Cult Leader/Yautja/Passage Between/The Heads are Zeros at The Sidebar

By Chris Dahlberg

Published on Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The dissolution of Salt Lake City’s Gaza happened rather quickly, but it didn’t take long before the majority of the band would regroup as Cult Leader. Deathwish released the group’s debut EP Nothing For Us Here back in April, and they went on tour throughout quite a bit of the U.S. recently in support of it. Nashville’s Yautja were on the entire run as direct support, and when the tour made its way to The Sidebar in Baltimore I was able to familiarize myself with both bands thanks to some intense live sets.

I go to shows in Baltimore on a regular basis, and what’s always cool is that I don’t seem to encounter the same local openers at every show. There’s not only a ton of bands that are based out of the city, but they don’t all jump on the same shows together so you always seem to get a good deal of variation. This time around The Heads are Zeros and Passage Between were the two local openers, and the former started the night off. They were a great fit for the bill, as the mix of fast paced and constantly changing grind/hardcore made a strong first impression. Rather than simply going the standard blasting route The Heads are Zeros reminds me of bands like Converge and The Dillinger Escape Plan with a bit more grind/powerviolence added in for good measure, as each track was a calculated attack that never stayed in one place for too long and showcased a considerable amount of technical ability. While all of this happened, lead singer Olivia Henry screamed her head off and had so much power that she looked completely exhausted in between each song (only to repeat it all over again). It’s hard to pin this band down into one category and they seem to be taking influence from a wide range of hardcore/grind/screamo bands without feeling too much like one particular group. Apparently they’ve only been around since last year after some previous projects broke up, and I’d be very interested to see where future material ends up considering the level they’re already at.

Passage Between is a band I’ve written about quite a few times now, as they’ve been a part of some great shows I’ve seen in Baltimore and are very involved in the local scene. Unfortunately their drummer has decided to leave and pursue other ventures, which at this point currently leaves the fate of the band uncertain. The sound that these guys go for has always been one of the reasons I really like them, as they channel bands like Botch and Coalesce while offering their own elements. Over the years the songwriting seemed to get better and more intricate, and this has continued to be reflected in their live performances. During this set there were some issues with the bass as the sound seemed like it was cutting out at different points, and even though they had to restart one of their songs due to the issue Passage Between didn’t let it phase them and let the heavy, sludgy riffs and angry vocals come through just as intense as every other time I’ve seen the band perform. This wasn’t the best time I had seen them, but even with equipment issues they didn’t back down and still delivered a set that got a positive response from the crowd. I’ve said this in the last few review but it still holds true: every time I see Passage Between I enjoy them. Losing a drummer can be tough, especially when you’re a three piece band, but hopefully this isn’t the end and the band will be able to forge onward.

I didn’t know much about Yautja, aside from the fact that they had released their debut album earlier in the year via Forcefield Records and that a significant number of people I knew had said really good things about them. One song into their performance, Yautja had blown me away and it was clear why there had been plenty of buzz prior to their set. Their music is hard to fit into a particular category, as they move between slower build-ups that have some sludge grooves and the jagged angular nature of noise rock but will often transition from that into blasting grind. It’s completely unpredictable but performed in a way that draws you in slowly and forces you to really pay attention to everything the band is doing instrumentally. All three members contribute vocals on different songs, which fits well with the amount of versatility their songs have to offer because each one has a different pitch that are suited for particular sections. Blurring the lines between genres and the metal/punk/whatever worlds is certainly nothing new, but Yautja does it in a way that sounds different than anything else I’ve heard recently. It also helps that their riffs have staying power and are delivered with a high level of intensity in person, as I really felt like I could’ve watched these guys play for hour. They came back to Sidebar only a week or so later as part of Maryland Deathfest and I hope they also received the type of positive reception that they did on this particular evening, as I’d love to see Yaujta continue to generate buzz amongst the metal and punk crowds.

Gaza was a band that seemed to get better with each album, and the way that they were able to balance bottom heavy sludge with all-out walls of sound during the faster sections floored me every time. I was lucky enough to see the group live twice before they disbanded, and since Cult Leader is ¾ of Gaza I was excited to check them out as well. Instrumentally it is clear that they have carried on many of the ideas that they explored in their previous band, as there is the same pummeling nature and unpredictable riffs that seem to change in tone when you least expect it. The difference here is that there’s a bit less sludge than before and Cult Leader has a tendency to go full throttle a little more frequently. It’s a change that I’m okay with, especially considering just how much energy the band was able to bring to the table in their live performance. I don’t think there was a single moment during the set where every member wasn’t moving around, and they’re able to make the aggressive material from Nothing For Us Here so powerful that it feels like it’s going to knock you over. Vocalist Anthony Lucero previously played bass in Gaza but he’s taken over the role with ease and has a harsh scream that didn’t let up for a single second. It was a fairly short set, which wasn’t unexpected since the group is still fairly new, but it left me wanting even more and I hope it won’t be long before Cult Leader not only returns to Baltimore but records additional material.





Cult Leader-
Passage Between-
The Heads are Zeros-

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