Robotosaurus, Thunderclaw, Coerce @ Crown & Anchor, Adelaide (18/10/08)
It would take a full hour until our opening act finally made an appearance on stage. An hour I spent pacing back and forth in front of the stage with murder on my mind; not necessarily for the band but more for the cannon fodder (part baboon, part combine harvester) that they were about to attract like a locust swarm to the frontlines. This may’ve been their first ever gig tonight, but they had a reputation and that reputation was Mike Deslandes. You may remember him as the screaming bloodclot from “Realist Few”. You may remember the path of destruction he carved through the Adelaide scene back in 2006. You may remember his former bandmate Gary (aka: Beardy) smashing and throwing guitars through walls. You may remember Gary’s brother punching and kicking a hapless “stage invader” to a bleeding pulp during Realist Few’s support slot for The Young & Restless back in January 2007. You may also have the metal pins and the glass eyes to prove it. This was no teddy bears picnic: this was war, kill or be killed, death to unbelievers. And joined on stage by Karl from Soft White Machine and a one-two uppercut of ex cons on bass and drums I was half wondering if I was gonna get out’ve here alive. Coerce. They’re hardcore thrash shitkicking a smoke alarm. They’re broken bones and spitting teeth. They’re a rage virus outbreak set to guitars and blood curdling screams. They’re a pack of junkyard dogs prowling the stage inches from our face, held back by invisible chains that they constantly railed against. We’re the only thing standing between them and the end of the world and here I am stupid enough to take photos of this shit? Awesome! Remind me again why I’m not dead yet!?
Coerce. To describe them past all the insane screaming, thrashing, bloodletting and the ringing of your ears; they most remind me of Nine Inch Nails (“Letting You” from The Slip, “You Know What You Are?” from With Teeth, “March Of The Pigs” from Downward Spiral or pretty much anything from their Broken EP), the militant rage of Rage Against The Machine and the black and blue bruising of Test Icicles, Fugazi and Tool. It’s Mikey assaulting the microphone like a shaved monkey ready to be shot out into space. It’s their bass player leaning way out into the crowd and decapitating people with his swinging axe (he almost took me out a few times with that shit). It’s Karl on guitar hunched over and traumatized whilst the drummer unleashes the stench. They’re an act of desperation. They’re a caged heat. They’re a pressure cooker in angular guitars. They’re a rock tumbler giving birth to a tornado. Coerce. Fuuuuuck! What a way to start a night!
And now for absolutely no reason whatsoever (or quite possibly to distract you momentarily whilst the Crown & Anchor’s bar staff cheerfully hose out all the blood and the bullet riddled carcasses from the band room), here’s a photo of me with Brett: Adelaide’s happiest homicidal bloodnut (formerly from My Sister The Cop) and his novelty green corn-on-the-cob party whistle. You may laugh at him now but when he’s “sinking below the waves” in the mosh later tonight, that shit’s gonna save his life! (or in a worst case scenario, simply help us to identify the remains!).
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If Coerce set our blood boiling on tethered chains in act one, then surely act two will test those chains to breaking point. They are a test of patience. They are a test of endurance. They are a psychological experiment in extremes to see if you’ll totally lose your shit and explode midway into their set and take out half of the audience with you. Thunderclaw. In essence they’re an instrumental act. Four members that for the most part form an inner circle away from the audience and lose themselves to a world of dirge stoner metal. Noodling jams that go (seemingly nowhere) for more than 10 minutes at a time. A circle jerk of chugging guitars, noise, aimless drumming and more chugging guitars with little or no audience reaction or even acknowledgement. A shapeless grind thats somewhat reminiscent of Sepulchura, Pantera, Helmet, “St Anger” era Metallica and a whole host of other primordial Neanderthal music that I know next to nothing about (short of throwing a few names in the air); although they DO remind me of a large chunk of my mid to late 90’s when everyone pretended they were into this shit. I can see it now: a dank, smoke filled room cluttered with Slayer posters, half empty pizza boxes, beer bottles, bongs and Star Wars figurines. In the corner sits a Super Nintendo or a Sony Playstation. In the other sits an overclocked PC continuously burning up CDs filled with porn and pirated games. These are your friends. They’re really good at Doom, Quake and Counterstrike. Their only goal in life is the smoke copious amounts of drugs and cruise around on their skateboard vandalising shit. Their names are Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold. If ever they got over their homicidal tendancies and formed a band it would sound very much like this. Thunderclaw. They break you down one aimless jam after the other. They wears you down to a nub. They get stopped by the cops wherever they go.
It takes a certain type of person to truly appreciate this music. To their credit they’ve got it nailed to a blackening niche, to an artform. To me they may be alienating as fuck, but to you they may be nothing short of the viking gods of Valhalla pissing gold into your ears; either way they’re sure as fuck having a volatile effect on the increasingly psychotic crowd standing before them as Thunderclaw have well and truly found themselves deep behind enemy lines. Every few minutes another empty pint glass flies overhead and shatters onto the stage. The crowd are tipping over mic stands. Their constant hurling of abuse is wearing the band down as much as their music is wearing ME down. I feel their pain. Their drummer Joel has worn down one of his drumsticks to half of its size. He doesn’t have a replacement. He’s twisted his ankle two weeks ago and now midway through their set that dull ache, growing ever sharper is shooting up his leg. The rest of the band briefly consider whether to continue or whether to don gasmasks, let loose a few Sarin cannisters and clear the fuck out’ve there before the cops arrive. Then just before a fullscale riot breaks out to the chant of “play some War Pigs!! WAAAAR PIGS!!” they let loose THIS beast..
And if you actually made it to the very end, that’s not the entire song! That’s all I could upload onto youtube before it violated the “ten minute rule”. There’s two to three more minutes where that came from. That depressing dirge, that black cloud, it just hangs here and sucks all the oxygen out of the room as the devoted few, true acolytes of the way of the Thunderclaw hold back the tide threatening to surge whilst more pint glasses come shattering onto the stage before me. Any minute now they’re gonna start with the flaming arrows, then the siege towers and the clanging of swords on shields, then the goblins, orcs and uruk-hai are going to storm this stage and devour everything in sight. As fun as this is, they couldn’t come a moment too soon!
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Eventually relief comes in our headlining act, and by relief I’m clearly meaning of the “Stockholm Syndrome” variety. The sort of multiple choice quiz that comes up with such tasty answers as: (a) being tethered up and torn apart by wild horses (b) burnt at the stake, (c) drowned or (d) buried alive. Robotosaurus. They begin their set with their lead singer “Izzy” throwing up all over the stage, throwing his mic stand at me (which I barely duck in time) followed by him leaping off the stage with kamikaze glee to violate anyone and everyone in sight. The floodgates swung wide open. The crowd exploded. People were scattering everywhere like rats fleeing a sinking ship but there was no escape. Izzy’s got the taste of blood and he wont stop till a human sacrifice is made. As far as the sound was concerned, all I could remember was screaming, unholy and retarding screaming that scrapes layers of skin red raw at the back of your throat and guitars that cut shrill like dentist drills. I think Nick from Delusions Of Grandma described it to me as sounding somewhat like Dillinger Escape Plan. I equate it more with the sound of the gates of hell shrunk to the size of a cat’s sphincter crapping out a cheese grater over and over with the volume turned way up. I think I even recognised “Kevin Smith” (aka: Dave from the Grenadiers) out there on guitars but perhaps I was just hallucinating. It was getting far too hairy out front, even for me. I shot off a few quick flash photography shots (most of them useless) then I got the fuck out of there.
Turning my back on the band momentarily and back tracking through the crowd towards the back (with aims to return for some better stage light shots as soon as the “body count” dropped to levels that wouldn’t skeletonise a cow in ten seconds), I paused amongst the throng of flying helicopter arms that surged before me in effort to capture some of these fucked up slam dancing shots, pissing myself laughing along the way at all the stupidity that erupted around me..
Only for one stray hand to come flying out of the crowd to slap that camera out of my hand, sending it airbourne and crash landing “head first” onto the floor before me. I scrambled to collect it moments before some other wingnut could smash it, only to discover that the damage had already been done. Lens crushed, zoom fractured, neck vertebrae dislocated, camera long since paralysed from the neck down. My reaction of course was more than understandable.
I charging out of that crowd halfway between a crazed expression and a furrowed brow, frantically trying to pop the lens back into shape like it was nothing but a dislocated shoulder: “No damnit! not again!? GNAAARGGHHH DAMNIT!!!”. I pulled this trick once before with my Sony Cybershot. Fuckit, I could do it again! And all the while it kept flashing that same message on its screen: “lens error, restart camera”, beeping away as it attempting to right itself. After half an hour, maybe more frantically working to rescucitate it, it finally dawned on me. For want of better word, this photo of Mick from Tyger Tyger with a smashed beer bottle pretty much says it all..
My camera was gone. Pronounced dead at 12:11AM on Sunday October 19th 2008. Damn. What a way to go! If I had to destroy another one, I couldn’t have picked a more suitable killing field than this one. Of all the tragedy, at least it died a warrior’s death. The rest they say is nothing but white noise, a million missed photo opportunities (and many more beers to drown in).
Yup, sometimes you know when a battle is lost. Sometimes you know when to walk away and let the animals piss where they may. Sometimes you simply say “fuck it all!” and leap into the fray for one last shot. Such is the way of things. On a lighter note however, hours after drowning my sorrow (over having to fork out ANOTHER $400-500 on my non-existent salary to replace this camera for next week.. yeeeeouch!) I return to the Crown & Anchor once more, only to spot Izzy, lead singer of Robotosaurus, stammering blindly out those exit doors, helped along the way by some friends; head bandaged, bleeding profusely from his forehead. In some warped way I considered this more than fair trade, in another I felt honoured that these two warriors could both face off in heated battle and neither would leave the victor. In both they have lead life to the fullest.