It's tempting to dash off some sort of cliché metal salutation here, like "Get your devil horns up! It's a good month for metal in the Valley!" But the truth is, metal is an ever-shifting thing, with genres and bands that defy rules and ideas about what "heavy" is, and fans that are smarter, stranger, and more passionate than hesher stereotypes might imply. With that said, "Get your devil horns up, Phoenix, September's a good month for smart, dark, and most chiefly, heavy, music in the Valley." Here are our picks for the best Phoenix metal shows in September.
Vektor recently said vamanos to Phoenix, taking off for Philadelphia, but the band's sci-fi-inspired blend of classic metal expertise and trash-style is so potent we really like the idea of still claiming them as our own. The band's latest, 2010's Outer Isolation is suitably crunchy, but smarter and more adroit than records by like-minded peers. Need proof? Check out the 10-minute plus "Cosmic Cortex," which nimbly shifts from atmospheric arpeggios to a Slayer-like march, before lurching into utterly-scorched vocal screams, and then into a spiraling riff/solo fest at the end. Locals Abiotx, Motive, and Ace High Cutthroats add incentive, each offering up metal with a side of punk rock swagger.
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San Franciscan trio Sutekh Hexen does a neat trick: they lull you into a daze with droning blankets of sound, then unleash a white-noise blast of black metal distortion, effectively caving in your head and jerking you out of that contemplative zone. They do this, to great success, on "Isvar Savasana," the opening track from their latest, Larvae, released by a small-batch label Handmade Birds in early 2012. But the band shows off its real power with "La Det Bli Lys," a 15-minute orchestra that showcases the band's non-metal influences (Fleetwood Mac, John Fahey), and shows admirable restraint, never breaking into the full-on rager it could, instead dwelling in a subdued pool of crackling fuzz. Is it metal? Is it "occult experimental" (a term the band uses to describe its sound)? It's hard to say, but it's undoubtedly the work of dedicated craftsmen.
If he were so inclined, YOB vocalist and guitarist Mike Scheidt could easily sneak in a solo gig at Fiddler's Dream or some similarly folky coffeehouse before shuffling into the Rogue Bar for a set with his doom metal trio. His recent acoustic solo album, Stay Awake, recorded for Chicago independent label Thrill Jockey, dials down the fuzz and showcases Scheidt's folk, country, blues, and Americana influences. Which isn't to say that the work of his long-running Eugene, Oregon, trio (YOB formed in 2000, disbanded in 2006, and reformed in 2008) is without nuance. On the band's latest, 2011's Atma, Scheidt does the stoner/Sabbath/Sleep thing perfectly on tracks like "Prepare the Ground," but steers things into more mysterious, intricate territory with songs like "Adrift in the Ocean," with Middle Eastern-tinged guitars morphing into a stomping post-rock throw down, with Schedit's nasally, Ozzy-meets-Neil Young vocals careening over top.
29 bands. That's hardcore. And the term is used as more than just a testament to the power of the genre -- it's also a nod to the endurance of the Nile Theater staff. The venue's crew bring in heavy punk and metal acts year round, but rolls up their sleeves and rolls out the red carpet during the Within These Walls Fest, an annual party that brings big names like Sick of It All, Graf Orlock, Vinnie Caruana, and more together with local rockers like American Standards, Plagues, and Sleep Walker. It's a mission as much as it's a show, with the event site stating: "...organized by The Mantooth Group and King Of The Monsters. The purpose of Within These Walls was to bring together musicians and fans, to encourage a sense of unity within the Arizona music scene (and beyond), and to showcase Arizona's significance on the national music landscape."
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Call this the best radio metal lineup 2001 has to offer. But seriously: Featuring Rob Zombie, Marilyn Manson, Stone Sour, Buckcherry, All That Remains, Shinedown, Godsmack, Staind, Papa Roach, Adelitas Way, P.O.D., Fozzy, Duece, Redlight King, Mindset Evolution, Candlelight Red, In This Moment, and Thousand Foot Krutch, Desert Uprising's roster is a loud ass reminder that while the music industry slumps along, the kind of pop-focused, down-tuned metal that station 98 KUPD blasts across Arizona has retained its stranglehold on listeners seeking aggressive sounds on the FM dial. There's no need to try and argue for the historical significance of P.O.D. and Papa Roach, point out that Rob Zombie's revved up gonzo-bubblegum-metal still feels as fresh as it did in the mid-'90s, or critically reevaluate what makes Staind and Godsmack enduring forces in the fickle world of rock 'n' roll -- the nu-metal/rap-rock hybrid still gets folks' blood pumping and their credit card info inputted to ticket selling websites.