Concert Review: An Underground Evening

IA, 1Logic & Dead Sound Committee at bar ”Idän Tähti” 24.9.2011 Right across the bridge from Itäkeskus, the bar Idän Tähti doesn’t look like a place for underground metal on the outside. The place brings to mind more a pub than a venue, and this perception isn’t broken when stepping inside either; Homely and with a very warm ambience despite its location near the shopping centre, the bar is fitted with all the pub-classics from a couple of slot machines in a corner to a pool-table in another.

Yet here I am, come to enjoy a night of metal music that promises to be more than just “unconventional”… And when looking closer, it becomes clear that what normally would serve as a dance floor in the middle of the place, with metal railings separating this area from the normal tables-and-chairs -setup elsewhere, is actually quite a convenient spot for a band to perform. The railings provide a natural riot-fence if you will… Nice!

It’s 22:00 when the first band of the evening, Dead Sound Committee, slowly start to make their way to the “playground”… For the first performer in a night of very “underground” and unknown bands there’s already quite a lot of people gathered in the audience. Obviously, the regular patrons are there, but besides them an impressive collection of younger metal enthusiasts as well.

An ominous music-box piano tune sets the mood as an intro track, the band picks up the instruments, and the show starts… From the get-go there is a slight surprise; for a band named “Dead Sound Committee”, the music is very standard, melodic metal more reminiscent of Children Of Bodom (in particular due to the lead-guitarist’s choice of instrument…) than the doom or possibly groove metal impression that I got from the name.

All presuppositions aside, it becomes clear that we’re dealing with the “young guys” of the evening here… Dead Sound Committee plays well together and the individual members handle their perspective turfs adequately, but the looks and the overall material of the group suggests a band in its first steps; I can hardly spot a unique, “own” sound to this, and the performance gives off an overall aura of inexperience. Special props to the synth-player though, I was pleasantly surprised halfway through the set by the appearance of a keytar, and the man obviously knew how to rock his instrument.

As with all groups, practice makes perfect. And this I think is what DSC really needs. The honing of vision, beyond just “Children Of Bodom with average clean vocals” and a general mish-mash of caps, jeans and metal music. When the set’s end came at 22:45, the crowd seemed content, and so was I. The highlight of Dead Sound Committee’s show was a decently metalized version of Dido’s classic “Here with me”, a very original choice that made many smile and sing along.

It’s around 23:15 when the next band, 1Logic, comes to the stage. .. Already at the intro; a strange amalgamation of majestic horns and jazzy piano-saxophone parts ending in an ominous church organ melody, it becomes clear that this is not your average verse-chorus-verse-chorus group.

And this is definitely not a first-time performer either, for from the first note the contact with the audience compared to the previous group is like comparing night and day: where the earlier group seemed shy, these guys grasp the audience along immediately… Despite the quite confusing music that soon follows.

Here we have what the night is promised to be: the closest description I can think of for the music would be somewhere around “melodic math-metal with frequent abrupt tempo, mood and rhythm changes laced with Stam1na-esque vocals, the occasional growl-part and plenty of mind-bogglingly fast shredfest guitar-solos”… Very strange, but very impressive as well.

The formula, despite its quirkiness, seems to work well for the group, and the musicianship is worthy of praise. However, the audience seems to remain a bit more passive after the initial energy-surge. Perhaps everyone is all too keen to catch each mesmerizing detail of the band’s handling of its instruments? Or is it just that such extremely complex music demands a bit too much from this particular crowd? Hard to say, but in either case 1Logic sets itself apart from your standard mosh-and-go bands. We have here everything imaginable, and some not so much, from “Doomish-hero metal” segments to solo-battles with circus-music backing.

As the set began to near its end at around 00:05, I still hadn’t quite grasped what precisely was this band doing in front of me; all I knew was that it left me in a certain kind of awe. This was one weird but definitely tight package, and apparently this set was played with a session-bass player who had only had a week to practice, impressive! 1Logic gave a bewildering circus of musical treats, though it requires a very “on-the-go”-attitude from its listeners. Perhaps this was just too much for tonight’s audience, but this is a band worthwhile to check out, if you remember to leave all notions of formula at the door.

The expectations begin to rise at around 00:30 as the preparations for tonight’s headliner, IA, are slowly set up. Plenty of large, black canvases or maybe drapes are hung to the ceiling and over amplifiers… This is starting to look pretty strange. Then the lights go out…

And it all makes sense as blacklights, hidden somewhere in the front of the stage, are switched on: The canvases are large decorations painted with UV-active paint, depicting astral landscapes and surreal, psychedelic patterns and images. The word that comes first to mind is: Cool! More reminiscent of a rave party than a metal-show, I haven’t seen anything quite like this before. Yet, it fits the mood; there’s definitely a “Lovecraftian” element to the scenery, and IA does call itself “shamanic death metal” so this kind of “astral tripping” would make sense.

The smoke-machines bathe the stage in mist as the intro-track breaks the silence. A deep rumbling tune, slowly escalating to aurally depict the space-y decorations plays in the background as the musicians pick up their instruments. The drummer “tests” his kit along with the intro and here I get the “shamanic” part of the band: there’s definitely a tribal element to the rhythms, with slow escalation and hypnotic repetition. The singer enters his spot and I notice that even his clothes are painted with similar decorations as the background’s cloths… It is very rare to see a band this “small” and “underground” put so much effort to the visual aspect.

And then the band starts its show in proper, but immediately I notice a tragedy for any band that wants to make a good first impression: something is horribly wrong with the mixing. I see the singer scream at the top of his lungs but nothing comes out from the speakers. Standing as I am next to the mixing-board (hint: the place where the sound is directed at, i.e. where it’s the most balanced), I ask what’s going on as I can’t hear any vocals. Baffled and confused, the mixer rants something along the lines of “I wasn’t supposed to have to touch anything…” I wonder: who hired this guy? Fortunately, help begins to speedily arrive and soon there are four people frantically working at the board. Slowly, things are starting to come around, but the first song is already ruined, with only the drums and some of the guitars audible.

If the band noticed something to be amiss, they sure do a good job hiding it; thumbs up for that. By the second song, the sound is already much, much better. And now I get to experience the band properly:

The set plows on, and we are treated with wide array of different moods and styles. Yet, though the songs are definitely individual and there’s plenty of rhythmic and stylistic variation, the overall set is neatly tied together by a more unifying theme. It is hard to point one’s finger at it, as the set varies from speedy, mathematic polyrhythms to doomishly slow droning heaviness to psychedelic choir-parts and even something reminiscent of 70’s prog-rock with landscape-painting, effect-laced guitar leads.

Some things the songs do indeed have in common. Firstly, there’s an element of repetition of certain addictive rhythms almost to the point of excess, an almost minimalistic quality despite a grandiose heaviness. Secondly, a certain formula begins to emerge with the interplay of pounding, heavy riffs and “calmer”, astral sections often with clean choir-like vocals and prog-ish guitars. I think it is these two elements that create the “shamanistic and tribal” mood with “the trip’s” ups and downs.

The musicians don’t disappoint here. The first special mention is awarded to the drummer, who handles the complex, polyrhythmic package admirably. The second goes to the singer: a hulking UV-decorated entity in the foreground, he is a perfect interpreter for the varying moods of the music, like a tribal shaman who changes setting between a rave-party and a mosh-pit. Also, his technique is very unique and varied; he uses a tribal sounding throat-singing technique together with traditional deep growls and higher screams of death metal (metal experts might find similarities between this guy and Attila Csihar of Sunn O)))/Mayhem).

Aside from the disaster of the first song, IA delivers what it sets out to: a truly shamanistic experience of mid-tempo math-metal mixed with plenty of droningly addictive rhythm-repetition; an experience laced with more than a little of Lovecraftian doom and outright psychedelia. The decorations alone make this a band to see at least once… All in all, a good audiovisual show that left the audience chanting “IA, IA, IA!”…

Ending at around 01:30, I’d say this was a very satisfactory night. There was plenty of audience for an “underground” evening. You know it’s been a good show when walking out the door you wonder how such a small (and indeed it’s small!) bar could make you feel like you’ve been to a much bigger concert…

The bands of the evening: Dead Sound Committee: 1Logic: IA: only facebook-page at

Venue: Bar Idän tähti (Asiakkaankatu 3, Helsinki)

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