Probably the most beautiful thing about a metal show is that it's the only place you can catch dozens of people emphatically nodding Yes. Again and again, for hours; like a plateau of synchronized ecstasies. It's like something out of Joyce. And along with what must be some incredible enhancement in brain chemistry, it can be tremendously empowering. In this endlessly complicated world, preserving the primal Yes may be one of metal's true virtues.
AoK Suicide Forest's yeses are bouncy and elliptical, like tracing an hourglass with your chin. They've matured to a point where guitar, bass, and drums act distinct from one another and still function as a whole, and their payoffs are crushing. They're touring with a new CD in a couple weeks. Let's see how weird they got when they return. All five members of Christian Mistress, a five-piece from Washington, had long hair, yet only the singer was female. Their set maintained a fierce gallop, but the dual guitarists soloed excessively, and nothing was built before it could be trod upon.
By introducing his band in the plural and opening his set with a piece arranged for vocoder and sampled percussion, Joe Preston, the leader and sole member of Thrones, made immediately clear his opinion for the genre. He takes it seriously. Buffeted by three enormous bass cabs and a miniature city of effects pedals, Preston put down the microphone and moved quietly into "Ephraim," a lurching, percussionless, instrumental march from a 10-year-old concept album about bears. For 25 minutes, Thrones chiseled metal down to its purest, inflexible shapes: shuddering octave-chord bass swells, melodramatic china cymbal crashes, an inhuman vocal range, and an awkward oversaturation of testosterone. Meanwhile, Preston maintained a glacial pace, attending to his instrument despite this minefield of ironic pratfalls primed about him. At a certain point, another of metal's nobler virtues became apparent: patience. Eventually, Preston budged, strutting out a couple anthemic mid-tempo burners to satiate the metal dogs from way back. Someone knelt in a sort of worship at the foot of the stage and even Preston, embarrassed, had to nod in agreement.