A small crew of fans came out last night to see Aereogramme at the Black Cat’s back stage. This is a neat little space that’s ideal for folk and acoustic jazz performances (Ken Vandermark played there a couple years ago with his Free Music Ensemble), but for heavily amplified rock, it’s definitely not the best spot. Sadly, Aereogramme’s overdriven guitars and pounding drums overwhelmed the sound system and made for a trying listening experience.
There were still some nice surprises, though. The story with these guys is that they started off as a curious cross between indie-pop and death metal, combining saccharine melodies with crushing riffs and screaming vocals. Their lead singer, Craig B, caught a nasty throat infection a couple years ago, and they went on an informal hiatus before releasing a new album this year, My Heart Had a Wish That You Would Not Go (an emo-sounding title if there ever was one, but it’s actually a quote from The Exorcist). With Craig B rendered unable to scream anymore after his ailment, this new album dumps almost all of the metal influences in favor of a borderline sappy alt-indie sound that’s like a more interesting and heavily orchestrated Coldplay.
Still, a recent collaboration with Isis (In the Fishtank 14) led me to believe that Aereogramme have not completely exorcised the heavy elements from their music, and this show proved that belief right. Their set spanned their entire career, including a couple favorites like “Indiscretion” and “Dreams and Bridges.” The band didn’t shy away from the metal, either, as Craig B’s plaintive vocal melodies often gave way to crunchy riffs and, yes, screamed vocals courtesy of another band member with a presumably more healthy throat. Satisfyingly powerful at times, at others they were hamstrung by the very muddy sound — the drums often overpowered everything, especially the vocals and orchestrations. Also, the densely layered orchestrations were completely sequenced, which was very disappointing; I was hoping for a live violinist or something, or at least for those lines to be played live on keyboards. Instead, they were played back pre-recorded from a laptop. Pretty lame.
Despite the crappy sound, overwhelming volume levels, and stripped-down orchestration, I still enjoyed myself, if only because I was pleasantly surprised that these guys still play their edgy older material in addition to the more heartstring-tugging new stuff.