NPR recently published a small piece that asked the question, “Where’s All the Good Halloween Music?” In it, someone sent in an email to the All Songs Considered offices and pondered why Christmas has so many (by which I mean far, far too many) songs associated whereas Halloween has, well, “Monster Mash.” The writer, Stephen Thompson, responded by listing a couple of “spooky” bands, like Timber Timbre and Dead Man’s Bones (yes, that Ryan Gosling band).
Regardless of how good these bands are, they are Halloween-scary in the same way that my mother’s choice in October lawn decorations are Halloween-scary. As I have been writing about this, NPR (god bless ’em) have posted another Halloween-centric music piece, this time a “Question of the Week” asking “What Are The Most Terrifying Songs Of All Time?” And the top result? Sufjan Stevens, with “John Wayne Gacy, Jr.” Okay, well there are a couple ways to define ‘terrifying,’ I suppose.
Big Toe Booking had something else in mind when they put together their Halloween show. They didn’t necessarily go for a “spooky” show in the way that skeleton gifs on tumblr are #spoopy; instead, they went for spooky in the way that finding a Satanic axe-murderer in your house at night is pretty goshdarn terrifying. Big Toe Booking has put together a Halloween concert, set for the night of October 30th, that showcases legitimately challenging and scary music; music that is harsh but rewarding.
To achieve this, they’ve enlisted The Body as their headlining act, with Beast and Hail on the bill as well. The Body is a noise/sludge metal duo that has been internationally recognized as one of the most intense and innovative bands of the past decade. Lee Buford supplies the thudding, booming drums, while Chip King operates electronics and a guitar. King also sings, but ‘sings’ is probably not the most descriptive way to put it. His high-pitched screams and yelps are some of the most depraved sounds on their records, sailing high above the dark and deep drones of the instruments. When I saw them perform at Laughing Horse (RIP) last spring, Chip performed without a microphone, and it is seriously messed up that he was still audible, considering the stacks of deafening amps behind them. 2013’s album “Christ, Redeemer” was critically praised as being not only one of the best metal albums of the year but one of the best albums of any genre, period. This year, The Body put out “I Shall Die Here,” a collaboration with the dark ambient artist The Haxan Cloak, and this album might even top their previous output. Needless to say, these guys are at the top of their game, and it is to Reed’s luck that they are Portland-based and ready to play a show on campus.
All three acts on the bill are Portland-based bands, some for longer than others. The Body are somewhat recent transplants from Rhode Island, but have become ingrained in the Portland metal scene while maintaining a global presence. Daniel Menche, the mastermind behind Beast, has been a member of the PDX scene for longer than many Reed students have been alive. He attests that the first time that he played in the Reed College Chapel was in 1994, making this show a twentieth anniversary. Speaking of that, one will take notice that the members of The Body, Beast, and Hail are distinctively more mature than the spry youngsters that make their way through Reed with their guitars and sing-song vocals and 4/4 time signatures. These dudes have been around for a while, and their awesomeness attests to the fact that one doesn’t have to be barely an adult to be hardcore.
So, if you want to spend the night before Halloween experiencing some of the most cutting-edge experimental noise music out of Portland, and are prepared to get legitimately spooked, come to the Chapel on October 30th, at 8 PM, for The Body, Beast, and Hail. The Chapel, with its acoustically-minded construction, will be a perfect place to see these bands. But don’t take it from me, take it from The New Yorker (because how many experimental noise metal bands get discussed in The New Yorker?), which writes that the Body is one “of the most remarkable acts bubbling up from the extreme-metal underground.” If The New Yorker can handle it, so can you.