Philadelphia, PA, The Starlight Ballroom 10/02/2011
Normally, when you pay to see a major electro/industrial group, you have the headliner everyone knows, and then some younger opening bands, some of whom might need some work perfecting their act. This was not the case at Philadelphia’s Starlight Ballroom, on October 2nd, the seventh stop of the Triptych Tour. From start to finish, each band was exceptional and sounded amazing.
It was an evening of strength upon strength, starting with Sonik Foundry, who bitch-slapped the dance floor to life with an impressive blend of aggressive EBM and dramatic male vocals. Imagine Funker Vogt with Ronan Harris doing vocals. With militaristic timing and unrelenting club beats, the songs “Poison” and “Defiance” quickly grab the attention of concertgoers. Vocalist and producer Nikademus gives a great performance, with drummer Malic Acid headbanging his way through each song on percussion. Guitarist James Halo Weber (of Skabdriver) churned out industrial riffs that added even more balls to the sound. Sonik Foundry totally delivered with hyperactive synths and fist-pumping songs that raised the bar very high.
Twitch the Ripper was the sleeper hit of the night, with a mix of sinister synthpop, live percussion, and infectious beats. This twosome from New Haven, CT has somehow managed to invent a sound both moody and original, with deep and sensual vocals courtesy of front man Jon Dobyns and a fresh approach to production by Lonn Bologna. The song “Never Got You Anywhere” really grabs you with its shifty bass line and subtle intensity. Onstage, the duo completely surrenders to their music, which the crowd picks up on. Jon looks barely able to keep from dancing while delivering the vocals, as Lonn writhes from behind a tangle of curls, switching effortlessly from drums to synthesizers. With their unique sound and energetic stage presence, Twitch the Ripper will be an exciting act to follow.
The Starlight Ballroom was filled with an aura of electric energy when Clint Carney took the stage, fronting his longtime solo project System Syn. The masses cheered for the music and out of love for The Clint himself, who despite being in three different bands that night, was quite amicable and approachable. To many, he is one of the coolest dudes you’ll meet; a talented painter, a creative singer/songwriter, a tireless rockstar. How does he do it? Onstage, Carney navigates skillfully through the heavy beats of songs like “Path of Least Resistance” and “Good Night” with the multi-talented Adam Vex on synths and Jon Siren flailing away on the drums. He informs us what we are made of on the song “Chemical,” and spills his guts in front of everyone on the piano heavy ballad “The Lesson.” With an endless supply of heart-wrenching laments and vengeful industrial anthems, it’s hard to imagine this was the same person handing out hugs and smiles earlier in the crowd. System Syn’s set was crowned by a well received cover of R.E.M.’s “Losing My Religion” and the spiteful homage to everyone’s collective ex on “Here’s to You.” Amid the cheers of industrial boys and girls, Carney leaves the stage…
… to return as the backing synth player for God Module’s set. The lights dim as the intro track “Ouiji” starts to roll, casting an eerie spell over the venue. The mastermind of macabre himself, God Module front man Jasyn Bangert emerges slowly from the darkness in a Texas Chainsaw Massacre-inspired mask, the monster of his own making. The punishing club rhythms and sickening sequences of the new track “Rituals” take over the venue, with Bangert’s trademark harsh, distorted whispers painting pictures from his nightmares. The techno horrorshow is well received by the fist-pumping audience, although Courtney Bangert’s presence was sorely missed on this night. Without her vocals, it’s all beast and no beauty. Also, since Byron Miller is no longer with the group, God Module seems a little less twisted and dangerous onstage, though Carney holds his own, exorcising some of his darker demons on “Remember” and the aforementioned “Rituals.” Meanwhile, Bangert seems to be serenading his corpse microphone stand while unleashing the songs “Lucid” and “Extinct” onto the crowd. His vocal delivery is precise and timed, each turn of phrase being fired out like from a machine gun. When he’s not singing, he just freezes and stares off into space like he’s totally lost his mind. Overall, God Module kicked ass and delivered what they are known for: aggressive dance music laden with horror movie samples, and scary fun for people who wish Halloween was everyday.
Up to this point, any of the opening acts could have headlined themselves, but on this historic Triptych Tour, that responsibility falls onto Imperative Reaction’s shoulders. It’s a job the band is more than prepared for with an arsenal of high energy tracks from the new self-titled release. This is how you do it, kids! Backed by crunchy synth lines and pulverizing beats, Ted Phelps utters the phrase, “It’s not as easy as it seems” on “What is Left to Say.” But onstage, Imperative Reaction makes it look easy with Adam Vex switching smoothly from synthesizer to guitar to backing vocals, Clint Carney in round three on synths and backing vocals, and the unstoppable Trevor Friedrich going absolutely spastic on the drums – seriously, he was like Animal from the Muppets, ceasing his flailing about only once… to drink more gasoline. Imperative Reaction’s sound has lost some weight over the years, evolving to have less trance and EBM elements and more lean and bit-crushed riffs, like in the big single from the new album, “Surface.” Ted’s vocals sound more fragile and gut-wrenching than before, and he himself looks leaner and meaner than on previous tours as he tirelessly jumps around on “Time Doesn’t Care.” He works the crowd like a rock star. His eyes look like two mascara-lined slits that can barely hold back the tears as he sings “Song of the Martyr.” The band plays “Faded into One” from the Redemption album, but on this tour, they are mostly focusing on the future and not the past. Imperative Reaction seems like finely tuned juggernauts ready to take on the world, and who knows? With the new album having lots of crossover potential to the mainstream, maybe the band will be exploding everywhere soon. But right now, they already have a legion of fans crying out for more… and after already tearing the place down, the gang returns to deliver an encore of “Only In My Mind,” “Head Up Too High,” and “As We Fall.”
For many, it will be an unforgettable show, with three of the titans of dark electro in one night, back-to-back. The way they all teamed up and played in each other’s bands was also pretty cool. System Syn brought the pain with a slick and almost professional twist. God Module conjured nightmares to dance away the demons. And Imperative Reaction burned like a cathartic engine running on pure energy and emotion. Everyone’s faces were appropriately rocked off.
Lüke Haughwout (Mechanical_Harvest)
Photographs by Mandi Martini (Mandi_Martini)
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