Live review by Natalie Zed; Photos by Albert Mansour
Every live show has it’s own character and pattern. This particular even was an oddly inverted, front-loaded structure, starting off incredibly strong and then settling into a long, drawn (though certainly not unpleasant) denouement.
I’ve waited a long time to see Gaza; my expectations were extraordinarily high, and were blown right out of the water anyway. The Salt Lake City natives possessed the stage with as much authority and energy as if they were the headliners. Vocalist Jon Parkin turned his mic into a boom, holding ot over the crowd so they could collectively scream the opening line to “He Is Never Coming Back. ”A song or two later, he announced that things where going to get “a little more punk rock,” and lowered his tall, lanky body into the crowd, performing the rest of the set on the floor. Whether roaming around aggressively, as though he were looking for someone to fight or collapse on in tears, or dragging the mic behind him, the bang and hiss of the feedback becoming another voice, Parkin was a riveting figure, commanding the (admittedly thin) audience’s entire attention. Their set further increased my excitement for their new album, No Absolutes In Human Suffering, from which they played several songs, including the heart- and throat-rending “Not With All The Hope In The World.”
Whereas Gaza‘s hardcore grind set was all about raw, vicious and virulent energy, ugly authenticity seeping from every pore and sore, Black Cobra were much more about style. Their crusty, hardcore punk infused sludge has a thick, burnt, crackling quality to the sound, and a suppurating sweetness to the guitar tone that sounds uncomfortably like the aural equivalent of burning flesh. The sound is bang-on, and their aesthetic is intelligent and well-deployed, but there wasn’t the same spirit behind it, the same genuine ugliness. It’s possible that I am being too hard on them, however, as Gaza completely ruined me.
Then, Torche took the stage, and are something entirely different altogether. They have hit upon a precise and bizarre alchemy: incredibly hooky, pop-influenced hard rock that somehow hits a perfect sweet spot of up-beat, saccharine sunshine and undeniable heaviness. They played a set that drew heavily from their newest record, Harmonicraft, and demonstrated that their dizzying talent is even more impressive when beheld live. Their music is startling in its positivity, and bright sweetness. Like cactus candy, it’s a weird flavour, but still delicious. It’s not every day you see a room full of metalheads genuinely dancing, but sometimes a little bit of sweet, hot sunshine penetrates even the darkest of hearts.
The crowd at the Opera House swelled considerably during and immediately after Torche‘s set; it was clear that a great many people where there specifically to see Corrosion of Conformity and, in my opinion, those concert goers missed the best part of this show. Which is not to say that COC weren’t good – quite the contrary. They gave every impression of coasting through the set, the Animosity-era lineup of bassist/vocalist Mike Dean, guitarist Woody Weatherman and drummer Reed Mullin well-rehearsed, well-oiled and deeply comfortable on stage. They simply gave the impression that performing held no real danger for them, no deep thrill, merely a kind of storied and experienced satisfaction. Their set drew from across their deep catalogue, including several from their latest, self-titled release. While new songs like “Psychic Vampire” went over very well with the ravenous crowd, is was older material, like the thunderous “Holier” that had fans slavering for more. While it felt like Corrosion of Conformity were sitting back and enjoying the show themselves with a kind of lordly indulgence, it’s hard to begrudge some settling in when the band is still capable of producing an well-executed and constructed set, even if they made it look a bit too easy.