After 4.5 years together, I have never dragged my boyfriend to a metal show, despite it being a frequent pass time of my college years. The allure of slumming it with my metalhead peers in my usual haunts lost its luster a long time ago, admittedly. Combine this with a 9-to-5 career and a general antipathy towards being in crowds and the show outings slow down to a near halt.
Yet sometimes it’s still nice to get out and go to a show. Generally on Saturdays my boyfriend and I tend to do ‘whatever,’ with this day in particular being filled with fall outings and zip-lining. I’m not on Facebook so when my boyfriend skimmed his suggestions on what to do he noticed a show starting in a couple of hours.”Have you heard of these bands?” he asked. “Um, yeah, absolutely” I replied. When I showed some excitement at the prospect of seeing Imperial Triumphant and Pyrrhon, he decided he wanted to be cool and take me (which was cool, of course).
“It’s going to be pretty intense,” I warned, “they’re fairly heavy.” I know he can hang, he’s been to a fair share of punk shows in the past, and his penchant for 90s and alternative music like the Pixies, Pavement, Husker Du, and Sonic Youth mean that he’s got good taste. I mean, the first song we danced to was “Venus As A Boy” (at his request), so again, he can hang.
But metal is different. On the way there he explained how it’s just about the only niche of music he’s never explored. I understood. Metal was a no-no growing up, not for any religious reason but my mother held on to certain stigmas surrounding the scene. Metal can be mysoginistic. It can be homophobic, too. These tags aren’t always unfair, admittedly. I love metal but these things have hung around for decades, altering the view of the scene for just about everyone on the outside. In the car we discussed people like Jon Nödtveidt and the nagging Nazi rumor surrounding Inquisition. I like talking about these things because it’s important in helping people understand what metal is really about. Maybe I was doing more harm than good.
“Imperial Triumphant and Pyrrhon are just weird enough that you won’t feel uncomfortable. Your standard dude-bros won’t be there making a scene” I explained. I assuaged his well-hidden trepidation by telling him they got coverage on Pitchfork (as if he really cared about that to begin with) which seemed to make him more open to the idea.
We arrived at The Summit which was a lot shittier than I remembered. The ceiling was collapsing and the bathrooms smelled of piss and bleach. Honestly, they were merely the suggestion of bathrooms. I saw Pallbearer at the same venue, younger and more under the influence, so the memories were a lot more glamorous. Not exactly a prime date spot but we laughed about it any way.
Imperial Triumphant went on close to 11pm and I couldn’t have been more pumped. I repped them a couple of years ago on here (my glowing review) and looked forward to their particular brand of black metal. He asked what they were like, who the crowd might deem as “the pinnacle of metal” and all that. Very cool questions that I happily prattled on about. But I digress.
Imperial Triumphant were great; everything I had wanted. The whole “Eyes Wide Shut” mask thing was better in practice than one would think, and they sounded absolutely massive as a three-piece in such a cramped space. They played some from their recent EP and their past material. I could tell my boyfriend was liking how diverse things were sounding. The band went off on some ethereal tangents and took time to make some really excellent builds. The imagery was totally what non-metal fans would expect: masks, black robes, obscuring fog, and dim lighting. It was perfect. For someone really wanting a taste of a neat metal show, they delivered.
As an aside, it’s interesting how shows like this never really meet your expectations. To me, these bands are a big deal. I read about them, I write about them, and I have discussions about them. I have their merch and their albums have made it to decent positions on my “end of year” lists. So when you see crowds in the tens it’s always a little surprising. It shouldn’t be, as these bands even within metal occupy such a small niche. But I digress.
Pyrrhon came on to an even smaller crowd. Not all together unsurprising considering how divisive they can be. I explained to my boyfriend (I should actually note that we are engaged) that I once read an article about Pyrrhon with the bold words: Hipster Bullshit. Personally, I don’t see it. Pyrrhon are weirder than most death metal but they don’t askew genre norms in the way that other bands deemed “hipster bullshit” do. If anything, their stage presence reminds me of hardcore and punk rather than quirky death metal.
Pyrrhon set up quickly and launched right into their set. It must be said that Doug Moore is an absolute monster, and like the band’s music, is a lot to take. His multitude of effects peddles gave his performance the bravado of half a dozen vocalists. Impressive, and one of the more intense showings I have ever seen.
Now I like the band, but things got a little muddled right away. This was unsurprising considering how chaotic their music tends to be. However, I got a lot of thumbs up and smiles which told me that my boyfriend was finding things about it to enjoy.
Imperial Triumphant and Pyrrhon put on a really good show. Good enough that I wasn’t even that disappointed in Artificial Brain’s absence. It felt good to be around that sort of atmosphere again, if only for a breath of nostalgia. It was a treat to introduce someone to some popular fringe metal bands too. In the end I think he enjoyed himself purely on the basis of experiencing something new.