New York got a taste of San Francisco recently from Ludicra and Hammers of Misfortune. Its bands are diverse, but San Francisco underground metal has a distinct flavor. A certain twangy grit runs through bands like Ludicra, Hammers of Misfortune, Saros, Slough Feg, Grayceon, Totimoshi, and Neurosis. If it were a material, it would be dark, unfinished wood, knotted into unexpected shapes.
Ludicra were as strong as I’ve ever heard them. Two weeks of touring had clearly firmed them up. Even singer Laurie Sue Shanaman, who is sometimes painfully shy onstage, seemed sure of herself. The band had reached that level of tour readiness where eye contact is unnecessary. Its attack was hard and thunderous. Guitarists John Cobbett and Christy Cather churned up chilly black metal, which Aesop Dekker buttressed with lean, flinty cymbals. Ross Sewage confidently steered his bass, sometimes one-handed, through warm lines. Do you know how hard it is to play bass one-handed?
Long, proggy songs with organ and male and female vocalists: not my usual idea of a good time. But Hammers of Misfortune were mesmerizing. They, too, were in the zone. Guitarists Cobbett (who writes Hammers’ music and lyrics and would win a genius award in a just world) and Patrick Goodwin unspooled snaky tangles of barbed riffs. Sigrid Sheie added garlands of ghostly organ. Singers Goodwin and Jesse Quattro traded lines with practiced ease. The set was hot and seamless with little stage banter. Epic after epic, then time to go home. This was getting fans the old-fashioned way: earning them.
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I am giving away a CD copy of Hammers of Misfortune’s recent double album “Fields/Church of Broken Glass.” For a chance to win, email invisibleoranges at gmail dot com by midnight EST, Sunday, August 16 with the subject header “John Cobbett is a genius” and your full name and address. I will pick a winner randomly.