Pallbearer, Grand Lord High Master And Gatecreeper At The Echoplex, Thursday May 18th 2017
I don’t think Metal is my scene, it’s male and raw, violent and hurling, but it’s also very diverse and intriguing. I ended seeing Mastodon at the Palladium not a long time ago, and I was at the Echoplex last night to see Grand Lord High Master, Gatecreeper and Pallbearer… a full program, and if the two first bands were really taping into the trash-horror-death metal scene, headliner Pallbearer revealed itself to be more rock instrumental than death metal, with some prog-rock inspiration.
Grand Lord High Master was part hardcore part metal aggression, with a charismatic frontman roaring like a beast over a dark pulsing bass and some noisy sonic disarray, going in many directions. They have been described as a chaotic blend of hardcore punk, thrash, and progressive metal, and the turmoil they installed in my brain was creepy, a sort of savage trip to hellish dissonance with a punk rage and a few occasional prog-rock chords, hidden behind a profound anger. Vocalist Nathaniel Fletcher was bawling his lungs out, as he was holding the mic stand high and taking the most wounded pauses, before majestically moving, almost in slow-motion at times, before jumping into an abrupt rush of rage. Amusingly, he was wearing a very worn-out Mickey Mouse shirt, that he removed mid-set to act even more aggressively. After a while I realized that these four men wanted to cover the tracks, they didn’t want to sound like any well-defined genre, they were going into very heavy territories no doubt about this, but their set was substantially inspired by a lot of different things including punk hardcore and the rawness of the wild. They may have slaughtered a few animals at the end, as the nightmarish vocals got even more terrible, barely masking the brutal drumming. People around me loved them, a lot, I found them fascinating and intriguing.
With a moniker like Gatecreeper, what else but death can you expect? The crawling creepiness of the night just got monstrously bigger, louder and plain scary. The band played under a foggy slimy green light and I could barely see anything or hear the voice of the singer ,who was nevertheless hurling in the mic, while banging his long hair… The rest of their set was a succession of guitar carnage, tomb-shaking, grave-digging and other morbid thoughts… although I had no idea at the time what they were talking about in their songs, I found out, after a little research, that vocalist Chase Mason is narrating some bleak tales from his former life as a heroin addict, which can explain the morbid theme. Men (because there were only men at this show at a few exceptions) started a violent mosh pit behind my back, and I really wanted to get this very insecure feeling at a show like this. ‘You are here to see Pallbearer,’ said the singer between two songs… ‘No, just you!’ told the big guy next to me, … some people are really into this death metal scene it seems and not even the hard sun of Arizona, from where Gatecreeper is from, will prevent them to wear black and worship death. May be it’s a way to sublime it with these riffs from-beyond-the-grave and this constant attitude of triumph, as Mason was rising his arms in the air after a song, like a boxer after a harsh battle.
Pallbearer was heavy and doom but there was nothing morbid about their monumental rock-metal music despite their funeral-theme moniker. Listening to them for an hour and half made me realize how complex and multi faceted metal can be. They even had calming parts with aerial guitars before starting another tempestuous episode, and their moody instrumental soundscapes sometimes made me think about something as spacious as Mogwai’s own compositions. All I can say is that the sound was big, huge, anthemic, even celestial with colossal parts by vocalist and guitarist Brett Campbell and powerful harmonies with the help of bassist Joseph D Rowland.
I still don’t understand how a quartet can produce so much volume, but they were only four on stage, with an electronic table separating one of the guitarist from the others, and if I didn’t see them using it a lot, they did at one point, adding more complexity to their sound. Overall the rhythm was slow in its grandiose majestic doomness, but the compositions were very meandrous, there was not a lot of shredding involved but you could get totally lost in their thorny songs (as a matter of fact one of their tunes is called ‘Thorns’). However, the cathartic part was always coming, slow and inexorable, after endless detours into these imposing riffs, which often sounded like trucks attempting to move mountains. I could use all the titanic, colossal, epic herculean,… adjectives I know to describe their music, which often had an arduous, laborious quality, as the quartet effectively did some heavy lifting for a long time.
However, there was a real melancholia attached to many of their sprawling instrumental parts with Pink Floyd-like guitars rising above the density of the music, proving you can be earthshaking and heartbroken at the same time, and when you read what the band had to say about their last album, ‘Heartless’, you may understand where it comes from: ‘Instead of staring into to the void—both above and within—Heartless concentrates its power on a grim reality. Our lives, our homes and our world are all plumbing the depths of utter darkness, as we seek to find any shred of hope we can.’ Why metal has to be this tragic, this deep, and this metaphysical?