After the Swindlers, a female-fronted power quartet, wrapped up their set, the brilliantly titled Black Acid Devil took the stage to play its own brand of sludgy stoner metal. Black Acid Devil switched back and forth between thick and heavy half-tempo builds before summoning driving, heavy grooves in the vein of Fu Manchu. Although definitely prone to some moments of technicality, the trio seemed to rely more on the tone of its amps and less on expert musicianship to create its sludgy opuses.
Led by dual vocalists, the band was somewhat held back by a drummer who, while basically remaining in the pocket throughout the set, seemed unsure of his place in the song at times and did not hit his drums nearly as hard as he should, allowing for moments of confusion, as the drums could barely be heard above the bass and guitar. All in all, Black Acid Devil is well on its way to becoming a good band, but it lacks anything unique to set it aside from bigger bands in the genre.
The sludginess of Black Acid Devil eventually gave way to the speed and ferocity of Decay -- which is not the same band that once released a 7-inch on Suburban Home Records in the late '90s, though this act does possess a similar thrash-metal-meets-punk sound. The Colorado Springs-based group combined 4/4 palm muting grooves while throwing in dual arpeggio leads in the vein of classic thrash bands like DRI and Municipal Waste.
The combination made Decay seem like the evening's odd band out, and audience members looked bored and uninspired, standing at least three to four feet away from the stage. This prompted the lead vocalists to look annoyed at various times during the set and even, at one point, to say, "Let's hear those crickets chirp." It was a real shame, as Decay is clearly a talented band that maybe just jumped on the wrong bill.
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There are several reasons that Red Fang is better than most bands of its ilk. The first and most apparent on this night was its drummer. Preferring to be on the ground level with his bandmates rather than on the drum riser, John Sherman delivered blow after punishing blow to his kit, keeping the tempo to near-metronome precision while catapulting the already powerful quartet into new decibel ranges.
Volume is another thing that makes Red Fang so impressive. If loudness does indeed equal greatness, then Red Fang could give Spinal Tap a run for its money. The rumbling coming from inside 3 Kings Tavern could be heard far down Broadway, maybe all the way to Red Fang's home town of Portland. In additional to its volume, the band, which just signed to Relapse Records, displayed expert musicianship as showy guitar leads dropped out to complex breakdowns that seemed to be counted at a different cadence each time one came around.
In a genre becoming saturated with similar ideas and styles, most bands would be well advised to take a second to evaluate how they want to sound and present themselves. In the end, they should decide to be more like Red Fang.
CRITIC'S NOTEBOOK Personal Bias: I would've loved to see Kingdom of Magic on this bill. Random Detail: Sherman wore a shirt that said "Let's Party." He also looked a lot like Dwight K Schrute from The Office. By the Way: The show last night was the first without Valient Thorr, who was part of the tour for most of October.