The Abodox Grind, Wail, and Grow
Fri Dec 19, Monkey Pub, 10 pm, $3.
w/Gods Among Men, Peyote Calamity, MRG
Sun Dec 21, Fun House, 9:30 pm, $5.
Adventurous musicians are often marginalized musicians. Most of the time they grow like a mold on the underbelly of a city, semi-content to be a scourge on the fashionable music of the moment, ignored by the powers that be. But as they expand in notoriety through networks of fans, the higher-ups take notice--that's when you start seeing the indie kids sporting Champs merch, the Blood Brothers partnering with über-producer Ross Robinson, or the once-obscure Wolf Eyes bringing their oozing noise wounds out through Sub Pop. But since terms like "blastbeat," "post-hardcore," and "art metal" still register as offensive to people who prefer music that's more of a salve than an abrasion, the steps toward the spotlight are baby ones. Too bad, because experimental metal acts in this city are making some of the most addictively difficult music around, and among them are the Seattle/Tacoma trio the Abodox.
Formed in 1998 by drummer Benjamin Kennedy, bassist Nathan Smurthwaite, and guitarist Pete Hodous, the Abodox are a bit of an anomaly. Sipping whiskey Cokes at Barça, the trio describe a recent show by Norwegian black metal act Dimmu Borgir one moment and admit to being fans of twee popsters Belle & Sebastian the next. They're a clash of influences, with Kennedy and Smurthwaite describing their indie rock side projects while Hodous sports a shirt for Mastodon (a Relapse Records band that's a mash of grind, hardcore, and metal).
Together, the band members are swift assailants, with rapid time changes mutating songs into blastbeat puncture wounds, triumphant guitar buildups, and drill-steady riffs that expand to expose complex cores of free jazz, drone, and math rock melody. They're very conscientious about making their overall sound more than a whiplash of aural gore. "There's a lot of quirk in what we do that wouldn't be there if we just listened to rock all the time," says Kennedy. "I like to think there's somewhat of a pop aspect in there as well."
On the newest Abodox album, New Knife of the Berserker, sonic elements that jive with sludgy black metal bands, the latest grindcore acts, and more straight-ahead instru-metal groups like the Champs are punctuated by jazz instrumentalists working in accordance with the chaos. On one song, Michael Griffen, from the respected Seattle noise adventurists Noggin, plays violin like he's conducting an invisible traffic collision. On "Jones of the Bridge," Wally Shoup, a local heavyweight in the Seattle free jazz scene, bleats out notes on a sax between blasts from Smurthwaite's raptor-like vocals. "We were listening to a lot of the free jazz that was going on at the time, and so we got him involved," Kennedy says of Shoup. "He said metal makes him happy because it's really fast, crazy, and loud, and kind of like what free jazz can be. He likes to get up onstage and wail on his sax all loud and fast."
Although the Abodox thirst for adventurous music, they follow the "good times versus sick shit rule." "We have a lot of friends who are so badass at playing music, but then they get into the mode of 'look how technical and crazy we are' and isolate the audience while they're jerking off onstage," explains Kennedy. "But then there's the bands that have all the hooks and the groove, and it goes and goes and gets boring about halfway through the set. We try and walk a line between the two."
Walking the line is becoming more acceptable, with metal bands that have an affinity for prog or art rock getting ink alongside straight metal bands, but the Abodox still feel their local scene--which they say includes bands like Apes of Wrath, Tion, and Scary Bear--could use more attention. "If there's an underground in this area, it's an underground of experimental metal musicians," says Smurthwaite. "And it's definitely not as exposed as it should be. It should be like Seattle's Murder City Devils for the next couple years. At least now there are more metal shows... and bands like the Swarming Hordes are finally getting noticed properly, so this stuff is definitely coming around."