(DGR reviews the August 21, 2013 show in Sacramento, California, put on by Animals As Leaders, Navene-K, Journal, Legion’s Requiem, and Bispora.)
It’s so odd being outside of the home city right now, especially considering that just three days ago I was out in front of a venue there waiting for a show. This jet-setting lifestyle creates some cognitive dissonance with the brain for sure. On Wednesday Animals As Leaders made the incredibly cool gesture of coming to Sacramento after their time on the Summer Slaughter tour had already wrapped up. The guys chose to soldier on and play a few more shows, and one of them took place in my stomping ground.
So it came to pass that I found myself standing out front in what began as a very small line outside of Ace Of Spades, which would grow to a pretty good-sized crowd over the span of the night. It was somewhat of a local social event as well since the whole support came from local groups, with the exception of Navene-K, who would eventually go on to surprise me as one of my favorite things that I saw that night.
I tried to find videos of every band from that evening and managed to do so for three of the five. We have a new group out here called RealityCheck Sacramento who are proving to be very cool, so look them up, and SickDrummer uploaded some drum-cam footage of Navene doing the song “Microcosm”. I haven’t found anything from Animals As Leaders yet. but the previous two uploaders are amazing people and I love them.
Bispora took the stage first that night. On the one hand, that’s great because I really enjoy what those guys get up to; I even thought the new EP wasn’t half bad. On the other hand, that also meant the guys were likely to have a short set, considering that they can get up to some long songs when they wish to. Such is the curse of writing songs that are meant to flow into one another — you have huge, seven-minute movements and you get to play three or four of them.
Bispora chose to play four songs from the latest release, Pineal Chronicles, and didn’t touch The Cycle for the whole show. Hearing those songs live for the first time was an experience, especially with new synth player Mixellburk, whose enthusiasm was second to none while up on stage. He doesn’t do the usual headbang while leaning on the keyboard thing. Instead, it’s more of a wild gesticulation and rocking out alongside it, which may have stolen my eyes more than I’d be willing to admit — if not just for the, “What is the arm doing over there?” aspect.
Bispora played their songs pretty flawlessly, barring what seemed to be a discussion about how to start the set closer, which starts from a sudden stop. The set consisted of “The Expedition”, and maybe I was hallucinating, but that flowed into “Where Ocean Meets Land”. Then they played “A Surge Of Progress”, with the keyboards really dominating the band during the sweeping sections of that song, and finally closed with “Eyes From Above” – which is one of the most straightforward and heavy songs the band have created across their two releases. Was a great idea to close with that song. Now if they can figure out how to flow into it so it truly does start suddenly, then the song will be tailor-made to cause the floor to explode.
Also, Greg is my hero for wearing Neon Green Shorts, Shoes, and Neon Green Shirt.
You guys, I may have finally figured out what Journal are up to, and it only took seeing them live four times. Across my previous reviews of this band I’ve oft-described them as sounding like a swarm of angry bees and their music as genuinely unfettered chaos. Even when compared to the wilder parts of groups like Dillinger, Leng T’Che, Behold… The Arctopus, and Dysrythmia, these guys get a little wild. However, this was the first time I’ve really been able to recognize and hear everything clearly, and I feel like I’ve finally gotten a hold of how Journal work live.
It’s still sheer, unfettered chaos.
Now hear me out: The way this works is because every song they’ve written has a groove in it, and it’s something to latch on to but it comes off like a moment of solace from the constant guitar work coming at you in a wall of sound. These guys will even bury headbang-worthy riffs beneath the two other people in the band just going nuts, drummer included. It’s part demonstration of guitar destruction, part free-jazz freakout, part actual music, but all three go up and are quickly put down before you even get the chance to notice. So, a Journal show boils down to three people getting up on stage and going nuts for a half hour while the crowd grasps for any idea of what in the world is going on.
Even on CD, Journal come off as mad scientists, and they only seem to be traveling further in that direction because the new song they’ve been breaking out is the most abrasive and chaotic one yet. How even Journal are able to keep track of what they’re doing is beyond me. Every show has consisted of me watching them get up on stage, then seemingly blacking out with only the faintest bits of recollection of chords and stuff I recognize, and then waking up with a “what the fuck just happened?” look on my face.
Animals As Leaders may also be a two-guitarist, one-drummer band, but their music is tightly woven, almost knife-precision tight and focused on getting a groove going. Journal are just as precise, but they evoke an F-5 Tornado.
Legion’s Requiem are a local Sacramento group who combine groove metal and thrash metal. It’s a pretty common mix, genre-wise, but these guys have such a passion for what they’re doing that you can’t help but at least nod your head along with it. Their whole live set seems like a flurry of hair and occasional circle pits. I probably spent more time watching circle headbanging than actually noting what the band looked like; they clearly enjoy themselves up there.
The band rumbled through a solid set, and many of their songs snapped between groove and thrash at the drop of a hat. So many of the songs start out surprisingly fast and become crushlingly heavy — like a goliath stomping through a city heavy — and then somehow the band manage to intermingle the two, so you get guitar solos straight out of the Pantera and Slayer school of whammy bar abuse being filtered over music that would make a Cro-Magnon man punch the dude next to him.
The guys even broke out a Pantera cover to close the night, in honor of the fact that it had been Dimebag Darrell’s birthday the previous day. It was a really good cover, but Legion’s Requiem seem so really on-the-ball with their instruments that there was zero chance they were going to blow it. We just got a heavier, growled version of a Pantera song to close the set out.
The band do have a demo out there, including on their Facebook page. They gave it away for free at the show to folks who came up and spoke to them.
If you got the chance to read Islander’s joking review of the recent Summer Slaughter tour that rolled through Seattle, you’ll note that he made a crack about Animals As Leaders’ drummer Navene Koperweis and how the dude was irreplaceable (although, the current drummer is killing it too). Although I’m probably the most heinous for doing it, none of us at NCS really wade too deeply into the electronica waters, So even when an artist by the name of Navene-K was announced for the show at Ace Of Spades, it never occurred to me that it was the same Navene.
He’s posted up his music for free on Bandcamp and on his own personal site, and the way it comes off, for those who aren’t aware of who it is, is very drum-heavy electronica music. It sounds like a hybrid of Noisia’s drum-and-bass moments with the occasional bass-heavy dubstep crawler and switches between the two pretty frequently. Somehow he even got Evan Brewer from The Faceless to contribute a bass guitar to the song “Human Design”.
The music he’s put out, whilst great for blasting our of your stock car speakers while driving down the freeway, does absolutely no justice to what this guy does live. Soon, you’re going to reading quite about more about what he does, and I’m happy as hell that his first shot at it took place where I happened to be.
The way Navene does his shows is so different from many of these Djs that are out there today, content to hide behind their wall of faders and switches whilst a Macbook does the work. Instead, he sets up an actual drum kit with a sampler pad right up top and plays alongside the music he has going, so that his shows transform from a simple club show to something that’s more like a twenty-five minute drum solo/rave, and goddamn was it fucking cool.
Navene is fun to watch behind the kit in any circumstance and even managed to make the electronica he was kicking out look insane. He moved so quickly between each hit and seemed to be enjoying the hell out of himself for this being his first gig doing this. As someone who played drums for a while and enjoys this music, I feel I fit into a very specific niche for what he was doing up on stage. It was so far up my alley I may have drunkenly proposed afterward. Goddamn was this one of the coolest things I had seen in a while.
I still love the fact that Animals As Leaders are getting the attention that they do. Their music requires so much skill and is so intricate that I can’t help but think about the guitarists who it’s inspiring for the future, how good they will be, and what options will be available to them when they start writing music. I feel like a band getting as big as they have really helped out the metal genre.
It’s also this sort of optimism that carried me through the set that night, because most of the set they broke out was the same one they had when they came into town with Meshuggah back in March. It was absolutely fantastic to hear those songs again, so it’s really a personal flaw that I found myself anticipating everything that would happen, beat for beat.
The guys are awesome, too, for scheduling a date out in Sacramento right after the Summer Slaughter tour had ended. They came out by themselves, with just their friends, and had local groups to back them up. It was a very cool gesture and awesome to see them for a third time — especially as they’ve grown in popularity. I’m even starting to see some heavy, chaotic pits opening up at Ace Of Spades when those guys play — which was a genuinely bemusing reaction, in stark contrast to everyone else standing around going, “Oh wow, that is so fucking cool”.
AAL are incredible musicians, and I love watching current drummer Matt Garstka behind the kit because the dude goes wild back there. He’s the drummer’s version of the two guys up in front of him; all three work out to be a technical showpiece.
Btw, holy shit. When did this happen?