Thursday night was probably Aftermath's fifth or sixth time seeing Early Man and Valient Thorr since we discovered them in 2005. It's shows like these that allow the setting aside of critical artifice to straight up jam out. There's no taking of careful notes or delicately and painstakingly dissecting guitar layers or song structure. This isn't saying these two bands don't rock our nuts off at every turn or lack anything in the energy department. That's the exact opposite. We haven't gritted our teeth in sheer metal happiness like this since...OK, we actually do that a lot, some would say too much. Let's not fool ourselves. But between these two bands there's enough headbanging to keep all those sketchy pain clinics in town in the black for years.
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Local boys Hell City Kings and Golden Axe set a pretty substantial table for the openers, with both groups coming with their best game on a night at Rudyard's where it seemed almost every metal brother and sister we have was there. The crowd was awash in denim vests, Camel products and plenty of tattoo-artist rent payments. HCK and Golden Axe have been on ridiculous tears of late, pretty much turning into Houston's new thrash and scuzz-punk laureates.
Early Man's lead singer and guitarist Mike Conte was suffering from a case of what he called "Road AIDS" so their set was abbreviated but no less loud. You couldn't tell he was sick, save for his constant water habit. Since 2005' stellar Closing In, new material has been slow coming from them, but they did let us know that a new album called Death Potion is on its way in January. Then they played "Fight", a song which has been around since their first EP but will see a proper LP inclusion on the new slab. The scary cool about the new stuff Early Man was spitting was the sly undercurrent of ZZ Top riffs that have made their way into their palate. We'll see how that turns out in the winter. Picking up where EM left off, Valient Thorr came out full force around midnight or so to melt faces. In his trademark red wrestling boots, lead singer Valient Himself laid out life strategies and lessons in between blasts like "I Hope the Ghosts of the Dead Haunt Yr Soul Forever" from last year's Immortalizer and the new "Disappearer." By the fifth song, he was bare-chested and jumping into the crowd, par the course for a Thorr show and strangely contenting. That's just how Thorr do, as the kids would say.