By Lisa Burke
April 12th 2017, The Viper Room, West Hollywood CA: With all the heavy metal and rock bands out there in 2017 readily available to those willing to seek them out, it is a wonder why most people despite their heavy absorption into the scene still fail to branch out of their comfort zone to discover like-minded bands that can and do match perfectly to their genre tastes. On Wednesday April 12th, 2017, I attended a very tasteful show at Viper Room in the stoner metal and psychedelic rock genre with a touch of blues mixed in for good measure. Headlining band on this occasion was Gozu, with support by Ape Machine and Oil Barons, among others.
Often times upon entry to the Viper Room, not only is the crowd diverse as well as constantly changing, but so is the atmosphere. They have recently improved on sound quality and lighting effects, changed the bathrooms to unisex, and have also set in place new rules such as no ins and outs through the front door unless you are a band member. All sides of the story considered, there is nothing really to complain about here once you get over the changes. As I arrived, Oil Barons were on the stage and their brand of modern rock seemed to attract a younger, hip crowd to the scene. This trio had good presence about them and carried the tunes through and through. There were moments of appeal to the Gozu crowd draw, but more so than not it was a touch too far out of the realm of the other bands, as the guitar was not nearly of the same caliber and there was nothing standout unique happening either. A decent band with perhaps the most supporters, but here lies the problem for the other bands on this bill because most people only stay for one band if they don’t know the others, and having outsiders on the latter of the bill that are not super well-known makes for a tough crowd. They did however pull a good turnout nonetheless, but I still wish it could have been even more.
As Portland’s own Ape Machine riled up the stage, the crowd diminished a bit, although there were a few new arrivals and a few of the diehard crowd remained in the front row only to discover that they couldn’t keep up with the exciting intense riffs and solos on their unworthy air guitars. Ape Machine is fast and fun rock n’ roll that nails some stoner riffs, and the drum quality and pace make the perfect compliment. With the clean and cool manly vocals happening to top it all off, there is no disappointment except for the part when the set ends all too soon. This quartet really brings the energy to the audience and there is no backing out of it until the bitter end. There are quite a few competitor bands of this genre out there who take that ’70s vibe and modernize it into their own unique brand, but Ape Machine with their raw power mixed with great technique stand their ground well. Interestingly, another Portland band Disenchanter of a similar style and genre was playing this same night elsewhere, and I for one would dig seeing the two bands together on the same bill.
Gozu finally hit the stage and were a great follow-up to the previous band, as they again play on the same kind of energy and vibe. The difference here besides the interesting footwear these guys rocked, with the guitarist in his colorful orange sneakers and army cargo shorts combo, was the vocal dynamics that took on another level with the unique high melodic range at times that meshed well with the groovy riffs woven inside the extremely hard-hit drum beats that highlighted the seriousness of it all, and I’m also a little surprised the drum kit survived the night in one piece. This Boston quartet is quickly gaining momentum in the scene these days and I am happy to see them headline a show. They have recently signed to a new branch off of Metal Blade Records called Blacklight Media, and after my first discovery encounter with them at Psycho Las Vegas last year, I must say the same momentum was carried out at this show with much fortitude that has the power to instantly draw new fans.
If you are a fan of rock n’ roll in any format old or new, you will get on board with Gozu and Ape Machine at least to some extent and it is probable that you’ll realize you can’t miss another live show of theirs and still live with yourself. At a prompt 00:20 ending, Gozu gave their curtain call, but not before they captured my night and reassured me the reason I chose their show over all others.
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Remaining Tour Dates:
04/18/2017 – Bend, OR @ Volcanic Theater
04/19/2017 – Eugene, OR @ Old Nicks
04/20/2017 – Portland, OR @ Kenton Club
04/21/2017 – Seattle, WA @ Funhouse
04/22/2017 – Bremerton, WA @ Manette Saloon