Live Review: Gojira, Devin Townsend Project, The Atlas Moth at The Masquerade

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Review and Photos by David Feltman

The best concerts always include at least one surprisingly good band you’ve never heard of before. And by that standard, the Gojira/Devin Townsend Project show at The Masquerade on February 5th was a great show. The opening act, The Atlas Moth, was a complete question mark on the roster, but by the end of the set, the band had me heading to the merch table to look for their albums.

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The band played a quick set between 30-to-45 minutes in near darkness. With nothing more than a little red tinted backlighting, The Atlas Moth used the lack of lighting like a sensory deprivation tank. Perhaps inspired by Devin Townsend’s own “metal ocean” concept or band’s like ISIS who have since expanded on the idea, The Atlas Moth’s brand of post metal played like squalls and crashing waves. The biggest surprise came from the way the band toyed with the notion of “voice as instrument” by filtering yelps and screams through looping and echoing effects, creating layer upon layer of heavy ambient sound.

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A headliner in his own right, the Devin Townsend Project was next on the night’s lineup. Always the consummate showman, Townsend kept the audience entertained even while his crew was setting up. Obscure YouTube videos and repurposed movie posters featuring amusingly unflattering pictures of Townsend were projected on a screen over the stage. The strange slide show kept concertgoers guffawing until curtain time.

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Townsend is an act that must be seen live. He goofs and mugs for the fans between songs, but he also conducts and commands his audience in any manner he pleases, from sing alongs to mass “jazz hands.” His stage presence is electric and it’s impossible to resist his massive energy. Everything about his show has been carefully crafted around crowd interaction and to that end, Townsend is one of the most generous and obliging artists you could hope to see in person.

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Despite being quite visibly exhausted and dripping in sweat, Townsend hopped up on top of the barrier and worked his way slowly across the audience from right to left until every extended hand was shook and every question and compliment had been addressed.

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Where as Townsend’s set was imbued with passion and gusto, Gojira’s set was utter savagery. The audience wasn’t so much warmed up as over heated by the time Gojira went on. A fog of sweat hung discernibly below the rafters three songs into the set. True to the savage child of Gojira’s new album title, many of the males stripped off their shirts despite the cool February weather outside. The crowd was a sea of bobbing and flailing limbs. Bodies surfed over the top and collided with the photographers beyond the barrier. One young man, holding his long hair back, took a few steps vomited on the floor, took a few more steps, vomited again. The methodical dipping of his head between steps appeared to be in time with Gojira’s trudging tempos. Another young girl, who couldn’t have weighed more than 90 lbs., took three long, hard drags off of a joint before collapsing unconscious into the arms of a stranger.

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Whether the result of youthful excess or madness motivated by the band’s tribal rhythms, the audience was radiating wild amounts of energy. After “Oroborus,” Gojira cooled the crowd down with Mario Duplantier’s drum solo before wrapping up the last two-to-three songs of the show.

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The band closed with “Vacuity” and saved “Gift of Guilt” as an encore. The fatigued audience deflated like an old birthday balloon as the show ended. Someone presented Joe Duplantier with a large “Thank You” poster and there was a moment of shared, albeit weary, appreciation between artist and audience. This is a show with no weak spots, no low points and guarantees that you will come away tired, sweaty and satisfied.

Live Review: Corrections House, Bottletree Birmingham, AL

This isn’t a concert so much as a religious experience.

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Review by David Feltman

Three word Corrections House review: “Slow as fuck.”
Two word Corrections House review: “Infinite Crescendo.”
One word Corrections House Review: “Cleansing.”

There was no opening act. An opening act would have been like running a Bugs Bunny cartoon before “Citizen Kane.” This won’t be a typical review either. It wasn’t intentional and I didn’t have my camera. But I need to share this experience with others.

When you hear names like Neurosis and Eyehategod tossed around for a super group, you expect some sludge. But Corrections House takes “sludge” to performance art levels. The first song is thirty minutes long if it’s a minute. Samples are looped as each band member takes the stage in increments that extend beyond measure, slowly adding to a wall of sound that becomes overwhelming. When Bruce Lamont of Yakuza pulls out his baritone saxophone, it’s surprising but somewhat expected. When Mike Williams starts reading spoken word poetry, the audience starts murmuring. The phrase “trippy as fuck” is heard more than once.

The music starts to cut clean, no distortion. Melodic vocals from Lamont and Neurosis’ Scott Kelly blend in as Williams ceases his reading and steps to the back of the stage. The song(s) sustain and stretch for what may be two, three, or just one song. In total, there couldn’t have been more than five songs played the entire show.

The general cleanliness and utter snail pacing of the show is off putting, but an over-arching rhythm begins to emerge. As if establishing a trance or casting a spell, the audience is slowly pulled into the band’s sway. Then the pace quickens…ever so gradually.

This isn’t a concert so much as a religious experience.

Like blood pulsing faster and faster, the songs’ tempos quicken. The show establishes a sweet spot and shifts into cruise control. Williams’ vocals turn to methodical screeches and Lamont begins crumpling paper into the microphone in perfect rhythm. The waves of sound crash against guts and groin. It is transcendent. And then it’s over.

There’s no album available yet, but Lamont promises a seven-inch is well on the way. But no recording can capture this experience. If ever there was a band to see live, Corrections House is it. What they offer isn’t so much a concert as a moment in time. You must not miss this show.

Grindcore grows older, not softer: an evening with Napalm Death at Zydeco Birmingham, AL 11/26

Napalm Death has a history of chaos. So much so that its lineup almost completely changed between the A-side and B-side of its debut album, Scum. The band has none of its founding members, yet it has managed to exist for just over 30 years and boasts a catalogue of 15 studio albums.

“Once it would have been very easy to say, ‘Ah, you know, that’s it. We’ve done enough. You know, we’ll just finish it there,’” says lead singer Mark “Barney” Greenway. “But we just always, when things seemed to be not as good, we always seemed to pull something out of the fire that motivated us to move further.”

Originally from Birmingham, UK, Greenway has been screaming, shouting and growling for Napalm Death for roughly 22 of his 43 years. Despite his tenure, Greenway never seriously considered a career as a vocalist when he started. And to hear him tell it, Napalm Death didn’t put a lot of consideration into him either.

“Lee (Dorrian) left, the singer before me, and I was just the first choice because I use to hang around with them and I kinda use to roadie for them and stuff. And they just asked me. I don’t think they really thought about it that much to be honest…I would have probably only given it a couple of years and some good times and, yeah, something to say that I’ve done. But I never expected it to last this long. I never had any agenda to be a musician. That’s what people should understand, I really didn’t. Yeah, I had a band, but I couldn’t really say I was that serious a musician. I was just moving along on the tide of excitement of being in a band, you know. So when I joined Napalm it was a shock really. But I made the most of it, did the best I could and I think, hopefully, it turned out to be something I was pretty capable at.”

Napalm Death has long been cited with creating, or at least defining, gindcore. The combination of hardcore punk and death metal makes for songs that are brutal, loud and whiplash fast. In fact, the band holds the Guinness record for shortest song. But the limitations of the genre often snares band in a monotonous cycle. Napalm Death has certainly had its lulls over the years, but the band has, for the most part, managed to keep its sound fresh over the years by knocking down the same boarders it’s credited with forging.

“When we make albums we don’t tick a load of boxes as to how we should or shouldn’t sound,” says Greenway. “We just really do what feels right at the time, you know, and that does include just trying to make an album that stands out. You know it would be very easy for us to do another album of 20-second songs. We could write one of those in a week and, yeah, it’d be pretty ok. But what’s the point, you know, if you’ve got other ideas that are not going to dilute the thing that made the band so special in the first place, as in the fast and furious and chaotic sound? So if we can expand upon that, then what’s the problem?”

Napalm Death has started to incorporate largely unorthodox (for grindcore) elements into its music, including the vocals of Dutch operatic rock singer Anneke van Giersbergen on Smear Campaign and a jazz saxophone on Utilitarian. Such experimentation has caused criticism in the past, but since the band switched labels to Century Media and particularly since releasing The Code is Red…Long Live the Code the band has enjoyed near unanimous praise in spite of its bold tinkering.

“I have to pinch myself sometimes. It’s a wonder as to why there’s no, like, negative reviews. But I haven’t seen any at all, which is fucking strange. We’ve always written the way we’ve ever written. I just think that perhaps since 2000, we did Enemy of the Music Business, all our albums, instead of being ever more furious then they have been at any other time, apart from the early days, I don’t think people like that. When you mix that with the, like you were saying, like, the sax stuff we had on the last album, like the ambient influences and whatever else, it just makes something that sticks out.”

Utilitarian, released February of this year, may consist of slower, three-minute songs, but Napalm Death’s sound has matured rather than mellowed. Instead of the typical wall of noise, the band brings a surprisingly nuanced musical arsenal to the table without blunting its extreme metal edge. Anyone who may think Napalm Death has grown soft only needs to see the band live.



Sharing a bill with Speed Wolf, Exhumed and Municipal Waste, Napalm Death was the highlight of the show at the Zydeco. Monday night shows are generally anathema to professional touring bands, especially when you don’t start playing until nearly 10 pm. But Napalm Death proved to have enough drawing power to lure metal heads out of their holes. The range of fans was impressive, from peach fuzzed young’uns to old school aficionados that could be mistaken for ZZ Top members. Everyone was out and head banging for Napalm Death’s set.

Regardless of how fast or hard the band might play in the studio, everything played live is a little harder and faster. It’s easy to forget that the band’s members are all in their mid-40s when they’re on stage. Greenway in particular is a complete blur as he runs, jumps, and epileptically thrashes. That much energy sent the audience in to waves of violence that smashed against the foot of the stage. It didn’t feel like a Monday night show.

The band pulled out a couple of surprises in the set list, playing “Scum” and “You Suffer” (a 1.3-second song, which they played twice for kicks) as well as a cover of Dead Kennedys’ “Nazi Punks Fuck Off.” The audience was nearly spent once Municipal Waste took the stage around 11:30 pm. Most of the older fans bailed out as the younger fans pushed to the front.

Napalm Death may have started out as a band your parent wouldn’t let you listen to, but now that the band has spanned a generation, it’s becoming the band your parents are still listening to. The tempo may not be quite as fast, but Napalm Death is harder and heavier than ever in their old age. And they’ve got no plans of stopping. “After how ever many years, twenty-something years, it’s the unspoken thing that’s hard to explain,” says Greenway.

“It just seems to work. You know, we’re all different people at the end of the day. I mean, there’s times where we don’t always agree on stuff. But you have to kinda get past that and understand what are the plus points of your particular band. For us it just seems to work.”