Tuesday, July 12, 2011
Tombs and Primitive Weapons at St. Vitus
Just saw a sick show, thought I'd write about it.
I listened to Tombs a bit back when they were first surfacing, in the winter of 08-09 I think. I liked what they were trying for, but it seemed like the hardcore and black metal elements didn't really mesh. Disappointed, I never even bothered picking up the first album. And once they blew up with the BrooklynVegan/Brandon Stosuy crew, I pretty much wrote them off.
I went into the set more or less cold, hoping to be pleasantly surprised. Instead, I got blown away. Tombs fucking killed it, so fucking hard! I had a great seat at the back of the hall, but by the middle of the second song I was thrashing out in my seat. I knew what I had to do, and pushed my way through the crowd to headbang up front. And to a bunch of songs I'd never heard before, at that!
The awkwardness of their early stuff was gone. Tombs sounded comfortable with who they are: some veteran hardcore dudes drawing on all the heavy music they've ever loved and making it their own. While they aren't, strictly speaking, a metal band, they continually pulled off ridiculously metal gestures--colossal slow riffs, beautiful tremolo-picked textures, blastbeats that compel fist-pumping, and some thunderous chug riffs. Plus Mike Hill has a sick death growl, used to brutal effect alongside his howling hardcore vocals.
And the sound was amazing. This was partially owing to St. Vitus' dope setup, but also to the badassery with which Tombs layed into their instruments. This is where the whole "scene veteran" thing comes into play. They're technically adept, but more important they have a self-assurance and musicality that comes only from years of experience. My friend said that "it sounded really polished, but not clean," and I think that's a good way of putting it. You could hear the bending of strings under fingers and picks, and I found myself having a great time just watching each guy play. Perhaps my favorite part of the whole set were the double-bass passages. Like getting punched in the gut repeatedly by a really hot angel.
I started the review with Tombs because they're well-known, but I'm just as excited about the openers, Primitive Weapons. They're sort of the "house band" for St. Vitus, since 2 or 3 of them co-own the bar. I entered in the middle of the second or third song, and immediately got into it. These guys brought insane energy to a room that was mostly standing still. The frontman was thrashing all over the place, stepping down into the audience, and falling to his knees in Luciferian devotion. It helped that he has one of THE best hardcore screams I have ever heard--so fucking loud, such a great tone, so much variation in pitch and attack.
Like Tombs, Primitive Weapons play music that is very difficult to categorize. It's strongly influenced by metal, especially black metal and Kylesa-style sludge, but it certainly isn't metal. My hypothesis is that, at heart, they're a screamo band. The good kind of screamo. The melodic, rhythmically intricate hardcore that flourished in the late 90s and early 2000s. Bands like Gospel, Orchid, Planes Mistaken for Stars, etc. I don't know that scene terribly well, but I'm a big fan of the sound. Primitive Weapons follow a screamo logic, but draw on a ton of metal gestures to kick your ass.
I was impressed by their ability to keep things rhythmically interesting without sacrificing that sense of continuous grooving violence that is so important in hardcore and metal. Indeed, there were moments of syncopated riffage that wouldn't have been out of place in bro metalcore. A couple of the songs were basically composed of breakdowns from beginning to end, and you know I love that shit. The song "Cosmic Horror"--with its catchy-as-fuck fistpump chorus of "cosmic! horror!"--deserves to become a circle pit anthem. If Primitive Weapons are screamo, they're screamo for getting fucked up and punching people. Their music is serious, but it's also mad fun.
Tombs just released Path of Totality on Relapse. Get it. I will for sure. Primitive Weapons have a 7-inch out, and you can listen to their shit on facebook, here.