By Andy O’Connor
Editor’s note: This article was originally published March 14, 2014
Death, destruction, hatred, and negativity in general are favored lyrical topics for metal music. Does that mean that metal fans want that in our lives? Not so. It’s worth thinking about especially in the context of the tragedy on Wednesday night. Most metalheads are regular folks who like loud guitars and profane language, but when calamity occurs, they get affected as much as everyone else. Connecting with a crowd and creating unity is helpful in a time like this, and that’s what some of the best metal bands that played yesterday did, even if they did not address the issue directly.
Chicago quintet The Atlas Moth made their only SXSW stop playing early (well, 8:50) at the Metal Injection showcase at Dirty Dog. They’ve got a new record coming out in June, and they mostly played soon-to-be-released cuts. Were they good? They were as good as the cuts from their last album, one of 2012’s best records. The group considers the Deftones as a huge influence, and while their songs have that sheen and accessibility, they’re also a lot heavier. Safe to say, you’ll be hearing a lot more from these dudes in 2014. New Hampshire black metal group Vattnet Viskar returned to Austin after playing the now-deceased Infest in September, and even with the stiff competition at SXSW, at least they didn’t have to compete with Iron Maiden. Their approach is melodic, but they’re less gaze-y than some of their more well-known peers. Vattnet Viskar played harder than ever, besting their previous Austin appearances. Constant touring has done them well.
SXSW always seems to have metal showcases in clubs west of Congress that normally never have metal shows. Invisible Oranges’ showcase was held at Quantum Lounge, and its narrow space and slick interior were quite alien to metalheads. Heavy bass blaring from upstairs didn’t help. It is SXSW, so even if it doesn’t make sense, you have to go with it. New York by way of Boston metal experimentalists Kayo Dot were one of the highlights of the showcase. The group is known to go in many different abstract directions, but they stuck to their more metal side, and it paid off. Compared to some of their live lineups in the past, this was stripped down, and that gave the songs a focus even with their wildly varying aims. Keyboards and saxophone had a little trouble coming through the monitors, but everything else – the drums certainly – came through clear. Following them was Mutoid Man, who feature Converge drummer Ben Koller and Cave In’s Steve Brodsky on guitars and vocals. They were thrilling to watch with their combination of technical precision and party-harty attitude. Brodsky’s vocals weren’t always legible due to sound issues, but his passion was clear. Koller was solid throughout, even smiling for cell phone pics on occasion. All the groups, even if they don’t sound a thing alike and don’t resemble the metal of old, were uplifting when we needed it most.