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SXSW metal scene report: Headbangers abound on Wednesday

Staff Writer
Austin 360

By Andy O’Connor

Editor’s note: This article was originally published March 13, 2014

Wednesday featured plenty of metal and hardcore, which was sorely lacking at the interactive parties. If Ozzy Osbourne can headline Blizzcon, why can’t he play SXSW? Here’s a look at the most important of those headbangers from yesterday.

Thrasher Death Match, the day party at Scoot Inn that brings together metal, punk, hip-hop, and skating, began on Wednesday.

The Shrine played a jubilant brand of 70s-inspired garage metal, sounding more vintage Miller Lite can than vintage Miller Lite can revival. It’s too bad that their records don’t carry the same kind of energy.

Earthless slowed things down with their jammy stoner rock, and given how chaotic SXSW is, you need all the peace you can get. Ishiah Mitchell’s wah-wah was seductive, gliding the audience through smoke-filled lands even if there was hardly any real smoke in the sky. Their set was only three songs, but it felt like one big jam. Funny to think that drummer Mario Rubalcaba also plays in the concise punk band Off.

Los Angeles hardcore troublemakers Trash Talk played as many songs as Earthless did before the five-minute mark. They’ve become a staple of Death Match and SXSW as a whole, and they never play a calm show. Most notable about Trash Talk’s performance was the way vocalist Lee Spielman controls the crowd. He got kids to sit down on the floor for a song, then spring up immedltly after on command. He wants a circle pit? He gets a big one! At the end of their set, he got people to rush towards the skate ramp on the other side of the venue, overwhelming the poor employee assigned to keep drinks away from that area. Weird to hear a dude from a punk band yell “get the (expletive) outta here!” Hardcore kids are more impressionable than one thinks.

The other major metal attraction last night was the Relapse Records Showcase at Dirty Dog. Two acts really stuck out: Brooklyn’s Pyrrhon and Norway’s Obliteration (not to be confused with the Los Angeles group Obliterations that will play during the week). Pyrrhon features Doug Moore, the editor of metal blog Invisible Oranges, on vocals, and his occasional use of industrial vocal effects, as well as his intimidating appearance, help him stand out from the pack. His bandmates labyrinth-like playing helped his presence. Obliteration were highly anticipated by Austin metalheads, especially because this was their only SXSW show. They hit all the classic Scandinavian metal influences – the death metal of their Swedish neighbors in particular – while remaining indebted to no one. Songs grew more menacing and unhinged as they went on, and you could tell it in the way vocalist/guitarist Sindre Solem gazed and yelled into the crowd. The circle pit consisted of one overly enthused fan, who was later thrown out by security. While he looked oblivious and pushing a little too hard for some of the photographers and the crowd, he didn’t appear to want to start a fight with anyone.

Philadelphia shoegaze band Nothing, who are on Relapse, also played that night. They’ve been a decisive band – are they hardcore dudes breaking free from hardcore, or is “Guility of Everything” a cynical cash-in on Deafheaven’s popularity? The truth isn’t as dramatic. Nothing aren’t terrible, they just aren’t particularly noteworthy either. It’s the shoegaze you’ve heard a million times before, and you’ll always come back to Loveless. These guys, not so much. They’ve made such a bluster about bad press that one wishes their music was as lively. Metal and punk aren’t for moderates.