Unholy Rites – NYC Underground. Show Review: 11.14.10.

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!

November 14, 2010: I beheld a bill filled to shameless doom metal proportions with three of the most uncompromising voices in the New York and New Jersey scene: Evoken, Batillus, and the emerging, LI-based Moth Eater. Having received the fyi from Aidan about this doom metal night, set to take place, appropriately enough, on the (un-)holy day of rest (on a mid-November Sunday), I was all the more shocked to learn that this acquaintance would all be taking place at the Bowery Electric. In a day when it seems most metal shows are being re-routed and stuffed into the tiny, sticky Brooklyn music venues of Williamsburg, Bushwick, and Greenpoint, it was refreshing to hear of a Manhattan venue that’s sticking it out; holding weekly metal nights (courtesy of the revolutionary sound-guy known as Tim) at this Lower East Side-based basement of noise, booze, and overall, brick-walled grimness.

After the depressive greeting’s of Maegashira, laced with the drawn out guitar parts and moaning vocals very much in the vein of southern sludge acts as Harvey Milk (with a similarly lethargic, melt-down-to-despair stage presence), we were lifted from the dissonant depths of our subconscious with the loud, raging calls of Moth Eater. Based out of Long Island, and packing a fresh punch, they dished out tunes off of their recently released The Thunder God of Monster Island.

Despite the lethargy seemingly exponential and natural to this (quite literally) underground venue, there’s a punk-intense desire to spit out pure rage and heterogeneous music that this four-piece brought to the stage, that surely woke the crowd the hell up; including a rather “enlightened” (far gone) dude who seemed to be taking a nap in his epic bed of hair. As I wrote of their album review, “Aftermath” stayed faithful to that energy flux – between the fast, heavy, almost thrash style with guttural vocals, and the more trudging, despair-ridden, sludge meets doom metal style . Their ability to alter pace, integrate strange (ethereal) melodies, and rock n’ rolls riffs was felt in “When Bruises Leave Scars,” with vocals that resonated a distantly Randy Blythe vibe (in my book, a damn good thing), and a solo that left the classic rockers more than pleased.

If Moth Eater stepped up the energy, Batillus cranked up the volume, and added a triply elevated feeling of hair-raising darkness to the atmosphere. There’s a sense in which this band, named after a French oil tanker, known for its huge capacity and power to displace water, is the perfect metaphor for their role as a vessel of powerful, impactful sound; with their drawn out chords, spaced out drum-beats, the audience was cast into the insidious and unrecognizable space of the psyche.

Their stage presence was immediately menacing; between the tall, introverted, yet deeply intent gaze of vocalist Fade, the layers of wires shrouding all corners of the stage, and the hovering amplifiers of both guitarists, it was when the band released its thick, heavy guitar riffs, primally fierce drums, occasional synths that the audience was shackled by a sound as fundamentally overwhelming and loud as it was entrancing and provocative. Playing some of their markedly shorters tracks, off of their recently released Batillus/Hallowed Butchery Split, all of these qualities surfaced and traveled through all corners of the venue space. One thing I noticed were the vocals; rather than function as the traditional and distinct focal point of the band’s sound, Fade’s vocals served as a binding agent (that ever-present, screeching echo) for what was probably the largest guitar sound I’ve heard and witnessed at a show. All of these factors made for a set that undoubtedly swallowed its listeners whole, with the ugliness and rawness that lay at the heart of doom, black, and industrial metal alike.

Before I’d even devised my own definition or heard the term “doom metal,” I was initially enraptured by Antithesis of Light, the first album I heard by Evoken as I made a playlist for one of my first radio shows in 2008. The haunting compositions brought me into a genre I’d hitherto known nothing about, and so it was discovering that this NJ and SI-based five-piece was played this show that surfaced the same excitement I felt as I’d spun their music two years back. As the band opened their set with familiar tracks off of Quietus, I found myself lulled by their carefully written, slow, yet psychically diffusing music.

When they played one of my favorite tracks and a seeming staple of all of their performances – “Tending the Dire Hatred” – the crowd was showered by the steam generated by machines pentagramically positioned on the stage: a fog as ethereal as at was seductively demonic. All diligent individuals with day-jobs but a night-returning, clear dedication to making heavy music, there is a sense in which their 16-year career has made them all the more apt at setting the atmosphere. There is a bleakness that filled me as I witnessed them performing: each member seeming, from their gazes, physically absent from the venue, as they conducted us, instrumentally, into the darkest spaces of our inner-circuitry. Paradiso’s vocals seemed a distant echo to which we were to travel. In this manner, it was when I left the venue that I felt as though I was walking into a different world – with light, air – both of which seemed to have dissipated in the hour I had spent during Evoken’s dark sermon.

November 26, 2010: The Rotunda – Philadelphia, PA
November 27, 2010: Acheron – Brooklyn, NY
December 11, 2010: The Charleston – Brooklyn, NY

December 3, 2010: Cherry St. Station – Wallingford, Connecticut
December 4, 2010: Brooklyn Fire Proof – Brooklyn, NY
April 16, 2011: Venue TBA – Tillburg, NL, NETHERLANDS

-Navjot Kaur Sobti

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