Aftermath: Archgoat, Blaspherian and Thorn Spawn at Walter's on Washington

This week has been one of many firsts for Aftermath. Sunday night, we attended our first drunken Tejano show at an icehouse in Pearland while visiting the parents. It was an eye-opening experience, full of balls-out accordion breakdowns and Freddy Fender covers that reminded us of our Hispanic-American roots, even if we are only a quarter.

Thursday night, we hit up Walter's On Washington for our first-ever black metal show. To outsiders, the genre is corny and ensconced in laughable imagery. Some of the artists may even agree. But what we saw, amidst all the inverted crosses and droplets of blood -fake and otherwise - was actually a thriving local scene. We spoke with a photographer named Jeff, who had driven all the way from Dayton to see headliners Archgoat. The degree of fellowship and fandom we saw was something to behold.

These guys and girls, clad in black T-shirts and copious amounts of hair, show a love for their music that we haven't seen in quite a long time. These shows don't come often, whereas with indie shows, for better or worse, there seems to be something new every night (mostly worse, sad to say). For black and death metal fans, each night is a godsend, or a gift from the Dark Lord himself as it were.

Blaspherian was playing when Aftermath slunk into Walter's. The band was covered in arm-length gauntlets and projected just the right amount of depravity. The local group has been slaying away for close to five years and has a devoted following. Next up was Thorn Spawn, who at nearly 16 years in existence, had hair and heads spinning nonstop during their set. The folks across Washington Avenue, fresh-scrubbed and colorful, would take a few seconds to gawk at the assembled throng who would come outside for air.

One thing that struck us was how race and creed seemed to not matter one damn bit last night. We overheard foreign tongues being spoken left and right, and the majority of the crowd was Hispanic. People who are deemed as outsiders outright by polite society find themselves at home among others who have chosen this music as their religion.

It's the same way art kids and outcasted misfits stuck to rock and roll, garage, mod, punk, and hardcore in their respective heydays. Most of those genres aged (or mellowed, you might say) enough for them to become at least partially palatable to the masses, but black metal has always stayed the same. The uninitiated would be hard-pressed to find a bit of difference in a Mayhem or a Darkthrone album from today or yesterday. (Sadly, the same can also be said of most of today's indie-rock - someone had to say it.)

Headliners Archgoat has had the same lineup since 1989. They hail from Finland, and Houston was only of six U.S. stops for the band. H-Town finds itself in distinct company with Tijuana, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago and St. Paul as the only cities graced by these black metal legends. Think of how many times your favorite indie crooner has passed over Houston for greener pastures, then realize that the scene here is big enough to hail on obscure band such as Archgoat to the Bayou City.

Even though Aftermath was the only one in the house wearing a white T-shirt, sandals and shorts, we still felt at one with these fanatics. Your scene may be dead and bloated, but the black metal kids down the street are stronger than ever.

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Craig Hlavaty
Contact: Craig Hlavaty