Yesterday, I went to a concert at the Oakland Metro Operahouse, a nice little dive in downtown Oakland. Really, it's a dive. And the sound is not that great there. And the men's bathrooms have big-ass spikes in the stalls, and toilet paper rolls are hanging off them because no one actually puts toilet paper rolls on the dispensers.
Oddly, I liked the place a lot. Anyway, here's who I heard...Necronomicon
: I looked them up on YouTube before the show, and expected a German 90s-era thrash band. Instead, we got a Canadian death-or-black metal band that was completely indistinguishable from a million other death-or-black metal bands. It's not my fault that there are like five
bands named Necronomicon. Anyway, this one has been around for twenty-five years. I've never heard of them before now.Hour of Penance
... didn't make it. Visa problems. I was joking with friends about how they ended up on a US terrorist watchlist because their most recent album was titled "Regicide." Instead, we got...Back Crown Initiate
: really good stuff, and rewards repeated listens. It's complex and chewy, and they have a pretty wide variety of feels and textures in their music. This was my first exposure to them. I plan on hearing more. They need a much better venue for their music -- the sound in this place worked against them.Fleshgod Apocalypse
: the show I cracked a rib at last year. This time, I got off easy: a few bruises, and if I must touch my nose at all, I do it gingerly. (It's not broken or anything.) As before, the band hired a very vocally gifted lady to handle the soprano lines, because their bass guitarist can only go up to about G5 in a slightly cartoonish falsetto, but there are lines that require vocals reaching up past C6. She was wearing a mask and a black billowy dress. The rest of the band looked like they had once been wearing tuxes at an opera, but the opera house burned down.
At the end of their set, after looking all menacing and evil, they came back on stage, all the house lights came on... and it turned out that under her own layer of menace and without the mask, the soprano was clearly tickled pink to be there. It was a startling transformation, from "scary ghostly operatic phantom" to "freaking adorable." (The other band members were also clearly happy to be there at the end, but it wasn't such a huge change in character.)Septic Flesh
... well, they have certain technical challenges, owing to the fact that they didn't bring an orchestra with them, and at this point, their music can't really be played without it, without eing horribly diminished. So, all the orchestral stuff isn't live, and the musicians are playing along with it. The way I think that works is that the drummer is either triggering the playback, or he's got a click-track going off in his ear or as a visual cue. This doesn't quite work if the song starts off with bare guitars and the rest of the band (and orchestra) pipes in several measures later (the song "Anubis," for instance), so I suspect that in moments like this, the first few guitar lines are also prerecorded. (Both guitarists started many of their songs with their backs to the audience, turning around once the song really got started, which doesn't exactly prove me wrong.)
Let me make it clear that this does not diminish my respect for the band. You don't go to a Septic Flesh show expecting instrumental mastery; indeed, any second-year guitar student can play their stuff. (Their drumlines are a different matter entirely.) That's not the point. The point is that their music is very
well-written, and a hell of a lot of fun to get into a moshpit with.
It would have been nice if there were more people there. This was the saddest crowd I've seen in some time. Not that I blame them: I managed an extra-long July 4th weekend only by submitting my vacation request over a month ahead of time. Still, it was a great show. And I have two souvenirs. Gods help me, for the first time in years, I actually have T-shirts announcing to the world that I listen to earsplitting noise for fun...