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Tengger Cavalry, Incite, Deathgroup, CharonIncentive @ Club Red, Mesa, Arizona (USA)

TENGGER CAVALRY / Incite / Deathgrip / CharonIncentive
in Sunday, 25 September 2016 at Club Red
by Kyle Harding

*Photography: Eyeonacone Creative Portraits

The evening was cooler than usual in Mesa, Arizona on September 24th. The autumn winds were setting in and gray skies began to roll overhead- perfect for a Mongolian raid. TENGGER CAVALRY had rolled into our borders and prepared for their very first show in this dry, arid landscape. And at Club Red, no less, a venue that I call a second home and have attended so many times before. Finally, a band that I’ve wanted to see for a long time would take the same stage many great groups have tread.

Red lights illuminated the venue- clean and ready-made for a night of doing what metalheads do best: drinking, headbanging, and enjoying some quality, heavy music from soulful screamers… all right next door to a hip-hop show. Their brood in the midst of the studded barbarians brought about a satisfying feeling and a smile to my face.

With a beer in hand and after meeting with some of the usual Club Red crowd that I’ve come to know, the first band took the stage- one of three local groups. NEPHILIM, a unit that put on a unique mix of deathcore and progressive metal with some melodic elements, brought the opening jams. They were fast, technical, and featured a vocalist, Josh Giraldo, who had an impressive range of high screeches, low growls, and good cleans in the middle. Precise drumming by Ryan Hamel was on-point with polyrhythms and impeccable blast beats. Musically, NEPHILIM performed very well, especially with no bass and utilizing one of the two guitars to fill the void. Although they weren’t lacking in foundation, I find that a bassist handling the job would be much more effective, giving the guitars by Cody Bruce and Chris Karvounis more room for syncopated leads.
With technicality comes a price. I would like to have seen a bit more movement on stage, especially with only 4 members and plenty of room. Headbanging was to be had, but new bands must refine their craft of connection with energizing the stage and inviting the crowd to join in the fun. The best way to accomplish this is to use more of the stage and simply have a good time.

Departing us with a suitable first set, the next band stepped up to the plate, introducing themselves as CHARONINCENTIVE, who tout themselves as Blackened Death Metal with progressive influences, and they delivered nothing less. These guys were driving, hard, fast, and went on stage to perform for an early-bird gathering of maybe twenty people, finishing like they were playing for two-hundred. The guitars by Jason Chacon and Matt Diffen were ferocious on guitars with no outright mistakes, matching with the black metal blasts by Josie Mejia. Jason provided some seriously-high screeches that nearly ripped the mic in half.

Again, they focused more on their musicianship than their image, something I find valuable in a local group trying to be taken a bit seriously (especially if they’re Blackened Death Metal, which draws in tons of bands that overcompensate on image). They were energetic and appeared to be enjoying themselves, but, like their predecessors, could have moved around a bit more, paying the same prices of being highly technical.
The third and final local group, DEATHGRIP, put themselves on the other side of the spectrum that night with some simple, but delicious Groove Metal. Though less compositionally intricate that the first two, they gave a stunning performance. Even with five members, they never stood still. Everybody was interactive, energetic, and worked as a unit rather than separate musicians. Guitars from Adam Hoskins and Matt Miller were powerfully rhythmic while drums by Danny Nelson (sadly, his last show with them) were heavy, soulful, and moving. Screams and cleans by Eric Seals were superb. I was most impressed by Roy Elliott’s bass, who came forward, front and center, for a maddeningly-ripping solo, standing proud and tall.

DEATHGRIP definitely came off as the more grizzled veterans of the local block. My recommendation to the younger groups would be to emulate their stage presence and move forward with that in mind. Connecting to the audience is half the show.

The time came for the touring performers to make their display- and for the first, I only use the term “touring” haphazardly, as INCITE turned out to be based from my hometown- in a way, extending the local sets. They stepped up and delivered in full force- Groove Metal with more complexity than your average band with a single guitarist, Dru Rome, working in conjunction with Christopher Elsten on bass, flying across the fretboard and prowling the stage in front of Lennon Lopez’s insane drumming.

The crowd went absolutely nuts for these guys, breaking out in pits as a response to a very personal performance from their vocalist, who was always within reach of the audience, leaning in close and screaming in their faces. It’s apparent that they have been around the block a few times and knew how to deliver. I am proud to call INCITE one of Arizona’s own.

One thing to note- perhaps the stellar performance by the vocalist is to be expected with a known pedigree… but going in not knowing that he is Richie Cavalera, stepson of the legendary Max Cavalera, I firmly believe that he shouldn’t live a career feeling like he has shoes to fill- rather, shoes to make for himself, and he does just that with his pure, raw talent.

Finally, the headliner, TENGGER CAVALRY, emerged and took the stage, shouting, “Are you ready to raid with us, Arizona?” The responsive war-cry from the audience was clear.
TENGGER CAVALRY was on fire that night- unrelenting, determined, and driving. They didn’t let up and gave it their absolute all. The Mongolian Folk Metal unit used their trademarked mix of electric guitar, drums, bass guitar, and traditional Mongolian instruments all throughout the show. The tunes that really stood out to me the most were “Golden Horde”, a classic, and “War Horse”, a song that has greatly evolved over the years to appropriately befit the more instrumental direction TENGGER CAVALRY has been moving.

Josh Schifris’ drumming mixed in well with both the Metal and the traditional sides of the band, keeping things universal without losing its heart and soul, supported by Alex Abayev’s rumbling bass licks, never steady and always moving fluidly. Though who I was most impressed with was Uljmuren on the horsehead fiddle. Though he needed to sit for the larger instrument, his passion and heart that he poured into playing this very unique instrument was something I don’t often see in many musicians. The fiddle, plugged into a distortion unit, at times emitted an eerie, atmospheric strum, and at others, a fast, rumbling lead, synonymous to the graceful power of the Mongolian war horse pictured upon its head. All the while, Nature Ganganbaigal, the vocalist and guitarist, switched between standard metal growls and shoyts to traditional Mongolian throat singing. The hanging echo of the alien tone emanated all around the room and encircled the audience.

Though the band delivered gloriously, my only concern was the mixing of the more unconventional instruments. I can understand the difficulty of a venue soundman with little experience figuring out how to properly balance these additions. At times, the fiddle and throat singing sounded a bit warbled, being brought back and forth ever so suddenly, testing the dynamics of the sound guy. I’m sure there’s a way to level out these musical aspects evenly, in which I’d maybe find professional consultation and share the advice with all sound staff in the future. If they continues to grow in the way they have, however, I could see them bringing their own sound guy who specializes in their performance style.

The crowd wasn’t quite as aggressive as they were with INCITE. Perhaps it’s because they were actually from the area, or something else. But with the way TENGGER CAVALRY performed that night, it had nothing to do with their ability. I believe that, with the show’s lineup, they drew in people that wasn’t particularly exposed to Folk Metal as often and didn’t know how to take it all in. To the label: I’d try getting them on tour with more Folk Metal bands, as they have one of the strongest, most loyal fan-bases, which TENGGER CAVALRY could greatly benefit. Try Paganfest!

Overall, this was a really solid show. None of the acts left me disappointed and I had a great time meeting and greeting the band members. Nobody came in with a big head or tried to make this show about themselves- they were all here to have fun. And so did I, as I raided through Arizona with these nomads. I’ll remember this show for a long time coming!


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Edited 30 January 2023

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