Dark days are upon us (and in more ways than one), and the most natural response to this darkness is Heaviness. Gravity, solemnity, quiet dignity & grace – however you care to describe the effect of the solstice, it’s there. The Heaviness.
But so are the sounds of fall. The sound of rattling wallet chains…the smell of old cigarettes and PBR…the warmth of a fresh busted eye in a mosh pit – that’s right: it’s metal season. With the onset of the Heaviness comes the roar of feedback, the thunder of floor toms, and the guttural/cerebral growls/shrieks of the gal/guy who writes the lyrics. And make no mistake, Minnesota is no slouch in shouldering the Heaviness…
While the Heaviness can (and often does) dig around in the dirt, there is nothing heavier than space. Just ask Hawkwind.
Or the Twin Cities’ own Thunderbolt Pagoda
. As the foremost purveyors of heavy space rock for almost fifteen years, Thunderbolt Pagoda are adept at rendering the Heaviness from the more ethereal and alchemic humours in space and time.
Drummer Matt Entsminger can coax waves of neon colors out of his cymbals and smash up whole asteroids with those beautiful toms of his in equal measure. Whether tracking Erik Wivinus’s sleek phaser guitar (sometimes augmented by an electric sitar) in Thunderbolt Pagoda or rocketing along with Jason Kesselring’s whirlwind sorcery in Comets ov Cupid
(Wivinus provides leaden fuzz bass), Entsminger is definitely the MVP in these musical equations. His sensibilities are versatile, and that equal measure I mentioned earlier comes off like science. The Heaviness, no surprise, lives in the pocket; and that’s where Matt Entsminger always finds himself.
Comets ov Cupid
Studio recordings like “The Tower Of Trennald, parts I-IV” can capture a Hubbell-esque glimpse, but seeing Thunderbolt Pagoda or Comets ov Cupid in a live setting is a more preferable (and potent) experience. If someone sees the Aurora Borealis and then later tries to explain it to you, they would sound like an asshole, right? Exactly. Which isn’t to say Thunderbolt Pagoda’ or Comets ov Cupid’s recordings aren’t worthwhile, because they totally are. But do you want to sit at home and listen to magic or do you want to be in the shit with the dancing brooms, tasting that sea salt and feeling the heat of those shooting stars? My guess is the latter (which may or may not involve drugs).
Ambition is a wonderful thing, and Thunderbolt Pagoda have it for days. They’ve tackled longform compositions before, but not quite to such a narrative or grandiose degree as their latest project, “The Cycle of the Dead King”. Rather than garble up someone else’s idea, I’ll let the band explain the concept in their own words:
Heavy prog/space rock outfit Thunderbolt Pagoda began in 2005 and have released several albums, but lately have been concentrating more on composition. For this show they will present “The Cycle Of The Dead King,” a roughly thirty minute suite in nine movements. This has been well over a year in the making and will see the band expanded to seven members to present it live, including vocalists Anthony Amelang (a fixture in the Twin Cities noise underbelly with many releases under his belt) and Arron McLean (a classically trained multi-instrumentalist and vocalist with roots in the epic metal underground). The piece will explore a wide dynamic range and high concept, while still maintaining the power and grandiosity to which the group aspires. Naturally there will also be plenty of Mellotron.
Oh shit, I forgot to mention the Mellotron. Ralph Karsten brings Holst-worthy grandiose and soul-splitting synthesizers to an already busy brew to act as the icing on the cake. If John Carpenter dreamt he was in Tangerine Dream, and in this dream Tangerine Dream were a new age Satanist cult, then their seances would sound like Ralph’s pallet.
String man Gérard-Jéan Boissy can be heard
dancing his salted digits around most of Thunderbolt’s recordings, but can nowadays he can be seen
tickling his homemade bouzouki/guitar hybrid in the Gothic folk trio the Quaking Bogge
. Wivinus and Entsminger provide guitar and percussion respectively, and will be open the evening with a Medieval meditation before the ethereal hayride.
Get your groove on and throw your thing down tomorrow at the Avalon Theatre, 1500 E Lake St (for those of you in the know, that’s where In the Heart of the Beast does their thing). This will be an all ages event, and the door is regulated at a $5 to $10 sliding scale, depending on space.
Adam Johnson lives in Minneapolis with his wife, cats, and guitars.