August 27, 2016 | Los Angeles, CA | The Troubadour
Written & photographed by Ben Manzella
As the Summer ends and Autumn approaches, the last four months of the calendar year can be quite a busy time in music; many tours are typically announced and of course those tours are typically in order to promote an upcoming and/or current release. On the 27th of August, the Troubadour (a venue many consider legendary as it’s welcomed artists of all genres for either their first L.A. concert or secret shows that happen at last minute) welcomed a well-made and diverse lineup of artists, which included Sweden’s Tribulation, Los Angeles locals Youth Code, and Philadelphia’s Horrendous. In “heavy” music, diversity is said to be valued, but I feel like it’s almost become routine to end up attending shows where there is little differentiation in sound or content/subject matter with as many as 5 bands playing in one night.
Starting the night off was Horrendous, but believe me, their name is the complete antithesis when someone is referring to their music – I had a feeling of that in the best way possible, even as this was also their first full tour as a band. As I was waiting for the show to start, standing toward the left side of the stage, I witnessed the band collectively huddle near the drums right before launching into their first song; there was a “purity” of sorts in the excitement and awareness that this was the first of their inaugural 3-week tour. Horrendous already have 3 full-length albums to their credit in as many years, and this was monumental for them in that they’ve clearly invested time and effort into their work and knew that they were going to make the most of this great opportunity. Over the next 30 minutes, the band wasted no time in showcasing songs from their two highly acclaimed records, Anareta & Ecdysis. If the resurgence of 90s death metal’s influence has been just as exciting for you like it has for me, checking out Horrendous is high up there on the recommendation list.
Next up on the bill was Youth Code, the Los Angeles-based industrial duo of Sara Taylor and Ryan George. With multiple EPs and now two LPs, Youth Code have been paving their own path in the best way possible. They’ve already toured with a varying collection of artists including Skinny Puppy, Front Line Assembly, AFI, & Suicide Commando (just to name a few), as well as working with respected record labels such as Angry Love Productions (Psychic TV’s label) and Dais Records. The gripping intensity of their set is meant to be witnessed live, but already you can hear it on their recordings alone. I do not remember the exact track title, but towards the beginning of the song, the primary vocalist Sara hit her face multiple times in sequence with a snare sound rhythm from the electronics provided by Ryan; something I’ve always loved about industrial music specifically is the discomfort you can feel and I truly believe you begin to feed off that discomfort. Music is often a great way to confront aspects of life that leave you in disbelief, and I feel like Youth Code’s music can very much be an avenue of catharsis for many – both in its aggressive nature as well as the freedom found in it for the simple fact that amidst all the harsh noise lies very skillfully made dance beats as well.
If the crowd wasn’t already floored after Horrendous and Youth Code, Tribulation surely did the trick of commanding a captive audience and playing an exceptionally strong headlining set. As varying their sound has become in the last three albums they’ve released, Tribulation have managed to uphold this constant charge as a natural aspect of their music. While they are still supporting their 2015 release, Children of the Night, they have also recently re-released their first LP, The Horror. While both The Horror & 2013’s full-length, The Formulas of Death showcased a sound more rooted in death metal; on Children of the Night, Tribulation have not lost their heft per say, but have added some more traditional rock elements as well as, some dare I say, gothic influence which seems fairly natural due to the overall caliginous nature of their artwork and lyrical content. While fans have had a variety of reactions to the band’s “new” sound, it was actually the Children of the Night record that solidified my interest in Tribulation. I also do not mind at all while listening to The Horror that it both impresses and surprises me that this is even the same band. After completing their hour-long set, Tribulation closed out the night masterfully and showed that they have a definite future as a headlining act for even much larger venues. The guitar duo, Adam Zaars & Jonathan Hultén displayed both captivating and impressive showmanship; it was also later found out that Jonathan had broken a couple bones in his ribs possibly during their performance, but thankfully it didn’t affect his ability to tour and the band had continued across the US.
I walked away from the Troubadour knowing I had seen three groups that are uniquely part of the current “heavy” music scene and certainly shouldn’t be boxed in by any genre. Collectively and individually, all three acts are carving out their own paths and taking stages by storm; and in my opinion, we are all better for it.