Last Tuesday, a (nearly) all-girl metal band hailing from Portland, Oregon took the stage at Katacombes, an artistic cooperative and music venue on the corner of Ontario and St. Laurent. The band’s name is Murderess and they killed it.
Murderess was formed in the summer of 2008 by roommates who shared a passion for the metal genre, and while members have come and gone, the core of the band remains the same. Current members are: Rachel Nakanishi (guitar), Eben Travis (drums), Amanda Burghard (guitar), Casey Lynch (bass) and Jozy Kinnaman (vocals).
The metal genre is as broad as it is old – black, cello, Christian, death, doom, folk, gothic, experimental, glam… and the list goes on. Murderess does crust – a style that emerged in 1980s England and which happily resides somewhere between hardcore punk and extreme metal.
Murderess kept things kicking all night with a rich set dominated by aggressive anarcho-lyrics, d-beat drumming, harmonized guitars and screamed vocals. Playing new tracks and a few goodies from their 2010 album, The Last Thing You Will Ever See, the group’s explosive sound betrays a passion for their art.
I wish I could say as much for the audience. Despite a large crowd for a Tuesday, the audience was pretty wooden. But if one thing’s certain it’s that punk and metal fans are a fickle crowd. Show up to a punk show and you could find yourself wedged between two fist-fighting skinheads, a head banger and a flower girl. You might be the geek with a laptop bag and earplugs.
This particular show was fleshed out mostly by dudes dressed in black, phlegmatically nodding to the rhythm. But never mind the distinct lack of dance floor thrashing, Murderess dominated the stage with a wild exuberance most becoming of their music.
Despite the metal label Murderess has soul. They all work day jobs to support their music (one’s a vet tech, another’s a law student), they do their own artwork, are self-managed and even make their own t-shirts.
Perhaps it’s that bootstrapping attitude that made their set so infectious. As one of the members explained after the show, “we’re not doing it to appease anyone, to get signed or a label, we’re doing it for ourselves.”
That independent spirit has garnered them plenty of accolades in the punk-metal indie circuit and they are particularly celebrated for their strong lead vocals, which were on full display Tuesday night.
Katacombes recently enjoyed a renovation. It’s got a beautiful wooden terrace with flower boxes lining the exterior. On the outside it exudes a warm and welcoming vibe. On the inside it’s got pillars made of skulls. Perhaps it’s the venue’s split personality that explains the odd combination of balls-to-the-wall performers and impassive audience. Still, it was a great night. I just wish I saw someone get punched.