NIHM, Broken at Birth, and White Knuckle Black Out at Smokey Joe’s, 1/7/12
Walking into Smokey Joe’s in Charlotte is a lot like stepping into a crab shack at the beach, and the shows that rattle the decks from the inside are a lot more like a party than just any old bar. From the cozy little bar in the back corner, to the waterfall in the ceiling, to the fire pits and ping-pong tables in the sand outside, it’s almost like its own little resort. This unique vibe paired with Charlotte progressive rock/metal band NIHM’s guaranteed raucous good time let everyone in attendance know the party was ON.
Starting off the night, White Knuckle Black Out from Winston-Salem batted out some bluesy metal reminiscent of the classic days of metal with a modern twist. Singer Franz Schroering commanded the vocals and guitar like a baby-faced James Hetfield, while bassist Mitch Walker and drummer Jesse Mabe laid the foundation for this raging power trio, filling the songs with sound even during the piercing guitar solos. Fans banged their heads eagerly to songs like the upbeat “Demon” and thrashy “The End of Me,” while Franz alternated between fierce, brutal growls and melodic, Mudvayne-meets-Nirvana passages. Their song “Relapse,” which they proclaimed is “…about druuuuuuhgs,” said in their best Carolina truck driver impressions, had almost an Alice in Chains feel to the haunting melodies and engaging rhythms.
Speaking of Alice in Chains, the next band, Salisbury, NC’s Broken at Birth did a pretty kick-ass cover of AiC’s “Them Bones.” They delivered the grunge vocal sound and complex time signatures with great skill; all they were missing was the vocal harmony, but I bet I was one of few who were picky enough to notice. Singer/guitarist Rob Featherstone has impeccable pitch and vocal control in both his screaming voice and his singing voice, so there was plenty good going on in the vocal arena. On the rhythm side, Broken at Birth has solid, heavy grooves, akin to the likes of Korn and early SlipKnot or Staind with some apparent influences from the Grunge era. Drummer Rich Joseph boasts precision in complex beats and fast fills with some machine-gun double bass beats.
Last in time slot, but first in insanity of the best kind, came the ambigram-stamped NIHM, whose progressive, yet classic, metal beated like coked-up monkeys on the eager eardrums of listeners. Their ADHD-infused tunes keep fans energized and attentive while pushing the lines of what music can do. Singer Max Johnson booms through the microphone like the mutant offspring of Serj Tankien and Wayne Static, and hits the entire range of styles encompassed within such a gene pool while also tickling the G string…. On the bass guitar, that is. On the screaming, meedly-meedly guitar is Ted Nagel, who channels the late greats like Randy Rhodes in his searingly speedy solos and holds down the chugga-chuggas when called-for. With bass drum beats thundering loudly enough to tickle genitals, Jim Saj kicks up tight beats and grooving vibes. All three of these guys have almost as good chemistry in their witty repartee between songs as they do while in the throes of music. They make a conscious effort to engage the audience as well, which had the crowd in near-constant laughter in what would normally be an awkward pause for many other bands. While on the subject of audience participation, I might add that the NIHM guys asked yours truly and Chad “Cheetah” Longsworth from now-defunct band Born Under Punches to come up and sing backup on their bad-ass, metal interpretation of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.” It was sure fun for me, and the crowd just ate it up. The “BUP” guys were invited back to the stage with Cheetah on keys and Carsten on vocals for a cover of “Keine Lust” by German metal band Rammstein. (Video below). NIHM proved once again that they are some of Charlotte’s best showmen and musicians, all rolled into one crazy power trio. If you like metal and you haven’t seen NIHM, shame on you! You can catch them Friday the 13th (1/13/12) at The Money in Rock Hill.
Broken at Birth: http://www.facebook.com/brokenatbirth
White Knuckle Black Out: http://www.facebook.com/pages/White-Knuckle-Black-Out/263291250363026
Smokey Joe’s Cafe: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Smokey-Joes-Cafe/131486229372