Enabler, Call of the Void, Blasé, STRESS33 Walters Downtown February 10, 2015
It's a rather small crowd that turns out to hear extreme sounds at Walters on a Tuesday night in February -- one that typically shows up with callouses on their cochleas. But even the saltier veterans of the hardcore haunt went home with their ears ringing like a tardy bell last night. The tinnitus would come courtesy of the Ohioans in Enabler, purveyors of a bitter fusion of hardcore and metal that somehow manages to sound angrier than either. There was no use wearing earplugs. Things were about to get rather loud.
The first act of the night was the local outfit STRESS33, who raked the early arrivals over the coals with a nasty blend of piercing noise and sloppy power-violence. At stage left, a guy in a colorful mask and shades manipulated some kind of digital controller that produced grating squeals over the band's thoughtfully destroyed guitar crunch. As sheer sonic assault, it was a terrific warmup.
More Houstonians were up next. Blasé had some really nice gear onstage, and I can only assume they turned those handsome amps all the way up. Their brand of dissonant hardcore pummeled and lashed by turns, scorched by scattered blast beats. Apart from the drummer, the band mostly played with their backs to the crowd. The better, perhaps, to commandeer their guitar pedals. It was noisy fun, regardless.
The first touring act to hit the stage was Denver's Call of the Void. Tuesday happened to be the release date for the band's new album out on Relapse Records, Ageless, so you can bet they broke out some tunes from that bad boy.
"We've been sitting on this shit since April, so we're excited to have it out," said singer Steve Vanica.
After the rough-around-the-edges crust of the local acts, the brilliant tightness of Call of the Void stood out immediately. This was a group that was well-rehearsed and ready to slay. The group's titanic drummer, Gordon Koch, nimbly brutalized his kit with whipping d-beats and practiced blasting. Vanica bounced around what stage he could manage, shouting to be heard over the incredible guitar volume.
It was hard to tell which was heavier -- Call of the Void's brutal metal passages reminiscent of Napalm Death or their crushing hardcore breakdowns. All of it was nard-rattling. The true believers who turned out to hear it were getting off nicely.
If there was a certain warmth to the sheer sonic pain that Call of the Void delivered, it was absent during Enabler's set. Likely pleased just to be able to work up a sweat without the aid of Gore-Tex, the Midwestern outfit made the most of the weeknight stopover on their winter tour by playing as viciously as possible.
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Guitarist/vocalist Jeff Lohrber naturally led the charge. His angry shouting and cruel riffage were sharp and focused. It wasn't his first time playing to a smallish group of musical masochists at Walters, and he remembered the place.
Two and a half years ago, Enabler stopped through on a trek with Seattle's Black Breath. The singer for another band on the bill, Chris Colohan of Burning Love, jumped offstage during his set, stripped down, and took a quick shower before returning to finish his song.
"I always thought that was pretty cool," Lohrber said with a grin. "I have a fond memory of this place."
Lohrber and his mates treated Tuesday night's crowd fondly, as well, bidding them to crowd in up front. He was so nice about it that people couldn't help but obey, and soon a small and friendly moshpit had erupted at last. As drummer Frank Godla whipped them up with his rapid-fire upbeats, he still managed to find enough space for some pretty terrific stick-twirling. Kudos to that man.
By the time Enabler was done wrecking the place, I was beginning to wonder if they were the last thing I'd ever hear. I'm still not quite sure. But if hearing-aid technology dramatically improves in the next couple of years, I'll be back the next time they come through, with another few dozen of my closest strangers.
Personal Bias: One doesn't head out for an evening of noise-rock on a Tuesday unless he's pretty sure he'll like what he hears.
The Crowd: Small, but pleased to be there.
Overheard in the Crowd: "That's so hardcore!"
Random Notebook Dump: The best part about tiny weeknight tour stops at Walters? The ample available parking!
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