You have to respect Eyehategod. I mean, these guys have been going for nigh on 20 years now, and have not really wavered an inch from their original aesthetic. You can call it “sludge” or “doom” metal, or whatever kind of ultimately meaningless label you want to attach to it, but this is band that is really about negation: the negation of everyone and everything in existence. Eyehategod is a pure exercise in total nihilism, and that idea is something that any real rock fan should be able to get behind.

As an artistic concept, Eyehategod reminds me more of early SWANS than of any particular metal act. In a live setting especially, the monotony and abrasiveness of their sound, which is akin to listening to a dinosaur slowly being consumed by a tar pit, is akin to the experience that SWANS leader Michael Gira once set out to torture audiences with.

Eyehategod’s music is sub-sub-sub Black Sabbath, like something Tony Iommi might have come up with back in the 1970s if he took a bunch of Mandrax pills and washed them down with a bottle of cheap wine. It is music about ebbs and flows, with the riffs sometimes slowing down at the edge of the abyss, then painfully grinding back into life again.

In the case of early SWANS, it was diaper clad Michael Gira’s theatrics that kept things interesting even during the music’s most turgid moments. With Eyehategod, that duty falls upon singer Mike Williams, a 43-year-old juvenile delinquent who exudes such anti-charisma onstage that some members of the Brooklyn audience soon felt compelled to hurl abuse at him. Williams is like a post-lobotomy version of Iggy Pop, a man who has been stunned and defeated by life and is out for revenge. On this night, he appeared to be operating under the influence of heavy drugs--or perhaps someone had hit him over the head with a beer bottle before the show. He sometimes resembled one of those disheveled guys you see on street corners talking to themselves, having a halting conversation with some interesting imaginary friend.

As a front man, Williams, with his indecipherable battery acid gurgle, was oddly compelling: every time the music’s sludgy monotony started pushing me toward the exit, the singer’s antics kept me in my seat. Sometimes the banter was blackly comedic: “I want to die, fuck it,” Williams exclaimed before the excellent new song “New Orleans Is The New Vietnam”, a more structured number which features musical dynamics that are absent from much of the band’s older material.

Some members of the audience literally took Williams at his word, however, and complained that he was still alive a couple of numbers later. “FUCK YOU!” yelled one such punter--no doubt hoping to see an onstage suicide--at the top his lungs. Following the new “Medicine Noose”, a disoriented Williams advised such members of the crowd to “hang yourselves – die.” When told to shut up and get on with the show, Williams was miffed: “Why, you in a hurry, BITCH?” he snarled.

The show didn’t end so much as peter out, kind of like a futile, unexamined life does for so many people. Opening the show were Knight Terror, whom I arrived too late to catch (though Williams later assured us they were “fucking amazing”), Hull, and Doomriders.

Hull are another post–metal outfit along the lines of their Brooklyn comrades Tombs, but where the latter band draws on post-punk and gothic influences like Joy Division and The Cure along with shoegazer guitar textures, Hull combines their metal with a more free jazz approach, as heard on their live rendition of “Beyond The Lightless Sky”: one can easily picture the guys in Hull grooving to the Mahavishnu Orchestra.

Second on the bill, Beantown’s Doomriders delivered a solid and enjoyable set of aggressive punk metal with some hard rock influences: the band cites Thin Lizzy as heroes, and while they lack the funk and the romantic lyricism of that classic band, their twin guitar assault and inventive drumming, heard on “Come Alive” and “Jealous God”, justified the comparison.

— Johnny Walker

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Photos by Greg Cristman. To see more of his work, visit his site here.