Two VICE Writers Walk Into a Metal Show
Six Feet Under. So Wormy.
I shouldn't really have to get into why metal is often problematic. It is music made almost exclusively for straight white males by other straight white males, and its lyrics/imagery/sound meet up at the crossroads of power and powerlessness, confidence and insecurity, willful ignorance and abject nerdiness. "Metal Culture" tends to be violent, insular, and you are only allowed to wear black. Also, people in metal bands tend to eat people with more regularity than people in other types of bands, which is not very cool.
Metal is all about power, both overtly and non-overtly. Lyrics that deal with violence are more often than not about possessing agency over whatever you're doing violence towards, and lyrics that traffic in the occult, or mystical stuff like dragons and clouds and Thor and shit are about the power of knowledge—by inserting obscure references in your songs, you're creating an inclusionary/exclusionary relationship with the audience. In shutting a part of your potential audience out, you privilege yourself. It's also arguable that metal accomplishes this more obviously through the harshness of its sonics, but at this point I'm tired of typing a bunch of intellectual shit. The point is that metal is impotent, insecure, offensive and depraved, and I fucking love it.
Last night, two members of the intrepid VICE music squad (me and my friend Beca) went and saw two good metal bands and two kinda shitty metal bands at the New York stop of something called the "18 Nights of Blood" tour. No one bled, despite frequent pleas for blood on the part of the opening band Gunfire-N-Sodomy, who bill themselves as "the world's only acoustic death metal band." This is bullshit for a lot of reasons, namely because there are a lot of videos of dudes doing acoustic death metal on YouTube, and judging by the lead singer's GG Allin t-shirt, he should definitely know that the dude from Anal Cunt once invented Acoustic Death Metal as a joke. Beca and I would later converse with this band's drummer, and he would refuse to take his luchador mask off. It appeared that he did not know the definition of the word "hyperbolic." The band consisted of said masked drummer and the aforementioned beshirted singer, joined by a guitarist in a Jesus Lizard t-shirt and a dude who helped the lead singer scream. He was sort of like Flava Flav, if he'd worn all camouflage and a ski-mask. On a scale from "Not Kvlt" to "Kvlt," I would rate them "Non-Kvlt (Redneck Division)."
"There's no Williamsburg hipsters in here!" the GNS singer screamed during his band's set. Well, technically Beca lives in Greenpoint, but I definitely live in Williamsburg, so I had a particularly vested interest in finding out whether or not this was a triumphant rallying cry or a call to have me extinguished. He would later say, "We like to drink, we like to smoke, we like to fuck, and we like to kill. But we're too fucking stupid to write about all of those things at once. So this song is called 'Fuck...AND KILL.'"
I do not need to tell you that Gunfire-N-Sodomy is not a good band. You have a brain. You are using it for reading. You understand that Gunfire-N-Sodomy sucks. The next band was called Revocation, and they weren't terrible, but they weren't particularly interesting. They were the band that employed the most openly Satanic imagery, which to me seems like the mark of a metal band that wants to be taken pretty seriously. Their logo sorta rips off Slayer's a little bit, which is generally another sign of wanting to be taken seriously. Still, thirteen minutes into their set nobody in the crowd had formed a circle pit or had killed each other or anything! What the fuck, audience? Part of the point of a metal show is trying to beat the shit out of everyone else there—live metal is disorienting and can fuck you up both physically and sonically. It's visceral shit. If you're not banging your head or trying to punch someone in the face, you don't really get it. It really came as a relief when Revocation's lead singer ordered the audience to form a circle pit, and then like four people got in the pit! Four Metal Gold Stars to those guys!
The next band was the inexcusably named Dying Fetus, who were kinda like a much better version of Revocation—the guitar playing was tighter, the drummer astonishingly chest-feeling-y, and the lead singer's head was shaved more closely (there is nothing less "metal" than head stubble). Until Dying Fetus came on, I had been drunk. But now, I just felt alive. The circle pit was really churning, with like twenty or so dudes doing that weird skanking/air punching thing, running around following each other, and swinging each other around like middle schoolers dancing to "Cotton Eyed Joe" (It wasn't just the kids at my middle school who did this, right??). Anyways, Dying Fetus is awesome, and their name, combined with the song title "From Womb to Waste," is the reason I typed, "Why am I willing to put up with such stupid bullshit for good metal?" into my iPhone's notes.
The final band was called Six Feet Under. There were five people in the band, and it kind of made me sad that they hadn't thought to call themselves "Five Feet Under" instead. They made me headbang until I was dizzy, and their lead singer—who with his old-guy dreads reminded me more than a little of Keith Morris—kept saying really awesome stuff. As he was introducing a song called "Revenge of the Zombie," he said, "This song is about a bunch of dead people." With all due respect to the time Andrew W.K. introduced "Ready to Die" by saying, "THIS IS A SONG. ABOUT BEING. ALIVE!", this is the greatest, most understatement-y bit of stage banter I have ever heard. We ended up leaving halfway through Six Feet Under's set, because no matter how many times their lead singer can say, "Take this like a hammer up the ass," and regardless of the fact that Wikipedia just told me that they're the fourth best-selling death metal act in America, we were really there to mainly see Dying Fetus. Okay, Beca's turn.
Dying Fetus in a corn field
All I knew about the show we were going to was that a band called Dying Fetus was on the bill and Drew had warned me "not to worry." So I thought staying in the dark about it all might make an interesting contrast for the piece. But I mean, I had a cat in college called Pantera so clearly I have a glittering font of metal knowledge. (I don't. She took on the nickname Panty and only heard her full name when in serious trouble. I continued my homely metal repertoire of ISIS, Shellac and a little Locust.)
I drank a whole Styrofoam cup of mostly tequila before the show to prepare. I'm about 5-foot-3, so I was ready for some weird. I also briefly considered ways I could accessorize some booty shorts from any of the bands' merch tables. The official uniform of metal show goers was well represented: All dark jeans and black shirts with a graphic of sorts. I nearly wore an American Apparel skirt which surely would have outted me during the anti-hipster declaration Drew mentioned earlier. Lucky we were incognito.
Gunfire-N-Sodomy took the stage first and since they were acoustic, I didn't have to dip into my earplug reserves yet. G-N-S are wizards with words, introducing a track by relating it to current events. "Did you hear about that motherfucker in Miami eating someone's face?" The singer Filth, in partial gimp get-up, asked the audience. We did. "Doesn't he know faces are for raping?" (Sidenote: Everyone should follow this band's Twitter. On May 18, they did a little crowdsourcing, tweeting, "Question? Is face raping really funny?" Even better, on May 24, "Is it wrong that when I see a stripper with a C-section scar I always think about fucking her in that wound? – Filth." I am so happy these guys live in the same town as me.) Then he corralled the audience closer to the stage to get their faces "raped" by his "big black cock." This was wrong in two senses. One because if the fans wanted Filth's genitalia rubbed in/penetrating (??) their faces, isn't it then consensual? Also, this guy was white. Anyway. It was a little boring save all the ski masks. Ladies were invited backstage. I asked Drew if he thought I should go, for the story (also because I have only one metalhead in my number, so there was the lure of novelty). He did not. Instead, I opted to have like seven vodka drinks.
The best mic-check I've heard came from some random band I saw in high school. "Karate… choppp." Revocation now takes second place with "PISS!" and "FUCK!" in alternating order and volume. It was also nice to see all the demonic icons and a circle pit happen. The music was loud enough to finally call for the ear plugs, but it was also crappy enough that I didn't mind drowning out parts.
At this point I was definitely drunk. My notes became inky drawings of what the inside of my head looked like. The most coherent are "well," "profesh" (which I was definitely being) and "ANYWAY," underlined three times. But I do recall Dying Fetus performing just wonderfully. So much hair flying and awesome, impossibly deep vocals that sometimes sound like burp-talk (you know what I mean). I just wish I had seen someone bleed or something. There were not enough bodily fluids flying through the air.
Then Six Feet Under played and I'm pretty sure I loved it. I'm pretty sure I was there for them. Pretty sure. Between all the personal headbanging and the tequila + vodka headbanging, I cannot be positive. Regardless, the show was a good one. We managed to keep our faces intact despite all the melting and dodge all the "cunt-stabbing" threats, so I will count that as a win.
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