Spectral Manifest's Wraith-Metal Will Haunt Your Dreams

We're a little terrified right now.
I have a soft spot in my heart for wraith-metal, because it always feels like I'm listening to someone else having a nightmare in a language I don't understand. It has a kind of throbbing madness that makes it a bit bloodier than other metal forms, and Houston's own Spectral Manifest has produced a pretty awesome collection of tunes on their new self-titled LP.

Spectral Manifest has been a long time coming. I remember discussing the song "Fate of the Disgraced" with drummer Cryptos Granamyr Grimm two years ago. At that time I was looking to answers about why someone would bother writing lyrics no sane person could readily understand amid animal growls, and there's no doubt vocalist Depravis Nocturna is a king bear when it comes to primal roars.

I sort of get it now. You're not really supposed to latch onto these lyrics; that's like riding a seat belt on a motorcycle -- a safety measure that completely misses the point. Instead, the voice become an instrument of brutality, leaving you forced to interpret the meaning the way people used to do with classical music. Something like Stravinsky's Rite of Spring doesn't need to say anything to unnerve people, and neither does Spectral Manifest.

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Human Behavior's Soul-Searching Via TV Screens

Photos courtesy of Human Behavior
L-R: Human Behavior's Parada, Pattowitz, Strange and Anderson
Tucson's Human Behavior asks you to peer deep into your soul and examine its makeup through the one conduit they're certain you're comfortable looking through: the TV screen.

That's just part of the premise behind the band's captivating video for "Chapter 1" from its forthcoming album, Bethphage. The video is enthralling for a few reasons. It supports an excellent song, built from intriguing lyrics and a deep musical groove. It's ten minutes long, including an extended musical break, the sort of stuff omitted from modern music videos. There's a quality to the production that is frequently absent from the low-budget efforts of most folk-punk bands.

And there are the TVs, as present in the video as they are on Human Behavior's tour stops.

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Season's Greetings: Come Write for Us

Categories: Listen Up!

Joanna Penn via Flickr
We recommend using a computer, but hey...whatever works.
Here at Rocks Off, we love our writers dearly, but there's always room for more; frankly, right now we could use a few more hands on deck. The best part of it is, lots of companies may be looking to expand this time of year, but this job doesn't end when all those Christmas trees are off fighting erosion at Crystal Beach. We'll send you off to review concerts, talk to the folks who make those shows happen, and perhaps tally up the best Houston songs ever made about sneakers (or something like that) every so often.

Here's what we're looking for: Bright, opinionated souls who are passionate about music and not shy about telling other people about it. It helps greatly to live in Houston, or at least nearby. Professional writing or other journalistic experience is certainly a plus, but not a requirement; so is time served in a band or as a DJ, sound engineer, bartender or anyone else who can speak with authority about the local scene and music/nightlife in general.

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American Fangs Take It Personally on Dirty Leg EP

Categories: Listen Up!

Photo by Brandon Holley/Rocksound Magazine/Wikimedia Commons
American Fangs' latest EP approaches full-on mortal combat in places.
I know that American Fangs finally put out an LP last year, and there's nothing wrong with that at all. For me, though, the band was made for their famous string of hard, fast EPs that feel like a combination short story and psychotic's manifesto. They've got another album coming out next year (date TBD), but Houstonians have a chance to pick up a the latest offering, Dirty Legs, this weekend as a limited-edition pressing. Is it worth it?

Few bands in Houston that can match the Fangs for pure, driven energy. They approach the rage of metal without ever once stepping over the line, which is important to avoid if you're going to hold onto a certain musical heritage.

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Four Controversial Songs by Current Houston Acts

Photo by Vox Efx/Flickr Commons
Controversy abounds, as it always has. But we're reminded more frequently than ever just how confusing our modern-day existence is, what with these phones-turned-newspapers and social-media feeds and such.

In Denmark, Santa Claus is apparently a heinous slave owner who dictates his nefarious Christmas plans to someone called Black Pete. Fat Albert may or may not be a rapist. Some publishing company believed yet another photo of Kim Kardashian's bare ass -- a thing that had already been seen more than Punxsutawney Phil over a century of Februaries -- could "break the Internet." We can land an unmanned probe on a comet hurtling through space at 84,000 miles per hour, but we still don't know why dropped toast always falls buttered side down.

Musicians have always been there to address many of these issues. It's a tradition that dates back at least as far as "Ring Around the Rosie" and its social commentary on the Great Plague. In more recent times, it's been carried on by songs like "Strange Fruit" and "Masters of War," and "Fuck Tha Police." Houston of course enjoys its fair share of artists with the nerve to take on the day's provocative issues, such as the ones responsible for these four recent songs.

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The Black Keys at Toyota Center, 11/15/2014

Photos by Violeta Alvarez
Accept no substitutes: the Black Keys' Dan Auerbach and a ton of gear
The Black Keys, Jake Bugg
Toyota Center
November 15, 2014

For the past few years, there has been a lot of chatter about the viability of "rock and roll." Are any artists truly making rock anymore, or has the genre itself been so heavily diluted that its roots have totally disintegrated? Or, more importantly, why does so much stuff that passes itself as rock nowadays blatantly suck?

Back in September, KISS bassist Gene Simmons wagged his famous tongue and declared that "rock is finally dead," blaming file-sharing, TV talent shows and technology. Clearly he had not yet been turned on to the Black Keys. The duo originally from Akron, Ohio came to Houston Saturday night to dispel any doubts about whether rock is alive, resuscitating the audience with a killer 18-song set and a roaring encore.

From the opening chords of "Dead and Gone" (off 2011's well-deserved Grammy winner El Camino), Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney put to rest any rumors of rock and roll's extinction before an audience that was completely engrossed in the music from the very start, thankfully giving their full attention to the stage show rather than their cell-phone screens.

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Gabe Bravo Drums Up a Comedy Career

Photo courtesy of Gabe Bravo
Gabe Bravo, asking you to please check the drummer jokes at the door.
A funny thing happened to Gabe Bravo on the way to a successful career in music: He found out he was funny.

More precisely, others are finding out Bravo is funny. The well-known and highly regarded Houston musician is notably an outstanding drummer known for his time in acts such as Shotgun Funeral and The Trimms. But since early 2013, Bravo has traded his place at the back of the band for front-and-center as a stand-up comic.

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All the World's a Stage for Gogol Bordello

Categories: Listen Up!

Photo courtesy of Red Light Management
For Gogol Bordello, every day is Halloween.

Leading up to Friday's Halloween-night performance at Warehouse Live, front man Eugene Hütz says that his band of misfits doesn't have anything specifically spooky planned, but that it would be out of character for them to bring anything less than their very best.

"We're kind of a band that never developed a routine," he says. "Anything celebratory, we're kind of a natural fit for it."

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Get to Know Houston's Unified Underground

Photo by Bryant Murgas/Marisa Guerra Hendrick
Unified Underground in their office, definitely not posing for this photo
You don't need to turn over rocks to find musical gems in Houston. They sparkle across our landscape and reflect their brilliance back upon us.

But if you insist on mining for diamonds in the rough, Juan Olivo and his friends want to help you on your treasure hunt.

Olivo is founder and editor-in-chief of Unified Underground, an upstart magazine/Web site/initiative that plans to spotlight the Bayou City's unheralded creatives. The project formed in April, after a discussion about seeking out and interviewing Houston's stealth street artists.

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Hitching a Ride With Screaming Females

Photo by Christopher Patrick Ernst
Screaming Females
Screaming Females' drummer Jarrett Dougherty said the band has played Houston a few times before, but is still looking for that one knockout performance here as headliners.

Those who know one of rock's most exciting groups may find that hard to believe. Dougherty and bassist King Mike are a solid one-two combination, setting up the haymaker that is guitarist and front woman Marissa Paternoster. It's difficult to fathom they haven't rope-a-doped locals with their punishing live act, but they'll get another chance by stepping into the ring as the main event tonight at Walters.

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