From Ashes Rise, Final Conflict, The Obsessed At the Power of Riff, Saturday August 10th 2013
Getting free tickets for the Power of Riff, a festival of metal/hardcore at the Echo/Echoplex, left me a bit puzzled: I am not really a metal head, and I knew nothing about all these bands playing. Plus, I was not sure black/death/trash/punk metal could work at 2 pm when the sun is still shining with all its brightness and when wearing a black t-shirt doesn’t make any sense. I went at the Echoplex nevertheless after sunset to check out some headliners on Saturday night. Entering the club was right away a strong ear-shock, the music was loud as hell, plus every single guy looked like Rob Zombie… what was I doing there?
It isn’t exactly my kind of music but the ambiance was too intense to leave now, I ended up spending more than 3 hours there, successively watching From Ashes Rise, Final Conflict, and The Obsessed… it was only a few hours of this all-day heavy music marathon but my ears are still ringing from the experience.
From Ashes Rise was a quartet from Nashville relocated in Portland, and they are definitively there to erase any idea you may have about the city of roses’ music. The singers were alternatively hurling/yelling over some heavy metal/punk music, although their official genre is ‘crust punk’, a mix of extreme metal and anarcho punk. The result was dense as an English morning fog and the sound was landing on your shoulders like a screed of lead. It was more AC/DC than doom metal, actually it wasn’t doom at all, and a bunch of fat hairy guys suddenly started a mosh pit in the middle of the crowd, forcing me to run away for fear of being crushed. The drums were shooting like guns at an outdoorsman sports fair, the guitar riffs were climbing on the top of each other, and I couldn’t understand much of what they were screaming. ‘Are we deaf from the silence?’ I heard one yelling… oh I was definitively deaf, is it necessary to say it one more time? The front row was totally unbearable with or without earplugs, their sound was making my guts vibrate, resulting in a total eardrum slaughter.
Next was Final Conflict, and we were back to hardcore-metalcore, with a super aggressive sound and lyrics, at least when I could get it… I heard a few ‘Fuck the LAPD’ and other social and political verbal diatribes, and despite being a bit less loud than the previous band, they looked as tough and attractive as a Tolkien’s evil character! Sorry but the guitarist’s haircut was kind of nightmarish… Distortion, aggression and yelling assaults were their constant territory and they weren’t ready to surrender any of it. I counted 18 songs on their setlist, but it was delivered-like-bullets short ones. The singer, who was actually the only one really moving in the band, did remind us several times he had played this game for a very long time (since he was 19 in the early 80s), and apparently he was still a big believer of the political message, ‘I am not a religious man but we are blessed to be here’ he said to the crowd, yelled I should say. A serious fight in the crowd erupted during their set, a totally normal result of this testosterone exacerbation.
The last band of the night, the Obsessed brought a different crowd, who may have been outside smoking a joint or two when the other bands were playing? In any case, the singer/frontman Scott ‘Wino Weinrich’ looked like a sort of doom metal Willie Nelson with a raw growl, backed up by a heavy head-banging Yeti-like guitarist. Muddy, sludgy, slow moving, the music was building up at a snail pace, then going into long distorted and dynamic electric guitar solo jams. I have read that Black Flag ex-frontman Henry Rollins has described The Obsessed’s sound as ‘a man getting angry very slowly’ and I couldn’t agree more. Kyuss they were not, but there was a bit of that same stoner rock idea, some endless stick-in-the-mud songs suddenly soaring after long minutes of distortion and doom metal riffs. It was late, and I am not sure they were even marking a pause between their already long songs, so I got kind of lost in the music, looking at the head-banging crowd and hypnotized by Wino’s impressive guitar playing.