FEED THE ANGER: Withered Squashed Any Hope I Had of Hearing Properly in My Left Ear (And Other Metal Musings)

Words and Photo by Aaron Richter

I get bored easily. (You can probably relate.) Infatuations are fleeting. Fixations unglue. And obsessions come and go. I blame the Internet. Mostly. Or Twitter. As with so many interests throughout my life (pogs, drumming for Weezer, troll dolls), my new-found love for metal was in danger of wilting before it had truly blossomed. (Or should that be “blossomed before it truly wilted”?) It’s possible that I’ve simply been happier lately, more content. But watching the anger wash away, starved and defeated, was troublesome in a weird, masochistic-mindfuck sort of way that only heavy doses of Kylesa and a little Recession-derived anxiety could bring about. Which is also what brought me to Withered’s performance at Union Pool this past Thursday and the search for what I’ve taken to calling “metal phase, round two.”

I first heard Withered at Atlanta’s Scion Rock Fest. While I wandered through the dilapidated floors of The Masquerade, the hometown band’s mighty volume caught my ear, urging me to creep closer. Unfamiliar but curious, I watched as Withered’s singer/guitarist Mike Thompson fumed like a fire-beast, breaking between songs to pound gulps of beer near my perch beside the stage, and bassist Mike Longoria whipped his hair with a frightening fury that threatened to slap out audience eyeballs. I remember thinking to myself that the combination of sustained weight and demonic brutality was astonishing and that Withered was way more metal than the extreme music I’d been listening to.

Jump two months to this past week at Brooklyn’s Union Pool, and the band left half my head stung. An ear full of car-siren cloudiness, I rode the train home after the show, my legs weak, my joints and muscles still trembling to recover. I’d felt the surging jolt of adrenaline, the rush that first attracted me to metal not too many months ago. For the next day, I wore my demolished ear–also a reminder never to forget my earplugs ever again–as a badge of rekindled love, turning toward friends with a proud “you’ll have to speak into my good ear” beam. But the aftermath of the show also marked what I’ve felt to be a threshold breakthrough to phase-two metal. I’m through listening for crossover appeal and searching for bands with hipster cred. Gimme the dirtiest, grimiest, darkest, blackest, most horrific, doom-laden and dangerous metal you got. No fear from this point forth. Your suggestions are welcome. I’m all ears.