Sporting a glorious ginger beard, Io Torus frontman Austin Lynx’s voice sounded like a sort of screaming ogre/banshee/cat. The aggressive vocal presentation contrasted sharply with his gentle, between-song stage banter. Every member of Io Torus were exceedingly proficient at their instruments, and they all showed it at the same time. Occasionaly, the sound was huge. Other times, the arrangements were confusing. But most of the time, it was really fucking heavy. These young musicians deserve to be received by Chico as the very unique and creative group they are, so I’ll refrain from drawing comparisons between them and Between The Buried And Me (whoops).

As we waited for the boys of Armed For Apocalypse to set up, local musician, Alex Coffin put some strange, sad pop on the PA for us to sway and snap our fingers to – ah! As I write this, I’m being told that it was Surrogate. Now I know. I stepped out for a beer and came back about 10 minutes into A4A’s set.

For those of you who still don’t know who Armed is, just know that they’re heavy. They’ve probably toured more than your band. Their guitar tone is beautiful; like mountains falling into the ocean at circle-pit velocity. Their songs have three speeds, actually – “Circle Pit,” “Headbang,” and “Super-Heavy-Breakdown Headbang.” The formula works wonders, and it helps that all four performers obviously put their hearts into giving a quality performance, every time.

The reason this concert happened was to show support for Into The Open Earth before they embark upon a short Pacific Northwest tour. I haven’t seen these guys in a while, but apparently they’ve acquired a new Orange guitar cabinet (best speakers ever) and two painted backdrops. The paintings were illuminated by lights behind them, and made for a pleasant visual addition to the show; imagine drummer, Casey Schmidt, flanked by two blazing headdress skulls, as he dominated the kit.

I had reservations about how Into The Open Earth would deliver after such an immense performance from Armed, but I forgot all about such reservations as soon as they started playing. It’s not often that a metal band inspires an audience to dance, but ITOE provided plenty of opportunities to do so (in the most metal, manly way possible, of course). Their sound balances just enough hooks with the right amount of chaos, producing a live experience that is quite addictive. They were way too loud, but everyone was way down, because ITOE pounds.

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Howl was born in the wastes north of Hithlum, where only beasts and witches dare roam. He was raised by two old hags, Tabby and Wiles, who had an unhealthy fascination towards the literary arts. Howl now resides in a well-furnished cave off South Rim Trail, complete with an old iBook and Wi-Fi.