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Taurus: the band, not the astrological sign

Stevie Floyd and Ashley Spungin. Photo by Mary Spiro

My astrological sign happens to be Taurus. It is also the astrological sign of the two members of the band Taurus: guitarist Stevie Floyd and drummer Ashley Spungin. Not that it means anything really, it just is what it is. I don’t really put much stock in astrology; it’s mostly a bunch of bull (pun intended) and should only be viewed as entertainment.

Sun signs aside, last Saturday, my husband (still getting used to saying that) and I made the annoyingly long trek to Empire (formerly Jaxx) in Springfield, Virginia to see Taurus. We were primarily there to see Agalloch, of course (more on that in another blog post), but I was curious about Taurus. I am always curious about two-piece bands. How do they make it sound like enough is going on for it to be anything?

Anyway, there are at least three bands out there called Taurus so it took a while to find the right one.  Taurus has only been together a few months, but you may know guitarist Stevie Floyd from her work in another two-piece outfit called Dark Castle. There are many elements of Dark Castle in Taurus, only now the components are shaken down, concentrated and stuffed into a smoking pipe.

Stevie Floyd of Taurus. Photo by Mary Spiro.

Prior to the show, I had a chance to chat with the Aesop Dekker the drummer for Agalloch. He remarked how much fun they’d been having touring with Taurus and that I should find their set “terrifying.” The use of the word terrifying was not far off.

I knew Taurus would be something that had to be experienced live. I had listened to their recording on Bandcamp and found it somewhat confusing. What was going on here?

Once the band took the stage, I knew that any recording of this group was going to be a weak facsimile of the living, breathing entity that is a live Taurus performance. From the moment they started, I pretty much could not take my eyes off of them, especially Stevie, whose vocals emanated from some place deep inside of her, like a restless spirit trying desperately to strip off the last bloodied membranes of its mortal coil.  Ashley’s relentless and unforgiving beats propelled the riffs unfurling from Stevie’s guitar into deadly streamers of doom that spiral down around you and encase you entirely. As they played, a strange film showing images of bleeding sliced pomegranates and exotic characters performing ritualistic actions flickered on the screen behind them.

Now all the music I had heard on the Bandcamp site made sense. The duo executed the recording note for note, beat for beat, including sampled sound clips between each passage. I made sure I picked up a copy of their hand-made EP before I left the club so that I would have something by which to refresh this sensation.

But I must emphasize: Taurus must be experienced live. Listening to the EP in isolation of the context of a performance might leave you feeling flat. Like listening to the soundtrack to a favorite Broadway musical, you will hear the notes and words but you don’t really get the full effect until you see the costumes, watch the movement of the actors and feel the drums beating against your chest.

Taurus definitely is not for everyone. But if you listen with open ears and an open mind to their experimental, doomy, sludgey riffs, you may be transported, body and soul, to another dimension without (or with, if you prefer) the use of chemical enhancements. I encourage you to watch a live Taurus performance. You may not love it; but you won’t avoid being affected by it.

With the understanding that the recording pales in comparison to the live performance, you can hear the EP Life by Taurus below.

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Countdown to MDF X: (50) Today is the Day

I have never been so excited to see a band live I have never listened to until today. But then again today is the day that you will like Today is the Day, also.

Originally from Nashville, members of Today is the Day include founding member Steve Austin, lead vocals, guitars (since 1992); Ryan Jones, bass (since 2010) and Curran Reynolds, drums, percussion (since 2010). Note: As of March 19, Ryan Jones is now also the bassist for Mutilation Rites, so I don’t know what that means for MDF. The band has also featured Brann Dailor and Bill Kelliher, now members of Mastodon, and Derek Roddy, who has played with such notable  bands as Nile, Malevolent Creation and Hate Eternal. Their appearance at the Maryland Deathfest on Friday afternoon represents 20 years since the band came into existence.

I quickly discovered that there is no easy way to categorize this band’s sound. One song can be thrashy and punkish, the next can be experimental and noisy, the next  melodic and melancholy. There is no doubt they will put on an intense, mosh pit inducing set, I just could not speculate as to what tunes they might play. A friend pointed out that Today is the Day reminded him of a grindcore version of The Melvins and he’s sort of right. Both groups have shared the same record label, Amphetamine Reptile. But I would not say Today is the Day is simply grindcore. It there was a metal subgenre called experimental-awesome-core then maybe that is what they are.

Today is the Day seems to play by the rule that there are no rules. They play what they want, or what Steve Austin dreams up, and that works out just fine. If you have never heard them before, go in with an open mind and don’t think death metal, or progressive, or grind or whatever. Just think that today is the day you hear a band you will never forget.

I’ve included three songs here, just so you can appreciate the range and diversity that is Today is the Day.

Iron Man puts spring schedule in motion with videos

The members of legendary doom metal band Iron Man have been getting crafty lately. Recently they spent some time recording video footage to go along with some carefully (demonically) selected conceptual video and have come up with a singular visualization for the song Grown. The song comes from their most recent self-released EP Dominance. If you read the lyrics to the song, the clips go along pretty well with the theme.

The video features founding member of Iron Man Al Morris III on guitar, Louis Strachan slapping the bass, Screaming Dee Calhoun on vocals and introduces newest member, drummer Jason Waldmann.

Iron Man has some shows coming up. One on April 14 at Cafe 611 at 611 (duh) N. Market Street in Frederick, MD. This one is with psyche-doomic rockers Admiral Browning and suspiciously named band Fat Chick Meat Haul. It starts at 9 p.m. and costs just $7. Get your taxes done and go. They made a video flyer for that one too. Check out each band in advance!

They also have a huge gig coming up on May 12 in Ottawa (that’s in Canada) at a joint called Mavericks. The show has been dubbed All That is Heavy 2. They will be sharing the stage with Blood Ceremony and a bunch of other cool doomy, sludgey, experimental bands such as Blizaro, Revelation, Monobrow, and Loviatar. I have never been to Canada, so I am looking forward to taking a little road trip to check this out. Look for more Iron Man news in the coming weeks.

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