Intronaut, Scale the Summit, Mouth of the Architect, Omotai, Oceans of Slumber Fitzgerald's June 28, 2013
For Houston's hard-rock and metal fans, there was no better place to be on Friday night than Fitzgerald's. Downstairs, the old club hosted rowdy hellraisers Valient Thorr and Gypsyhawk, whose heavy thump bled through the well-worn floorboards of the upstairs room during the evening's quieter moments.
Those moments were few and far between thanks to the punishing prog power of Intronaut and Scale the Summit, who headlined a stacked bill of guitar crunchers that included locals Omotai and Oceans of Slumber as well as Dayton, Ohio's Mouth of the Architect. Taken in sum, there was enough heavy distortion inside Fitz to rattle the venue's windows out of their jambs, had there been any.
Particularly teeth-rattling was Omotai, thanks to the onslaught wreaked by drummer/vocalist Anthony Vallejo. The shirtless skinsman bashes his kit as hard as anybody in town, and the pounding on tracks like "The Color K" would be unmatched on the evening in spite of the furious efforts by the other drummers who'd share the stage.
The first touring band up, Mouth of the Architect, arrived ready to promote its brand-new album, Dawning. The group packed a sludgy wallop, Some nice vocal harmonies from guitarists Steve Brooks and Kevin Schindel provided a dynamic counterpoint to the tortured howls of keyboardist Jason Watkins, reminding at times of the like-minded post-metallers in Baroness.
The crowd banged along gamely for the openers, but really came alive during Scale the Summit's set. If there was any doubt that the local guitar wizards ain't your average Houston metal band, it was put to rest by the sheet music for new album The Migration that was available at the group's merch table. Can't recall ever seeing that before.
What's more, kids were buying it! It was a mostly younger crowd that showed up to cheer on the frenetic fretting of lead guitarist Chris Letchford and company, thick enough to fill up the Fitz floor and spill over into the balcony. The night's biggest draw by far, the band was received enthusiastically by their hometown fans.
Though celebrated primarily for their flawless finger tapping, Scale the Summit produced an impressively heavy live sound. The rhythm section of bassist Mark Michell and drummer Pat Skeffington pounded out a parkour playground for the nimble guitar work of Letchford and Travis Levrier, who wove progressive figures together as one.
Of particular interest to the audience appeared to be the new music from The Migration. The record is well-named: Songs like "Odyssey" and "The Traveler" evoked an epic journey without so much as a single lyric. Thundering drums kept heads bobbing in the crowd, but they cheered the quieter passages just as fervently. Even after a relatively long set, fans weren't ready for Scale the Summit to leave the stage.
"We'll be back!" Letchford promised. "We live here!"
A sizable portion of the crowd appeared to follow Scale the Summit home after their set, which was a shame. L.A.'s Intronaut capped the evening off with a spectacular show, replete with lasers and video projections. That was all window dressing to the group's tight rhythmic interplay, which produced potent grooves in odd time signatures that sounded massive over the club's PA.
Intronaut coasted on some excellent vocal harmonies early on, but got meaner and heavier as the set wore on. When drummer Danny Walker cut loose, the band coalesced into an overwhelming wall of sound that blew my hair back a bit -- highly impressive after a night chock-full of volume. Friday night's lone mosh pit finally exploded toward the end of the evening as Intronaut finally pushed the crowd to unfold their arms at last. The band had more than earned each push and shove.
A little sad, then, that so many Scale the Summit fans missed it. Though the night indisputably belonged to the local shredders, they were topped onstage Friday by their elder tourmates -- and that's no slight to Letchford and the gang, either.
Personal Bias: Despite the quality of Intronaut's punchy sludge, I couldn't help but wonder if Thorr and friends were having more fun downstairs.
The Crowd: Mostly young. Mostly white.
Overheard In the Crowd: "I'm getting that guitar, dude."
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Random Notebook Dump: It was still hot outside on the balcony at midnight. Thank God for Karbach Weisse Verse Wheat.