Matt Skiba & The Sekrets = Alkaline Trio + David Bowie
After garnering success with Babylon in 2012, Matt Skiba & the Sekrets have returned with a radically different approach from their debut. Kuts creates a late ‘70s darkwave essence that correlates perfectly with Skiba’s voice. Though the album is littered with brooding melodies, it’s not completely void of tongue-in-cheek, zero-tolerance advances—“She Said” comprises a catchy chorus that contains the lyrics, “Shut up you fucking know-it-all / I’ve had it with your shit / You don’t know when to shut your mouth and you don’t know when to quit!” “I Just Killed to Say I Love You” holds its own with its goosebump-inducing melodies and cryptic lyrics that make it a standout track. Kuts bolsters a sound of its own with its inclusion of synth-based melodies reminiscent of the Hunky Dory days of David Bowie combined with Skiba’s signature voice and heartbreaking lyrics. –Eric U. Norris
Crowd Control Media, Last PunkRocker Records, Rebel Sound
Royal Oi! = The Bad Engrish x Angelic Upstarts
Some badass skinhead music from across the pond? Hell yes! This four-piece shows some amazing vitality with their Scottish street music, hitting the pivotal points of the skinhead ethos. “Bootboys and Hooligans,” “In My Heart” and “Skinhead Loyalty” are mid-tempo anthems that will have all skins and hooligans locking arms and skanking in circles, and raucous gems like “Violence,” “Skinhead Warrior” and “Punx & Skins ‘Football, Oi! and Rock n Roll’” will have them throwing themselves at each other. Oi! is definitely alive in Glasgow, and the Royal Oi! stand fittingly at the top, honing their pride as Scots and as skinz. –Eric U. Norris
“SLAYERRRRRR!!!” Honestly, do these guys even need an introduction? The heaviest, most brutal metal band of all time has returned with a pulverizing record. They have been through some colossal changes since World Painted Blood, and expectations were mixed, as this is the first album without the musical dexterity of riffsmith Jeff Hanneman. The album begins with their classic evil thrashing through the title track, gradually gets slower and sludgier through “Cast the First Stone” and “Implode,” and then works its way back to a rapid pace in the last third with “Atrocity Vendor” and “You Against You.” With everything taken into account, is Repentless a masterpiece or just a failed comeback? Truly, Slayer has done an impeccable job exploring new territory while staying true to their sound—it may not be as illustrious as Reign in Blood, but its spot in their discography is just as relevant. –Eric U. Norris
Eastfield Another Boring Eastfield Album: A Rail Punk Collection
Creep Records/Violated Records
Eastfield = (Forum Walters + Buzzcocks) + The Clash
A misnomer if I’ve ever heard one: Another Boring Eastfield Album is anything but—it’s catchy, punchy and hones a classic ’70s Brit-punk vibe that’s armed with three-chord progressions, anti-ego attitudes and lyrics consisting of humorous remarks at anything that winds them up. Rather than bluntly rally against the socio and political issues that they reference, they stand on their firm belief that humor is the more effective tool to get their point across. In an album composed of 33 tracks, it’s surprisingly void of any filler. Aside from standouts like “Burt Reynolds Rides Again,” “Three Chords Good, Four Chords Bad,” “Beast of Bratislava” and “Eddie Watson,” each song holds its own sing-a-long chorus with comedic, succinct messages. –Eric U. Norris
Dine Alone Records
The Dirty Nil = (PUP + FIDLAR) X (Fugazi + Smashing Pumpkins)
I think I figured out the dominant form of punk rock in the 2010’s – there seems to be a surge of bands that have combined the garage rock aesthetic of unpolished sounds riddled with distortion and amplifier feedback with the new age, indie weirdness that hipsters gush over. Enter The Dirty Nil, a three piece from Ontario, Canada who are the embodiment of this garage-tinged weirdness. Their debut album Higher Power contains an uncanny combination of disgruntled noise and hummable melodies – the guitar will be pounding with the immense weight of the onslaught of power chords, and will be switched out with equally sizable harmonies. The same can be said for the vocals – Luke Bentham has mastered the ability of maintaining a talented singing voice yet manages to not blow it out when he has to switch to raucous shouting of the archetypal punk vocalist.
As I have mentioned, the opposing sounds on this album make it a standout with every song different than the next. The first track, “No Weaknesses” opens, fittingly enough, with 13 seconds of static feedback before the eminent power chords kick in, followed by some pretty articulate drumming from Kyle Fisher, and Bentham’s style of vocals that go back and forth between shouting and singing halfway through each line in the sing’s verses. “Zombie Eyed” gives way more to the melody of Bentham’s vocals while Dave Nardi backs the verse with his bass with the guitar more/less taking a back seat until the chorus hits, and still isn’t void of amplifier feedback. “Wrestle Yü To Husker Dü” is a slower grungier track that teeters into a heartbreak-addled lyrical theme with an easy-to-follow chorus–”I don’t care about your man!” “Lowlives” stands on its own as one of the heaviest songs on this album–it evokes a metal sound with Nardi’s bass lines sounding awfully close to that of Lemmy’s– you mix it in with the heavy metal guitar crunch and it’s hard not to think that the music was penned while Motörhead was playing nearby. “Fugue State” is another standout as it is the fastest and also the shortest song clocking in at only 45 seconds, it pays homage to the hardcore elders of the early ’80s, who were notorious for playing songs under one minute that were no slower than 200 BPM.
Higher Power is a showcase for the ’90s garage rock revival that’s been sweeping throughout the punk genre these past few years–honing their influences of grunge, indie, alt. rock and metal. It’s an album that proved many of my first interpretations to be false–it took many twists and turns in its runtime, which gave it its personality and kept me listening intently for the unexpected. For a debut album, these guys have proven their deservedly recognizable talent and the production is as such that it is able to show off their musical animation and not just have it be pounding noise. If you’re a fan of distortion fueled alternative rock with crisp melodies that slice right through the proverbial wall of sound, tied in with heavy and, at times, fast paced tempos, and vocals that walk a thin line of insanity and stability, then this album will satisfy.
Fat Wreck Chords Street: 04.01 PEARS = (Thought Riot x early Thrice)/AFI + Gorilla Biscuits + A Wilhelm Scream
Once during an interview I conducted with PEARS’ vocalist, Zach Quinn, he said that their new album was turning out to be “more Go To Prison than Go To Prison was.” PEARS’ debut album, Go To Prison, was written and recorded in the course of a few days and held all the marvels and raucousness of hardcore punk while still delivering something new—deservedly, it became an instant favorite among listeners, myself included. The conception of their follow-up album, Green Star, included a lot more of a thought process, with rewrites and song rearrangements, throughout the better part of two years—the exact opposite of their debut. The increases process behind Green Star can either highlight a band that is overthinking their artistry or a band that has worked their asses off trying to outdo their last effort. I’ve gushed over PEARS a ton since I discovered them last year and fell in love with them at first listen. I’m going to gush a little more, because Green Star is amazing—not only as a follow-up to the unparalleled masterpiece of their debut album, but also in showing off how they’ve enhanced their sound in the short time since its release.
PEARS have not lost any of their intensity, harmony, or sense of humor in their sophomore release—the first two songs (if you don’t count the 30 second intro track) are just enough to pull you in and allow this album to beat you into oblivion for the next half-hour. “Hinged at the Spine” stays mostly melodic while keeping a machinegun pace, then the preceding track “Cumshots” jumps into their signature sound of fast-paced, atonal riffing and Quinn’s rabid vocals that gives way to 3 part harmonies in the chorus and back to the snarling ferocity in about 30 seconds. Listening to PEARS is the musical equivalent of approaching a dog that seems adorable and harmless but will bite your hand off if you try to pet it—a fitting description for the song “I Love My Kennel,” when the music slows into sludgier territory in the last third while Quinn growls opaque, metaphorical lyrics. That same feral output traverses through the song “Anhedonia” (a re-recorded version from their previous EP, Letters to Memaw), with sinister riffing matched by equally terrifying lyrics, including a gang chant of “Give me death!” that sounds like it’s being shouted by a group of demented 12-year-old girls.
After the first half of the album, Green Star gives a few seconds to catch your breath with “Dizzy Is Drunk,” a 50-second piano interlude that shows off another skill that Quinn offered to this album. But don’t get too comfortable, because before you know it, you’re getting pummeled again: “Snowflake” (the teaser track that premiered before Green Star’s release) hones a Ramones-style guitar riff with atonal tidbits thrown in between each measure. “The Tile of St. Stewart” spends half of its running time concocting a hair-raising guitar buildup and equally creepy vocals whispering, “Have you seen him Mary? Complete the chain, weld it down. Have you seen him, Mary, clench his fists, the cringing clown? Soiled and overbearing, terrify the timid hearts,” before exploding into the chanting chorus: “Tile of St. Stewart! Are you guilty Stewart? Do your insides rot? Are you guilty Stewart? Become what Hell begot!” After more unhinged thrashing, it all gives way to another piano interlude, “Jump the Fuckin’ Ship,” which gives over 80 seconds of soothing harmony before setting up for “Great Mt. Ida”—the closing number that starts off fast and melodic in the first third, switches into more metallic riffing with downbeat breakdowns and closes with a buildup of rolling drums, ambient guitar sounds and Quinn’s final lyrics: “What we’ve held in our hands, gone with us, eternally absent, free. Take me.”
This album is good—really good! The time and effort Pears have put into Green Star really shows that they’ve done their damnedest in making an album that is rooted in its predecessor but also stands on its own. To reprise the aforementioned quote, Green Star really is “more Go To Prison than Go To Prison is.” (Urban Lounge: 05.29.16 w/ Subhumans) —Eric U. Norris
Nuclear Blast Street: 01.12 Corrosion Of Conformity = Poison Idea + (Houdini-era Melvins x Black Sabbath)
Many are familiar with Corrosion of Conformity. They’ve cut their teeth as Richmond’s hardcore heroes in the early ’80s, crossed over to the thrash realm in the latter half of the decade, and finally carved a niche out for themselves as a sludge metal band that wears their Southern roots on their sleeves while keeping their integrity firmly planted in the ethos of hardcore. It proved to be a formidable stronghold for them as, throughout the ’90s, the American South saw an overflow of stoner-sludge greats like Eyehategod, Solient Green, Down and Crowbar. However, COC were not swept under the rug as a hardcore band attempting metal—the addition of rhythm guitarist and eventual vocalist Pepper Keenan enabled the band to hone their craft and with it, pump out a trifecta of brutality: Blind (1991), Deliverance (1994) and Wiseblood (1996).
As much as fans revel in the height of COC’s success in the ’90s, they still can’t deny their arid artistry that followed them into the 2010s after Keenan took leave from the band in 2006, causing a hiatus until 2010. The band returned as a trio with original drummer Reed Mullin. Keenan would eventually return in 2014 after a stint in Down while COC put out their self-titled album in 2012 and IX in 2014, both paling in comparison to the days of Keenan’s driving riffs. Which brings us to 2018—No Cross No Crown is COC’s first album since Reed and Keenan’s return to the group. Obviously, there was a lot of buildup to this album, and for good reason—while the semi-reunion in 2010 was welcomed, it was clear that we weren’t going to get another Deliverance with just a portion of the classic COC lineup. Now, with said lineup in full force, does No Cross No Crown deliver on the hype?
After the intro track “Novus Deus” the album properly begins with “The Luddite,” which shows off Reed’s groove-based drumming, giving a very heavy and swaying feel to the album. “Cast The First Stone” features some tasty blues licks from lead guitarist Woody Weatherman, and “Little Man” goes heavy on the ZZ Top sound.Throughout the album, Keenan shouts most of his lyrics, which is probably a good thing—he still has a demanding presence with his sandpaper growls, but it loses me on tracks like “Forgive Me” and “Nothing Left to Say,” when he has to hit vocal melodies that sound close to a Zakk Wylde parody. While it sucks that his cleans can’t reach that same vertex they once did, I can at least take solace that his growls in songs like “Wolf Named Crow” still hold the same gravitas.
I won’t lie, I have a pretty major gripe with this record—the last half REALLY … DRAGS … ON! I’m not against songs or albums being long, but most of the latter half of the record went in one ear and out the other—which is a shame because I was getting into the music as it was playing but groaned at the fact that there were still five more tracks, each ranging from four to six minutes in length, that had yet to play. First, it feels like the title track is going to wrap things up with its atmospheric and quiet, more subtle approach, but nope! In comes the six-minute monstrosity, “A Quest to Believe (A Call to the Void),” with Weatherman taking the last minute and a half to stress some pretty impeccable soloing as the song and album fades out drawing to a close … but NOPE! The 15th track is a cover of Queen’s “Son and Daughter.” Just end already! The cover isn’t bad, but for an album that’s already pushing an hour, it should have been saved as a B-side to one of their singles.
If you’re a diehard COC fan, you’ll get about what you’d expect—it’s awesome to once again hear Keenan and Weatherman complement each other’s guitar playing, and while Keenan’s voice has noticeably aged, it isn’t unlistenable. And, on top of it all, there is an element of cohesiveness on this album that hasn’t been felt on a COC record in a long time. It may not be as sensational as their older work, but I’ll be damned if this isn’t a step in the right direction. –Eric U. Norris
Made in Chernobyl
Architects of Melody
VIZA = Gogol Bordello + System of a Down + Judas Priest
I bought the album Made in Chernobyl from VIZA when they were opening up for Gogol Bordello last August, and I fell absolutely in love with it. Their opening track ,“Trans-Siberian Standoff,” is a prime example of VIZA’s Eastern European folk sound with an equal representation of a classic heavy metal tempo and equally heavily politically themed lyrics, topped with a face-melting guitar solo from Orbel Babayan. Other politically themed songs include “Napoleon Complex,” which gives ode to Napoleon Bonaparte, and “Dynamite” which explodes with Stalin references. Though they have some tough, aggressive songs, they also show their emotional side mainly through “My Mona Lisa,” and also show how they can slow down the music and still keep you hooked with their lyrics in “Fork in the Road.” The album has an even mixture of gypsy punk, folk, and hard rock—they can be heavy, fast and aggressive, but also be slow, sinister, emotional and political, and overall, it kicks ass. –Eric Norris
Talk about a show that took a beating—not only did the five-band bill get whittled down to three after Population Control and Communionist, whom I was most looking forward to seeing, dropped off, but this was also doubling as Establish’s last show. While bummed out at the situation, I still maintained a level of optimism. Aside from just hanging out with friends and watching their sets, it was also my first time seeing Threar, a four-piece act comprising a mix of sifting melodies and an abrasive wall of noise that hit me broadside. Threar’s performance, put bluntly, was intense. Sound-wise, they were unpredictable. There were parts that were softer and quieter but left me with an unnerving feeling that something insane was going to happen. The buildup paid off with slamming riffs that echoed through guitarist Wolf Nunley and bassist Christian Howton, thrashing their bodies while keeping their playing intact. I joked with Howton afterward on how he had to make himself look busy while playing one note the whole time.
The next band was PXR or Positive X Reinforcement—keeping the vegan straightedge alive in SLC. “Nobody’s free until every cage is empty!” yelled lead singer Dravin Fackrell before they pummeled into their set. PXR burned like a short fuse on an atom bomb.It didn’t take long for them to get through their set, which was around 13 minutes, but they left behind an essence of destruction. There was so much thrashing and bashing going on, I literally felt the wall bend from the other side as a result of people slamming into it. I thought the floor was going to cave in from the numerous punches and heels digging in.
It didn’t take long for Establish to set up (three of the four members are the guys from PXR, but with their instruments swapped) for their final performance. Much like PXR, their set was under 15 minutes without a wasted second. Zaina Abujebarah jolted from side to side, snarling with ferocity as Establish trudged through their four-song set, complete with mic grabs and pile-ups from the audience. On their last song, “Babydoll,” Joselyn Pust (In Unison) took over the mic for the last lyrics and screamed with Abujebarah, “I’m not a piece of meat!” Establish are a band I’m going to miss terribly. It seems only a short time ago that they were playing their first show and now, before they could name all of their songs, have called it quits. It is an unfortunate, common occurrence—most hardcore bands are powerful yet fleeting. I guess some bands aren’t meant to be together, and the members of Establish are still young and either have, or will have, more projects in the future.
But wait, there’s more! Coincidentally, the members of In Unison, as the universe would have it, were all in attendance at the show and at some point decided to do a surprise performance to make up for the holdouts. After a few mic checks, In Unison charged through their set and finished off the night. However, some crowd members weren’t satisfied: “Play the fucking cover!” yelled Fackrell, referring to the song “Kersed” by Ceremony that In Unison had become known for playing. After some coercion, the crowd got them to play the minute-long cover and met them with synchronized yells. Even after that, it still wasn’t enough—the crowd jostled for In Unison to play it again, because some audience members had to be sure to get their mic time in. They complied and repeated the song, but were still met with requests to do it again. They went through with the third round with just Martin Theisen playing the bassline while everyone else screamed the lyrics, “Pack your fists full of hate / Take a swing at the world!” You don’t get stuff like that at This is Hardcore. It was hilarious!
A serious shoutout is in order for Pust, Theisen, Ben Greenwalt and Hunter Franks of In Unison for hopping on the show at, literally, the last minute. They made the show a lot more memorable despite the circumstances.
08.04 – Metro
“Hey, we’re LSDO, we’re one of the only punk bands on this comp,” said Chris Marietta (vocals/guitar). “We don’t sound very hardcore—we sound more like a band that doesn’t practice a lot.” LSDO had to be the most out-of-place band on the lineup of the final release show for the Utah Comp. as they brought everyone back in time to Warped Tour ’96 with their skate punk music. It was a fun way to start off the night, which was set up mostly for the metallic, intensity that followed LSDO’s simple three-part harmonies and laid-back vibe. However, certain levels of discomfort are needed for shows like this.
Hero Double Zero took things into a more bizarre direction with their stylized metalcore sound. These guys bring me back to bands like Chiodos, Every Time I Die and The Devil Wears Prada, in that their sound consists of some fairly complex rhythms, guitar parts so technical that they feel more like leads than riffs, and lyrics that are so profound and have deep meanings below their surface. All of which are presented with the funniest and most bizarre song titles. I had to say it was hilarious when singer Michael Aaronian introduced a song as follows: “This is our song that we did for the comp., and this song means a lot to me. It’s called ‘Infested by Llamas’!” It goes to show how much attention you can get if you present something with humor upfront. So far, I could tell this was going to be the mellowest of all the comp. release shows—it was in a 21-plus space and most of the audience was content with just standing around with their beers and watching the bands. Maybe it’s my bias to see the intensity of the audience match that of the music, but there really wasn’t enough people in attendance who were willing and able to bring it to fruition.
While not necessarily a heavy band in terms of tone, Seven Daggers’ sound consists of unpredictable sequences held together with almost jazz-like rhythms that give their songs a sense of urgency. Ironically, they were the band that brought out some slam dancers during their set, even if the pit consisted of three people bouncing off of each other for about 30 seconds. While their music was a marathon of controlled chaos, it’s presented with such grace and flow that I didn’t care where it was taking me. On top of all the precision and groove, Anthony Davis was belting out some powerful, primal yells that were such a stark contrast to the music but still somehow fit their style. They were definitely the most interesting band to hear.
TheMetro was playing the Utah Underground Compilation as the bumper music between sets, and I couldn’t help but laugh when Hemwick did their soundcheck while their song “Bloodmoon” was playing over the P.A. and, funny enough, that’s the song they opened their set with. Hemwick are one of the most innovative bands in the metal scene right now, not just for composing entirely instrumental songs with great technical skill, but also doing it in a way that doesn’t come off as boring, pretentious, experimental trite. It can be difficult to have heavy instrumental music be interesting, but Hemwick make it a genuine experience with well-paced structure and dynamics in all the right places. They have such a larger-than-life sound, and it really carries over into their live set—they were great at building up the intensity in their quieter segments and reveled in their chaotic dissonance. On top of it all, it was a lot of fun to watch each member, especially drummer Riachle Child, shift into different rhythmic segments on a dime.
EXES took the stage through a layer of fog so thick they appeared as silhouettes. The intensity built with each second as feedback pulsated from their amps and, without a word, they slammed right into their onslaught of pummeling riffs that kept heads banging and the devil horns thrusting. If you don’t believe me when I say that this band transcends genres, experience them live and watch each member. They come from different backgrounds of punk, hardcore, metalcore, black metal and thrash, and it all resonates in their execution. Phil White’s guttural screams match the band’s shifting propulsion from thrashing blast beats with discordant melodies to disheveled, meaty riffs that could reduce an entire city to ashes. When their 29-minute set drew to a close, I met with audience members who were left speechless after witnessing such metallic propulsion. I couldn’t think of a better band to end the Utah Underground Comp. release shows than EXES. They are band that still garners new listeners and have a sound that pulls from all realms of heavy music.
Something interesting about this show was that with each band, it seemed that another layer of technical skill had been added. It started with the very cut-and-dry three-chord progressions of LSDO, then coursed into the rigid complexity of Hero Double Zero. Then, Seven Daggers traded off muscle for technique as their erratic groove kept everyone on their toes. Hemwick brought it right to the edge of the abyss in their progressive artistry, but EXES managed to pull it back just enough to a level of solidarity. After the show, I sat back and talked with organizer of the compilation and the shows, Sean Dugger and I could tell he was genuinely relieved yet satisfied with the conclusion of this project. What began as a Facebook post brought the underground community together to reach a common goal and resulted in a compilation CD and four shows to back it up. I’m truly thankful that I could experience it all firsthand, and I can’t wait for what’s next.
In celebration of the first Utah Underground Compilation, the featured bands have all gathered for four separate shows for its release. Spearheaded by Sean Dugger, the first two shows were a success, minus one holdout—Villain had to drop off the show on July 28 due to vocalist Trent Falcone having double-booked himself between work and the show. However, the shows were still great and the lineups, flowed together seamlessly.
07.27 – The Underground
I could sum up this show with just one word—HEAVY! Every single band on this bill had an emphasis on slamming, brutalizing tones under their respective styles. The first band was Chronic Trigger—a unique blend of progressive and technical precision with in-your-face, thrash-n-bash projection. While they showcased their instrumental capabilities, it never felt like they were showing off how many notes they could play or how many time signatures they could switch to. They always looked like they were having fun constantly throbbing themselves in sync with the music and throwing verbal jabs at each other between songs. Mosida seemingly came right out of left field with a sound that felt so big that it couldn’t be contained in the small room of TheUnderground. I actually had to step out for a while because it was so loud. Still, the performance was pretty flawless, despite the fact that the vocals were barely audible. That’s just how The Underground is set up; certain parts of the music get lost behind the wall of sound.
Swine of Dissent brought the sound back to a more classic metal vibe, more comparable to DIO and Iron Maiden, but in a drop-tuning way. The riffs were swaying, and the hair went flying as Miles Collins wailed his lyrics behind his thick veil of dreadlocks. Keeping the high-speed, metallic velocity in check, Bhujanga unleashed an assault of teamed up guitar riffs and dueling solos, though noticeably absent was a bassist, they still pulled off their low-end while keeping the focus on the guitars and vocals. Lead singer Justin Gomez would throw himself to the ground and throw spastic kicks in the air—it was so invigorating that I completely forgot that he stayed behind the drum set for their entire performance, for some reason.
The heaviest band was last. I’ve seen The Wake of an Arsonist before, when they started as a sluggish, unfiltered doom metal band. Through a marathon of lineup changes and Sean Dugger moving from behind the drum kit to behind the microphone—they’ve accumulated a cacophony of sludgy riffs and tower-tumbling breakdowns that amount to what I can only describe as sheer brutality. TWOAA’s sound can’t be explained. It needs to be felt. I was completely immersed in their performance, and I thought my head was never going to stop banging. Those chugging riffs threw the hardcore kids in attendance into a flurry of back fists and spin-kicks (some of which were ignited by Dugger himself.)
Thus ends the first of the four shows for this comp’s release. While it was a strong opening night and judging by the remainder of bands yet to play, I knew that the next few rounds would get gradually more chaotic.
7/28 – The Beehive
As I walked up State Street towards 666 South, I was greeted by the congregation of hardcore kids accumulating just outside of The Beehive. I was overwhelmed with a sense of community—really, these shows are mostly just friends hanging out while they play music. The only band that was the outlier of the night was KnuckleDragger, both sonically and socially. While the other bands on the bill are more less advocates for the modern hardcore scene, the dudes in KnuckleDragger are a bit more experienced than the others. Yes, age isn’t everything—and KnuckleDragger put on one hell of a show.The good thing about them meeting the other bands is that the Utah Underground compilation and its adjunct shows to it represent that while it’s good to support your homies’ bands, it also serves as an opportunity to introduce different groups to each other as well. I’d say KnuckleDragger won over some new fans with their performance.
While The Beehive has a stage, each band played on the floor. It is either a visual metaphor that everyone in this community is seen as equal, and the connection is made stronger between the bands and audience—or everyone was too lazy to haul their gear onto the stage. In Unison charged with ferocity with a set that was maybe 15 minutes long, as is expected with a very cut-and-dry hardcore group. They didn’t waste a second as lead singer Joselyn Pust’s yells were met with some avid slam-dancing, some of which caught her in the rift. The same energy carried into Mandalore’s set, and even I couldn’t resist the urge to dance despite my body telling me otherwise. Their performance was spastic as lead singer Konrad Keele jumped from one side of the floor to another. In between songs crowd members (including myself) haggled him with subjects ranging from Star Wars to his source of hydration to which he responded—jokingly—that Gatorade pays him $800 every time he tells his audience to drink their product. These are the things that make these shows so fun and after their performance, some of us chilled outside and discussed the Star Wars cannon with Keele. The next band that took the floor was Deep Romance—a band who is all-inclusive with their performance, inviting Pust and Martin Theisen (bassist; In Unison, The Wake of an Arsonist) to sing their verses in “Cholo Glide” and “Vultures.”
Finally, one of SLC’s biggest exports, Despite Despair were set to close the night. With all the bands’ prior performances still fresh on the mind, they would have to hurtle one hell of a set. Soon, the lights went off, save for one troubled light that hung from the overhead beam, and Despite Despair shot off like a fucking missile and leveled the place out! Vocalist Brett Barrett took advantage of the fact that the audience was mere inches away from him. He crawled on all fours, pulled people in and screamed in their faces, pushed them out and got them dancing and all while wearing nothing but gym shorts—he was downright feral. For their last song “Post-Purging Reflection,” they invited the pint-sized Brighton Ballard of Soriah to assist on vocals. Don’t let her size fool you, Ballard threw down some grinding vocals so harsh that I couldn’t tell who was singing. In short, they fucking killed it!
This night’s show exceeded my expectations and encapsulated everything that makes this scene work. It was communal with people dancing with, or rather into, each other and literally jumping at the opportunity to scream their friends’ lyrics. People were introduced to groups they’d never think to listen to. It’s going to be hard to top this one, but we will see what’s in store for the next two shows this week, the third of four tonight, Thursday, Aug. 2 at The Underground; and the fourth and final show on Saturday, Aug. 4, at Metro Music Hall—each at 7 p.m.