Although its moniker would suggest otherwise, Loincloth bears little resemblance to the peacockish kitsch of old-school metal gladiators. Tongue-in-cheek nomenclature aside, the band’s full-length debut, Iron Balls of Steel, ignores protocol and instead administers a hypercomplex beatdown of astonishing time signatures and atonal, slice-and-dice riffs. Tannon Penland’s staccato guitar hammers relentlessly at the choked-cymbal barrages and blinding percussive shifts of master drummer Steve Shelton (who also plays with the similarly dexterous Confessor). Unburdened by stoner sludge, dark theatricality or smart-aleck retro moves, the almost excruciatingly dense record houses some of the sleekest heavy rock known to mortals.
Such high-voltage perfection was not achieved overnight. Conceived as a collaboration between friends from Richmond, Virginia, and Raleigh, North Carolina, Loincloth cut a jarringly acrobatic demo that spawned a seven-inch single back in 2003. But due to lineup changes and interstate commutes, a near decadelong stagnation ensued. Left for dead by many of its fans, the group only recently resurfaced, issuing its first album earlier this year and recruiting two new members from the ranks of Penland’s infernal ambient project, Gauchiste.
Saturday’s gig marks Loincloth’s inaugural NYC performance, and the rest of the bill couldn’t be more complementary. Dysrhythmia, a veteran trio based in Brooklyn, practices a colorful, less claustrophobic strain of technical heft, whereas STATS (featuring TONY editor Hank Shteamer on drums) goes for an epic hard-prog feel. Headbanging brutality has rarely demanded so much chin-stroking contemplation.—Jordan N. Mamone