Saturday, May 16, 2015

Full of Hell & The Body @ABC No Rio; Cryptopsy & Disgorge @ Nihil Gallery 5.16.2015



The last time I was in ABC No Rio was 13 years ago; there was a hole in the floor near the back of the performance space roughly the size of the average foot. Stare at it for a few seconds and it would spell out "L-A-W-S-U-I-T". Luckily, it's been fixed in the intervening years. Also new: Separate cans for trash and recyclables, showing that anarchy and organized waste management are not mutually exclusive...except in Malaysia, where I've been told that having recycling bins in Rumah Api will not work. Clearly it works for ABC No Rio; are New York punks that different?



13 years is enough time for me to go from excited about everything twenty-something to creeping-on-forty cynical hesher. A lot has happened in heavy music in those years; ironic, then, that the first band I saw that afternoon seemed to come straight out of my college days. Through Thorn and Brier play metal-influenced hardcore much closer to the Cave In/Converge style I was listening to back in the day than the overly slick stuff the genre has become. Maybe the throwback nature of their music is all in my head; maybe bands like this have been the norm this entire time and I've been too tunnel-visioned to notice.

As the flyers of past shows could attest, ABC has always been a haven for the progressive side of underground music, from Neurosis to Creation is Crucifixion. Radiation Blackbody (basically the old noisecore band Anodyne without Mike Hill), represent that proggy side, if an instrumental bass-and-drums duo could be described as "proggy". It's hard not to think of Lightning Bolt (who coincidentally were playing the same day somewhere else in NYC...this city is truly spoiled for choice), but RBB lack the artiness and theatricality of the Rhode Island band, preferring to keep their heads down and bludgeon the crowd with what felt like one long rumbling hammer-on.

I had seen The Body once before - last year on my birthday, in fact. I remember them being heavy and inventive, and surprisingly nuanced for a two-piece. Unfortunately, that day in ABC they were little more than one long oppressive low-end roar, punctuated with drums and shrieking. It's hard to say where the fault was - The gear? the PA? The band for being too loud or the venue for being too small? Either way, it felt like those up front had put ourselves there for little more than to test our endurance.

ABC No Rio seemed like a civilized gathering of underground music nerds before Full of Hell plugged in and bodies started flying across the room like cannonballs. From their bassist's broken leg I inferred that chaos is the norm when they play; not sure if they always have a trumpet player with them, but his presence added to the general craziness and unpredictability of the set, as did the chains and scrap metal the drummer broke out for that extra Neubauten effect. Should be a good time when they show up in KL in later this year. [Special respect for videographer Frank Huang, who held his ground and camera throughout the carnage.]

Zipping over to Brooklyn for another show the same day will probably earn me some ire back in the jungle; even more so when people back home find out I skipped half the bands at the second gig. I'm trying to think back to a time when seeing 6 bands in a row was anything other than exhausting; maybe in my teens. Those days are long gone, unfortunately. To the promoter's credit, the bands on the line-up for Cryptopsy's first US tour in 8 years were pretty eclectic (if somewhat biased towards Canadians), but I didn't have the attention span or the stamina for another 4 hours of triggered blast beats and drunk people running around in circles. As it was, I missed most of the line-up to get dinner with my friend Pierre and to interview Cryptopsy's Matt McGachy, and don't feel I missed out on anything important. [One thing I did take note of: Hesher after hesher throwing their empty cups and cans away in the proper receptacles without any prompting - which, I'd like to remind everyone reading this, is something I was told can't be done in Malaysia or Rumah Api. Take that as an adjudication on both.]

The last time I saw Disgorge was a few years ago when they played KL to an audience who probably never thought they'd see them before or again. That alone gave the show a special weight, especially since Malaysia is a country notorious for metal shows that are supposed to happen but don't. Seeing an American band in front of an American audience - especially one as jaded as New York (this was the 4th metal show happening that day that I knew of) ostensibly wouldn't have the same cachet, but the audience were just as excited as their Asian counterparts, if the number of smart phones that lined the stage were any indication. With the benefit of a top notch sound (courtesy of Atakke/Mutant Supremacy drummer Robert Nelson, manning the board that night), Disgorge sounded like one of death metal's elite, all technical blasting and gurgling vocals with no filler.


The last time I saw Cryptopsy they had a completely different line-up and were a well-respected if somewhat overlooked band entrenched in a genre which many reckoned had seen its best days come and go. That was early 1999, a few months after Whisper Supremacy had come out. [side note: The opening act that night was a little-known band from Massachusetts called Shadows Fall; I think about 20 people were in the room.] Cryptopsy have gone through three singers since then, with McGachy having the dubious honour of fronting the band throughout their tumultuous recent years. Down to a single guitarist but with human tornado Flo Mounier leading from behind his kit, Cryptopsy sounded lethal, the reigning kings of Canadian death metal, effervescently technical and effortlessly brutal in equal measure. My friends who were present that night later gathered around in a huddle and discussed how various songs differed live from their recorded counterparts. Honestly, the little nuances and variations were lost on me; all I could feel was "move out of the way or get run over". As a three-piece they felt stripped down but efficient, with the bass given extra heft and importance throughout the set (and not just on "Phobophile"). The band teased a new song from their upcoming EP Book of Suffering that seemed to put to rest any fears that the band would break out the keyboards or clean vocals anytime soon.

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