METAL | Miles Raymer
Bible of the Devil has been a Chicago institution for as long as I’ve lived here, with a seemingly nonstop show schedule and a devoted audience, drawn equally from metalheads and hard-rock fans, whose particular nostalgia is for the days when Iron Maiden was the biggest thing on earth. For most of the band’s career, says guitarist and front man Mark Hoffmann, “People didn’t really know if they should call us metal or rock ‘n’ roll.” He’s pretty sure their forthcoming sixth album, For the Love of Thugs & Fools (Cruz del Sur), will change that. “I definitely think this is a rock ‘n’ roll record.”
I agree. You can bang your head to a lot of the stuff on Fools—largely due to the rhythm section—but Hoffmann and guitarist Nate Perry indulge their love of tunefulness and dual guitar leads in a way that makes Bible of the Devil’s previous albums seem bashful. There’s a lot of Thin Lizzy in the hooks and even more in the dual leads, and on “Anytime” Hoffmann’s attempt to sound like Phil Lynott crosses an odd line so that he actually sounds like Craig Finn of the Hold Steady, a band that approaches the platonic ideal of rock qua rock.
Hoffmann credits the band’s newfound comfort with pop to the time they spent away from recording full-lengths—since the 2008 album Freedom Metal, they’ve released just three split singles. During those years they matured, and he thinks you can hear it. “It’s mainly in the hooks and the more melodic vocals. There’s less anger maybe.” Getting older has its perks, though. “We’re getting better at our instruments too.”
Bible of the Devil plays a record-release party Sat 4/28 at Ultra Lounge. Superchrist, one of several projects fronted by local underground metal hero Chris Black, share the bill—and they’re celebrating the release of Holy Shit (Hells Headbangers), an album similarly indebted to melodic, shred-friendly 80s metal.
NOISE | Leor Galil
Josh Piotrowski approaches his noise project, Gas Mask Horse, with a great sense of humor. For his first set, at the Whistler in November 2010, he took inspiration from a south-side haunted house he and some friends had been running for five years—he incorporated props from the house, including a homemade corpse with a skull carved from a Styrofoam wig head, which was wired with optical theremins and contact mikes. He even gave his music a ridiculous name—ghoulcore. “It seems like everybody’s making up genres,” he says. “I had to make up something.”
Piotrowski has since put out three cassettes as Gas Mask Horse. In January he posted the most recent, Full Moon Hysteria, for free download on Bandcamp, but he waited till this month—after he’d gotten the tape’s artwork from Spanyurd bassist Joe Conserti, aka Kelly Sylvester Robertson—to announce an official release. Piotrowski has assembled a doozy of a package: a handmade wooden box that contains not just the tape but also a coupon for a copy of his zine Start Your Own Haunted House, a logo pin and sticker, a poster, and a “satchel of famed dream inducer mugwort.”
The packaging and artwork for Full Moon Hysteria reflect the nightmarishness of Piotrowski’s music, which combines creepy distorted synths, pummeling punk drumming, curtains of noise and feedback, field recordings of someone walking through a forest, and readings from the Haunted House zine. (Loop pedals help him do everything at once.) Since 2002 Piotrowski has fronted hardcore band Disrobe, whose guitarist Rick Ponce died of colon cancer in 2010. His death is part of what drove Piotrowski to run with his haunted-house concepts. “Rick was just a total horror nut, and I wish he would just be around for this shit,” he says.
Piotrowski is selling the Full Moon Hysteria package only at shows (he’s got one at a DIY space on Wed 4/25—e-mail email@example.com for details). And any day now he plans to start offering another Gas Mask Horse product. He’s calling it “scaryaki,” and it’s a teriyaki sauce made with the fiendishly spicy bhut jolokia—better known as ghost peppers.
CLASSICAL | Peter Margasak
Roughly every five years since 1999, the Chinese Fine Arts Society has held an international music competition, and last month at the Art Institute it presented a concert featuring the four winners of the contest that closed in 2010. Each contest has addressed a different Chinese cultural theme, and the latest, called Migratory Journeys, asked young composers to create work “inspired by the wandering, resettling, and emigration of Chinese diaspora population through the world.” According to CFAS board president Julie Tiao Ma (whose mother, Barbara Tiao, founded the organization in 1984), “The competition was created to encourage composers worldwide to learn more about Chinese music, culture, and instruments with the goal of adding new Chinese-themed music to the canon and to promote cross-cultural exchange.”
On Sun 4/29 two winning pieces—Yearning by Chen Yao and Moon Lullaby by Tonia Ko—will be performed in a free 3 PM concert in the Chicago Cultural Center’s Preston Bradley Hall. This time they’ll be heard alongside music by some of the greatest living Chinese and Chinese-American composers: the concert also features works by progressive composers Tan Dun, Lei Liang, and Huang Ruo (cofounder of the International Contemporary Ensemble and a judge in the competition) as well the relatively traditional Bright Sheng. The 11-piece ensemble is drawn from the chamber group Civitas and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and includes violinist Yuan-Qing Yu, the CSO’s assistant concertmaster and curator of the program.