Formed in the late nineties during nu-metal's adolescent stage, L.A.'s Spineshank were poised to be a major player among the increasing number of aggro-bands being signed at the time. In the last decade Spineshank has sold over a half-a-million albums, were nominated for a grammy, gone through the typical line-up changes, reformed, and are now touring behind their fourth full-length album titled Anger Denial Acceptance (Century Media).
The crowd was sparse; approximately fifty or so individuals welcomed Spineshank to Salt Lake City, Utah, the second stop on their North American tour. The low attendance could be blamed on a number of things; the waning popularity of nu-metal, industry changes, the Corrosion Of Conformity show happening the same night less than a block away...maybe a bit of all of that. To their credit, Spineshank performed as if it were a packed house.
After some short atmospheric guitar feedback, the band exploded into Violent Mood Swings, off their 2004 album Self-Destructive Pattern and followed it up with the sample heavy Asthmatic (Height Of Callousness). The vocals are your standard harsh/clean fare with a few decent hooks thrown in. Before the fourth song, charismatic singer Jonny Santos asks the audience, "Has anyone fucking stole our fucking CD yet? Cause, all that matters is that you fucking have it." The band then launched into After The End, the first track off Anger Denial Acceptance. Later on Santos encourages the crowd to hit up the merch booth and grab a t-shirt to "help us pay our way to the next gig." The sub-reference to that being, "Could you forget what I said about stealing our CD?"
The band was tight during the fourteen song set-list, the rhythm section of Robert Garcia (bass) and left-handed drummer Tom Decker locked together to give the music a pleasant, visceral punch while Mark Sarkisyan (guitar) bashes simple, down-tuned riffs over the top. The small crowd was responsive and sang along when they could. There was a large metal pipe centered among the audience that went from floor to ceiling, creating an interesting variable in the 6-8 man mosh pits that intermittently broke out. The band finished the set with Height Of Callousness from their 2000 release of the same name. There was no encore.
Spineshank seemed to be having a good time, and it's hard not to start banging your head a little during those heavy half-time breakdowns, but ultimately, this style of angst metal has little staying power. The fans of this style during it's peak have grown up and may find the redundant themes of self loathing, paranoia, and depression to be a bit contrived, especially after they have a few years of life experience under their belt. The younger generation of metal heads have different insertion points into the genre that are more immediate and heavy, increasingly narrowing the fan base of bands that play in this particular style.
All said, If you love well played, alt-metal with an industrial flavour, Spineshank is a sure thing, and if you catch them on this tour, you won't be disappointed. Also — if this show's turnout is any indication — they could probably use the support.