In his autobiography Black Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi describes the making of the band’s stoner-metal classic Master Of Reality by writing, “Back then all the other bands had rhythm guitarists or keyboards, but we only made do with guitar, bass guitar and drums, so we try to make them sound as fat as possible.” It’s a simple and elegant solution to a daunting problem: How do you make three people sound loud? Specifically, how do you make a measly guitar-bass-drum trio sound like an army from hell?
Last night two Brooklyn trios played the Greenpoint metal bar St. Vitus: blistering, noise-punk band NT and stomping, stoner-metal group Flown . Taken together the two bands provided an interesting contrast in how three people can make a big racket. Flown took the Iommi route of making everything sounds as fat as possible, conjuring up a mystical thump that can flatten an audience out with a few chord changes. Where Flwon was restrained and controlled, NT was a spazzy blitzkrieg of blown-out hooks and barking melodies. Here’s the important thing: they were both loud. Very loud.
Flown took the stage first, ready to clobber the relatively thin but eager Thursday night crowd. Consisting of three former members of the hazy rock band Frankie Rose And The Outs, Flown is a different, more fearsome beast than the three’s earlier band. Where in the last year Frankie Rose has drifted into synth-pop dreamland on her excellent solo album Interstellar, Flown stays firmly rooted in guitar-driven nightmares. Flown combines the swampy, shit-kicking energy of Woods-era Sleater-Kinney with shards of sludgy stoner metal and slower, more atmospheric Earth-like doom. The group hasn’t formally released any material yet, but if last night’s set was any indication, Flown’s debut album is going to be a raw, snarling piece of work.
Guitarist Margot Bianca (rocking what appeared to be an Iron Maiden t-shirt) sang lead on most of the songs, but what’s truly special about the band is the way they layer their vocal melodies, each member taking on a different role. Drummer Kate Ryan contributes joyful high-pitched cries and yelps, while bassist Caroline Yes has a deeper, more menacing voice that can be twisted into a harsh growl when the band wants to get really spooky. Bianca provides the emotional core the band’s songs, her lurching guitar parts guiding each tune towards its often thunderous conclusion. After some early rumblings in the audience, Yes asked, “Should we be louder?” Some guy responded, “Yeah, everything louder.” The three women exchanged looks and soon everything got a lot louder. We were all thankful.
Carrying on the theme of loudness, NT was up next. With almost no breaks between songs, the power-trio combined buzzing and screeching punk riffs with intense, dynamic drumming that at times almost threatened to overtake the songs. With everything turned up to a crushing volume and with low-tech over-head projector visuals swirling behind them, the band wasted no time in turning the dark bar’s backroom into a sweaty basement-like atmosphere. The group’s approach to songcraft is reminiscent of dearly-departed Brooklyn noise-pop band Parts And Labor, who perfected the idea of fusing sugar-rush melodies with piercing blasts of dissonance. KT’s set was short, brutal and efficient. Sorry Tony Iommi: no fat to be found.