Live Review: Smaug, the Final Formula, Devil Got Five, Black Maria at PT's Club Inferno

Categories: Concert Reviews
Photo: Tom Murphy
Final Frontier

Smaug, the Final Formula, Devil Got Five and Black Maria
Friday, September 26, 2008
PT’s Club Inferno, Denver
Better Than:
Being an indie rock snob.

PT’s Club Inferno is not my first choice of venues to attend for a show because strip clubs give me the creeps. But when I tried to find parking, the staff was very nice and polite and the girl taking money at the door was cool and even asked about my M.I.A. t-shirt. Going upstairs to the room where the music was being performed I saw the schedule and my heart sank a little because I had just missed Fanatics — one of the greatest hardcore bands Colorado has yet produced. However, there was plenty more music coming up.

The room I found myself in was clearly used for other purposes when shows weren’t happening. Low, circular stages were arranged around the room, a black cage sat in the center and wide couches lined the walls of one wing with a dimly lit bar at the other end next to a well-lit dressing room. As I stepped in front of the expansive stage, the Final Formula started up. The act was a five-piece playing an odd hybrid of nü metal, rap rock and At the Drive-In style hardcore. The frontman put a lot of himself into the performance, while the drummer created fascinating percussive textures and some of the crunchier guitar riffing was excellent. Although the power ballad-esque “Hold on to Me” nearly made me laugh, I have to admit. Formula ended its set with a lively cover of Pennywise’s “The Western World.”

Photo: Tom Murphy
Devil Got Five

Devil Got Five, another five-member ensemble, took the stage next. Fronted by a gothic-punk-looking woman wearing a Mr. Bungle T-shirt, the act played a set of songs weighed down by rhythms that were tad too busy and guitar tones that were often too trebly. Despite those shortcomings, the members clearly had their dynamics down. The music recalled Warlock with a better singer. The set opened with “Can’t Abide,” which at first sounded like one of those obnoxious metal songs that attempt to be epic but fail with too much ambition and too little imagination. That impression faded once Devil got warmed up. In all, Devil is a metal band at its best – fun, a little silly but knowing it, arch but not negative. Its music had energy, bite and good spirit.

Photo: Tom Murphy
Black Maria

Albuquerque’s Black Maria was yet another band with five people (a theme, apparently for the night). Its music was crushing, dark and lumbering yet also somehow energetic. It’s tempting to compare the act to Black Sabbath with its weighty punch, but really it sounded more like Soundgarden, only more psychedelic, heavier and far scarier. The whole band played with the fervor of one of those legendary hardcore bands with the fiery frenzy of activity taking that aesthetic to its final, murderous conclusion. For my money, Black Maria was the best band of the night.

Photo: Tom Murphy

Smaug from Colorado Springs, who closed out the night, threw me for a loop at first. At the beginning of its set, I flashed to early Metallica crossed with pre-Turbo Judas Priest. Alton, the band’s frontman, was an unlikely character to be projecting such a soaringly theatrical voice. He was, however, equally skilled at casting forth growly death metal vocals. The guy wore studded bracers, which was pretty amusing, but there was no denying his charisma, energy and talent. As the band’s set progressed, the band mined the same terrain of late ‘80s acts like Fates Warning and Testament.

-- Tom Murphy

Personal Bias: I can’t stand 99% of metal, but when it’s good, I’m the last person to be a snob about it.
Random Detail: Alton used to be in the grindcore band Aberrant.
By the Way: Oddly, a lot of the metal and hardcore crowds I deal with are more polite and less violent than certain groups of people who otherwise look down on that whole thing.

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