Live: Enablers + Headquarters + Black Octagon @ The Lexington, 12/10/11

The intensity swells through the line up tonight: lingering on the edge of explosion throughout openers Black Octagon, building further and oozing gently out of the pores of Headquarters (though still slightly withheld as if forced out through gritted teeth) and finally giving way once Enablers hit the stage, held in teasing suspension during the brood of “Cliff” before “Patton” bursts the whole thing open. Guitars are a focal point throughout the line up – none of these bands make explicit use of the “rhythm” and “lead” structure, instead placing their two guitarists in intricate conversation of mutual complexity and pitch range.

The nature of this “conversation” varies between each act. Instrumental openers Black Octagon utilise a steadier, more patient interplay; strums are left to crackle and die before making sombre and soft re-entrances, entwining in downtuned powerchords and taking turns to leave their notes the resonate in a mournful, degenerative sustain. In terms of atmosphere, Earth’s dusty desolation never feels too far away, and neither do the crunching grooves of True Widow. The lengthy closing piece is the highlight – monotonous in a deep and spiritual way, ever ascending in volume toward something greater – yet even as the music hammers on the door of climax, the activity of the band themselves is minimal. Black Octagon let the music to speak for itself, and luckily the music says more than enough to make this work.

Headquarters are a stark contrast – guitars squawk and mutate rapidly while drums lock everything tightly into hissing, pounding machine process. Those drawled vocal groans over the top feel like a rather lazy inclusion compared to the carefully assembled music behind them, but thankfully they’re only an intermittent distraction. The first two pieces hit hardest and work brilliantly as a pair; dizzying in their combination of split-second, dissonant chord changes, always interacting and reacting to keep the music trundling with a terrific momentum. Aside from the aforementioned vocals – and a few awkward patches of crowd banter in between songs – this is a most enjoyable performance.

But the energy in the room skyrockets with the entrance of tonight’s headliners. A brief sweep of the past three albums opens the set, with even the likes of “Up” from Output Negative Space (now getting on for five years old) being graced with the same charisma as fired into the recent material. Vocalist Peter Simonelli sways and lunges over the crowd, mercurial in movement and bellowing each word as though forcing them out like bullets. Just as on record, the band exude an unusual combination of an effortlessness and sweltering intensity, with the years of experience behind them accounting for not a drop’s loss in enthusiasm: only a refinement of it.

Unsurprisingly, the band’s recent Blown Realms and Stalled Explosions release forms a large bulk of the material. As with previous releases (and perhaps now more than ever), that “live energy” is central to both the composition and the overall sound; dynamics arch upward and collapse in giant waves, with each movement feeling like an organic continuation of the last and lending to a very natural energy flow on stage. “Rue Girardon” is a surprise highlight – a strong track on record, but absolutely blistering in performance – arguably representing the point that Enablers reach their climactic peak for this evening. But there’s no dip from here; this highpoint is sustained and carried right through to closing encore track “Pauly’s Days in Cinema”, ending on a blow-out that overwhelms while refusing to descend into messy, all-crashing cliché. Absolute class.

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