Sunday, September 11, 2016

LIVE REVIEW: Cape Ov Bats / Deathmonger A.D. / Horse Drawn / Coastal Plain

Cape Ov Bats / Deathmonger / Horse Drawn / Coastal Plain
September 4th, 2016 - The Storefront

So I’ve only been in Philadelphia for a month, and I should be way better about learning the city’s trolley and train routes. But I was running a little late to a show in the Kensington neighborhood, so I skipped advancing my local transportation education and grabbed an Uber. On the way, the driver – a native Philadelphian – asked why I was heading out to Kensington. “Music?” he incredulously countered to my reply. “Use to be, the only music you heard in Kensington was the rhythm of the gunshots.” That’s his opinion, even before I explain my destination is an unmarked venue known only as The Storefront.

The Storefront feels like someone converted a budget travel agency into a make-shift squatter space then into a venue. That means foam board ceilings bedazzled with Christmas lights and floral couches flanking a coffee table littered with spent beer cans. Despite the David Lynchian setting, I was excited to hear the four bands booked for the DIY show.

Coastal Plain calls themselves “dark metal” and that’s an appropriate but admittedly vague description. The New Jersey trio’s compositions felt like technicolor death metal textured by blackened discord, spacey soul-searching, and tangents into Gorguts weirdness. Their drummer pounded out stark rhythms, doubled over behind the kit with his hair obscuring his face. They let their music speak for them, limiting between-song banter, which really allowed time and space for the progressive compositions to breathe. Will definitely seek out more.

Ohio black/death gravediggers Horse Drawn followed. They overcame early technical issues with the vocal mic to deliver an onslaught of blast beats and Jonny Doyle’s barbed riffs. With or without amplification, Bryce Seditz paced in front of the crowd screaming with full conviction. He was an electric performer, his forehead bruised and scraped from a short tour’s worth of microphone-bashing, channeling G.G. Allin’s venom without all of Allin’s other body fluids. Their four song set absolutely ripped, staying true to the spirit of American black metal without feeling like a cut ‘n’ paste retread. After truncating their Horse Drawn Death Machine moniker, I’m eager to hear the material recorded as they continue the demoing and recording process.

Deathmonger A.D. and Cape Ov Bats closed out the evening, two local crews that share members (who all seemingly have wardrobes of Integrity shirts). Deathmonger A.D.’s shadowy and metallic death punk got the first (tiny) pit of the night stirring, playing to a passionate room of hometown supporters. Cape Ov Bats’ spirited set blended crust and melodic black metal while thrashing in the shadow of death rock. Each band definitely had their own identity, but the overlap between each seemed more obvious because of the tight-knit crowd. I’d love to see both bands on separate bills, preferably in venues where the crowd’s less restrained by the fluorescent-lit surroundings.

All in all, it was a hell ov a night. There was a tangible sense of unity and camaraderie at the show, which ultimately felt more like a social club with music than a music venue. Beers and gear were shared freely, with laughter resonating over the surf rock and luau music blasting over the speakers between sets. I’m still becoming acquainted with the city, and sometimes to really understand the pulse of a music scene you need to knock on the door of a locked storefront and hope it’s the right place to see some bands with a sonic mean streak. I knocked on the right door.

Thursday, January 21, 2016


Starting with a song titled “Tales of a Romanian Horse Whisperer,” UK mood-ruiners Sealclubber immediately bludgeon the listener with noisy sludge. Based on the prevailing sense of dread and hostility in the scabrous songs on Stoical, I’m guessing this horse whisperer has more in common with the deranged theatrics and animal mutilation of Equus than that Robert Redford snooze-fest.

Speaking of animal mutilation, you might have frowned at that band name already. If it’s any solace, the violent intentions of these songs don’t stop at aquatic mammals, and humans are very much in danger once pressing play. With their barbed riffs and the pitch-black ugliness of Drunk Dad and Trap Them, Sealclubber feel like Deadguy if they lasted long enough to have an experimental sludge phase. Like the bands mentioned, Sealclubber’s songs aren’t just sutured opiate-abusing crusty gutterpunk riffs tuned to the brown note. Even in a furious barnburner like “Haima,” the song scavenges elements of hardcore and stoner metal to create a richly textured soundtrack for giving and receiving shit news.

Despite a three-plus minute atmospheric interlude frustratingly murdering momentum, the album quickly regains its footing with “Vows of Silence.” Between suckerpunches of distortion, the reverb of callused fingers scraping over guitar strings leads to a foreboding bass tone that floats above the song like a storm cloud ready to empty apocalyptic rainfall.

It’s a fitting prelude to the disarmingly pensive epic “I Only Desire the Things That Will Destroy Me in the End.” That title likely applies to most fans of heavy music, whether it be regarding their bad habits, currently undiscovered crimes, or the headbanging riffs that will eventually snap their necks. The song proceeds patiently, feeling its way along desolate corridors. Two-thirds of the way through its almost twelve-minute runtime, the song confronts the bloody aftermath it was seeimngly trying to avoid. While the climax isn’t as destructive as hinted by the album’s first half, it still feels like the inevitable victory of baser instincts, where volume rules and subtlety burns away like bong resin. It’s a nuanced track that lingers in the listener’s mind long after it gently fades out.

While their two-song EP Sticky River was impressive, this is a definite leap forward for Sealclubber. While retaining their nihilistic bite, they also build soundscapes that reflect a rotting metropolis in a puddle of mud, blood, and petrol. Looking out my window right now, the view sure as hell sounds familiar.

Follow Sealclubber over on Facebook and check for news on a Stoical pre-order, available from Medusa Crush Recordings on February 5th.