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Local CD Review

Immortal Chorus
noble cause

Dire. Bleak. Weighty.

It's the kind of music you expect from a goth-metal band like Immortal Chorus, and on the surface, they deliver the goods on their latest CD, noble cause.

But it really only sounds bleak and weighty. Music like this uses bleakness as a form of escape: depression to ease angst; melancholy to give your life a sense of depth, meaning. Which is not at all meant as a put-down. Life is sad, no doubt—but noble cause doesn't get at the heart of why. It's actually, um, well, fun.

Even when lead singer/bassist Steve Britton is singing lines like Just like tragedy/ more like tragic comedy/ my life is spiraling/ towards the ironic conclusion.

With a revamped lineup from its earlier days, this version of Immortal Chorus hasn't quite reached its previous heights, but it is getting there. Britton has a great sense of melody and draws you into his sad little world. The sound combines metal riffs and '80s goth, along the lines of Bauhaus. Zippy personally prefers the tunes that lean toward Bauhaus, like "On the Surface" and "Evocation." On other tracks, the guitar riffs are at times reminiscent of Nirvana or Metallica.

Britton's downcast, mournful voice perfectly fits the disillusioned mood: I wait for the new tomorrow, a smile faked, just to hide the sorrow. What sorrow Britton's feeling, beyond existential grief, we never learn. It sounds awfully bad, but like a vampire novel, it's kind of hard to take seriously. From the song, "On the Surface," he sings: Walk upon the surface, I won't try to keep you here, But I prefer the darkness under here. Hard to take seriously, sure, but neither does it come off as silly, no matter how the lyrics read, and after a couple of listens you'll be singing along with him. Because Britton and company have succeeded in creating a dark little world that works on its own level—best indulged in by yourself, or through an alcoholic/pot-buzz haze.

The best song on the whole album, though, is one of those "hidden tracks," tacked on at the end after 10 minutes of silence. It is a gleeful romp with nonsensical, rollicking little da, da-das for lyrics. It is liberating and alive, but strangely, more nihilistic as well. Again, things aren't quite what they seem. After nine deliberately bummer songs, you can't quite buy this jubilation. Perhaps, they know what real pain is after all.

Collecting Knoxville Music?

Well, they didn't exactly open a venue, but the Knoxville Music Collective is hosting a series of Sunday all-ages shows in their newly adopted home away from home, The Electric Wizard on the Strip. KMC guru Dave Whitaker says he hopes to use the shows as a way of getting more people involved in collective activities. Bands of all genres are slated to play in the tight confines of the Wizard, including the possibility of some national touring acts.

"There's no specification at all about what kinds of bands we'll let play," says Whitaker. "We want to have experimental music, punk, rock 'n' roll, blues, acoustic, whatever. The capacity of the place is only 75 people, so anything that will work in that space is OK with me."

Whitaker has been in touch with booking agents handling bands on the Thrill Jockey, Lookout, Touch & Go, and Dischord labels. So look for a plethora of local and national talent to help fill the recent void in the all-ages scene.

Upcoming August shows include Kid Snack, Minute 61 and The Retreads on August 1, Greg Siedschlag with Matt Richardson and Shaken Babies on August 8, Omega Rage and The Seedless on August 15, and Ape Life, Mustard and The Come Ons on August 29.

Same Song, New Name

Stroll through the Old City and you'll notice that some changes have been made. Bikers are hanging out in front of the relatively new Biker Rags and Helmet Head. JFG Coffee House has become Cup-a-Joe's (and, yes, the one out on the Strip still remains). And BW-3, which anchored the corner of Central and Jackson like a big, red, neon bull has become The Old City Grill.

John Kribbs, general manager, has a fairly straightforward explanation for the change. "Basically, the owner was having trouble with the [BW-3] franchise and it just seemed like a good time to make a break." Despite the location's break from the grips of the franchise folk, most of the menu will stay the same, with a few exceptions: some of the sauces have disappeared and will be replaced by new types of wing-dip designed for the Knoxville palate, and the Buffalo Chips, a proprietary item owned by BW-3, have been replaced by curly fries.

Other than that, life at The Old City Grill will continue on pretty much as it has before. Still the same big screen TV. Still 20 beers on tap. Still Tommy Santelli, but on Saturday night. Still the same patio—just with a new name.

The Nevers Drop Dead

Okay, follow me on this one—former Viceroy (who are now called the V-roys) John Paul Keith (with ex-Leaf Rick Tiller, ex-Judybats and Opposable Thumbs Dave Jenkins and Paul Noe) has a killer Brit-pop-esque rock band with a Southern-fried coating called The Nevers, also described as "The Buzzcocks meet Lynyrd Skynyrd." The Nevers are now in Nashville and have a deal with Sire Records, who will release the first Nevers album at some point to be determined later or whenever they feel like it—whichever comes first. But those of you itching for a taste of what Keith and the boys are up to now should run right out and find a copy of the Drop Dead Gorgeous soundtrack, which features "Watch You Sleep," a track by, you guessed it, The Nevers. Got it? Yes, there will be a quiz later.

—Zippy "number two pencil" McDuff