Gnaw

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This show wasn't really a metal show, per se. It took place at a venue that's known mostly for metal and hardcore, and the crowd looked the NYC-metal-show part: black clothes, cave-dwelling complexions, big boots, folded arms. But of the four bands on the lineup, only Alan Dubin's Gnaw venture near riff-driven territory.

Which is not to say that the music wasn't heavy; it just wasn't heavy in that way. This stratum of dark, heavy non-metal music is increasingly common. A few weeks back, Decibel writer Adrien Begrand wrote a thoughtful year-end piece in which he speculated that the broad genre we call metal today is in the process of spinning off a separate style called "extreme music": a style which owes no meaningful debt to the first wave of metal codifiers, but instead cherry-picks metal traits and combines them with other stuff. The example he uses is Deafheaven, but Gnaw, with their deep ties to the noise/drone world, would probably fit the bill too.

I missed the openers Sonic Suicide Squad and Prana-Bindu, but caught almost all of Insect Ark's set. Insect Ark is a one-woman band — Dana Schechter, a former member of Michael Gira's post-Swans project Angels of Light and the animating force in Bee and Flower. Though Schechter has a beautiful singing voice, Insect Ark is instrumental; she builds eerie, driving noise tapestries out of electronic loops, bass riffs, and delay-washed lap steel guitar lines. It's always fascinating to watch solo musicians manage so many different sounds at once, and Schechter is an animated performer — she exudes nervous energy even when she's twiddling control knobs.

Alan Dubin is best known for his tortured vocal performances in Khanate, but he gets to do even more with his voice in Gnaw. Dubin isn't the most versatile metal vocalist in the world, but he's incredibly smart with the way he uses his voice — he knows when to sing and how to deliver his words for maximum impact. In keeping with his bandmates, he also uses technology to get more mileage out of his throat; he electronically manipulates his vocals in real time, looping in tape-delayed rasps and moans.

You don't see much of that kind of thing from live metal bands, which strikes me as odd in a genre so obsessed with gear. I suspect that it's a traditionalist thing — harsh vocalists are supposed to be wildmen, and wildmen don't fuck around with poncey FX boxes onstage. But you can't mess with results, and Dubin sounded great. Maybe such trickery will become more common in the future. It's a brave new world we're living in, after all.

— words by Doug Moore
— photos by Greg Cristman

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Sonic Suicide Squad

Sonic Suicide Squad

Sonic Suicide Squad

Sonic Suicide Squad

Sonic Suicide Squad

Sonic Suicide Squad

Sonic Suicide Squad

Sonic Suicide Squad

Sonic Suicide Squad

Sonic Suicide Squad

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Prana-Bindu

Prana-Bindu

Prana-Bindu

Prana-Bindu

Prana-Bindu

Prana-Bindu

Prana-Bindu

Prana-Bindu

Prana-Bindu

Prana-Bindu

Prana-Bindu

Prana-Bindu

Prana-Bindu

Prana-Bindu

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Insect Ark

Insect Ark

Insect Ark

Insect Ark

Insect Ark

Insect Ark

Insect Ark

Insect Ark

Insect Ark

Insect Ark

Insect Ark

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Gnaw

Gnaw

Gnaw

Gnaw

Gnaw

Gnaw

Gnaw

Gnaw

Gnaw

Gnaw

Gnaw

Gnaw

Gnaw

Gnaw

Gnaw

Gnaw

Gnaw

Gnaw

Gnaw

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