Live: The Blackened Music Festival Welcomes Liturgy and Shrinebuilder to Le Poisson Rouge


Liturgy, Rwake, and Shrinebuilder
Le Poisson Rouge
Sunday, November 15

Sunday night at Le Poisson Rouge featured a three-band lineup (Liturgy, Rwake, and Shrinebuilder), capping the third and final night of the newborn Blackened Weekend Music Festival. In turn, the fest itself was the third entry in the ongoing Adam Shore-curated Blackened Music series — not quite three sixes, but halfway there. After the success of the first two Blackened concerts — the first charting a few generations of grindcore (Repulsion, Brutal Truth and Pig Destroyer), the second highlighting SunnO)))’s avant primordial ooze — this edition, which was spread between Union Pool and LPR, sought the middle ground between the two extremes. On a weekend when Metallica filled the Garden uptown, the fest drew sold-out, packed-houses for successive performances by Orphan, Krallice, and Malkuth (on Friday) and Skeletonwitch and Black Anvil (on Saturday), highlighting local acts, regional bands, and one supergroup. Each night sussed variants of modern metal’s key attributes: velocity, viscosity, and voice (volume would be a fourth “V”, but that’s a given.)

The lone band to play two shows of the fest were Brooklyn’s own Liturgy. Of late, the quartet has garnered buzz beyond the dens of metal denizens, playing a New Yorker Festival and getting a shout-out in New York Magazine, via a Dirty Projector rocking their shirt for that otherwise dunderheaded “Brooklyn’s Sonic Boom” cover story from last week. After entering the sweaty locker room climes of LPR to the sound of some Arvo Part-esque doom chorale (it may not be incidental, as second guitarist Bernard Gann is the progeny of former Voice new music scribe Kyle Gann), Liturgy soon bursts into a sustained, high-register grind, topped by guitarist Hunter Hunt-Hendrix’s one-note black metallic shriek. Announcing a song as “Magic Forest,” Hunt-Hendrix proceeds to squawk like some prehistoric bird in the canopy, his band mechanistic and precise even as they move in a blur.

Arkansas six-piece Rwake move more along the ‘viscous’ axis, reveling in muddy southern glop and grinding like a Mac truck stuck in second on the freeway. Fronted by a bear-like biker holy man who goes by the initials C.T., he splits the vocal load with a thin, diminutive girl who goes by the letter B. C.T.’s bellowing bearded growl is somehow not the lowest end of the register for this band — that job falls to B., whose double-tracked vocals are what really give these epic songs a powerful lung blast. If only the band would give her a few leads to highlight that warped sound more.

If twee-indie gets to have the Monsters of Folk and hard rock touts a supergroup of Josh Homme, Dave Grohl, and John Paul Jones in ’09, heavy metal does it one better with Shrinebuilder. Consisting of the Melvins’ Dale Crover on drums, Om’s Al Cisneros on bass, and guitars from both Scott Kelly (Neurosis) and Wino (St. Vitus), Kelly summed up the supergroup on his blog earlier this year while recording their self-titled debut: “The fifth member of Shrinebuilder is the godhead.”

This supergroup obliterates the notion of moving only in one direction along the VVV axes; Shrinebuilder were faster than every band on the bill yet somehow sounded sludgier, a curious amalgam of thrash and thud. Spiral architect Cisneros locked in with Crover to create a mesmeric pulse that straddled headnod and headbang. Freed from handling the rhythm, Kelly and Wino’s detuned guitars and vocals roamed between ghostly howls and black slabs of sound, the latter’s wah creating acidic washes. As the night stretched into Monday morning, Shrinebuilder sounded more and more like Sabbath. Insert 10 minute Dale Crover rimshot here.