Harsh noise at the Boardwalk



Composer Richard Wagner made a name for himself both by being the self-proclaimed “most German of men” and by composing some of the heaviest intellect-bashing music ever to fall under the classical banner. His music is beautiful at times, but other times, it is just so over-the-top as to feel as subtle as a sledgehammer beating against the listener’s brain box.

Many metal bands easily could fall under Wagner’s banner. Skribble, for example, has been beating audiences into submission for four years running. It is a sight to behold: sound that, to this listener’s ears, is entirely devoid of music. Instead, a series of shredding guitars are punctuated by Matt Robbins’ distorted, staccato, screaming vocals and a thunder of low-end double kick drums and bass. The effect is a wall of impenetrable, harsh noise—pointless as music, but then again, music is not really the point here (at least not the traditional sense).

But last week at the Boardwalk, on a bill including Dungeon, Primate and Osiffer, Skribble proved that it possesses a certain genius—not with its music, per se, but with its stage presence. In fact, its stage presence was so remarkable that the effect was akin to watching a cat toy with a mouse. Before Skribble even hit a note, it brought the crowd to a frenzy, drawing people up to the edge of the stage, sweating and ready for the metal. When the sound attack actually began, the place went wild. It was, in a word, brilliant.

On the other side of the spectrum, Primate’s set ran in a distinctly more melodic vein. Though still a hard-rock act, the discernable influence of Tool helped focus the music. Here, harsh guitars coupled with the beautiful voice of Damon DeMers, who, with boyish good looks and a sort of indie-rock sense of style, is the audience’s focus. In a corporate world where style is often everything, this might be the single element that can bring a band to the eyes of the mainstream music listener. Furthermore, even the guitar lines of Mike Roberts and Nick St. Denis add to the musical sound of the band’s compositions. Rather than relying on a wall-of-sound approach, Primate relies instead on discernable songs and a clear sense of melody—something so often lacking from hard-rock and metal acts. This is one of the best hard-rock bands this reviewer has seen in Sacramento. Nice work.

Calling something a local landmark is often a last-ditch effort to save it from the wrecking ball. There are various methods of staving off the seeming inevitability of more cookie-cutter apartments: picketing, running some kind of signature drive and, if you are Chad Kern, staging a series of metal shows.

Kern is spearheading a project to save Sacramento’s Iceland Skating Rink (1430 Del Paso Boulevard, near Arden Way) from extinction through raging guitars and thumping double kick drums. Kern’s own band, Sinfest, will headline the first show (July 18 at 8 p.m.) on a bill also featuring Sled and Tiny Monster Invasion. E-mail gibsonrock2003@yahoo.com for more information or show up for the metal on Friday night.