A military-grade meat grinder churning up goth-industrial noise, a witchhouse atmosphere, and the lithe, louche, provocative antics of ex-These Arms Are Snakes frontman Steve Snere. (Seattle rock’s old guard will recall Crypts as the band that actually did something punk at EMP’s Nevermind anniversary tribute night last September, instead of just rotely patting Kurt’s hallowed corpse on the back.) Live, Snere writhes and flails, while bandmates Bryce Brown and Nick Bartoletti man an abrasive array of synthesizers, drum machines, and visual projections. Also playing the Capitol Hill Block Party this summer, and recently signed with L.A. label/management company Sargent House, Crypts just finished recording a debut full-length with go-to Seattle producer Erik Blood (Shabazz Palaces, Stephanie).
The title of Grave Babies’ recently released Hardly Art EP Gothdammit may be tongue-in-cheek, but it’s telling. The Seattle four-piece make a kind of terminally morose scuzz-punk—all monotone moaning, blown-out distortion, and zombie surf-guitar riffs. Their music video for the EP’s ingratiating opener “Fuck Off” is a similarly lo-fi occult affair, consisting of grainy TV footage of candles, hands working a Ouija board, and a black-clad goth girl performing some sort of ritual. Like the work of similarly surf/goth-infatuated dude Wavves, there’s some serious pop sensibility underneath Grave Babies’ fuzz and static.
When he’s not heading up Actual Pain, Thomas Cowgill makes hollowed-out, slow-crawling acoustic ballads as King Dude. Call him the Man in Even More Black. Cowgill sings in a voice that varies from a baritone to a reedy higher register, most often settling on an appealing croak in between. He couches it in acoustic guitars given plenty of cavernous space in which to reverberate and make noise. It’s not always easy to dredge the words out the wash, but safe to say that Cowgill’s songs exhibit some dark, bottomless-pit vibes.
The first thing you see at a Nightmare Fortress show are flashing towers of lights—green, purple, blue, red—then fog, and somewhere in there the black silhouette of singer Alicia Amiri and bandmates Colin Roper (Cobra High), Cassidy Gonzales (Sleepy Eyes of Death), and Blair Field. Musically, you might hear shadows of Zola Jesus in Nightmare Fortress’ goth vocal operatics, steam-spitting synths, and hydraulic-stomping drum-machine beats. Their recent EP Until the Air Runs Out was, according to the band, “composed in a basement without windows” and “inspired by the history of electronic music and the future of pagan ritual.”