This edition of the Decibel Tour seemed to focus on bands whose aesthetic and roots are linked with a re-embrace of native cultures and a pre-Christian, even pre-Neolithic, spirituality.
Headliner Enslaved may have been making melodic death metal for going on three decades but its songs have often taken an approach to its lyrics that attempt to reconcile oneself with the culture of its Nordic ancestry, harmony with the natural world and ethical treatment of other humans. Its music sounds like the stuff of Norse sagas.
Wolves in the Throne Room’s own music and presentation as a fireside ritual aims to put the musicians and those at the show into a state of mind of a culture and spirituality in which we all recognize the interconnectedness of things and to embrace that vitality collectively. Not from any part of Scandinavia, Wolves in the Throne Room’s connection to an environment is the Pacific Northwest inspired perhaps by Native American traditions but in a way that doesn’t try to co-opt those ideas so much as envision a parallel but resonant relationship between human culture and the natural world.
Myrkur’s own majestic soundscapes and air of ancient mystery ritual fit in well with the bill. And like the other artists the sense of otherworldly energy didn’t prevent a relatable human dimension to her performance. Strumming heavy-yet-ethereal guitar riffs and vocalizing with a uplifting, powerful, enveloping melodies, Myrkur came across like a legendary warrior poet of old. At the end of her set, though, Amalie Bruun, aka Myrkur, brought forth a hand drum that she used to accompany some traditional Danish folk music from centuries past and accompanied by nothing else but the drum and her voice, she was able to project the same kind of energy as she had with her band as if she was channeling the ancestors. It could have come across as a gimmick but Bruun’s natural gravitas carried the moment and made for an exceptional moment that night.
What:Jane/Eyre – Grapefruit Lab and Teacup Gorilla w/Dameon Merkl on vocals When: Friday, 02.23, 7 p.m. Where: The Bakery Why: This is a queer adaptation of Charlotte Brontë’s classic 1847 coming-of-age novel. So it’ll be storytelling and songs provided by the Grapefruit Lab collective and Teacup Gorilla who are bringing in noted local frontman and raconteur extraordinaire, Dameon Merkl who some may know as one of the vocalists in Lost Walks as well as his turns in 90s punk band Random Victim and noir rock phenoms Bad Luck City. Because it’s Teacup Gorilla, a band that has long developed a relationship with theater and writing experimental rock music that can only loosely be defined as post-punk or glam rock because its imaginative songwriting and musicianship is much broader than a single genre. The run of this production spans six performances starting Friday and Saturday evening of February 23 and 24 with a 2 p.m. matinee show on Sundays. On February 23, the opening band is Denver’s dream pop duo Plume Varia. February 24 has indie pop group The Green Typewriters on board. March 2 will include a performance from Ersatz Robots and the final evening show will have a surprise guest on March 3.
Who:The Kinky Fingers album release w/Don Chicharron and Godchild When: Friday, 02.23, 7 p.m. Where: Tooey’s Off Colfax Why: The Kinky Fingers have always been a band that made a virtue of simple, clean melodies. At a time when it seemed there was entire too much surf rock and neo-psychedelic rock, The Kinky Fingers shined with the strength of its songwriting. With its new album, Garbage Plate, the band has expanded its sound and boosted its emotional range. The album has been a long time coming. Recorded in the summer of 2016 in Rochester, New York, Garbage Plate is a surprisingly thoughtful set of songs that sound like party anthems. Regarding the meaning of the album title, the band says “[a] Garbage Plate is a plate of fried potatoes, baked beans, hot dogs, onions, mustard, and a chili-like meat sauce. Intense. As the name suggests, the music rings through so many genres, textures and tastes it feels a perfect fit for the deteriorating American dream, which once tasted so sweet and now feels more like a bellyache.” Expect the usual sharply observant songs about the vicissitudes of life with some poignant, and creatively rendered, social commentary mixed in. The Kinky Fingers will also play at the Treefort Music Festival in Boise, Idaho on Friday, March 23 at Ha Penny at 11:20 p.m.
Who:Slow Caves 7” release w/Gleemer and Panther Martin When: Friday, 02.23, 8 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: On its new 7”, Fort Collins’ Slow Caves seems to have evolved well beyond the more languid pace and sound of its earlier pop songs. “Poser” has some of the structure and dynamics of the band’s surf rock leanings but there is more grit and drive to its winningly polished melodies. Joining Slow Caves for the occasion of releasing its new record are noisy math rockers Gleemer and Panther Martin, a band that may have started out in the realm of garage and psych rock but its intricate yet uncluttered musicianship reveals a knack for writing songs of often surprising emotional complexity.
Who:Necropanther CD release w/The Munsens, and Abrams When: Saturday, 02.24, 8:30 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Denver death thrashers Necropanther are releasing a new album tonight with Eyes Of Blue Light. Imagine what it would sound like if a melodic death metal band Gothenburg style wrote a Dune-themed record inspired in part by Municipal Waste and Thrash Zone-period D.R.I.. Well, Necropanther recorded the album in Denver but got it mastered in Gothenburg, Sweden with Fredrik Nordström who has put his sonic fingerprints on the broad spectrum of that city’s melodic death metal scene. Also on stage this night are sludgy doom-sters The Munsens and the equally menacing Abrams whose own version of sludge/doom is energetically dynamic and otherworldly in the vein of bands like Neurosis and Isis.
What:Textures featuring Cpt. Howdy, Brother Saturn, MYTHirst When: Sunday, 02.25, 7 p.m. Where: Mutiny Information Café Why: This is the latest edition of the Textures ambient showcase. This time the return of heavy synth duo (trio), Cpt. Howdy, the super chill, abstract ambient of Drew Miller (of Chromadrift) as Brother Saturn (he calls it a shoegaze band and yeah, if you’re thinking more like Seefeel rather than the more rock-oriented stuff) and MYTHist’s electro-acoustic take on IDM.
Monday | February 26, 2018
What:Decibel Magazine Tour: Enslaved, Wolves in the Throne Room, Myrkur and Khemmis When: Monday, 02.26, 6 p.m. Where: The Gothic Theatre Why: Decibel Magazine, one of the major magazines that focuses on metal and heavy music in general, has been on this tour for several years now and this time out the even is headlined by Norway’s Enslaved. The band has always had melodic elements to its brutally majestic sound. But with it’s 2017 album E, the group seems to have written the music with a cinematic presentation in mind like they were composing a soundtrack for the next Thor movie. In a similar vein of invoking indigenous spirits and associated imagery in the music are the opening bands on this leg of the tour. Denver’s Khemmis is often described as a doom band but its songs far more melodic than such designations suggest. The hanging chords and sludgy flourishes are there but so is an apparent dedication to fairly traditional songcraft giving the band an appeal beyond what one might assume to be its audience. Myrkur, from Denmark, is the black metal project of Amalie Bruun. Her expansive, lush songs bring together the gritty and the sublime and transcendent matched by her seemingly effortless transition between. Mareidt, the project’s 2017 release, included a guest vocal from the like-minded Chelsea Wolfe on the track “Funeral.” Wolves in the Throne Room from Olympia, Washington all but retired from any active touring several years back so this is a rare chance to catch the band’s Cascadian black metal in Denver. The group performed in Colorado Springs in October 2017 in the wake of the release of its most recent album, 2017’s Thrice Woven. A WITTR show is fairly tribal in presentation with visuals invoking meeting at a communal fire to share stories and to participate in a collective ritual and the music is a manifestation of that spirit.
Who:Palm w/Spirit of the Beehive and Plague Survivor When: Monday, 02.26, 8 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Palm was originally from Philadelphia but calls New York City it’s home base these days. It’s flavor of neo-math rock is less focused on actual technique and more on what you can do with technique and dynamics if you inject some imagination into the playing and writing. If you’re a fan of groups like US Weekly, Laddio Bolocko, Don Caballero and A Minor Forest you’ll probably appreciate what Palm is doing. Its new album, 2018’s Rock Island, expands on the band’s previous, beautifully claustrophobic structures without losing its masterful ability to create tension and release at the perfect moments.
Who:Haunted Summer w/Tyto Alba, Ghostpulse and Magic Cyclops When: Monday, 02.26, 7 p.m. Where: Globe Hall Why: Haunted Summer could be broadbrushed as a post-chillwave dream pop project reminiscent of Devotion-period Beach House because its entrancing melodies are possessed of a similarly gorgeous emotional afterglow. But its Robin-Guthrie-circa-Mysterious-Skin-soundtrack guitar textures and drifty dynamics akin to those of Former Selves or Candy Claws. Whatever went into inspiring the band’s sound, it’s excellent 2017 album, Spirit Guides has a warmth and intimacy that propels the songs into having an immediacy that isn’t always the purvey of bands attempting a similar style of music. Tyto Alba, like Haunted Summer, is a band that is great at working in the realm of the edges of your memory to invoke something that isn’t nostalgia but has an emotional resonance that stimulates the feelings that normally coalesce into comforting reverie.
Who:Eraserhead Fuckers, Juniordeer, Ultraviolet, Morlox and Brkn Jwbne Tape Manipulator When: Monday, 02.26, 7 p.m. Where: Mutiny Information Café Why: Just reading the list of band names should give you some idea of the strangeness you’re in for if you make it to this show. Morlox should be a well-known artist in Denver because his influence on the local industrial and noise scene is undeniable but he has also had an impact on experimental pop band Church Fire and their facility in weaving together industrial music and hip-hop production ideas into their own songwriting. He rarely performs live so if that’s your thing, be there. Also, Eraserhead Fuckers is technically hip-hop but so confrontational, abrasive and surreal that most hip-hop fans aren’t going to be into it unless maybe they didn’t have a difficult time getting into something like Death Grips, .clipping, Earl Sweatshirt or Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy.
Tuesday | February 27, 2018
Who:Talib Kweli w/Niko Is, DJ Spintelect and Time When: Tuesday, 02.27, 8:30 p.m. Where: Fox Theatre Why: Talib Kweli Greene would have secured his place in hip-hop history with Black Star, his collaborative project with Mos Def. But Kweli’s talent, intellect and curiosity has brought him to various efforts as a rapper, producer and activist. Rather than make more than a brief list of the people he’s worked with like Dave Chappelle, Kanye West and Dead Prez, it would be more worthwhile to note how Kweli’s albums have long been filled with thoughtful and creative social critiques alongside solid beats and music so that his albums never come off feeling didactic or preachy even as he minces no words—because his stories and words are also not short on humanity. Kweli can be pointed but he clearly takes in the bigger picture beyond any topical content. Along on the tour is Niko Is, a likeminded artist whose own imaginative wordplay sketches vivid images of aspirational daydreams and everyday life rendered into poetry. Opening the show is Denver’s Time, a rapper whose literary lyrics display a gift for surreal stories and political analysis grounded in his own experiences growing up in “the nutty.” Meaning North Denver, of course. Sometime in 2018 it’s anticipated that we’ll see a new album from Calm., Time’s hip-hop duo with longtime collaborator, the producer Awareness.
Wednesday | February 28, 2018
Who:Why? w/The Florist When: Wednesday, 02.28, 7 p.m. Where: Bluebird Theater Why: Yoni Wolf aka Why? was once in influential, experimental hip hop group Clouddead but when that outfit split in 2004 he formed an indie rock band called Why? with his brother Josiah and friends. And yet calling Why? indie rock is a bit imprecise because the band is far more experimental with its use of sound, the poetry of its lyrics and the the visual presentation of the music as well. At times Why? can be a multimedia experience with interaction between performers and video as well as making a theater sized show seem like something more suited to a stadium. Whatever the experience of the show might be it’s something the group has evolved for years and rooted in a music that is pushing and challenging the kind of complacency of being so in love with one’s established sound by making music that can never rest easy in a staid formula. The latest Why? record, 2017’s Moh Lhean, is typically impossible to adequately characterize and yet has all the unique wordplay and imagery that has made Why? a consistently interesting project from the beginning.
Who:Rachael Yamagata w/Hemming When: Tuesday, 02.27, 7 p.m. Where: Globe Hall Why: Rachael Yamagata has been at her solo career since 2001. Likely often broadbrushed as a singer-songwriter, Yamagata’s music transcends stereotypes that have crept up about singer-songwriter artists even though, obviously, artists like Joni Mitchell, Kate Bush, Leonard Cohen, Tom Waits and plenty of others are good examples of singer-writers. Like Ray LaMontagne (with whom Yamagata has worked) and Greg Laswell, Yamagata writes songs about life that provides a unique insight and illumination into subjects well-worn by artists since time immemorial. Yamagata’s voice is calming yet not short on evoking peak emotional moments with a gift for articulating complexity of feeling. Her music, richly detailed and textured, provide the perfect backdrop to her honest storytelling. Her 2016 album Tightrope Walker in particular minced few words about life challenges but did so in a lushly poetic fashion.