Prisms Review: Nails/Zao at Amityville Music Hall
While the biggest musical attraction in New England by far this weekend was the annual New England Metal & Hardcore Festival at The Palladium in Worcester, Massachusetts, the Amityville Music Hall in Long Island, New York was hosting a pair of back-to-back bruisers worth getting excited about on Friday night: powerviolence heroes Nails and metalcore veterans Zao. With support from NYC Headhunters, Barge, and Black Anvil, the Nails show easily constituted the heavier half of the night, but Zao, along with Jesus Piece and Old Wounds, put on a show every bit as entertaining that also doubled as a sneak-peek of Saturday’s NEMHF. All three acts were on the bill for Saturday.
Nails’s show was supposed to begin around 7:00 pm. We did everything we could to be there on time, but the three-hour drive and interstate traffic had us arriving at the venue almost an hour and a half later, by which time we’d missed...the very first opener, NYC Headhunters. I’m not sure what accounted for the delay, but we were pretty relieved to have missed so little. While Barge set up, we scoped out the music hall: a tiny, cozy venue split roughly down the middle between an open bar area and a stage/show floor. The merch tables were squashed way into the back of the bar area, across from the bathrooms, and the venue was packed almost to capacity.
Barge’s set was brief and heavy: primal grunts and shouts over churning beatdown riffs and simple drumming that got the floor moving. There was quite a bit of crowd participation, which was kind of surprising - the crowds tend to be lax in my area, but the reaction Barge elicited is the sort I usually associate with the last hour or so of a show. Partway through, they paused long enough for Barge’s vocalist to announce that they were “finally in Long Island, baby.” It seemed they’d been trying to play the area for some time and weren’t disappointed by the response.
Black Anvil were a bit of an anomaly on the setlist: more of a black metal band than their peers on either bill, they took the stage half an hour later in full corpse paint amid a surge of fog and blood-red lighting. They stuck to their instruments and engaged in very little between-song banter and spectacle, letting the music sell itself: exactly the sort of hypnotic, transportive black metal I enjoy most. There wasn’t much physical response from the crowd apart from some headbanging and horn-ups, but they were absolutely the center of attention while they played. I didn’t notice until close to the end of their set that they might have gone on a little longer than they were probably scheduled. Overall, I came away impressed.
Alex and I decided to step away from the floor after Black Anvil’s set out of a sense of self-preservation, which turned out to be a smart decision. A vast majority of the crowd had been biding its time to Nails, who are every bit as ferocious as they sound on record. They did all they could to stir up the floor, taunting the pit in appropriately incendiary fashion: “They tell me the east coast can’t slam-dance for shit!” before a Terrorizer cover was a particularly memorable line. A new song made it onto the setlist, too. If I’m not mistaken, it was the recently-released title track off of their upcoming full-length, You Will Never Be One of Us.
They ended their set on a very high note, and the crowd thinned afterwards, but not by as much as I expected. Most shifted over to the bar or stepped out for air while Jesus Piece prepared for their set, during which I wound up getting clocked in the eye. Although pretty different bands overall, what I said about Barge also applies to Jesus Piece: a simple, mosh-heavy opener that was able to reinvigorate the crowd for the rest of the show. It was approaching midnight by this time and they seemed to know it, because they got on and off without much fuss either way.
I wasn’t prepared for the verve and electricity Old Wounds brought despite having listened to them beforehand: they played as if they were headlining, taking command of the stage and even some of the pit. Their vocalist was on the floor as much as he was front and center, and he never quite seemed to stay in one place for long, feeding off of the crowd’s energy as he leapt and dove in and out of the stage lights. The highlight of their set was unquestionably “Rest In Piss,” which was prefaced with the most politically incorrect words of the night: “This next song is about a dream I had a few nights ago where I fucked Donald Trump in the ass in front of all his friends and family.” The closing breakdown raised absolute hell in the pit, and they left the stage hot for Zao.
And Zao delivered. Their discography-spanning set was the longest of the (long, long, long) night, packed with classics from every era as well as the pair of new tracks released a few months ago. Dan Weyandt’s vocals have always come across as almost too demonic for the band’s Christian bent, but I discovered firsthand how little the recordings actually capture of his tone and power. He didn’t let up for the hour or so they were on, and the rest of the band played with consummate professionalism: the same crushing, no-frills metalcore that has made them a respected and influential fixture in the subgenre’s ever-changing landscape, despite a revolving door of musicians and constant tweaks to their musical vision over the course of nearly twenty-three years in the business. Their closer, “A Last Time for Everything,” was particularly impressive since it ends with a steadily-decaying refrain of “The fear / the fear is what keeps us here / keeps us here,” giving the band plenty of space to ride the groove to its conclusion and Dan a final, protracted showcase for his industrial-strength pipes.
Although we missed out on NEHMF, I think it’s safe to say we got our money’s worth this year. The next time Nails or Zao tours near you, do whatever you have to do to attend - they don’t tour much, after all, but I can tell you now from experience that when they do, they make it worth the time and money.
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