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Devil Children

Photo by Lisa Johnson

AVENGED SEVENFOLD, MY CHEMICAL ROMANCE
at the Henry Fonda Theater, March 6

If you’re of drinking age, you’ve probably never heard of Avenged Sevenfold, yet you’ve been hearing them for years. See, while A7X are an all-ages phenomenon — selling out the 1,600-capacity Fonda a month in advance — and borrow their look from AFI and the Misfits, their music owes oodles to the noodling, harmonized guitars and urgent rhythms of Iron Maiden. A7X (who’re barely in their 20s themselves) give ’80s Brit metal a gothic veneer and a shot of hardcore growling and, voilà, it’s fashionable again.

By the time the main support, My Chemical Romance, appear, the downstairs is already groaningly full. Their set is frenetic but unspectacular post-emo angst, with pitch-approximate vocals and genre-requisite guitar-flinging melodrama. MCR are well-received, provoking a near-pit with their final assault.

After a pompous intro tape, Avenged Sevenfold are greeted by hundreds of “devil horn” salutes. They enter with the amphetamine kick/snare and shameless six-string wanking of “Eternal Rest,” a punk-metal mongrel that Motorhead would covet. Their audience may be mullet-free, but these five Huntington Beachmen are benefiting from the sudden resurgence of trad metal. (See this summer’s Ozzfest lineup for details.) Eyeliner streaming, A7X never let the energy dip during their lengthy set of epic concoctions. Front man M. Shadows, imposing in a sleeveless T-shirt, recalls a Sopranos extra but is a commanding voice throughout, alternating between surprisingly succulent sustain and strangled-banshee retching. A7X’s meandering, multisection mini-operas invariably crescendo into the chanting, anthemic choruses of which KROQ is currently so fond.

The new single, “Unholy Confessions” (played twice for the benefit of a video shoot), is ludicrously Maidenish until the vocals enter amid a volley of Uzi beats. As well as choice cuts from the current Waking the Fallen, A7X revisit some seldom-played older tunes (“Darkness Surrounding,” “To End the Rapture”), leaving their dark teen legions thoroughly satiated.

BRITISH SEA POWER, KAITO
at the Echo, February 29

In a midsize club, KaitO seemed an entirely different kind of band depending on where you stood. Near front woman Niki Colk’s guitar amp, they were as boxed in and barre-chord-driven as, say, Elastica; on David Lake’s side, the frame shattered under sudden up-the-neck slides and atonal Moore-Ranaldo blasts. (Lake was also the real visual focus, a jittery piston who obviously enjoyed causing those noises.) A good band, but not a song band: Even after repeated exposure to their Band Red, I didn’t register particular numbers so much as a general air of chaotic crosstalk, as when Dee Quantrill’s no-fuss drumming supported wordless, overlapping chants from Colk, Lake and bassist Gemma Cullingford. This kind of sound-poetry-plus-backbeat may not be KaitO’s aim, but it’s their most distinctive achievement.

British Sea Power’s pretentiousness was far more calculated, but ultimately lighthearted: stuffed birds and shrubbery onstage, members clad in heavy woolen scarves and stockinged feet. The real problem was that their material is as uneven as it is ambitious. “Remember Me,” Bunnymen clone or not, is a stellar single, nailed down tonight by singer Yan’s dramatic delivery and guitarist Noble’s cleaner-than-the-album leads. (More pretense: no surnames.) But the set’s middle (including unidentified, perhaps unrecorded songs) dragged badly, more bloated than oceanic.

The energy level spiked sharply whenever WWI-helmeted fifth wheel Eamon rose from his barely audible keyboard. On “Apologies to Insect Life” he wandered through the crowd, mouth agape, beating a parade drum in time to Yan’s Black Francis yelps. “Blackout” began as an interminable drip of a closer, but gave way to 10 minutes of sheer anarchy: Eamon tackling Yan, bassist Hamilton usurping Wood’s drum kit, Hamilton using his head as the filling for a guitar sandwich. Their U.K. ponce-rock forerunners the Blue Aeroplanes combined this kind of showmanship with consistently interesting songwriting; if BSP ever do, watch out. (Franklin Bruno)

THE WRENS
at the Knitting Factory, February 25

The Wrens are a real band. Not the fashionable variety, manipulated by a mastermind singer-songwriter hiding behind a group moniker, but the kind where you can tell that the sum of the parts is really needed to create the whole.

This show proved the point in abundance. The songs the Wrens performed from the wonderful new The Meadlowlands, while ragged as a Replacements six-pack, showed just how integrated the chimey guitars, rich vocal harmonies and deceptively simple arrangements truly are. No amount of sloppy energy can distract from these incredible songs. While the Wrens’ early recordings wore their “Pixies eat the Beach Boys” songcraft on their sweat-drenched sleeves, the new tunes have taken on an incredibly delicate melodic assuredness. Still, singer-guitarist Charles Bissell’s Frank Black/Robert Quine slice-and-dice guitar attack will not be denied, so the performances build to an anthemic frenzy and sometimes just fall beautifully apart.

The Wrens have woven their “crazy derailed career” moments and “we’re all recording in our living room” vibe so successfully into their art that when the singer-bassist known as Sett sat way down on a tiny drum stool to play piano and sing, surrounded by the group’s beat-up equipment, you felt a little as if you’re just listening on the love seat in their shared suburban New Jersey hideout. (John Curry)


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