UNSANE + Pig Destroyer + The Blackfire Revelation @ The Ottobar

By DCU - No Sleep Til Bedtime - 05/27/05

Being south of the border, and early for the Maryland Death Fest, also brought the perk of being able to check out a local show the night before. And what a show it was to be, Baltimore’s own Swarm of the Lotus, The Blackfire Revelation, Pig Destroyer, and New York noise rock legends Unsane, so we set out through what would be a harrowing journey through the city. After seemingly being lost for 45 minutes through some incredibly questionable areas of Baltimore (where asking directions with a random pedestrian did not seem the wisest of decisions), we finally found our way to the Ottobar. Sadly Swarm of the Lotus had already performed by this time (along with BARS and Dactyl), which was disappointing as their 2004 release When White Becomes Black was one of my favorite records of last year. At least solace can be taken in the fact that their signing to Abacus Records and their upcoming new album release will no doubt mean more extensive touring.

Opening up the show for me was the New Orleans duo The Blackfire Revelation. Last month I heard the band’s Gold and Guns on 51 EP, and was kind of taken aback. While not earth shattering, the EP came at a perfect time for me as the sludgy blues styled hard rock was definitely refreshing in comparison with what I was currently listening to. They opened up the show with “Battle Hymn” an energetic stop-start rock song that was truly the high point of their set. From this point on everything went down hill as they just were not able to retain the energy and groove. Most of the audience was elated when they announced the end of their set, as what initially was an interesting dynamic of a performing duo (à la DFA1979), turned into a sound that was just too stripped down to accept as something meaningful and first rate.

Next up was one of my favorite bands of recent year, Pig Destroyer, with what seemed to be a welcome but strange billing for the band. The three piece (guitar, drums, and vocals, no bass) rifled through an intense set and while being out of place from The Blackfire Revelation and Unsane they made a strong impression on everyone present. Singer JR Hayes offered up a foray of shrieks and screaming that gives PxDx part of their distinctive sound, while the guitar and drums (a duo done right) created the intense wall of sound that completed the onslaught. While the crowd wasn’t generally too aggressive (except for a small group of assholes linking arms and clothes-lining people in a group of three), the extreme and disturbing nature of the music seemed to be collectively acknowledged by all. The high point in the set was the track ‘thumbsucker’ off their recent release Terrifyer, with a stealthy and grooving guitar riff that just seemed to cause the room to vibrate.

Closing off the night were acclaimed noise rock kings Unsane, back with their reunion album and tour. While I was familiar with the band’s major successful songs in the past, I never considered myself a fan until hearing their recent release Blood Run. Musically their set was flawless, casting a spell on the crowd. The room was so incredibly hot and humid and this just added to the heaviness of their sound as they rocked through several tracks at a time. The raw vocals complemented with thick bass lines and sharp guitar tone demonstrated their style of intensity through simplicity. Playing songs new and old, the trio has not missed a beat and showcased exactly why even after 15 years, and a hiatus, they are still completely pertinent to the modern rock and metal scenes.