Another show that I'll be giving short shrift to. I've reasons.
The night began with Sarin Reaper. There's nuance to the band's black metal. Most of them come from guitarist Jame Mendenhall who is cut from a different cloth than his more traditional bandmates, vocalist Luke Iliff, bassist Solomon Sharbono, and drummer Bob Corvus. His riffs are odd, borrowing freely from crust and assorted flavors of punk, and occasionally searching even further afoot into the blues. This leaves Sharbono to carry most of the fire. He does so exquisitely. Iliff paced the crowd like he often does, occasionally locking onto a friendly face that he can be unfriendly to. Of course, he often spends moments bent back shrieking his anger at God or doubled over to make his torment known. The last few times I've seen the band, his torment has come with vomit, living up to the title of the band's new album, Noxious Black Vomit.
Between acts, Dino grabbed the mop and bucket, cleaning up the sickness. Rumor is there is a vomit cleanup fee accessed in such circumstances.
Columbia, Missouri's Goat Coffin were up next. The trio has a more straightforward interpretation of black metal including wonderfully icy Norwegian colorings. The threesome came out in corpse paint, with guitarist "Natelord" wrapped in a heavy chain bolero. I felt it. Shelby Guy plays bass and sings, unfortunately his vocals were lost amidst the band's dark roiling volume. Actually, a lot of the band's nuance was lost in the noise. But then Natelord would come forward with a strong riff, and suddenly, it'd put the arrangement in place. Most of the band's songs were midtempo, with the rare attempts at speedier paces from drummer "Drumbreaker" usually resulting in mismatched speeds across the trio.
Traffic Death from Iowa followed. You could see the caged energy of vocalist Nate Phillips as he paced the pit, waiting for his band to complete its setup. When all was ready, the band launched into a set that ponged between grindcore and black metal, and occasionally landed in the middle. A lot of fast songs. A lot of short songs. A lot of songs that began with samples. And then poof, longer songs with unexpected nuance. Phillips had a lot of tricks in his bag, moving from screams to sick throat vocals as each song required. When even more variety was required, bassist Andrew Smeltzer added gruff vocals in a call and response fashion. Guitarist "Gordon Shumway" (if you don't recognize the name, Google is your friend) was gold throughout. Great leads. Great solos. Drummer Brian Greenfield was similarly enthralling as he guided the band through tricky tempo shifts with expertise. Hell of a set.
The night ended with Dryad also from Iowa. The black metal quartet is led by guitarists Claire Nunez and Grimmtooth (aka Cal Murray). Grimmtooth carried most of the leads while Nunez handled most of the vocals – well, really all of them, as Grimmtooth couldn't be heard in the mix (as was the theme of the night). Rhythms were provided by "Oliver" (drums) and "Joe" (bass). Together the foursome balanced melody with power, playing composed black metal with some more brutal moments pulled in from adjacent genres. And the band was just as fun to watch, especially when Nunez delivered full-throated shrieks that shook her whole frame, or when she'd collapse to the stage floor for style points. It almost wasn't to be though – after the second or third song, Grimmtooth's frustration with his unheard vocals and a busted guitar caused him to end the set early. Thankfully his better devil came out quickly, and instead of packing up, a new microphone was brought out, Grimmtooth was able to borrow a guitar from Traffic Death, and the band then completed its entrancing eight-song set that capped a fantastic four-band bill.