Viking Storm, pt. I (Tooth, Caverns, The Bronzed Chorus, Pink Flag)
The Pinhook, Durham
Friday, April 3
Mere observation be damned.
As Durham powerhouse Tooth packed itself onto the cramped Pinhook stage—rightfully headlining night one of Viking Storm—the band's charged gallop churned every body, mine included, in the front half of the room to a flailing froth. It's a testament to the band's intensity and deep, cutting grooves that they could drive a room full of people to hurtle themselves at one another at a show where moshing had no precedent prior to the headliner's set. Mere observation was impossible.
It's a shame Tooth won't be playing again until August. The band's lunging sludge—lacerated by sharp leads and sutured back together with frontman J-Me Guptill's demonic growls—ranks with the genre's best and brightest active bands.
But Tooth's was hardly the only noteworthy performance to come from the four-band bill. The night's lineup moved smoothly, each band complementing the others despite a wide sonic palette. A chain mail-clad Pink Flag kicked off the show with a loose, carefree set of irreverent riot-pop, something like a noisier Bratmobile. Playing without any trace of pretense, the trio allowed its music to speak for itself, and even as the set lagged between songs it moved along and proved a solid opening.
The meat in the local-band sandwich, though, was a pair of instrumental acts—Greensboro's Bronzed Chorus and D.C.'s Caverns—who both stretch the riff-based rock template into new and interesting directions. The Bronzed Chorus' use of loop pedals is part of the duo's larger-than-ought-to-be-possible sound, but the real key is the energy and urgency put into the songs, and their functioning as complete, melodic entities without the use of a vocal crutch.
Caverns, likewise, crafts concise, rocking songs, but theirs borrows less from post-rock and more from the close kinship of classical music and heavy metal. Classical piano forms the melodic focal point of the D.C. Trio, but guitar parts that alternately shred and bludgeon marry thick, frantic drumming to walk the line between hardcore and metal without feeling forced. Abrupt shifts and stops recall Fugazi's dynamic, but that's where the comparison ends.
Still, Tooth garnered the most physical response from the crowd, and in so doing, proved its ability to transcend its often disparaged genre, not by hyphenating it with some more-accessible nonsense, but by being really damn good at being a metal band.