Saturday, July 17, 2010

Black Metal Night Out

Inquisition / Altar of Plagues / Velnias
Elbo Room, San Francisco
July 16, 2010

This was Umlaut's first gig in 2 weeks; I had blown off at least 2 shows in that time because I think I'd hit a wall with seeing bands... at least for a moment. Prior to the show Timo and I hit up Can-Cun on Mission for a pre-show burrito fix and ran waist deep into the Friday night Mission Hipster Clusterfuck. Under different circumstances I would have been far more annoyed by the Hipster kidz who didn't know how to order at a taqueria, but I rolled with it because I was hungry.

Unfortunately we didn't get to the show in time to see Dispirit, but their presence was obvious as soon as we entered the Elbo Room. Besides their formidable Metal, Dispirit are also infamous for having the most enveloping and choking use of smoke machines in recent local memory. The smoke from upstairs where the bands play had seeped down during Dispirit's set into the Elbo Room's Hipster and Tourist filled bar downstairs. It was kind of funny... and it's also funny how the Elbo Room downstairs was filled with the types of people who annoy me the most, but upstairs was fairly crowded with people who I relate to the most. The Umlaut Nation was nicely represented upstairs... so a shout out to Timo, Lori, Richard, Photo Ray, and Sensory Abuse.

I'm not sure where Velnias hail from (Colorado?) but I think it's safe to say they have a lot of Neurosis in their record collections... I liked their set, but their onstage presentation made me take points off. I mean, only JAZZ musicians are supposed to play with their backs to the audience, right? The only possible explanation for a Metal band to play with their backs to the audience is if they want to show off their back patches (kudos to Velnias' guitarist for that)... but, I'm sorry, I'm from the school where a Metal band should engage their audience... ESPECIALLY if you're wearing a Kerry King gauntlet with 2-inch spikes on your left arm (kudos to Velnias' guitarist for that). Otherwise it's like watching a band at rehearsal, dyaknowwhatimean? However, I did think Velnias had the strongest songs of any band I saw tonight and a glance at their MySpace page says their influences are:

"The ancient whispers of the woods, the rumble of the cold mountains, the roaring of the frigid sea; despair, for you stand as but nothing in their midst."

Well, oookaay then! There you go... at least they didn't go for the obvious.

In between bands the bass player from D.R.I. called my cell... but I didn't answer it. Sorry, dude... I was at a show.. and I thought you were on tour in Poland or something? Anyway, call me back, dude.

Altar Of Plagues hail all the way from Ireland and they're currently on their debut U.S. Tour... However, a guy down front thought the band were from L.A. for some reason and heckled them about it as they set up their gear. His anti-L.A. rant continued as the band were about to begin their set so James (guitar / vox) leaned over and said to the heckler "We're from Ireland..." HAHA! I think it's safe to say Altar Of Plagues has a lot of Neurosis in their record collections. They hit things off STRONG and I was on the verge of being blown away completely by them... but then the set became locked into a certain amount of "sameness". It's not that the "sameness" was a negative... but at some point my brain locked up and I swear I passed out mentally for a brief moment... or maybe I teleported somewhere and then back... because as Altar Of Plagues' set thundered to a close I felt like I had literally left the room for a minute. It's was bizarre... or maybe just the stress of the day catching up to me.

Altar Of Plagues at Elbo Room
(Pic courtesy of Sensory Abuse)

It was interesting to see all the excitement that Inquisition's first visit to San Francisco generated. I mean, all of the members of Ludicra were in the house, as were members of Acid King and Saviours. Christy of Ludicra was like a little school girl caught up in the excitement of finally seeing them... and Umlaut is always interested when bands that he likes gush about their heroes. It's that "may the circle stay unbroken" sort of thing; the music and bands feeding themselves via mutual inspiration... or some Hippie Shit like that.

Inquisition distill Black Metal down to its barest, liquid form... which is hit and miss for Umlaut. Any band consisting of 2 members has challenges as far as creating a compelling dynamic for my ears. Black Cobra are a duo but live it's unbelievable that their wall of volume is being created by only 2 dudes; Inquisition are a duo and live it sounds like 2 guys onstage. The quality riffs were there... The quality drumming was there... and Dagon (guitar / vox) and Incubus (drums) know how to work a Black Metal crowd... but, to be blunt, I'm not sure if the adulation for Inquisition is because of the actual quality of the music or because they have such a mystique around them due to their lack of Stateside live performances. It's probably a combination of both... As much as I liked the black groove that Inquisition created, I kept waiting for their riffs to take me someplace... but they never went that far... which maybe is the whole point. Inquisition are Black Metal in its barest, liquid form... like a poison bottle whose contents are obvious and without any pretense of being anything else. Swallow the unbuffered blackness.

I have to say that it's cool the Elbo Room is starting to book Metal shows again after years of ignoring the local Metal clientele. If it continues the space will be a nice addition to Thee Parkside as a clubhouse for the underground S.F. Metal Scene; the spirit of Annie's Social Club (R.I.P.) lives on.

There was a limited edition show poster for $10 but I didn't do a merch audit. On the way back to the car, some pimply-faced teenagers called us fags. All in all it was a routine night, but probably just what I needed to ease back into a gig schedule again.