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HPMA Preview: Seven Nominated Bands That Will Melt Your Face Clean Off

You feel that, Houston? No, it's not just that cold front coming through that is currently dropping much needed rain on our city, it's the Houston Press Music Awards Showcase ramping up to rock your bodies. Cheesy, we know, but we have a window seat at the office and all we can see is the rain and the sun at the moment. "How much is that blogger in the window, arf arf" and whatnot.

This week we will be profiling the bands who will be performing at this Saturday's HPMA showcase at venues all over downtown and the Warehouse Live area, with different subsets each day from myself and Jeff Balke.

Today we give you some of the hardest and heaviest bands on this year's ballot who are performing on Saturday. Yes, hardness and heaviness are both relative, Einstein, but we are rocket doctors here.

Before you even think about reading any further, go buy your advance HPMA tickets here at this link. Dammit, you read farther didn't you?

Square and Compass

(HOUSE OF BLUES, 1302 Dallas, 3 p.m.)

Nominated In: Best New Act

Fans of Hot Water Music and Taking Back Sunday -- and expert tap guitar -- will thrill for Square and Compass, who are relative newcomers to the Houston scene. The five-piece is a sight to see live, all arms and energy, and lead singer Thomas Heard hadn't even helmed a band before joining S&C in the summer of 2010.

Venomous Maximus

(STUDIO STAGE, 813 St. Emanuel, 4 p.m.)

Nominated In: Best Metal

Venomous Maximus gurgles with the sounds of proto-metal gods Pentagram and Blue Cheer, as well as new-school leaders like High on Fire. The headspace of the heavily tattooed group -- lead singer Gregg Higgins slings ink himself -- falls somewhere between an Alejandro Jodorowsky film and a New Orleans voodoo den. Hail Satan and pass the chicken feet. The band released a 12-inch EP, The Mission, early this fall.

Hell City Kings

(STUDIO STAGE, 813 St. Emanuel, 6 p.m.)

Nominated In: Local Musician of the Year (Josh Wolf)

Josh Wolf and company's music relies on the three B's of rock: beer, blood and bedlam. Hell City Kings make music to drink, fight and holler along to. Latest release H.C.K. throws punk, sludge metal and noise-core into a blender and flings the contents in your face like a pissed-off chimp. A Kings show is the aural equivalent of getting dragged out of a bar -- let's say Lola's -- just before closing time and stomped in the alley out back. But in a good way. I guess what I'm saying is, prepare yourselves. - Pete Vonder Haar

The Abyss

(THE DIRT, 1209 Caroline, 4 p.m.)

Nominated In: Best Rock

The Abyss have clawed their way up the scene in Houston inch by painful inch, bringing their angsty rock to an ever wider audience. It took the band awhile to grow on us, and they still have quite a bit to go before they're ready to charge, but listening to "Beautiful Lie" remains a beautiful, spiritual experience, and it's nice to hear something that sounds like the Cure's Bloodflowers. Despite setbacks earlier in the year when the Abyss had to call on the help of Houston's music community to aid in the paying of singer Sean Oliver's son's medical bills after a horrifying accident left his arm looking like the letter "z," they never say die, never give up and keep on rocking. Will it be enough to beat Castle Lights and Roky Moon & BOLT!? If anyone can, it's the Abyss. - Jef With One F

A Dream Asleep

(THE DIRT, 1209 Caroline, 6 p.m.)

Nominated In: Best Experimental / Noise

Hardcore music is something of a niche field, full of subgenres from screamo to death metal, but it has a loyal group of followers here in Houston. A Dream Asleep, which won the 2010 Houston Press Music Award for Best Hardcore/Noise, is at the head of that movement. This year's agenda includes the planned release of a long-awaited EP in a few months. Recently, the group added second guitarist Rikki Youngblood to the lineup, and front man Mike Seals seems to enjoy the new dynamic in the group's sound. Onstage, A Dream Asleep doesn't just hope for crowd involvement -- they force it. From the very first grinding chords, Seals and crew are likely to jump offstage and mosh with their fans, who are always happy to oblige. - Matthew Keever



Nominated In: Best Metal

Melovine is a Galveston power trio that veers between metal and alternative rock. Regulars at joints like Scout Bar and the 19th Hole, the band has released three EPs since forming in 2004 and has now recorded a full-length album, Blight. It features solid musicianship and songwriting and shows a band that has just had a huge growth spurt. Recently, they've been hitting the road to far-off destinations like El Paso, where they shared the bill with national touring act Chevelle. - William Michael Smith


(RESERVE 101, 1201 Caroline, 4 p.m.)

Nominated In: Best New Act

Young blues-metal trio Rivers reminds us of Mudhoney and Blue Cheer, with an extra dose of Mark Arm's nihilism and a healthy dash of The Cult's mysticism. Their first set of seven songs, entitled Mind Your Mind, was self-released and distributed (we got a burned disc), and will smoke out your car like Willie Nelson on the way to Whataburger.

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