Eyehategod, Pig Destroyer, Goatwhore
Rocks Off Concert Cruise, Hudson River
Saturday, October 24
The kid in the Suicidal Tendencies t-shirt went down hard, his spindly dark form an inverse chalk outline on the floor. Crowding around him, and jostling violently for view on the balcony above, his metalhead kin roared at the security guard (as if this sweaty, wayward ship could claim any order) who’d knocked him flat with a beefy fist. Were their cries a timely exhibition of the smash-the-Man ethos just roared for half an hour by furious punks Pig Destroyer? No, it was a bunch of boat quips – “Throw him overboard!” “Send him to the brig!” As they said on The Love Boat, “It’s not a cruise until someone gets fucking punched.”
Saturday night, for the closing eve of CMJ, someone finally answered the pressing hypothetical, “What if we put a bunch of hardcore metal bands on a boat, sent it down the Hudson River, and charged kids from the Connecticut suburbs $75 a pop–and also, there was a buffet?” The Rocks Off concert cruise series, a big summertime draw for tamer rock bands and their Converse-wearing ilk, brought sludge-metal staples Eyehategod, grindcore primals Pig Destroyer, blackened death-metal shriekers Goatwhore, and deathspaz brats Strong Intention aboard the Temptress Cruise Ship for very special three-hour tour with 500 of their fiercest/drunkest fans. As the vessel slipped deafeningly down the Hudson, offering gorgeous views of the Manhattan skyline and, uh, passable ones of Jersey, it shook with the force of nonstop, bass-heavy slushy squalor, the feedback of each maladroit troupe folding back upon itself inside the dim, smelly, foggy confines. It rained outside, gently upon the river, as the thrilled fans inside – mostly male, white, and glaringly not from New York – honed various inflictions of pain in the mosh pit. “I can see why people like these bands,” said my date/parole officer. “There’s no foreplay, all thrusting.”
Goatwhore, in their funereal glory, may have provoked the happiest ambience of the evening; they seemed to play largely from recent album Carving Out the Eyes of God. But lest they be misunderstood, as they arguably wish to be, metal kids are a very amiable bunch overall–during Goatwhore’s acrid set, many of them streamed to the outdoor decks, where they giddily snapped photos of the Empire State Building and fawned over the temperate evening.
As the boat continued down the Styx, drawing its nearest to the Statue of Liberty, Virginia’s Pig Destroyer ushered the crowd indoors with breakneck arpeggios and provoked a violent scene in the pit, this nakedly being their goal. (Enjoy this hilarious summation from their Wikipedia: “Deciding that ‘Cop Killer’ or ‘Cop Destroyer’ would be tactless, they eventually settled on ‘Pig Destroyer.'”) The overwhelming, thickly textural noise–especially during what may or may not have been “Piss Angel”–notably pleased a gent in the front row sporting a Confederate flag t-shirt, which he clawed at nonstop with orgasmic glee.
Of course, the draw of the evening, sea breeze aside, was Eyehategod, nihilist New Orleans sludge mainstays 21 years strong. They’ve enjoyed press redux recently, as their ’93 album Take as Needed for Pain (of such holiday classics as “White Nigger” and “Sister Fucker”) was included in Decibel magazine’s Top 25 extreme metal anthology Precious Metal, and they harvested from it for their extended melee. “Y’all wanna see a riot on a boat?” sneered lead singer Mike Williams, no doubt relieved to have a moment without someone asking him Hurricane Katrina morality questions (it happens). And while Eyehategod’s style may have been comparatively more torpid than their predecessors of the evening, it was also the most engrossing–a flurry of rapid, kinetic bursts set startlingly against macabre, macabre Melvins-ish tar.
As the Temptress slipped back towards its 41st Street dock, Eyehategod redoubled their efforts late into the night; they snarled on, sharing their fury. From her growing distance, Lady Liberty kept pacific watch over the spectacle–this boat of miscreants, wretched, blissful refuse of teeming shores.