Two psychedelic rock bands wallow in exquisite misery at the Madrid Theatre
Several hundred fans of psychedelic rock intentionally took a bad trip at the Madrid Theatre on Tuesday. The menacingly swirling music of the Black Angels and A Place to Bury Strangers transported fans to a realm of unrelenting gloom.
The bands are elite purveyors of morbid rock that appeals primarily to people allergic to sunshine who harbor a penchant for sinister sounds.
A Place to Bury Strangers, a New York trio that’s been issuing challenging, deliberately pain-inducing music for a decade, opened the show with 40 minutes of harsh dissonance enhanced by disorienting strobe lights.
Occasionally forgoing a guitar strap, Oliver Ackermann wielded his guitar like a weapon. He induced bruising sounds from the instrument as he bounced it off the floor and swung it like a club. The most cohesive of the visceral selections evoked the feedback-laced songs of the 1980s sonic innovators the Jesus and Mary Chain.
The Black Angels don’t hide their influences either. The Velvet Underground’s foreboding “The Black Angel’s Death Song,” the piece that inspired the name of the Austin-based band, provided the quintet’s entrance music. The Black Angels are touring in support of “Death Song,” its fifth studio album.
Aside from the animated singing of Alex Maas, a man with an eerily high voice, the musicians remained stationary during their 90-minute performance. An amazing light show compensated for the absence of theatrics.
Some of the astonishing images that flashed across the screen at the back of the stage originated from old-fashioned film projectors located at the sound board.
The analog videos were supplemented by acid-drenched designs that included kaleidoscopic patterns and infinite mirror effects. “Comanche Moon” was accentuated by ripples of Pop Art in the style of Peter Max. “Black Grease,” a song in which Maas cries “kill kill kill,” juxtaposed shots of the Alamo with footage of prisons.
The Black Angels’ surprisingly conservative approach belied its expansive sound. Even though the malevolent cadence of songs like the perfectly titled “Bad Vibrations” invited extended instrumental explorations, the band remained faithful to the studio renditions of its compositions.
The unvarying attack became slightly wearisome. Outliers like “Life Song,” a comparatively gentle selection that evokes early Pink Floyd, sounded particularly refreshing amid the sonic uniformity. By the time the show ended with a merciless reading of “Young Men Dead,” even die-hard psychedelic rock aficionados were ready for the long, strange trip to be over.