Black Tusk with Red Fang, Lord Dying @ Urban 11.20

Posted December 4, 2012 in

Photo: Geoff L. Johnson |

A steady stream of longhairs, hipster girls and middle-aged metalheads filed into the Urban Lounge on a chilly night to be baptized by a maelstrom of bone-shaking riffs from three of the loudest bands currently occupying planet earth: Lord Dying, Black Tusk and Red Fang. As the crowd filed into the venue, standing room quickly became hard to come by, and bartenders manned both the bar in the northeast corner as well as the rarely utilized southwest booze station. All three bands brought an ample supply of merch, including the usual assortment of T-shirts and records, but most eye-catching were the screen-printed posters commemorating this particularly rifftacular tour. It was also amusing to see that each band was hocking their own trucker hats, complete with a print on the underside of the bill. Fans were intent on acquiring their musical keepsakes early, many of them clutching their newly prized possessions as Portland’s Lord Dying took the stage—if they had known how raucous the night would become, maybe they would have waited until after Red Fang departed to insure the safety of their fancy new records and posters.

Originally only supposed to accompany Red Fang and Black Tusk on the first leg of their fall tour, Lord Dying stepped up to the plate when Canadian sludgesters Indian Handcrafts were turned away at the border, and they definitely brought their A-game to the Urban Lounge on that Tuesday night. The Portland-based quartet plays an acerbic mixture of stoner, sludge and thrash metal, pummeling with alternatingly thick riffs and sharp licks. The drumming is another striking element of their sound, again switching between weighty atompsherics and a rapid fire attack. The crowd was already anxious, anticipating the face melting that Black Tusk and Red Fang would surely deliver, but Lord Dying managed to rile them up enough to facilitate some moshing, shoving and a respectable amount of devil horns thrown into the air. I briefly caught up with Subrosa’s Rebecca Vernon after Lord Dying’s impressive set, who informed me that the band actually has a Salt Lake connection in that a pair of members, guitarists Erik Olsen and Chris Evans, spent time playing in the mid-‘00s instrumental rockers Le Force. It’s always rad to see local musicians move up in the national scene, and Lord Dying is definitely a band for fans of aggressive music to keep their eyes on.
As the long tresses of hair (flowing from both cheeks and scalp) filled the Urban Lounge stage, the crowd packed in even tighter in anticipation of Black Tusk’s imminent performance. The Savannah, GA trio wasted no time in amping up the crowd, as guitarist Andrew Fidler and bassist Jonathan Athon flailed across the stage like madmen, hurling their instruments into the sky and towards audience members, daring them to lay their hands upon them and risk being burnt by the swamp-fueled fire they were peddling.  After warming the crowd up with a raucous instrumental opener, Fidler encouraged the crowd to throw their devil horns into the air and chant “Six! Six! Six!” propelling the band into “Bring Me Darkness” from their 2011 release “Set the Dial.” As Fidler, Athon and drummer Jamie May took turns shouting into their microphones, the crowd was whipped into a frenzy, piling on top of each other, flying into innocent bystanders and generally losing their shit—not a bad time for a Tuesday night. Black Tusk traversed their entire catalog, including performances of new songs from their recent split with hometown homies Dead Yet? (which was available at the band’s merch table). Songs from Taste the Sin seemed to get the strongest reaction, particularly “Red Eyes, Black Skies,” though the potent mixture of hardcore, sludge and stoner metal prevalent on the tracks from Set the Dial didn’t fail to inspire some sloppy circle pits and half-aborted stage dives from the increasingly tipsy crowd. Throughout the performance, I couldn’t help but remember how May described a Black Tusk show when I interviewed him several months ago in anticipation of the show at Urban that night:  “Sweaty, loud and very energetic—the way it should be when you go see a good show.” Black Tusk delivered all that and then some. 
Red Fang may not have matched the energy of Black Tusk, but they definitely surpassed them in terms of sheer loudness. By the time they took the stage, it was past midnight, but the crowd was full of just as much fervor as they had been all night—this was the band whose logo was plastered across so many hoodies, baseball tees and trucker hats adorning the chubby, bearded and tattooed bodies spread throughout the crowd, after all. As the telltale licks of “Wires” rang at a deafening volume from the speakers, the audience erupted into a sea of movement from the front of the stage to the back of the room (much to the chagrin of several audience members hoping for a more mellow showgoing experience). The anticipation and excitement of the show’s attendees was undeniable, and Red Fang delivered their brand of expertly crafted stoner metal flawlessly. The Portland band slammed through the majority of material from both 2011’s Murder the Mountains and their 2009 self-titled effort, including memorable renditions of “Hank Is Dead,” “Number Thirteen” (much to the delight of a bearded fortysomething year old incessantly shouting the song’s title all night long), “Bird on Fire” and, of course, “Prehistoric Dog.” It was loud, intense, and lengthy, and nary a soul left the show that night with their hearing unscathed and without a smile on their face. 
These three bands may not be the most technical, the most intense or the most evil modern metal bands—but they’re a whole fuckload of fun. This is heavy, loud, thick music designed for banging one’s head, slamming into one’s friends and screaming along too. This is heavy metal, pure and simple, and Lord Dying, Black Tusk and Red Fang definitely brought the party and melted some faces.
Photo: Geoff L. Johnson |