The weekend is a-comin' and the first order of business is to figure out the plan for Friday night. That's not so easily done. There are two high quality shows to choose from that don't even involve EXODUS. I'm excluding Gary Holt & Co. because you should have seen them by now. This is about a showdown between bands that rarely come to town: BLOODY PANDA v. NIGHTBRINGER. Relax Bar v. Oasis Club. Thai Town v. Compton. Club My War O))) v. Hate War. A few weeks ago LA Record asked us to submit a short metal column for their next issue. My initial reaction was to decline. I have enough trouble doing the little I do here, and it's no easy task to persuade Professor Bunkum to write about music that was made after 1989. But the editor, Chris Zeigler, is an all-around good man that is hard to deny. So one night I wrote this:
We read today that less than 25% of Japanese have a favorable impression of China. That may explain why a Japanese woman is so able to disturbingly name her band BLOODY PANDA. Or maybe not. The truth is that Yoshiko Ohara left Osaka for NYC in 2003 to assemble a group and make music. What she has made is one of the more interesting doom bands to emerge in quite some time. At times on their most recent release, Summon, the tempo slows down to the pace of the new HARVEY MILK or any KHANATE record. The bursts of speed are fleeting but timely. And through it all, it is held together by her voice, organ and the pounding of drummer Richard Schwarz (his predecessor, an accomplished jazz-trained drummer, quit after one gig when he fainted because “[i]t was too much physical stress, too much volume.”) But whether speaking, singing, growling or screaming in drenched reverb, the music belongs to Ohara. This reality is driven home at live performances, when all but her perform masked. To those that find this music too challenging, I don’t get you. And to those that compare Ohara to Yoko Ono, yes, you are racist. (June 11th, Relax Bar).
So I'm clearly leaning, but not quite fallen. NIGHTBRINGER is a black metal band from Colorado. I first heard about them because they regularly play an obscure festival that takes place in Rocky Mountain National Park. The location is only given to those that buy tickets. It's like the anti-Woodstock. Tempting at first, but the reality of camping with a horde of black metal fanatics might be more than I can handle. The music, however, is of unquestionable quality, and somehow South Central might just be a less freaky environment to experience it. Check out Aquarius Records trying to describe their second and newest album, Apocalypse Sun, in one of the longest sentences we've seen in a long time:
In some ways the sound is more death metal than black metal, in structure at least, furious and relentless, so fast, but cloaked in a filthy patina of grim ambient buzz, shot through with spidery mournful melodies, and those guitars, soaring and howling and tangly and layered and totally epic and relentless, as close to manic blackened riffing can get to non stop shredding without losing cohesion, instead it makes every track seem more epic, more spacey out, as if the band were trying to craft some impossible black metal ur-drone raga, a constant build, getting more and more and more frantic, the energy spilling forth it huge gouts of incendiary buzz and blast, totally exhausting, but also utterly exhilarating, one track feels like a whole record by other, less ambitious bands, like some strange hybrid of Deathspell Omega, Leviathan and Liturgy, the last especially in the way Nightbringer seem to transcend black metal, taking the traditional tropes and stretching them into something almost more akin to 20th century composition, black metal rendered in sprawling expansive soundscapes of light and dark, buzz and blast, grind and crunch, howl and shimmer, occasionally slipping into gorgeous swirling guitar drones, other times, pounding majestic doomlike lumber, and still other times face melting bursts of white noise blasts of grinding black crunch.
God damn that sounds good. You don't write that way unless you're feeling it. So how does one decide? The undercards don't help - they're both solid. My method is simple, if not lame. In the end the name breaks the tie. At work on Monday when someone inevitably asks about my weekend, I can say I saw Bloody Panda. That could ruin an elevator ride. Kickstart relfux. Alter a relationship. That's the kind of impact a band should make. Or it could be that I'm a sucker for doom. But whatever I do, you can't go wrong with this decision unless you fail to go to either.