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Crowbar’s Symmetry in Black Tour Goes Subterranean in Chicago

CROWBAR



Thrash, Sludge and Doom…Music to My Ears 

 By Alyce Hayes

Crowbar

Havok

I’m really beginning to appreciate smaller crowds at metal shows. Not only is it much easier to get a good view of the bands onstage (especially for those who share my vertically challenged stature), there’s also a greater likelihood of running into your favorite musicians in between sets. While hanging out on the second floor of Chicago’s Subterranean, I found myself bumping into members of Revocation, Fit for An Autopsy and Havok. Unfortunately, the signature low lighting and high noise level of a metal show isn’t conducive to much conversation ~ ordering a drink involves getting so close to the bartender’s face to scream your order that out of courtesy you had better pop a mint first and buying merch is reduced to pointing, mouthing your size, and then bellowing a “Thank you” that’s likely never heard. But let’s be honest ~ how much conversation do we really need with a lineup that allows for almost (you’ll understand the need for italics in just a bit) four hours of nonstop moshing? On the bill that night we had Armed for Apocalypse, Fit for an Autopsy, Havok, Revocation and beloved metal veterans Crowbar.

 

Williams giving Hayes an "If I don't make it out alive..." look

Williams giving Hayes a “Tell me I’m going to make it out in one piece!” look

I was a little surprised that the powers that be at Subterranean would allow such a heavy show on the second floor stage rather than putting it on the first level; I was wary enough at times of standing on the floor when things got really crazy that I booked it up to the third floor (yes, Subterranean has three floors!) to take it all in from the balcony. I’m sure the stage was perfectly safe, but I left the risk-taking to Williams ~ my better metal half ~ who endured the pits to take photos of the bands as the masses threw themselves against one another…and her.

 

First up was Armed for Apocalypse ~ a Chico, California band with a lot of sludge in their hearts. Murk and anger was this band’s m.o., and it suited them well. With Kirk Williams, Cayle Hunter and Nate Burman on guitar and vocals, Corey Vaspra on bass and vocals, and Nick Harris on drums, their music set just the right mood for the whole night. It was heavy without being indiscernible, dark without invoking a strong desire to slit your wrists or someone else’s, and still lively enough to mosh to (just ask Williams).

Armed for Apocalypse

Armed for Apocalypse

 

Next was Fit for An Autopsy. After seeing these guys perform at the spacious and packed Mojoes on the Devildriver/Whitechapel tour (check out our coverage here), this venue struck me as a considerable downgrade. The crowd showed the band major love despite feedback issues during the first song, which was then followed by an iffy mix of overly cranked guitars and way too much low end. Subterranean did Fit For an Autopsy no favors in terms of sound quality (and let’s face it ~ the heavier a metal band, the more sensitive their sound mix[er] should be), but that didn’t stop anyone from having a good time during the band’s quick set.  And just to get my issues with the technical production elements out of the way, I have to mention that low lighting in the house is one thing, but the stage lighting for all the bands bordered on distractingly dim on this particular night.  

Fit for an Autopsy

Fit for an Autopsy



Havok then took to the stage and the sound quality suddenly improved exponentially for the rest of the night. The Denver-based four-piece definitely has a ton of Chicago fans ~ the floor was filled during their set. Havok (David Sanchez on guitar and vocals, Pete Webber on drums, Reece Scruggs on lead guitar and Mike Leon on bass) is the ultimate love song to all things thrash and I could hear influences of punk, old-school Metallica, and Sepultura. I almost ran downstairs to join the pit during “Give Me Liberty, or Give Me Death,” but from above it looked like a brawl had broken out and nobody intended to stop it ~ and at all of five feet tall I’d probably be crushed in less than thirty seconds by [at least] one of the many giant dudes throwing themselves around the space. So I decided to head-bang from the safety of the third floor balcony with the rest of the wimps ~ er ~ I mean, cautious (but fierce, very fierce) rockers.

Havok

Havok



Revocation

Revocation

Revocation followed Havok’s high-energy set and played to yet another fan-filled floor. But you know, despite their rock the *f* out music and energy, their fans just don’t mosh like most metal fans. I did come down from my perch to join the floor for their set, expecting to leave with a couple of bruises, but I would have been more at risk in a room full of bunnies ~ and now I know I wasn’t imagining things when I thought I noticed the same reserve to the “moshing” during Revocation’s time on stage at the Mojoes show I mentioned above.The band is amazingly versatile and packs mind-blowing riffs and good lyrics, but I think they’ve somehow wound up attracting fans with…I’m not sure…does the phrase “musically intellectual sides” make sense?…rather than that gene other metal heads have that makes them form circle pits, intentionally run into each other at full speed, throw themselves at the stage, etc. Don’t get me wrong, there’s always some moshing at their shows by the crowd members who just can’t not move to the band’s killer sound ~ but then it eventually stops, and everyone just headbangs, listening for the intricacies of the songs while enjoying the rhythm. Revocation: Metal for the Mind? The Thinking Man’s Metal? I haven’t quite figured out this strange band/music/fan relationship, but I will.

Revocation

Revocation

 

Crowbar

Crowbar

And then finally, as Crowbar’s set was about to start, the venue suddenly got a little more intimate as everyone waited patiently for them to arrive. The pause in the action gave me an opportunity to really check out the crowd, and what I saw showed just how influential these New Orleans natives were and are to the metal community. The floor was a sea of Crowbar Tshirts on everyone from the kids with the “I’m underage” black Xs on their hands to the just-legals to the more seasoned fans in their 30s and early 40s.  

This band doesn’t just have fans, they have followers, but in the best/healthiest sense of the word.  They and their music mean something to people.

Now, I’m no authority on the genre, but if Armed for Apocalypse has sludge in their hearts, then it’s safe to say that Crowbar (Kirk Windstein on guitar and vocals, Tommy Buckley on drums, Matthew Brunson on guitars and Jeff Golden on bass) has sludge in their souls. The band reminds us that not everything has to be hard and fast. The dark chords and slow progressions, while displaying a very different side of what most know metal to be, also create a more ominous, simmering aura of aggression. Of course, Crowbar throws in some faster punk passages when they deem it necessary, because as musicians, they also understand the importance of dynamics, but it’s all part of their low-key but incredibly intense style. Their set was not the standard way to end a night of metal, but as such was definitely more memorable. As people headed out into the night, it was quieter departure with a different kind of post-show excitement, but there was an unmistakable, if not quite describable, energy nonetheless.  Even after 25 years in the business, Crowbar continues to distinguish themselves from other bands and remains a profound influence on both their fans and fellow musicians.

Crowbar

Crowbar

 

Armed for Apocalypse

Fit for An Autopsy 

Havok 

Revocation 

Crowbar 

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