KEN Mode, Inter Arma
Winnipeg's KEN Mode and Richmond's Inter Arma are responsible for two of the year's most electrifying and absorbing heavy records for very different reasons. The first word of KEN Mode's handle is an acronym borrowed from Henry Rollins, meaning "Kill Everyone Now." And indeed, their fortified mix of hardcore aggression, noise-rock relentlessness and death metal control takes no prisoners, skewering sociopolitical targets with a vengeful three-piece assault. This year's Entrench follows 2011's Juno-winning Venerable with increased muscularity and memorability; shout-along hooks burrow from beneath a battered shell of distorted bass and hangman guitar lines. Frontman Jesse Matthewson combines high-minded concerns with house-show immediacy, supplying not only the fight but also the philosophy behind it in songs that mete out complication and compulsion equally.
Inter Arma, meanwhile, functions as a sort of industrial-sized blender, constantly pushing unlikely ingredients together into strange and wonderful composites. Their second LP and debut for Relapse Records, Sky Burial, is not only one of this year's masterpieces but also a strong sign that modern metal is leaking into pop and rock audiences, and vice versa. Across its eight tracks, they traverse paths of wistful psychedelia and brutal black metal, body-quaking stoner stuff and filmic post-rock, ultimately arriving at a crossroads of pure musical experimentation and adventure.
Hog opens one of the year's best loud, local bills. Saturday, Aug. 3, at Local 506. $9–$11/9 p.m.
Zombie Jazz Apocalypse
Next April, The Art of Cool Project will host the first of what it hopes will become an annual festival of jazz, soul and more in Durham. (See this week's story.) In the interim, they've committed to recruiting, building and educating a fan base that hasn't always been surrounded by such sounds in the Triangle. This so-called Zombie Jazz Apocalypse, then, is intended not only as a thank-you gig for those who have pledged to their festival Kickstarter campaign but also as an eye opener for cross-genre collaboration. Local indie rock mainstays (including Joe Hall of Hammer No More the Fingers) will link with accomplished soloists and composers such as pianist Eric Hirsh and trumpeter Al Strong, twisting through and away from charts in a dark, stormy recruitment session. Thursday, Aug. 1, at Motorco. Minimum $5 Kickstarter contribution/9 p.m.
This is the 30th anniversary tour of the Melvins, the weirdo, quasi-playful doom lords who've built their own enormous franchise of influence and cult status during the last three decades. But don't tell them that: With multiple lineup shifts, innumerable collaborations and the prevailing sense that they've never explored anything quite enough, the Melvins remain one of the most restless hard rock outfits in America, unturning every rock only to break it apart. Jeff Pinkus of the Butthole Surfers fills in for Jared Warren on bass; his band, Honky, also opens. Sunday, Aug. 4, at Cat's Cradle. $16–$18/9 p.m.
Shakori Hills Benefit
The organizers of the Shakori Hills GrassRoots Festival are tantamount to urban homesteaders, stewards of the land they use who hope to one day buy their Chatham County parcel and develop it into a community center for education and entertainment. To that end, they continue an annual series of fundraising concerts separate from the biannual festival itself. Performances by the sweetly pleading The Morning Brigade and the hard-strumming Deep Chatham bookend a singer-songwriter circle featuring several of the area's best. From wizened R&B eccentric Ironing Board Sam to pop auteur Brett Harris, from former Earl Greyhound firebrand Kamara Thomas to stately bluesman Jon Shain, the variety of artistic vantages reflects the ecumenical outlook of Shakori Hills. If you want to stay the night, camping is free. Saturday, Aug. 3, at Shakori Hills. $10–$15/7 p.m.
Knave of the Heart is the eight-song debut of Raleigh songwriter Eston Dickinson. An unapologetic pop classicist, Dickinson bends toward instant hooks, which he delivers with instinctual ease in a mid-range voice that distills doo-wop and album rock into one cool croon. Recorded over the last two years with a cadre of area musicians who similarly pursue the glow of AM Gold, Knave of the Heart suggests a late-summer romance—wooing, loving and departing just before the chlorophyll starts to take its leave. Friday, Aug. 2, at The Cave. $5/10 p.m.
Estrangers, Onward, Soldiers, Museum Mouth
This strange troika of North Carolina bands pulls from both the east and west. Winston-Salem's Estrangers have worked hard to push their saturated pop beyond Love Language comparisons without forsaking the melodies at the songs' center; this year's Season of 1,000 Colors gets them closer to their own brand than ever before. Meanwhile, Wilmington's Onward, Soldiers expand outward from a bristly alt-country core, adding the grit of The Replacements and the stoner canter of Tom Petty in turn. Museum Mouth hails from the coastal Tar Heel town of Southport, but don't expect pleasant beach vibes here. Their three-piece punk is flustered and caustic even when it's catchy, like No Age pouting in the corner. Friday, Aug. 2, at The Pinhook. $6/9 p.m.
Like many of their young modern peers incorporating electronics into indie rock songs, Atlanta four-piece Wowser Bowser sometimes washes into the hyperkinetic slipstream of banshee shouts, kaleidoscopic noise and sudden eruptions epitomized by Animal Collective. But there's a healthy dose of subtle, guarded songcraft here, too, more suggestive of the refinement of Norway's Erlend ye and the lift of England's Hot Chip. That is, when they fire their digital fuselage into the speakers, there's a structure on which it—and you—can cling. Monday, Aug. 5, at Slim's. $5/9 p.m.
Heads on Sticks, Robes, Blursome
Heads on Sticks and Robes both make intricate beat-based pop; the former sometimes stretches into wonderful moments of oblong weirdness, while Robes keep it pleasant and propulsive. Blursome is a new electronic production project from area DJ Lara Wehbie. On her first handful of excellent tracks, the material gazes through the same cloud of grays as Burial, punctuating negative space with minimal beats and careful motion. Friday, Aug. 2, at Kings. $6/9:30 p.m.
Mugen Hoso, All Your Science
Japanese duo Mugen Hoso plays primitive rock 'n' roll, with simple drums splattering against basic guitar euphoria. Nimble and enthusiastic, frontman Hiro and drummer Taro make the elements feel dangerous and almost out of control, not unlike Jon Spencer Blues Explosion. Durham's All Your Science is a guitar-and-drums duo, too, but their pieces are more exploratory and pensive, moving between languid drifts and prickly bursts at will. Wednesday, Aug. 7, at Motorco. Free/8 p.m.
Pie Face Girls
The new Raleigh trio Pie Face Girls are pissed and playful, pogoing between hot punk messes and quixotic Violent Femmes curios. On "Easy," they wink and shout about the toil of excessive cunnilingus from a guy who seems to care about little else. They temper annoyance with a toe-tap irresistibility and galvanize their attitude with occasional hair-raising howls. With SS Boombox and The Estocada. Saturday, Aug. 3, at The Cave. $5/10 p.m.
Imagine DJ Shadow's Endtroducing... and Private Press stripped of their pervasive mystery and elegant timing, then updated to suit the all-payload-all-the-time EDM crowd of 2013: Now you've got Archnemesis. Sliding blues moans and hip-hop banter into a dubstep quagmire, the music of Archnemesis seems without a rudder or a vision, slipping into an endless gap between being subtle and simply pandering. With Special Blend and Aligning Minds. Thursday, Aug. 1, at Southland Ballroom. $8–$10/9 p.m.
The awfully named Enation is the band belonging to Jonathan Jackson, the soap opera star who now takes the role of songwriter Avery Barkley on Nashville. With his own group, Jackson whimpers effete emo lines, his pale voice cast politely against the faint glow of instrumentals light enough to make Coldplay sound tough. Jackson recalls Howie Day, the romantic solo wunderkind who got trapped by his ambition to start a rock band. Maybe you've got some old Nashville episodes to catch up on? With Jason Adamo Trio and Ethan Hanson. Saturday, Aug. 3, at Lincoln Theatre. $15–$40/8:30 p.m.