Baroness / Iron Age / Dark Castle @ One Eyed Jack's

If the commercial success of Metallica's Black Album was a sign of anything, it was that even certain genres of music deemed unlistenable by the general populace can be tweaked, repackaged, and thereby heralded the world over. Who would've thought that four long-haired alcoholics from the Bay could infiltrate mainstream culture the way that they did when "Enter Sandman" hit the airwaves back in '91? The Metallica model is being reintroduced today via bands like Mastodon, and the Mastodon model is being used by bands like Baroness.

I count Mastodon's album Remission among some of the best heavy albums put to tape. The whole feel of the album is relentless and uncompromising, not unlike the first few Metallica studio albums. The next album, Leviathan was excellent in its own right. Although much less heavy, it still maintained the spirit of the band through righteous riffing, epic imagery, and driving tempos. But every album since then has been more watered down, more accessible, and more heavily promoted. I'm not against bands trying something different, but when a band simulataneously signs with a major label AND downplays their inaccessability, you've got to suspect that something is up.

Which brings me back to Baroness. I heard about them through a kid in North Carolina who showed be some of their live footage on the DVD comp Doomed Nation. It was heavy. It was rooted in hardcore. They made a name for themselves playing this kind of punk-rooted stoner rock, and released stuff on awesome underground labels like At a Loss and Hyperrealist. Honestly, I hadn't really kept up with this band a whole lot after that, so when I went to OEJ's for this show I was expecting something heavy.

Well, looks like I'd been out the loop too long. The band I saw on Wednesday night bore little resemblance to the one on that DVD, with their incessant noodling, catchy vocals, rockstar stage presence, and goddamn if I didn't hear one fucking riff the whole time. I was bored midway through the first song. It was as if the band were genuinely scared of their low E strings. Count me out!

It stands to reason that, as with so many genres, underground hardcore/stoner/metal and all its variations will be commodified and introduced to the mainstream in time. Which bands will stand against the grain and which will welcome their new masters with open arms?

I missed the only band worth seeing on this bill: Dark Castle. They are legit, good people. Check them out.

Fistula / Iron Lung / Lana Dagales

Fistula - We the Beast

Man, I like my doom metal slow and raw, but this is some jagged shit. The production is kinda Steve Albini if he spent most of the recording budget on downers, with the drums nice and spacey but the guitars left to sink deep into a bog. Due to this nasty production, I can only understand maybe 1/8th of the riffs on this album, but surprisingly that doesn't take away from it's baddassitude (for the record, Firefox did not correct my spelling on that word!). No surprises from the lyrics on this album: one song is called "Die, You're a Fucking Cop" (which contains a most excellent maxim: "fuck parking tickets") and from what I can tell most of the other lyrics have to do with drugs and apathy. Reminds me a little of Facedowninshit but heavier and with more punk agression. The tempos vacillate from groovy downtempo to full blown d-beat punk. Personally, I wish every track was as head-noddin' as the opener and "We Don't Need You." Still, great album to throw on if you're in a shitty mood and happen to have a fifth of Evan Williams on hand.

Iron Lung / Lana Dagales - split 12"

Iron Lung is one of my favorite bands right now. Their newer albums sound a lot heavier than this split (which came out in 2004) but they do the modern powerviolence "sludgy part straight into one second blastbeat" thing better than just about anyone. On this release they mix it up with some weirder, more noisy guitar work peppered with their usual scary sounds-from-a-b-movie soundscapes between songs. Brutal set of songs, and they top it off with a totally unironic late 90s breakdown at the end. A good example of their newer, heavier sound is the Sexless/No Sex LP.

Lana Dagales is a band I know next to nothing about except that they're from California and have apparently been around since '98. Oh, and like Iron Lung they are a two-piece. Unlike Iron Lung, they don't have a guitar player. The bass tone is so damn fuzzed out that I honestly didn't notice that it was bass and not severely down-tuned guitar until about 3 tracks in. The material here is a little more tech. Plenty of odd time sigs, some jazzy licks thrown in, but don't get me wrong...this is still metal. The songs are short and the vocals are of the throat-scraping variety.