Monday, December 19, 2011
Deathpunk Destruction: Mauser, Bootblacks, Rosenkopf, Anasazi, Dead Reich at Ding-Dong Lounge (Part 1)
This post is taking me a really long time to write because I wanted to do it as 5 separate mini-reviews with youtube links. And also because I just haven't written that many live reviews yet (and by "not that many" I mean one). So I'm breaking it up into two parts, second one pending.
On Saturday night I ventured way the fuck uptown to a low-key punk bar with the silly name Ding-Dong Lounge, near my old college stomping grounds, where I caught a show with probably the coolest lineup I've seen all year--entirely deathrock and d-beat. This combination of goth and punk might strike some people as a little bit odd, but it totally makes sense when you think about their intertwined roots in the bleak, morbid punk scenes of early 80s England, Scandinavia, and Japan. In the last year or two a group of NYC bands have taken this common history to heart, ditching the stupid subcultural divide and making awesome music. I'd go as far as saying that this particular show was a kind of sonic manifesto for the young scene, and it was every bit as cool as I'd hoped.
I got to the venue just in time to see most of the opening set by Dead Reich. These guys are a new d-beat band who have been gigging a lot, often with goth bands, and I was glad to finally see them. They played an enthusiastic set, whipping up real speed and aggression rather than relying solely on low-end heaviness or a wall of guitar noise to do the work for them. Their style was more or less traditional Swedish/Japanese crustcore, and from what I could make out many of the riffs were pretty standard, so there's certainly some room for growth here. But I definitely enjoyed it and I'm optimistic about where Dead Reich is going. The songs seemed to get better as the set went on--one song really captured the primordial energy of Discharge with brutally simple, memorable riffs, while a couple others had a thrashing "Motorcore" sound that reminded me of Kuro and the more metallic side of crust. It'd be cool to hear them go more in that direction. I should also mention that Dead Reich look great, like a bunch of wasteland barbarians clad in bone necklaces and Thelemic insignias. I'm serious, badass sartorial style is actually really important for raw vintage crust. It's meant to be heard live, and bands that dress flamboyantly stand out. Check out some pictures of Black Uniforms or Confuse and tell me there hasn't always been a subtle glam rock undertone to this stuff (as with black metal, of course).
Dead Reich were followed by Anasazi, who drew on classic shit like Christian Death, Fields of The Nephilim, and Killing Joke to create the most quintessentially "deathrock" sound of the evening. I'd seen them for the first time a week or so before, and had been blown away by the dark energy they brought to a small room packed with punks: I'd expected some kind of circle pit (this ain't The Cure, dude), but I was stunned by the outbreak of full blown NYHC-style mosh violence, culminating in some kids throwing a chair around. Strange, but fucking sick. There was none of that destruction on Saturday, because the space wasn't right for a pit and the crowd lacked the critical mass of raging drunk fat kids, but that gave me a chance to pay more attention to the music itself.
While most deathrock bands evoke murky subterranean atmospheres or straight-up thrashing vitriol, Anasazi use similar ingredients to create vast, majestic spaces. I was really digging the keys, especially the sprawling keyboard intro to "Burn Everything," which served as the perfect setup for the pounding post-punk diatribe that followed. But the center of the band is definitely frontman Chi, an elaborately eyeliner'd deathpunk with iron lungs. He somehow manages to shout-sing from deep within his chest, calling up the cavernous clean tones of classic goth without sacrificing hardcore aggression. A cool, very unique style that must be physically demanding. Despite Anasazi's flair for the grandiose their music had a visceral pull, and I found myself headbanging, airpunching, and even clenching my fist into The Black Metal Claw. Again and again, I had that awesome "fuck yeah!" moment you get at the best of shows. Anasazi killed it.
Note: Footage of Dead Reich is from a previous show at the same venue, I'd post a studio track but there isn't one on Youtube yet. Thanks to user Joexjoe for taping and uploading it.