MOTORHEAD, MORBID ANGEL, TODAY IS THE DAY
Catwalk, 622-1863, $30 9 p.m. Tues., May 14
STEVE AUSTIN IS, at times, an abhorrent and terrifying incarnation of the Nietzschean superman. You will get to know this side of him very intimately at a Today Is the Day show, and love it or hate it, you will talk about it afterward, and likely in a hushed, shell-shocked tone.
Onstage, he is a frothing, sinewy manifestation of metal energy—a nuclear id collapsing sex, power, and religion upon themselves. Snicker if you must, but purple prose and truth are one and the same here. Austin deep throats microphones, flings his guitar around his torso like an irate gorilla, and shrieks deceptively simple dialogue.
"Watch me destroy you. Get out of my path," he roars in the minimalist drum and keyboard rant "Pinnacle." "I fucked your wife . . . fucked her in the ass!"
A self-actualized concept of good and evil; the absence of tolerance, pity, and devotion to God; insatiable hedonism: Toss these traits in the blender, amplify with detuned, molten speed metal, add visceral sound bites from film noir ("We've never had clearance, and we've sampled everyone from Macintosh to Goodfellas," Austin beams), and the resulting deformity will resemble the recorded Today Is the Day (TITD).
The live Today Is the Day is an even more sordid affair.
"I don't like people being around me right before we play," Austin says in an amiable drawl 180 degrees removed from his stage voice. "When you're playing a show, your mindset is not human, and you don't relate. You're hopefully a primal being, being as open and expressive as you can be, which doesn't mix well with tons of strangers or fucking crazy people talking to you. I want to put my full force into [performing], and it takes me being mentally together to do that."
The agony of failure and loss surfaces acutely in Austin's brooding, string-heavy instrumental interludes, which are often breathtaking contrasts to the spasmodic noise-core that is TITD's signature. He's devoted the last three years to composing the upcoming double album Sadness Will Prevail (Relapse), an opus that will purportedly spotlight both extremes.
The lyrics are, to put it mildly, eye-catching. Still, lines like "We'll rule this world with my big cock. Oh, god, I love you. I live to rock!" aren't goofy stabs at Spinal Tap irony and aren't Austin boasting about, well, a big cock. It's sometimes role-playing, sometimes wish fulfillment, sometimes unchecked honesty.
And unchecked honesty is one hell of a double-edged sword.
"If things don't go right, I can have really superoverwhelming dark and black feelings, like I wanna die," Austin admits. "When we played in Corpus Christi, I went up to the microphone and got shocked by the P.A. system, which had 20-something thousand watts of power going on. It made me shit myself. So I'm standing there with basically a liquid shit in my pants from getting electrocuted. It hit me so hard that sparks flew off the microphone and the lights dimmed.
"It completely changed my whole style that night, which therefore gave me a bad show . . . besides the shitting myself and getting electrocuted. I could've dealt with those two deals; it's just the end result, feeling like I wasn't able to play my jam the way I wanted to play it."
Austin relates this anecdote, recalling the shame of "feeling like a baby who just shit his diaper," with a sort of dead gravity. It's oddly appropriate. His band revels in the whole of humiliation: the give . . . and the take.
Lighter topic, because it can't get much darker: TITD is opening for Motorhead, who (a) have been around forever and a half, (b) have etched a substantial niche in hard-rock history, and (c) don't play psychedelic, piano-accompanied speed metal about hermaphrodites and unicorns.
"It's an older audience, but a good older audience because you get a lot of life's underside: your bikers, your waitresses, your gas station attendants, your drug dealers, and your fuckin' good old boys. Most of them have had a pretty hard fucking life, and a lot of what we do seems to appeal to the hard-edged crowd."
"In some ways, it can be a 'bing, bang, boom' thing, meaning 'bang,' you come out, 'bam,' you play hard, and then you go 'boom' real loud," he laughs. "It can work on a lower level. It doesn't have to be a Carlos Castaneda novel right off the bat."