Housecore Horror Live Shot No.3 – Day Two
Hard to believe that Clifford Antone ever imagined savage fantasy creatures onstage in the club that bears his name, but there they were: Santa Cruz, CA.’s A Band of Orcs, who invaded Antone’s on Saturday, the second full day of Phil Anselmo’s Housecore Horror Film & Heavy Metal Festival.
With elaborate costumes, a liquid-spewing wineskin, and even a capering death head, these alleged transdimensional travelers owe Gwar a pretty obvious debt. In fact, the latter has taken them on tour, but the Orcs hew closer to death metal than Gwar’s all-things-to-all-headbangers approach. The healthy crowd loved it in any case, demanding an encore the schedule wouldn’t allow.
“Pretty fuckin’ excited to see Hate Eternal,” commented the frontman for local quintet Death Will Tremble. Given the band’s standard-issue deathcore, Hatebreed would’ve been a closer guess for inspiration. The singer has Jamey Jasta’s throat-ripping bark down cold, but the music shows little that might make DWT stand out.
Not so Bloody Hammers.
Led by singer/bassist Anders Manga, the North Carolina foursome proffered a clever blend of Roky Erickson, Black Sabbath, and Blue Öyster Cult – catchy riffs, grooving rhythms, and Gothic lyrics clearly inspired by the type of films featured at Housecore Horrow. Manga’s commanding baritone, more classic rock than extreme metal, shared the frontline with top-hatted guitarist Zoltan’s flamboyant stage presence, generating plenty of excitement in the group’s melodic doom pop. Despite an excellent new disc called Spiritual Relics, the band curiously filled the set-list with songs from its self-titled debut. No matter: the audience quickly and enthusiastically bought what the Hammers were selling, no buyer’s remorse.
After that exotic dish it was back to meat-and-potatoes with Hate Eternal. Led by guitarist Erik Rutan, formerly of Florida extreme metal titan Morbid Angel, the trio stayed true to the death metal playbook with rabid vocals, buzzsaw guitar, and constant drum kit rolls that bothered little with timekeeping – all soulcrushing intensity with no tunes. Impressive at first but numbing after a few minutes, the band drew the biggest and most enthusiastic crowd all afternoon, with party organizer Phil Anselmo present as well.
After dinner and a movie, the action shifted to Emo’s, kicked off by Star & Dagger. Bassist Sean Yseult (ex-White Zombie, Famous Monsters, etc.) is the biggest name and bore the biggest smiles, but singer Von Hesseling arrives as the star. Her flirtatious stage manner and ripe voice dominated every song. “Freak Train” and “Tomorrowland Blues,” both taken from the album of the latter’s title, rocked the hardest, but the closing “Stories” probably best represented the New Orleans act’s bluesy Sabbath-meets-the Runaways aesthetic.
In a novel twist, the strains of “Hail to the Chief” announced the next band. Backed by a scrim featuring our 40th president atop a hill of skulls, Iron Reagan blasted away any aura of formality with two-minute (or less) explosions. A bunch of thrashing longhairs fronted by a hardcore shouter in a Black Flag T-shirt, the Richmond, VA., fivepiece avoided grindcore scree while still keeping its songs short. Maybe too short. Many of them ended just as they started to build steam. Yet the band knew and mocked its own limits.
“We have 17 songs left,” singer Tony Foresta informed the audience two-thirds of the way through. Few came away from Iron Reagan unsmiling.
Whether NOLA’s blackened death metal stars Goatwhore take their Satanic philosophy seriously is difficult to tell, but the musicianship doesn’t fool around. Drummer Zack Simmons thrashes all over his kit while still keeping strictly to the beat, and guitarist Sammy Duet boasts the fastest precision picking in the genre. As harsh and brutal as Goatwhoredom is, it retains enough good musicality to be more than just a wall of GRROARG! No wonder Goatwhore has outlasted the bands (Acid Bath, Soilent Green) of which it was originally a side project.
Whatever lessons Goatwhore learned to prevent mediocrity haven’t yet made an impact on Whitechapel. The Knoxville, TN., deathcore combo uses three guitars for a muddy smear of ear-numbing shriek. Maybe it’s because vocalist Phil Bozeman never varies his tone. His veins a-poppin’ yell obliterates any attempt at dynamics that might make the band more than just a distortion-spewing blur. It didn’t help Whitechapel’s case that it preceded a stunning set by the Melvins.
The pioneering congregation, which seems to have invented grunge, slowcore, and stoner metal all at once, practically gave a seminar in the art of heavy. From slow and sludgy to quick and punky, the trio – guitarist Buzz Osborne and drummer Dale Crover joined by Honky’s Jeff Pinkus – never faltered or fucked up, its sarcastic skronk pumping fresh air into the extreme metal-soaked atmosphere.
In honor of Pinkus’ birthday, the Melvins added a cover of his sometime employers the Butthole Surfers’ “Graveyard” to the menu, not to mention a crowd singalong of “Happy Birthday.” No stage banter, just one gluey porch treatment oozing into the next, an aural pummeling that not only drove the crowd wild, but filled the wings with musicians and Housecore staff, including a gleeful Anselmo himself.
As if it could fit anywhere else on the bill, Gwar took the stage last. Gleefully mocking every politically correct sensibility that crossed its path, the long-running Richmond band of monsters drew most heavily from its latest LP Battle Maximus, ejaculating songs like “Madness at the Core of Time,” “They Swallowed the Sun,” and “Torture” into a half-assed storyline about a future human called Mr. Perfect wanting to extract leader Oderus Urungus’ precious fluids to find immortality.
Whatever. Any Gwar fan knows that the plot, such as it is/was/will be, is simply an excuse to spray blood and spooge everywhere, as happened about every third song, with Justin Bieber, the Pope, and various enemy monsters meeting skin-and-entrail ripping demises. Amongst the grue, the group found space for a couple of golden oldies in “Pre-Skool Prostitute” and “Jack the World,” really rooting around in the filth during the encore medley of Billy Ocean’s “Get Out of My Dreams (Get Into My Car”) and the Who’s “Baba O’Riley.”
Though solidly played and given a variety of stylistic settings, the music was almost beside the point, existing merely as an excuse for the stage show (open the photo gallery above). There’s a reason the band’s merch table displayed only one CD (its latest) and several DVDs. That’s what Gwar fans want, though, not music to spin in the car, but an experience to talk about for months. And the viscera soaked front half of Emo’s got that in spades.