Venom Inc/The Gramercy Theatre/September 2, 2017
Formed in 1979 in Newcastle upon Tyne, England, Venom became one of the darkest bands in thrash and speed metal. The band has split and reformed several times, and presently consists of one original member, bassist/vocalistm Conrad “Cronos” Lant. In 2010, original Venom guitaristm Jeffrey “Mantas” Dunn, teamed with later Venom bassist, Tony “Demolition Man” Dolan, to form a band called Prime Evil, later changed to M:PIRE of EVIL. In 2015, Demolition Man contacted original Venom drummer, Anthony “Abaddon” Bray, about playing some Venom songs with M:PIRE of EVIL at a festival; the three musicians had played together in Venom from 1989 to 1992, but Mantas and Abaddon had not spoken in two decades. They wound up becoming Venom Inc., initially to revive the older Venom catalog. Venom Inc. eventually wrote new music and released a debut album, Avé, on Aug. 11, 2017.
Headlining at the Gramercy Theatre, Venom Inc. performed 12 Venom songs and four Venom Inc. songs. That seemed to be the right balance for a band that was banking largely on retrospective. Mantas, Demolition Man and Abaddon worked well as a power trio, with Mantas playing loads of lead riffs and power chords to the rhythm section’s very heavy pummeling and Demolition Man’s coarse vocals. Curiously, while Venom may have been a noisy band 30 years ago, Venom Inc. sounded relatively clean by today’s extreme metal barometer. Perhaps the only element that sounded dated was the lyrical emphasis on the occult; while a metal fan can rightly object that this theme has been done in excess, the metal fan also might remember that these were the musicians that initially exploited that trend.
Eugene Hutz & Gogol Bordello/Neuehouse Madison Square/September 7, 2017
Yevheniy Nikolayev-Simonov was born in Boyarka, Ukraine, where his Russian father played guitar in one of Ukraine’s first rock bands, Meridian. When he was 14, he and his father made his first guitar of plywood, his first distortion pedals out of radio parts, and his first drum set from large metal fish cans skinned with layers of adhesive tape. His first band in the Ukraine was Uksusnik (Vinegar Tap). Descendants of gypsies called the Servo Roma, his family fled its hometown after hearing of the Chernobyl meltdown. Through Poland, Hungary, Austria and Italy, the family arrived in Vermont in 1992 as political refugees. While in Vermont, he formed the punk band the Fags. He later moved to New York and took on his mother’s German maiden name and became Eugene Hütz. He formed a gypsy punk band called Hutz & the Bela Bartoks, which evolved into Gogol Bordello by 1999. Gogol Bordello will release its seventh studio album, Seekers and Finders, on Sept. 25, 2017.
Neuehouse Madison Square normally rents upscale communal office space, but the street floor also occasionally doubles as a private event space. Last night, Neuehouse Madison Square staged an invitation-only dialogue between Eugene Hütz and Casey Spooner, formerly of Fischerspooner. This brief conversation was followed by an acoustic performance by six members of Gogol Bordello, performing a mini-set of three new songs and three re-imagined older songs. While the performance started out with most of the musicians sitting on stools, this proved to be too confining for Hütz, who began moving around the space and finally climbed atop his stool. Even acoustic, Gogol Bordello’s lively blend of garage rock, gypsy jazz and eastern European folk influences, spotlighting violin and accordion leads, was sparkling and energizing. Perhaps Gogol Bordello can try introducing a similar acoustic mini-set on the band’s tour.
P.O.D./Gramercy Theatre/September 7, 2017
Guitarist Marcos Curiel and drummer Wuv Bernardo began jamming together in 1991 in San Diego, California, calling themselves Eschatos. In 1992, they recruited Bernardo’s cousin, Sonny Sandoval, on vocals, and changed the band’s name to P.O.D. (Payable on Death). Bassist, Traa Daniels, joined the band in 1994. Embracing rapcore, nu metal, and alternative hard rock, P.O.D. sold more than 12 million records. The band’s ninth and most recent studio album is 2015’s The Awakening; P.O.D. released a new song as a stand-alone single, “Soundboy Killa,” on Sept. 8, 2017.
Headlining at the Gramercy Theatre, P.O.D. performed 10 songs from their peak period around the turn of the century, along with six later songs. Although the band did not perform “Goodbye for Now” and a few other radio hits, the set list was largely comprised of familiar songs. Fortunately, the songs were played for the present, not the past, and were filled with dynamic power and energy. From rapcore and nu metal to punk and reggae-infused alternative metal, Sandoval’s singing and rapping and Curiel’s stinging guitar leads kept the momentum soaring and rallying. Although songs like “West Coast Rock Steady” were playful hip-hop odes to the band’s San Diego roots, other songs went deeper, like “Youth of the Nation,” which was inspired in part by recent school shootings, “Murdered Love,” which expressed a mixture of hope and unease while questioning the cruelty of humankind, and the softer “Beautiful” contemplated the afterlife. The performance rocked with an undercurrent of thoughtful integrity.
GBH/Gramercy Theatre/September 9, 2017
Named after the British legal term “grievous bodily harm,” Charged GBH formed in 1978 in Birmingham, England. GBH was a pioneer among the English street punk movement, often nicknamed “UK82.” Vocalist, Colin Abrahall, and guitarist, Colin “Jock” Blyth, were in the original band, and Ross Lomas replaced the original bassist early on. The band renamed itself GBH in 1984. Over the years, the band went through several drummers, with current drummer, Scott Preece, joining in 1994. The band will release its 12th studio album, Momentum, on November 17, 2017.
While other UK82 bands modified their sound or disappeared, GBH has remained true to its original sound for nearly four decades. If anything, the music has been refined so that the 1980s punk snarl and aggressive beats are clearer and stronger. At the Gramercy Theatre, the simple guitar-bass-drums backdrop to Abrahall’s vocals was a crisp and bombastic wall of sound, thrusting like a locomotive with hardly room for a heartbeat between songs. Power chords drove the head-banging, and the explosive speed brought on whiplash. GBH displayed something rather unique in contemporary music, in that few bands still play punk rock this purely and primitively.