Across Tundras, Psygoat, Methra, La Cocina, May 24

The Dark Lords of Metal must have been pleased with us in Tucson, for the Elder Ones graciously granted us perfect weather for an outdoor display of doom and gloom at La Cocina last Thursday.

First up were local sludge behemoths Methra (my favorite band name in quite some time). The band weeded out anybody who couldn't hang with their slow-burning, low-octane, severely heavy songs of despair. Lyrics were barked and growled, and the band was tight and focused through their half-hour set. Andy Kratzenberg could give Slayer drummer Dave Lombardo a run for the money. He's truly a one-man juggernaut. The crowd responded in kind, lurching back and forth while feeling the thunder.

Following Methra was the recently formed jazzy thrash band Psygoat. A four-piece featuring the killer rhythm section of longtime local musicians Nate Teufel on bass and Rodney Miller on drums, Psygoat played a 45-minute set chock-full of spastic thrash rave-ups and long jazzy interludes. With their wild-eyed and unhinged lead singer making faces and stalking the stage, Psygoat came off like a My War-era Black Flag without the pretension, or The Jesus Lizard doing a piss-take on the Mahavishnu Orchestra.

The weather and venue couldn't have been more perfect for Nashville's Across Tundras. Sounding like the results of a deal made between Ennio Morricone, Thrones and the devil himself in some backwater saloon, the Western-tinged doom metal of Across Tundras lent itself to the smell of cholla in the breezy night. With the wind kicking up a notch, the band launched into a solid, dark groove for almost an hour. Tracks like "Tchulu Junction" alternated between bone-crunching riffs and cinematic atmospherics; the interludes featuring samples of Western soundscapes (train whistles, native flutes, whispers of harmonica) were a fantastic binder.

Drummer Casey Perry, a former Tucsonan, was the backbeat of this dark ride, masterfully keeping a galloping and crashing pace throughout. Singer/guitar player Tanner Olson's vocals were a far cry from most doom-metal Cookie Monster histrionics; his blend of on-the-prairie twang and warbling yelps and screams painted a picture of a man leading a posse of riders into some Sergio Leone-created hellhole.

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