After an extended break due to graduate school, teaching and writing academic things (woo!), I have decided to return to the game…of unpaid, thankless blogging. Such competition. Much fun. Okay, bad meme and misconstrued references aside, I’m glad to be back. These past couple years have been filled with concerts and various musical adventures, so strap in! It’s going to be…a ride.
I’m going to call these past couple years, at least from my super relevant perspective, the United States era of sludgy, grimy and depressing as shit doom, funeral doom, and stoner metal. Pallbearer, Bell Witch (Mirror Reaper is album of the decade, change my mind), Mastodon, Sleep (new tour!) and all those masturbatory Black Sabbath startups…each have pulled, or continue to pull, the boundaries of metaldom back to its slow, riff driven blues and stoner roots. Specifically, in St. Louis, there is an interesting development of punk attitude and grungy, working class, almost Birmingham-esque live trend, providing a widening space for road warriors Weedeater, Corrosion of Conformity, Eyehategod, Black Label Society and, most recently, Pallbearer. Because, when the levee breaks…
Okay, so, in this scene, where does the jazz, the technicality, the Djent! belong? Apparently in the St. Louis, Cherokee coffee house, Foam.
“What a transition!” — Nobody
I had the pleasure of attending the Cleric headlining tour, opened by tech metallers, The Gorge, and string quartet, Seven) Suns, at the Foam coffee house in St. Louis. That’s right, a coffee house. Metal and hipsters. Fuck yeah! The venue is intimate — I couldn’t think of a better word for small — and run by some fabulous baristas/bartenders. I only wish I got their names. Poor journalism on my part, but oh well. What’s important is the beers were cheap, the coffee hot, and the atmosphere warm, inviting. Perfect for some twisted, weird ass metal.
Disclaimer: A major label needs to sign The Gorge. Seriously. If some Nuclear Blast intern is looking for some mobility, here’s a tip: put The Gorge on the executive’s table and drop that fucking mic in your new office space.
I’ve been following The Gorge for about a year now. I saw them open for Weedeater back in, I believe, August 2017. I’m too lazy to look so just take my word for it. The Gorge adds some melody to the djenty meshuggah framework, all the while maintaining a jazz-conscious feel for groove. Their live performance is cathartic, culminated in politically-driven and emotionally jarring lyrics. I mean, their album art for Thousand Year Fire is a drawing of the Cahokia Mounds! How else to bring attention to the voices of a colonized and destroyed culture than through some djenty, emotionally jarring metal? So, in a postcolonial perspective, besides the album being written and performed by a juxtaposed personality of bearded and clean cut white dudes, The Gorge brings some cultural and political significance to the table. Told ya I’ve been in academia for a hot minute. Don’t be surprised when I go there, metal bros.
String quartet, Seven)Suns, added discomfort to this cathartic atmosphere. One of my biggest complaints regarding the venue is the layout. There is no “stage,” but who can blame em? It’s a coffee house. However, it’s kinda hard to see the performers, especially when the audience, including myself, are mostly around or over six feet tall.
A toast for the short folks and those who would rather sit at the bar!
String quartet, Seven)Suns has worked with Dillinger Escape Plan, and have an energetic live presence, breaking dissonant and melodic runs with passionate grunts that do not feel out of place or forced. Each string could be heard, and I’m not gonna lie, I have a soft spot for the cello. Its sound is just too damn beautiful for its own good. If I were to describe Seven)Suns’ stage presence, it would be creepy. Beautifully unsettling. A nice transition from The Gorge’s brutality into Cleric’s…I don’t even know.
I’m not gonna lie, I only started listening to Cleric earlier in the day. I heard their name cast around in internet forums of the most obscure and pretentious sort, but, as usual, I cast them into a general, maybe later part of my brain. But, Fuck, was I blown away. As soon as Larry Kawartowitz set up his fucking obnoxiously large china symbol, I knew the room was in for an experience. Drum lord, Lars Ulrich, would faint at the sight of that behemoth.
I can hardly describe Cleric’s sound. A little Gorguts here; a little Frank Zappa there. And a large helping of general holy shittery that is just Cleric. Keyboardist, vocalist, second base, guitarist — pretty much everythingist — Nick Schellenberger took full advantage of the space. His dual microphone rig and passionate stage presence brought even the sound guy (mustachio’d, dressed, roller bladed, and fuzzy hat guy, you the best) to the front, headbanging and bouncing. This band is tight, folks. Think of a metaphor for tight and Cleric will shatter it with two synchronized doom chords. The bass (Daniel Kennedy) and lead/rhythm guitarist (Matt Hollenberg) were synched perfectly with the drums, casting aside count downs in favor of good ol’ fashioned, felt nonverbal communication. And, punctuating the evening, Cleric played an extremely emotive rendition of, I believe, “The Treme,” a nine minute piece transitioning from technical what the fuckery to an existential sense of doom. Incredible work from everyone involved.
Again, this venue creates and maintains community. The openers, the staff, the small, but passionate crowd, were caught in Cleric’s strange, chaotic apocalypse. Check out their groundbreaking underground album, Regressions sometime for a general feel before the record goes out of print. Also, make a trip to Foam if you find yourself in the neighborhood.
Next week: Weedeater (Round Two)
Final Verdict: I’m done assessing shit. Just take what you want from the review. The venue was accommodating. The show was kick ass.