By Andy O'Connor (TX)
When: September 16, 2012
Where: Beauty Ballroom, Austin, TX
With: Norska, Cormorant, JT Habersaat
Yob are from the sunshine-deficient Eugene, Oregon. Sunday, they must have felt like they were at home, as Austin's skies were makin' it rain like Lil' B did a surprise show. Had Yob performed in an outdoor space, as opposed to the Beauty Ballroom, they may have parted the clouds and let the crowd bask in an unfathomable energy. The reverberations of riffs that they did provide were quite sufficient.
Yob brought out their most thunderous tracks early, opening with the heavy meditation (metaltation?) of “Burning the Altar” followed by the greatest heavy metal song of the past 20 years, “Prepare the Ground.” There's a lot of metaphors I could use for “Ground” like the earth heaving, planets moving, serpents rising from the sea to whoop ass on each other, apocalyptic battles happening on every block on every city. None of those can truly convey how HEAVY that song is live. Mike Scheidt is a man who has Sleep's Holy Mountain-era logo tattooed on him – he couldn't starve himself of doom even if he tried. His guitar playing is obviously the reason folks plunkered 13 bucks on a Sunday night, but his vocal range, ranging from “man, Ozzy sounds great these days!” to deep growls channeled from eastern demons, give Yob the advantage most of their peers don't have. Gotta give props to drummer Travis Foster too, for his drums struck deep into our chests. Hearts were one step away from using the bass drum as a heartbeat. While the “??” on the set times lent to speculation that Yob would get all Grateful Dead on our asses, they ended with plenty of time left for folks to close out their tabs. Ear drums were not so lucky.
For a comedian, what's worse than being heckled? Indifference. That's what JT Habersaat, personally asked by Yob to open for them, had to deal with when he came on just past 9 to a thin crowd. Maybe metalheads don't attend a lot of comedy shows -- the audience wasn't rude, maybe just a bit too polite. There was some noise, but most of it came from the skeeball players upstairs. Skeeball is a life-or-death matter at Beauty Ballroom. The crowd was not entirely to blame -- some of Habersaat's material was just wack. Sarah Palin and screamo jokes in 2012? Who does that benefit? There were also bits and pieces that reeked of “old man yells at cloud.” Granted, he's 36 and I'm 25, so maybe I'm an ignorant young man who can't appreciate a goddamn thing. However, when he recounted tales of failed hangout attempts with Xanax-ed Doug Stanhope and a hostile encounter with a Christian Misfits tribute band in Grants Pass, Oregon, he got a stronger reaction from the crowd. Like Yob, he knows that Oregon has some strange characters that don't make it onto IFC shows.
While San Francisco progressive metallers Cormorant were setting up, bassist and vocalist Arthur von Nagel (whose “anatomy of a record contract” is essential reading) was chatting it up with a few dedicated fans. I was too far to make out the details of the conversation, but von Nagel seemed generally enthused. All parties involved should enjoy that intimacy while they can. “Next big thing” predictions are for hacks, but Cormorant could feasibly make Opeth question whether they're at the top of their game. Their first show in Austin showed that they've got the elements to at least achieve cult status. Even with a false start at the beginning of one song, they displayed remarkable professionalism. While they're technical, they don't meander and their songs carry weight to satisfy the “metal” end of prog-metal. Black metal is a definite influence, but the band is clearly beholden to prog. Cormorant's songwriting is one such clue, but von Nagel's voice also illuminates this balance. His screech and his deep speaking voice were equally convincing, and he showed no struggle switching between them live. When flash is harmonized with taste, it's the stuff of wonders. Von Nagel's six-string bass is a wild beast to tame, after all.
Yob bassist Aaron Rieseberg was pulling double duty, as he was also serving up rumble for Norska. The band name is the Swedish name for “Norwegian,” and even though Scandinavia is perhaps the most metal area of the world, Norska draw more influence to their own country. Low and slow was the main course, those there were hints of melodicism as well. When things got a little less heavy, there was some Atlas Moth influence at hand. Hell, Norska's vocalist, Jim Lowder (that's a metal last name!) looks like a burlier version of The Atlas Moth's vocalist and guitarist, Steve Giannopoulos. A neat group with potential, but we were craving the Yob riffs.