Multicult/Whores./Fight Amp/Passage Between/Baklavaa at Ottobar

By Chris Dahlberg

Published on Wednesday, April 9, 2014

My concert schedule has been a bit sporadic lately due to some events in my personal life, but one show that I knew I couldn’t miss out on was Whores. and Fight Amp’s stop in Baltimore. While I wasn’t that familiar with Whores, Fight Amp’s brand of sludgy noise rock won me over several years ago and I had the chance to see them play a few short opening sets but nothing too lengthy. The fact that there were three locals I was familiar with and enjoyed quite a bit on the bill also helped quite a bit, so I headed out on a rainy Sunday evening to the Ottobar to check things out.

Baklavaa started things off, and they’re a band I’ve seen a number of times. I went to high school with two of the members and have seen them change a bit since the group started in 2009, and in the past year or so they’ve really hit their stride. The best way to describe Baklavaa is weird and noisy, and while it definitely isn’t a sound that everyone will be able to appreciate if you like some of the truly out there noise rock and post punk they’re definitely worth checking out. Songs change quickly, moving from fast bursts of sound to slower riffs that have a jagged, abrasive edge. Sometimes they remind me of Daughters, while others channel the sheer noise level and structure less arrangements one might associate with a no wave band. But despite the fact that the instrumentals often seem like they’re on the verge of collapse, Baklavaa’s transitions are flawless. While all of this is happening, Ted and John, the two members who provide vocals, spend a good amount of time screaming their heads off and adding that extra layer of intensity to the mix. This was the first time I had seen the group play Ottobar and they cranked the amps up, making their set almost as loud as the touring acts. The only real flaw this time was that Ted’s screaming had a tendency to get buried, but this wasn’t a major deal as the crazy riffs stole the show. Baklavaa’s type of abrasive, unpredictable music definitely fit this show well and got the crowd ready for what was still to come. I’m excited to see them continue to grow and write material that’s a little more out there than the majority of the other local bands.

Next up was Passage Between, another Baltimore band that I’ve had the pleasure of seeing a few times. They’ve also been around for quite a few years, and I believe the first time I saw them was almost four years ago opening for either Converge or Today is the Day. They had potential back then, but with each performance the group has continued to get better. Passage Between reminds me quite a bit of Coalesce and some of the other big names from late 90s/early 2000s metalcore , as their songs have that same blend of slower sludgier build-ups and faster sections where the instrumentals unleash as much intensity as possible. Since the last time I saw them they’ve gotten even tighter and the riffs have become more distinctive than before, making individual songs in the set stand out a bit more than I remembered. The dual vocal attack also works quite well, as the two members that provide vocals both have harsher screams/growls and their pitches complement each other rather than sounding exactly the same. For some reason Passage Between has yet to release a proper album despite being around since 2009, and I’m hoping that one isn’t too far off. Although I always enjoyed watching them, I feel that Passage Between has started to reach a point with their songwriting where they’re no longer just channeling Coalesce and a number of other bands but starting to have their own nuances, and a proper recording could definitely get them noticed outside of the local Baltimore scene.

2008’s Hungry for Nothing was my introduction to Fight Amp, and I was instantly hooked by their sound. The trio took the 90s noise rock sound and infused a sludgier tonality to it, offering lumbering bass lines that took the established template in a slightly different direction. With each album they have kept the same basic idea but have made subtle tweaks here and there that have kept it from feeling as though they are simply rehashing the same ideas. The last time I saw Fight Amp live was back in 2011 opening for Kylesa, and since then they have changed drummers and released the full length Birth Control. I was excited to see them play for more than 20-25 minutes and they did not disappoint. In person the lumbering bass lines that are a prominent part of their recordings comes out even more and you can really feel the intensity behind each note. What’s continued to impress me about this group each time I see them is the energy level they bring to the performance, as whether they’re doing a quick opening slot or have the chance for a longer set they give it their all. It looked like they were having a lot of fun to as all three members were messing with each other throughout the set. Fight Amp did offer a new song, I can’t remember if they said the name of it or not, and it definitely sounded like it was continuing the types of angular riffs that were common on 2012’s Birth Control. After having seen them for the third time, it definitely seems like Fight Amp is one of those consistently great live bands that is able to bring the highest level of energy possible with each performance and they have killer riffs from one album to the next. They’re at the crossroads of the heavier sludge and jagged 90s noise rock, and if you’re a fan of either style and haven’t heard this group yet do yourself a favor and look them up.

As I mentioned earlier, Whores. was the one band on the lineup that I hadn’t listened to beforehand. It took exactly one song to get me hooked on what they had to offer. Whores. is a noise rock band that has the very loud, angular riffs from some of the better known names in the genre, but man do they have grooves. Just about every song had some type of lumbering groove that made you want to instantly start banging your head. It may be a familiar sound, but the tonality that the group uses makes them have a bit more abrasiveness and grit than some of the others out there. Lead singer/guitarist Christian Lembach goes for a vocal style that matches the dirtier sound of the instrumentals, as even when he’s mellowed out and isn’t screaming his lungs out there is still a bite to his delivery style. Since checking them out live I’ve gone online and listened to both of Whores.’ EP’s via Bandcamp to hear these groove heavy riffs again and again, as they’ve been stuck in my head. Although the recordings definitely are good quality, the instrumental work stands out even more in a live setting as the sheer weight of songs like “I Am An Amateur at Everything” hits you when the volume is at a max and the sound spreads out all around you. The singing style may be an acquired taste for some as it’s a bit off-kilter at times and a bit higher pitched when compared to some of the more recent noise rock/sludge/however you want to categorize this, but I really enjoyed it and was happy to find that Lembach didn’t get completely drowned out by the rest of the band. Considering that a good amount of the noise rock genre is still dominated by the groups that helped popularize it, it’s always great to discover new acts that are just as good, and I would gladly watch Whores. live again.

Baltimore locals Multicult closed out the show, and they offered something a little bit different when compared to the other bands that had played. Rather than matching the sheer volume of some of the other noise rock acts, Multicult goes for a combination of noisier grooves with the off-kilter feel of post punk. While bands in this genre often grab attention with their catchy riffs and shouted vocals (which is the case here), I want to highlight the work of drummer Jake Cregger who also plays in Triac. He’s got a bit more variation to his performance than I’ve typically found in this genre, and his drum fills and beats seemed to consistently enhance what the other instruments were doing rather than simply following them. Vocalist/guitarist Nick Skrobisz also caught my attention as his performance was fairly unpredictable and would sometimes move from a whisper to louder shouting without warning. I had come across Multicult about a year or so ago when they played my friend Hasan’s birthday show (Hasan also helped to book this show), but this was the first chance I really had to pay attention to them in depth without too many distractions. Their sound won me over, as it has everything I like about noise rock and post punk blended together into a very energetic mixture that has just the right amount of edge.





Fight Amp-
Passage Between-

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