Review: Hod/The Blood Royale/Widower @Beerland, Austin TX 8/30/13

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If you’re into underground metal and happen to live in Austin, there is a very good chance that you have been to a show at Beerland on Red River.  The venue is a popular center for many local and touring extreme metal shows, with an inviting atmosphere which many would deem obvious from the very name of the venue (for many showgoers, finding out they’re going to a place named “Beerland” is akin to venturing to the Promised Land).  I personally have both played and seen some amazing shows at the venue, from Austin-area death metal gatherings to watchingMidnight at Chaos in Tejas 2012.  The venue is inevitably host to a great time, and Friday’s show was no exception, showcasing three Texas bands that took no prisoners with uncompromising fury.

Regrettably, Austin TXDM act Scattered Remains (whose “Led to the Slaughter” album comes as recommended listening for Southern Decay readers) had to drop off the night’s bill, leaving Widower, The Blood Royale, and Hod to crush, kill, and destroy the Austin crowd (a description which is entirely metaphorical, luckily for the health insurance agencies of all involved).  Widower were reviewed in a write-up of the War Master show on August 8th, and Friday’s set showed a level of quality that was consistent with their previous performance.  Being able to put on a crushing performance regardless of differing environment is always a sign of a band worthy of support, and Widower proved this with their savage set.  Even a technical difficulty with a guitar did not slow down the impact of Widower, which is always admirable, as the issue was resolved quickly and efficiently.  The grinding presence of the bass guitar was very noticeable through the Beerland sound system (which is certainly a plus for your bass-playing author), and songs like “Fractured Mind” greatly benefited from the powerful thundering and dynamic guitar playing from Danny Wrath and Jimmy Byam, the latter of whom also serves as the band’s frontman. As was the case with the War Master show, Widower closed with “Total Fucking Domination”, which did to the audience exactly as its title suggests.  With this thorough destruction, Widower ended their memorable set, and The Blood Royale began part two of the night’s insanity.  To provide a side note, as mentioned in the aforementioned War Master review, Widower will be going on tour with Austin doomsters Destroyer of Light from September 26th to October 21st.  There are two Austin dates on this tour — one at Infest Austin on September 26th, and the other at The Grand on October 21st — and it is safe to say that Austinites should make attending one or both dates a priority.  With that information hopefully marked on your calendar, it’s time to proceed with The Blood Royale taking the spotlight.

One of the hardest-working bands in the current Austin metal underground, The Blood Royale have won their reputation with a constant schedule of shows and an intense stage presence that showcases every member of the band giving the crowd maximum energy.  The band’s style could be said to stand at a crossroad of speed metal, punk, and rock and roll — not unlike a hybrid of the guitar patterns and chords of “War and Pain”-era Voivod and the low shout and steady supply of d-beats of Discharge (along with a noted contempt for authority that is always welcome in metal and punk).  The band does not cleanly fit into a single musical category, which is a major part of their appeal as they can quickly shift gears from cranking out punk beats to slamming into a doomy groove that is enough to cause immediate whiplash-by-tempo-change.  While these shifts can be responsible for some of The Blood Royale’s more intense moments, most of their material does consist of faster, energetic riffs backed up by speedy drumming, courtesy of enthusiastic skinsman John Petri.  On the electric front, wild-haired guitar wizard JT Smith has a vast number of techniques up his sleeve, including one-handed chord hammer-ons, electrifying wah-infused solos, and a never-ending battle cry of “party!” The band’s ubiquitous presence in Austin is a testament to their popularity and relentless work ethic when it comes to playing shows.  Frontman/guitarist Tim Corken leads the band with his anthemic barks and solid rhythm playing, contributing to a solid foundation backed up by bassist Pete Bedesm.  The band’s chemistry is as set as stone, having clearly mastered the ability of playing to each other’s strengths to benefit the band unit as a whole.  This onstage power guarantees that the band is the antithesis of the word “boring” at any given show, and anyone in doubt will be proven wrong within seconds of the start of any The Blood Royale performance.  Songs of note from Friday’s performance included “Officer Factory” (from their excellent “Flechette” 7″) and the “Going Down To Die”, both of which are staples of The Blood Royale’s shows.  The Blood Royale’s set was an excellent way to keep the night’s energy going, and after a brief break-down-and-change-over, it was time for Hod to ruin the necks of anyone who didn’t have already have whiplash (or to just make it worse for the already-inflicted).

At the approximately 12:45pm, it was time for San Antonio’s purveyors of “fuckin’ metal” Hod to pulverize Beerland into a rotting pulp.  Having been around since 2007 (with individual member’s metal contributions dating years before that) and having played with everyone from Vomitor to Destruction to Marduk, it is safe to say that anyone in Texas (and beyond) should be familiar with Hod’s authentic approach to old-school extreme metal.  A typical Hod set is characterized by twin guitar attacks from Carl “Lord Necron” Snyder and Danny “Blackwolf” Luebben cranking out riffs that recall the style of early Morbid Angel and Necrovore as well as a thrashier approach of Absu and the “Unchain the Wolves” era of Destroyer 666.  The rhythm section is as equally solid of a team, with bassist Trans Am’s pick-driven low-end bulldozing accompanying Del “The Entity”‘s precise percussion.  Frontman Beer Reebs utilizes a distinct croak that delivers tales of frightening horrors and the Old Ones, and always requests for more whiskey in the monitors.  Most of the setlist was composed of a mix of all of the songs from Hod’s latest demo “The Uncreated” (including the chaotic “I Am Destroyer” and set-opener “When The Ghouls Feed”) and each song from the Ossuary Industries “Limb Splitter II” compilation.  Two of the best songs from the booze-and-broken-glass-filled set were “And The Smoke Will Rise”, with its eponymous chorus and mandatory chanting, and the go-for-the-throat “To Call Forth The Deep Ones” that demands exaltation of the demoniac gods of Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos, both of which originate from the aforementioned “Limb Splitter II” compilation.  As the set continued, the audience was dragged into a rabid beast’s lair with the “In The Den of Wolves” and the remains of the crowd were shortly thereafter buried with feral fury during “Beneath the Mountain of the Scorpions”.  Not content to call it a night, the band provided an encore in the form of “Demoralizer” from their 2009 debut, “Serpent”.  “Demoralizer” is a ferocious attack that takes the riffing of classic Destruction and sharpens its fangs, figuratively tearing apart the audience to bring the night to conclusion.

The day that this show took place, it was announced that Hod would be the supporting band for the upcoming Watain, Tribulation, and In Solitude performance at Red 7.  This show is absolutely not to be missed, as each performance promises to be killer, with Hod’s inclusion on the bill standing as a very appropriate choice for the Austin date of the tour.

Friday night’s metallic devastation was an absolute blast, proving that one does not need to look further than our own backyards to find high-quality metal in Austin.  As an added bonus, the sound in the venue was clear and consistent throughout the night, and allowed the unique traits of each band to be heard loud and clear. Thanks to Beerland for hosting the show, to all the fans who came to the show, and to Widower, Hod, and The Blood Royale for delivering intense performances.  To all of our readers: keep supporting the underground!

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Jake Holmes is a Central Texas heavy metal writer who lives by the pen and will (likely) die by the sword.  Originally from a suburban town outside of North Austin, Holmes moved to San Antonio during his college years.  After several years and thousands of miles driven to see shows in San Antonio and Austin, he returned to the Austin area due to his graduation and continued to see as many shows as humanly possible.  His interests include going to shows, blasting Carnivore as loudly as possible on the way to shows, and sleeping upon his return to his home from shows.  His “dislikes” include hearing loss, traffic, and unnecessary bonus tracks on album reissues.
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