Sunday, June 18, 7 PM
Fit For An Autopsy, Tombs, Moon Tooth @ Strange Matter – $15 (order tickets HERE)
Regarded by some as “the Lord’s day,” it’s only fitting that for denizens of the local metal scene, this Sunday night becomes the prime opportunity this week for a total metal overdose. This week’s featured show is only the first of two brutal metal shows happening this Sunday night, with start times staggered to allow diehard headbangers to hit both. Read about the second show below, but for now, it’s time that we discuss Fit For An Autopsy.
This New Jersey deathcore band has created a scorched-earth landscape of downtuned metal destruction over the course of their four LPs, making things even heavier along the way by pulling a Lynyrd Skynyrd and adding a third guitarist to thicken up the sound. Latest LP The Great Collapse is indeed thick as fuck. You’d better hope that both your neck and your earplugs are thick as fuck too, because the headbangs induced by Fit For An Autopsy’s chugging breakdowns, which carry a clear influence from New York death metal pioneers like Suffocation and Internal Bleeding, are gonna deal out some severe damage to the top of your spine if you’re not adequately prepared. Not to mention the wall of low-frequency metal noise that’ll be aiming straight at the center of your skull. Batten the hatches!
Tombs are second on this lineup, but definitely not a band to be overlooked or ignored by any means. Fronted by former Anodyne leader Mike Hill (obscure reference, I know, but I loved Anodyne), this band mixes black metal shredding with the sort of epic atmospheres that mark the best material by Neurosis and Isis. Expect hypnotic metal voyages with a tendency to shred your face in gloriously unexpected fashion. Moon Tooth are new to me, but a first listen to their debut LP, Chromaparagon, makes clear that this band has a lot to offer, with incredible technical complexity the likes of which would please fans of Meshuggah married to a power metal sensibility that should certainly make Iron Maiden diehards smile. Worth showing up on time for, that’s one thing I can promise you. That this is just the beginning of a night of metal insanity, I can also promise.
Wednesday, June 14, 8 PM
ExKnives, Suneater, Debrider, Epiphany @ Strange Matter – $5
Strange Matter’s Locals Only series rolls on, and the 37th installment reaches the same high-quality benchmark that was set by the first 36. The headliner for this one is ExKnives, the latest project from frontman Rashad Penn, who I’ve been acquainted with for over 20 years now (a fact that makes me feel old as dirt). Penn’s latest project sees him unleashing his strong, melodically-focused baritone voice overtop of some incredible post-hardcore grooves that land somewhere between Quicksand and Kyuss. Since these are a couple of my favorite bands of all time, ExKnives definitely hits a sweet spot for me, and are likely to hit one for you too if you give them the chance. This event is the perfect opportunity to do so.
Suneater is another local band that I’m excited about, though I’ve definitely explained all of this to you in previous columns. Here’s a quick recap: think Mars Volta at their most grounded mixed with Jane’s Addiction at their most psychedelic, but if both were being covered at the same time by a thrash metal garage band. Or something like that. It’s heavy, it’s weird, it’s not what you expect, but it’s rad. Local trio Debrider plays dreampop sounds that generate slow-motion hypnosis. I may previously have mentioned something about being in this band, but that’s no longer true. Apparently they thought they could find a better bass player than me. Oops, my bad! Anyway, brand-new progressive rock group Epiphany opens this whole evening up. Everything here is new, local, and well worth your time, so don’t miss a minute of it!
Thursday, June 15, 8 PM
All Them Witches, Handsome Jack, Shagwuf @ Strange Matter – $12 in advance/$14 day of show (order tickets HERE)
As a horror movie fan, the first thought inspired for me by Nashville’s All Them Witches is “wait, it’s ‘all OF them witches,’ isn’t it?” But my second thought is, “Hey, this psychedelic Southern-style heavy blues band is pretty great actually.” So I’m willing to let these guys slide on their slight alteration of a classic Rosemary’s Baby reference, since their latest LP, Sleeping Through The War, is such a heavy-rocking monster of a record. I can’t call it metallic in any way, though I will say that it seems to draw inspiration from underground proto-metal legends like Blue Cheer and Bang. The fact that there’s some of that witchy San Francisco psychedelia from Mad River or the weirder Jefferson Airplane records thrown in only makes it cooler.
Basically what I’m saying is that you should see this band. And if the idea of what All Them Witches are doing pleases you, you probably also should catch Handsome Jack, a quartet out of Buffalo with a deeper blues base but a similar overall vibe to Handsome Jack. Keep the Blue Cheer reference from the last paragraph, and replace Mad River with Canned Heat’s muddy-boots heavy blues tendencies, and you’re somewhere in the area of what Handsome Jack are doing. Pretty dope, I must say. Add in Charlottesville’s energetic blues-rock crew Shagwuf in the opening slot and you’ve got a night of total awesomeness in store for ya. Nothing wrong here!
Friday, June 16, 6 PM
Strawberry Girls, Comrades, Belle Noire, DENS, pulses., Calm The Waters @ The Canal Club – $12 in advance/$15 day of show (order tickets HERE)
We take our first trip away from Strange Matter this week in order to head down into Shockoe Bottom and hit The Canal Club for this dope all-ages bill. Strawberry Girls, an instrumental trio from California, head this one up with some solid rock n’ roll grooves that are subtly technically complex but mainly focus on the catchy riffage. They’re a lot of fun to listen to, even if I do want to take a few points off for being yet another all-male band with the word “Girls” in their name.
However, I’m not gonna get too hung up about that, because the band I’m even more excited about on this bill is none other than Comrades. Formerly Richmond-based, this trio has made Colorado Springs their home for a little while now. Even before they left town, though, local gigs were a rare treat considering their incredibly busy touring schedule. Now, a return to their onetime home base is even more exciting, in the wake of 2016 sophomore LP Lone/Grey and its significant advancements on Comrades’ post-rock/metal/emo/hardcore hybrid sound. Drummer Ben Trussell and bassist Laura McElroy have settled well into their roles as vocalists, moving the band away from its once-limiting instrumental focus and taking them to another level entirely. This is a live experience worth having. I should probably find some room to discuss emotionally-driven San Jose quartet Belle Noire and the three RVA bands providing local support on this bill… except I guess I just did.
Saturday, June 17, 9:30 PM
Occultist, Black Mass, Death Of Kings, Deathcrown, Buzzard Dust @ Strange Matter – $8 in advance/$10 day of show (order tickets HERE)
This is looking to be a shred-tastic weekend at Strange Matter. Yes, we’re back once again to Strange Matter. I make no pretense of objectivity, and it is my highly subjective opinion that, pound for pound, Strange Matter is the most consistent venue in town where booking high-quality live music is concerned. The fact that they’ll put on a totally weird early show and then follow it with a late night metal-thrashing throwdown is a big part of what endears them to me. And while Froggy Fresh is intriguing, I can’t deny that my heart lies with this festivity of thrash metal violence, which starts late and runs far past my bedtime. That’s OK, though–it’s nights like this for which sugar-free Red Bull was invented.
Occultist should need no introduction at this point. They’re working on some new material for their next LP though, so if you’re as familiar as you should be with their previous work, there are still plenty of reasons to go see them again. Plus, come on, this band always kills it live! You should know this by now. As for the two killer touring bands on this bill, Boston’s Black Mass bring a mixture of thrash and first-wave black metal to the stage, while Atlanta’s Death Of Kings are drawing more inspiration from the early days of death metal and the legends from the southern state they share a border with, Florida. Think Death, Obituary, Deicide, etc. Both of these bands rip shit up in fine fashion, as do locals Deathcrown and Buzzard Dust. Hey, it’s Saturday night! Stay out late and headbang until the wee hours. The crew will understand if you show up late to brunch at 821 the next morning.
Sunday, June 18, 10 PM
Sacrificial Slaughter, Voices Of Ruin, High Priest @ Bandito’s Burrito Lounge – Free!
Remember my discussion back at the beginning of the column about a brutal metal doubleheader? Here’s the other half of that whole affair, and what’s really great about it is that it’s free! So if you spent all your ducats getting in the door at the Fit For An Autopsy show, never fear–you’ll be able to wander into the back room at Bandito’s with impunity! Assuming your ID checks out, of course. By the way, if you do have any cash left, you should still bring it, because Bandito’s nachos are the perfect mid-evening fuel for two more hours of headbangs!
Sacrificial Slaughter are your hyperspeed death metal merchants of brutality for this evening, with some ripping shredding sounds absolutely worthy of such an evocative name. Their latest record, Generation Of Terror, may include a Carnivore cover that I’m uhhhh not too sure about, but the question of how seriously to take the late Peter Steele is a question this column is unprepared to address, so let’s just talk about the original tracks–which are great! Fans of the earlier (in my opinion better) Carcass and Cryptopsy albums will find plenty to enjoy here, and there’s a more straight up thrash element that should appeal to those who enjoy bands like Toxic Holocaust as well. Voices Of Ruin are a Cali crew of headbangers who shred hard but maintain a subtle melodic sense that gives their music a multilayered appeal. I hear elements of Death Angel, Unearth, and Emperor here, though I may be crazy for making those comparisons. The point is, this band is good! Go see them. And get there on time in order to enjoy last-minute local addition High Priest, who will make this nacho-fueled shindig an even better value for your zero dollars!
Monday, June 19, 8 PM
Daniel Romano, Villages, Saw Black @ Strange Matter – $10 in advance/$12 day of show (order tickets HERE)
This column’s been pretty strongly focused on metal and other heavy sounds, which of course always makes me happy but may be a bit too much for some of you. If you’re looking for a breath of lighter, poppier fresh air, though, you’ve read far enough, because an evening with Daniel Romano is just what the doctor ordered after a weekend crammed full of loud heavy sounds. This Canadian singer-songwriter has just released his latest LP, Modern Pressure, and its strong connection with 60s psychedelic pop strikes all the right nerves for a lover of both garage rock and the shimmering mid-60s joys of prime Beatles and Byrds tunes (and I am definitely a lover of both).
Songs like the highlights from Romano’s latest LP, which include “Sucking The Old World Dry” and “When I Learned Your Name,” seem like they’d hold a particular appeal for the guitar-wielding youths of RVA’s underground pop scene, and therefore it’s no surprise to find Crystal Pistol co-owner Saw Black playing a solo set farther down this bill. His recent release, Azalea Days, will definitely strike a nerve for those who dig formerly RVA-affiliated songwriters like David Lowery and the late, great Mark Linkous. Villages, who round out the bill, bring singer-songwriter Justin Paciocco together with members of Avers, Red light Rodeo, Shack Band, and more. This group’s alt-country/Americana inflections are warm and pleasant, and should bring a smile to the faces of pop lovers everywhere.
Tuesday, June 20, 8 PM
Antichrist, Vorator, Left Cross @ Strange Matter – $10 in advance/$12 day of show (order tickets HERE)
Haha ok anyway back to the metal. Sweden’s Antichrist are definitely not for tourists, as their dense, powerful thrash sound harks back to the sort of bands who populated the classic Metal Massacre comps of the 80s, merging the heaviest of the NWOBHM bands with the raging speed of early American hardcore to create the deadly speed metal sound exemplified by Possessed’s Seven Churches, Sodom’s Persecution Mania, and Exodus’s Bonded By Blood.
Antichrist have arrived in America, likely carrying enough spiked bracelets and bullet belts to give an NSA agent pause, in support of their second album, Sinful Birth. This thrashtastic slab of destruction may not be a completely new thing under the sun, but its restatement of basic thrash principles originally derived 30-plus years ago is a worthy example of a fine form brought forward into the 21st century. Or maybe I just have an endless appetite for thrash metal. That’s certainly a strong possibility. I can also eat pizza for dinner every single night and never get tired of it. So I guess maybe if you think there’s something questionable about a steady diet of pizza and thrash, this show might not be for you. But if that’s what you think, then frankly, I question your tastes. Quit being a weirdo! Go to Strange Matter Tuesday night, headbang like crazy for Antichrist and their excellently thrashy local openers, Vorator and Left Cross. And after the show lets out, wander over to Christian’s for a cheap late-night slice. It’s the right thing to do.
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