There is definitely a first for everything, and the show featuring Godflesh and thisquietarmy was one of those times. The event, hosted at La Sala Rossa, opened my ears and my mind to new dynamics in music altogether, both as a fan of music and as a musician. I have been to so many extreme metal shows and have thought to myself, “It can’t get more mind-melting than this.” I was wrong by a long shot.
I entered the venue fifteen minutes before the show was supposed to start and noticed something alarming. There were no drum kit, guitar stands, or microphones on the stage. There was just an odd looking contraption on the floor. Was a band late? Was there a technical difficulty? While I was in awe of this lack of equipment, the lights dimmed, the background projector started flashing black and white images of nature, and one man, thisquietarmy (Eric Quach) came out with his guitar. He did not mention anything (due to the lack of microphone) and started his singular piece. I’m saying piece because he did not play a set of songs, he played an almost twenty-minute, non-linear, mind-blowing experience. It turns out that the odd-looking item on the floor was over fifteen guitar pedals. The crowd was with me and we were just in awe, without even any head bobbing or foot tapping.
It started out very ambient and atmospheric. His guitar didn’t even sound like a guitar, it sounded like a synth. It commenced in a simple shoegaze fashion, using his pedals to loop the layers he wanted as a base to repeat in the background. These programmed drums came in and we could tell they were out of place, we could see it in Eric’s face. However, like the master improviser he is, he bent over and started beat-matching his loops to the beat. We had now entered drone-doom territory and this immense feeling of ominous textures filled the room. There was no melody in this act, it was pure texture. While the crowd was entranced by this, Eric Quach threw us a curve ball, something I had never seen done before. He let this long feedback ring out while all those layers were still playing, bent down, and started tuning his guitar with the feedback tuning with it. It was like nothing I’d ever heard before. This also served a double purpose, shifting everything into this blistering emotional post-black metal section. At that point, even I was starting to lose auditory cognition because I’d had my dose of the pure textures without melody. Timing it perfectly, everything just faded out with a phaser effect and we heard this EDM line with a background of what I can only describe as soothing whale calls. It was that much more relieving to hear because it was the antithesis of what he was playing right before. For the last section, he switched to what sounded like the score during the end credits of a good film. The experience was epic and ear opening. My only concern is for his back. He bends a lot, but it’s part of the ‘gaze game.
Walking out to have my cigarette, I actually felt dizzy (and I don’t drink). The textures from before must have done something to the fluid in my ears. After going back in, there was still no drum kit. By then, since I knew that Godflesh is a duo, I was pretty sure no drummer was coming. As Justin Broadrick (guitarist) and G.C. Green (bass) came on stage, the crowd started cheering when Justin pressed his laptop button (for the drums). They started with “Anything is Mine.” You could tell they are godfathers of industrial metal right off the bat with the raw, grungy tone of the Marshall amp, Green’s signature distorted bass, and the drums full of reverb that sounded like they were from the ’80s. Justin’s agressive vocals sounded like the ones from Slipknot’s first demo. He sounds like an angry truck driver who has road rage, and I like it. In general, their sound is very robotic, tight, and mechanical. Songs like “Head Dirt” have odd times signatures, and bass heavy lines almost reminiscent of Meshuggah. “Spinebender” had the crowd fist pumping.
As they ended their set, the bassist left, the guitarist took off his guitar and put it next to the amp (with feedback blaring) and started DJing the amp head. There was noise galore, and the crowd loved it. They came back for an encore and played “Like Rats,” which is a classic that everyone was waiting for. My only complaint was Justin’s clean vocals. He used too much delay and they were out of pitch and sound like nu-metal clean vocals or borderline imitation grunge.
All in all, it was quite an experience for me. Although I might not be buying any releases from the genres I saw, I’ll definitely be seeing these “noise ambient” shows more often. For me, this scene is definitely one for live experience and not just for personal listening.
Written by Peter Lountzis
*edited by Kate Erickson