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Exmortus, Napalm Strike, Kvasura, Magguts, Casket Birth, The Rock, Monday, Jan. 27

The Rock's management had a great idea for this show: Neglecting the big stage, lights, and sound system of the main area, the bands played in the tiny side room, resulting in an intimate atmosphere not unlike a house party.

I only caught the last song of openers Casket Birth, whose wall shaking heaviness left me looking forward to their next show.

Magguts, a relatively new local quartet, were mesmerizing. The music, startling and chaotic, seemed to owe more to the most atonal free jazz than any rock or metal tradition. Magguts don't have songs—they play 45-second vignettes consisting of incomprehensibly fast blast beats, screaming vocals, and the most basic of guitar riffs. When the noise stopped, they paused to demand more beer, and then launched into another tirade, almost identical to the previous one. The band will probably never win any songwriting awards, but that's not the point. Magguts raise assault in the guise of music to high art.

Kvasura, in comparison, adhered to such musical stalwarts like melody, harmony, and linear song structures. Grafting Eastern European folk melodies to the galloping rhythms associated with Iron Maiden or Judas Priest created a mournful/aggressive dichotomy that was memorable and fascinating. Lead singer Kane Flint propelled the songs into uncharted territory with soulful incantations particularly unusual in heavy metal. While guitar solos and tempo changes were present in the band's performance, they avoided the excesses prevalent in their genre by wisely focusing on their songs and instrumental interplay. Kvasura's music could be seen as a more visceral variation of Nico's harmonium-fuelled, anti-rock late-'60s and early-'70s albums, which also were deeply informed by old world folk styles—a concept that exhibits the depth of this band's material.

Exmortus, the sole touring act on the bill, presented themselves like a machine fresh off the assembly line. That's not to imply the foursome was generic—quite the opposite, actually. But they were tight and played off of one another in a borderline telepathic manner. While the influence of Slayer loomed large over the group's sound and songs, their intensity and commitment more than made up for it.

Closing out the show was Napalm Strike, pulling together all the different sounds that preceded them into a fantastic performance infused with their own singular personality.

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