Live: Triptykon, 1349, Yakuza, And Immolith Paint It Black At Gramercy Theatre
I admit I groaned upon learning that New Jersey's Immolith would open the otherwise killer lineup of Yakuza, 1349, and Triptykon at Gramercy Theatre last night. Both times I'd seen them previously, I was nonplussed by their mid-'90s black attack, and wasn't looking forward to politely headbanging through their set again. But much to my shock and enjoyment, Immolith played with a little more fire and conviction this time, sharpening their riffs and kicking the speed up a notch, elevating them from (blackened) white noise to a band worth unpolitely 'banging for.
Either those guys sacrificed a few extra goats during their pre-game ritual, or they were just flat out freakin' pumped to open for Tom G. Warrior. What kind of self-respecting metal musician wouldn't be? Tom was a crucial part of the force that pushed metal down into the darkness in the '80s, away from glitz and glam and closer to the dissonant, evil, and occult. His first two bands, Hellhammer and Celtic Frost, helped create the template for the death- and black-metal to come; Triptykon, his third creation, was undoubtedly the star attraction tonight.
Yakuza raised a few eyebrows when frontman Bruce Lamont whipped out not only a tenor saxophone, but a soprano as well (think Kenny G). Unfortunately, the crowd wasn't really in the mood for anything other than total aural darkness, as evidenced by consistent chants of "THIRTEEN FORTY NIIIIIIIIIIIIINE!!" between every song. Too bad, because to the open-minded listener, the Chicago quartet's blend of smooth, prog-jazz post-metal and jagged metallic hardcore was actually pretty cool. Lamont also proved that playing the sax shouldn't keep you from freaking out like a seizure victim onstage. As for 1349, these purveyors of black metal at its most brutal received a fanatical welcome and provided a much-needed boot in the teeth to all the recent neutered, listener-friendly black metal that's washed over New York in recent months (thank Alcest). Culling their template from black metal's early-'90s glory days, the Norwegians inject 21st-century musicianship into some off-beat, backwards riffing, schizoid shrieking vocals, and the carpet-bomb battery laid down by the human drum clinic known as Frost.
Tom G. Warrior did a damn smart thing when he admitted to Decibel back in May that his new project was merely the next phase of his legendary career (there was a book written about it, for Chrissakes). With that nod to his past established, he can draw from Celtic Frost as much as he wants -- they even opened with a CF song, "Procreation (Of the Wicked") -- but remains free to experiment and attract a new audience under the banner of a new band, saving himself from the naggings of old-school purists. A quick glance at the crowd confirmed an equal mix of young and old (as in 40 and balding) metalheads.
With Triptykon, he's taken Celtic Frost's atavistic evil riffing, spread it out into 10-minute doom-y epics, and added heaps of distortion to the dark and gooey riffs. The effect is like listening to Morbid Tales on barbiturate: The tempo drops, but the tension increases as the riffs rumble in your gut. The relentless pounding went on for an hour, the crowd headbanging in slow unison, until Tom and Co. left the stage in a cloud of distortion, feedback, and the weed cloud that had blown out from the men's room. All in all, a perfect evening, though next time they had better play "A Thousand Lies," or they'll be torn to shreds by a crowd denied what would surely have been the best metal sing-along of all time.
Better Than: Blowing all your money on cough syrup and an original pressing of Apocalyptic Raids.
Critical Bias: I like Weedeater as much as I like Immortal.
Overheard: "I wish it was louder."
Notebook Dump: Corpsepaint doesn't go with a button-down.
Most Metal T-Shirt: Braylon Edwards' Jets jersey. DUI and proud. Plus he could beat up everyone here.