas City from Casino el Camino to the Ramones’ “I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend,” Turbonegro’s “Don’t Say Motherfucker, Motherfucker” and W.A.S.P.s “Blind in Texas,” I cruised to the Mohawk, where I found Japanese double-bassed noisemongers Zyanose crushing the mixed punk-metal contingent. If Big Business decicded to become a Disclose tribute overnight, they would come out a lot like Zyanose. The crowd really dug them - they’re the only opening band I’ve seen do an encore. Deviated Instinct soon followed, and having gotten robbed just days before, one would have expected their crusty spirits to be lower than even the filthiest drag rat’s hygiene. They carried on in spite of their struggle, smashing various states and inequalities.

Remember my lament of Whitehorse’s slight deprivation of total heaviness? They got jacked by Winter.

If there’s something beyond heaviness, Winter have found it. My harshed mellows metabolized into pure positivity, pure love for doom. Winter were playing at glacial tempos, agonizing every riff to their slowest. Stephen Flam was opening dimensions with his solos, making me wonder if guitar pedal makers know of some alternate universe they want us to find and Flam somehow cracked the code. I was no longer in control of myself; I became totally immersed in the march of the warsmen. There aren't enough ways to describe how enormous the guitars were, so I'll make sure Jimmy Jackson's massive drums don't go unnoticed either. They matched the guitars pound for pound. Enough hippie ranting, Winter were far and away the best band of the fest.

THE RITES OF DARKNESS CURSE

The initial Chaos in Tejas lineup was announced the same weekend as the cancellation-plagued Rites of Darkness. And while we noted in our review that the aforementioned departures of Nyogthaeblisz and Disma had, erm, funny timing, we didn’t think that there was any sort of Rites of Darkness curse. Then just a couple weeks before the fest, Loss, who also declined to play Rites, dropped off because of work-related issues with the band members. Mere days leading up to the Saturday’s seance, Absu cancelled. Loss was highly anticipated amongst Chaos’ metal contingent, and Absu is a crowd-drawing name, and as a result, I could feel the drainage of energy from Red 7. Not that that weren’t folks who were excited to be there, but the vibe would have been jolted had misfortune not had her ways with Loss and Absu.

Morbosidad were fairly ridiculous from a stage presence standpoint. Three of the four members were wearing Nyogthaeblisz t-shirts as a show of solidarity. A lit bible was thrown into the crowd - Black Witchery at Rites didn’t involve fire! Their music is fairly standard bestial black metal, but they sure as hell got noticed.

Some major label exec with a poor sense of financial responsibility, preferably the one who got Ghost signed, needs to throw a ton of cash Ares Kingdom’s way. Alex Blume needs a goddamn cult built around him - his hulking stature and intimidating growl make him the metal frontman we’ve needed in the spotlight since Dio passed away. Moreover, he was the most swagged out dude of the whole fest with his monogrammed beer holder attached to his belt. Any lawyer with a fourth wife that needs a nosejob and an art-school dropout son that lives in a Williamsburg apartment that won’t pay for itself knows that monogramming is a sure sign of baller status. Ares Kingdom had much the same fury - and then some - from their appearance at Rites, but their closer, a cover of Dokken’s “Tooth and Nail,” would have been the best moment of the fest were it not for Winter. Ares Kingdom are lifers, and they remember that Dokken brought it back in the day. Chuck Kellier’s interpretation of George Lynch’s solo was both a fitting homage and a challenge to the metal shredder pantheon.

Rites was Black Witchery’s scene. Chaos wasn’t. Impurath and company were spewing forth satanic blasphemies, their face paint melting off into something more grotesque, with as much might as they could muster. The intensity of Rites just wasn’t there, and that was mainly the crowd’s issue. There were a couple dedicated moshers, but there was no redux of torn bibles. As Primus once said, they can’t all be zingers.

BANDS WEARING BASKETBALL SHORTS ON STAGE: STOP THAT SHIT

Last year, there was some debate amongst the Crustcake crew on the gravely divisive topic of bands wearing basketball shorts while performing. Bone Sickness spurned the conversation last year when one of their guitarists was sporting a pair when opening for Hooded Menace. Some of us thought that the basketball shorts controversy was a non-issue, while others thought that death metal bands need to look like DEATH, not a life-promoting gym class. Even Chris Reifert had my back in the anti-basketball-shorts offensive. We reached a compromise in the end: basketball shorts are fine, in fact necessary, for slam bands.

Give did not learn from us, and unlike Bone Sickness, they did not have tunes to back it up. Posi hardcore just really isn’t my thing. It’s not entirely Give’s fault, however, as no band can really follow Thou. The Baton Rouge’s sludgy nature would lead some to believe that they would have opened for Saint Vitus, but those dudes are DIY punks at heart, so they ended up opening for Moss Icon. Their melodic sludge does fit in the context of the bill, but some hardcore deizens may have been confused by all that doom. Too bad - Thou are one of the best working bands around. And it’s no surprise Chaos in Tejas loves Iceage. Hefner had a big part in bringing the Danish youngsters to our side of the Atlantic last year. Seeing Iceage for the first time, I can see where Heffner’s enthusiasm for the band came from. They’re barely in their 20s and they don’t give a fuck. Broken strings? Finish the damn song! Iceage served as an important reminder that even our youth can really get some damage going.

GEOFF SUMMERS IS AN ASSHOLE FOR MAKING US SEE THE BLUE WAFFLE

Seeing as how I didn’t have pubes for most of the 90s, I had no interest in seeing Moss Icon once Iceage took off. I hauled on over to Hotel Vegas to catch Crustcake baby daddy Geoff Summers’ band Batillus. They’ve really solidified as a live unit, as every member was on point and slamming hard. Vocalist Fade Kainer sounded especially vicious and hatefucky during this show. “FALL ON YOUR KNEES” from “Deadweight” still sends shivers down my spine. They had a lot of the vigor that was lacking in their tourmates Whitehorse. Kainer had mentioned after the show that he hadn’t had much to eat prior to the performance. Note to the band - starve Fade! That’s how you’ll get the best performance out of him.

See you next year, Chaos!

3 comments:

Col. Sanders said...

GREAT COVERAGE/ARTICLE
LOVED this part..."Any lawyer with a fourth wife that needs a nosejob and an art-school dropout son that lives in a Williamsburg apartment that won’t pay for itself knows that monogramming is a sure sign of baller status."

Another great year by Timmy.
Hope Thou comes back to play longer though. 30 minutes was not enough.

Do you think Rites will even happen next year? I remember seeing the guy who ran it say he was done after last year's debacle. Bummer, cause that was pure Metal.

Van Damned said...

Col. Sanders, I've heard tell that a Rites IV will happen in Feb/March of 2013. Guess we'll have to wait and see...

devon broad said...

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