Monday May 14 saw Cough and Grime overrun Soda Bar, mid-way through a seven-stop West Coast tour. I’d seen Cough perform when they toured Australia with Windhand in 2016, and as a result had high expectations for the concert. This event blew those expectations out of the water. For one thing, Soda Bar’s intimate setting gave a presence to the performances not possible in oversized band rooms with elevated stages and cavernous spaciousness. Beyond that, the pairing of stoner heavyweights Cough with Italy’s unforgiving sludge three-piece Grime led to one of the heaviest shows I have ever had the pleasure of witnessing. It was a ripper.
Walking into Soda Bar, the wall of amps backing the stage was a welcome sight, a sign of the immensity of sound that persisted throughout the evening. Trapped Within Burning Machinery were at the start of their set, having travelled a short distance from Moreno Valley. They gave the evening a hint of melody that would otherwise have been lacking. Building from a base of sludge metal, Trapped Within Burning Machinery weaved in post-metal elements to beautiful effect. Clean, instrumental passages opened most songs, gradually building towards climax over the course of their 10+ minute track lengths. Zak Esparza’s harsh vocals were a highlight, ripped from his throat with a striking ferocity. Comparisons to sludge/post-metal cross-over acts like Isis are unavoidable, but Trapped Within Burning Machinery manage to stand out from the fold with their addictive riffs and understated intensity.
Anything but understated, Grime were up next – flying in all the way from Trieste, Italy for their first US tour. I can’t think of another band whose sound is more accurately represented by their name. Filthy, gritty, slow-moving, Grime plumb the depths of depravity and emerge with sludge metal heavier than any music has the right to be. Much of Grime’s riff-work takes place at the lower end of the fret board, with miniscule semi-tone movements from bass and guitar roiling underfoot while Marco’s screeched vocals reach overhead. On drums, Chris pounds away on the ride cymbal, giving a sense of gradual insistence to the progression of the music. Grime sound and feel like a panic attack, and their set threatened to lure the listener into a bout of psychosis. On the stage, Grime were almost overwhelming, demanding every ounce of your attention as they assaulted your senses. There was an earnestness and intensity to their act, a devotion to their sound that I won’t soon forget.
Closing the show was Cough, the five-piece stoner metalheads from Richmond, Virginia. The pairing of Cough with Grime was perfection, each band bringing their distinct versions of unrelenting heaviness. Where Grime was unabashed chaos, Cough brought groove. Where Grime lambasted and assaulted, Cough hypnotized. Parker Chandler’s reverb-heavy vocals shone out, managing a harshness while still feeling at times chant-like. With a clear influence of Southern stoner rock, Cough consistently construct riffs that could repeat ad infinitum without the listener tiring of them. The most striking element of Cough performance for me was its sheer physical presence. There’s something to be said for two guitars and a bass playing in unison in front of a stack of amps, with serpentine riffs rumbling and shaking their way through the audiences’ bodies. As Cough’s set came to an all-too-early close, I was left transfixed, spell-bound.
It’s a very good feeling to leave a concert impressed without any reservation. The perfect selection of acts combined with the perfect venue choice and stellar performances from each of the acts led to an immensely fulfilling evening.