If I learned anything from spending my Saturday afternoon at the Paradise Rock Club in Boston it’s that silence can be crushingly heavy. That’s if coupled with the right music and atmosphere of course.
And there was music. And what wonderful music it was. Concrete like slabs of riffs and drums that slammed like vault doors. Unnerving electronics drowning in waves of feedback squeal. But between the noise and the fury, all four performers, Neurosis with support from Sumac, Brothers of the Sonic Cloth and The Body had nothing to say between their numbers. It was eerie, yet quite refreshing. I’ve been to too many metal and hardcore shows, so I’ve grown accustomed to frontmen demanding for circle pits or to throw the horns in the air. Not the case here. Just a whole lot of heavy.
The Body took the stage first and set the mood with a sound that I can only describe as a future Eyehategod that travelled back in time to preach of the upcoming apocalypse. The only thing harsher than their cold electronic noises were the nihilistic shrieks let out by guitarist Chip King.
Seattle legend Tad Doyle (TAD, Hog Molly) was next with his newest musical endeavor, Brothers of the Sonic Cloth. Despite being involved in extreme music for close to 30 years, Doyle can still churn out Sabbath strength riffs in rippers like ‘La Mano Poderosa’ and ‘Unnamed.’ Interestingly, Brothers of the Sonic Cloth’s self-titled début (Neurot Recordings) was just released earlier this year, but they ended their set a new song not featured on that LP, ‘Magnetar.’ New music so quickly? No complaints from me.
I was very excited to get to see guitarist and vocalist Aaron Turner’s new and bone snapping project, Sumac, live as I am still mourning the passing of the mighty Isis (Boston band, not terrorist organization). While they may lack the melodic touches or musical finesse that Isis was displaying in their mid to late years, Sumac is as crushing live as they are on their debut The Deal LP (Profound Lore). Personal highlight was watching skinsman Nick Yacyshyn pound out the jazz freakout in the middle of ‘Hollow King.’ Bearded wonder Turner says he intends to keep Sumac going as a full time band. Let’s certainly hope he does.
But for all the intensity and knee-buckling volume that the aforementioned bands brought, nothing was quite like watching Neurosis live. Few bands can make thrash and death metal sound quaint, but Neurosis is one of them. Eschewing their elaborate visual presentation of yore and going for a more spartan aesthetic, these rugged Oaklanders took the stage with no backdrop and sparse lighting. This after all was their most wide reaching tour in more than ten years, so the music was front and center. The set moved almost as an ocean ranging from the more passive sounds of set opener (and highly underrated) ‘A Sun that Never Sets’ and ‘My Heart For Deliverance’ to the earth rattling bits like ‘The Doorway’ and ‘Times of Grace.’ While they covered a wide selection of their discography, tracks from early Neurosis standards Souls at Zero and Enemy of the Sun were unfortunately absent.
And just when you thought you had reached the zenith of heavy music, Neurosis closed with the song. The title track. I think you know this one. A certain little song called ‘Through Silver in Blood.’ If you’re like me then you’ve heard this song about 4 million times in your room or car, but live is a different animal. As soon as the opening sample kicks in you will feel something otherworldly seize your spine and it won’t let go until the final pounding tribal rhythms. The audience was in a full trance. And as soon as it ended they walked off the stage with nothing to say. Musical bliss finally had been achieved.
It may have possibly been the heaviest show I have ever been too, but at the same time it didn’t necessarily feel like one. I now learned that I could live without some obnoxious frontman shouting to mask his insecurities. If your band is truly heavy then don’t say a word. We’ll know how extreme you are by the silence and the storm that follows it.
WORDS BY HANSEL LOPEZ