BRUTAL PANDA VS. CHRONIC YOUTH: HULL, FIGHT AMP, MILLIONS, MOSE GIGANTICUS AND DARK VIBE ROCK BROOKLYN
I like this time of year. Yeah, the weather’s great; it’s warm enough that you don’t really have to worry about bringing a coat or hoodie out most of the time, but not so hot and sticky that you can’t sleep.
But I’m talking about the metal: a lot of the bigger bands are over in Europe doing the festival circuit, so the show schedule Stateside is a little more laid back than the craziness of Spring and Summer and the shows that we do get are more of the smaller bands / intimate venue variety. The kind of shows where you can hang out with your buddies (and likely the bandmembers themselves), drink casually at a decent price, walk around the corner to smoke a doobie, check out the bands without having to worry about getting karate chopped by some white-studded belt asshole kid, and just generally have a good time.
On Friday, Hull, Fight Amp, Millions, Mose Giganticus and Dark Vibe played the intimate but awesome Glasslands venue in Brooklyn, brought to us by Brutal Panda Records and Chronic Youth, and it was exactly that kind of show. A laid back night full of metal, booze, doobies, and friends. And it was one for the ages.
Apparently Dark Vibe have been the openers du jour lately on a lot of local shows, but this was the first time I’d seen them. Uunfortunately they suffered from one of the primary symptoms of Local Band Syndrome, “Stage Volume Too Loud.” Bands, take note: I know you want to crank your amp ’cause it sounds good and it helps you “feel it” or whatever, but play to the room you’re in and let the soundman do his job. Cranking your stage volume in a small room accomplishes nothing other than pissing off the audience and making it very difficult for them to hear anything else. The guitar and bass amps were cranked so loudly that the soundman didn’t stand a chance, and all we got in the audience was a wash of guitar and snare drum with everything else trying to fight through. So if Dark Vibe were sweet, I certainly couldn’t tell. They didn’t seem to be especially tight or locked in either, but I’ll reserve final judgment until I have a chance to see them again.
Mose Giganticus — recent Relapse Records mystery signees — came on next and basically did everything right that Dark Vibe did wrong. Their attack was extremely professional, especially for such a new band (though of course I’d have to assume these guys have been in many other bands before, but still), anchored by the rock-solid, smooth-hitting skinsman Dan Eppihimer. “Mose” himself alternated between keyboard and keytar (!), simultaneously handling the low end and traditional keyboard parts while the other guitarist riffed out the rhythms. I know there’s been a bit of controversy about the way Relapse introduced this band to the world, and that our own Gary Suarez has a bone to pick with them, but at least in the live setting they’ve got my vote. They were professional, tight, balanced and fun to watch. I can see where some folks would say that their style of music is derivative, but I still found it fun and well-executed.
Next up were Millions, who suffered from the same problem as Dark Vibe: amps were just too loud on the stage. But whereas Dark Vibe were [supposed to be] about mood and texture, Millions are about energy and noise, and if you’ve got the kind of energy that the lads in Millions do you can get away with less-than-clear sound (which was still better than Dark Vibe’s). Millions sold their show with gobs of frenetic energy that matched their hardcore foundation and dissonant metal overtones, and in spite of the fact that their cranked (and possibly poorly EQ’ed) amps made the sound really muddy I still snuck in more than a few headbang sessions and left their set with a positive feeling about the band.
When you look up “tight” in the dictionary you should see a picture of Fight Amp. Monstrously, perfectly, lockbox, virgin tight. Three-piece bands run the danger of having their sound feel empty, but the lack of an extra guitar to murk things up can actually work to a band’s advantage, as it does with Fight Amp. I’d somehow never managed to see these guys live until Friday, but good God did I walk away impressed. Nonstop headbanging, riff after unstoppable riff, one tight rhythm change to the next. I will make it a point to see this band play any time they come through NYC, and I’ll bother everyone else to come down with me too.
Brooklyn hometown heroes Hull were the perfect finale for this show. There was a time when Hull — with their literal wall of amps circling the back of the stage — may have fallen victim to the same symptom of Local Band Syndrome exhibited by Dark Vibe, but at this point they’ve perfected their approach. That they’re able to balance three guitars and allow for all of them to be heard speaks to the level to which Hull’s got their live show down. Hull are monolithically epic and monolithically tight, and the power their live show exudes just cannot be captured on record (or at least not on their last album, Sole Lord). A friend once described the band Bloody Panda as sounding like their songs are constantly about to start but never going anywhere — I’d describe Hull’s songs as sounding like they’re constantly about to end and going everywhere! Each riff is bigger than the last, each climax greater than the one before, and it just keeps going and going until there it is, that ending riff… and then BAM, even bigger! Just when I thought I’d finally tired of seeing this band live over the years they come and deliver one of, if not the, best performances of theirs I’ve ever seen. A fitting end to a great night.