Through The Side Door- Entry #1: So Hideous.

Boston – Massachusetts – USA.

This was a show that had me on the edge of my cramped polyester seat riding the T (Boston’s subway system) back to my side of town to link up with a handful of very talented musicians, for a show that had been the talk of the town amongst diehards of underground music. The guitarist of Rhino King, a Doom Metal/Sludge Metal act, had been hard at work interpreting the PA system as everything had been flown by the seat of our pants.

Upheaval took me by surprise, a trio of Doom aficionados hopped on the bill last minute in lieu of another band dropping off the night before the show. Their bassist, John was in and prepared, drummer Alex and guitarist Justin had themselves locked and loaded by their instruments. We’ll discuss their performance later.

It was shortly thereafter I’d made the acquaintance of Bridge Laviazar, fronting Boston’s own Industrial/Post-Rock act InAeona, signed to Prosthetic Records along with So Hideous, who at the time were caught in traffic from their home base in New York City.

A slow trickle of concert patrons had made their way into the venue, including several of my own friends who had been lured with the promise of loud music and enough alcohol to make a pleasurable, noisy blur of their friday evening. The trickle turned to a stream leading to bursts of people from all over the city. Eventually came crowds and car loads of folks from Vermont, New Hampshire and even Maine, which tempted me to a piece of humble pie in awe of the dedication to the shows that hit Boston’s residential neighbourhoods.


Photo credit: Mark Valentino – So Hideous LIVE at ABC No Rio.

It was then that word had gotten out in muffled voices that So Hideous had arrived from a long trek up from their hometown in Brooklyn. I had the opportunity to first  shake hands with bassist and frontman Christopher Cruz, soon to be followed by guitarists Brandon Cruz, Etienne Vazquez, and drummer Danny Moncada.

I could tell by their faces that these guys, fresh out of a several hours long car trip weren’t in the least wiped out or withdrawn.

By the time they’d arrived, the house was full to the brim with faces I knew, faces I didn’t, and an air of excitement that filled the house with life. Maybe it’s just me, but theres an air of warmth and comfort in dim light shimmering off walls and floors with the paint chipping all over. Theres a rough and rustic beauty to places like this thats genuinely American, the music envelopes you, yet you still feel right at home.

Upheaval had fine-tuned their sound, and greeted the early patrons with a sound that you can feel from head to toe. These guys really took my surprise, only going off an EP with clear production, yet still lacking the scope of what you get when you see this band face to face.

Guitarist Justin Doucette offered impenetrable, grimy doom riffs that nodded to Asphyx and Obituary as much as it did Ahab, Conan, or even older acts such as Saint Vitus. Doucette, as well as bassist John Belmonte offer chilling vocals reminiscent of Darkthrone or The Body. Drummer Alex Betancourt pairs thunderous drumming with Belmonte’s bass riffs that set a bar for sonic fury.

These guys are remarkably in tune with each other live, challenging each other to a new level of visceral and raw Doom Metal that step further and further from the stereotype of easy listening Heavy Metal for buzzed out stoners. I’d sooner recommend them to a fan of Portal (the Australian Black/Death Metal band for those who are wondering about the video game) over a kid in a Sleep shirt.


Photo credit: Zana Callahan.

After an exchange of massive guitar cabinets, amps and gear, Rhino King had come to take their place in the focal point towards the back of the basement.

Rhino King brought an unconventional approach to a common style of music in Boston. Deep, murky melodies weaved between all their strings and Tim Winslow’s dancing drum patterns through a fog of fuzz and distortion made for a more intricate spin on Doom Metal, making subtle nods to Kylesa and Mastodon, yet maintaining the grit of The Melvins, Black Tusk and Weedeater. Psychedelia may not have been the most appropriate word to describe their sound, though an intrinsically trippy core to their sound under howling vocals had the tendency to make your head spin.

There are few other ways one could describe Rhino King without having their EP spinning for reference in discussion. What can’t be denied is their hypnotic live presence, which had seemingly pulled people to an invisible focal point between the members of the band.

The end of Rhino King’s set left the crowd of people in a haze as they took down their massive amps to make way for InAeona. It would be hard to follow up such a powerful and eclectic set, though one of Prosthetic Records newest entries carried themselves with the utmost confidence.

As they’d presented themselves, InAeona did indeed deliver something completely unto and unique to themselves. Placid, airy tones highlighted by rusted, industrial timbre in every note with haunting vocalisations. It isn’t a stretch of the imagination that InAeona are putting out music that leans on heavy tones and hints from bands like Godflesh, but sit in the sonic territory closer to Kowloon Walled City or older Isis (band) records.

Where there is unity between the three members of that band, there’s also a stark divide in their individual, bold sounds that lends them a serious sensory experience in the live setting. Trance-like melodies were locked in by thunderous low-end breaks, fluidity from song to song was untouchably cohesive, and it had left me wishing their set progressed longer than it did.

A long intermission sank in at the end of InAeona’s set. the room stank of a myriad of different beers, ales, pilsners, stouts, alongside the piney scent of Kentucky bourbon. Each step between the basement and upstairs creaked harmoniously with each other, offering a little symphony banged out by jolly drunks and couples hanging onto one another with fingers intertwined to lock as they creeped up into the light of the kitchen.

The place was full, about as full as it felt for the night, though people had come and gone, there was an ever present air of tension in excitement. I’m not entirely sure if everyone at that show necessarily knew who So Hideous were, or had much knowledge of them beyond their recent release Laurestine, which had swiftly grabbed the attention of Metal fans across a broad spectrum, including a big swath of fans in the stereotype of diehard Deafheaven listeners that may or may not be wholly interested in Metal.

I had personally heard their name and music in circulation quite a bit via bands such as Black Table and Hush, contemporaries in the field of warping and distorting elements of black metal as per US Black Metal tradition.

(One of the only documented videos from this show)

Speaking of warping Black Metal, So Hideous’ set had started, and warped Black Metal they had. The New York quartet had summoned the attention of the whole house opening with ‘Yesteryear‘. Danny Moncada’s drumming danced artfully setting the stage against lofty symphonic melodies that gave way to a triumphant, yet harrowing burst of tremolo picked melodies, by way of Brandon Cruz and Etienne Vazquez, that were supported with Christopher Cruz’s lilting bass lines.

Chris topped off the moving instrumentation with chilling and desperate howling screams that connoted sadness and yearning despite my inability to understand the lyrics (I had read them later on, as I suggest you should).

This band has a sound that could fill a concert hall with gusto, as the saturation in this tiny and crowded room was a complete sensory experience. The room filled with a glow from a single blue LED lamp that served to set a mood for their set.

This band has a musical profile that feels very intimate, despite the symphonic grandness oft related to bands such as Emperor, whom seemingly wanted degrees of separation between them and their fans. So Hideous however craves and thrives on face to face intensity, and being right in front of you on a floor bring this colossal sound in a package that doesn’t attempt to put on an ego and distance that one would get from many black metal shows.

This band is acknowledging Screamo bands like Envy with a suggestion of Punk angst, that’s veiled by technical proficiency and ambition that soars above most bands from that vein of Hardcore Punk. Something about the jazzy inflections of Moncada’s drumming and the combined efforts of Cruz, Cruz and Vazquez reminisce on the aesthetic of jazz quartets that ruled So Hideous’ home territory decades before Metal was even a twinkle in Tony Iommi’s eye.

From song to song, not a single pause was taken for needless banter (as it often breaks the tension of such an emotionally gripping performance) till the set was over, Cruz had shared a few words with the audience expressing his gratitude and excitement for returning to play in Boston. The excitement is undoubtedly mutual.

Until next time…

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I spend a lot of time meditating on why Insect Warfare broke up and cleaning off my Wolves in the Throne Room records. I play in bands on four strings and vocal. Residing in Boston, MA, USA.

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