Think back: When you’d annoy your parents early Saturday mornings by playing pots-and-pans marching band, what was the expression on your face? Did you seek negative attention because your mother never hugged you tight enough, or were you just a troublemaking shit?
Instead of getting into a highly subjective subgenre debate (the only people who’d know what I was talking about would be the ones who knew well enough to point out all my mistakes), let’s just describe Under Nothing’s brand of metal like this: They grin at the noise they make.
That’s not to say their stuff lacks weight —
vocalist Kevin Daluz never sets his homicidal scream to stun and drummer J.R. Courchesne works the double bass like he wants to make his Stairmaster jealous — but it doesn’t come saddled with the anger most aggro-metal acts exude.
It’s not their catchiest song (more on that later), but “Die Alone” is maybe the best candidate for a prototypical Under Nothing song. Through headphones, Daluz’s titular howl is probably a real buzz-kill (death’s horrible inevitability and all that sort of business), but onstage he’s a showman whose oversexed class-clown act takes more from Bonn Scott and Rob Halford than anyone he actually sounds like. The Scout Bar crowd is respectable but not to capacity and practically nobody’s dressed for metal, but Daluz acts like he’s filled an arena, strutting and hopping across the stage in a peculiar mix of nervous enthusiasm and eye-rolling superiority.
Guitarists Ben McWilliams and Chris Godfrey are having too much fun switching off solo duty in an ongoing fastest-fingers competition to even pretend any of this is coming from a dark place. Years of guitar lessons and metal-riff-mastering instructional videos are a more likely source, and Courchesne’s complicated off-rhythm drum patterns must’ve been drawn up using second-year algebra. I’d talk about Steve Long’s bass work, but between the double bass and two-headed guitar attack, I couldn’t swear I heard a note of it — and that’s incredibly metal. The song’s lyrics promise that solitary death is unavoidable, but the band’s attitude onstage indicates that’s just all the more reason to pound another Jägerbomb.
A woman in Josh Groban’s demographic, dressed like a misplaced extra from Cougartown, stands at the foot of the stage, mixed drink in hand. “The lead singer is hot,” she says. “That’s why we’re here.” Daluz shirtless and nipple-ringed, does look less like a typical metal singer than a dude cast to play a metal singer on an episode of True Blood (screaming is apparently a superb ab workout). There’s more depth to the music than that sort of bullshit suggests, but the superficial incongruity of the logo on Under Nothing’s drumhead — a stylized skull that appears to’ve been lifted straight from an Ed Hardy T-shirt, is extremely fitting.
Would-be closer “Buckshot” becomes the set list’s most memorable and most brutal number by starting McWilliams and Godfrey out at maximum shred instead of building to an extended instrumental break a la nearly every metal song you’ve ever heard in your life — proving Daluz, MILF-appeal regardless, has the chops to shout down two technically proficient metalheads. By song’s end he has an entire table of preppies at the back of the room screaming the refrain — “Take another shot playing God with a shotgun!” — loud enough to wake up mom and dad. And hasn’t that always been the point?