Live Review: To Be Eaten, Dead Child, Munimula, Adai at hi-dive

To Be Eaten, Dead Child, Munimula, Adai Monday, August 18, 2008 hi-dive Better Than: Most music that entertains the conceit of being heavy.

Adai got the evening started off right with pieces of epic, surprisingly rich and diverse, experimental metal. Comprised of just two guys, a drummer and guitarist, the band put forth a massive sound that recalled a less repetitive Red Sparrows or Neurosis, minus the dark mysticism and sometimes crushingly glacial pace. Banks of lights flanking a wall of speakers provided visual accents to the urgent auditory assualt of Adai’s drummer employing triggers of some sort, while the guitarist used loops and/or samples throughout the set, for an a set that abrasive yet oddly transporting.

Munimula followed Adai with a slightly modified line-up featuring Jawsh Mullen and the always powerful and excellent Jed Kopp was filling in for Devon Rogers on the drums. A video screen set up behind Mullen’s rig projected the first Harry Potter movie, while a laser pointer type of device created a rapid-cycling red circle on the screen throughout. The two-piece turned in a dependably punishing set with pummeling rhythms and Mullen’s meaty, chunky riffing, which recalls the style and tone of Joe Preston. Guitar whistle-wails crashed into a freight train of rhythm and noise, super slow sections evoked the sensation of feeling the aftershocks of a volcanic eruption, fire and all. Most impressive was Mullen’s knack hang chords seemingly endlessly before bringing them crashing down.

Dead Child was up next. Apparently Dave Pajo can do whatever the hell he wants to these days and we’re all the better for it. He’s now playing guitar in Dead Child (among others, I’m sure. Pajo made a name for himself more or less helping to invent one strand of alt-rock as a member of Slint. But it’s easy to forget that Slint had that first album that displays what an incredible shredder than man is. But enough about Pajo. The band opened with “Screaming Skull” and laid out crunchy Kerry King-esque riffs with clipped, muscular runs, bolstered by a singer who had more of a great old hardcore frontman vibe. At times, the savage riffing and gruff vocal delivery also recalled of what Testament was doing on The New Order or the less melodic sections of Fates Warning’s No Exit album. This type of heavy music hasn’t sounded relevant in years but somehow Dead Child made it breathe again.

To Be Eaten, who was supposedly playing it’s final show, closed out the night. The outfit hasn’t been just one of the best (if not the best) metal bands in Denver, it’s been one of the best in the world for the last several years. Some bands go out with a whimper but these guys weren’t ones for that sort of thing at all. Drummer Brian Miller, who’s moving to Phoenix in a week and a half, even said that he hopes the other guys find a replacement for him because this band simply has to continue.

The act reminded us with its very first song last night what has made this band more interesting than most of its peers: To Be Eaten’s incredibly heavy music is heavy without being sludgy and carries a weightiness that whirls you around with rapid, atmospheric riffs wrapped inside breathtakingly dynamic rhythms, interspersed with Ben Pitts’ slashing, forceful, dazzlingly precise guitar work. Thoughout the set, bassist Eric Fuller jumped around with a beautiful, blue-green Sting Ray bass and gyrated at angles that most musicians wouldn’t think of trying -- much less pulling off with the same ease and energy. For his part, Pitts is one of the few vocalists who is able to do that distorted, death metal growl and still be coherent—a true rarity.

Overall, the entire show was a display of sheer, feral power unleashed like animal spirits inside Berserkers. There was talk that this was indeed not the final To Be Eaten show and we can only hope that’s true, because a band this powerful, pushing the known boundaries of a type of music that has largely become a joke in many circles, should stick around to show us where that line is and to regularly leap beyond it.

-- Tom Murphy

Critic’s Notebook

Personal Bias: I can’t stand most metal but To Be Eaten transcends mere genre typecasting with passion and intelligence. Random Detail: David Pajo loaned Ben Pitts a guitar cable when his went out. By the Way: I appreciate the fact that To Be Eaten shelled out coin for Gildan t-shirts with a nice screen print job and that it wasn’t just their name but instead a great werewolf-ish design.

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