The word “epic” can serve a few different purposes in the music vocabulary. It can be used as a superlative, as in, “Dude, that show was epic.” It can describe music that sounds heroic or grand in scale or character, as in, “That twenty-four minute riff was epic.” Or, in rare instances, it is both of the above and a proper noun all at once, as in, “Every time I hear Faith No More’s 1989 track ‘Epic’, I cum a little.”
The music writer’s vocabulary, however, is hampered by its frequent use in descriptions of banal situations, as in “The line at the ATM was epically long,” or “That Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air marathon was epic.” So it is with some hesitation that I use the word “epic” to describe Wednesday night’s performance by Carrboro, North Carolina punk band From The Depths at the Dragon’s Den in New Orleans. I hesitate not because the show lacked in excellence or heroic character or even comparability to that masterful Faith No More track, but because the range and scope of the band’s performance is at risk of being minimized by the word’s flagrant overuse.
The music itself was certainly grand in scale and heroic in character; indeed, listening to them I often felt as though I’d just won something. What exactly I’m not sure, but it was the sound of victory. Maybe it’s because I’ve been catching snippets of the Olympics recently, but I could picture myself standing atop a podium, vanquished opponents moping miserably below, bling draped around my neck after a world-record-setting performance in mud wrestling or mustache waxing or whatever, with From The Depths blasting away with their riot of sound behind me.
Describing the band’s genre as “epic punk” is also a valid use of the word. Their tracks left ample room for triumphant riffs and terrifying drumming that was hard enough to actually chip pieces off of the drummer’s cymbal. The vocals were striking and almost operatic, which, alongside the monumental guitar work, would make it an excellent score for a Chow Yun Fat gunfight from the era when he was still making gritty Hong Kong action movies. A few songs incorporated noise elements, adding a disorienting and cerebral quality that served to heighten the tension of compositions that often built towards emphatic, heavy conclusions.
The band was also commendably determined to say something relevant and coherent with their music, using their lyrics and the time between tracks to speak with real intensity and feeling about their lives and politics. Indeed, From The Depths seemed just as concerned with making sure everyone left with a zine as they were in putting on a thoroughly ass-kicking show, combined goals they approached (and surpassed) with a seriousness often lacking in less sophisticated anarcho-punk bands.
From The Depth also did well in the all-important visual aesthetic category. Particularly notable is their lanky, sweat-drenched drummer’s proclivity for performing in nothing but a tiny pair of running shorts, which make an outré but pleasing fashion pairing with his French braids and gnarly beard. The noise technician/guitarist wears coke bottle glasses and a beard that looks like a hairy stalactite dripping from his chin. The bassist sports dreadlocks thick enough to rig a sailing yacht, producing a rather dramatic effect when he flings them around like a Cat O’ Nine Tails.
Taken together, the band’s set was as fierce and galvanizing as they come, the kind of show that could have easily been much longer and much larger under different circumstances (as it was, I thought they might demolish the tiny, rickety former Thai restaurant that serves as the Dragon Den’s show space.) In its first tour From The Depths is already showing a noteworthy talent and cohesiveness, which is perhaps unsurprising considering that their members include veterans of highly regarded bands Catharsis and Requiem. From The Depths sounds considerably different from those previous projects, however, and as they scorch their way across the country, they will no doubt build themselves a following of their own.