Crowbar and Prong Assault San Antonio With Blunt Force Groove
Band Photo: Prong (?)
Bludgeoning hardcore, bruising grooves and bittersweet syrupy sludge elbowed the eardrums of Backstage Live’s patrons as they paid witness to two of the standard bearers of ‘90s metal—Crowbar and Prong. Although both bands look and sound very different, both artists lent a hand in sculpting the modern metal sound. The chunky rhythms and mechanized motions of Prong helped direct a stampede of Nu Metal, core and other rhythmic mosh-oriented bands, while Crowbar brought attention to a strong metal scene in NOLA and helped define a more extreme form of doom metal called sludge.
Crowbar and Prong rose to prominence through videos on MTV’s Headbanger’s Ball (when it still mattered). These singles were part of the metal education for many in attendance, so the enthusiasm displayed during Prong’s “Snap Your Fingers, Snap Your Neck” and Crowbar’s “All I Had (I Gave)” came as no surprise. Although those videos built a mountain of exposure for both bands, neither group has achieved headline status like former touring mates Pantera, Sepultura and Danzig, which rang true in the small amount of ticket sales produced.
Attendance has been low at all of the shows I’ve seen in the past couple weeks. Weekday appearances explained some of these dismal showings, but Crowbar and Prong couldn’t use that as an excuse because this show fell on a Saturday. I assume the free admittance from 7 to 10 PM was due to low ticket numbers. Even though a steady stream of people flowed through the door throughout the night, I estimated about 300 people attended the show. This was a much higher number than the double-digit showings at recent shows, but still poor for a venue like Backstage Live that holds over 1,000 patrons. Backstage’s photo pit was out of order this night. The worker in charge of the barricade said he didn’t know where it was and management didn’t seem to care, so I was stuck shooting between heads and hands.
Maneuvering wasn’t too bad, though, and the stoned doom of Seattle’s Witchburn caught my camera’s sensor first. Witchburn is a co-ed group featuring two ladies and two men. Jamie Nova delivered the best vocal performance of the night. Her voice conveyed aggression and passion without the scraping tones of today’s extreme female singers. Her voice brought to mind fellow Pacific Northwest crooners Acid King and Christian Mistress. The group had excellent stage repoire; they played tight and with unbound energy. Like the falcon Horus, Witchburn traversed between the north and south, channeling the gray skies of their native Seattle during gloomy slow downs and painting the sunny blue skies of the south during raging rock moments. Witchburn’s set could have served as a model for making the ultimate stoner-doom band.
Unless he had grown his hair long and shaved his beard, Prong’s set would be without Tommy Victor’s mate in Ministry and former Static-X bassist Tony Campos (Phil Zeller from Toxic Holocaust filled in because Campos is on tour with Soulfly). Adorning a sleeveless Venom shirt, this unknown bassist filled the role just fine. Musically, Prong sounded great. Their guitar tones conveyed enough grit to annoy the feet of a flip-flop wearer and the bass and drums presence could be felt as much heard. Tommy Victor had a few wrinkles that needed a good shaking. His normal pitch was fine, but brief moments in his higher register (“Ahhhhhhh”) were out of wack. His microphone wasn’t operating correctly, enveloping his words between songs in a blanket of reverb. Kirk Windstein of Crowbar experienced the same problem.
Mic problems withstanding, the crowd still sang classic Prong numbers such as “Beg to Differ,” “Unconditional,” and “Lost and Found.” Victor, known for his guitar work in Danzig and Ministry, displayed pit bull-like chops playing his ax. He exhibited a certain swagger in his playing characterized by jumping, hardcore posses and slide guitar (how many metal guitarists do you see playing with a slide finger?) The power trio gave the fans a sneak peak of their coming album “Carved Into Stone.” The thrash-tastic riffing of new single “Eternal Heat” and the grungy, post metal stylings of “Revenge…Best Served Cold” made a good impression on the crowd, but “Snap Your Fingers, Snap Your Neck” proved the main attraction. The crowd clapped their hands to the rhythm of the opening bass line in anticipation of the song’s gargantuan guitar riff.
Crowbar busily turned knobs while guitar feedback assailed the crowd. Being one of the pioneers of the sludge sound, Crowbar could have added on to the Great Wall of China with the wall of sound they created. The group kicked their set into gear with “High Rate Extinction,” the first song from the break out, self-titled album. From there, the group treated the crowd to a set culled from the band’s twenty-plus history. Most of the crowd sitting in the VIP area vacated their seats to feel the booming, gale-like force of Crowbar’s massive, crawling beats. Up-tempo hardcore parts transformed the crowd’s slowly nodding heads into frantic swingy knees and elbows in the pit.
Just like Prong, Crowbar nailed their tones, but had issues with the microphone. Near the end of their set, Kirk Windstein announced a special guest appearance, but due to the terrible microphone reverb, I couldn’t make out the guest’s name. He played guitar, had short hair and a white beard. I didn’t catch the name of their special guest, but I did snap a picture of the group’s set list. You can read it below.
High Rate Extinction
I Have Failed
Sever The Wicked Hand
Liquid Sky and Cold Black Earth
I Am Forever
All I Had (I Gave)
Let Me Mourn
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