A Place to Bury Strangers
Bowery Ballroom, New York, November 18
by Stephen Slaybaugh

Given that A Place to Bury Strangers’ latest, Worship, has easily been the platter that’s occupied the most real estate on my turntable this year, I was excited by the prospect of seeing the album’s highlights fleshed out with the volume that the band has become infamous for bringing. And after an unremarkable set from Bleeding Rainbow that went on a couple songs too long, I was all the more anxious for APTBS in the flesh.

As in the past, APTBS showed a prediection for playing in the shadows, the members visages outlined only by the stripes of an oscillating spot. Playing through amps that were obviously designed by singer, guitarist and the maker of Death by Audio effect pedals Oliver Ackermann, the band quickly filled the Bowery Ballroom with their sculpted cacophony. Songs like Worship’s title track and “Why I Can’t Cry Anymore” enveloped the room in an atmosphere also of the band’s design, part darkness and part piercing shards of guitar noise. The set was comprised largely of songs from the new album, but tracks like “I Lost You” and “And I’m Up” from the band’s recent EP, Onwards to the Wall, also appeared in the set. However, some of the night’s best moments—namely “Dead Beat” and “Ego Death”—were derived from the band’s breakthrough from 2009, Exploding Head.

The combination of volume and jumpy rhythms got the crowd worked up and before long the kids upfront began getting rambunctious. But in 2012, is there a more moronic and predictable response than a mosh pit? Nevertheless, Ackermann and bassist Dion Lunadon fed off the rowdiness, swinging their instruments around onstage with seeming abandon. But like the thrashing about in front of them, such behavior never seemed dangerous or out of control. Indeed, when Lunadon actually threw his instrument near the end of the band’s performance, he quickly ran over to check on the audience members in proximity of where his bass landed.

Such behavior accentuated a kind of bloodlessness to the show. A Place to Bury Strangers’ music conveys a kind of controlled chaos, but it would have been preferable if the band actually lost that control at some point. Even with Ackerman kneeling over his instrument like some kind of Hendrix offspring, it seemed like he had made these exact noises before. As such, the show was an exciting recreation of the ATBS catalog, but it never transcended into the realm of sonic epiphany, which was a shame since the band certainly has it in them.