Heavy Metal in the Big Easy
Goatwhore, Crowbar- photos courtesy of Katie at Invisible Generation
by Joseph Larkin (May 2002)New Orleans. N'awlins. The Big Easy. The Crescent City. The City That Care Forgot. The Paris of the Americas. The Gateway to the Americas. America's International City. Sportsman Paradise. Gator Town (yes, Gator Town...). Satan's Tit. The Sticky Toilet Seat (okay, I made those last two up). The mere mention of this fair city's name (or one of its annoying nicknames) sends shivers up one's crooked spine and conjures up pictures in the mind of cockfighting and guys drunkenly sucking each other off in darkened alleyways (a different sort of cockfighting, I suppose). I know what you are thinking and I am ashamed of you as a result: New Orleans is not all Mardi Gras, drug murders and Cajun music, so let us just leave all those ugly misconceptions behind us right this very second, young man. Sure, those are the things that New Orleans is best known for, but if you were to roll its ruined body over, I think you would find that there is so much more creeping around underneath the surface. Yes, there is in fact a darker side to be enjoyed in this fine city if you are inclined to enjoy it, y'all. So let us drink from the cup of good cheer and begin our journey then.
With a colorful history filled to the brim with murder, mayhem, binge drinking and voodoo, is it any wonder that New Orleans is home to a fierce heavy metal scene? Like a steaming bowl of gumbo overrun with red ants and silverfish, the city is literally teeming with metal maniacs! (It should be noted, however, that many of the bands being discussed here record and reside in cities just outside of New Orleans such as Mandeville, Kenner, Thibodaux and Metairie.) What is most impressive, though, is the variety of metal to be sampled in this city that care forgot and the areas that surround it. If you are looking for black metal, then look no further than Goatwhore. If it is a death metal fix that you happen to be fiending for, then you could do a heck of a lot worse than Soilent Green. And if you need a soundtrack to a night of alcohol-soaked and drug-fueled violence towards someone you "love," then Eyehategod will set the mood nicely.
The variety of metal in the New Orleans area is even more impressive when you take into consideration the incestuous nature of the scene itself. Members of Eyehategod have played in bands as different as Down, Crowbar and Soilent Green. Members of Goatwhore have done time in Soilent Green and Acid Bath. Members of Crowbar (which, at times, also contained members of Acid Bath and, as I already reported a moment earlier, Eyehategod) played along with members of Pantera and Corrosion of Conformity in the band Down. You get the idea. All these bands share members and similar sensibilities and yet somehow none of them sound all that much alike. Perhaps there is just something in the water here (like monumental amounts of booze).
When deciding what bands to discuss in this little article, I chose to focus on what I consider to be the better or at least most notable New Orleans-area bands (sorry, Down, you are just not one of them even if you are more well known than any band I did choose [and that goes double for you, Crowbar!]). However, it should be noted that there are numerous other bands worthy of your attention (Satanist for Christ, anyone?), but you are not likely to find them lurking in the stacks at your local record store. Not that you are likely to find any of the bands I do talk up in this article in there either or anything -- I myself was unable to locate CD's by a number of bands I wanted to write up in this article [Agents of Oblivion, for example, was a band I had intended to review but could not because I was unable to get my grubby mitts on their CD] and I live in this Godforsaken city! Nevertheless, I have made the effort to pare down my list of somewhat essential bands a bit to better serve you, the loyal reader and fickle consumer. With all of that in mind, let the good times roll!
For my money, Eyehategod is top of the pops. The band was formed in New Orleans in 1988 and it quickly became an important part of what many annoying rock critic insects have dubbed a Southern "sludgecore" scene (one that also supposedly includes bands of considerably lesser talent but more marquee value like Crowbar and Down). Ask a rock "journalist" to take the dick out of his mouth and he'll tell you that all of the aforementioned bands were heavily influenced by Black Sabbath, Black Flag and the Melvins, but to be honest, Eyehategod sounds eons meaner and uglier than any of those bands. Eyehategod makes the music your hot blood sings as it furiously slithers through your veins along with a tremendous amount of alcohol while you are drunkenly driving down a blackened stretch of highway with not a cop in sight to stop you (phew!). Eyehategod is like the sound that's coiled up inside of your head after three nights of no food or sleep but lots of coffee, drugs and bitter resentment.
In 1996, Eyehategod recorded Dopesick [Century Media Records], regarded by many fans as their magnum opus (their Thriller, if you will) and it might possibly be just that. Other releases of note: 2000's Southern Discomfort [Century Media Records] (which collects several 7" singles that were recorded by the band and released on small independent labels along with a number of live tracks and outtakes from the Dopesick sessions) and Confederacy of Ruined Lives [Century Media Records] (which followed Southern Discomfort later that same year). Both of these albums (which feature a leaner and meaner variation of the hallowed/signature Eyehategod sound) would be a good start for anyone looking to get into this wickedly brilliant band. For those already under the inebriated spell that Eyehategod casts, last year's Ten Years of Abuse (and Still Broke) [Century Media Records] is quite a treat: it is exactly the kind of CD bands should be releasing. Essentially, it is a live record that includes their first demo (which sounds like it was recorded in someone's garage from across the street), a live radio set from 1994 and what sounds like an audience recording of a European show in 2000 that was professionally mixed by the band. The live stuff is fun because the band antagonizes the crowd in between every song ("Did I mention that we're called Eyehategod? You should buy all of our t-shirts because WE NEED TO FUCKIN' EAT!!!"), but if you do not already like Eyehategod, then you probably won't care about this CD. Anyway, I cannot say enough good things about this fine band -- give them your money so they can buy more drugs and continue creating their beautifully ugly masterpieces of misanthropy.
Seeing as Soilent Green features Eyehategod guitarist Brian Patton, it seems only natural that we should discuss them next (ah, yes, everything is falling into place nicely...). Soilent Green makes other death metal bands like Cannibal Corpse look even more laughable than they already appear when judged on their own merits. The band takes everything that is good about death metal and uses it to completely destroy everything that is lame about death metal. A good place to start for those curious would be 1998's A String of Lies EP [Relapse Records] just because it retails for less than seven dollars American. 2001's A Deleted Symphony for the Beaten Down [Relapse Records] is also worth owning if only because it sounds completely different than the aforementioned EP -- the band sounds more focused and they seem to get better and better with each release. All in all, a good band worthy of your time, money and interest (if you care at all about death metal and you probably do not).
Next up on the hit list is Acid Bath. Now, I will admit that I was disappointed by this one -- this band had such potential! The cover and sleeve art of their 1994 debut, When the Kite String Pops [Rotten Records], is made up entirely of paintings by the late great serial killing superhero John Wayne Gacy (a man who I would say might be the quintessential American hero -- the guy is named after John Wayne, for crying out loud!), but sadly the album sounds like the prototype for all that awful "nü metal" that the kids are shamelessly "rocking out" to these days (why, in my day, we would walk two miles barefoot in the snow to buy Danzig cassettes at the Tape World in the local mall and if the Danzig tapes did not have any inverted crosses in the cover art, we would ask for our money back!). Acid Bath at best reminds one of Kyuss and at worst reminds one of Alice in Chains (and I would not say that either side of the spectrum is where a rock band would want to be...). There is just not that much meat on this corpse: the guitar work is nice and the vocals move from angry screech to sensitive guy crooning and that's about all there is to the Acid Bath sound. I am sorry to say that this band does not make my dick hard, but I am happy to report that Acid Bath mercifully broke up before they could release anymore than two albums. But all is not lost, dearest reader! Like a phoenix, the infinitely more entertaining Goatwhore rose from the ashes of Acid Bath and it swoops down on us presently, all dressed up in the flames of hell.
With a name like Goatwhore, it's got to be good. Singer/guitarist Sammy Duet formed Goatwhore following the breakup of his previous band Acid Bath (natch!). Soilent Green singer L. Ben Falgoust II and guitarist Ben Stout also play in the band (my, the web that is the New Orleans metal scene is a tangled one!), making it a New Orleans all-star metal band of sorts. Goatwhore debuted with the demo Serenades to the Tides of Blood and their proper debut LP, The Eclipse of Ages Into Black [Rotten Records], followed in early 2000. Maybe this goes without saying, but Goatwhore is evil as fuck. We're talking Mickey Rooney evil here. Blacker than Malcolm X black metal that blots out the sun like a gigantic storm cloud, this shit just does not quit! The songs lurch and sway like a black kite being flown high above the Chicago skyline. Despite the awful title, The Eclipse of Ages Into Black is well worth your money, so why are you still sitting here reading this shit when you could be at the record store right now buying this fine album for yourself?!
Well, kid, we have reached the end of our journey through the metal hell that is better known as New Orleans. While I hate to use you up and throw you away like a soiled cum-rag, I fear I must take my leave of you now. I apologize for being such a cock-tease, but I feel like I have given more than enough band and record recommendations for you to look into if you earnestly desire to hear what music created in New Orleans and its surrounding area really sounds like (it sounds like a drunken mess, quite frankly, which is apt for this town). I hope you have not only learned a little something about my hometown and its cultural superiority over your pitiful hometown, but I also hope you have grown a bit as a human being. And the next time someone says, "Oh, Cowboy Mouth! They are such an awesome New Orleans rock band," I hope you will think of this article and spit in his/her face for me. It is the least you could do after what we have been through together...
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