Friday, November 12
Better than: The usual noise-rock sausage-fest.
So Friday night, French doom-metal quintet Monarch brought their first U.S. tour to the Cake Shop, joined by two East Coast acts: robed art-doomsters Bloody Panda and convulsive noise-rockers Tinsel Teeth. Yes, it was Female-Fronted “Extreme” Music Night, and not a moment too soon.
Tinsel Teeth were up first, a Providence-based quartet featuring three flabby, shirtless, tattooed dudes and an equally inked-up female singer who sported a strap-on dildo and comported herself like a female GG Allin, minus the coprophagia. She immediately sprinted into the crowd, mic in hand, hoping the assembled dudes wouldn’t slam her backward too hard, or maybe wishing they would. She spent half the set writhing on the floor and the other half wrestling with said assembled dudes, who at one point lifted her up to the ceiling; by set’s end, she was topless. Musically, TT’s short, aggressive songs crossed Lightning Bolt with the Jesus Lizard, and that was fine, but everything she screamed sounded like “Why? Why? Why?” Which is kind of what I was thinking, watching this unfold. The bar for noise-rock transgression was set pretty high back in the ’80s and ’90s, and Tinsel Teeth don’t raise it.
As for Monarch, they evoke the crawling haunted-house vibe of defunct NYC outfit Khanate, but with more of a wall-of-sound approach to the guitars and bass, like the Melvins at their absolute slowest. And whereas Khanate frontman Alan Dubin howled like his skin was being torn off by hooks, Monarch vocalist Emilie Bresson pushes her voice through a rack of effects worthy of Gibby Haynes — standing right at the edge of the Cake Shop’s tiny stage, her voice was inaudible, crushed beneath the band’s thunderous, ultra-slow riffs. But when I walked further back into the crowd, her unearthly yet oddly soothing whispers and reverbed shrieks came to ghostly life.
Which also fit the music better, actually. Monarch play so slowly that everyone in the band is forced to stand in a circle, eyes locked on one another in a kind of collective conduction. Drummer Rob Shaffer (he of Dark Castle, recruited to replace regular Monarch skinsman Rob MacManus, who failed to gain entry to the U.S.) didn’t even try to get anything like a beat going — he just raised his arms above his head and smashed the cymbals once or twice a minute, occasionally thwacking the snare as though trying to make sure everyone was awake. At one point, midway through the single half-hour piece they performed (the entirety of their new CD, Sabbat Noir), everything dissolved into silence, leaving only Shaffer creating a surprisingly gentle wash of cymbal hiss before the band resumed, like a jump-started bulldozer. It was only in the piece’s final third that a stomping, Neanderthal rhythm developed. All in all, it was a focused, intense performance, utterly lacking the catharsis that’s metal’s usual stock-in-trade. I left before Bloody Panda got started; their arty version of doom is fine on record, but hardly revelatory, and I didn’t want my impression of Monarch diminished by a boring follow-up act.
Critical Bias: I saw GG Allin in 1992.
Random Notebook Dump: Bloody Panda don’t sell T-shirts with pandas on them. This seems like a major merch-table miscalculation.