Dead To A Dying World/Unconscious Collective at The Sidebar

By Chris Dahlberg

Published on Wednesday, September 25, 2013

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One week ago, I had the chance to catch one of the last dates on the Dead to a Dying World/Unconscious Collective tour. The two Dallas based bands had been making their way along the East Coast, and I had the chance to catch them at The Sidebar in Baltimore. Unfortunately turnout was a bit low, but I’ve noticed this has been a bit of a common problem in the city on Wednesday nights. This didn’t stop either of the two from giving it their all though, and I’m pretty sure anyone that was in attendance won’t forget what they witnessed any time soon.

Two bands were booked to open the show, the first of which was Katahajime from Allentown, PA. The group self describes themselves as blackened crust, and this seems like a pretty accurate description. What I noticed throughout their set was that the band really seemed to have the two styles balanced extremely well, as there were shorter songs where they went full crust punk and hit the listener with some fast, punchy riffs as well as longer ones that had blast beats and sprawling melodic leads that were reminiscent of a number of the U.S. black metal acts that have become well known in recent years. Some of the slower build-ups even had a post metal and post rock feel to them as well, making it clear that Katahajime has a bit more to offer than your average group of this type. Quite frequently when a band gives themselves the blackened crust tag this means they offer the same type of riffs and song structures as every other crust punk or hardcore band and just tweak the tonality slightly, but this wasn’t the case here. The vocals had a familiar low/high mix that seemed to skew closer to the crust side of the spectrum, but it worked really well with Katahajime’s overall style and definitely grabbed my attention. One of the guitarists seemed to be having some sound issues during the set, but it didn’t take away from the set overall as the other three members were able to keep things going. From what I can tell the group hasn’t been around that long, and I was impressed with their performance as there was a level of complexity to the songwriting that isn’t always that common in bands that are fairly new. I’d love to see them again, and hopefully it won’t be too long before they return to Baltimore.

Up next was Sokushinbutsu, a new powerviolence/hardcore band featuring former members of Eddie Brock and Lapse. Like most powerviolence I’ve seen, these guys played a fairly short set (somewhere between 12 and 15 minutes if I remember correctly) but were able to cram a ton of ideas into that period of time. While there was plenty of the all-out blasting and intensity that I expect from this genre, I noticed that Sokushinbutsu had more of a death metal influence going during their slower sections. During these slower breaks the tonality changed and the guitars took on that lower pitched buzz saw style sound that reminded me of old school death metal, and it fit really well with the blasting sections. Both of the vocal styles skew towards the lower end of the spectrum, and at least for me this helped make the group a bit more distinguishable from some of the others out there. It’s also worth mentioning that the band’s drummer is an absolute machine, as he pounded away with precision and made it look easy. There isn’t much else to say about Sokushinbutsu’s other than it was cool as hell, and I hope to see these guys again soon. Both Eddie Brock and Lapse were great bands from the local scene, and I’m glad to see that some of their members have continued on in this group and already put together some killer material.

I had previewed a little bit of Unconscious Collective’s music prior to the show, but was caught completely unprepared for what they had to offer. As the band took the stage, I noticed that all three members were completely naked except for loin cloths and were covered in body paint that made them look like tribal warriors. The guitarist also had a headdress of sorts, and as it has been quite some time since I have seen a band that made this kind of immediate statement before they even started playing this made an immediate impression. Once Unconscious Collective did begin to perform the music fell somewhere into instrumental jazz/prog rock territory, offering a dizzying amount of technical riffs and drum beats with what looked like a good deal of improvisation added in for good measure. There were some sections that gave off a bit of a noise rock vibe similar to Lightning Bolt as well. It was truly incredible to watch, and the interplay between the three members was spot on as they seemed to be able to instinctively tell what the other was about to do and play off it in a very natural manner. Drummer Stefan Gonzalez continually impressed me as he seemed to always be throwing in complicated fills and other ideas throughout the set. This technical showmanship would have been enough to leave me with a lasting impression, but the group took it one step further. In between longer jam sessions, they would bring the volume level down to a whisper and all three of the members would scream, convulse, and basically look like they were channeling their inner animal spirit. I described it the next day as the most brilliant, bizarre, and mind blowing thing I had seen on stage in quite some time and the best part was that when the group did this the entire venue was silent. Sometimes there are still a lot of people talking in the background during softer moments, but this time around everything was completely quiet as the audience tried to process just what they were witnessing. I absolutely love it when bands go all out in both the musical and stage performance element of their live show, and as soon as it had ended I wanted to see Unconscious Collective all over again. My friend Travis (who also owns The Sidebar) shot a video of the set, which I have embedded below so you can get an idea of just how off the wall this really was.

After being blown away by Unconscious Collective’s set I had to wonder how Dead To A Dying World would compare, but they were quick to make a strong impression as well. Two things that I thought were interesting right from the beginning were that the group had a violin player in their ranks and had also brought Burnt Books singer Zoë Lollis as a guest vocalist. I can’t think of another act that has brought along a guest vocalist on tour recently, so that was pretty interesting. Dead To A Dying World played three songs total, each spanning for a fairly long period of time, and right from the beginning I was entranced by what they had to offer. Stylistically their material has elements of doom, crust, and black metal, with emphasis placed on softer build-ups that create a thick atmosphere before the band unleashes heavier hitting riffs. Although this may not sound that different on the surface, the addition of the violin really made the songs feel different (and on record there are other string instruments like the cello). Lead singer Mike Yeager has a low pitched growl that tears through the layers of sound, and even with the sheer volume of the instrumentals he was able to break through. Part of what grabbed me about Dead To A Dying World was how they were able to incorporate such a wide range of emotions into each song. The softer atmospheric build-ups almost put me into a hypnotic state, and then I would be woken up by the harsher chaotic assaults of the faster moments. The audience seemed to be feeding off this energy as well, and while Zoë Lollis didn’t have as many sections to contribute to as I had been anticipating when she did have the chance to perform she fit in perfectly with the group’s overall sound. I left the venue wondering just how I hadn’t come across this band before, as they not only mix elements of genres that I listen to on a regular basis but are able to pull them together in a way that genuinely feels different and connects with the listener on an emotional level rather than just blasting away at them. Although they may have returned back to Dallas at this point, I really hope another tour isn’t too far off as I’d be glad to experience their songs in person all over again.

 

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Links:

Dead To A Dying World- https://www.facebook.com/DeadToADyingWorld

Unconscious Collective- https://www.facebook.com/UnconsciousCollective

Sokushinbutsu- https://www.facebook.com/sokushinbutsumd

Katahajime- https://www.facebook.com/katahajimepa

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