SXSW 2012: Tone Def Touring Showcase with Corrosion of Conformity
Band Photo: Corrosion of Conformity (?)
After Pallbearer marched its audience toward a giant, gaping abyss at ND, I hustled a couple blocks west to Dirty Dog Bar. I learned an important lesson last year: If you don’t have a badge or wrist band, show up early to ensure you get into the venue. Last year, I showed up a band or two into the Metal Alliance show and missed Saint Vitus and Crowbar. Once the doors opened, the bar’s staff allowed a few badge and wrist-band holders in first and then opened the flood gates to everyone else.
The Atlas Moth did not bide its time in leisurely boredom like me. The Chicago-based space sludge masters were busy setting up for their second show in the span of a couple of hours. The group filled in the vacancy left by Rwake, who also bowed out of The Atlas Moth’s earlier show. Without their planetary light show that illuminated ND’s, The Atlas Moth’s performance was not as visually stunning. Their keyboards, effects and coarse tones updated the flowery texture of traditional psychedelia. Although they call Profound Lore home, The Atlas Moth could fit right in on Neurosis’ Neurot label.
A Storm of Light once called Neurot home and now is listed beside The Atlas Moth on Profound Lore Records. These New Yorkers more closely resemble Neurosis than their label mates. They have a close relationship that goes beyond their time at Neurot. Vocalist and keyboardist, Josh Graham has provided a visual backdrop for Neurosis’s tours since 2000. His colorful menagerie of abstract imagery on the screen behind the band put into perspective his long tenure with Neurosis. A Storm of Light took a similar approach to speed as The Atlas Moth, but there was no mistaking the two artists. A Storm of Light takes a more melodic approach, especially vocal wise. This is not to say that the band lacked heaviness. Domenic Seita’s bass added a massive layer of fat. Melodies served as a constructing/destructing point, but when the bass came in, visions of striding elephants and waddling sea lions (“I’m the Walrus, Dude”) formed in the mind’s eye.
Named after the world’s first dualistic (good vs. evil) religious system, Zoroaster played a set best described as acid sludge, Hawkwind in modern form. Will Fiore’s meditative voice echoed through the venue like a monk conducting his morning prayers, which put a very different slant to the hot-rod, High On Fire-type guitar rhythms. Fiore’s hollow-toned guitar solos served as a jumping-off point from droning chords. Drummer Dan Scanlan often joined Fiore’s feverish soloing in a frenzied jam session. Much like The Atlas Moth’s set earlier in the day, Zoroaster added visual elements to their music. As if we had attended a stuffy rendition of a Pink Floyd laser light show, Zoroaster beamed green-colored lasers on every corner of the venue. These dancing lights played havoc on my camera’s sensor and would have seriously injured an Epileptic, but it enhanced the band’s mystique. Truly mind altering!
Zoroaster dealt higher doses of speed than the previous bands, but they were cut from the same plodding, droning sonic cloth as their predecessors. The next pair of artists—Saviours and Black Cobra—instilled the crowd with much needed gusto. Saviours was the closest group of the night to being dubbed “retro-metal.” Much of their sound centered on traditional and thrash metal rhythms. While cranking out riffs with the nostalgic factor of Mercyful Fate, Judas Priest and Black Sabbath, guitarists Sonny Reinhardt and Austin Barber assumed ‘80s metal poses alongside bassist Carson Binks. Barber maintained a middle vocal range that had more in common with The Sword than Iron Maiden. Some tracks showed the band recreating the trodden, doomed rhythms so familiar in their native Pacific Northwest. Saviour’s energy and riff prowess spurned many in attendance to bang their heads and pump their fists.
Black Cobra has been unfairly branded as a doom or sludge band. While their guitar tones relate a droning, murky quality, the group’s sound is more akin to High On Fire than Sleep (using the Matt Pike analogy.). The group rarely allow these notes to hang in the air for more than a millisecond before striking another note. Black Cobra has created a huge buzz since I caught their act at the Southern Lord Showcase at SXSW 2009. Much of this buzz derived from the group being a mere two-piece. Again, I marveled at the level of heaviness created by just two musicians—Jason Landrian and Rafael Martinez. Martinez’s nimble hands and feet were the impetus behind Black Cobra’s searing assault. Some of his fills were bewilderingly fast and bombastic I enjoyed hearing the pseudo-industrial voice of Landrian when the group played material from their latest recording “Invernal.” Beware of the cobra’s swift and venomous fangs!
Corrosion of Conformity’s latest lineup of Woody Weatherman (guitars), Mike Dean (bass/vocals) and Reed Mullins (drums) excited “Animosity”-era fans, while losing the support of some of their Pepper Kennan fans. The power trio’s set was on par with their recent, self-titled album—a mix of the older, crossover thrash material and newer, southern-fried hits. The crowd’s voice rang loudest during Kennan-led material such as “Vote with a Bullet” and “Deliverance,” which came as no surprise considering this was the band’s most popular and successful period. Dean’s voice has been a major point of contempt for fans of Pepper Kennan. He definitely lacked the authority inherit in Kennan’s voice. What made C.O.C. great was hearing hardcore-infused thrashing classics “Technocracy,” “Holier” and “Loss For Words.” The punky, bass-led charge of “Holier” was especially fun. “Psychic Vampire” and “The Doomed” were two of the stronger tracks played from the new album. From crawling melodies to blistering barrages—the new material was a hit in the live arena—even with a lesser singer. Even though each member was at or near 50-years of age, they conveyed a youthful exuberance that matched their much younger counterparts.
SXSW primarily showcases new and upcoming artists. Every year, however, the festival brings over an established act. Usually, this act has changed in some way and signed to a new label or reformed. Pentagram was that older band last year. C.O.C. was this year’s choice. They came together with a solid collection of acts to produce one of the great (one of many) showcases at SXSW 2012. Surprisingly, the club didn’t fill to capacity, allowing for elbow room—something thought extinct at SXSW.
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