Contributed by Jake Holmes
If you wanted to close out 2013 with some holiday cheer, positive vibes, and uplifting music, then Monday night’s Eyehategod show was not for you. The Louisianan nihilists brought their all-encompassing negativity to Red 7 on December 30th, and anyone looking for an experience in Southern aural violence to combat that pesky holiday cheer that goes around at this time of the year was rewarded with one of the best shows of 2013.
This review will begin at Eyehategod’s performance, since two of the opening bands were not to my taste (Houston’s Venomous Maximus were on the flyer but didn’t play due to a member undergoing surgery as stated on their Facebook page), and I’ve covered Curse the Heavens before in a previous column (and I did enjoy their set, so check ‘em out if they play near you). I did spend some time visiting the always-quality Encore Records at their new location on 809 E. 6th Street and snagged Widower’s “Goat Throne” EP and Mala Suerte’s “The Shadow Tradition”, which were both awesome when I was able to listen to them the next day. Side note: Remember folks, support your local bands and record stores, and that means buy their stuff!
I ventured back to Red 7 after dropping off the spoils of my quest and at the midnight hour (or at least, very close to it), it was time for a sonic beatdown by way of crushingly-heavy guitar riffs. If memory serves correctly, the title track of “Take As Needed For Pain” kicked off the band’s exercise in Southern sludge, with “Story of the Eye” following it to create a raucous mosh pit. In fact I took a couple of hits to the back of my skull, but that’s a good pit for you (I will also use this head injury to blame for any errors in the setlist instead of just lazy journalism).
The atmosphere in Eyehategod’s music conveys the worst experiences a person could have; it is the sonic representation of total self-loathing, the consequences of addiction, and violence directed at anyone around you (or even yourself). Stylistically, Eyehategod play a mixture of doom metal (inspired by the very best riffing of Black Sabbath) and hardcore punk with notable influences from blues and southern rock. This style is called “sludge metal”, and Eyehategod are the genre’s absolute peak (even if the band themselves do not prefer to be labeled under a single category if the liner notes to “Take As Needed For Pain” are any indicator). The band even experiments in guitar feedback that manages to illustrate chaos and composition in a paradox that is part of the appeal of Eyehategod. All of these elements work together to create a band that is unlike any other in the sludge genre, and the impact of their live show speaks for itself, with even causal fans of the band being certainly overwhelmed by their intensity.
The majority of the setlist seemed to focus on material from “Take As Needed For Pain” (including “$30 Bag” and “Shoplift” among other crowd favorites) and “Dopesick”, although the setlist had some surprises as well including the excellent newer song “New Orleans Is The New Vietnam”, which only proves that Eyehategod are still as angry as they were when they first started. “Jack Ass In The Will of God” was also a highlight of the evening, with the second half of the song borrowing a riff from one of my personal favorite Eyehategod songs, ‘Southern Discomfort” from the 7” split with 13. Thankfully, Eyehategod’s discography has a consistent level of quality so the band can play just about anything from any album without causing the audience to bat an eye (unless the six-minute sound collage “Disturbance” from “Take As Needed For Pain” counts, which might raise a few eyebrows).
One of the things about Eyehategod that draws me to them is their guitar riffing style. Just about all of the riffs are very simple, and anyone who has been playing a guitar for a few months could probably figure them out with relative ease. However, there is a feeling in the riffs that cannot be duplicated by simply copying the notes – it’s the chug of “Blank” or the surly swing of “Dixie Whiskey” that would still sound off if played by anyone other than Jimmy Bower or Brian Patton, the band’s two guitar players. The bass also holds a vital role in Eyehategod’s songs, particularly on the “Take As Needed for Pain” album, and bassist Gary Mader (who joined the band in 2001) played every bowel-rumbling note with the accuracy and groove that one would expect from Eyehategod’s four-stringer. Although longtime drummer Joey LaCaze passed away earlier in 2013, the newly-recruited Aaron Hill did justice to this fallen percussionist. Hill faithfully reproduced the loose-yet-precise style necessary for Eyehategod’s bluesy Southern punk metal that held down a solid base for his bandmates to riff over, such as in “Masters of Legalized Confusion.” With this style of music, anything less than A-grade rhythm could seriously compromise the entire set, but I am pleased to state that Hill’s drumming exceeded expectations.
No description of an Eyehategod show is complete without speaking of the band’s scribe of suffering, Mike IX Williams. There are very few people able to convey the level of pure negativity that Williams is capable of, and every lyric yelled out tells tales of horrible choices and worse consequences. Mike’s vocal style may not be for everyone, but it is impossible to imagine anyone else shouting out the chronicles of tortuous times as he does so masterfully. Between songs or whenever the stringed instrumentalists needed to tune, Williams riffed with the crowd in a surprisingly light-spirited manner, telling jokes about legally-troubled rapper Gucci Mane or about stories from the road.
The set lasted about ninety-minutes, with plenty of classics to appease old-school fans as well as some newer material which showed that after twenty-five years of dysfunctional family abuse (as noted on the shirt I purchased at the show), Eyehategod haven’t lost an ounce of venom. Eyehategod laying waste to Red 7 was the best possible way to close out 2013, unless you’re into that feel-good holiday spirit that we talked about earlier. If that’s the case, what are you doing at an Eyehategod show anyway?
On a related note, I didn’t do a full article on this, but here were my top ten favorite shows (excluding festivals) of 2013, ranked in chronological order and not in order of preference. I left out shows that I played with either of my bands as well. Here’s to many more in 2014!
1. Absu – Dallas, The Boiler Room
2. Total Abuse – Austin, The Annex
3. War Master – Austin, Infest, Beerland (tie because I’m indecisive)
4. Shawn Whitaker – Austin, Headhunters
5. Deicide – Austin, Infest
6. Watain – Austin, Red 7
7. Rottenness – Austin, Headhunters
8. Witchtrap – San Antonio, The Korova
9. Disfigured – San Marcos, The Triple Crown
10. Eyehategod – Austin, Red 7
Honorable Mentions: Leftover Crack at Beauty Ballroom, Dropdead at Red 7, Dying Fetus at Red 7, Birth A.D. at Zombies, Suicidal Tendencies at The Mohawk
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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