Review & Full Album Premiere: Hey Zeus, X

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on January 30th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

Hey Zeus X

[Click play above to stream Hey Zeus’ debut album, X, in its entirety. It’s out this week on Argonauta Records.]

Hey Zeus have been kicking around Boston’s heavy rock underground for last six years to some degree or other, following in a tradition of straightforward, catchy, well-composed heavy rock that’s no less a cultural institution for the city than local-sports worship, yelling shit at pedestrians from moving vehicles and drinking. Signed early last year to Argonauta Records, their debut full-length, X, follows a 2014 split with White Dynomite (review here), and other tracks posted as singles such as “Caveman” (premiered here) and “Richard the Elder” (posted here) in 2016. A penchant for covering Deep Purple — legit — that manifests on X as a duly head-spinning take on “Bloodsucker” also goes back to the band’s earlier days playing live, so it seems safe enough to argue that X is the realization of multiple years of putting the material together and refining it, and as the resulting nine-song/29-minute offering arrives nearly six years to the day from the band’s first show, one can hear those efforts in the tightness of composition throughout.

Songs like “Richard the Elder,” opener “These Eyes,” “Save Your” (as opposed to “saviour”) and careening speedsters like “I Don’t Want It,” “X Marks the Rocks” and closer “Queens” realize a hooky, engaging energy that vocalist Bice Nathan gleefully puts over the top, though in the company of guitarist Pete Knipfing, bassist Ken Cmar and drummer Todd Bowman, he’s hardly the only one catching that charge. And as much as a comparison to erstwhile Beantown kingpins Roadsaw feels inevitable, perhaps even more relevant is the connection Knipfing and Bowman share from their prior outfit Lamont, whose dedicated sans-frills urgency seems as well to inform some of the writing in X. It should be to the surprise of no one that Hey Zeus can get the job done — the job, by the way, is kicking ass — given the time they’ve spent honing their approach, but that hardly makes the record a less impressive debut. Quite the opposite.

And though one might look at X and find it short at 29 minutes, it’s not so much that there’s anything lacking in terms of what the band wants to convey, but just that they’ve packed it all into that time. That’s not just a question of speed. Even “Gilded,” or “Caveman,” which is the longest inclusion at 3:53, varies its tempo in order to find the right niche of groove that suits the song. They’re not forcing that feeling of electricity to what they do — it’s just there. No coincidence that the Deep Purple song they take on was from In Rock, which was arguably that band’s most lethal of outings, but there’s more to X than just rushing through a collection of songs. Nathan brings a subtle sense of arrangement to the vocals and finds melodies between the distorted lines of Knipfing‘s riffs. Cmar‘s rumbling bass proves essential early on to the drive of “I Don’t Want It,” and is unrelenting, and though Nathan adds percussion later in a break within “Save Your,” Bowman‘s drumming is intermittently furious enough to cover that ground anyway, shifting fluidly from the swinging finish of “Richard the Elder” to the classic riff rock strut of “Caveman” and the starts and stops that permeate “Queens.”

hey zeus

So what do we have? Rock album. Heavy. Rock and roll. Sharp songs. Crisp performances. Clear, full production value. Boot-meet-butt energy. Cool. What separates Hey Zeus from multitudes working from essentially the same elements, however, is the level of their craft and the way they use it throughout X. While I don’t think it’s anyone involved’s first record, it’s still the first record from the band, and their dynamic is not to be understated as a pivotal factor in their approach. The interplay between Knipfing and Cmar on guitar and bass during the former’s solos alone stands as testament to the work they’ve done in terms of developing a conversation between players, and with Bowman as the grounding force, they’re able to smoothly shift tempos and moods at a measure’s notice, making their songs less predictable even as they’re en route to an immediately familiar chorus. Throw in a healthy dose of attitude from Nathan and the chops to back it up, and not only carries forward the legacy of Boston’s heavy rock history, but seeks to find its own place and build upon it.

Or maybe they’re just looking to down some beers and have a good time, blow off steam from hating their jobs and whatever else. That’s no less valid a take. What’s important are the results they get across this collection of songs, and one of the great strengths of X is the momentum Hey Zeus amass as they wind their way through the progression of tracks. Even the Deep Purple cover, which though lacking organ is otherwise pretty loyal to the spirit of the original, feeds into the thrust of the material surrounding, picking up from the breather ending of “Caveman” and leading the way into “Queens” at the finish. It’s part of an overarching push that begins with “These Eyes” and continues through everything that follows; the classic “set the tone” spirit of the opener indicative of the proceedings on the whole, and though it’s easy enough to tag the whole thing as straight-ahead, all-go, etc., Knipfing does find room to slide some Southern edge into his guitar on “Save Your,” and the gang shouts behind Nathan on “X Marks the Rocks” is no less an important sonic detail.

What those convey, once again, is the work that’s gone into this material. While not staid at all — shit, it barely stands still long enough to be heard — X has a foundation it’s building from. As much as they might try to convince you otherwise, Hey Zeus didn’t just throw these songs together and — whoops! — come out with an air-tight collection of tracks that just happen to throw a punch in the gut as they run past. But at the same time, they do successfully balance that level of songmaking with the vitality that’s so central to making it all function. That might be the record’s great accomplishment — it feels true to a live experience without losing hold of itself as a studio outing. And it may have taken Hey Zeus more than half a decade to get to this point, but it’s hard to take X as a whole and not consider it worth the effort on their part.

Hey Zeus on Bandcamp

Hey Zeus on Thee Facebooks

Argonauta Records website

Argonauta Records on Thee Facebooks

Argonauta Records on Twitter

Argonauta Records on Instagram

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Hey Zeus Sign to Argonauata Records

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 12th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

I’ve been lucky enough to catch Hey Zeus live on a couple of occasions, and they’ve never failed to dig into heavy rock that’s classic in its vibe but fueled by a kind of rawer energy. Like if you stand too close there’s a chance you could get kicked. And they wouldn’t mean to do it — they’re not being dicks or anything like that — but the mic is swinging and kicks are being tossed out there and let’s face it: They’re troublemakers. With members having roots in operations like Lamont, White Dynomite, Wonderdrug Records and Motherboar, a high-energy approach isn’t necessarily a huge surprise, and one looks forward to finding out how they’ll sustain that thrust for the duration of a full-length album — though honestly, they’ve put out six-by-my-count digital singles on their Bandcamp page, and if they wanted to make a record out of those with one or two other tracks, I’m sure they could, so maybe we already know how it’ll all turn out.

It’ll turn out loud.

From the PR wire:

hey zeus

Excited to announce that U.S. Heavy Rockers HEY ZEUS are now part of Argonauta Records family!

Hey Zeus were born with the single mission of bringing to life a rock and roll riot. With elements both classic and modern, gripping songs and just enough punk attitude to let you know when it’s time to screw off (now works), their stage presence and songwriting tap into something essential and primal about heavy rock and roll and leave tired crowds begging for more.

Across their debut single and split with White Dynomite, they’ve proven to be an utter powerhouse, and you should expect no less with the arrival of their debut full-length later this year.

“Over the past four years we have been blasting massive riffage & volume all up and down the Eastern U.S.” the band says “We are proud as hell to finally have our first release coming this fall through the fine folks at Argonauta Records!”

https://www.facebook.com/heyzeusboston/
https://heyzeusrock.bandcamp.com/
www.argonautarecords.com
https://www.facebook.com/ArgonautaRecords/
https://twitter.com/argonautarex
https://www.instagram.com/argonautarecords/

Hey Zeus, X (2017)

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Hey Zeus Post “Richard the Elder” Video

Posted in Bootleg Theater on July 12th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

hey zeus

“Richard the Elder” is the second single that Boston heavy rockers Hey Zeus have issued this year behind “Caveman” (premiered here), which came out in May. The hard-driving New England traditionalists have yet to disappoint in either their hooks or the force with which they’re delivered, and “Richard the Elder” is no exception. It’s a right-on rush, in and out in just over three minutes of sans-frills heavy rock and roll, recorded live and engineered by vocalist Bice Nathan at New Alliance Audio in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Nathan is joined in the band by bassist Ken Cmar (also of Wonderdrug Records), guitarist Pete Knipfing and drummer Todd Bowman (both ex-Lamont), and recording live suits them remarkably well. For a style so lacking in pretense and so heated in its intensity, the setting could hardly be more perfect, and though Hey Zeus don’t have a record out or even an EP — they did release a split 7″ with White Dynomite in 2014 (review here) and seem to be working their way toward one sort of larger offering or another with this ongoing series of single tracks — they’ve clearly found a method that works for them, and that’s obviously a significant start.

The video is somewhat manic — GoPros hooked up to instruments in motion and so on — but that only suits the song itself, which you’ll almost have to hear twice before you can really feel like it’s begun to sink in even vaguely. Clip was directed by Michael Cimpher and follows here along with a couple live dates Hey Zeus have this month.

Enjoy:

Hey Zeus, “Richard the Elder” official video

Richard the Elder by Hey Zeus
Recorded live in studio.
Tracked and Mixed by Bice at New Alliance Audio-Cambridge, MA
Mastered by Dean Baltulonis at Wild Arctic-Portsmouth, NH
Directed by Michael Cimpher
Edited by Michael Cimpher and Bice

Hey Zeus live:
7/15 O’Brien’s Allston MA w/ Black Helicopters and Wolfsmyth
7/22 Higher Ground Burlington VT w/ Scissorfight, Murcielago and The Road Trash Band

Hey Zeus on Bandcamp

Hey Zeus on Thee Facebooks

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Hey Zeus Premiere New Single “Caveman”

Posted in audiObelisk on May 20th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

hey zeus

Boston heavy rockers Hey Zeus will reportedly feature the track “Caveman” on an upcoming Underdogma Records split seven-incher with The Humanoids sometime this summer. The four-piece of vocalist Bice Nathan, guitarist Pete Knipfing (ex-Lamont), bassist Ken Cmar (head of Wonderdrug Records) and drummer Todd Bowman (ex-Lamont) have trickled out digital singles over the last couple years, as well as a split 7″ with fellow Beantowners White Dynomite (review here), and it would seem the intent is to keep momentum going and build up a catalog of material en route to the eventual debut album. No word on the timing for that, but that’s he impression I get, anyway.

Their style is rife with the straightforward, classic delivery and harder edge that has been brought to fruition in Boston acts like Roadsaw and Cortez, but a quick listen hey zeus saves artto “Caveman” — and “Caveman” is a quick listen — and it’s readily apparent they have their own personality as well, defined through a blend of swaggering rhythms, party-ready vibe and an underlying punkishness in Nathan‘s vocals during its verses. The hook is essential and delivered with purpose, and though “Caveman” is done in under four minutes, it’s the kind of soon you loop back to the start and give another runthrough to better digest, only to find the chorus ringing in your head later, along with subtle flourishes like the layering in Knipfing‘s short solo or the double-kick and cowbell that Bowman works into the second half.

Admittedly, it’s been a while since I last caught them live, but their vibe at the time was much the same — ready to knock back a few beers and raise some hell but with more than chops enough underlying to give their delivery some force. They have a couple shows booked for this summer, presumably the single will show up at some point during the warm months as well, and more to come in terms of singles and a video to follow, so keep an eye out. In the meantime, you can find the stream of “Caveman” below.

Please enjoy:

Hey Zeus live:
07.15 Hey Zeus w/ Black Helicopter & Wolfsmyth @ Obrien’s, Allston
07.22 Hey Zeus w/ Scissorfight, Murcielago and The Road Trash Band @ Higher Ground, Burlington, VT

Hey Zeus on Thee Facebooks

Hey Zeus on Bandcamp

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On Wax: White Dynomite & Hey Zeus, Split 7″

Posted in On Wax on March 21st, 2014 by JJ Koczan

Even as far as 7″s go, the new Mad Oak Records/Wonderdrug Records split between riffy Boston punkers White Dynomite and heavy rock four-piece Hey Zeus is pretty brief. The two cuts included, White Dynomite‘s “Sweet Tooth” and Hey Zeus‘ “Stomach,” are done in under five minutes total, but the alliance of the two bands carries more substance than that might indicate. With members of Roadsaw and Wrecking Crew and Fast Acting Fuses in their lineup, White Dynomite are no slouches when it comes to pedigree. Recently signed to Ripple Music for a reissue of their 2013 self-titled full-length debut, they’ve also added guitarist Jay Fortin (currently of Supermachine, formerly of Scissorfight) to the ranks, and while he doesn’t play on “Sweet Tooth,” his presence is felt on the split anyway since he took the pictures of the bands on each side’s cover and handled the layout of the 7″ package, the liner card for which features a cigar-smoking chimpanzee and the cover(s) of which recall hardcore 7″s of days gone by. Eerily fitting for two bands made up of adults clearly having kid fun playing fast and brash rock and roll.

This split is the recorded debut of Hey Zeus, whose “Stomach” is the longer of the two tracks at just over three minutes. Fortin‘s photo on the cover comes from a show at the now-defunct-should’ve-been-sold-to-me Radio Bar in Somerville last July, a gig at which Hey Zeus shared the stage with The Scimitar and The Brought Low and covered Deep Purple twice (review here). Bassist Ken Cmar is the head of Wonderdrug Records, the logo of which it’s good to see again, guitarist Pete Knipfing and drummer Todd Bowman are veterans of Lamont, and vocalist Bice Nathan recorded “Stomach” at New Alliance Studios, and on the track, Hey Zeus make good on the experience of the players in question to proffer memorable, speedy, hook-minded songwriting. Less riotous than White Dynomite, they’re also tonally thicker — Cmar‘s bass has punch enough that one is tempted to duck — and take some cues from Lamont‘s Southern-on-speed methodology. They are not on swagger, which makes them all the more a match for White Dynomite, whose King Kong-size shenanigans are writ large all over “Sweet Tooth.”

Blink or misplace the needle on your turntable and you’re likely to miss the bass intro from Tim Catz that actually starts “Sweet Tooth” before John Darga‘s guitar and Craig Riggs‘ drums join in. No frills, no bullshit, White Dynomite offer sheer propulsion topped off with the classic punker vocals of Dave Unger. The four-now-fivesome recorded “Sweet Tooth” with Mad Oak StudiosBenny Grotto, and as one would expect the sound is natural and crisp  in just the right balance. For all the chicanery at work in what White Dynomite do, they’re also remarkably tight, the members channeling punk roots and donning white suits as they sprint toward and past whatever one might expect from them based on their other past and current outfits. If you can’t keep up with “Sweet Tooth” the first time, it’s easy enough to put it on again.

Two relatively newcomer acts comprised of veteran players, it’s not much of a surprise White Dynomite and Hey Zeus pair well here, and for both giving a first impression of what Hey Zeus conjure as far as driving riffs and for giving a sample of where White Dynomite are headed coming off their first album into the next stage of their tenure, it’s a 7″ that accomplishes an awful lot in less than five minutes. No substitute for efficiency.

White Dynomite, “Sweet Tooth” simian video

White Dynomite on Thee Facebooks

Wonderdrug Records

Mad Oak Records

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Live Review: The Brought Low, The Scimitar and Hey Zeus in Boston, 07.19.13

Posted in Reviews on July 22nd, 2013 by JJ Koczan

True, I probably should’ve been looking over housing rentals and formulating a plan for what apartments to see the next day — since that’s why I was in Boston a week and a half ahead of moving to Massachusetts anyway — but on the other, far less responsible hand, The Brought Low. The NYC trio were coming up to play Radio in Somerville with local-types Planetoid, The Scimitar and Hey Zeus also on the bill, and well, if I’m going to be living somewhere, there’s no time like the present to start getting my ass out to shows. What at its most convenient is a four-hour drive had taken more than six, my car’s air conditioner cutting out on the way. I’d been up since five in the morning. It was time to rock and roll.

I’ve been to Radio a few times now — I think every time I’ve been there a band on Small Stone has played, usually Gozu — and it’s a cool room. I had to remind myself that Boston’s a rocker town with a rocker crowd, so the place would probably be packed, and by the time Hey Zeus were finished, indeed it was. Last time I saw the native outfit was their first show, in January. It was one of the coldest nights of the winter. Go figure that I should run into them again as the heat index pushed its way past 110. A band for all seasons, they apparently are.

Opening up, I thought it was a pretty ballsy move for them to throw in a “Space Truckin'” cover halfway through, but they absolutely nailed it, vocalist Bice Nathan channeling his inner Ian Gillan to hit the screaming pre-chorus “Yeah!” high notes on the ultra-catchy Deep Purple classic. Ballsy as it was, they’d double-down by closing out a set otherwise comprised of driving original material with a take on “Speed King” from In Rock. It was almost like the set had a side A and side B and each closed out with a Deep Purple song. Not a bad way to go out, come to think of it.

Between Nathan‘s expert fronting the band, guitarist Pete Knipfing‘s red-hot Southern-style classic rock leads and the groove held down by the rhythm section of bassist Ken Cmar and drummer Todd Bowman, Hey Zeus were as tight as you could possibly ask them to be, varying their pacing somewhere between mid-moving stonerly lumber and the grown-up punk that has fueled so much of Boston’s heavy rock over the years. I dug it last time, I dug it this time, but more importantly, I’ll look forward to digging it next time. Feeling more metallic from their very start, The Scimitar followed in plundering fashion.

Guitarist/vocalist Darryl Shepard (see also Blackwolfgoat, Hackman, Roadsaw, and the League of Excellent Human Beings) announced from the stage that it was just The Scimitar‘s second Boston show. The trio, made up of Shepard, his Black Pyramid bandmate Dave Gein and drummer Brian Banfield, more or less functioned as an extension of that band’s marauding musical ideology, walking a line between thrashing metal and doom that Shepard‘s riffs navigated with ease. Some parts reminded me of Black Pyramid‘s 2013 outing, Adversarial (review here), but in cuts like “World Unreal” and “Forever and Ever and Ever” — based on The Shining and being played for the first time — there began to shine an individual personality for The Scimitar that will inevitably win out.

Gein and Shepard, recently back from a European tour in support of Adversarial with Black Pyramid, were dead on from the start, which gave Banfield a task in locking in with the two of them, but the drummer handled it well, the trio sounding solid if formative in their chemistry and like they were only going to get filthier sounding as time went on. I wondered if crusty battle doom was a thing, or if it could be, and as if either to answer or to shake me out of my bout of overthinking, they ran through “Void Traveler” on their way to closing out with the Motörhead cover “Metropolis,” giving a suitably grooving treatment to the mid-paced swagger of the original, which appeared on the 1979 landmark, Overkill. Needless to say, beer was spilled.

Dressed up in elaborate and professional-looking alien costumes — one guy actually looked so much like Nightcrawler from the X-Men that I thought that’s what he was going for at first — as they walked around Radio loading in and hanging out, Planetoid were playing last, which meant The Brought Low went on third after The Scimitar. There was a moment right before they took the stage that I could feel myself hit the wall. I stifled yawns and kept myself standing upright, but wow, I was ready to be done. The Brought Low, who were viewing this show as something of a makeup from having to cancel on the Small Stone Boston showcase last fall owing to the post-Hurricane Sandy gas shortage, hadn’t even started yet. I’d only seen two bands!

Proud to report that I didn’t split before The Brought Low‘s set was finished. The trio — Ben Smith (guitar/vocals), Bob Russell (bass/vocals) and Nick Heller (drums) — were on my hypothetical list of stuff to see before no longer living in the New York area, so even though it wound up being in Boston rather than their hometown I caught them in, I wasn’t about to complain. Their on the cusp of 15 years together and lived up to the high standard the sets I’ve seen them play have set, Smith and Heller both having grown out their hair some since I last encountered the band in Fall 2011. In that time, they haven’t put out anything new — their last offering was a three-song EP on Coextinction Recordings (stream and track-by-track here) — but even “What I Found” from their 2001 self-titled debut sounded fresh among newer songs like “Army of Soldiers” and “Black River” from the aforementioned three-tracker.

“Black River” in particular made for an exciting shift just past the halfway mark in the set as Russell took the fore vocally with Smith backing, where the band’s usual process works the other way around, their chemistry and unique blend of country twang and rocking city grit underscored by the swing in Heller‘s drums, perhaps most prevalent of all in the slower “My Favorite Waste of Time” from 2010’s Third Record (review here), which was also a highlight. I don’t know how many times I’ve called The Brought Low the best rock band in New York, but I’m still right. Whether it was “Old Century” or “The Kelly Rose,” the only thing they left me wanting was more The Brought Low. Beat to hell though I was, I’d have stayed if they went on twice as long.

As it was, they didn’t go much further than 40 minutes. An encore after “Blues for Cubby” rounded out and I said a few quick goodnights and made my way back to the hotel, feeling guilty for not catching Planetoid but assuming this wouldn’t be my last opportunity to do so. The next day I got up and went and found a place to live.

More pics after the jump. Thanks for reading.

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Live Review: Gozu, The Humanoids, Whitey and Hey Zeus in Boston, 01.26.13

Posted in Reviews on January 28th, 2013 by JJ Koczan

Foremost, it was cold. I don’t know what part of the world you live in, but here on the US East Coast, we got slammed last week with temperatures that ranged on the wrong side of zero degrees fahrenheit, and even walking into the dark bar O’Brien’s in Allston, I could feel the wind through my shoes. My jacket, shirt, etc. weren’t even a consideration. But for public courtesy, they might as well have not been there. It was so cold the wind cut through my shoes. Welcome to Boston, Mass.

The Patient Mrs. and I were in town for the night and into Sunday to look at residences, and as I’d seen earlier in the week that Gozu had a gig booked, I decided to hit it up and also get the chance to check out another local venue. If I’m gonna live there, I might as well get to know the spots where shows are, and I know O’Brien’s has had many in the past just from reading lists of tour dates, so even with the unreasonable temperatures and did-someone-just-cut-my-face wind, the rock and roll must get through.

I knew little about Hey Zeus and nothing about Whitey or The Humanoids, but fortunately ran into Black Pyramid/Blackwolfgoat guitarist and all-around super dude Darryl Shepard, who was kind enough to act as my sort of tour guide for the night’s bill, pointing out guitarist Pete Knipfing and drummer Todd Bowman from Hey Zeus, both formerly of Lamont whom I’ve been subjecting to some posthumous appreciation (see here and here), vocalist Bice Nathan and bassist Ken Cmar, who ran the label Wonderdrug Records and with it released records by the likes of Tree, Roadsaw and Scissorfight, among others. Cmar reportedly hadn’t been on a stage in two decades and it was Hey Zeus‘ live debut, but they basically killed it with an opening set of that Small Stone-style rock that Boston seems to have at a permanent bleed. Straightforward, heavy, dangerous and even if you’ve heard it a thousand times before, somehow fresh.

Knipfing added vocals here and there, and he, Bowman and Cmar were tight behind the Nathan, who periodically picked up a drum stick to smash one of Bowman‘s cymbals or bang on a cowbell. The songs were familiar but engaging and if this was a first-show type of performance, these guys are going to be lethal once they really get going. Before they played, I thought it was cool to see their premiere gig, as kind of a curiosity. By the time they were finished, it felt much more like an event, and though I didn’t know anything about Whitey or The Humanoids, I knew immediately they had a hard act to follow.

The place was fairly packed out for Hey Zeus as well. O’Brien’s isn’t big, and the stage rests on an angle — it reminded me of like a smaller mirrored version of Jersey’s Brighton Bar, with a lower ceiling and a lower stage (a good thing, lest someone bump their head) — but even in a bigger room, the crowd would’ve been considerable, and though people came and went as the night wore on, Whitey still had enough people watching for vocalist/guitarist Randy to toss out a couple snide comments between songs about the sold out show they were playing. Shepard had described them to me before they went on as bluesier, but still heavy, rock, and he was dead on. Double-slide guitar made more than one appearance and there was an healthy dose of down-home rocking to what they did, drummer Kyle Rasmussen (also of Phantom Glue) punctuating as shades of grown-up punk and rockabilly worked their way in as well.

Hightlights “Rainy and Wendy” and “Straight A’s” made me interested in hearing how they might sound on a studio version — Whitey have four records up on their Bandcamp — and though they weren’t as riotous on stage as was Hey Zeus, they were still fun to watch and made a solid setup for The Humanoids, who followed. They were, by Darryl‘s much-appreciated estimation and subsequently my own, more metal. They had the vests to prove it, and I was foretold of a Manowar cover of “Black Wind, Fire and Steel” that the double-guitar four-piece sometimes used for a set closer. They’d almost have to. What else could you possibly play after that?

Power metal was a factor for sure, but there was a gritty side to The Humanoids as well, fitting for their garage-punk moniker. The crowd at O’Brien’s ate it up, and with good reason. From their upright posture to their pumping fists to three-part vocals to the classic riffing, The Humanoids‘ metal-infused-rock was battle ready against poseurs and all that was non-metal or at least non-metal and in a close enough proximity to bother anybody. They were fun and they were clearly having fun with their sound, but as in the best of cases, the musicianship backed them up and kept them from seeming clownish.

They did in fact close with “Black Wind, Fire and Steel,” and sure enough they just about nailed it. I knew I was in good hands from the time I saw the Lock up the Wolves patch on back of the bassist’s vest and the drummer’s Bible of the Devil t-shirt, and The Humanoids lived up to those lofty ideals. Gozu was setting up and it was getting late, but I knew I wasn’t going anywhere until they were done. Their The Fury of a Patient Man record was still about as fresh in my head as could be, having just reviewed it two days earlier, and I grabbed a water from the end of the bar and waited for the four-piece to get going.

It hadn’t been that long since the Small Stone showcase at Radio in Somerville, so I’d had a recent enough memory of Gozu live to work from in knowing what to expect. Bassist Joe Grotto (brother and Motherboar bandmate to Mad Oak Studios‘ producer Benny Grotto) seemed more comfortable in his role than the last time out, and drummer Barry Spillberg challenging the rest of the band — Grotto, vocalist/guitarist Marc Gaffney and guitarist/backing vocalist Doug Sherman — to keep up with him as he blasted through “Charles Bronson Pinchot.” That was just one of the cuts off the new album that received a welcome showing, “Ghost Wipe” being another high point.

I guess the difference seeing Gozu this time was I was more familiar with the material so could enjoy it more. They hit up “Meat Charger” and “Meth Cowboy” from 2010 debut Locust Season (review here) and for an otherwise unremarkable Saturday night — that is, it wasn’t a showcase or a fest or anything other than a regular, albeit pretty good, show — they tore through it. At one point, Grotto blew out his head, but another was brought out on the quick and that was really the only hiccup Gozu had. The rest of the time, they spent dealing out riff after riff, Gaffney belting out the verses and even getting a little booty-shake in here and there while Sherman‘s high-hoisted guitar left him room for thrashing out and walking back and forth on the stage, picking up, it seemed, the gauntlet Spillberg was throwing down.

You don’t often see a band who are actually on the same side challenging each other like that. It was exciting, and Spillberg was as expressive in his drumming as he was precise, so all the better. I was beat when they were finished — it had been a pretty long day and there was still another to come behind it — but Gozu‘s set still felt short, which I take as a good sign. They’re an act I’m hoping to see much more often following this move (which unless a piano falls on me or The Patient Mrs. is going to happen sometime before the fall), and I think once more people get a handle on The Fury of a Patient Man, I won’t be the only one. I certainly wasn’t the only one into them at O’Brien’s, as they seemed to sum up elements from each of the prior three bands while appealing to anyone who might’ve been there to see someone earlier and stuck around. Even knowing what I was getting, I was impressed.

Gaffney had apparently been sick, not that you could tell in his vocals, so I wished him well and said goodnight to Shepard and others and made my way out of O’Brien’s and back to the hotel where The Patient Mrs. and I were staying. The wind still whip-snapped at us as we crossed the street to the car and I was glad to finally crash out when I did, but the show had been the right choice, no question. Looking forward to many more.

Extra pics after the jump. Thanks for reading.

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