High on Fire, Priestess, and Black Cobra bring the metal to the Triple Rock
They still do this, hopefully better, and it's not or exactly the point. What is the point of a riff in 2010? Why, 35 or so years on, do we ("we"...guess who doesn't like metal? practically everyone) still need them? It's because that itch just won't get scratched.
Metal's always occupied a strange place for me; far right of the postpunk whiplash we were weaned on. It's militaristic, more ordered, more reverent, and more ridiculous. For many this is their genre, this is it, and you can fuck right off. It lets the fauxlevolent/stonevolent basement dwellers crickle out from the upturned log for loudness, wickedness, and to watch people perform ruley shit (and who may or may not get every joke made on The Big Bang Theory). And, for whatever reason, metal rules. The players involved range from suburban upper-middle classers to the most shitfuck of dirtbags, high artistic conceptualizations to the basest of nonsense. However you want your evil, there is a place to find it.
Last night was somewhere in between all that, as usual.
Black Cobra I did see, and they did bring the brutal. The drummer reminded me of Melvins/Big Business's Coady Willis without any sort of gentle hand, like a constant massive fill that makes you smirk and shake your head, blast beasts and hard hits. The singer/guitarist's sound was straight metal-in-2010, enough sludge to avoid an easy pigeonhole and to distract from the not-convincing vocals. The drummer stood up, gave the horns, and they walked off. This is how it goes; you stand and watch - maybe some shirtless marines start a mosh pit that dies out like an airless candle - but 90% of the time is stoic headbang and intermittent fistpump.
Oh to be a gas station attendant as a caravan of metal bands stops for Funyuns and Yoohoo.
Priestess couldn't quite bring what everyone needed after Black Cobra -- their sound is a little southern, a little eighties, with the usual death rattles replaced by a singer (what?) and harmonies and everything. If hair metal took a pause at grunge then came full circle back to earnest, Priestess might be that band. With breakdowns worthy of shotgunning a beer (or sipping a julep?), their sound was interesting at least, but overshadowed by Black Cobra's two-piece filling out the same sonic space with twice the gutpunch and half the reminiscence.
And then: High on Fire. This is Matt Pike's band, it's Matt Pike's party, and Matt Pike is the shit. Starting the set shirtless he stalked up to the mic and lets this voice out that seems so easy -- head down, mouth barely open -- like a hellhound. Matt Pike was made for this, one of those real deals. He plays lead guitar like a truant high schooler, half-smiles and showboat (with huge rings on the fret hand - baller) and little pretension. Sea sludge and continuous constants from the bassist and drummer (less than remarkable), a hot crowded room full of drunk fantasists, and other than the pit nowhere to look but forward, nothing to do but nod and 'bang and. And an encore, and an end.