By the time I rolled into Williamsburg’s The Grand Victory after a more-than-long-enough work day, 100 and Zero were already well into their set of aggressive NY-style noise punk. They were first on a four band bill shared with grinders Scowl, atmospheric sludge metallers Mountain God and thick riff specialists Eggnogg, all local to Brooklyn. Fair enough. Scowl followed shortly thereafter, with drummer Chris Dialogue recognizable as the former vocalist of Alkahest. He handled backing vocals in Scowl as well on the small Grand Victory stage, and put his microphone to use — as did bassist Derek Stephan and vocalist Matt Viel who paced pack and forth in front of the stage, leaving only guitarist Zack Birmingham mic-less — as much, if not more, for banter between the songs, which were mostly short, grinding blasts with the occasional stoner groove thrown in for good measure.
Hell, I can get down with a little stoner extremity every now and again and nothing says charm like when band members spend entire minutes before the next cut calling each other assholes, so yeah, right on. They said they were playing a short set, and it might’ve been in just the material involved, but there was the back-and-forth as well to coincide with saying the next song was about football, or about “sucking on that glass dick, whatever that means,” and such. It was almost an overdose of snark, but all in good fun. When they were done, Mountain God loaded on and were immediately a completely different vibe, their sludge given texture through the keyboard work of Jonathan Powell. Both Powell and Mountain God bassist Nikhil Kamineni used to be in Alkahest as well, but as was evident on their Experimentation on the Unwilling demo tape reviewed last month, the new band is working from its own amalgam of influences.
I recognized some of what they played from that tape, which I always take as a good sign, but the real highlight of their set was the new song “Forest of the Lost,” which worked in multiple movements and got more to the core of their blend of doom riffing and ambient depth. The vocals of guitarist Jared Fishman come across in a wash of echo throughout most of the studio versions of songs, but live he was inevitably clearer and that gave the set a more tangible resonance. Riff-wise, “Forest of the Lost” tapped into a classic metal malevolence — maybe some Cathedral in there, but thoroughly doomed either way — and though the bulk of the long, unfolding progression was instrumental, what vocals there were came across in a blend of screams and cleaner singing, a noise rock vibe cutting through the tonal morass of Kamineni‘s bass and his own guitar as drummer Ian Murray turned an otherwise chaotic churn into cohesive forward motion.
They’ve reportedly got a new release in the works centered around some incarnation of “Forest of the Lost,” which was well past 10 minutes long on stage, so I took that as a good sign, and when Mountain God finished, Eggnogg took the stage quickly as the last act of the night. It had been more than a year since the last time I saw them — my loss — and in the interim, the prior trio of Bill O’Sullivan, guitarist Justin Karol and drummer Jason Prushko added bassist Corey Dozier to make a four-piece. This move put O’Sullivan from bass to rhythm guitar — as well as vocals — resulting in Karol taking on more of a lead-player role, in which he excelled. In the past, seeing Eggnogg live, I’ve regretted that some of the funk influence that shows up in their studio output, be it last year’s Louis EP (review here) or 2011′s Moments in Vacuum sophomore full-length (review here), is somewhat lost in favor of their pure, unabashedly stoner stomp, enjoyable as that is.
Sure enough, the songs they played at The Grand Victory – a new one to start from their forthcoming, “mostly done” third full-length, You’re all Invited, plus “The God’s Will Destroy the Hive” and “Northern Lights” from their 2009 debut The Three, and an eponymous encore — carried that much more of the funk for the simple fact that Karol was able to devote his attention completely to his solos when they arose. “Northern Lights,” which was the elephantine highlight of their set, soulful as he plucked notes and even threw in a little stoner-rock softshoe, which as far as I’m concerned is always welcome. Together with O’Sullivan‘s low vocal register and the rumble of Dozier‘s six-string bass, Eggnogg were indeed another notch above the already heavy watermark that past shows I’ve seen from them had set. More importantly, Dozier – although he spent a decent amount of time off the stage, playing in front of it or to the side — blended well with the trio tonally and in terms of presence, and provided a thickened match for both guitars and the marching snare of Prushko, which impressed all the more with some subtle ghost notes and increasing character of play.
Of Eggnogg, you could say they seem to be getting to where they want to be in terms of their sound. I frickin’ loved Moments in Vacuum and put on Louis regularly as well, so the chance to see and hear new songs from them was thoroughly appreciated. I don’t know when You’re all Invited will see release, but as far as I’m concerned the sooner the better. I’d hoped to be able to pick up a CD copy of their Apocrypha compilation — the only physical pressing of Louis, which couples it with their 2010 Nogg EP — but to no avail, and by that I mean there were none available. Still, well worth the trip to the city to catch them with Mountain God, also in a process of coming into their own, albeit in a much different fashion.
I thought maybe there was a late show happening afterwards, as for a time there were a few extra people walking around with instruments, but maybe they were playing across the street at Trash Bar or something and decided to walk over. When Eggnogg finished, the sound guy put on Songs for the Deaf to let the place clear out. I shuffled back to my car and made the trek back to Jersey to crash — a trip that seems even more arduous now than when I lived there — the dark and quiet roads of my former river valley rendered largely invisible by a dense, rolling fog.
Some more pics after the jump. Thanks for reading.