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Dispatch from the metal show, here! Last night I went to the Rex for the Gatecreeper, Inter Arma, and Pallbearer show through gritted teeth, missing the better part of game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final. But these are the things we’ve got to do to super-charge the Pittsburgh market and hopefully get more metal shows coming through the area, and I cheerily volunteer. Also, I’d basically bankroll studio time for Inter Arma at this point, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

Gatecreeper opened the show with thunderous Arizona death metal. I couldn’t tell you much more than that—I’m a Gatecreeper beginner and I was crowded around a tiny back-bar TV trying to watch the first-period barnburner with about two dozen other people. I certainly want to investigate them on Bandcamp—A few doomy booms had people turning their heads from the screen toward the hall. Sounded brutal in there, so today I wrote Gatecreeper on a Post-It note and stuck it on my desk.

The Pallbearer tour manager started some rumblings with a Facebook post earlier in the afternoon: “Does anyone in Pittsburgh have a Tascam or similar recorder they could bring to the show tonight to do a soundboard recording? We’re doing something a little different tonight, and want to document it, if possible.” A rumor buzzes through the crowd that Gatecreeper guitarist Nate Garrett would take over vocal duties for Pallbearer tonight. I take a baby sip of Iron City and wonder whether that would bother me.

But it is Richmond, VA’s (a heavy metal hotbed, for some reason?) Inter Arma that I’m here for. I kept hearing or reading some form of SEE THIS BAND RIGHT NOW, THIS IS THE BAND, and it absolutely tracks and I’m spreading the word now, too. Their album Paradise Gallows was in the top five best metal albums of 2016 (top spot overall in one of them) in a few of the bigger music blogs I follow. Like Gatecreeper, Inter Arma is a little bit doom, a little bit black metal… a little of everything—they sound like no one else, but also have a really familiar sense to them, a big unforgiving sound that is so ambitious but so enjoyable. Looming, desperate, lethal, urgent, hypnotic sludge metal. Vocalist Mike Paparo is the fucking commander—the sheer size of the sound coming out of him is astonishing and I think he has stone lungs. And T.J. Childers is one of the biggest drummer personalities in modern metal. He’s the shirtless caveman playing a punishing drum solo; one hand drumming, one hand chugging a beer; and brandishing a giant wooden staff at the end of the set.

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My key track “An Archer in the Emptiness” sounds like you’re scaling a treacherous mountain on foot with a knife between your teeth, tracking your mortal enemy; “The Paradise Gallows” sounds like you’ve realized, agonized, you’ll never find him. They played four songs, all off this tremendous new album. I would have stayed for 40 and damn near forgotten the hockey game. If you haven’t, please listen to this album and let your beautiful face melt off your head. Better still, see this band live! THIS IS THE BAND.

Remember that vocals rumor and Pallbearer? Confirmed around 10 p.m., when Nate Garrett took the mic with Pallbearer and a music stand full of lyrics and bulldozed through “Thorns.” Garrett’s nearly a dead-ringer for Brett Campbell if you close your eyes and open your ears, but when bassist Joe Rowland acknowledged what was going on after the first song—Campbell’s throat being too fucked up to sing, sorry—I expected some groans, exchanged glances, or some general pissiness to ripple through the room. Garrett himself kept his head down about it. But I think we all snapped to and realized how uniquely cool this is, and how brave, and we applauded and cheered. Show must go on.

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Even without Brett Campbell, Pallbearer had a hell of a gig, no surprise. Warm sound, introspective, withdrawn, melancholy, but just musically tight as a drum. And really awesome night for Garrett. Each of these three bands is fairly new (having only released albums within the 2010s, if I’m not mistaken), but Pallbearer plays like they are the old guard and they are here to mourn hard. The guys looked staid, stoic, and powerful.

My key track is “The Ghost I Used to Be,” a meandering, gloomy bomb of a song that I finally got to hear live and I’m pretty grateful about. Pretty sure this is a show I will remember in ten years and think I was wildly fortunate to have seen at that point in their careers. All this Pallbearer makes me pensive, but bottom line, this was a great show I wish you’d seen.