more black: Dethklok at the Armory.
Avenue Armory, Oct. 25
Thousands of fans were crushed to death Sunday night in the
Armory as Dethklok debuted their new jingle for Duncan Hills
Coffee. “Scream for the cream,” growled lead singer Nathan
Explosion as hundreds more fans were scalded to death by free
samples of Duncan Hills’ finest brew. Then it got even weirder—naked
merwomen slaughtered one another and their merchildren, epic
battles took place between tunic- wearing druids on space
eagles, bog demons were awakened from the deep. Thankfully,
all of this all took place on screen as the fleshy members
of Dethklok tore through their “ultra brutals” numbers.
Like “a Disney Ride, but with murder” is how comedian Brendon
Small, the man behind the hit Cartoon Network show Metalocalypse,
has described taking his fictional cartoon metal band on tour—and
he is dead on. Dethklok are a perfect caricature of everything
metal, served up in sickly sweet, tee-hee-hee Disney perfection,
but in a totally evil sort of way.
Small, who can shred a guitar like a certified metal badass,
was joined live on Sunday night by a backing band of musicians
with real metal cred. These included drummer Gene Hoglan of
Strapping Young Lad fame, but the real focus was on the screen
behind the band, where the fictional cartoon members of Dethklok—Nathan
Explosion, the brooding muscular lead singer; Skwisgaar Skwigelf,
the blonde-haired Swedish lead guitarist who never parts with
his Gibson Explorer; Toki Wartooth, the Norwegian rhythm guitarist
who sports a Fu Manchu moustache; Pickles, the drummer and
sometime backup vocalist; and Bassist William Murderface,
whose self-esteem issues might just have something to do with
his bass parts always being mixed out of the band’s tracks—got
to show off their chops.
The live band would churn out three of their ditties about,
well, death and then leave the stage for Face Bones, their
iconic mascot, to help new metal fans. Face Bones invited
female fans to get in line to sign a waiver for a chance to
please the band sexually after the show. He also gave the
audience a quick tutorial in moshing with the help of two
scientists, who concluded that not helping someone up after
knocking them down would be a “dick move.”
After Face Bones finished, the band members would return and
dish out three more. It was metal in convenient portions.
It helped keep everyone’s eyes from exploding from the concentrated
The music? Yeah, the music of Dethklok is simple but fast,
aping metal styles and throwing them together into propulsive
satire such as “Mermaider,” “Bloodrocuted” and “Hatredcopter.”
As simple and absolutely dumb as some of the songs are (sample
lyric: “Swords? Check./Saws? Check./Clubs? Check./Claws? Check./Hatred?
Check./Anger? Check./Mermaid? Check./Murder? Check.”), they
do something few metal bands these days do, something that
Hoglan’s former band and metal-critic darlings Strapping Young
Lad did very well when they were on: They display a real glee
and passion for the power and joy of metal music. On Sunday
night Small reminded me why I still like metal music, and
through his satire reminded me why that is sometimes hard
Mastodon, a band who on most occasions would be the highlight
of the night, trudged through their latest release, Crack
the Skye. It was a dull affair. They utilized video screens
too. Rasputin and Stalin battled in hell and space for something
or the other, while a comatose man sat in a rocking chair.
Think the video for Metallica’s “One” on acid. The band’s
latest major-label release, produced by grunge master Brendan
O’Brien, just feels monotonous live. The band’s newfound singing
voices were strained and nasal over their usual stuttered
progressive riffs. It wasn’t until they reached into their
back catalog that things got interesting.
Old-school hardcore despair- mongers Converge spat vitriol
over minute-long disasters. Then they got even uglier and
howled over splintered dirges. It felt like pure spite. But
it was delivered in an almost apologetic manner. After each
song, lead singer Jacob Bannon announced how many songs the
band had remaining, almost as if he knew his band’s rough
edges might be too much for neophytes who had ventured out
to see the cartoon guys play metal.
Feel-Good, Comfy Blues
Keb’ Mo’, Kristina Train
Egg, Oct. 25
to define the meaning of the blues gets tedious fast, but
one thing it is not is life when it gets too comfortable.
Keb’ Mo’, who hails not from the Mississippi Delta or Chicago’s
South Side, grew up in California as Kevin Moore, where he
landed a job in Los Angeles as a staff writer for Tijuana
Brass leader Herb Alpert’s A&M label. After his apprenticeship
in A&M’s pop shop, he harnessed his powerful baritone,
mastered both acoustic and electric guitar, and reinvented
himself as Keb’ Mo’, bluesman—and I use the term with reservations.
Sure, the outward trappings of the blues are all there, but
many of his lyrics tend toward feel-good, clichéd formulas
that reflect little of the genre’s anguish, originality, and
raw vitality. Notwithstanding the two-time Grammy winner’s
impressive musical accomplishments, that’s why Keb’ Mo’s generously
long set at a packed Egg ultimately fell short.
Backed by Reggie McBride on drums, Les Falconer on drums,
and Jeff Paris on keyboards, mandolin, and harmonica, the
tall, lanky Moore could do it all as a roots guitarist: play
slide on his steel-bodied resonator guitars, fingerpick his
acoustic with his thumb driving the bass strings like a piston,
and toss off zippy single-note lines on his shiny red electric.
And his vocals were just kickass-strong, clear, and unerringly
on-key. He was an engaging showman to boot, setting out a
notepad on the edge of the stage for the audience to come
up and write their requests on, and then joking that he wasn’t
going to play any of them (he did).
His lackluster songwriting, though, didn’t give props to his
chops or his singing. Early on came “City Boy,” with its hackneyed
theme of the urbanite yearning for greener environs: “ ’Cause
I want to go where the buffalo roam, I’m just a city boy looking
for a home.”
In “Whole Nutha Thang,” Moore disclaims interest in cocaine,
weed, or whiskey, but confesses that jelly roll has possessed
his soul. That’s an obvious rehash of Muddy Waters’ “I Just
Want to Make Love to You.” He did redeem himself briefly,
though, with a pristine solo version of Robert Johnson’s “Love
Opener Kristina Train, accompanied by an acoustic guitarist-
keyboardist, was a dazzling young singer, and it seems likely
that even though her maiden CD just came out, we’ll be hearing
lots more from her. Train played the fiddle just passably
on one song, but at her age she has time to woodshed. The
highlight of her appearance was “Spilt Milk,” the well crafted,
jazz-tinged title track of her record.
few hundred music fans and supporters turned out for the second
annual WEXT benefit concert Friday night at the Exit Dome
(the WMHT studios in Rensselaer). This year’s lineup featured
live performances from Troy power trio Super 400, solo-acoustic
powerhouse Sean Rowe, chamber-pop ensemble Eric Margan and
the Red Lions, and Railbird Jr., a truncated version of the
band fronted by Sarah Pedinotti (pictured). Lest you forget
why it’s OK for a radio station to throw a fund-raiser for
itself, WEXT is listener-supported.