NIGHTMARES FOR NAPTOWN: Bizarre Noir Album Release at 5th Quarter, Tonight!

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Tonight I finally get to see the Bizarre Noir traveling circus extravaganza up close and personal for the first time, and it’s been a long time coming. Long overdue, in fact, something I’m ashamed to say as a local writer who has long championed this adventurous band of sonic risk-takers.

As they set out to release their latest album Pop Songs For Ugly People, which is easily the most hotly anticipated album of the year thus far here in Indianapolis’ independent scene, I found myself today listening to their sophomore album, Bedtime Stories. This is an album with whiplash-inducing powers of genre-defying greatness, which makes it as difficult to describe to the uninitiated as it is necessary to.

I have not heard a stronger, more confident album from any band. And I don’t mean local.

From the moment they invade your ears on “Welcome,” with Chris Charles’ soothingly deceptive vocals (reminding me initially of Days of the New’s Travis Meeks) taunting us: “Welcome to ever-after, the rotting corpse, stiff cadavers line the halls to your tomb as all your sins cast a shadow!” you know these are going to be bedtime stories in the Grimm tradition.

Dark. Sinister. Bizarre Noir.

But sonically they keep us on our toes, as the music is definitely NOT always dark. To call Bizarre Noir merely genre-bending is to be almost insultingly daft. Numerous local critics have tried to describe their sound and fallen woefully short, so I won’t bother to coin my own, but I’ll quote Wayne Bertsch from this week’s edition of Barfly … he came closest, in this writer’s opinion:

Picture a metal band that owes more to Klaus Nomi or Captain Beefheart than Anthrax,” Bertsch writes. “Now have Andy Warhol manage them high on ‘schrooms. Voila! Bizarre Noir!”

However you choose to describe the music, Bedtime Stories never lets up. “Wicked Black” picks up in intensity in a personal favorite, one of the heavier songs on the album that still manages to pack a melodic punch through almost surf-oriented guitar lines as Charles sings of “staring at God though the cracks of creation.”

“Loki” features thundering percussion and a brilliant bass breakdown that I always have to hit repeat to enjoy again. And the epic “Rise” features the band really stretching to show what they can do with a long build, something that hints strongly of what fans can expect with the album being released tonight.

But what they are not is a traditional rock band. Or a metal band, as they so often get pigeonholed by fans in Best of Nuvo competitions they so easily win year after year.

They are Bizarre Noir, and the music is only an entry-point to the madness.

It is a very epic entry-point, but participating in the grand circus of a live performance, where the band’s performance-art can incorporate music into the freak-show aspect of their fan-centered experience, is where everything comes together to paint a full picture.

Bedtime Stories sets the stage.

Pop Songs For Ugly People will burn it down.

And somewhere in-between, if you’re at the 5th Quarter Lounge tonight for the CD Release, you’ll gain a full appreciation for what makes these crazy motherfuckers tick.

THE LIVE WIRE: Crowbar – “High Rate Extinction” (5th Quarter Lounge, 12/5/2016)

There’s never a disappointing moment when you’re at a Crowbar show. I love the fact that they bridge the gap between my appreciation of the best elements of doom metal, brooding thunder that shakes your brain until it bleeds, andpassages that are equally at home in the world of hardcore punk. Easily the most influential band to ever come out of New Orleans’ metal community, these guys have been destroying convention for almost thirty years.

The track I caught on video tonight is the opener off their self-titled sophomore album, released back in 1993, but there’s nothing dated about the sound here. The way they slam right into the opening riff you’d think they wrote that bastard two weeks ago!

After the bruising I took to get Goatwhore shots, I wasn’t in position to get the best photo of Crowbar, so here are what I was able to snap … hope the video makes up for it! (All photos credit: Jonathan Sanders)

LIVE PHOTOS: Lillake at the 5th Quarter Lounge (12/5/2016)

Oh … my … God …

Let me just tell you. I was prepared for Crowbar. I’ve fucking seen their asses before, at the 5th Quarter. I knew what they could do. And I was told what Goatwhore was capable of by friends who had seen them before. But I had never seen Lillake. Few have.  They’d only done nine live shows prior to tonight’s show at the 5th, though Nico Santora’s a legend if you’ve followed Suicidal Tendencies. So you’d at least know he’s capable of pulling out some serious rabbits from that hat.

But damn!

Tonight this band seriously fucked my shit up. And I’m not ashamed to admit it. Check out the video below of the 12 minutes I taped … two songs they’ve given me permission to post. And enjoy the photos below as well. And then, by all means, GO BUY THEIR ALBUM! Support music that fucking matters!

Thank you.

(All photos credit: Jonathan Sanders)

ALBUM REVIEW: Tracksuit Lyfestile – “E=MC Hammered”

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When I covered the finals of this year’s Battle Royale at Birdy’s, I was impressed to see that the much-vaunted Tracksuit Lyfestile lived up to all the musical hype. “An instrumental combo featuring trombone distorted through a varied set of live FX pedals, the band brought a hard rock edge to what is still a highly experimental sound,” I wrote at the time in NUVO. Combining tight metal guitar riffs with adventurous experiments in instrumental looping built upon, among other things, live trombone, makes a Tracksuit Lyfestile show something to behold.

The same holds true when listening to the band’s debut E=MC Hammered, though listeners should certainly knock their expectations up a notch as the level of musicianship is impeccable. Headphone listening at its best, Tracksuit Lyfestile encourages you to rock the fuck out at a live show, and then sit back and pick the music down to its bare elements at home, reveling in how they build these acid soundscapes.

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Tracksuit Lyfestile live at Birdy’s during the Battle Royale Finals (Credit: Jonathan Sanders)

 

From the opening build of “Hurricane” the music grabs your attention, and then the band holds it through the little things; the “Hey! Hey! Hey!” choruses of “90/10,” the thundering wall-of-sound that is “Lunar Lounge,” and the crowd-pleasing “Beat It” cover being stand-outs. By the time they place us back gently on the ground with the staccato crunch and intricately melodic “A Vigorous Joe Pesci,” a return visit is a foregone conclusion. Just as soon as one can get online to find the band’s ‘Band In Town’ page, that is, because once you’re hooked you’ll want to see them live just to know for sure it isn’t just a bunch of studio trickery.

I assure you, it isn’t. Tracksuit Lyfestile is the most original band I’ve heard come out of the Indianpolis scene since I’ve moved here — call them the Cake of Naptown; they’ll inspire many, but few will be able to outright copy them. And that’s a very good thing!

The band will release the brand new album E=MC Hammered at the Melody Inn on july 15th with support from Moxxie, Coup d’Etat and Midwest State of Mind! Not many better spots to catch a live band in any city …. and for only $5!

Ghost takes Indianapolis by storm with sold-out Egyptian Room show

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One of Ghost’s Nameless Ghouls onstage at the Egyptian Room in Indianapolis (Credit: Jonathan Sanders)

“Do we believe in Satan? The only thing that really matters is that he believes in us!” – Nameless Ghoul, via an interview with Noisey

Fresh off their Grammy win in the Metal category earlier this year for their album Meliora, it’s tough to imagine there’s a band more in-demand in the genre. Such was shown to be true when the progressive Swedish band took the stage at Old National Center’s Egyptian Room on April 20th, leaving some 2,000 fans speechless in the process, a sold-out performance in the heart of the Bible Belt. It is one thing to hear the band’s ironic take on Satanism on CD or Spotify and imagine the beasts creating such music behind the scenes. It is another entirely to witness the Nameless Ghouls in all their glory as they provide their full support for Papa Emeritus III, as you’re surrounded by an animated crowd of like-minded music fans.

If you’re among the uninitiated, this is perhaps the most adventurous, often beautiful, progressive rock you’ll hear outside of a Wax Fang show, and their performance never lets up. This was the band’s first time in the Circle City. Here’s hoping it isn’t long before they return to preach again soon. Religious Freedom, right, Governor Pence?

 


More photos below, all taken by yours truly, Jonathan Sanders, as I stood inches from the band, praying my camera — and my legs — wouldn’t die on me!


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INTERVIEW: R’lyeh

R'lyeh live at the 5th Quarter Lounge in Indianapolis. (Credit: Jonathan Sanders)

R’lyeh live at the 5th Quarter Lounge in Indianapolis. (Credit: Jonathan Sanders)

If you’re interested in hearing metal in the vein of Bongripper, Pelican and ISIS, you’re going to love Indianapolis-based R’lyeh. Inspired by the work of H.P. Lovecraft without necessarily being a “Lovecraft band,” the duo strives to push the envelope of what progressive instrumental metal can be, even as they deal with the changes required by becoming a two-member band following the loss of bassist Joshua Buchanan. I caught the band after their set at the 5th Quarter Lounge in Indianapolis to talk about the benefits of instrumental metal, the work they have done on upcoming debut album Color Out Of Space (due out this February) and what it is like being part of such a close-knit metal scene.

You can hear a sample from their upcoming album’s title track, shot live at the venue, below. The band will be playing Jiminy Christmas at the Emerson Theater on December 14th with half a dozen other bands to benefit Riley Children’s Hospital — $6 gets you in, or you can bring a new unwrapped toy!

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First off, who would you say are your biggest influences, and how do they play into your sound?

We’re extremely influenced by a vast array of bands, everything from led zeppelin to AHAB, even bands like This Will Destroy You. We are heavily influenced by the whole post-(genre) scene: We really dig instrumental music. It forces the listener to really listen to the music, which is why we’re all here right?

We’ve been compared to bands like Bongripper, Pelican, ISIS … the good stuff. Those bands have played heavily into our sound, technically speaking and from a writing standpoint. It’s really only shifted into a more-rounded “thing” when we became a two member band, for we started as two. So the only thing now is filling empty spaces while maintaining a high-intensity stage performance to keep ’em on their toes!

The whole thing about R’lyeh is that we tell you a story. Our songs on our upcoming release Color Out Of Space are written and arranged in a fashion that represents the “rise and the fall” of all mankind. We build things (riffs) up so big to a point that we’re unable to maintain it, then we fucking destroy things (riffs) all the way down to the ground. You’ll hear us when you see us, you’ll feel us when you feel us, basically.

R'lyeh Live at the 5th Quarter Lounge in Indianapolis. They're just guitar and drums, but so much sound! (Credit: Jonathan Sanders)

R’lyeh Live at the 5th Quarter Lounge in Indianapolis. They’re just guitar and drums, but so much sound! (Credit: Jonathan Sanders)

Do you prefer writing in the studio, or working songs out with an audience? There’s certainly more at stake on stage, but does that give you more creative energy to take risks?

We write primarily at “the R’lair” (the basement of the Indy Indie Artist’s Colony: Thanks y’all for listening every week!) and we’ll run through things until we’re either really comfortable with the song or really hyped on the song and can’t hold it in. Kind of like the very last song we played last night at The Fifth Quarter Lounge, appropriately titled “November.”

Ideally we’d like to have a drum structure to follow, and nail the loops. We allow ourselves ample room for improvisation if needed, just in case. The creativity shows; every performance is different and personal.

Lovecraft inspired the name … Is it difficult to tell those epic stories with just the music? Is there a rush when fans get it?

Yes! R’lyeh (pronounced like Princess Leah, with a “ruhh” in front of it) is Lovecraft inspired, brought about by drummer Mathias (aka Dane, since it’s easier to say) and it was pondered on for a couple of weeks before we decided on the name “RLYEH,” though we aren’t really a “Lovecraft band.” We’re just a couple of dudes who like to get stoned and play some riffs really loud.

Sometimes it is difficult, yes, to tell such an epic tale though it almost just comes to us. I mean our longest song (“Untitled”) is roughly a 10 minute long build-up, and was written in just a couple of hours! It’s all about the jams and see what happens. When people come at me with the Lovecraft reference and actually “get” what we’re doing … what a great feeling.

What, to your ears, makes a perfect song? How do you know when you’ve gotten it right?

The perfect song (to me, Anthony) is when I can feel it more than I can hear it. If a song that I hear in my ears from the radio or the stage or wherever, if that song can make me feel something, than its a winner. I’m going to have to knock it up and wife it.

What song do you wish you’d written?

I wish I would have written “Down in Mexico” by The Coasters. R’lyeh Secret: We do a Black Sabbath cover, but only once so far, with someone else not in the band on vocals.

Is there anything you wish someone would ask you but they never do?

I wish someone would ask me if I wanted to do a shot and take a picture. Life’s too short, man.

Is there anything you wish they’d never ask again?

I wish they would quit asking us why we don’t have a singer.

R'lyeh guitarist Anthony Hampton. (Credit: Jonathan Sanders)

R’lyeh guitarist Anthony Hampton. (Credit: Jonathan Sanders)

Do you have any great “fan” stories about other bands, or about your fans?

I’m fortunate enough that some of my biggest fans are my best friends. And that probably goes both ways, the scene here is pretty close knit. Mona Demaggio [who runs the 5th Quarter Lounge] likes to get on stage with me while I riff. A girl pulled her boobs out and put them in my face once at a Burn the Army show. Honestly man, we could do a whole other interview on interesting stories from shows! [Laughs.]

Have there been any really memorable show disasters?

We’ve forgotten gear before, had to go back for it or borrow another bands. Ohlm got a flat tire and couldn’t make it once, that was rough. We had to cancel our show with Ringworm at Iron Borne Fest because I double-booked myself for a tattoo convention the same weekend. So many little things that always seemed to domino themselves into mega disasters. But we tend to work through the kinks pretty damn easily.

What was your recording experience on the album due this February? What should fans expect from the new album?

Color Out Of Space is the ride through the shit storm that is life. The buildup, the hype, the power, the greed all leads to the breakdown, the chaos, the destruction. You’ll hear riffs, you’ll follow along, you’ll feel relatable feelings and you’ll see the creativity and thoughts involved in putting this band together. We’ve had rough ups and downs along the way but the journey has been great. Expect a lot out of R’lyeh in 2015. We’re going to try and make this an actual thing, who knows where we’ll end up or when, but we’ll be sure to let you know.

THE LIVE WIRE: Burn The Army

Burn The Army live at the 5th Quarter (credit: Jonathan Sanders)

Burn The Army live at the 5th Quarter (credit: Jonathan Sanders)

It has been a full twenty-four hours and I am just now technically getting all my hearing back after the blazing firestorm Indianapolis’s own Burn The Army set loose at 5th Quarter Lounge. For three guys playing mostly instrumental metal, there’s no discounting how hard they worked out there to keep the crowd in a frenzy. Extra credit is due to their drummer, described by other band members as “a prodigy,” who was a whirling dervish out there, proving there’s no need for a gigantic 30-piece kit for a drummer to really pull out all the stops. He has to be seen and heard to be believed. Which you can do, by checking out their new song “Eidolon,” which they debuted, and we captured in HD, last night!