Sunday, October 24, 2010

Procreation Of The Wicked

Triptykon / 1349 / Yakuza
Slim's, San Francisco
Rocktober 23, 2010

Art/design: Kevin Gan Yuen //

As rain fell on San Francisco I was nailed to the couch at Casa de Umlaut watching Game 6 of the NLCS swearing at the t.v. as the game's drama went ballistic; it was baseball at its very best! When the Giants finally nailed the coffin on Philadelphia, I was out the door and into the wet night as neighbors set off fireworks (I assume they keep a stockpile of them for such occasions..) and celebrated in the rain-soaked streets. Pretty cool... I'm not necessarily a fan of Jocks, but I am a fan of the GAME of baseball and it's cool how a winning team can inspire a sense of community. What a GREAT way to start the night and what a GREAT night to be in San Francisco and The Bay Area!

I stepped into Slim's as Yakuza were onstage performing their Metal / Jazz / Prog Rock hybrid. The last time I'd seen a "Metal" band have a saxophone onstage was during a horrible Queensryche performance several years back. Can a clarinet and saxophone ever be Metal?? I'm still not sure, but Yakuza make interesting use of the instruments to create an ambient tone in their sound that other bands would create more traditionally with guitar.

Yakuza saxing up Slim's
(Photos courtesy of Sensory Abuse)

It was an interesting and dynamic performance that reminded me of watching bands like Isis and OM. However, my opinion about the wind instruments went back and forth between (1) this is cool to (2) this is a gimmick. Overall, Yakuza earned my respect and at least I didn't pay more attention to the beer in my hand while watching them. However, I can be fairly dogmatic about my Metal... and a dude coming at me with a clarinet will never be as effective as a dude coming at me with a guitar. One time at band camp.....

Those corpse-painted Norwegians 1349 came onstage with dark confidence and I have to say it was the strongest performance I've seen them play to date. Given his work with Satyricon, Frost on drums is the focus of interest for many... but 1349 are a solid presentation across their lineup. As I said after the last time I saw them back in May, 1349 exudes that real deal Norwegian vibe but, let's be honest, if they were from Sacramento and came onstage dressed like that they'd be hilarious. Also, the band's evil aura was somewhat diminished by the young girls shouting "I LOVE YOU!" at vocalist Ravn in between songs. CUTE.

1349 seducing Slim's
(Photo courtesy of Sensory Abuse)

This was a co-headlining tour (with Triptykon and 1349 switching off headlining slots each night) so the Norwegians played a full 70-75 minute set. To be honest, they came out of the gate very strong for me as I watched them from down front... but by the end of their set I could be found at the back of the room with members of the Umlaut Nation and also 3/4 of Saviours.

It had been just over 4 years since the last time I had witnessed Tom Gabriel Warrior (TGW) take the stage. I've lamented in this space before how most bands today have no concept of TONE when it comes to their all-important guitars. Guitarists simply cop someone else's sound and pawn it off as their own to an audience who is either too young to know better or too lazy to care that what they're hearing isn't original. As with my other favorite Masters of guitar TONE Tony Iommi and Dave Chandler, TGW's TONE is completely his own. When you hear the unholy wail of his signature Ibanez Iceman it can only be one beast. TGW's TONE makes me subconsciously raise my hands in the air to form a claw in defiance against all that is normal and mainstream and safe. His TONE can be like a time machine that echos back and forth between my Inner Teenage Metalhead and my 21st Century self right here, right now. His TONE is holy and unholy at the same time.

TGW and his weapon of tone: The H.R. Giger Iceman
(Photo courtesy of Sensory Abuse)

Going into the show I think everyone expected the setlist to lean heavily on Triptykon material, but TGW surprised us by weaving a set that was a profound balance of Celtic Frost material and his new songs... and the result was one of the most compelling sets I've seen all year. For those who care, the setlist went like this:
  • Procreation Of The Wicked (Celtic Frost)
  • Goetia (Triptykon)
  • Circle Of The Tyrants (Celtic Frost)
  • Abyss Within My Soul (Triptykon)
  • The Usurper (Celtic Frost)
  • Synagoga Satanae (Celtic Frost)
  • The Prolonging (Triptykon)
Yes, "only" 7 songs... but with 3 of the songs clocking in at 15-20 minutes each on album (probably a bit longer live) it wasn't about the quantity of songs but the quality of the performances. The band walked onstage and immediately engaged the audience with the old school blast of 'Procreation Of The Wicked' and it didn't take long to realize that Triptykon isn't simply TGW using anonymous backing musicians to "recreate" Celtic Frost. For the educated follower and listener of the man's work, Triptykon is TGW taking his Celtic Frost vision to another level and place. It's denser... even darker... and as a live act Triptykon has a different feel than his old band as well... Onstage the new band are tight but also agile... They played as any great band should play: They looked hungry onstage... Hungry to create... Hungry to express themselves... Hungry to connect both with the audience and themselves.... Hungry for the blood of success.

Triptykon Onstage
(Photo courtesy of Sensory Abuse)

Despite the focused attack and blanket of darkness that the band weaved onstage, I was surprised to see TGW smile a couple of times... and the vibe between him and Vanja Slajh (bass), V. Santura (guitar), and Norman Lonhard (drums) was palpable. They performed grounded in the present instead of chasing something from the past.

It's not often that a musician with a legacy like TGW can successfully join the shadow of his past with something new.... but that's exactly what Triptykon represents and at Slim's it was an almost incomprehensible beast of volume. The new songs were never a distraction and they were even elevated when presented alongside the older Celtic Frost material. The show closed with the new song 'The Prolonging', a 20 minute journey that was beyond epic... and when it ended I was literally stunned. It was a damp and chilly night in San Francisco and I felt like I had just been tucked into bed under the song's crushing promise for retribution... and it was inspiring.

For the newbies, Umlaut has been following TGW's career since the very earliest days of Hellhammer. Also, in his magnificent book Only Death Is Real, TGW actually namechecked my old Metal 'zine Whiplash...

From page 109 of Only Death Is Real

Whiplash #1 - 1983

Having something that I created (along with my friend Sam Kress... R.I.P..) being recognized like that by one of my Music / Metal heroes made my head spin. How did Hellhammer even get a copy of my 'zine in Switzerland back then!? Anyway, at one point in the evening I had the opportunity to finally meet TGW after all these years... and my life came full circle in an instant:

Me: "Do you remember the 'zine Whiplash?"
Tom G. Warrior: "Of course I do..."
"That was my 'zine.."
Tom G. Warrior:
"Are you Brian?"

Did you hear that? That was the sound of my jaw hitting the floor. To say that I was left speechless by that conversation would be a complete understatement... The Rock Godz work in mysterious ways, man.

It was an amazing night to be in San Francisco... First, the Giants moved on to the World Series for the first time in 8 years (SPORTS!) and the city had played host to one of THE best Metal shows of the year! The entire night was very life affirming for me and a huge THANKS to Steve at CM for making sure I was taken care of at the show.

I didn't do a proper merch audit, but if you bought one of every Triptykon merch item you would have paid around $150 (I think). On the way back to the car, some pimply-faced teenagers called me a fag. The next day I attempted to visit the nearby Giants Dugout store. There were almost as many people waiting in line to get into the store as there had been at this show. Crazy... Winning Sports Team = Procreation of the Wicked!

Click HERE to see Photo Ray's shots from the night... and click HERE for Tom G. Warrior's blog post about tonight! Amazing..