This quote by Black Flag drummer Bill Stevenson from We Owe You Nothing (Punk Planet: The Collected Interviews) has stuck with me:
We also had a very confrontational stage vibe. I’m not saying we brought [violence] upon ourselves, it just wasn’t an inviting setting. There was a wall up and we were trying to play *through* the audience rather than *to* the audience. We would put our heads down, play as hard as we could, and didn’t acknowledge their existence.
Aside from logical inconsistency (playing “through” an audience acknowledges its existence), this statement is beautifully pure. I get uneasy when a band plays to me. There’s crowd-pleasing through words, and there’s crowd-pleasing through action. I prefer the latter. Stage banter is overrated. Some of my most favorite sets have been grim affairs where song after song hails down upon the crowd. When I see metal or hardcore, I want the band to flatten, not flatter me.
I’ve never seen Nails play live, but I imagine they’re the play-through-you type. Obscene Humanity (Six Feet Under, 2009) is 11 of the most intense minutes I’ve undergone in years, and “Lies” is three and a half of them. I have kept this song around for months. Each time I hear it — I just typed “heart it,” Freudian slip — I can practically feel my blood foam up. It’s not so much a song as a firefight. Dirt clods are flying, some guy is yelling, and drums are acquiring some serious bruises. 41 seconds in is a Greg Ginn-esque spasm of a solo, as unison bends widen into savage skronk. Then the song gears down into metronomic cymbal abuse. It’s as if Om lost their faith — unholy terror, indeed.