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Live Reviews

Live Review(s): Jessie + Clayton on Thorr-Axe + Sixes

Two Vault writers. Two bands. Two shows.

We’ve never quite tried anything like this before, but since Jessie and I happened to catch Sixes on black-to-back dates of their current Worship Amps Not Gods tour, we figured ‘what the hell – why not tag team a show review?’ I mean, let’s be honest here for a second: most show reviews are boring as fuck, anyway. Might as well try a different approach.

So here’s what you need to know. When I interviewed SoCal doom/sludge/drone outfit Sixes shortly before their debut album Methistopheles came out, I described the album as “essentially the sonic equivalent of sandpaper.” It’s harsh, filthy, and in a perpetually foul mood. Bloomington, Indiana’s Thorr-Axe, on the other hand, play epic blackened doom with fantasy-based lyrics. Their most recent release is The Hobbit, a split with Indy’s Archarus inspired by…well, with a title like that, do I really have to tell you what it was inspired by?

Sixes and Thorr-Axe both played the second day of Doomed and Stoned Chicago on Saturday, June 2, and then followed it up with a show at Indiana City Brewing Co. in Indianapolis on June 4 (where hotshot new Indy band Lavaborne joined them on the bill). Jessie was in Chicago (she missed Thorr-Axe’s set, but has seem them previously), I was in Indy, and if they come to your town on any of their remaining dates then you should be there, too.

Clayton: Okay…so before we get to talking about Sixes, I want to chat for a minute about Thorr-Axe. I know you missed their set at D&S Chicago, but you’ve caught them in Indy. This was my first time seeing them, and holy shitsnacks – I was blown the fuck away by their set. I don’t know what I was expecting from them–probably some sort of high fantasy-inspired doom, based on the fact that they did a split based on The Hobbit with Archarus–but they have really got their own thing going on. I think I even heard some black metal in their sound. What did you think of them when you saw them?

Jessie: I was also pleasantly surprised.  I wish I had taken the opportunity when I saw them March 20th at Black Circle Brewing to pick up a copy of their split. Their songwriting, especially the new material, is really tight and the band has great chemistry on stage. The strong friendship between Tucker (guitar/vocals) and Jacob (drums) is particularly obvious. I can only imagine how much their performance has improved since they’ve had the opportunity to tour the new songs. I’m sorry to have missed them this past weekend, but I’m glad to hear they were on-point.

I chatted with Tucker via messenger following their show in March, and he mentioned future material will be less “high fantasy stuff and more into history and anthropological concepts, as well as some religious ones…. A lot of what I’m writing is about things like bog sacrifices in the proto-Norse, the concept of a god king, and the settling of Iceland and the off-shooting occult school of thought that formed there.” The movement into a more primitive and brutal subject matter speaks to the black metal influence you heard Monday night, I think.

[Thorr-Axe at Indiana City. All photos copyright 2018 Lindley King. They may not be reused without permission.]

Clayton: That’s very possible. I’ll admit that I haven’t listened to The Hobbit split, mostly because the concept doesn’t do much for me, but there are parts  in “Battle of Five Armies” that veer into blackened doom territory – tremolo picking ftw! Tucker really does have  a great black metal shriek, too. Now that they’re working with Carcosa PR (who, incidentally, also reps Sixes), I feel like it’s only a matter of time before someone signs them.

As for Sixes, I think our dude Spencer had the line of the night after their set at Indiana City Beer: “I always appreciate it when a guitarist looks like he’s in a fight with his amp for the entire set.” Guitarist/vocalist Stephen Cummings genuinely looked like he was about to attack something almost from the very first note they played. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen someone with a more menacing stage presence. If I had to sum up their set in one word, well…it would probably be ‘ear-splitting,’ because they were LOUD. If I got a second word, though, it would definitely be ‘cathartic.’ I was wrung dry by the end of their set.

A quick little side story: I chatted  with Sixes bassist Zander Reddis for a few minutes before Thorr-Axe went on, and I said something to the effect that I was surprised they hadn’t brought in more amps. I mean, Sixes does have a rep for being an incredibly loud band with a fondness for unconventional amp combos, so I was expecting them to have more than just a two cab/one head setup each. In hindsight, that may have been the stupidest thing I’ve ever said to a musician, because it they’d had any more wattage on that stage I think they’d have rattled the teeth out of everyone’s head.

Jessie: When I saw them play Saturday, Stephen was a little too rough with his guitar and broke a string early in the set. He seemed to have a hard time getting feedback out of his back-up, but his bandmates helped him make some noise in those planned breaks which called for it. As far as them being loud, you said it! When I saw the sticker on Hannes Bogacs’s guitar, “Worship amps, drugs, and Satan,” I knew I was in for a ride. At times the sonic overload felt like the drone of an aircraft, and the way they let the rumble sustain and ring out makes it seem as though something is about to launch. I’ve never seen such a simple mechanic employed to such great effect. I wonder if they played the same set list Monday as they did Saturday?

[Sixes at D&S Chicago. All photos copyright 2018 Jessie L. Browne. They may not be reused without permission.]

Clayton: He was actually putting new strings on at the merch table last night when I went up to say hello. They had no problem coaxing feedback from their instruments, – even Zander during the last song, and I can’t think of many other bassists who even try to manipulate feedback like that. I’m thankful that they had the garage doors open at ICB – otherwise my ears would probably still be ringing. I wonder how far the sound carried into the neighborhood…

The ‘drone of an aircraft’ is a really apt comparison. Have you seen Bongzilla? They do a similar droning type of thing in their live sets, but theirs is more of a buzzing type of drone that kind of cuts through you. I lasted an entire set at the front of the stage for Bongzilla. With Sixes though, that shit’ll pin you to a wall.  I had to bail from the front after the first song. And unlike Bongzilla, whose droning more than occasionally comes off as a ‘we’re high af and really getting off on our own noise’ kind of thing. Not so with Sixes – every squall and rumble felt like it had a purpose.

As for the setlist, I suck at remembering these things. I know they did “Fogbreather” and  “A Cross to Burn,” pretty sure they also played “Acid God” and at least one other. It was a roughly 45-minute set.

Jessie:  In Chicago, they followed Huntsmen, which has quite a different sound; they’re more progressive, leaning toward post-metal. I think that made Sixes’ traditional doom metal stand out even more by contrast. Monotonous and sinister, they hammered nails into a coffin with a lead sledgehammer, and Stephen shrieked the eulogy up into the microphone. They opened with “Meth,” and moved into “Fogbreather,” which was my favorite number (and I think the string-breaking one, also). There’s not much movement to that song, which creates a deadweight mood, as though a foreboding fog of death was breathed over the land and looms there, noxious and immovable. I love it when the thematic or lyrical content can be felt in the music, too.

I stayed right up front the whole time (I bought myself some pretty rad low-distortion ear plugs last year), and I had the opportunity to copy down their set list. “Acid God” was the song during which Stephen changed guitars, forcing the rest of the band to buy time by looping. It felt like this threw them a little out of their groove, but they were back together and laying everything out on the stage for “A Cross to Burn.” They closed with “Misery Hag,” which is off their forthcoming album, Cold Sucker. (That’s what it sounded like he said?)

Clayton: Okay…I got excited about the possibility of a new album and messaged Stephen. Seems like we got the same setlist – “Meth” is the opening section of “Methistopheles.” Also, the new album is called Cokesucker, which makes a bit more sense with their aesthetic.

I feel like the only person we haven’t mentioned yet is Jason Matthew Engols, who’s filling in for the injured Dustin Daniels on drums. Near as I can tell, Jason’s main gig is as the guitarist for a progressive/groove metal band called The Veil Between. I’ve got crazy respect for the dude for two reasons. First, I can’t imagine that it’s an easy task filling in as a live drummer for a band that’s used to someone else’s style. Secondly, my guess would be that it’s even more difficult to fill in for a band that employs feedback and droning sections like Sixes  – the drummer really is the one who’s keeping everything from spiralling off into white noise. So major credit to him for holding it down.

Jessie: I realized that “Meth” was short for “Methistopheles” while awaiting your reply.  It was a shortened rendition of the song, too. The studio recording is nearly thirteen minutes long. I was pretty close with the album title.

I agree.  Jason didn’t miss a beat when Stephen broke a string, and to be able to use droning noise to create tension does take a special brand of drummer. I’m really pleased that Sixes made it out all the way from California, and they still have sixteen dates to go. Hopefully they return when Cokesucker drops.

Clayton: Oh yeah – I’d go see them again in a heartbeat.  So, bottom line: if you like your doom on the noisy, abrasive side, make sure you catch Sixes if they rumble through your town. Just don’t forget your earplugs. Does that pretty well sum things up for you. too?

Jessie: Yes. Listeners: prepare to be bludgeoned.

[Sixes at Indiana City. All photos copyright 2018 Lindley King. They may not be reused without permission.]


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