When Metal Isn't Metal

Given that the band came out of the Bay Area metal scene, it's not surprising Worm Ouroboros doesn't play metal. San Francisco metal bands tend to venture from common roots to disparate ends. In interviews, the members of Worm Ouroboros express their identification with metal on a national level, rather than a regional one. Jonathan Tuite, operator of local metal label Flenser Records, echoed the sentiment in an interview for this paper last year. Local metalheads, it seems, readily acknowledge the Internet's role in shaping genres and subcultures, but tend to downplay the importance of regional character. And since Bay Area metal bands share exploratory tendencies, the scene's principal traits defy generalization anyway.

For Worm Ouroboros, sparse drumming and sedated guitars contrast with plaintive and resonant singing; the band pulls maximum emotional impact out of sparse atmospherics. Occasional passages of clamor rattle these lengthy songs, but unlike the tension-awaiting-release of post-rock song structure convention, Worm Ouroboros' broad musical arcs feel narcotic and ominous throughout. It's a quiet storm, interior and contemplative, that insidiously coaxes listeners' attention, rather than reaching out to steal it. Worm Ouroboros' first local show in over a year will take place at the S.F. Eagle on Thursday, April 17, with Predatory Light and Lycus.

Canadian punk act Proxy nods heavily to Oi! bombast, with walloping, mid-tempo backbeats that propel anthemic guitar leads and gruff vocals through lengthy and uproarious songs. Laden with the imagery of combat and civil strife, Proxy's lyrics evoke the Arab Spring and America's self-righteous foreign policy amid dour and plodding rock songs. The band's name itself perhaps alludes to that classic imperialist ploy of waging proxy wars. And since Proxy plays protest music, clichés like “land of god… land of guns” are acceptable to listeners who nod along, brows furled in agreement, collectively indignant about colonialism abroad and inequality at home. From many turrets of outrage, Proxy fires volleys of invective at its enemies, who almost certainly don't notice. But this exercise, of course, isn't about destroying targets. It's about comforting comrades with theatrical battle cries and symbolically fighting against oppression around the world — and Proxy does it fantastically well. The band headlines the Knockout on Wednesday, April 23, with Crimson Scarlet, Ruleta Rusa, Apriori, and Fatigue.

Gun Outfit's third album from last year, Hard Coming Down, saw the Olympia, Wash., band shedding the 1980s college rock garb and exposing the bare essentials of its songwriting. Alternating between two singers, the vocals are refreshingly unadorned and high in the mix, as if to say, “Hear me clearly, I'm human.” Lately, that feels revolutionary. The unfettered tones and instrumental separation illuminate the band's careful phrasing and nuance. It's breezy and mostly pleasant upon a cursory listen, but determined and confident nonetheless. When a vocal note falters, the members of Gun Outfit seem to draw strength from the accidental affirmation of humanity. Since Hard Coming Down sounds like a band playing live in a room, you might as well actually go see Gun Outfit perform at the Rickshaw Stop with the Men and CCR Headcleaner on Monday, April 21.

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