Photo by Brandon Belcher
Hawks, stumbling around in a fury of guttural amps and broken rhythms, ascended the stage last Thursday night at the Basement. They were like a marching horde of disgust slowly making their way around a bend behind a rocky ravine framed by jagged mountain tops. As their set forged on, the band continued to gain energy, becoming louder with more clearly phrased melodies and progressions.The last songs were face crushing and demented. It was the kind of street-side dissonance that feeds on road kill and sleeps under the bridges next to your suburban home. Frontman Michael Keenan, an ill tempered and malicious pot-bellied pig, hung a mic like a noose from the rafters and soon revealed himself to be the sort of beast that would sink the mic deep into your belt-line, fall to his knees, and begin stroking off like a flickering red light in a five dollar motel. Hawks finished so strongly that you could hear elements of Josh Homme oozing out from the thick and sticky muck that hung from all the spiked-ear listeners.
Next to play within the graffiti scarred walls and splinters of PBR cans was Fight Amp, hailing all the way from New Jersey. The Garden State has long produced an industrial slag that filters through copper pipes into the very lungs of its disheveled inhabitants in a beautiful and abhorrent way. The trio was tight and strong, producing carbon copies of metal-driven riffs that combined in nuclear ways, with unstable and radically abrasive vocals. Their set was full of rocking heads but seemed to solidify, much like Hawks, towards the end. They got comfortable and lured us in with a lilting and murderous lullaby. Then they left the way a burning bowl of chili sinks through your gut and stays with you the next day.
Photo by Brandon Belcher
Whores. is the hand that fired the bullet through Honest Abe’s frontal lobe. The power trio have crafted something so mesmerizing that you could chew your nails ’til you bleed from your cuticles before you once again become self-aware. You feel small in the midst of their sounds. The riffs are not uniquely from the forefront of the genre but are effectively constructed in a way that you could hear drops of silence in the music like a rusted faucet pounding in your head late at night. Their neo-sludge noise rock is like a heard of hungry pigs sifting through shit and bone.
Whores. is comprised of Christian Lembach on guitar and vocals, Travis Owen on drums and Jake Shultz (also of Norma Jean) on bass. Their motto is “Good Times, Bad Vibes.” They set up the stage as equals, each occupying a third of it, with the drums placed sideways, front and center. Lembach used a graveyard of pedals, smashing them like tombstones under a sledgehammer. The guitar hung heavy like a languid lament, with a moaning and insulting tone lashing out from the body of a tube-powered monolith of speakers. Their voice is clear, even when screaming from the inner Great Spirit that wanders from their rash frames. Their drummer is so nasty and rotten that he can curdle the contractions of your heart and reprogram it with war-stretched skulls capped with the thinly stretched skin of captives. The bass chugs and growls underneath a finely crafted, insidious wall of sound. Together they have carved a deep epitaph explaining what the genre used to be and how it should be presented. We must all eat the elephant, but I suggest taking one bite at a time.