We'll get to that confederate wristband in a bit because Buzzov•en's Southern hillbilly persona did not define this show at all. Might as well start with first opener Il Cattivo because that set was the most fun of the three. Metal and its related genres should be fun. Not ideologically, granted, but there is not a type of music more technically thrilling than this. If indie rock is an old ten-speed bike, metal is a Ferrari.
Il Cattivo frontman Brian Hagman has a lot to do with how good the band's live show is. He's a physical singer, throwing himself around the stage, upending the mike stand, falling backwards after choruses. At one point he dumped water on one of his guitarists, took a gulp and spat it at drummer Jed Kopp.
You could take a lot of Il Cattivo's songs, strip away all the thrashing and the noise and they'd still sound fine, melodic, even. It's agressive music, but it's relatively clean. Not strictly speaking metal. There's a lot of punk and hardcore in there, which is just an academic-sounding way to say this is not hell spewing out of a hole in the Earth -- that would come later.
Kingdom of Magic's drummer took of his shirt before he even started playing; his were exposed nipples number five and six out of an eventual eight on the night. Good thing he did -- it took approximately one and a half songs before he was just-got-out-of-the-pool soaked in sweat. Keeping up in this band will do that to you. It's relentless, towering stuff, not so much played as pounded over and over again. It's all about the bass lines here -- that's the star of a Kingdom of Magic show.
You could make a case that Kingdom is not a metal band. They certainly make it by avoiding the label. But let's consider one of their album covers, which features a pair of cubist goblin type creatures offering human skulls to a monster king with teeth for eyes sitting inside the mouth of a larger lizard thing. There's a skeleton playing some kind of horn, also. How metal is that? Pretty fucking metal. Aesthetic aside, we're dealing with low-end thundering, not high-adrenaline guitar.
Not big on eye contact, these guys, so all communion had to take place through the music. The growing, highly enthusiastic crowd seemed fine with this arrangement. For a bunch so alarming-looking, metal fans and musicians are consistently a more welcoming and inclusive bunch than most every scene out there.
After all the warmth, we still have that confederate wrist band to reconcile. Now, not having ever talked to Reverend Dirtkicker (real name: Kirk Fisher), we can't know for certain, but the smart money says he's expressing a heritage, not a political outlook here. And actually, you can't have good art of any kind without a standpoint. We are not in the business of judging standpoints.
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Why does it seem like a heritage thing? Because these guys are from North Carolina, and they've given themselves nicknames like "Dixie" Dave Collins. And Fisher wore dreadlocks back in the '90s when Buzzov•en was at it's self-destructive peak. We don't know many true rednecks with dreadlocks.
Yes: The '90s. Apparently revivalism knew no genre barriers this year. Buzzov•en is on at least its third mini-tour of the country since the band reunited with what Fisher says is its best lineup back at the beginning of 2010. Denver was the final stop on this leg -- three dates in California last week, a pair of shows in the Pacific Northwest, and we were the lucky closer.
The best Buzzov•en lineup ever seemed a little tired last night. Maybe it was the trip, maybe the guys are just getting too old for this. Not that it was a letdown. They still trash-can fired their way through the swamp of noise and trademark movie clips. What they didn't do was hurt themselves or anyone else or break anything. Which wouldn't normally be something worth pointing out, but Buzzov•en gained something of a reputation in those matters back in the day. You never know how reunions will go, whether they'll be recreating the old days or doing something new. And this band went with an evolution. You can't get bloody every night forever.
CRITIC'S NOTEBOOK Personal Bias: We'll go with optimistic amateur on both the genres in question here. Random Detail: The bathroom at 3 Kings is straight out of a horror movie. Guess it helps to have muddy bass line menace coming through the walls, and someone had definitely taken a pungent piss in some corner. But man -- that shower curtain is just... unsettling. By The Way: Kingdom Of Magic must enjoy the irony that you can't Google them without getting results for Disneyworld.