(DGR reviews a recent show from Sacramento, California, featuring Conducting From the Grave, Aenimus, Flub, Journal, and The Brotherhood of Ellipsis.)
It is rare these days for a show to line up perfectly with my schedule. It has also become rare these days that the guys in Conducting From The Grave, a group I’ve seen a whole bunch and reviewed for this site before, play live now, so the fact that the two lined up on a Friday felt like the planets aligning.
Conducting From The Grave just recently re-recorded their first EP Trials Of The Forsaken themselves and re-released it under the name Revival Of Forsaken Trials and were celebrating that fact. It was a ten-year anniversary show for that EP and one that also saw the reunion of some old band members to the fold for a limited run. Also on the docket for this show were The Brotherhood Of Ellipsis, Journal, Aenimus, and Flub — many groups I would be seeing for the first time, and that was exciting.
Unfortunately, Entheos had to drop off the bill as they had been a late addition to another tour and the routing made it impossible for them to make it. That was a bit of a bummer because they would’ve been exciting to see live — I get the sense they’re slated for big things. As it stood though, that night was still going to be an assault on the senses spread across five bands — with two of them being on very different ends of the instrumental spectrum.
If The Brotherhood Of Ellipsis were to suddenly stop tomorrow, there is one thing that could be said about the band more than anything else — that they were ambitious as hell with their concept. Lots of bands start out small and then slowly expand outward, usually reflective of their overall status at the moment, but these guys could give two shits about whether they’re a local group or not. They’ve got big dreams, and with the democratization of many resources on the net, they can achieve a large number of their lofty ideas.
Thus, you wind up with a band who not only have music but are also trying to expand upon their concept through their website, artwork, an online comic, and everything else they can seemingly add their touch to. The group are entirely instrumental and, as explained, so is their comic — no words in the music and no words on the drawn page either. They’d be one of two instrumental groups that night, but The Brotherhood Of Ellipsis take the videogame part of their videogame metal descriptor seriously and seem largely about spreading that gospel — even setting up a ps4 at their merch booth and having games running in between the different bands setting up.
Since their music is entirely instrumental, the band themselves are composed of a drummer, bassist, two guitarists, and a guy with a hell of a keyboard rig that he has set to sound like chiptune tunings for many of their songs. He took on a lot of the group’s melodies while the band behind him rumbled through a smattering of tracks, meaning that the group were free to get weird and throw in swing rhythms, super-fast blast sections, a breakdown or two — anything that fit the overall soundtrack-to-a-game-that-doesn’t-exist motif that the band are going for.
In direct comparison to the second instrumental group that night, Journal, The Brotherhood Of Ellipsis are easier to get a grasp on, as the music is less confined chaos and more straightforwardly composed. They’re two groups aiming at very different things, of course, but at the very least anyone bound to see these guys in the near future should understand that it’s easy to pick up what they’re putting down.
I’ve devoted many a word to Journal in my time at this site, especially during the blocks where I’ve been able to attend local shows, because these dudes had a period where they were playing a ton. In large part, what they do musically hasn’t changed an iota since the last time I saw them desecrate their instruments live on stage — the group is still a chaotic, barely contained mess of sound that somehow is forced into a cohesive whole, with a terrifying display of guitar technicality that to an outsider looks like a hell of a shoutout to whomever they use for guitar strings, because I’m surprised they don’t have to replace them each song, with as much as they fly up and down that fretboard.
Journal revealed that they’ve been slowly hacking away at new material, and the new song they broke out is as abrasive as everything they’ve done before, if not more so. But I wonder how much of that is due to me not having seen it five or six times like the other stuff that I’ve just barely managed to get a grasp on.
Long story short, trying to headbang to these guys is liable to leave you in a neckbrace, with jarring transitions, sudden switches at the drop of a hat, and an overall performance that sounds like a hornets’ nest being tossed around in a closed trashcan. Still, I feel like at some point, Journal should be one of those bands that are at the forefront of a lot of indie sites, because they challenge a lot of what heavy metal is — as well as the music it seems like — and it’s the sort of thing I feel is tailor-made to pop up at a bigger metal music festival just to throw people for a loop. It’s always felt like something of an injustice that they only get brought up in short bursts.
Their drummer is also, still, terrifyingly skilled at keeping up with those guys.
Flub are a band we’ve spoken of before; no thanks to me, as the day they put out a song and posted about it, I think I was in the midst of a twenty-four hour coma — yet some of you may recognize the name. Flub are a local Sacramento collective, a combination of musicians from a couple of other current Sacramento groups who decided to form into a metal assemblage that could best be described as a ghoulash of the current music scene out here. They draw heavily from the technical death side of things, alongside small -core aspects, the string-bending of a djent song or two, and even straightforward black metal for one segment.
It’s the sort of music that is a little bit difficult to grasp onto on a first live outing and the type of music where it really helps to be familiar with the band up front. Outside of the one song we’ve posted from them and the occasional glance at their pages though, I’ve failed on that front, which means I got to experience Flub in the same way I did most of the bands that night — with zero familiarity.
It’s a little difficult to describe exactly what was going on for much of Flub’s set as the band’s musical style is a highly spastic one that switches all over the place while the vocalist is seemingly in the midst of a deathcore-inspired seizure. As someone unfamiliar with what was happening, though, I recognized the huge sections of music that had been seemingly jammed into each other — whether they fit or not into the barely cohesive whole that their music consisted of. While I recognized the elements, it’s hard to tell if they fully gel or instead are just violent displays of excellent musicianship. Some of the songs were blast-heavy affairs (backed by Journal’s drummer for this show), and others had sharp grooves that would be summarily cast into the ocean just as it seemed folks might have gotten a grasp on them.
It’s somewhat the state of modern metal, where artists are taking the everything-and-the-kitchen-sink approach to writing (because, honestly, who the hell is going to tell them “no”?) and seeing what they can make out of it; the results are always interesting, if uneven. I imagine that a trek to see if I can familiarize myself with the band’s music is in order, because it feels like knowing what was coming could’ve amplified their set ten-fold, because they were lively up there to say the least. But Flub were the victims of me being a novice outsider on this one.
I had a friend, years back at a show, inform me of one nugget of wisdom. He wasn’t a constant metal-show goer, and to be honest with you, a talent show at a high school where he was supporting friends didn’t exactly qualify as one. But considering that a pit broke out a few times during that event, I imagine it was as close as he was likely to get and extrapolated out from there. His line always stuck with me because it has come to define much of my concert-going experience, and lately my music listening in general, as I retreat into becoming a bitter piece of garbage screaming at younger kids that what they think is heavy isn’t really. His line was, “I don’t know what the fuck that is, but I know to get the fuck out of the way of that”.
I say this because it kind of sums up my views on Aenimus, a band with whom I have had no prior live experience, merely having heard of them multiple times through various band friends and checking out the music. However, the band pitch themselves as “Technical-Deathcore”, which at this point in my music listening career is a bit of a tough sell. But I do know one thing — I know to get out of the way of their live show because the people there to see them were ready to see them crush live, and one long-haired doofus who had no idea what he was in for sure as fuck wasn’t going to get in the way.
Boy, do these guys like their breakdowns and blasts. If there is one thing Aenimus have going for them, it’s that they have a clear understanding of what makes up their music, and they play that part to a fucking ‘T’. Outside of appearing very classy — dressed in button-up shirts — the band’s performance is savage, their set leaning heavily on the -core aspect of what makes up their sound.
Their vocalist, screaming out of the side of his mouth and then all but inhaling the microphone on his deeper growls takes on a very alien persona, fitting within the group’s sci-fi and mystical concepts that inspire the music. However, musically, in between the odd and occasionally angular riff are huge swaths of just constant heavy downward chugs and slams, meaning that the band’s own sound is often at war with itself, and the hybrid can be about as ugly as the breakdowns they play. It’s a huge, beefy section of music rammed into the odds and ends of technical noodling, and the result is violent and angry – which explains why the hell I got out of the way of it.
These guys clearly have their live persona down, and now it’s just a wait-and-see game as to when, not if, they will inevitably make it out in front of more and more people. If I had to pick a new up-and-comer for this particular scene, knowing full well that my opinion doesn’t mean shit, I’d say these guys have all the elements to be your next deathcore-darlings for a few years.
Conducting From The Grave’s show that night was mostly a historical throwback, as the whole show was a celebration of their ten-year anniversary of the release of Trials Of The Forsaken, which the group had recently re-recorded for a new release. They declared ahead of time that this show was going to see them playing that whole EP front to back and then mixing in a couple of songs from their actual physical releases.
It was also a throwback in another way, as the vocalist of the band for this show would be Drew Winter, who was vocalist back when the Trials Of The Forsaken EP was recorded but hasn’t been part of the band for some time now. This led to something of a running joke in the years in between, where people would always be telling the Conducting guys to bring Drew back, even as they were two albums deep with vocalist Mikey Powell.
As a long-time fan I was curious what material the band would be tackling outside of the Trials EP, mostly because I wanted to see how Drew would approach filling in for the two guys who were in the vocals position before he stepped in for this limited run of dates. The group mixed one song from each disc on top of the Trials EP for this show. All three were pretty common live staples for the band –“Marching Towards Extinction”, “Her Poisoned Tongues” (which the guys are probably doomed to play forever due to having a music video for it), and “Honor Guide Me!”.
You know how I was joking in an earlier paragraph about how I knew to just get the hell out of the way of certain bands? Well this was one of those, as it seems like the Conducting guys bring the hardcore invisible ninja fighters out in full force, and they were fucking obnoxious at points at this show. That partially explained why I saw a horde of security have to drag some poor schlub away, though the details on that are probably super-hazy in the flurry of arms and legs flying everywhere. Needless to say, I’m not shocked: A style of moshing that winds up with people getting punched in the head tends to make other people very mad; who would’ve seen that coming?
Aside from that scuffle, the most exciting thing was what was on stage, as the band tore through all of the songs with only enough breaks for the guys to jokingly wheeze about how they’ve all gotten old. Playing Trials Of The Forsaken meant the band also broke out songs they hadn’t played in ages, and they still rumbled through them with no effort at all. They actually had a two-vocalist attack for “The Sky Is Blackened Not By Clouds….” when they were joined by Shaun Gier, who was one of the very first vocalists the band had when they started out.
It’s actually surprising how quickly a Conducting set tends to fly by. Even at nine songs, it felt like I blinked and the band were on “Eternally Gutted” and getting ready to take off. Still, with the band’s live future a little hazy, this was one of my few chances to catch them live again, especially with my job making it a near impossibility to see anything that isn’t on a Friday or Saturday night. The show was fun, even if I was the guy who had no idea what to expect from most of the bands. It’s why I like Conducting shows, though, as they’ve been my most convenient portal to witness what else the Sacramento scene has to offer (and Nor-Cal scene in general, as bands from the Bay Area and valley tend to find their way up here) — and that part is always awesome.
There weren’t any huge revelations to be had at the show — other than that I still really like Conducting From The Grave — but it was a great time. Stepping into the wayback machine was an interesting idea for a show and it worked out — seeing old vocalists, hearing old songs that I never got the chance to see because I’m one of those morons who really got into them when they had broken up and most of the guys were in With Passion, that was a good time.
Right now there are two videos of this show out there. The fine folks at Rock Hard Live have the show captured on their site for folks to see, and also interviewed them here, and the Atrocious Works collective captured much of the show from up-front, which you can see here.