SPOILER ALERT: Hammered is the name of the band, not my state of consciousness.The Monkey Bar : not somewhere I would recommend taking your girlfriend, unless there’s a good band playing in the back room. I felt like I’d been transported to Janesville, where the goal is twofold: getting hammered and getting laid, and getting in a fight would be the inadvertent bonus point. This is one of those places that doesn’t have beer on tap, because draft beer just can’t be served quickly enough for the needs of these patrons. The most enticing choice in bottles was Smithwick’s, which I discovered I do not like out of a bottle. Breathe easy: PBR tall boys.
Just past the electronic punching bag machismometer was a separate room, where Dark Grave was playing when we arrived. I’d read that showtime was 11; pretty stupid of me to have believed that. So, we missed the first two bands. Dark Grave was kind of refreshing; these guys aren’t slaves to strict death metal or any specific offshoot, incorporating elements of black metal and hardcore and pulling it off well. Vocalist/guitarist S.M. Warstarter keeps up a ferocious tone whether he’s singing, growling or just bantering between songs, and bassist David (that’s all I’ve got) brings an unprocessed clarity with his bass guitar. By far the most brutal set of the three I saw, and expertly played.
Next up: Burning Sons, playing a dark brand of hardcore not unlike drummer Dan DuChaine’s more famous band, Milwaukee legends Speedfreaks. Guitarist Carl (I do have last names for the headliners) plays punk rhythm with the flair of a lead guitarist, as evidenced further on a couple of blistering solos. His tone is a hair more metallic than old-school hardcore, as are the riffs--not necessarily innovative but definitely creative. Bassist Johnny plays the Sid Vicious role with aplomb, except he can actually play the instrument. “Middle-aged youth”, DuChaine quipped at the end of the set, possibly hinting at the band’s tenuous longevity, but the energy coming from the stage doesn’t apply to old people. The nascent group is already recording, hoping to have some material out this summer.
Hammered--maybe this venue is more appropriate than I realized. In the bar area I heard a techno remix of an old bluegrass tune; could anything be more opposite of metal? Studded leather jackets waded through the dance club crowd, no sense of hostility anywhere. This is Milwaukee after all, not Janesville.
The headliners essentially play as though the 90s heralded the end of metal. I’m starting to sense a palpable thrash revival going on. Its purveyors would surely argue that thrash never left, and Hammered suggests that the style is not a dead horse. Some expert twin leads by guitarists Mike Gamm and Rob Mussatti elevated this above a lot of tired traditionalists. Throw in a Testament cover for good measure, and you’ve got a ferociously good time. It’s impossible for me to put myself into the mid-80s mindset, where this was the heaviest, most extreme shit there was, but that doesn’t take anything away from having a blast at a “classic rock” show.