Moving so soon!

Posted in Uncategorized on September 20, 2010 by Natalie Zed

After a few short months playing with this account, I bit the bullet, registered an actual domain, and fully committed to my Zed-blog.

New address —> Natalie Zed Spits Sparks

Please update your links and visit me here in the future!

The new blog was designed by the extraordinarily talented and good-looking Adam Wills.

Volbeat/ The Sleeping/ Dommin @ The Mod Club, August 17 2010

Posted in Concert Reviews with tags , on September 17, 2010 by Natalie Zed

Here is my live review (originally for Hellbound.ca) of the Volbeat/ The Sleeping/ Dommin show that took place at The Mod Club on August 17, 2010. You can read the original here, and check out some pictures by Adam Wills. This is officially the first time I have ever fully trashed a band (Dommin) in print.

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Despite the fact that I’m sarcastic bastard and a bitter cynic in all matters of the heart, when it comes to , I am usually a bundle of goddamn sunshine. I like . When I meet new , I actively try to be its friend; I want it to be good. Usually, when music disappoints me, it’s for a justifiable, quantifiable reason: the aesthetic is inconsistent; some aspect of the performance failed; or the overall sound is just not my thing. Any hint of negativity in the reviews I’ve written up until this point has been, I hope, positive criticism — useful, encouraging, pointing out a flaw to be rectified or a weakness to be improved upon. Usually, I want the bands to keep working, to do better.

This is the first time I have ever felt the need to actively protect the rest of the world from something I’ve experienced. I have no desire to offer something constructive or helpful. I would not like them to improve; I would like them to stop.

This review is going to be a bit odd, lopsided and out of order. I want to talk about  first, if only to separate and excuse them from the vitriol I am about to unleash. I have no bone to pick with them at all. Their heavy //early rock’n’roll gangster aesthetic is fantastic. They’re greasy, twangy and a hell of a lot of fun to see live. Michael Poulsen embodies their sound: lean, punchy muscles, the lines of his brow and cheekbone just a little haggard from hard living, slicked back, dark hair and covered in old-school tattoos. His voice is surprisingly clean (although he claimed to be suffering from a cold and therefore would be busting out his “Corpsegrinder” voice more than usual). ’s set was idiosyncratic and playful. They performed a cover of Misfits‘ “Angelfuck,” as well as a series of mini-covers during their encore, including “Raining Blood.” They closed with “Still Counting,” which stayed with me afterwards, and has become a surprisingly pleasant ear-worm, gnawing away ever since the concert. Like many of their songs, it is supremely singable, dark and cola-sweet, satisfying in the lungs. I’d love to see  again. They’re somehow both skeezy and classy; they fuck with boots on.

Pleasantries out of the way, let’s talk shittiness. What you need to know is that it’s a goddamn miracle I was able to salvage enough of my good mood to actually enjoy this set after the opening bands.

Immediately preceding  were . I’m willing to admit right now that I may not have been willing or able to give them a fair shake. After Dommin, I was in a poor enough mood that I was unwilling to extend them any generosity as an audience member. I experienced a brief flicker of hope when I saw them setting up a theremin, which was promptly extinguished when its only use was to provide a cool sound while the band members took the stage. While they were not nearly as offensively bad as their predecessors, neither did they do anything to impress. For trying to embody a hardcore aesthetic, their frontman was lacklustre and tired quickly. Their sound was devoid of anything that captured or held attention and after a few songs, I found my mind wandering away almost entirely. I was bored. If I am bored at a concert, something is profoundly wrong.

Saying that I am bored should be the grimmest insult I am able to level, the deepest cut at my disposal. However, whereas  managed to make me, , Supreme Liker of Things, actually apathetic, Dommin pushed me further, right out the other side into full-blown, righteous anger. They are revoltingly bad. They call themselves gothic  and in identifying themselves as such, I want to garrote them on behalf of Peter Steele’s estate. Their stage presence is half-hearted and effete, barely slick and entirely humourless. They clearly spent more time and attention on their hair than on playing their instruments. They attempt to create an urban-vampire vibe with their set pieces (quasi-Victorian clothing, a curl of  thorns, roses on the mic stand), but wind up coming across as disingenuous, stylistically bloated and artistically empty. Standing at the back, shaking our heads in disbelief, intrepid Hellbound photographer  and I (and company!) managed to come up with the following phrase to describe what we had just witnessed: “the rape-baby of HIM and Billy Idol, conceived at the Cabaret Voltaire.” That’s the best we could do. The reality was so, so much worse.

Writing this has made me feel a little bit better. I am lighter somehow — cleansed. I hope only that, in suffering as I did to bring you this review (the good, the bad and the fecal), I might spare a few of you from ever having to tread such grim and douchey paths.

Fatality/ Terrorhorse/ Hallows Die @ El Mocambo, August 6th 2010

Posted in Concert Reviews with tags , on September 17, 2010 by Natalie Zed

Here is my review of the Fatality/Terrorhorse/Hallow’s Die show (originally for Hellbound.ca) that took place at El Mocambo on August 6 2010. You can read the original here.

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Unfairly, the term “local band” is often be deployed in a dismissive or disparaging way. When I hear someone say that a band I enjoy is “good, for a local band,” for instance, it arouses the same homicidal fury I experience when someone tells me I am a pretty good writer, for a girl. As I believe in unqualified compliments, I think it’s important to emphasize how impressed I’ve been lately by the tenacity and talent of the metal bands operating from in and around Toronto.

Also want to take a moment to laud the bands and promoter for their hard work. No, seriously. Rich Gaggi, the manager behind , is an absolute powerhouse; have you seen a blank wall or a lamppost in Toronto that didn’t have a  sticker on it? Didn’t think so.  and  actively promote themselves all over the internet and beyond. They want to take up your time and brain space, and will actively campaign for it rather than passively waiting to be noticed. That kind of effort deserves praise.

On to the show! Sadly, I missed Eternal Judgement, and would like to take this opportunity to thank the TTC for daily making me want to shove an icepick up my nose. I arrived just in time to catch . This show represented the first performance of their tour of Eastern . I’ve seen them perform before, and trust them to fill an opening spot with pluck, charm and aggression. However, at this show the band was in full-on kill more. They’ve been rehearsing incredibly hard leading up to their tour, and it shows. They were musically tight, fierce and hungry on stage, and while their manner was still still jovial and cheery, their performance took on a bloodier quality that I have not seen them exhibit before.  care about what they do, and have clearly poured their energy into preparing for this tour. I know they’re going to tear it up.

surprised me. I’ve heard their recorded work, Unrequited and Unscathed, which immediately struck me with its complexity. Live, however, the intricacy of their highly technical progressive death metal sound was overshadowed by their aggression. They certainly don’t waver or compromise in terms of their musicianship, but it’s the brutal intensity of the music that really grabbed me when they were on stage. I’d happily see these London, Ontario-based shredders again.

I’d been actively looking forward to ‘s performance. They knocked my socks off the last time I saw them at The Blue Moon, and I can happily say that this show was also a hell of a lot of fun. Spencer Le Von is an excellent front man, perfectly suited to ’s aesthetic. He’s smirky and crass, more interested in playing shit-disturber that crowd-manager, with a great deal of raw charm. He dedicated the set to everyone who worked a shitty job that they hated, and lived for those few hours when they could go out and listen to metal. He admitted he feels like a god on stage, for the hour that he plays, and I believe it. Few bands have as much fun as  do when they perform, and it’s a killer thing to be a part of as an audience member. It’s important not to underestimate  musically either. Their tunes are catchy as hell, with great hooks and melodies that compel drunken sing-a-longs. And they’re all about audience participation, whether that means doing a beer bongs on stage, or inciting everyone to sing along to “Trash/Fuck/Eat/Sleep” at the top of their lungs. I will make every effort to see their ridiculously entertaining HoserThrash (as they’ve been dubbed by fellow Hellbounder Rob Hughues) whenever I possibly can.

I had to leave before Heaven Ablaze performed, as I hadto be on a train at 7am to attend a wedding out of town and was already distinctly not sober (thanks for the everlasting hangover,  ). I walked out of El Mocambo to the sound of a party still raging behind me; I’ve no doubt that the rest of the night was just as much loud, messy fun as everything I had the chance to hear.

Cynic/ Intronaut/ Dysrhythmia @ The Opera House, August 2 2010

Posted in Concert Reviews with tags , on September 17, 2010 by Natalie Zed

Here is my review of the Cynic/ Intronaut/ Dysrhythmia show (originally for Hellbound.ca) that took place at The Opera House on August 2, 2010. You can read the original here, and check out some killer photos by Adam Wills.

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Metal cannot often be defined as subtle. Every now and again, however, these is a show that serves as a sort of palate-cleanser, offering metalheads an opportunity to indulge in some of the more delicate flavours that this broad, strange genre of music has to offer. Cynic,  and  performed just such a show, giving the audience at the Opera House an aural meal to be sipped and sampled as well as devoured.

First and foremost, I must note that this show was exceptionally well curated. The lineup was composed not only of excellent musicians and interesting bands I was eager to see, but of three bands that fit together on stage. They each complimented each other’s work beautifully, and the presence of each enhanced and uplifted the performances of the others. I was also struck by the sense of reverence and respect for each other’s work the bands demonstrated. After performing, I spotted the striking Colin Marston (who is also a member of Gorguts and Krallice) in the audience as he watched and visibly enjoyed the rest of the show, not just passively sitting back, but listening carefully. This created an atmosphere in which the audience was encouraged to regard the show not just as a series of discrete sets, but to see the entire structure of the evening as a deliberate composition.

I arrived about a third of the way through ‘s set. The audience was attentive, though initially the tiniest bit standoffish, as though they not quite sure how to respond to their work and stage presence. I can understand this;  have a shirt that says “no vocals, no breakdowns, no dancing, no fun.” This can, initially, seem alienating. I beg to differ only on the last point, however. While they aren’t fun in a dance-party folk-metal drunk-fest way, they’re certainly an extremely pleasurable band to see live. The source of this pleasure is hinted at by their name. ‘’ comes in two varieties: circadian (jet lag) and cardiac (irregular heartbeat). The name of the band is incredibly apt. Their sound discombobulates like sleep deprivation does, throws the listener’s intellectual balance off. It is disarming. The sound also throbs, a heartbeat gone wrong, as hypnotic as it is unsettling. While I can see that this particular brand of strangeness may not be for everyone, I found their oddness extremely attractive.

filled the middle slot, and filled it extremely well. They were refreshing after the initial weirdness of, and set the tone for Cynic wonderfully with their jazz- and sludge-influenced sound. They’re sharper as well; if Dysthrythmia inflict blunt force trauma (gently if relentlessly),  scratches and gnaws. They also have a lightness, a sense of playfulness to them. They bantered with the audience, were cordial and gracious, and genuinely seemed to enjoy being onstage. They’re complex without being dour, and I appreciate that. They’ll gleefully scramble your brain, but at least both they and the audience will enjoy the experience.

There was a tension as palpable as an ache in a muscle that preceded Cynic‘s entrance on to the stage, and a release of supreme satisfaction when they began to play. I don’t headbang to Cynic; I sway. They’re one of the bands that arouse my seldom-indulged tender side. I don’t feel confrontational while listening to their music. It is not about catharsis, but a very different kind of release. All around me, I noticed other members of the audience, whether standing at the front or leaning against a wall in the back, settling in to watch the show.Paul Masvidal is deeply interested in meditation and breathing practice, and this comes across in every aspect of his sound. Rather than throwing punches, Cynic, stretches, extends, folds and enfolds. There are two ways to remove tension from a muscle: a beating or a massage. Cynic opts for the latter rather than the former, and their tenderness defines them.

Slayer/ Megadeth/ Testament @ The Molson Amphitheatre, July 29th 2010

Posted in Concert Reviews with tags , on September 17, 2010 by Natalie Zed

Here is my review of the Slayer/Megadeth/Testament (originally for Hellbound.ca) show that took place at the Molson Amphitheater on July 29, 2010. You can read the original here, and check out some pictures by Albert Mansour.

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This is not going to be a straightforward review. I could easily write that piece. I could relate each band’s setlist, describe the quality of the lighting. I could talk at length about ’s sound issues (all drums and vox, swallowed guitars), Dave Mustaine’s hair, Tom Araya looking great on stage after surgery. Lots of other people are going to write about these things. I will let them. I want to write about something else that happened during this show. While listening to the opening chords of “World Painted Blood,” a series of loose images finally clicked together in my head to form a complete idea.

We arrived just as  began to play. Even in the full sunlight of the early evening, every tattered edge of their set exposed to unforgiving daylight, I was struck by the heaviness of both their sound and their overall aesthetic. I’ve certainly experienced music I could describe as heavy, or crushing, before, but this was something more forthright in it’s intention and execution. There’s a controlled savagery in their sound, as though every riff were another brick stacked on the audience’s chest. And we, like a defiant victim of the Inquisition, howled “More weight!” Viscerally and conceptually, their performance clarified my perception of heaviness.

were less of a revelatory experience, but still significant. What struck me most while watching them on stage was a sense of earnestness, an almost wholesome quality to their manner on stage and their approach to the material that they played. Dave Mustaine is now not only sober, but a Christian. The changes he has made in his life have altered ’s aesthetic. Their current incarnation reveals a sense of discomfort with their former identity and with the current identities of their stage-mates. In trying to obscure the inherent darkness and ugliness in their music with bright stage lights reflecting off pristine white guitars, they only further expose what they once were. They’ve taken what was violent and grotesque about their music and attempted to show it to be tameable. A lion is still a lion though, no matter how threadbare its fur, how dulled its claws and fangs.

Then  took the stage, and everything changed. The crowd had been almost thin when played; now, the Amphitheater suddenly swarmed to life, an ant’s nest that had been doused in boiling water. I’m usually a front-row, en garde kind of concert goer; I often determine how successful a show was by the number and severity of the bruises I come out with. However, for the majority of this show, I was still (barring headbanging). This was not just because I was in the nosebleeds either—more than one friendly two-man-mosh broke out in the aisles around me. I spent ’s set having a serious metal think; figuring some things out.

About a third of the way through ’s set, I looked over at Lily the Pirate. She was frowning slightly, her brows furrowed and eyes very serious. A moment later my phone buzzed. She’s texted me the phrase “this is very important.” Our eyes met and we nodded to each other.

and  have both been around as long as I have been alive;  is two years older than I am. These bands have been around for a very long time and have gotten exceptionally good at what they do. More that that, they have defined their genre. Watching  perform, it suddenly hit me: this is what everyone else is going for. This is the aesthetic so many other bands attempt to emulate. Not just the sound, either, but the presence, the charisma of the band members. Their personal and collective aesthetics have served as an inspiration for countless  bands over the decades. Watching them perform live, I suddenly understood what so many other bands were going for, what they had been building on. Being able to see and appreciate  as the starting point, I was suddenly able to appreciate (and judge) so many other bands I’ve seen perform live with a new ear and eye.

is not the progenitor of all metal. Many genres and sub-genres within metal owe their allegiances to other musical deities. But there is a specific kingdom over which  rules undisputed. When they do ultimately retire (as Araya has hinted may be sooner rather than later), there had better be an heir apparent. Hear that, thrash bands of this generation? Do better. Get better. One day there’s going to be a crown to claim.

Fear Factory/ 36 Crazyfists/ After The Burial @ The Opera House, July 23 2010

Posted in Concert Reviews with tags , on September 17, 2010 by Natalie Zed

Here is my live review (originally for Metallus Maximus) of the Fear Factory/ 36 Crazyfists/ After The Burial show that tok place at The Opera House on July 23, 2010. You can read the original here, and take a look at some of my crap-tacular iphone photos.

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We’re living in the future now. My phone may as well be a tricorder. I feel like I’m missing an important sensory organ when I don’t have access to an internet connection. Every day we become a little more dependant on an advanced by our machinery; every day the line between flesh and technology gets a little more blurred. This evening, at the Opera House, this moment of increasing transparency between body and device was provided with a soundtrack.

I arrived late due to some malfunctioning machinery (curse you TTC), and missed Baptized in Blood and Divine Heresy entirely. I was particularly disappointed to have missed Dino Cazares‘ project. The audience was definitely appreciative, and the the room was still humming with energy when I walked in seconds after Divine Heresy stopped playing. Whenever I mentioned to anyone I’d missed them, I’d get a grimace and a “dude, that sucks.”

The crowd in the Opera House had a slightly unusual composition: lots of shaved heads and early shirtlessness, dudes throwing their shoulders back and flexing. The pit felt a bit more like a rutting ground that usual. I kept expecting someone to lower his antlers and charge. (Oh, wait. That did kind of happen). This infusion of a hardcore presence in the room did not in any way detract from a positive, friendly atmosphere, and for that I was pleased.

After a trip by the merch table and discovering once again that not a single shirt would even remotely fit me, I settled in to watch After the Burial‘s set. The metal that they make is not exactly my brand of choice; deathcore is not something I would toss on my stereo at home. Personal preferences aside, their set was solid. I was really impressed with the sound during their performance. In particular, the drums sounded great, crisp and clean, and intense enough that I felt my sternum resonate inside my chest. After the Burial were also lovely to the audience, thanking everyone for their support and energy. They seemed utterly thrilled about opening for Fear Factory, as well. Overall, their set was upbeat and well-executed, and certainly inspired my affection if not a new appreciation for their aesthetic.

36 Crazyfists continued the barrage of hardcore. I watched their set from the balcony, to give myself a slightly difference perspective, as I was as interested in the crowd as I was the band on stage. 36 Crazyfists were quite bossy and brash in the way they managed the crowd, dictating when they wanted a circle pit, ordering the crowd to jump – and jump they did. This band certainly has an obedient and enthusiastic audience. The crowd seethed in front of the stage like a living thing, responding to all of Brock Lindow‘s commands. The band’s set, likeAfter the Burial‘s, was on the short side, barely more than a handful of songs. This was very much Fear Factory‘s show, and as positive as the response was to all of the opening bands, there was no doubt in anyone’s mind who was in the headlining position.

The smoker’s section had been unbearably packed with people all night. Then, just before Fear Factory‘s set began, it was deserted as everyone’s metal spidey-sense went off in unison. No one wanted to miss a moment of what was about to happen. It was unusually quiet in The Opera House just before they began to play, which only emphasized the physical impact of the opening chords, which I not only heard but felt in my feet. Fear Factory put on a hell of a live show. They played a lot of material from their new album, Mechanize, including “Fear Campaign” “Powershifter” and “Final Exit.” There is something about their industrial aesthetic that makes me aware of my body as a mechanical contrivance. The visceral quality of the sound in a live venue in extremely invasive, penetrative. Listening, I felt as though my vertebrae were hunks of metal alloy, my joints lubed with engine oil. The sound was excellent again during their set, which I was especially pleased about because it made Gene Hoglan‘s drumming sound even more immense. The Opera House thundered with metal on metal, hammer on anvil, as relentless as any industrial machine. It was heavy and dark, gritty and full of sparks, the sort of sound that can make you forget your bones aren’t made of steel.

Thantifaxath/ Vilipend/ Sylvus/ Eyeswithoutaface @ The Hard Luck Bar, July 22 2010

Posted in Concert Reviews with tags , , on September 17, 2010 by Natalie Zed

This review is so strange to me now. It’s one of those pieces of writing that seems to have been done by another person, as an awful lot has happened and things have become much more wonderfully complicated since I attended this show and wrote this piece. Though I had no way of knowing it at the time, it was at this show that I met my mate.

After Sylvus’ set,  I’d finished congratulating my friends on a fine show with the newest band line-up, when a young man walked up to me. I didn’t immediately notice how tall he was, because he was nervous and slouching a little, or how intense his blue eyes were behind his glasses. I did, however, notice his brightly coloured full-sleeve tattoos peeking out from under his t-shirt, and his incredible mane of curly blond hair. He hovered next to my right shoulder pointedly until I turned.

“Were you at Ossington station at 11am yesterday?”

“Uh…yes?”

“I thought I saw you.”

“Well, I was meeting a friend for a coffee there yesterday morning, so you very well may have.”

“I was on my way to work.”

“Okay. I’m, uh, Natalie?”

“I’m The Gramlich.”

“I…see.”

“…I just made this awkward. That’s okay, the metal will start soon.”

Then he proceeded to climb directly onto the stage and deliver a blistering set. Afterwards, he was forced to lay down on the stage, eyes closed for a few minutes, energy completely spent. I was suddenly the nervous one, unsure how to approach someone after they’d nearly screamed and spit and hurt themselves unconscious for an audience.

I figured out how to talk to him, though, first electronically, and then over drinks, and then in his arms. There have been ridiculous action movies and MMA fights, exploding burritos and vegan dinners, dogs in the park and cats on the bed. It’s a very strange thing to think of my life without this now. It is even stranger to read something I wrote about that night, about a very significant meeting, and marvel at my own obliviousness. Something incredible had happened and in this review, I don’t know yet. It’s quite lovely.

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Here is my review of the Thantifaxath/ Vilipend/ Sylvus/ Eyeswithoutaface show (originally for Hellbound.ca) that took place at The Hard Luck Bar on July 22, 2010. You can read the original here, along with photos by the lovely and talented Phil Miller.

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Most of my social interaction these days can be summed up with the phrase “watching lovely people do very strange things.” It’s one of the things I love most about Toronto: on any given night, I can attend a strip spelling bee or a pillow fight, or go to a metal show and see some absolutely killer local bands bring on the weird.

The Hard Luck Bar has undergone a small but significant renovation since I was there last. A plywood wall has been constructed just inside the main door, ostensibly in an attempt to contain some of the noise being generated on the stage. While it does help to keep the sound under control, it also keeps all of the heat in. The Hard Luck Bar is now a warmer venue that it has even been before. The fans positioned around the stage helped a little, but just about everyone who performed at this event were clearly suffering under the lights.

The first band to brave the heat was Eyeswithoutaface, whom I’d had no exposure to prior to this show. When I asked about them, a fellow audience member described them as industrial- and sludge-influenced. Having no expectations, I was very pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed the set. Their sound was emotive and evocative, with lots of drone but nonetheless quite precise. Their music was defined by a sense of urgency and forward movement that served them well.

Sylvus played next, performing their first show in nearly a year. Their lineup underwent significant changes (they no longer have a keyboardist and have replaced their bassist). In response, they made a bold move and decided to recast their identity, build something new with their current lineup rather than attempt to modify songs that no longer suited this incarnation of the band. As a result, their material is all quite new; when I asked, they referred to their songs by number rather than title (song 3, song 4). They also performed an excellent cover of Windir‘s “The Spiritlord.” Sylvus embodies a lot of what I love about local bands: they provide the audience with the unique opportunity to see a band not as a static thing, but as a shifting organism in a constant state of being rebuilt. There’s a kind of intimacy to this type of performance that is unique. Playing for the first time after a hiatus is an act of bravery, as is trying out new songs in front of a live audience. The band members are all gregarious, generous people, actively soliciting feedback. And I have to say that I dig their mew material. Darcy Ibson’s vocals are impressive; I was particularly glad that he performed “The Spiritlord” as it demonstrated his range. Every member of the band has a striking physical and performative presence on stage, and I eagerly look forward to seeing them again.

performed in the penultimate slot, and brought a completely different kind of energy into the room. This was my first experience with ; their is not music that is easy, or comfortable, or easy to sink into. It is downright confrontational and unapologetic in its violence. Their sound is also so strangely welcoming, in that it provides the audience with a potential for catharsis, an opportunity for release. The band members seem impervious to pain and injury, especially singer Christopher Gramlich, who heaves and howls and throws himself around mercilessly. I was nearly got whipped in the face with the mic cord more than once. Of course, I loved it. Of course, I would see them again.

The final band to perform were local barons of weirdness, Thantifaxath, whom I have seen twice before: once opening for Alcest (which I really enjoyed and still think of as their best performance) and again at Duffy’s tavern (where the space was small and the rest of the programming unsuited to their aesthetic). They have a solid conceptual framework, though they are clearly still fine-tuning the details. All three band members, all of whom are exceptionally talented musicians, play in full-length cloaks. Their music is tight and walks a fine line between the alienating and the intimate, and their visual aesthetic mirrors this. One of the band members, Luke Roberts, experimented with performing in bare feet, which I interpreted as an effort to determine how featureless vs. how vulnerable they want to be in their stage presence. Their development as a band is a fascinating process to watch. Thantifaxath certainly keeps me interested, and clearly value exploration over perfection. I admire them for that.

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