Unholy Rites – Show Review: 11.13.10.

Welcome to Unholy Rites, your descent into the deepest strata of the New York City underground. From the fury of Suffocation and Immolation to the sheer grind (de)compositions of Brutal Truth and Malignancy, New York upholds a legacy of crucial metal outputs; so, it was after getting appalled at the lack of support that exists for bands involved with the scene (I’m talking bands playing to empty venues; criminally underrated acts going home with subzero morales and zero dollars in their pockets), I decided it was time to help ‘em out. Here, in weekly installments of show reviews, band interviews, show updates, and album reviews, I’ll embark my metal duties via conducting you into the cradle of blisteringly fierce, unabashed metal circuit that is the New York underground. In short, you’ll get a one-stop guide on local goods – shows, bands – while proliferating the metal cause.

If you are in a local band, looking to get showcased, or would like to contribute to Unholy Rites (through photography, music, or the written word), do contact me via email (navjot@SMNnews.com), or approach me at a local gig!

On November 13rd, 2010, I decided to pack my (metaphorical) bags, camera, brains, and (slightly deafening) ears, for a trek up to the endearing, near-“upstate” town otherwise known as Poughkeepsie, New York. The occasion? Aside from the intermittent cow sights, lovely autumn leaves, and road-raging drivers on the Taconic Parkway, I headed up north in order to hit the First Pickwick Pub Metal Festival. Having grown up just about an hr. south from Poughkeepsie, this town is, surprisingly enough, host to some seriously legit metal events; with The Chance, Club Crannell, and Pickwick itself heralding themselves as the home of some sweet local acts, as well as a pit-stop for nationally touring bands (everyone from Suffocation to Italy-based Fleshgod Apocalypse, through to punk gods The Misfits). Moreover, with some of my first few metal concerts having taken place there (back in the old, death metal days of my brother’s high school band), I figured it’d be a nice return to the agent of my own metal prognosis. A lot of bands played that night, but of them all, three left the mark of unholy appetite for metal coverage: Arcane Malevolence, The Curse of Her Flesh, and Left in Ruins (not to mention No Remission, who has previously graced this column, with their melodic riffs from hell).

I arrived (un-)fashionably late for the show, walking into the death metal assaults and slamming riffs of The Curse of Her Flesh. One of those locally embraced names I’d run across on the web, and always seemed to open the shows I miss, I found before me four dudes: with one – the vocalist – breaking it down in a sports Jersey, packing a stage presence clearly influenced by the borderline humorous but no less crushing vibes of Frank Mullen (minus “that thing he does with hand”). There was a recognizably New York flavor in their music and their performance; both set the tone for a night supersaturated with death metallers picked, assembled, and ready to rage for a crowd filled with a predominantly NYDM crowd, with the occasional non-bro rocker (or rockette) just coming out to support some music, grab a beer, and soak in some metal between the four wooden walls of this cabin-like, inebriated pub.

Just as the shaky walls and reek of beer, sweat, and buffalo wing belches filled the air (and I found myself surrounded by the heavily patched seas of leather worn by NYDM folks), the atmosphere was immediately changed when Arcane Malevolence gathered on the stage. If you were to ask anyone around, at that very moment, what this pack of diverse personalities – sporting bandanas, mighty fros, and sardonic smiles was all about – you’d be met with a concise and baffling response: “sexual death metal.” Now, death metal is a genre that’s been playing around, cookie-monster blended with two scoops of dry humor, “Hatredy,” and self-cliché-mocking style – I’m talking everything from Dethklok to Macabre. But “sexual death metal” is an art, one that this Stamford-based four piece perfected, mocked, and simultaneously espoused. Bringing their audience a set composed of mostly new material, straight off of their August-released Wicked Turn of the Vine, we got technical yet brutal beats, and a stage presence without precedence.

The deliberation of their music was clear, but not at all performed with hubris; instead, with focus clearly emanating from the intricate guitar solos (“Infernal Phantasm” being a beautiful such display), bold bass parts (pulsating in “Flesh Explosion”), through to the raging, seizure-inducing, Meshuggah-style fast pace drum parts (you could see drummer Chris Anderson’s upper body flailing, in careful thrashes, from left to right of his drum-set). Vocalist Chris Baldwin emerged as the pinnacle of and catalyst of the unexpected, uncharted “sexual death metal” territory, through his suggestive, exaggerated, and almost primitive dancing, coupled with facial expressions that had you questioning if this guy is queer, in the midst of masturbating, imitating a six year old, or some God-sent combination of the three. His commitment to on-stage theatrics (in a manner reminiscent of Mike Patton meets Devin Townshend), and involving the audience was epic as hell. Addressing everything from the “economical” set of their local metal brahs in No Remission, who had played them with that same night (in a dryly humorous yet affectionate manner), seemingly “un-metal” operatic squeals, the crowd broke out into laughter repeatedly, and hence emerged a comedy show and metal set in one. To mistake that this is a band unaware of the message they are sending out would be a mistake; amidst the palpable proficiency of their music, which displayed their commitment to the metal sound, and their stage presence, they brought a set that was energetic, humorous, smart, and for those with an open mind and love for innovative sound: Fun.

For as long as I have been attending local shows, there is one name that has never escaped the stickered walls of venues, guitar cases, myspaces, and tongues of all musicians who hail from the 914 (a.k.a. Westchester, New York): Left in Ruins. So, as the triple-guitarist containing, Ossining based four piece hit the stage, I was stoked to get a live serving of a band that had, for so long, worked diligently and raged hard to make its stake in the local metal underground. As they opened with an instrumental track, they introduced the crowd to the dark-pulsed, eerie tone. Epically enough, the lights seemed to have dimmed (was this a pre-meditated horrorshow?), and when they were kicked back up to their blinding whiteness, the feel of the pub was again drastically changed. The music had a dark, dirty, almost early black metal undertone, with the melancholy and rage of American metal acts (Burn the Priest, Pantera) lining its interior. Emerging out of this was a sound both loud and commanding as it was melodic (with impressive solo-work from guitarist Jorge Narango) and thrash.

Though the lineup consists of just four dudes, there was a sense in which each filled in the space with a unique and visible presence – both through their expressions, demeanor, and the music they were playing. However rare and daring it is to come across an extreme metal band with three guitarists, not just for sonic but for ego-related reasons, it’s clear that the band shares a tight chemistry. The three sets of guitar parts only made for a louder and more captivating stage presence and volume that consumed its listeners whole as each of the members crossed the stage, interacted with their band-mates, and threw some cheeky smiles (and winks) at their fanboys. Despite what could be identified as a markedly “death metal” sound, the band presented a generous amount of groove, and slow rhythms that built a sludgy pace to draw in headbangers walks and tastes of the metal spectrum. There’s a sense in which the band packs its all up in a ball of aggression, filth, and disgust with the world, releasing it relentlessly at any 30-minute pocket of time and sufficiently decrepit, metal hole-in-the-wall that permits.

December 11, 2010: Cook’s Cafe – Naugatuck, Connecticut

December 17, 2010: Heirloom Arts Theater – Danbury, Connecticut
December 18, 2010: Tuxedo Junction – Danbury, Connecticut

December 11, 2010: The Chance – Poughkeepsie, New York

-Navjot Kaur Sobti

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