Metal ain’t what it used to be. The headbanger’s odyssey might have started with Black Sabbath, but the years between Ozzy’s first yowling wail and the present date have seen the genre grow in leaps and bounds. And if you’re making a case study of the future of the musical bloodsport, you’d do well to examine Baroness and Genghis Tron.
Metal ain’t what it used to be.
The headbanger’s odyssey might have started with Black Sabbath, but the years between Ozzy’s first yowling wail and the present date have seen the genre grow in leaps and bounds. And if you’re making a case study of the future of the musical bloodsport, you’d do well to examine Baroness and Genghis Tron.
Both bands hail from the Relapse Records roster, and when taken together, such as with their show this Saturday at the Satyricon, they form a one-two knock out punch.
BaronessHailing from Savannah, Ga., Baroness’ catchy prog-metal is as informed by classic southern boogie as it is by the ripping guitar leads of Iron Maiden. While Baroness’ first three releases (all EPs) hewed closer the rougher aesthetic of doomin’ and gloomin’ crust metal, it wasn’t until last year’s Red Album that the horse really started to gallop.
The songs on the Red Album are tight constructions–replacing the pure heft of the band’s earlier work with a mixture of genuine hooks and catchy melodies. It also helps that lead vocalist John Baizley expanded his vocal range to include a more sonorous, sing-songy bellow.
It’s almost shocking how much the band’s sound changed from their last EP, a split with Unpersons released in 2007, to the Red Album that was released later that year.
“To the regular person, it was probably quite a drastic change,” bassist Summer Welch says. “But for us personally, it was a very natural progression. We hadn’t recorded anything in two years when we recorded the Red Album. Plus we lost our original guitarist, so there were a lot of elements that were kind of made for change.”
When it comes to the music that influenced Baroness’ evolution, Welch refused to cite specifics, though he added, “they’re definitely there.”
“We’ve always pulled from a lot of the classic bands and musicians,” he says. “We’ve never all been like ‘Metal’s the way’ or ‘Punk’s the way’ or ‘hip-hop’s the way,’ we’ve always just listened to so many different types of music.”
And their songs reflect that diversity, though in an indirect way. The Red Album is heavy without being off-putting. It’s exploratory without being tedious. And most importantly for any band trying be seen as more than “just metal,” it has a broad appeal that can only come from truly great songwriting.
Baroness recently toured with Coheed and Cambria (aka your 13-year-old sister’s favorite prog band), which was a strange pairing to be sure.
“We’ve never tried to limit ourselves with who we’ve toured with or fitting into a certain type of niche, to our benefit I think,” Welch says. “Our fans run the gamut from metal fans, to punk kids, to just, y’know, normal people.”
Genghis TronIf Baroness are creative classicists pushing metal forward, then Genghis Tron are mad scientists in the basement, fusing various elements into increasingly efficient monsters.
Seldom has a band name revealed as much about its music than in the case of Genghis Tron. Their name is a combination of the ancient barbaric warlord (representing, I suppose, metal) and Tron, that crazy ’80s video game/computer movie (representing, for lack of a better word, electronica).
The band’s early work, an inelegant if fascinating mash-up of electronic break beats and extremely speedy grindcore, has risen through several recordings to this year’s release of Board Up The House.
Genghis Tron’s first release for Relapse, House shores up the previously jagged transitions in the band’s sound, matching the moody melodicism of Depeche Mode with the speed-freak urgency of Converge.
“The first record in particular was super cut-and-paste and I feel like it was kind of founded on that certain shock element,” vocalist Mookie Singerman says. “We realized when we were done with that, we didn’t feel like that would age particularly well. We’re really interested with Board Up The House in making a really complete, fluid record.”
In the live setting, Genghis Tron has some unique challenges that most metal bands don’t have to deal with, mainly because the Tron uses programmed drums.
Singerman says they deal with this issue by bringing their own P.A. (“‘Cause we need to be as loud as the other bands we play with.”) and by using a carefully executed light show (“to give those kind of visual cues that a drummer might give.”).
“Regardless of the bills we play, we tend to be the odd band out,” Singerman says. “I think we tend to either go over people’s heads or not be to their liking at any given show we play, but there’s also always people who are super into it and excited to see something different.”
And different it certainly is. It’s hard to think of many other bands that can pull off touring stints with both electro-clashers The Faint (as they did earlier this year) and down-tuned sludge merchants Black Cobra (as they’ll do later this month).
“There’s some people who just aren’t going to come around to us, and that’s fine,” Singerman says. “It comes with the territory.”
Genghis Tron and BaronessSaturday, October 4Satyricon, 125 N.W. Sixth Ave. $12, 9 p.m., All-ages
Genghis TronFree in-store performanceSaturday, October 4Jackpot Records, 203 S.W. Ninth Ave.5 p.m.