Concert review: Lightning Bolt and METZ at Double Happiness
METZ photo by David Waldman
Drummers took center stage when Lightning Bolt and METZ teamed up to wreck a packed Double Happiness on Thursday.
Lightning Bolt's Brian Chippendale, sporting a mask that, from a distance at least, made him look like Cillian Murphy's Scarecrow from "Batman Begins," fueled the Providence, Rhode Island duo's sound with his powerful kit work. Hayden Menzies, his counterpart in METZ, matched this ferocity in the Toronto trio's pugnacious opening set, laying into his drums with finishing move authority. Combined the two probably managed to lower the venue's foundation by a solid two to three inches.
For its latest full length, Fantasy Empire (Thrill Jockey), Lightning Bolt recorded in a proper studio for the first time, adding a degree of breathing room to its normally claustrophobic compositions - breathing room that all but evaporated in the pair's nearly hour-long performance. Here, Chippendale and bassist Brian Gibson choked out distorted riffs, muscled through thunderous drum volleys, and layered on muffled vocals that often sounded like tortured howls emanating from some unseen dungeon. On occasion, the two conjured images of mountains of gear being jammed en masse into some oversized garbage disposal.
On "Mega Ghost," Chippendale yowled like a wounded animal before succumbing to a metallic avalanche of cranky bass feedback and polysyllabic drums, which arrived in such a rush that it made one wonder if the musician actually wore a mask to disguise the fact he's not really human.
Gibson proved equally adept with his bass, hammering out innards-vibrating notes, crusty riffs that fell as sharply and severely as guillotine blades, and menacing thumps that mimicked the heavy, lumbering footsteps of some prehistoric beast.
Even so, order remained amidst the chaos, and everything followed a prescribed battle plan rather than devolving into a musical riot. Indeed, there were times the pair broke off into avant-garde asides that evoked free jazz as much as the musical output of any of its noise-rock brethren.
Over the course of METZ's too short, 30-minute opening turn, the trio, which, like Lightning Bolt, sounded much larger than its minimalist lineup would suggest (anyone positioned outside the venue might've confused the concert for a fracking operation), walked a similar line between control and chaos.
Drawing equally from their self-titled 2012 debut and the forthcoming METZ II, Menzies, singer/guitarist Alex Edkins, looking professorial with his glasses and tousled mop of hair, and bassist Chris Slorach bashed through a series of slash-and-burn tunes borne of frustration, angst, lust, depression and rage.
While vocals tended to function as mere rumor for Lightning Bolt, there were moments in METZ's performance where Edkins words proved central to the action, conveying everything from disappointment ("[You] let me down again") to overwhelming frustration. "Why can't you just take me?" he howled on "Spit You Out," his voice as frayed and shaken as the jagged riffs emanating from his instrument.
The tunes were similarly varied, veering from the taught, angular "Get Off," which built on pile-driving guitar and Edkins primal growls, to "Spit You Out," which centered on a lurching bassline that stumbled and swooned as though wine drunk. Throughout, Edkins layered the tracks with thick brambles of static-y feedback, even offering his guitar up like a would-be sacrifice at the height of one outburst, lifting it above his head and shaking it angrily at an amplifier.
"Let's fuck this place up together," Edkins announced shortly after the band took to the stage. Given the evening's combined musical output, it'd be fair to label the singer a man of his word.