Louisiana’s veterans of sacrilegious sludge, Eyehategod, have hit the 30-year mark since their inception. Of course, this necessitates a tour. Eyehategod hit up Brick by Brick on Thursday, February 22 as a part of their 70+ stop international tour, and it was a privilege to bear witness to one segment of this mammoth touring endeavor.
Local stoner metal act, Fantasy Arcade, opened up the night’s activities. Though they played to a sparse crowd, they infused a level of energy and passion into their performance that was laudable. Fantasy Arcade oscillated between velvety stoner metal interspersed with segments of thrash metal. The stoner sections were powerful. Their groove was on-point, they have majestic, hypnotic riffs, and a fuzzy yet rich tone that gives their sound a significant sense of depth. Unfortunately, Fantasy Arcade’s thrash sections came off as underwhelming, despite much energy from the drummer. The bass and guitar tone that suits their stoner sections so well gave the thrash sections a lack of clarity and cohesiveness, and I found myself rejoicing whenever they returned to their more pared-back, stoner style.
Deep Sea Thunder Beast were up next, another San Diegan stoner metal act. I arrived unaware of their existence and left a fan. Color me impressed. Drawing heavily from stoner giants like Sleep and Cough, Deep Sea Thunder Beast somehow managed to pay homage to their heritage without sounding derivative. Given the number of Sleep knock-offs out there, this is an impressive feat. The guitar tone was hypnotic, the bass was crushingly low, the drummer sat on the ride cymbal like his life depended on it – but what really made it for me were the vocals. Ranging from Al Cisneros-like monotone conjurations to gut-wrenching screams to trailing wails, the diversity of vocal techniques added a peculiar flavor that heightened the rest of the performance. Deep Sea Thunder Beast absolutely nailed it.
LA’s crossover punk act Final Conflict took to the stage next. This tour was in response to Eyehategod’s 30-year anniversary, but Final Conflict can trace their history back even further – to 1983. Final Conflict presented the audience with some truly stellar moments, but my overall impression of their performance was that it had something lacking. There was too little in the way of diversity, either in terms of climax-building or distinct riff-work, for it to feel like a performance that grew and developed. Transcendent moments shone through on occasion, marked by a switch to half-pace drum sections or guitar riffs, working to build a sense of tension and anticipation. When they emerged from these moments into their full-throttle d-beat glory, the effect was impressive. However, I left feeling like there should have been far more of these moments.
Somewhat in contrast to Final Conflict, Eyehategod are masters of climax-building. Much of this manifests in their musical style. Through a combination of sludgy, dissonant riffs, insistent drum-work, and prolonged play with feedback, Eyehategod manage to build a sense of tension and unease. Performatively, the image of frontman Mike IX Williams’ lurching around, supported by the mic stand adds to the atmosphere of depravity that Eyehategod emanate. When the tension finally breaks, the sense of catharsis is overwhelming. Eyehategod did this routine of waxing and waning all throughout their set, leading to constant engagement. There were a couple of silences between tracks that seemed to draw on, but even these didn’t detract from the overall experience. There is a comfort with the stage that comes from 30 years of national and international touring experience, but I don’t want to reduce Eyehategod’s presence merely to experience. Eyehategod are simply an exemplary act. Their performance served as a stark reminder of why they have managed to remain prominent figures in the sludge scene throughout their three decades of music-making.