Isis / These Arms Are Snakes - live in New York (Cover Artwork)

Isis / These Arms Are Snakes

live in New York (2004)

live show

After a subway ride down from the Bronx to Manhattan and a short walk through Chinatown I found myself at the Bowery Ballroom. Inside was an interesting mix of the usual New York scenesters and some black clad metal heads. I missed the first opener Tim Hecker, but made it just as These Arms Are Snakes were about to take the stage.

From the opening note the band performed with a frantic and chaotic intensity. The super clean production of their new album was all but gone and in its place was raw fury as These Arms Are Snakes ripped through songs like "The Shit Sisters," "Angela's Secret," "Tracing Your Pearly Whites," "Darlings of New Midnight," "Big News," and "Riding the Grape Dragon," among others. While all the band members were putting on a memorable performance, it was vocalist Steve Snere who stole the show. Snere moved back and forth between spastic flailing and sassy dance moves reminiscent of Cedric Bixler, as he climbed amps and careened around the stage with a drunken-like stagger, fully embracing the role of front man. The vocals, like the music, were also more raw as Snere screamed nearly every line. The passion exerted from the performance alone made it amazing, but the music was also tight and well executed making it a treat for the eyes and the ears. Even all the keyboard/organ sounds found on their recordings made it into the performance as bassist Brian Cook pulled double duty between bass and Korg. After what seemed like a relatively short set These Arms Are Snakes left the stage and Isis began to set up.

While Isis did have metal tones and headbanger moves, they also shared a lot in common with bands like Envy, A Day In Black and White, and God Speed You Black Emperor. Like those bands, Isis played epic songs with long atmospheric buildups before a massive crescendo. The emotive power of Isis's build ups was nothing short of incredible. While maybe not as spastic as These Arms Are Snakes, Isis was still intense as they made clear that they weren't fucking around, but had come to rock.

I have to admit, I went to the show just to see These Arms Are Snakes. I had never really listened to Isis because seeing them often connected with the word "metal" had deterred me, but I was glad I hung around for their set.