Murderess, Vektor, and Others

I’m going to concede at the outside that this is pretty poor rock journalism. In my days writing for The Rocket, I was schooled in the practice of reviewing shows. Start with something to catch the reader’s eye and then talk about the bands in order of importance: headliner first and if you say anything about the opening band, it can be something like, “they played.” For reasons that will become clear as this goes on, I will not be employed this format.

With the Captain out on assignment in the wild west, I’d been hanging out alone in the bunker for days. I’d really been at loose ends. Without the Captain’s witty banter to motivate me, I’d found myself wandering the corridors, quietly singing snatches of Discharge songs, or watching old episode of The Rockford Files on our broken down VHS. Having nothing else to occupy my time, and needing to come up with something to post, I headed over to the west side to what was going on at Now That’s Class. I’d heard of the headlining band, Vektor (who hail from Tempe, Arizona), but it’s not like I was desperate to see them.

In fact, I was a bit jaded. Sitting at the bar, waiting for things to get going, I sketched out the opening of the piece that I was going to write. It went like this:

Going to shows has a Groundhog’s Day sort of feel to me. Sitting under the blue glare of a neon Natural Light sign, listening to Maiden on the bar sound system, drinking Pabst, wishing I had a cigarette. It could be Portland, Nottingham, New York, Seattle, Cleveland. It really doesn’t make a difference at this point. In my younger days, I thought that rock was infinite variation. Now I know better, but the sameness has a comforting aspect. At least I always know what to expect.

Having nattered on like this for a while, I wandered into the back room to see the first band. I figured I’d take a couple of pictures, then head back to the bar to await more interesting fare. What happened next jarred me out of my self-indulgence. Portland’s Murderess took the stage, having been added to the bill on an impromptu basis to fill in the space between shows in Toronto and Pittsburgh. As a Portland old boy, I recognized the name, but I didn’t know their music. They were kind enough to introduce me and everyone else in the joint to it by laying down an absolutely blistering set.

Their stuff runs a hardcore gamut from d-beat to straight thrash and even incorporating black metal elements. Their singer had a voice that sounded like someone tearing a piece of steel in half. If you listed the very best thrash band front women, the likes of Tam from Sacrilege, Amy from Nausea, or Gerda from Misantropic, Murderess’s singer would certainly belong among them. She absolutely tore it apart. She was just the tip of the iceberg. From first to last, Murderess tore it up. There was a really funny vibe in the room. No one there expected to see this band. No one there (or very few) knew what was about to happen. About five seconds into their first song, there were jaws dropping around the room. There was a sort of collective “oh shit” moment as everyone in the gaff began to recognize the blazing thrash on offer.

This is one of those moments of beautiful serendipity with which the underground is so rich. I had absolutely zero expectations (and my self-indulgent moping above makes clear) and I was rewarded for taking the trouble to come out by a really awesome experience. This too I will say, I had the chance to chat with them after they played and they are really pleasant people. I had a lot of fun talking about some people that we knew in common, and they were very polite about listening to me drone on about things that happened years before they were born.

I ended up sitting around at their merch table talking their guitarist Rachel (one of those really bright individuals that you occasionally run into who renews one’s faith in the scene). At a certain point, I realize that I’d missed all of the other bands and that Vektor was about to go on. I had no idea what to expect, but I was in for another pleasant surprise. Their logo bears a certain similarity to Voi Vod’s. It’s not a coincidence. Their sound is very old school thrash, although the referent point that came to mine was less War and Pain and more Dark Angel’s We Have Arrived. Lots of damped back picking and songs of rock opera length were their stock in trade and they took to it with aplomb.

This show really reminded me about why I come out to stuff like this. Just when I think I’ve seen it all, I walk into something I didn’t expect. Ears ringing, I headed happily back to bunker land.

Magadh

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