For hipper-than-thou subversive types who extol Tenacious D's lampooning of the time-tested power ballad, metal's appeal lies in its irony. But for the hardcore, metal is a religion -- and they take the music on faith. Lately I've been a backslider; on most Saturday nights, you can find me in the corner, in the spotlight, standing next to Michael Stipe. Ten days ago, though, this prodigal son returned home.
Okay, so it wasn't quite home. Still, I can't think of a better place for rediscovering my inner Iron Man than PinkE's Black Den, which hosted Corruption's CD-release party on Saturday, May 22. A hand-scrawled sign on the door of the Westminster pool hall let me know exactly what I was in for: "No spikes, weapons or fighting. Violate any of these and be 86'd. You've been warned -- so enjoy the show." And in a "Whoa, bro" moment worthy of Dazed and Confused, as we waited in line, a long-haired cat in a worn Metallica T-shirt turned to me and said, "Dude, trust me. These guys fucking rock."
It's safe to say my man wasn't talking about Black Lamb, which kicked off a triple bill that also included Throcult. Because while Brian Hagman and the rest of the Lamb completely destroyed the place with some classic stoner metal, nearly everyone in the joint remained seated, responding to each song with halfhearted golf claps. I was puzzled: Surely these headbangers had heard of Danzig, Clutch and Black Sabbath, bands that contributed to the core of Lamb's sound. Although metal has about a billion subgenres, once you strip off the meat, the music falls neatly into two basic forms: heavy and metal. The former is rooted in melody and aggression, the latter in ferocity. On this night, the masses were apparently only interested in sheer brutality.
Fortunately, there were a few exceptions. Toward the end of the set, I ran into Mark Grabowski, Corruption's lead throat and bassist, and guitarist George Glasco, who both shared my appreciation of Lamb. "These guys kick ass," Glasco said.
Handing me a copy of Corruption's new disc, Alone, Grabowski gushed about how it was the group's best work to date. But talk is cheap, so I suggested that we retreat to a car in the parking lot for a private listening party. On our way out, we ran into Maris the Great, who flicked his tongue like a snake and muttered something to Grabowski. "I think he's here to kill us tonight," Grabowski said with a chuckle. Remembering the sign on the door, I knew he was safe: Maris would never get in with those spikes.
As the first track, "Hate Disorder," poured out of the car's speakers, Grabowski beamed like a proud father. Between miming the vocal parts and playing air guitar, he took me on a guided tour of the rest of the record. "Check out track nine," he said. "It's a duet with me and Marilyn Taylor from Esovae." Sure enough, halfway into "Godsend" -- a twelve-minute opus that he described as being about a guy who prays for the angel of love to save him from the depths of despair, only to freak out and kill the angel and thus become the angel of despair himself -- Grabowski's trademark howl gives way to stunningly beautiful two-part harmony.
"Man, how do you scream like that without blowing out your voice?" I asked. I'd always wondered that about death-metal vocalists.
"I scream about this loud," Grabowski explained, letting out a shriek barely above talking level. "I use the mike as an instrument."
And that's not the only device he's mastered over the past decade. Grabowski directed me to a hidden track at the end of the disc that contains a bass solo showcasing his Cliff Burton-like prowess. Suffice it to say, Grabowski is an amazing player, metal or otherwise.
Meanwhile, back inside the Den, Throcult was shredding, and now everyone was on their feet. Although weighed down by terrible sound -- aside from the machine-gun clacks of the kick drum, all that could be heard was the high-pitched shrill of the guitars -- the performance was plenty entertaining, and so were the sights it inspired. Maris stood at the front of the stage, nodding his head like an epileptic in mid-seizure as the action of an impromptu mosh pit swirled around him. And the hair helicopters executed by members of Throcult made me wish I still had hair. But I'm afraid this group's music is an acquired taste, kind of like liver. A guy standing near me summed it up nicely: "To me, that's just a wall of noise. I hate that shit." Yes, it's hard to take a band seriously when it introduces each song with a Cookie Monster snarl -- no matter how brutal its riffs are.
As Throcult packed up, Maris slammed his Bud Light on the table and delivered a few choice words my way. (Well, after he licked a few people indiscriminately; with as many hands as he slurps, it's surprising that the blue-coiffed superfreak isn't sick more often.) "I recommend the patty melt," he growled. "I'm getting one. You should, also." I didn't know the undead had a soft spot for bar food, but PinkE's should take advantage of Maris's endorsement. Hell, he'd make a perfect mascot for the Black Den -- assuming management could keep him away from the Lou Ferrigno-looking bouncer whose ass he ogled all night.
When Corruption finally hit the stage for its first show in six months, the place erupted. "You guys fucking rock," someone shouted -- probably that guy who'd been standing next to me in line. And then Grabowski and his crew opened the gates of hell. Funny thing was, these guys didn't look nearly as menacing as they sounded. Although Grabowski and Glasco have about ten feet of hair between them, drummer Nick Studen and lead guitarist Sean Beeson could have been a Little League coach and a fireman, respectively.
On Wilco's Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, Jeff Tweedy bellows about a girl who falls in love with one heavy-metal drummer, then another, then another. While I have no idea what girl he's referring to, I've no doubt she'd go for Studen. Mootown has a few timekeepers worth seeing no matter what band they're anchoring -- Kenny James and Wooly Bugger's Kenny Ortiz, the brothers K; Black Lamb's Vinny Levshakoff; former Rocket Ajax thrasher Craig Glisson; Leo 7 from Rubber Planet -- and Studen belongs at the top of that list. As for Beeson, he's a consummate professional who works a seven-string like Joe Satriani. Midway through, he spilled a beer on his amp that caused it to crackle and buzz like an old transistor radio; instead of ending the set abruptly, he muscled through to the finish. Good thing, because otherwise I might have missed Marilyn Taylor joining Corruption for a live rendition of "Godsend." It was the first time she'd performed the song with the band live, and she was nothing less than amazing.
As breathtaking as that performance was, though, I'd already experienced the most memorable moment of the night. Early on, when Corruption became engulfed in fog, Grabowski stepped up to the mike and made this request: "Whoever's running the fog machine, could you please stop?" No fog? Another metal stereotype up in smoke.
And that wasn't the only one to vanish during the evening. In the metal world, cliches collide like cars at an intersection where the traffic is directed by a cop with Tourette's, and parodies of the music often overshadow the art. But for most of their set, the members of Corruption smiled rather than grimaced. I'd also expected to see a Slayer-like pit scene, since this band's music could pull a soldier out of a peaceful man. But to my shock, there was no pit for this set. No violence. Just rabid, happy fans and a patty-melt-loving zombie.
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Shows you what I know about the dark side.
For the record, Grabowski was right: Not only is Alone Corruption's finest release yet, but I'd argue that it rivals Cephalic Carnage's Lucid Interval as one of the best metal discs ever to emerge from Mootown. (Ironically, in addition to working with Corruption and Throcult, Alone's producer, Dave Otero, has worked with Cephalic Carnage.) The only album I've heard recently that sounds as good is Killswitch Engage's latest, End of Heartache, and that's a national release on Roadrunner.
Upbeats and beatdowns: This Thursday, June 3, Dialektix, Dojo, Five Style Fist and Optik Fusion Embrace bring their cerebral flow to the Bluebird Theater; Tard, New Ancient Astronauts and the Platte River Killers stake out the Larimer Lounge; and Pam Savage & Wake Up Call and Hazel Miller bring Hot Sounds to the Denver Pavilions. On Friday, June 4, Rubber Planet will drop its new disc, Out There, at Herman's Hideaway with Tequila Mockingbird, Love.45 and Salt Lake City's Royal Bliss; United Dope Front joins Cocktail Revolution at the Blue Mule; Hello Dave and Ordinary Poets are at the Soiled Dove; and Buckethead's Giant Robot throws out some serious sonic weirdness in a late show at the Fox Theatre.
On Saturday, June 5, at the Bluebird, the Gamits celebrate the release of their latest platter, Antidote, with Against Tomorrow's Sky, Ember and JV All*Stars from Lincoln, Nebraska. (The Gamits will also link up with the Right Aways for a double CD-release party at 32 Bleu in Colorado Springs on Friday, June 11; Against Tomorrow's Sky is on that bill, too.) Meanwhile, the Procussions blow back into Mootown for a series of shows at the Fox, warming up the stage for Jurassic 5 and the Crown City Rockers on Saturday, June 5 (21+), and Sunday, June 6 (all ages). Also on Sunday night, DJ Hurricane (Beastie Boys) stops by Rise. And finally, don't forget to turn to our new and improved In Da Club column for club news you can use.