Music News

The Beatdown

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.

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Dave Herrera
Contact: Dave Herrera