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Sorry, this is going to be a very genre-specific post, but if you’re not a metal fan you’re not interested in these bands anyway, so I’m not that sorry.

I went to a tech-metal show last night at DC9, and a doom metal show broke out instead.

At least, it did for about 20 minutes, which was the time allotted to openers Salome, a local group playing slow, sludgy stuff in the best tradition of Black Sabbath, Sleep and the like. Hailing from Annandale, Salome are a three-piece of drums, guitar and vocals, and as with all good bands of this sort, are skilled in the art of finding a nice heavy riff and riding it for all it’s worth. What made them interesting was their vocalist: “Kat,” a small-statured woman whose vocals went from doomy roar to death-metal growl to black-metal shriek, often all in the same song. Virginia’s own Angela Gossow?

There’s no shortage of female-fronted metal groups these days, but almost all of these frontwomen sing in pretty sopranos. Not so Kat, whose throaty howl made a fine complement to Salome’s huge guitar sound and slow, relentless drumming. I didn’t even mention these guys in my preview of the show because I had no idea who they were, but I do now and they have my attention.

Salome were a bit of an odd choice to open this show, as all the rest of the bands play a much more mile-a-minute, complexity-obsessed brand of metal. Very few bands are as complexity-obsessed as Behold… the Arctopus, whose show featured the musicians’ fingers flying around nearly as fast as their hair. (Warr guitarist Colin Marston was wearing a Darkthrone t-shirt, which was kind of funny in that the Norweigian black metal band probably played about as many notes in their entire career as Marston fires off in a single practice session.) “Better start practicing,” a fan said to me after their set, but let’s be real: with no amount of practice could 95% of the population possibly become as proficient at their instruments as these guys.

Musicianship aside, the music was great, and the band has come a long way in recent years to write interesting compositions to match their raw technical ability. Lots of twists and turns, starts and stops, themes that fragment and recur; this was pretty heady material all in all.

Intronaut, a band distinguished by the fact that they sometimes sound like they have Jaco Pastorius sitting in on bass, did not disappoint either. Unsurprisingly, the bassist was front and center both in the stage setup and in their sound, flying through melodic leads as often as he played chordal support. The group played several new songs from their upcoming album (slated for a September release), which showcased a very technical aspect of their compositions, in contrast to the somewhat more atmospheric material on their earlier releases. We’re talking off-kilter rhythms and time changes galore, something that very much appealed to my ears, which were raised on copious (unhealthy?) amounts of prog.

I did not stick around for Mouth of the Architect, for the very good reason that I was tired. It happens.

A bunch of photos, mostly in glorious black and white, at Flickr here.