Friday, November 6, 2009


There is such a plethora of churches in Atlanta, the South and actually the whole length and width of this silly country, thank the lord someone turned one of them into a godless concert venue. I had heard talk of the club Tabernacle, but had just walked by the huge brick edifice of this converted church for the first time a few days before the brutal concert lineup that had turned me into a hyperactive, shrieking schoolgirl: Mastodon, Converge and the almighty Dethklok.

When I arrived at the packed and very sold-out (scalper tickets were $80), all-ages concert, I was blown away by the humongousness of Tabernacle (its capacity is 2600 smelly people). It has two separate balcony floors, a very large basement that could be a venue itself, a crowded outside smoking area and numerous rooms filled with assorted antiques, stained glass and what looked to be leftover fake outsider art from when the venue was a House of Blues briefly in the '90s. The very large main room has a beautiful chandelier and a neat, painted ceiling (I'm going to guess it's not original, but it could be) partially obscured by concert lighting. An awesome venue, Tabernacle is owned by the largest concert company in the world, Live Nation, who book Wembley Arena in London and the like.

I had seen Converge in their earlier years, when they were associated with the mostly East Coast metalcore scene (I don't even think that term is in use anymore). They have since matured into a nuanced extreme metal band and I very much dig their latest and perhaps finest record, Axe to Fall, which came out a few weeks ago. I think the parts of the capacity crowd not familiar with Converge, which would be most of the crowd, took a while to get used to singer Jacob Bannon, the spastic, somewhat awkward, Napoleon-sized fella with the receding hairline, who does not look very metal. Also, the guitar was way too low in the mix for the first few songs. But by the end of their shredding set, which bent from gloom to screeching din to massive mosh chords, folks were very much into it. Converge has taken the aesthetic of New England straight-edge-sounding hardcore to the outer limits.

Mastodon is one of Atlanta's preeminent bands and I had never quite made it to see them before. I have always dug where they were coming from, their mega-themed albums conceived on subjects like Herman Melville's Moby Dick and their new album, Crack the Skye, which has a Tsarist Russian theme. It's maybe more the concepts and originality that I admired than the actual music. (I have always been a sucker for any metal with even the slightest literary or historic reference.) So, more so than the other bands, I was truly floored by their show, which was accompanied by some mesmerizing video imagery of evil men in beards, dueling Chinese dragons, giant, Satanic-looking buckheads and lots of burning devil creatures. The band itself is bearded and coiffed like a heavy metal version of Black Oak Arkansas, as Southern backwoods metal looking as you can get. These burly fellas play some highfalutin music that is both psychedelic and gargantuan, no easy task, and manage to live up to all their hype.

Dethklok is of course the most successful band in the history of music, the twelfth largest economy in the world, just above Belgium. The animated deth metal band is the creation of Brendon Small, who previously did the brilliant animated Home Movies on Adult Swim for five seasons before coming up with the ludicrous original concept of Metalocalpyse about a dunderheaded death metal band that has become a cultural and economic force. Though the show was scheduled in the wee hours and episodes were generally eleven minutes long, Metalocalpyse struck a chord in the almost humorless universe of metal, making fun of minutia of the genre well beyond This is Spinal Tap. Rather than try to replicate the characters on the show and turn them into life-size versions onstage, which would have been not all that easy to pull off and perhaps turned out like Bear Country Jamboree, the live show is made up of subtly humorous videos, with a lot of similar imagery to Mastodon's videos or any metal videos you might see on Headbangers Ball, only with the violence and irony quotient turned way up. Brendon and his band, who look not at all like a death metal band, sounded utterly authentic aided by a fanatical audience, who shouted along to the lyrics, an almost unheard of happening at death metal concerts, and bought a lot of merch. While Mastodon's set was nearly as lengthy as Moby Dick, Dethklok kept it short and to the point, pulverizing my brain into a piece of lifeless putty.

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