One of my favorite things about the metal culture in particular is going to the local shows for bands that are coming and growing together into one fantastic sound. In this specific edition, I headed out to Harper’s Pub, which as one would guess, was a small, no stage venue, to see six bands perform their sets. To me, these small joints that allow metal shows (versus venues that are meant for metal shows) are the best to see bands play at. In this case, the show kicked off just past 7:30pm with INVIKTA opening the night and ended with BURIAL MOUND headlining the show. Along with being front and center with bands in a small venue, another perk about frequenting local shows is that you can become very familiar with upcoming bands before they are known and also catch on to some very unique qualities about each one. Throughout the evening, it was a great breath of fresh air to see just the raw energy and emotion that was being put into the music rather than any theatrics “for show.” This was metal at its primal form.
Since the first time I saw INVIKTA play, they have been a single guitarist (Ryan Lockard) and a drummer (Jeff Stanfield.) Though a two-piece instrumental band for now (they just acquired a vocalist who is prepping for shows,) INVIKTA shreds. Plain and simply put, they shred the strings, keep you constantly off guard with the time signatures, and bring a different sound to the table than what is usually found at the local level. They area progressive metal band that is now starting to get by with three pieces. The final piece of the puzzle is a bassist, which they’recurrently looking for. If you have what it takes, who knows, it could be you getting your chops in with a heavily underexposed band. Hailing from Baltimore, MD, INVIKTA also plays DE and NJ. Each time, the groove presented is nothing short of catchy. Couple that with the death metal vocals from Brad DuBois and the off timed rhythm of the music, this could easily be a band gaining momentum in the regional scene within the next year.
Up next was a band I’d never seen before, yet I won’t soon forget, called BARBARIC. These guys are pretty self-explanatory. Right out of West Berlin, NJ, this four piece rock and roll band is exactly who they say they are. Before the set, vocalist Jakobe Heaton was pounding beers and getting the crowd into the show. He is a great hype man for BARBARIC, but it wasn’t until they started their set that I strapped myself in for what I was about to see. The same guy with the proudest “USA” tattoo across his belly that was pouring beer in his head prior to the set started in a huge, clean, tattooed, and drunken stupor before ending the set in a mangled, bloodied, exhausted, and drunken stupor. The transformation was completely unlike anything I have seen on the local circuit before. In fact, BARBARIC did their job by leaving absolutely no questions for the audience. Like I said, they were exactly who they claim to be, which is pissed off and chaotic. Words don’t do justice, but my immediate reaction was non-existent, I will say that. Just watch this spectacle if you ever see these guys on a billing.
Just as soon as I was able to wrap my head around the set BARBARIC just played, it was time for HEISENBERG to take the stage. These guys are out of Long Island, NY and fit right in with the Breaking Bad television gimmick. While they call their music “deathslam,” which is a mixture of death metal and the west coast “slam metal” that bands like ALL SHALL PERISH used to be, I enjoyed what they brought to the table. As a part of their show, they threw bags of “meth” (which was actually blue rock candy before anyone freaks out,) on the floor to the people who were two-stepping or making a small pit. As far as playing on the lineup goes, HEISENBERG complimented the next band quite nicely, which happened to be COGNITIVE.
Before I get into COGNITIVE, what I will say is that I originally went mostly for these guys because prior to this show I saw them in between vocalists at the former Mojo Main. After picking up their album The Horrid Swarm, they completely have my support as one of the consistently heavy death metal bands on the local circuit right now. To be honest, I appreciated the music that these guys brought to the table when I walked in on a set in Newark where they happened to be playing. More times than not, if I like a band who is just shredding on stage and getting me to headbang, I am going to continue to like them when they find a vocalist. Both guitarists, Rob Wharton and Jake Iannaco, make up creative riff structures that made that people come alive later on through the evening. Mike Castro was on point on drums as well as Art Sikora playing the bass. COGNITIVE‘s new vocalist, Jorel Hart, took the floor with command and his vocals held up to make them my favorite act of the evening.
Following their other friends from New Jersey in COGNITIVE was ENEMIES DECEASED, from Blackwood. These guys put a strong, collective mixture of death metal and grindcore that really put a smile on my face as I watched from INVIKTA‘s merch table. It was great to see the crowd moving as far as the pit and two-steppers went because ENEMIES DECEASED demanded it, quite literally in fact. Mike Gregg went out of his way to call out people who weren’t moving around before, during, and after the songs that they performed. It didn’t take long for Jorel Hart to take strides across the open floor and get into the moshing action as they continued their set. Then the moment came where I caught the sound of a cover song (of sorts.) While I say this, I find that people don’t usually like it when local bands cover older metal songs, but I must say that I found this second of music to be highly entertaining, such as any real metalhead would. The band did NAPALM DEATH‘s “You Suffer,” and it wasn’t bad at all. You may ask yourself “how do you mess up a song that is a world record for shortest recorded song?” Well, you just don’t make it sound alike, duh! ENEMIES DECEASED nailed the NAPALM DEATH cover and their whole set.
As the end of the night came BURIAL MOUND took center stage to close out the evening. This is the opening band that played at the 2013 Rockstar Mayhem Festival in Holmdel, NJ. These guys consist of gritty metal and it was a treat for anyone left at Harper’s Pub to see them play. In fact, they reminded of yet another New Jersey band that is rising out from the regional metal scene known as PROSPER OR PERISH. I think is a great coincidence that both these bands opened up their 2013 Rockstar Mayhem Festival locations respectively. BURIAL MOUND took control of the rest of the show and owned the headlining spot to cap off a very respectable evening in the Tri-State metal region.
For a lineup that reached out to New York and Maryland respectively to bring a solid local act show to New Jersey, this night out at Harper’s Pub made for a pretty solid night of new music. COGNITIVE will be returning to Harper’s Pub on May 17th, 2014 for a CD release show. HEISENBERG will be playing their debut show with SUFFOCATION in Amityville, NY on October 21st, 2014. BURIAL MOUND will be playing at Mojo 13 in Wilmington, DE with BEYOND DISHONOR and BATTLECROSS on May 3rd, 2014.
Above all, stay metal and support the local scene. – MR. REESE