Oceans of Slumber Casts Its Thrall Over Fitz

Photos by Francisco Montes
Oceans of Slumber
Green as Emerald, Carrion Sun, Oceans of Slumber
March 20, 2015

It's rare that a band gets an opportunity to make a second first impression, and Oceans of Slumber arrived at Fitzgerald's on Friday night prepared and determined to make the most of this unlikely shot. After all, the prog-minded musicians are hardly new to the local metal scene, having first assembled in 2011.

But the recent additions of keyboardist Beau Beasley and singer Cammie Gilbert to the group have opened up exciting new possibilities in their sound, illustrated beautifully by Oceans' one-take cover of the Candlesmass classic "Solitude" that went viral a couple weeks back. A very large and curious crowd turned up for a free show over the weekend to celebrate the release of Oceans of Slumber's new EP, Blue, and see what the new-look band could do with a full set of tunes.

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A Few More Words With Oceans of Slumber

Photo courtesy of Oceans of Slumber
Coming off an exceptional year with a critically acclaimed album and turning out to be one of Dream Theater drummer Mike Portnoy's favorite bands for 2014, Oceans of Slumber could easily be lauded as Houston's hardest-working metal band (or hardest working any band, for that matter). Once described by Russ Russell - the iconic producer for Napalm Death, Dimmu Borgir, etc. - as "the perfect mixture of sheer brutality with ultimate musicianship," the band has the chops to juggle many genres while at the same time still walking on the tightrope that puts the heavy in metal.

OOS have just released a new EP, Blue, and are about to make their live debut with new line-up that includes new female singer Cammie Gilbert. But at the helm is Dobber Beverly, drummer for the band. He takes a minute out of his busy schedule -- they'll soon be releasing a new full-length album and heading out on tour -- to chat with us. Trust us: catch them tonight before they take the world by storm.

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Oceans of Slumber Pushing Harder Than Ever

Photo by Jeremy Pierson/Courtesy of Oceans of Slumber
When local prog-metal troupe Oceans of Slumber take the stage at Fitzgerald's on Friday night to celebrate the release of their new EP, don't be surprised if they look and sound a little different than you remember. The band has added a keyboard player, for one thing. And then there's the small matter of their brand-new singer - the young woman with the light-brown skin and the big, soaring voice.

One familiar element that definitely hasn't changed is that the middle of the stage will still be occupied by Dobber Beverly, the headphones-wearing drum demolisher still best-known to many around these parts as the skin-smasher from bygone grindcore greats Insect Warfare. Now appreciated around town as much for his gentle grooves as for his bone-shattering rolls and fills, Beverly has been the backbone of Oceans of Slumber since the group's formation in 2011.

The idea back then was to get together and jam out some progressive tunes with no holds barred, pushing the boundaries of what metal could sound like. Four years later, they're pushing harder than ever.

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Bad Ass Weekend 2: A Banquet for Extreme-Music Lovers

Photos by Francisco Montes
England's Napalm Death finished off the pungent, black-wearing crowd of extreme-music lovers at Fitzgerald's.
Maybe it was the dank weather that drove them out of their burrows, or the deep bass vibrations that attracted them. But the extreme rock underground slithered up through the cracks and into the daylight on Saturday, turning out early and with enthusiasm to Day 2 of the Bad Ass Weekend III festival. In studs and spikes they came, rocking mullets, mohawks and long, frizzy tresses, to catch the kind of cult bands that you can really build a scene (or a fashion statement) around.

The sold-out crowd hustled up and down the stairs at Fitzgerald's all night, trying to see and hear everything. It was impossible. The deep lineup of thrash, death and grindcore thought-leaders on both stages was staggered nicely, but difficult choices had to be made. That's just the way it goes at the biggest, gnarliest extreme-rock show of the season.

By the time old-school Orange County grind outfit Phobia began bashing away upstairs at 7:30 p.m., the Bad Ass Weekend had already been underway for quite some time. D.C. punk originals Government Issue had headlined a practically unmissable punk portion of the fest the night before, and lesser-known acts like Church of Disgust and Peasant had been rocking a capacity crowd at Mango's since early Saturday afternoon.

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Enabler Turns Way Up at Walters

Photos by Nathan Smith
Tuesday night tinnitus: Enabler's Jeff Lohrber
Enabler, Call of the Void, Blasé, STRESS33
Walters Downtown
February 10, 2015

It's a rather small crowd that turns out to hear extreme sounds at Walters on a Tuesday night in February -- one that typically shows up with callouses on their cochleas. But even the saltier veterans of the hardcore haunt went home with their ears ringing like a tardy bell last night. The tinnitus would come courtesy of the Ohioans in Enabler, purveyors of a bitter fusion of hardcore and metal that somehow manages to sound angrier than either. There was no use wearing earplugs. Things were about to get rather loud.

The first act of the night was the local outfit STRESS33, who raked the early arrivals over the coals with a nasty blend of piercing noise and sloppy power-violence. At stage left, a guy in a colorful mask and shades manipulated some kind of digital controller that produced grating squeals over the band's thoughtfully destroyed guitar crunch. As sheer sonic assault, it was a terrific warmup.

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Enjoy the Least Metal Video Ever Made

If you don't remember Chris Holmes from his stint as lead guitarist in W.A.S.P., you may be forgiven. They were, after all, just another hair-metal act and not one whose work has particularly stood the test of time. On the other hand, if you don't remember Chris Holmes from his interview in the Penelope Spheeris documentary The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years, then you might have brain damage.

Who could ever forget Holmes floating in a swimming pool on an inflatable chair, swigging vodka from three separate bottles and babbling incoherently as him mom looked on worried? It's arguably the greatest interview in music-documentary history.

His latest video is the music-video equivalent of that interview. Oh. My. God.

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Billy Hinkle Brings East Side Ethic to Poison Girl Turntables

photo by Matthew Romero
L-R: Robert Mena, Francisco Pulido, Scott Peterson (of Cryptic Slaughter), Billy Hinkle, and Ed Reyes
Pasadena hardcore outfit H.R.A., named after television personality Marvin Zindler's "heavy roach activity" blurb from his famous and often-amusing weekly rundown of local health-inspection violations, makes music to kill cats by, pens theme songs for nightmares, belches anthems for the apocalypse. Fast, furious, industrial-strength, and filled with rage, this is sonic warfare, the stuff they play in the torture cells at CIA black sites.

Unless you're part of the hardcore scene, it's hard to comprehend how deeply embedded hardcore is on the East Side. According to H.R.A. bassist Billy Hinkle, whose first DJ gig ever will be spinning his vinyl at Poison Girl tonight, the manic, abrasive, buzzsaw genre that sprang out of punk is in the water in east Houston. [Disclosure: the author is also DJing at PG this evening -- ed.]

"A lot of bands -- you know, Splatterreah, Bacteria, Social Deceit, Crucifixion -- were based out of the East Side. There's something about the working class and chemical pollution that caters to this music."

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Cannibal Corpse & Behemoth Defile House of Blues

Photos by Jack Gorman
The hair says it all: Cannibal Corpse's Corpsegrinder, mid-headbang
Cannibal Corpse, Behemoth
House of Blues
January 29, 2015

More than 25 years into their surprisingly rigor-resistant career, death-metal archetypes Cannibal Corpse still relish their status as outsiders. Thanks to their gore-soaked and gleefully offensive album covers and lyrics, the group has battled a long legacy of censorship around the globe, with bans on their work in Germany and Australia lifting only recently.

Even today, when Cannibal enjoys status as elder statesmen of a global death-metal scene that's as strong as ever, they're still rankling powerful gatekeepers. Just last year, the band had the plug pulled on them by the authorities at a gig in Russia and once again found their artwork and lyrics outlawed.

If that all seems like kind of a big fuss over a band that comes up with bonkers song titles like "I Cum Blood," you probably haven't seen the band live. The potency of the band's music and the sheer dexterity of their performances makes them easy to take seriously. As purveyors of death-metal spectacle go, they're pretty hard to top, and not just anybody is capable of sharing a stage with them.

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deadhorse Singer Mike Argo Ain't Going Nowhere

Categories: Metalocalypse

Photo courtesy of deadhorse
Mike Argo, front, with deadhorse
When word spread three and a half years ago that deadhorse -- the undisputed kings of the Axiom back in the '90s -- were reuniting after a 20-year layoff, most local fans were elated. Most. Not all. There was dismissive grumbling from some quarters about former guitarist and songwriter Mike Haaga's non-involvement. And just to up the train-wreck factor, rumor had it that some dude nobody knew was going to be singing. Jesus! Would they even sound like deadhorse?

Well, come to find out, that dude nobody knew was named Mike Argo. He heard the bitching and the grumbling. And what's more, he understood it.

"I could relate to it," Argo says. "There were some nerves surrounding that first show, because being a fan myself, I knew how I would've felt: The new guy would have to be badass. It couldn't just be some joker getting up there. They were really going to have to tear it up and do a good job, is the way I would've seen it."

So, that's what Argo set out to do. When the band made its triumphant return at last, taking over the Warehouse Live ballroom and filming its first-ever live DVD, the skeptics got quiet pretty fast. The guy out front may have looked unfamiliar, but his voice undeniably sounded like pure, unadulterated deadhorse. You'd best believe that was no coincidence.

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Machine Head Powers Through 20 Years of Metal at Fitz

Photos by Jack Gorman
The hair says it all.
Machine Head
January 22, 2015

The line stretching around the block outside of Fitzgerald's on Thursday night was the kind that makes you wonder how the heck everyone is going to fit into the creaky, old place. It was a truly intimidating mass of people, shivering in black, and if anyone driving past wondered just who this lip-ringed throng had assembled to hear, they didn't have to wonder long.

"Machine Head!" screamed somebody, as he stared at his own breath. "Machine fuckin' Head!" hollered another. "Lincoln Durham!" yelled a third guy, pimping the night's downstairs act. But that chant didn't catch on.

After eight albums and 20 years touring the world's heavy-metal strongholds, Machine Head is just a little too big in Houston to be playing Fitzgerald's, even on a weeknight. The club was about to become uncomfortably full. As the long line slowly shuffled up the stairs, they were greeted by hellish red stage lights and the sobering realization that crammed-full crowd would offer no escape from the wild pit certain to erupt greeted fans.

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