[LIVE REVIEW] O’Brother at The Masquerade, 1/6/12

O'Brother

I’ve got to come clean here and admit that I slept on O’Brother for way too long. They just didn’t seem like something I would be interested in. I had them pegged as an Alternative Press kind of a band, if that makes any sense at all. The kind of outlets that were covering them and last year’s tour with Thrice and La Dispute reinforced that totally unfounded perception. I didn’t even get around to listening to Garden Window (their full length debut) until my AMR compatriots Moe and Christina sang its praises in the roundtable. They were right, Garden Window is an incredible album, and nothing like what I had unfairly assumed their sound to be like.

The chugging sludge of Isis is probably the most obvious touchstone here, but the band changes gears constantly.  They can move from moody instrumental passages to stretches of aggressive, melodic rock without ever sounding indulgent or pandering. Everything makes sense. The album shoots for epic and gets there, the band’s ambition matched by their good taste (they borrow from the best) and a finely honed sense of build-and-release dynamics.

Garden Window‘s running time is even epic at 64 minutes, so it’s impressive that the band decided to play the album in its entirety at Friday night’s show at the Masquerade, which was scheduled to celebrate the album’s physical release. They managed to maintain the record’s intensity, with the album’s pacing translating well enough to the stage. Their strength as both a live and studio band is their ability to build deliberately toward cathartic peaks, and that was in full effect on set highlights like “Poison!” and “Cleanse Me,” both of which deliver heavy, anthemic climaxes after minutes of patiently sculpted atmosphere. The nuance of the record exists on-stage.

O’Brother chose excellent support for their hometown release show, too. Athens’ Manray got things started at 8:00 with their breakneck math-rock moves, which sounded a little more Drive Like Jehu-ish than usual (always a good thing). I don’t think I could ever get sick of seeing these guys play. Big Jesus was next, with a Weezer cover, a couple of new songs, and most of their self-released EP. The non-EP cuts were a little rough, but the arena-sludge riffs on “Ribs” and “Hairteeth” are pretty undeniable live. Nigredo was the final opener of the night, and they honestly threatened to steal the show. Their heavy take on post-rock can leap instantly from pin drop silence to a full-on blast, the kind of thing that leaves an audience with its collective jaw on the floor. They could seriously blow up once they get a record out there.

The night belonged to O’Brother, though. I’m glad to be disabused of my perceptions and now consider myself a fan. I hope they can cross further into more metal and indie circles, because they can definitely find an audience there.

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