Bongzilla Put Smoke in the Water in Greenpoint

by delarue

The good news for NYC heavy rock fans is that St. Vitus is open again. The bad news is that there’s been a big bump in the cover charge, as you would expect from any club that passes the fees from online ticket middlemen on to their customers like the pizza places that use Uber Eats. So the twinbill with the thrash/spacerock/postrock hybrid Wizard Rifle and stoner riffmeisters Bongzilla will set you back $27. There are other acts on the bill, but these are the ones really worth coming out for, and the quality justifies the price.

The album at the top of Bongzilla’s Bandcamp page is an old one that goes back to 2008. It’s the band’s tantalizingly short, complete set from one of the Relapse Contamination Festivals: a lot of bands made live albums there and this is one of the best. Bongzilla are a riff band and don’t do much in the way of solos: the band name fits their immersive intensity.

Mike Henry’s drums punch up and then puncture Jeff Schultz’s wall of guitar fuzz until just a hint of an evil doom riff appears in the first song of the set, Gateway. Then the band hit a slo-mo gallop and run that simple heavy blues hook over and over.

Their second song, Stone a Pig isn’t as sludgy as you would expect from a 3rd gen Sabbath tune, thanks to Henry’s nimble drumming and the grit on the bass – if memory serves right, Cooter Brown held down that spot in the band at the time. His woozy where-did-that-come-from bass breakdown is there to fake you out and set you up for the roar that follows, through some unexpectedly tricky changes.

Methodical heavy blues riffs and an unpredictable series of tempo changes also feature heavily in their third song, Hashdealer and the closing cut, Keefmaster. This slow-burning blast from the past is another reminder that more bands should make live records.

And for a similarly riff-loaded, tuneful idea of what’s in store for the show, check out Wizard Rifle’s more texturally diverse, rhythmically tricky, thrashy most recent album from 2019.