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!