Monarchist, Pig Mountain, Grass, Machete!, Spark to Inferno
April 10, 2011
The Deal: When I heard that the boys from Pig Mountain were going on tour with Grass, I was so stoked for them. Not only had I heard awesome things about Grass, but going on tour is such a huge step for a band to take in many different respects. The show was booked months in advance and as it led up to the date, it progressed into a tentatively fantastic evening. First, Pig Mountain ended up recording an EP so it became the band's release party. Next, Machete!, Monarchist and Spark to Inferno were on the bill guaranteeing that I would have a delightful array of sludgy, delicious metal ahead of me. I was excited for this show for months and as the day was slowly approaching I was giddier than a short person with stilts.
The Good: Spark to Inferno opened up the night with a set that initially caught me off guard but was impressive nonetheless. They are an interesting mix of genres that isn't heard too terribly much nowadays. If you were to take the down-tempo breakdowns of hardcore music and use it as a foundation for catchy instrumentals, with emo-core vocals and a hint of indie, you would have these guys. They were well aware of their stylistic difference as the predecessors of the night but remained confident and gave it their all to a crowd that slowly grew as the music began to creep throughout the venue.
As Machete! took their places, I could help but giggle because the last time I saw them perform, I had an experience I could never forget. A drunken redneck lady that had a little too much fancy sauce began to striptease for the entire crowd to the sludgy greatness regardless of the reaction she was getting. Strange memories aside, I was anxious to see them again because they are definitely one of the most powerful two-pieces I have ever encountered. With drums and bass- rhythm and melody that make your head swing before you even know it while they maintain the dominance of the most diligent stoner metal breakdown you can imagine. Machete! makes me want to go on a rampage then sink deeply into a couch. Their sludgy decadence led us away with the bulk of their work being instrumental with well-placed heavy vocals, the cherry on top of the sludgy sundae they create. Regardless of how many times I have seen them, it still baffles me as to how such multi-layered symphonic music can come from two people.
Grass, who hail from Philadelphia, took the stage next and immediately began radiating soul clenching instrumental ballads with sludgy overtones. Their music, to me, stands up to the beauty of Isis with their delicately overpowering sickness and emotional intensity. With two guitars, bass, an array of pedals and fierce, well rounded drumming, they took over the room feverously as everyone gathered in. Listening to them live made me want to destroy things and do cartwheels in the aftermath. I had heard they were good but I had no idea that their perfectly balanced melodic breakdowns would have the capacity to move me in a way I hadn't felt since the first time I heard Tool as a youngin'. I was astounded by how beautiful their music was. In fact, seldom am I horribly disappointed when a set ends but when they announced that they were playing their last song, all I could do was pout. I really just wanted to kidnap them and make them live here so we can claim them as our own and hear them live all the time.
As soon as Pig Mountain began setting up, everyone in the joint had began migrating their way towards the stage. In the midst of a tour, they had reached a comfort with each other that made their already breathtaking sludge astonishing. Their music makes you feel as if you are wading in a tub of sweet molasses, sinking deeper with each note they play and sucking you in a slow-motion whirlpool that will inevitably take you down. While Dustin Doob Outen sang with his throaty, remarkably clear voice, he backed up his lyrics with perfectly executed slightly bluesy, slightly southern but all out stoner metal guitar while Ricky Culp held the bass-line down like it was trying to start a fight and Dillon McKinnish backed it all up pounding on his drums. All of them kept the molasses sweet as we began to sink deep enough to taste it.
While completely in awe of the music, the lovely Mary Mo joined the crew to sing a Floor cover with her opera-trained voice and indefinitely massacred it. There wasn't a moment that you couldn't feel the love in the room reciprocating back and forth from the audience to the stage. I think I can speak for the majority of Charlotte who have encountered Pig Mountain when I say that we are horrendously proud of these boys for coming so far and making such effectual music in a matter of months. To be honest, there really are no proper words to describe them. I guess you will just have to buy their EP and experience it for yourself.
Already stoned on the fantastical music that had been circulating throughout the venue, Monarchist closed in the night with a set that kept the illness going like the black plague. Although they are a little less distorted then what we had been listening to, they maintained the relaxed, head swinging tempo in between sick, spine-tingling, creepy breakdowns of radiating guitars against a backdrop of heavy bass and solid drumming. Girls and boys alike head-banged before the stage to the immaculate roaring vocals and sea-deep reverb that enhanced the hammering drums, crashing symbols, eerie guitars and driving bass. If we weren't already entranced, their metal lullabies were the extra push we needed to bring us to the euphoric playground we were all trying to reach.
The Bad: Although I do not find it to be a negative thing, well-done sludgy music can make you a little bit sleepy. It's just a minor side-effect of the relaxation caused by deep bass and enchanting vocals.
The Verdict: I almost feel renewed after living through this adventure. The entire night was a relaxing and heart-wrenching experience that projected an energy throughout the venue that cannot be replicated. I encourage anyone who has the slightest inclination towards appreciating sludgy music to check out Machete!, Monarchist, Pig Mountain and Grass the next time they play in town. The amazingness that encompasses each of these groups individually is enough to leave you breathless. Spark to Inferno, while not sludge, is always very worthy of your listening and hopefully next time they travel down from Baltimore they will grace Charlotte with their presence again. In the meantime, you can find electronic paths to all of this magical music on the interwebs via MySpace and Facebook.