Thrash-Metal, Trip-Hop Fusions at the 'Sco
Decibel levels reached glass-shattering proportions last weekend at the ’Sco, which hosted two exceptional metal bands, Genghis Tron and Kylesa. Playing for a mid-sized hyperactive and aggressive crowd — for Oberlin, at least — both bands screamed bloody hell into the microphone and shook the dance floor in what was perhaps the best metal show that Oberlin has seen this year.
Kylesa, whose name is derived from the Buddhist word meaning “defilements, corruptions and poisons that cloud the mind,” delivered a unique set of corrosive thrash-metal, featuring two full drum sets, two screaming guitars and fierce howling vocals that would make even the hippest grandmother cry. The five members of Kylesa hit the stage around 10 p.m. and played for a solid hour, despite having traveled a considerable distance that day from their last show in Buffalo, New York, with Genghis Tron.
Hailing from sunny Savannah, Georgia, Kylesa’s influences range from Scandinavian death metal to early Sonic Youth. The band’s dense, earsplitting sound was surprisingly accessible, even for the casual metal appreciator. For such an ardently experimental band, Kylesa’s riff-based approach was more song-oriented than bands of a similar lineage, displaying a subtle penchant for harmony and structure that is often lost in the strident clatter of most heavy metal.
The distinctive vocal pairing from guitarist Laura Pleasants and bassist Corey Barhorst, both of whom displayed an almost frightening degree of raw energy, gave the group a definitive and expressive sound that seemed to reach out and grab the audience by the neck with every scream. Not a single nerve in the audience was left unstruck as the band assailed the crowd with its complex yet primal rhythms and distorted surges of audio excess. By the end of Kylesa’s set, the sweaty, bruised crowd at Dionysus gave its sore eardrums a much-needed break as its members prepared themselves for the next band.
The Vassar-born trio known as Genghis Tron hit the stage, immediately raising the energy to the same cataclysmic level as their opening act.
“We’re from Philly via Poughkeepsie at a school much like this one…except you guys have a better sound system,” said Genghis Tron’s lead vocalist Mookie.
The charismatic front man proceeded to dedicate the set to the recently-deceased lead singer of Boston, Brad Delp, admitting that despite their own acerbic sound, the band is formally influenced by this inoffensive classic rock staple of the 1970s.
Driven by Mookie’s lively, shrieking vocals, Genghis Tron’s unique blend of trip-hop, dance techno and hardcore metal was very engaging as a live act in its own schizophrenic way. A drummerless trio utilizing heavily synthesized beats and sonic effects that seemed to have been collected from some audio junkyard, Genghis Tron jumped abruptly between bouts of metal haywire and dark yet danceable Baroque pop.
Add to this some ostentatious, finger-tapping lead guitar a la Eddie Van Halen and you get the voracious, tongue-in-cheek sound of Genghis Tron, a band that, simply put, could only be comprised of somewhat nerdy media junkies from the East Coast. The band’s set was both amusing and baffling, though not without its artistic innovations.
These guys were intelligent and deliberate in their approach, creating music that was hard to define but easy to enjoy. Though in some ways a departure from Kylesa, which was louder and more hardcore, with two drummers instead of none, Genghis Tron possessed a similar ability to balance raw energy with carefully conceived songs. They have a bright, raucous future ahead of them if they can continue to deliver their potent mishmash of contradictory styles to audiences around the country.
While certain heavy metal can overwhelm the listener with tasteless virtuosity and unnecessary volume levels, effectively alienating everyone but the most die-hard metal geek, both Kylesa and Genghis Tron successfully incorporated a rich diversity of textures, thoughtful musical motives and fierce energy that provoked and engaged rather than blew away.
This was an excellent show that, unfortunately, only a small number of Obies were able to witness. Still, for those who didn’t make it out for this one, your eardrums should thank you.
Mine are still ringing.