C is for cookie

For many listeners in the 1990s, two metal bands cemented a particular style of extraordinarily harsh vocals. Brazil’s Sepultura—one of the decade’s most popular metal acts—and Buffalo, N.Y.-based Cannibal Corpse both featured vocals that were dark, distorted and, essentially, tuneless.

One can understand how incredible that vocal style sounded to new listeners in the 1990s. Metal was just entering its newest phase of development, with a turn toward harsh, more aggressive and often less-melodic styles. The vocals of Sepultura, Cannibal Corpse and others seemed to reach an entirely new level of harshness.

Today, though, much of the impact of this style of singing has been lost, so much so that it is commonly referred to now as “Cookie Monster vocals.” For example, take Irritant, a competent local thrash-metal act. Though the band is acceptably heavy and brutal, the Cookie Monster vocals seemed more like a metal cartoon than anything truly heavy and frightening. (As a friend at last weekend’s show at the Roadhouse quipped, “I was really into this kind of thing years ago, but now it just seems silly.”) The fact that the band’s instrumentation seemed to create undifferentiated low-end rumble made for an overall effect that was, frankly, irritating. Listen for yourself at www.irritant.us.

Oakland’s Primate (www.primatemusic.com) performed an uneven set, starting weak and increasingly hitting its stride. It seemed an odd choice of bands to put in front of a crowd of metal fans—Primate is loud, yes, but it really isn’t a metal band as much as it is a Tool- influenced alternative-rock act. Primate is a terrific band, but the audience was mostly disinterested.

The real star of the show, Death Angel (www.deathangel.com), sounds a bit dated these days, but it can still work a crowd into a frenzy. The weirdest part about it is that, despite being known as a late-1980s metal act that disbanded for most of the 1990s, its members are hardly old men; most appear to be in their early 30s, if that. It’s nice to see a group of veterans who all are still so young, and with a new album of metal in tow—a comeback album titled, perhaps ironically, The Art of Dying.

How is it that Low Flying Owls played a series of “farewell” shows in Sacramento and then seemingly never left town? The truth is that the band is residence-challenged for the time being, with two members in New York and two here in Sacramento. Watch for a local show in late June, after which Low Flying Owls will be off to Spaceland in Los Angeles for a month-long residency.

Finally, parents unsure of what to do with their slacker musician kids might want to check out the 24th annual Stairway to Stardom program at Skip’s Music, at 2740 Auburn Boulevard. This is a program wherein “young, non-professional musicians” can spend eight weeks creating, developing and performing original music. The best news of all is that Stairway to Stardom can net participants high-school or college credit. That’s credit for rock, dude! Check out www.skipsmusic.com for more information or stop by the store for a brochure.