EYEHATEGOD at BLUEBIRD THEATER | 1/26/14 A couple of people tried to heckle Eyehategod, but Mike Williams was took the flak deftly and turned it into comedy; you had to hand it to him. Someone yelled out, "I'm bored." Williams told the guy to come down front where there was lots of free cocaine. He then said, "You came here and paid eight hundred dollars for a ticket and you stand back there? Killer friends. Come down here. You only live once." In reality, there was nothing boring about this show beginning to end.
Williams was like a self-willed marionette, impelled forward by the force of emotion to the microphone, imparting a psychic catharsis with his voice to match the twisting, growling whirlwind of warped, grinding melodies and textured rhythms of the rest of the band. Eyehategod might be lumped in with sludge and extreme metal and whatever, but the band predates all that and is only partly informed by the aesthetics of the two. It felt like some primal blues riffs amped up and stretched out so that the structures could be more flexible and crash down with a striking, rather than merely brutal, heaviness.
Drawing from across the breadth of its career for the set, including new songs, the outfit had pit in front of the stage erupting with activity for multiple songs, including "Dixie Whiskey" and "Mankind Is Too Ignorant to Exist." "Southern Discomfort" felt like a slow-motion personal breakdown and then breakthrough. The whole show felt like these guys were articulating an idiosyncratic vocabulary for casting out and dispelling personal demons with a sometimes slow, often not, but certain efficiency.
The set proper ended with "Kill Your Boss," from the great 1993 album Take As Needed For Pain. Reminiscent of late-era Black Flag, when that band blurred the lines between mutant hardcore and some kind of bluesy, jazz inflected metal, that song would have been a great end to a powerful performance. But instead of going off stage and coming back, Williams asked if we wanted to hear some more songs or if we were tired of them. With that, the band treated us to a handful more songs, after which Williams profusely thanked the audience for being good to the band tonight.
The show opened with In the Company of Serpents. Joseph Meyer seemed to have found the sweet spot between grindcore and free jazz in his drumming style. Grant Netzorg's guitar tone was so gritty and cutting, but it was also tuneful and powerful, and not just because of the sheer sound of an Ampeg 8X8 bass cab beside two four by twelve Mesa Boogie cabs. Netzorg clearly knows how to get a strong clarity of sound and how to harness that volume to make for an interesting texture and sonic quality beyond mere volume and heaviness. Together, Netzorg and Meyer crafted the perfect soundtrack for some ancient of far future mythological conflict. Except that it never felt self-indulgent, but instead focused and vividly realized.
Speedwolf has apparently learned a few more things on the road playing to audiences far and wide. The band played with confidence and came across as more honed than ever, with Reed Bruemmer even joking more with the audience. For example when people seemed to just be standing there and staring, Bruemmer said, "Act like you're excited! Okay, we'll pretend we're at a metal festival in Europe." Then he pumped his fist and shouted, "Hey! Hey! Hey!" Antics and clear good spirit aside, Speedwolf performed its songs with the typical enthusiasm and aplomb. "Speed With the Wolf," "Up All Night," "I Can't Die," and "Sign Of The Wolf" were in the set, and the band ended with a song Bruemmer dedicated to drummer Richie Tice, who has apparently been through some tough times recently.
Bias: This was an inspired pairing of local bands with a national touring act and I'm a fan of all three.
Random Detail: There was a great tour shirt from Eyehategod that was richly detailed with excellent artwork. There was also some cool merch from Speedwolf and In the Company of Serpents.
By the Way: "Denver 666." Any a fan of Speedwolf that hasn't actually seen the music video for that song needs to immediately.
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