Swampfest Kicks Off The Metal At SXSW Music 2011
SXSW Music had yet to officially begin, but on Tuesday night, I headed out to Klub Krucial to catch the first metal show I had on my schedule. Dubbed “Swampfest,” the show was to feature local bands Mammoth Grinder, Hod, The Roller, and Atlanta’s Kylesa. The venue apparently is host to all sorts of shows, apparently hip hop venue according to some patrons I talked to. But it worked fairly well for a metal show just the same. It was wider than deep and had a balcony, which is where I gravitated to escape the mosh pit and from being directly in front of the stacks of speakers, as no ear plugs were needed up there.
First up was Mammoth Grinder. They played a noisy, thrashy style of music. The vocals were completely incomprehensible to me, but it sounded like more the sound system’s fault than the vocalist’s. Their style of thrash was in the same vein as Slayer’s, and the final song that finally got the crowd going a bit sounded something like a Slayerized version of “Orgasmatron” in tempo and riffs, although judging by the vocals, that did not seem to actually be the case.
“SXSW sucks! We are Hod and we play metal!” was the introduction from Hod’s vocalist. They kicked off their set right into blazing-fast blackened death-thrash. The first songs were relentless and like a wall of sound. The crowd didn’t respond a whole lot until a few songs into the set when there were some speedy grooves on display. Most of the remaining songs had some form of mild slow-down or massive groove to get the crowd headbanging and a small pit broke out several times. Hod seemed to leave as fast as they came, but were enjoyable nonetheless.
The Roller was up next and I had no idea what to expect (although perhaps I should have), as I’ve only heard the name, not the band. The band played a trudging style of heavy, doomy metal, often holding notes for extended periods and letting those notes disintegrate into feedback. The basic style reminded me a little bit of bands like Hull or Batillus, but without the more technical flourishes. They band sped up and slowed down the pace often, using these momentum changes effectively. The mid-tempo grinding grooves at their fastest were quite enjoyable, but the drawn out notes and distortion often hit the brink of annoyance.
With two drum kits, Kylesa took over 30 minutes to get set up. It was late, I was tired, and I contemplated leaving early many times since the drawn out final song of The Roller. I had heard a song or two from Kylesa, and knew them as a sludgy metal band from Atlanta, cut from the same cloth as Mastodon and Baroness. While those bands get lots of hype, they're not really my thing. However, I was entirely unprepared for how awesome Kylesa's live show was. When the band finally began playing, as is often the case, you could immediately tell they were a class above the locals. The sound was crisper and there was a tightness to their playing.
Having two drum kits seems pointless when they’re playing the same thing, but even then it gives the percussion a little more punch for a sound that relies heavily on the drumming. But when the guitars step aside for the drums and both drummers play separately (and in some cases, a guitarist even helps out with his own set of toms), the results are amazing.
The band mixes it up quite well, alternating vocalists (male and female) between songs rather than between verses. The guitars were quite varied, some reaching low and some staying in the higher range. It was quite entertaining when they kicked off a song with a pure punk riff, played in their sludgy tuning, however.
By the end of Kylesa’s set, I was wide awake and realized that was well worth staying out that night, despite the late hour. If you get the chance to see Kylesa live, don’t let it pass you by.
SXSW Music goes on through the end of this weekend and Metalunderground.com will be reporting on it throughout the week.
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