Photos by Jef With One F
Though billed as a Halloween spectacular, there were precious few costumes on display at Numbers’ Underworld, the monthly Goth night that hosts some of Houston’s most entertaining performers and audience members. For a group of people whose chosen dress tends to be viewed as costumes throughout the other 11 months of the year, the appeal of dressing otherworldly is somewhat dampened. However, everyone did have one thing in common: a great anticipation to see Asmodeus X return to a Houston stage after more than a year.
Asmodeus X, formed from the ashes of Chicago’s Morphine Angel but now based here, limits its hometown engagements to ensure that every show is one to remember. “You have to weigh the variables in selecting a show,” said Asmodeus percussionist and sampler Joel 313, “and learn from your previous judgments which gigs are going to give the audience what they’re worth.”
Saturday was only the second Houston show to feature the latest member of Asmodeus’ darkwave musical family: keyboardist and programmer Chris Vasquez. Vasquez originally came to Paul Fredric, Brad Marshal and Joel 313’s attention by contributing remixes for Asmodeus’ album The Greater Key. After Vasquez attended several of the band’s studio sessions, he was literally kidnapped from his home and asked to become the fourth full-time member.
The former three-piece acknowledges the tremendous contribution Vasquez has made to the band, sparking an eight-month writing spree that, for the first time, saw a wealth of material more or less equally written by the full band rather than predominately by singer Paul Fredric. Asmodeus X promises a full length release of this material next fall.
Word that the set would contain much previously-unheard material spread throughout Houston’s small but violently loyal Goth community, and Saturday the audience pressed against the stage in anticipation. Many fine specimens of the half-dressed female species lounged on Numbers’ stage in front of the monitors, and were used to great effect throughout the set as they took to impromptu belly-dances and other gyrations set to Asmo’s beeps and boops.
The particular freedom of electronic bands is never more apparent than in Frederic’s movements. Never less than supremely confident in his band’s ability to keep the trains running on time, he stomped back and forth in front of the adoring crowd, holding each onlooker in the palm of his hand.
It’s quite clear that its new material has re-energized Asmo. Though a band who can honestly be said to never phone in a performance, Saturday the quartet obviously enjoyed every minute on stage. Joel pounded his electronic drum kit with a kind of Animal-from-the-Muppets ferocity, while Vasquez looked for all the world like he was trying to get to third base with his keyboard unit.
Even Brad Marshal, the most laid-back and taciturn of keyboard players, swayed a bit with the sheer unholy pleasure of playing so damn well. Asmodeus’ new material is thundering, far more theatrical than its previous work, save maybe the more esoteric moments of debut Wolf Age. The new stuff brings much more experimental approach to mood and a definite sense of drama throughout.
Quintessentially Asmodeus X, in other words, but pointed in a positively electrifying new direction. The group’s new mood was also a wonderful influence on the older material: incredible renditions of “Glass Towers,” “Sanctuary” and the oft-remixed “Morningstar,” though sadly no “Voices of the Fallen” or “Crucified Serpent.” This time.
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Also worth noting Asmo’s cover of Falco’s “Rock me Amadeus,” appropriately renamed “Rock me Asmodeus.” Though it’s not a terribly well-known fact, Asmo is an incredible cover band. Much lobbying over the years has failed to yield a live version of their cover of the Partridge Family’s “Point me in the Direction of Albuquerque,” though the price of beer will always be enough for Fredric’s lecture on how the Partridge Family is really the public face of a benevolent group of Satanists.
Further prodding has also failed to get a CD release of Asmo’s cover of “Wicked Little Town (Reprise),” featured in the 2004 production of Hedwig and the Angry Inch at Fitzgerald’s. Oh well, “Rock me Asmodeus” is certainly a worthy member of the band’s cover repertoire, to say nothing of definitively settling the issue of how exactly to pronounce “Asmodeus,” which the band has testily refused to do for many years. “This shit rocks!” said a passing man in a red cape and alcoholic enhancements. “Write that down: ‘This shit rocks!’”
With dedicated fan bases in California, Belgium, Russia, Venezuela, Brazil, and more, Asmodeus X is proof that there are Houston bands can be known nationally and internationally acts. After many years of hard work, its success is not defined in dollars or media exposure, rather the continued evolution of its art and satisfaction of those who appreciate it.
“The question,” said Frederic, “Is not about money, or fame, or recognition. The question is, ‘How far can this thing evolve?’” Fans avidly awaid Asmodeus’ answer. - Jef With One F