Krullur, HRA, Oath of Cruelty, Hel-Razor, Halo of Gunfire Rudyard's January 18, 2014
In the middle of January, the city's concert landscape can feel like a bit of a frozen wasteland, even when it's t-shirt weather outside. Most of the big touring acts are in hibernation until the thaw, and if you want to see a hot show, you've got to crawl underground where it stays warm all year round.
The hot lights on the small stage upstairs at Rudyard's kept Houston's headbangers nice and toasty on Saturday night as five local bands from all over the metal map arrived ready to shout themselves hoarse. They were greeted by a slew of black-clad freaks who showed up early to sip a few beers and compare backpatches, ready to rock and roll.
West Coast émigrés Halo of Gunfire began the night's aural assault, breaking out the blastbeats early and often in their brand of pounding, modern death metal. Though unfamiliar to most of those in attendance, the band seemed to make a few new fans by ending their set with a ripping At the Gates cover. Hel-Razor, possibly Houston's hardest-rocking three-piece, were up next, warming up the crowd's necks further with whipping, reverb-drenched early thrash tunes in the vein of Venom and Overkill. By the time their galloping riffs rode off into the sunset, I could've sworn my hair had grown an inch or two.
Although the quick-twitch deathlords in Oath of Cruelty favored a more chrome-domed look, their unmerciful pounding kept the hair flying as fans crowded in around the stage. The group sounded horrifically tight, with impressive guitar soloing and impossibly fast drumming on tunes like "Hellish Decimation." Their hyperspeed set-closer, "Altar of Impalement," was particularly vicious, showing off the band's ghastly technical chops in a most brutal fashion. The crowd dug it.
The group folks seemed most excited to see, though, was H.R.A. (Heavy Roach Activity), Clute's nasty, grindy little hardcore outfit. The tiny dancefloor in front of the stage became a crowded, roiling mess when the band plugged in, and a very rowdy micro-moshpit was touched off immediately by the mean opening chords of "Crimes."
H.R.A.'s metallic sound is studded with furious stretches of thrashy d-beat which coalesce into stomping hardcore screaming fits. It's the kind of loud, outrageously aggressive music that's easy to lose your mind to. In the tight space in front of Rudyard's stage, three or four guys can make for a rather gnarly mosh pit, and bodies and wedge monitors were repeatedly bowled over as the slamming grew out of control.
"This goes out to all you motherfuckers keeping this shit alive," said lead screamer Robert Mena, staring out from the stage at the kind of people who make a little metal show in Montrose so much fun.
The band's every short burst of bile was clapped and cheered with great fervor, and they confidently delivered the sonic intensity people had showed up to see, tearing out jagged snatches of brutality with a five guitar strings and a well-oiled double-bass pedal. It was wild.
The last band of the night was local metal trio Krullur, who couldn't have looked more different than H.R.A. if they'd specifically set out to. Draped in spikes, chains and smoke, the men of Krullur seemed transported straight from the early '80s, but their sound was far more punishing than some simple throwback. Rock and roll guitar solos and hardcore-inflected riffage were melded nicely with brutal thrash passages and ugly blastbeats on the drummer's titanic kit.
Guys and gals in leather jackets hung around to check 'em out, sipping longnecks and reveling in the sheer metalness of it all. In January or in June, a quality local bill at Rudyard's is always worth the price of admission.
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Personal Bias: Montrose representer.
The Crowd: Excited and dedicated.
Overheard in the Crowd: "He's drinking my piss, dude."
Random Notebook Dump: Still never seen a drunk fall down the stairs at Rudyard's. It's got to happen regularly, though, right?