BRAINIAC PROTO-PROG SLUDGESTERS INVADE LOWER MANHATTAN: MOUTH OF THE ARCHITECT, INTRONAUT, & BEHOLD…THE ARCTOPUS @ THE KNITTING FACTORY, NYC — 8/8/08
It’s bloody amazing how much more accepted intelligent aggressive music has become, doncha think? Of course there are always still the outright pussballz in any audience who start trembling every time a vocalist strays ever so slightly away from straight-up singing into yelling, screaming, or dare I even say *growling* territory (I’m sadly lookin at so many of the GFs out there, mine included)–but it seems like these daze everyone and their mom’s moms–even the grimier-than-thou hipsterati–have caught on to rocking significantly harder than “hard rock”. And so it stands to reason that the smartie-fartie Encyclopedia Browns of the world, on both the musician and fan side of the monitors, are proudly representing brainiac metal with their hearts and (large) minds, even if the music is not always so accessible as a result of dem der smarts.
Take Intronaut, for example — who incidentally have a brand-new album, Prehistoricisms, out TODAY (look for my review later in the week) — in my esteemed opinion one of the most intelligent of the heady metal bands out there nowadays: skilled, fluid players who are comfortable grooving in all sorts of odd time signatures…these guys have been called “the future of metal” by Decibel Magazine (or Revolver, honestly can’t remember, please forgive me) and deservedly so, but really how far can the band’s scope reach with so much bloomin… headiness in tow?
I myself once touted Intronaut as representing something special and unique in the current metal environs, but lest we not forget that the farthest-reaching rock bands of all time all had a plethora of recognizeable hooks to latch on/sing along (hell, even dance) to? Since when did all us music snobs piss so freely in the face of, gulp, ‘pop’ structured songs? I certainly don’t mean in the Britney Aguilera sense of the word *pop*, more in the vein of what actually made The Beatles and Led Zeppelin so f’n popular in the first place… Can’t progressive metal bands adopt a similar attitude? I suppose some already have.
Sadly, such songwriting sensibilities were understandably nowhere to be found at this particular show, but clearly we best ought critique artists for their desired intentions and actual achievements, and in this case obviously none of these bands be tryin to write a frickin pop song, on any level — I’m just sayin’.
Mouth of the Architect, the post-post-post-iest of the bunch, who I for one have been waiting patiently to see for some time now, earnestly brought a lot of interesting sonic elements to the table without once offering anything I thought resembled a hook…for one, their multi-voiced vocal “melodies” — no ‘singing’ in the least; rather three distinct screams/growls, and frankly it was quite awesome…I wish more aggressive bands would so effectively incorporate a multi-voice approach to the yelling/screaming sections in their repetoire. Part of me wanted the band to evolve their songs slightly beyond sludgy proto-prog/psychedelic riff-oriented soundscape-y ‘sections’ (hence my previous exploration into pop songwriting sensibilities), but shit homie, that’s what they DO…and frankly they do it rather well, for what it is.
Intronaut I discussed a bit already but I will follow up by saying that their live set is very effectively a show, seemingly every time — this is undoubtedly a professional band that knows its merits and strives to make good on them in its concerts. The band meticulously made sure that all mics/instruments/samplers were very well balanced before beginning their set, and as a result of this attention to detail, lo and behold (…the Intronaut), the mix was excellent as a result — I could hear just about every facet of their sprawling music…I just wish that the band’s new material felt as well fleshed-out and with as much heart as their old stuff. But ultimately, the band made it all sound solid and worthwhile in a live setting — definitely quite different from most else of what’s out there.
Which brings me to a brief discussion of the final band of the night, Behold…the Arctopus. Now I can vaguely dig on this group’s “material” — as screechy, abstractly shreddy, and weird as it may seem at times — more than most, but threshhold for overly conceptual music aside, any time B…tA settled into a groove, as heady a groove as it may have been, most everyone in the crowd (even the extreme noisesters — I’m lookin at you, Suarez!) seemed to appreciate any respite from what I can best describe as an affinity for choreographed, start-stop, overly-trained musician-y ‘free’ prog. This band is an outlandish example of how sometimes the best musicians out there can produce some of the most boring, abrasive, and aloof music imaginable. Which definitely brings up the idea of what makes someone a good musician, but obviously that’s an entirely different conversation altogether.
I’ve seen Behold once before, and had a similar reaction — part understanding that players as over-practiced and precise as this (at least in the realm of shredding, which frankly I believe has very few true warriors) might inevitably become bored by making music any less complex or meta as this, and part exhaustion/disdain for a band that seemingly strives to alienate as much as these fuckers do.
Yeah, I get it… But that don’t make the experience of hearing it any more enjoyable, and that, my friends, is why it’s dangerous to get too heady with one’s music.