Thursday, June 07, 2012

The Illustrated Man

I dig tribute tracks. I'm not sure what that says about me – I dunno, maybe I'm just morbid – but I do.

Yesterday, tellingly enough during a rare astronomical event, literature lost one of its true visionaries, Ray Bradbury. At 91 it's tough to think he didn't have a good run, but it's a loss that resonates with all who enjoy the written word. Whether your thing is fantasy or horror or sci-fi (and whether or not you ever experienced the exquisite language of the man himself), Bradbury shaped the landscape of what I colloquially refer to as geek lit.

Cats like Stephen King and Neil Gaiman quickly had their say regarding Ray's death and the very real impact his work had on their own, and my buddy Eugene weighed in as well via a track called "F.451."

A dystopian dirge has never sounded so sweet.

"We've got too many internets." – Ray Bradbury

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Dungeons & Drinking

DethlehemOver the weekend I made one of my regular trips up to Charlotte, but, surprisingly, this time it wasn't for a hip-hop show at the Milestone. Instead metal was the order of the day at NoDa's Chop Shop, a joint I'd been hearing about for a while and had been meaning to check out anyway.

The Shop is a bit of a rare bird in North Davidson; like most of the local clubs it's nested in the remnants of the neighborhood's old textile area – in this case a repurposed warehouse – but there's an obvious lack of the sort of cookie-cutter gentrification that generally pervades the area. It's run by a co-op of locals, and boasts a distinctly eclectic feel that carries over to the venue's musical presentations. The Chop Shop was home to the closest date of Pittsburgh fantasy metal band Dethlehem's current tour, and, as this is an act I've been raving about for months, I simply had to go.

As I said, it was a very guitar-heavy bill. I missed most of both early openers' sets – GA's thrash-punkers Don’t Pet Hatchet and local doom outfit Stronghold Crusader – but did manage to catch a blistering performance by NIHM, a Buffalo NY-based 3-piece that relocated to Concord over a decade ago. This is a crew whose final number, a cover of the Beastie's "(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (To Party!)," was worth the price of admission alone.

While the honor of closing out the night went to local legends the Poontanglers, Dethlehem upheld their headliner status with true style. Though most PA bands would've felt handicapped deep in the Carolina wilds (not to mention performing with a substitute bass player, the indubitable Hank the Guy), I'm excited to say that our noble band of adventurers really shined and the show was everything I'd hoped for and more.

Hitting all the high points of The Ghorusalem Codex, Vol 2: Of Magick & Tyranny – save, perhaps, its lengthy midpoint "Spelljammer" – the band ably combined swords and sorcery with elements of thrash and death metal to create the most epic concert experience this side of GWAR. With new lead vocalist Brutalitus the BloodBeard leading the charge cuts like "Circle of Deth" managed to turn a meager audience into a singular engine of boot-stomping D&D destruction. Overlord Brom's thunderous double-bass kept perfect pace among the screaming harmonics of axe-men Hildor and Bovice on joints like "Sky Palace of the Dragonriders," and guest keyboardist Allie Oxenblood (who also provided a third layer of vocal harmonies and a dash of fire eating) thickened up the mix nicely.

It was that rare event where the band on-stage and the gathering crowd both seemed to be enjoying themselves to the fullest. Many swords were swung, much alcohol was consumed and, hopefully, many t-shirts and custom dice were purchased.

Dethlehem have returned home for a brief respite before continuing the second leg of their tour in two weeks, but with upcoming stops in Ohio, Wisconsin and Maryland, I imagine many of you still have the opportunity to see them perform. If this brings them within driving distance, I highly recommend that you check 'em out. The sheer strength of their performance and their wonderfully outlandish stage presence is only outmatched by how truly personable the guys are while having drinks and snapping photos with the fans.

Big ups to my boys Seamonkey, Sean, Brad and Sy for kicking it with me at the show, and sincerest of thanks to the whole Dethlehem family for assuring that I and everyone else at the Chop Shop had a night of unabashed metal majesty.