Field Report: Metal As Art Tour

This tour started a few weeks back on the East Coast of these great United States, January 6th at the Knitting Factory in Brooklyn, New York to be exact. And after weaving and winding across damn near every state between here and there, facing the typical road woes like inclement weather and broken down vehicles, the Metal As Art Tour, made up of Hypno5e, Revocation, and The Binary Code, made its way across the state line of California, where these road warriors were hoping to see some of the typical weather that makes California the envy of the rest of the country. Alas, our heroes weathered out a blizzard in New Mexico to wind up in the worst rain storm that California had seen in easily a century. Flooding, mud slides, freeway closures, hail storms . . . yeah; none of this was what these minstrels of destruction had in mind when they set out from the underground clubs of the East Coast. But to ask these guys, they don’t really care either. It’s all about setting foot on the stage and regaling the masses with their musical prowess. These musicians get up every morning; shake out the cobwebs from the previous night’s throw down, and move on to the next town just to do it all over again. It’s a lifestyle folks, a lifestyle not one for the weak and far from the glamorous one that so many people think that traveling musicians have. The road can suck, but these guys wouldn’t have it any other way because they realize that the magic is purely in the music . . . in the composition of the music, in the recording of the music, and in the performance of the music. The bands that make up the Metal As Art Tour encompass this ideal like none other and their camaraderie and support for one another stirs some nostalgic emotion.

As I watched the rain pour down for the fifth straight day, truthfully, I was hesitant on removing myself from the comfy confines of my warm house and ever so soft couch (I swear, this couch will suck every ounce of motivation from the body). But I also recognized that it’s this same mental attitude and laziness that has proven to be such a detriment to the hardworking musicians. These guys needed my support, so by gum, I donned my warmest sweatshirt, my most weather retardant boots, and some headgear to keep the locks from frizzing out of control, and made my way up and down the dark and winding mountain trail to the Ramona Mainstage. Let me start out by saying that this club, which was completely new to me, stood out in contrast to the sleepy one horse town of Ramona. The neon fa├žade of the old town theater was lit up like a Christmas tree and a small group of kids clad in their best black duds were milling about the front of the place. The interior of the theater was surprisingly clean and has a modern air to it. The sound was great, it has a pretty good sized stage, nice lighting, and booths on either wall to maximize the comfort (or recovery) of the clubs patrons. But, maybe most importantly, the staff was accommodating, courteous, and polite (beer prices weren’t outrageous like some of the bigger clubs), so I’m definitely more rearin’ to head out to this place when bands like Sprung Monkey (Feb. 5th) and DRI (sometime in fall) drop in on this place.

I was excited about seeing The Binary Code ever since I saw video clips of them on the Metal Sucks web site, and let me tell you, seeing video footage does the band no justice. The live performance from the New Jersey progressive post-something or other metallic outfit was like watching an aerial trapeze without a net. I held my breath as the band powered through a good five or six tunes of frenzied music that made me think, these guys have more in common with free form jazz musicians than your typical metal musicians. As I sat back, doing my best to bob in time with the off time rhythms and disjointed breaks, I found myself mesmerized by the fret fingers dancing all over the necks of the guitars, in particular, those of bassist Brett Bamberger. I first fell in love with this guys talents when I stumbled on East of the Wall and to watch this guy hammer away on the instrument was the musical equivalent of watching the Grand Canyon being formed (ever see that thing? So much more than just a colorful hole in the ground!) That’s not to take anything away from the rest of the band. To combine the blistering fast beats with the odd time riffs, and then the exceptional stage presence was something to witness. Hell, I can barely walk and chew gum at the same time and here these guys are running all over the damn place playing some of the most technically intense music in the world. The Binary Code, as a unit, is one of the most musically precise, yet sonically brutal bands that I’ve had the pleasure in watching.

After a short break down of gear, the Relapse Records artist Revocation hopped up on stage and sheered my face off. Up to this point, I had only heard short snippets from the band and gotta’ say, I was overwhelmed with joy. Upon hearing their opening song, I was converted to all that is Revocation. This band was an absolute thrill ride. Much like The Binary Code executed riffs with equal parts precision and brutality, Revocation did the same thing but with a little more groove and melody. This was definitely the most surprising element of the show, and in a lot of ways, the most pleasing. The two guitarists and bassist all shared in some of the vocal duties, which were very guttural. I honestly had no idea what any of the names of the songs were, I have no ideas what the subject matter of the songs is about, and I couldn’t have cared less. The music was filled with so much damn energy! I suddenly felt like I was fifteen years younger. By the time their set was complete, my cheeks were sore from the frozen smile on my face, and I knew that my next music purchase was going to be their album, Existence is Futile.

To wrap up the night, the band that I had been waiting almost a year to see, Hypno5e made their mysterious way onto the stage. Enshrouded in a constant cloud of smoke, the four members of this French outfit performed a metallic epic of a show. I was instantly captivated by the imagery of the silhouettes, like haunting specters, weaving in and out of the hazy arena, and how absolute their execution was of the songs from their last album, Des Deux L’une Est L’autre. The band, didn’t bother interacting with the crowd, there was no in between song banter, there were no song introductions. Hypno5e didn’t so much put on a rock show as they did a visual performance set to some of the most intricate and precise extreme music on the planet. And, though I’ve listened to their album about a million times, I had forgotten how heavy they really are. This performance seemed to highlight just how heavy the band can be despite the softer and more delicate musical interludes. I’m not certain on the total amount of songs that they played, possibly only four, but when one takes into consideration that each song is around eight or nine minutes in length, it’s instantly apparent that time constraints can become an issue. The performance of “Daybreak at Slaughter-House” was enough to make me shake my head and think, that’s all I needed. Such an amazing song in composition, to actually watch the band play it . . . shit, I was in heaven.

Metal fans, music fans . . . get out there and see all three of these bands do their thing. You won’t be sorry. You’ll probably pick up a few ideas as you watch a group of the genres best musicians re-invent metal. Hell, I watched a few kids this night standing on the fringes with their mouths wide open in awe, then exchange looks with their friends and mouth that they needed to play music like that. Warming moment? Yes, because you could see the effect of these musicians efforts being taken to heart by fellow musicians, and hopefully further running with these musical ideas and creating a whole new music. Art is meant to express the artist’s emotions and, in doing so, it inspires others to create in their own way, in their own medium, and with their own voice. Music has done that for The Ripple Effect over the years, and watching these three bands throw their emotions all over the inside of the Ramona Mainstage on this cold and dreary night, I would have to think that they’ve inspired others to express themselves as well. What these musicians are doing is a beautiful thing. Do yourself a favor and check them out. - Pope JTE