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In The Clubs
Fear Before The March of Flames
Nov 02, 2004 

By Mark Hensch

The Weston St. Theater in Grand Rapids, MI is the kind of club that every city or town, regardless of size, has. You guys should know what I am talking about; it's those miniscule clubs, the one with a few beaten couches in back and a poorly lit stage the size of your dinner table, maybe slightly larger. The one where the local kids all converge upon, like an alternative music mecca, just because a few kids are playing some metal or punk or hardcore or whatever it is that is against more conventional forms of music. 

I went to Weston last night simply to kick back and have some fun with a couple of buddies from school. Oh, and yeah, those local bands brought in California metal band Scars of Tomorrow and Colorado spazzers Fear Before The March of Flames. "Sounds like something worth reviewing," I said, and off I went.

The first band is an up-and-coming local act by the name of Flesh and Blood Robot. I wondered why I hadn't heard about FBR before, and it soon became apparent when the band took the stage. Cramped with a singer, drummer, two guitarists, and a bassist on a tiny little stage, I thought maybe this was going to be one of those nights where a bunch of highschool/college bands sucked it up in a cramped basement for minimum profit. But my fears were ripped asunder as Flesh and Blood Robot proceeded to cook us with one of the more unique local bands I've heard in quite some time; thus the reason why they are not mentioned by any of the local kids who generally go to genre-confined shows (see hardcore) more for the lifestyle then the music. FBR essentially took razor-thin jazz chords, played them at grotesque and inhumane speeds, and then alternated everything with a blender full of sludge-y metal riffs and hardcore punk drumming, all set to time signatures as varied as the pieces of a plastic toy that has been thrown in a compactor. Easily defying most "normal" styles, the closest I can equate Flesh and Blood Robot to is The Dillinger Escape Plan. There is also a slight classic grind tinge to everything, but the majority of what I saw last night (November 2nd) was jazz-metal influenced. National readers will eventually be able to purchase some of the band's music, as it will be released shortly by Rusty Razor records. I highly recommend these dudes, and it will be interesting to see how the new album will be. 

Next came another local act, Lola. An act who has played quite a few venues in this area, Lola played an interesting take on melodic hardcore. The band's frontman stumbled around growling and yowling, but the band crafted an interesting wall of sound generated from a keyboardist and twin guitars over rolling, deep bass lines. Maybe it was FBR's intensity earlier, but something was oddly soothing about the band's crisp, harmonic, and emotional hardcore. I enjoyed it a lot, and was totally surprised amidst chatting with the band's drummer that he had only played a mere four shows with the band, and one of the guitarists was also new as well. Lola apparently (as I was told) has suffered many severe line-up shakedowns and is still trying to evolve past the traditional local hardcore scene. Invoking a little Underoath perhaps, Lola combined a refreshing blend of tranquility and savagery for an excellent warm-up act.

The heaviest act of the night assaulted the stage next as California's Scars of Tomorrow appeared. Playing straight out thrash metal, all I could see was endless levels of guitars spinning and head banging. With growled vocals and chaotic riffing, the band took things up a notch and sent people out scurrying onto the floor for the first largely-involved hardcore dancing of the night. Riff after riff was fleshed out to an increasingly antsy crowd of around 70 people or so, and SOT was the perfect end to the trifecta that supported the main act: Fear Before The March of Flames.

Fear Before decided to open with "Hey Kid, I'm a Computer: Stop all the Downloading!" and the wailing feedback intermingled with frontman Dave Marion's banshee catcalls. Later songs busted out where the genius "Should Have Stayed in the Shallows,""Whiskey has its place, but unfortunately its place is Hell," and "The Long Road Next to The Middle" to the dedicated fans. Earlier tunes "The 20th Century was Entirely Mine," "The Lisbon Girls, Oh The Lisbon Girls" and "Sarah Goldfarb, where are your Manners?" jittered and slithered all over the stage, at one point seeing Dave crabwalk like that possessed girl from The Exorcist. Definitely a highlight was "The State of Texas Vs. Fear Before," ending the evening with a crowd of sweaty and tired concert-goers, all worked up over the spastic tunes played through the show. Guitarist Adam Fisher and bassist Michael Madruga kicked the holy hell out of the audience with their wacky tunes, a perfect combination of squawking feedback guitars and plodding bass. Fiery-haired drummer Brandon Proff was consistent and clear; his varied tempo shifts provided a much-needed, overtly flexible, and downright twisted backbone for a barely sane band.

The thing(s) that impressed me the most at this show was the level of intensity all of the bands, mainly SOT and Fear Before, brought to what was essentially a tiny group of kids looking for a good times with some good bands. Fear Before in particular was truly devoted to playing an awesome set; hailing from Denver, Colordado, you'd think that a band from so far away wouldn't give a rat's bum about playing for seventy kids in a club sorely in need of some expanding. Barely a few years older then myself (I'm seventeen for the record), Fear Before struck out with intensity and integrity that only comes with youth raised in a scene as unforgiving as hardcore. Grown like genetically enhanced crops in this environment, FBTMOF has crafted a live show (and album to boot) that is the musical equivalent of a comet; every time it speeds by in a burst of Flames and then fades, it surprises you much later by re-entering your orbit and burning you to a smoking crisp.

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