In the heart of downtown Portland resides the beloved watering hole Ash Street Saloon. A dark, dingy bar with cheap booze, rickety furniture, and warm friendly staff, Ash Street prides itself on hosting live music seven nights a week. It harbors the grisly underbelly of Portland’s extreme music acts. It also provides space for touring bands both small and (relatively) large. Without a doubt, Ash Street is a staple to Portland’s music scene. It has served its community for well over two decades, which makes its impending demise sincerely unfortunate to musicians and avid show attendees alike. One late March evening, Author & Punisher stopped through Ash Street. Before the one-man doom/electronic armada took the stage, three local Portland bands opened the show. Among them were TITHE, Drunk Dad, and Hands of Thieves, in that order. While the latter two put on exceptional performances, TITHE essentially stole the show. Bereft of pauses, the three-piece delivered a succinct thirty-minute onslaught of death, doom, black metal, and grindcore lathered in this in caustic political malaise. Their set was sonically arresting, almost otherworldly.
This self-titled release embodies TITHE’s first few live sets. It’s also their debut record. Four songs of beating down ignorance and corruption, this release captures the anger that has unfurled across a handful of Portland stages. Howling feedback opens “Punch Nazis”. From the veil of dissonant frequencies emerges Eiseman. Steady his guitar plods along a doom-laden riff. Swartz and Kelly meet Eiseman’s leaden stride moments later. Snare pops crawl and cymbals crash from Swartz’s kit; Kelly’s bass throbs in sync. Eiseman screams. The veins in his neck already appear to strain. Kelly lurches forward. He mirrors Eiseman’s lyrics and intensity, but embellishes his delivery with gruffness. A black metal drum pattern slices the gloomy atmosphere; the riff begins to writhe in harrowing discord. Then all three lockstep. The song bursts into a head banging death metal groove. It crushes; it pummels and spills racist blood.
The three subsequent tracks continue the bare-knuckle assault. “Perfidy” tears flesh with a black-tinged death metal riff before cascading into a maelstrom of blasts and blistering riffs. Swartz shifts between grind, black, and death metal stylings. His seamless transitions of unending blast beats conjure a hypnotic allure; it’s astounding and visceral. Lethargic tempos shackle “Slave”. It writhes in doomy misery for much of its existence, but claws itself out of its chains to the sight of a blackened sun. Sound samples also pockmark the tracks. A quote from Manly P. Hall on slavery of the mind adds a haunting texture to “Extinction”, while “Slave” contains a passage from Steven Hanauer that calls upon Americans to awaken from their opulent lifestyles before destroying earth any further. These cast vehement shadows on the social issues TITHE resists against. In combination with their scathing amalgam of noise, it makes for a grim and punishing debut.
From the societal turmoil bubbling in Portland and across the States, TITHE’s self-titled is a call to arms, a voice that refuses to be silenced. It carries this dark political undertone, marking the metal landscape with early signs of a paradigm shift. Maybe it’s just a microcosm in the Portland scene. But with a band like Anal Trump cropping up prior to the 2016 presidential election and a band like TITHE rising out the election’s wake, a microcosm seems unlikely (at least right now). We’ll just have to wait and see.
Stream the whole record on TITHE’s Bandcamp page or sample it with the embedded player above. Here’s a link to their Facebook page. Support the shit out of these guys, it’s only a one dollar download!