Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Gaza, Defeatist, Tiger Flowers and Don't Give a Fuck at The Acheron, Brooklyn, 11-12-2011

     On my way into Brooklyn, my friend Eric (bassist of Flourishing) asked me if I wanted to meet up for dinner before the show.  Since I hadn't eaten yet, I took him up on the offer.  After parking near the venue on a deserted industrial side street of Bushwick, I walked a few blocks over to meet him and his girlfriend, Alison, at a Roberta's Pizza.  We were shocked to find out that the wait was two and a half hours to be seated.  Really Roberta's, 2.5 hours for pizza?!?  Other hipsters looked dismayed as they were turned away at the door by the ridiculous wait.  Bushwick is rumored to be the next Williamsburg, but it has a long way to go.  It does have its fair share of indie coffee shops, restaurants and bars, so it didn't take us long to find an alternative.  We settled on a nearby Mexican restaurant, Taqueria El Fogon.  This establishment was super authentic, from the food to the decor.  My fish tacos paired nicely with a Negra Modelo, but I regret not having a chorizo taco. 

     After the fine fare, we made our way over to the venue.  While walking through the streets, Alison noted that this area seems really gritty, in a quiet, cold and post-industrial kind of way.  This is in line with my earlier assessment of Bushwick, or at least these couple of blocks.  Dinner ran a little late, and we didn't make it to The Acheron until about 9 PM.  After joking with the door guy about the authenticity of my $100 bill, I went in.  Note to self: why am I always carrying large bills at shows?  Maybe it's subconscious thoughts of hitting the merch table hard later in the night.  Anyway, I heard a few chords from the opener, Don't Give a Fuck, and then made my way to the bathroom.  Word on the street is that the Acheron is a DIY spot, and in true punk spirit the bathroom had no soap.  Uncleansed, I headed back to the stage area only to find that DGaF finished there set. 
     The Acheron's stage area is long, narrow and dark, and off to the left is another small room for merch and a bar.  The walls are adorned with colorful flyers from previous shows.  The special for the night was a can of Busch and a shot of your choice for 5 bucks.  Since I had to drive back to NJ later that night, I went for something a little more tame, a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale.  We met up with my friend Curran (Wetnurse, Today is the Day, Precious Metal) at the bar.  Today is the Day recently played the MetalSucks Fest the previous weekend, so we talked about that for a while and the progress of his many other creative projects.  Eager to see local favorites Tiger Flowers, we went back to the stage area.  The last time I saw Tiger Flowers was at the Cake Shop in Manhattan with Flourishing and a generic NeurIsis clone from Norway, the name of which escapes me.  Damn, they have grown into quite a formidable beast in the live setting.  First off is the singer who is high energy and has over the top stage presence. Couple that with their burly, noisy and intelligent hardcore, and you're in for a treat.  Tracks like Weight come across so well live.  The drummer plays with heart and not technicality.  The bass player however is much more precise, switching from pick to fingers when appropriate and even doing some slap work at times.  The day after the show, I was so impressed with them that I picked up their new EP on Amazon.  It didn't set me back much; a mere $3.96 for a 4 track ep, so do yourself a favor and buy it now.  Overall the ep doesn't quite stand up to their live show, but it's still very high quality for a first release.  As they mature more as a band and continue to play out, their material will only improve.  

     At the conclusion of Tiger Flowers set, Eric and I went to the bar for another round of Sierra Pale Ales.  We ran into Doug, the vocalist of local tech-death heroes, Pyrrhon. It was my first time meeting him, though I've seen his band a few times.  I remember complementing him on his menacing stage presence.  Their new album, An Excellent Servant but a Terrible Master is out now, but I can't seem to find it on itunes or amazon for digital purchase.  Hopefully they will have physical copies at their next show.  Things started to get loud and nasty in the other room.  Defeatist were up.

     A few days prior to the show, Defeatist announced that they are breaking up.  If my memory serves me correctly, their statement said something to the effect that 'this turd needs to finally be flushed down the toilet.'  Though I've never been very fond of them, their assessment of themselves is a bit too harsh.  Bassist Josh  and drummer Joel played some Radiation Blackbody to warm up.  That's their noisy math rock side project which I highly recommend.  Defeatist's set was, well Defeatist.  Their grind is short, fast and right to the point.  That's usually the case with grind, but they just don't give you anything to grab onto.  There's no meat on the bone.  They're like a grind light switch: grind on; grind off.  Their skill set is top notch though, especially Joel.  Drummers out there should take note of his ability to control volume and precision at hyper speeds.  

     All the way from Utah, Gaza were up to headline.   Last year I got my hands on their album, He is Never Coming Back (Black Market Activities, 2010).  It didn't do too much for me and was sort of in one ear and out the other.  Albeit bruising, burly and brutal, I didn't quite get their wide spread appeal.  That was of course until I saw them perform.  Some bands are clearly must see live bands, and Gaza fit into this category. Now I see why they have had a strong influence on other bands such as Engineer, Bone Dance and Tiger Flowers.  Their volume was just massive. One of the guitarist's speaker cabinets was this monstrous grey beast (see pic below).  I don't know what brand it is but I've never seen anything like it.  The vocalist, who stood at an imposing 6'5"+, ran into the crowd and picked someone up and carried them into the back of the venue on a few occasions.  At one point it was the crowd doing gang vocals versus me, and me versus the wall.  Guess who won?  The wall.  Yea, it was that kind of show and worth every moment.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Argonauts, Torchbearer and others in New Brunswick, NJ, 10/7/2011

     Around 7 o'clock, I picked up my friend Tom and we headed out to the show.  His wife seemed a little scared about where we were going in New Brunswick, so we did our best to assuage her fears.  I'd rather not divulge the actual address, needless to say it was at a venue called 'the alamo'.  Maybe the name implies that it's NB punk's last stand against the police's crack down on underground shows?  With that in mind, punk shows in NB these days go by secret word of mouth at a location that is unknown to anyone outside of the punk community.  The flyer for this show actually says to "ask a hot mule" for the location.  Finding the addresses are usually not that hard; any band member will gladly give it to you if you don't have the trappings of a narc.  Famed drummer Dave Witte actually supplied me with the location. 

     After a long walk through the stygian streets of NB, we rolled up on an eerily quiet house.  My friend said, "this is the place?"  I responded with, "we have the right address, but it doesn't look right."  We stopped a guy walking into the backyard and asked if "this was it."  He said "I don't know what you're talking about" and walked on.  Not rebuffed, we ventured forth into the backyard.  We were hit immediately with long, cold stares from a sea of punks and metal-heads pounding beers and puffing cigs.  Dave broke the ice with, "these guys are cool."  We shook hands and things gradually warmed up from there. 

     Shortly after we arrived, the first band was up.  About half the crowd in the backyard made their way down the cellar door to the basement.  The guy checking people in seemed annoyed by my $20 bill (it was 5 bucks to get in).  Maybe it was because I was one of the first to pay and he didn't have a lot of change, but there is an outside chance that larger denominations are not 'punk'.  Needless to say, the basement was cramped, but not packed with people (yet).  There were two clear escape routes so the chance of a 'Great White' was little to none. Dethroned Emperor were up.  These dudes were probably the first two man (guitarist/vocalist and drummer) death-thrash band I've ever seen.  They were energetic and raw, but they definitely had that 'opening band' feel.   My head was nodding along to their catchy riffs and I especially enjoyed the vocalist's roar, but the two man approach to this genre is just not enough.  They would be greatly benefited by the addition of a bassist to fill out the bottom end and maybe some backing vocals.  A second guitarist wouldn't hurt either. 

     At the conclusion of DT's set, we made our way upstairs to the fresh(?) air.  I found myself thirsty and asked Tom if he wanted to head to the liquor store.  He agreed and off we went.  A few lengthy blocks later we came up to a Spanish bodega.  My hopes of finding some quality beer were low, but upon entering I was pleasantly surprised by their selection.  Keeping things fresh and crisp was on my palate so I decided to go with two pints of Paulaner Hefeweizen.  Tom doesn't drink beer and went with the far less 'metal' Mike's hard lemonade.  We barely made it back in time for the next band, Regents.  They were sort of a screamo thing; I dug them.  Supposedly their drummer, who gave a phenomenal and powerful performance, is from a well known older hardcore band, the name of which escapes me.  They did seem a little out of place with the other bands though, given their style.  Tom, who likes keeping things punishing and brutal, said, "you actually liked that shit?"

     After Regent's set, the backyard was super packed with anticipation of the headliner.  Many of the NJ/NYC hardcore/metal community's elite members were in attendance.  In addition to the cast of characters in Argonauts, I noticed Ben Weinman from The Dillinger Escape Plan, Mike Olender from Burnt by the Sun, Doc Coyle from God Forbid, Mike Hill from Tombs/Anodyne, Rich Hall of 1000 Knives Booking and a few of the dudes from Syd Barret/Arson.  Even Adam Doll (ex-The Dillinger Escape Plan)was there, paralyzed from the arm pits down in his wheel chair.  Ben carried him down stairs on his back to watch Argonauts later in the evening.  The presence of so many hardcore luminaries points to the unique nature of this show.  When is the last time Dave Witte played a tiny basement, for instance?  The feverish tension of the evening was ready to boil over but was cooled by the noisy hardcore stylings of New Brunswick's own, Torchbearer.  These guys have come a long way since their promising first seven inch, The Worst is Yet to Come.  I've been following them since seeing the band open the Lifetime/Endeavor benefit for Rich Cunningham at The Court Tavern and the Rorschach reunion show with Black Kites at Asbury Lanes.  Their set tonight was tight, cohesive and focused.  The layering of guitars and controlled feedback put them in a different league than the openers.  Most of the material was from their new album, The Dirty Swagger, which is available as of this post.  I have yet to pick it up (digital only) but I plan to (and you should do the same).

     We chatted with Amit, the vocalist of Torchbearer after their set.  My wheat beers were treating me well too, as you can imagine.  They were a good choice to counteract the musty, Radon filled atmosphere of the basement.  The time has finally come; Argonauts were about to perform.

     The headliners are clearly a NJ metal/hardcore super group: Dimitri Minakakis (ex-The Dillinger Escape Plan) on vocals; Dave Witte (Municipal Waste, ex-Disordance Axis, ex-Burnt by the Sun, countless others) on drums; John Adubato (ex-Burnt by the Sun, ex-Time's Up) on guitar; and Brett Bamberger (East of the Wall, ex-Postman Syndrome) on bass and backing vocals.  With that pedigree, I was beyond excited to see what these guys would create.  No advanced tracks were online to check out and they have no recorded material yet, so no one really knew what they sounded like going in.  Dimitri himself actually said it was their third show.  So did they live up to the hype?  Yes and no.  There were some surprises, but it wasn't what I was hoping for overall.  The basic riff and song structure clearly comes from Witte and Adubato.  Most of the songs sound like recycled or new BbtS material.  That's not a bad thing, as I loved that band, but what about doing something original or different?  During the set, I remember looking at Mike Olender and seeing a 'been there, done that' look on his face, and I can understand why.  As for Dimitri, he just seemed rusty, tired and out of gas.  I really expected more from his performance given his past abilities, but I hate to say the truth that it was lack luster.  There was a brilliant and shinning point to the performance though, and that was Brett.  He is a monstrous and technical bass player and adds a welcomed and fresh presence to the band.  His brutal backing vocals bring depth to the their sound as well.  I'm not saying that Dave and John didn't perform well, it's just that it felt like it was more of the same.  This band has an infinite well of potential from which to draw.  Let's hope in the future they try to expand their horizons and play more often.  As for Dimitri, break out the Under the Running Board 7" and pay attention and practise, because you need to bring that shit back!



Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Wolves in the Throne Room, Thou and Krallice at The Bell House, Brooklyn, NY, 9/13/2011

     My night began at The Draft Barn in the Gowanus section of Brooklyn.  This is one of many European style ale houses that have cropped up in the city as of late, and is clearly in the top tier.  They have over 300 beers in bottle in addition to 30+ on draft, focusing on Belgian, German and eastern European brews.  The food offerings include lots of sausages, schnitzel, and other Hungarian, Polish, and Romanian items in addition to standard American pub fare.  I decided to go with a pint of Mother's Milk Stout while I reviewed the menu.  It came down to either the gypsy steak or the pork special, and the bartender convinced me to go with the latter.  Fortunately, it was a good choice.  My plate was piled high with a giant slab of roasted pork on top of a fried potato pancake.  This was topped with a generous heap of sauteed onions, mushrooms and pickles.  Needless to say, the milk stout complimented the artery clogging dish quite well.  Toward the end of my meal my friend Brian showed up and I ordered another pint.  This time it was Captain Lawrence's Imperial IPA.  My high hopes for this brew were dashed due to over the top citrus flavors and an overall lack of balance. I wanted more hop bite, but this was a floral hop, not an acorn hop.  Tasting notes aside, it didn't stop me from finishing my pint while Brian wolfed down his chicken special (same as the pork special but with chicken).  While eating it he exclaimed, "do you realize how unhealthy this is?"  Yes, he cleaned his plate.  Tummy's full and two rounds of beer in, we made our way over to the venue.

     This was my first trip to The Bell House.  The main venue area has super high ceilings with wood beams and chandeliers.  This gives the place a sort of made to look old feel, but not in a bad way.  Local favorites Krallice were up first.  A few weeks prior I had the pleasure of seeing them perform at the House of Vans with Converge and Touche Amore.  Despite a strong performance, they seemed out of place with the other bands on that lineup and the hardcore kids didn't seem to take to them very much (as would be expected).  The sound in that huge venue is kind of washed out too, so that didn't help their intricate and challenging tunes.  Tonight was a different story though.  They were clearly in their element with the WitTR/Thou crowd, and the acoustics in the much smaller venue greatly enhanced the band's sound.  They were captivating, focused and powerful as always.  This band is not to be missed and very well might be NYC's best metal band at the moment.  It would be nice to see Mick Barr's blackened moan mixed in with Nick McMaster's confident death growl more effectively.  They tend to use either one or the other in each song.  In the live setting, some of their most powerful elements are the dynamic changes.  Nick's bass work tend's to follow it's own capricious path while the busy guitar work Barr/Marston compliment each other.  Unfortunately, I have yet to purchase their new album, Diotma, but it is next on my list.  Gilead Media recently pressed it on a sweet 2X12" 180 gram black vinyl.  These guys are on the edge of becoming huge, and they should consider doing lengthy North American and European tours to take their act to the next level. 

     Sludge monsters Thou were up next.  After heading to the merch area after Krallice, I ran into the drummer from Tombs, Andrew. We chatted for a while and discussed their recent European tour, which went over very well.  I'm happy to hear that Tombs is getting the attention they deserve.  As a long time fan of the band (and their previous bands, Anodyne and ASRA) it's great to see them become a success.  Definitely check them out live and prepare to be crushed by the hammer of blackened punk!  We caught the last half of Thou's set.  These dudes are so prolific that it's hard to keep up.  Some of their tracks were really aweseome (punishing groove fest) but it's not a good sign when the best one is a cover of Black Sabbath.  The vocalist needs to change up his approach too since his blackened rasp gets monotonous over time.  The crowd was totally into it though. 

     My final brew of the night was a pint of Six Point's Sweet Action.  It was a very easy drinking bock and definitely a session beer; a perfect compliment for a night of metal.  The headliners were now up.  Prepare oneself to bathe in the glow of Cascadian glory emanating from Wolves in the Throne Room!  Was there glory? Eh, not really.  The only thing I bathed in was the pungent stench of patchouli oil, body odor and incense.  It was as if a crusty, dread locked jam band played black metal.  Don't get me wrong, I love Diadem of 12 Stars, though Two Hunters didn't do much for me.  With their epic, majestic, melodic and lengthy tunes, I should have known that watching them perform would become an endurance test.  Maybe if there were couches or chairs it would have been more enjoyable, but then i would have to fight back the urge to fall asleep.  Krallice's tunes are of similar length, but they hold my interest the entire time.

     Who would have thunk it, but locals Krallice stole the show!  Despite this, do yourself a favor and support the WitTR/Thou tour if it hits your area.  Be sure to have a cup of a strong cup of coffee while experiencing WitTR though...

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Graf Orlock - Doombox EP

     Gor-lock returns with another round of 'cinema grind'.  This time the movie theme is the late 1980's and early 1990's, which is a great choice when you think about it.  Race was a volatile issue back then, with situations such as the Tawana Brawley case, the Bensonhurst NY riots, the OJ Simpson case, and the Rodney King verdict  and subsequent riots in LA.  The movie samples chosen capture the time period well and invoke their nasty anger and hatred.  So we have an awesome theme once again, and to further amplify the nostalgia effect the good men of Graf have packaged the doombox ep in the most ridiculous vinyl packaging ever (no joke).  The 10" and discography cd(!) comes housed in a fold out cardboard 1980's era ghetto blaster (see picture above)!  Even the liner notes are written in an 80's style electronic equipment instruction manual.  The Torche vinyl from Robotic Empire has always been the most impressive vinyl packaging that I've seen, but this might take the cake. 

     So we have the theme and spirit of the age and totally over the top packaging, but what about the tunes?  It's the typical fare of their older albums, so don't expect anything new or innovative.  Their punky grind is produced extremely well which gives the ep a bludgeoning sound.  The highlight track for me is Watts 93 B4 Graduation, which is killer grind with some southern/sludge breakdown parts.  Overall, their attack rages, yet is still lacks staying power.  Like their previous releases, Graf Orlock write great parts, but not memorable songs.  For me, Graf once again will be remembered more for their embrace of cinema and excellent vinyl packaging, and less for their actual tunes.  Packaging: 2 stars; Music: 1 star; Overall: 3 of 4 stars. 

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Doomriders, Unearthly Trance, Sweet Cobra at Union Pool, Brooklyn, 2/12/2011

     My second show of the year was yet again at my favorite NYC venue, Union Pool.  My last entry has a detailed description of the this fine establishment.  Since I arrived early and didn't have dinner yet, I made my way over to the El Diablo taco van.  This time around I decided to expand my horizons by trying a vegetarian taco in addition to a shrimp taco and a Jarritos pineapple soda.  The vegetarian taco was really not for me due to the fact that the main ingredient is refried beans.  I have to admit that I am a novice when it comes to Mexican food, as this was my first experience with refried beans.  The texture was as if someone chewed a mouthful of black beans and spit them out into my taco.  Due to my hunger, I reluctantly shoveled it down and then I was rewarded with the delectable shrimp taco.  The Jarritos is super awesome too with it's natural sugars and not overpowering pineapple flavor.  They even carry it in supermarkets now!

     With my hunger satisfied, I made my way into the venue.  Sweet Cobra was setting up when I walked in and the place was already packed.  After the show I read that it did indeed sell out.  As for Sweet Cobra, are the metal?  Are they punk, or is it hard rock?  Their sound and style is hard to pin down.  They sort of remind me of a less bad-ass version of Karp or Big Business.  Don't get me wrong, their mid-paced groove and the bassist's punchy rhythms got quite a few heads to nod along.  The band has had a taste of hardship too with the death of guitarist Matt Arluck last year.  It also happened to be their first show in NYC and they received a generally warm reception by the crowd.  As for me, they were fun live but I wouldn't buy any of their stuff.  It's interesting to note that the ridiculously awesome label, Seventh Rule, has put out some of their material.  They have also released the excellent Invisible City album by NYC vets Wetnurse (highly recommended).

     About 1/2 way through Sweet Cobra's set, my friend Brian arrived with his buddy Raffi.  Attending shows is one of my life's greatest pleasures, but it's that much more sweet when shared with friends.  After Sweet Cobra's set, Brian suggested that we head to the bar.  Raffi claimed that he wasn't drinking and that he only wanted to hang out and watch the bands.  His planned sobriety ended quickly when when Brian came back from the bar with two cans of PBR.  I settled on the much less 'metal' pint of Guinness.  Oddly enough, the bar tender opened the pub can and put the entire can in the pint glass.  Maybe it's a new way to serving it to increase it's flavor or possibly she was too lazy to pour it out, but at any rate the dry Irish stout was enjoyable.

     Up next were Long Island New York's godly doom kings Unearthly Trance!  The last time I saw them was when they opened for Eyehategod with Tombs at Europa last year, and they were equally devastating if not better tonight.  They opened with a slow and sinister atmospheric track with vocals by drummer Darren Verni.  After that they really hit their stride with the track Permanent Ice off of The Trident.  Most of the songs were from their latest effort, Electrocution, and possibly newer stuff like the split with Endless Blockade.  If you've never seen them, definitely check them out as their cold and crushing version of Khanate meets Warhorse is not to be missed.  Word of their awesomeness has spread due to their inclusion on the 2011 version of the prestigious Extreme the Dojo tour of Japan, where they will be opening for The Melvins and High on Fire.  I have to say though that UT seemed out of place with the other bands on the bill.  Given the extreme nature of UT, it was weird seeing them paired with the hard rockin' sounds of Sweet Cobra and Doomriders.  With that aside, UT delivered the black acid goods and were clearly the finest band of the evening. 

     After their set I remarked to Brian that I felt like I was crushed by a glacier of ice and now I'm trapped in a freezing tomb for the rest of eternity.  He quickly remarked, "stop being so melodramatic!"  That was followed by another round of PBRs and a fresh pint of the oddly poured Guinness for me.  Since the Pool is low on quality beer, I decided to stick with something consistently satisfying although familiar. 

     Nate Newton's Doomriders took the stage soon after our second round.  Doomriders is a serious departure from his work in Converge.  They seemed similar to Sweet Cobra with more of a Danzig feel.  Some tunes were catchy, especially the title track off their new album, Darkness Comes Alive.  The melodic and mid paced main riff of that song got the fans into the pit and crowd surfing.  Despite being well received by the crowd, in general I wasn't all that impressed with them.  After watching the set, it was hard to think that Nate is also a member of the unreal hardcore band Jesuit, who will be reuniting for the Unbroken show at Santos' Party House in April.  At one point, Nate asked the crowd, "how's your vibe?" which I thought was a little odd, or maybe I missed his sarcasm.  Later he told a joke about a kid having AIDS which made Brian yell, "you've killed my vibe!"  That joke more or less solidified my dislike for the band, their sound and their attitude. 

     In retrospect, it was worth it to see Unearthly Trance, but I could have done without the other two acts.  At least I was in the presence of good company, which helped elevate my 'vibe'.  The next show on my calendar is Portland's black/folk masters Agalloch with Worm Ouroboros at Le Poisson Rouge in NYC.  Cheers!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Trap Them, Black Anvil & All Pigs Must Die at Union Pool, Brooklyn

     It's been about a year since I've posted an entry to this blog.  The extended dry spell has nothing to do with a decrease in my interest in vinyl or attending shows (or my desire to write about them).  My life has been so hectic that it has been difficult to find the time to relax and make an entry.  Between establishing an intimate and wonderful relationship with my girlfriend, finishing up graduate school, starting a new corporate job  and the return and subsequent departure of my sister and her children, 2010 was a whirlwind of a year.  Despite all of my personal happenings, vinyl was purchased (Floor - Below and Beyond box set; Converge - Jane Doe reissue; Krallice - Dimensional Bleedthrough) and show were attended (Gorguts/Portal/Bloody Panda/Krallice at the Knitting Factory, Brooklyn; Eyehategod/Unearthly Trance/Tombs at Europa, Brooklyn; Floor/Gods & Queens at the First Unitarian Church, Philly).  Now that life has seemed to have temporarily relaxed, my pen will be put to paper as the vinyl spins and the extremity is delivered in the live setting.  Here's to hoping that 2011 will be a prolific year.

     My first show of 2011 took place on January 14, at Union Pool in Brooklyn and featured a vicious lineup of Trap Them/Black Anvil/All Pigs Must Die.  More about the show later.  Let's talk about the venue. Living in New Jersey definitely has it's pros and cons, and close proximity to Philly and Brooklyn is on the plus side.  Union Pool is located directly off of the BQE at exit 32 which is very convenient for those who drive to shows.  It's located in the uber hip Williamsburg section of Brooklyn.  In terms of the venue itself, it could very well be the most unique setting for a metal or hardcore show in NYC.  First, there is no sign outside the venue, so you could walk right by it and not know that it's there.  Upon entering, you're in a dark L shaped bar with a mediocre beer selection, a photo booth for the hipsters, a DJ spinning calypso music and Michael Jackson, etc.  If you can get passed that stuff, you'll notice a faint smell of chlorine.  The venue was once a pool supply shop, and some of the original mirrors and other decor from that old establishment persist which give the venue some character.  In the back of the bar is a door to a large outdoor area.  This section consists of a large fire pit (very desirable in the winter) and a taco van, if you can believe it!  The taco van, which is adorned with dancing skeletons and other cinco de mayo themed artwork, offers some of the best soft tacos I've ever had.  They also have burritos, nachos and Jarittos soda to wash down the delicious Mexican fare.  Needless to say, the line at the taco van is rarely short. 

     While outside you'll notice another set of doors which leads to the actual venue.  As you enter, there is a tiny lobby for ticket sales and merch which leads to the stage area and bar.  This standing room only location can occupy 100 people or less, which makes performances there very intimate.  As for the beer selection, it is similar to the offerings in the main bar.  As I walked in, APMD were setting up, so I decided to sit my thirsty ass down and have my first pint of the evening; a Sierra Nevada pale ale on tap.  Unfortunately, this fine Californian ale was flat!  Though disappointed, it didn't stop me from sipping as the night progressed.  Now for the show...

     APMD were first to hit the stage.  Their claim to fame is clearly the fact that their drummer is Ben Koller of the almighty Converge.  That is enough to hype up any hardcore/metal band, but they also include a members of Boston hardcore acts The Hope Conspiracy and Bloodhorse.   So did they live up to the hype?  Eh, sort of.  The bass player (who was wearing a sweet Hell Hammer shirt) had a punchy bass sound and kept up well with Ben Koller's energetic drumming which created and awesome rhythm section.  The guitar player's jangly riffs were kind of washed out by the power and force of the drum/bass attack, so overall they weren't very cohesive.  The vocalist (awesome Integrity shirt with artwork my the famous Stephen Kasner) sang with a straightforward yell style which was appropriate but not outstanding.  Integrity is actually a good starting point to describe the overall dirt-punk/hardcore sound of the band.  After announcing that it was their first show, everything seemed to make sense.  These guys have a lot of potential.  They just need to work out the kinks in the live setting and their individual performances might converge (no pun intended) into a formidable beast.

     Next up were local black metal dealers Black Anvil.  I've heard plenty about them and know they get a lot of shows in the area but I haven't had the opportunity to see them live yet.  They were formed out of the ashes of infamous NYHC veterans Kill Your Idols, but this new band bears little resemblance to the hardcore punk of KYI.  These guys definitely have the black metal look down pat: one guy had a sick Celtic Frost shirt, they were clad in all black (is there a darker color?), long flowing black hair, bullet belts, intimidating stage presence, etc.  So was their performance style over substance?  Yes and no.  Black Anvil have there moments, don't get me wrong.  At times, the loathing spewed forth from the vocalist sounded like Johnny Morrow (RIP) of Iron Monkey, which is a good thing.  The band's thunderous attack is best when played fast and melodic.  At those times they are catchy and super entertaining.  But almost half of their songs were long, mid paced plodders, almost like a weak version of Bolt Thrower.  I did see a few people yawn and someone scroll through their smart phone during those tracks which means they shared my sentiment.  Not much else to say about these guys except to reiterate that they are middle of the road. 

     Prior to Trap Them's set I decided to refuel with a shrimp taco (ah, the stuff of life) and a Newcastle brown ale.  The heavy malt of the classic English brown complimented the flavorful salsa verde quite well.  With my hunger now satisfied I made my way back into the venue for the headliner.

     I'm going to come right out and say that Trap Them is some really good shit, especially live.  They are kind of like a complete package: the buzz saw guitar tone of Brian Izzi coupled with the rasped bark of Ryan McKenney and the confident dirt-sludge attack of bassist Stephen LaCour is a true force to be reckoned with.  The set consisted of tracks from most of their back catalog including a few off their new album, Darker Handcraft, which is to be released by Prosthetic Records in March.  Whether old or new, all tracks were played with a ravenous hunger for filth.  A pit understandably broke out (none were present for the other two bands), much to McKenney's delight.  At some point towards the end of the show, blood started gushing from his forehead and I'm not sure if it happened intentionally or not.  Either way, it made his appearance extra seedy and dangerous.  My only complaint about the band's performance is that it was too short.  We all could have used at least 2 -3 more songs.  With that aside, the headliner was clearly the standout performance of the night.

     Overall, it was an enjoyable evening of extreme music.  I'm looking forward to my next trip to the Pool, which never fails to entertain.  The next two shows on my calendar are Eyehategod/Misery Index/Black Anvil/Strong Intention at Johnny Brenda's in Philly on 2/16 and back at the Union Pool again on 2/12 for Doomriders/Sweet Cobra/Unearthly Trance.  Stay metal, cheers!