Savage Aural Hotbed

Article from Propergander Issue #11 (Sept/Oct '97) - by Nathan Chandler

Savage Aural Hotbed @ Stebs / Cedar Falls

Savages from the North invaded and set fire to a cool Iowa night recently, throwing the Cedar Falls area into a maddened frenzy. The invaders' calculated attack left the heads of bar patrons spinning from an arsenal of weapons such as power-saw blades, s teel pipes, and dizzying strobe lights. Surprised locals quickly surrendered to the small group of men. And then welcomed their onslaught.

Savage Aural Hotbed is what the men call themselves, and they will not soon be forgotten. Their fierce percussion-based performance at Steb's integrated mystical Japanese "taiko" drumming with industrial-strength noise. The end result was a relentlessly mesmerizing swirl of clangs and bangs, punctuated with gutteral shouts and backed by the steady throb of a bass guitar. Not your everyday musical experience. Indeed, SAH were anything but everyday, in every way.

Decked out in gas station attendant uniforms, the band members took their designated positions behind instruments rarely seen at a rock concert. 55-gallon steel drums. Power-saw blades big enough to hack a giant redwood clean through. And the power-saws themselves — plugged in and ready to make music. And what sweet music it turned out to be.

Skeptics of such an unusual style of song would be pleasantly surprised by a Hotbed performance. Tracks like "Bong Hits at the Great Pyramid," from "Pressure of Silence" are melodic enough to get your attention and are anything but predictable. However, trippy songs like "Bong Hits" are the exception, not the rule, when it comes to SAH. Visceral, brutal and tenacious define the pieces that these savages created. The songs are literally a collision of hardcore industrial and primal percussion.

If Sioux Indians on the warpath had clashed with Godflesh and their groupies, the battle would have sounded like SAH. Driving and primal drumbeats, and unintelligible shouts amidst a deafening din and smashing metal. Now take away a bit of the chaos. T hat is SAH. Chaotic, but always under control.

SAH define "tight" as it is used in reference to music performance. Every movement is calculated, perfectly timed and coordinated. Like an electronic metronome, SAH cranked out tunes robotically, but with gusto. And the performance taken as a whole was anything but stiff and mechanical.

Grand, sweeping arm motions synchronized the drum beats. Band members did not so much play the instruments as they did attack them. Fog machines added an element of suspense, and strobe lights set on "high" added further visual appeal. Sparks from power-saws ground against steel pipes and drums illuminated profuse sweat pouring from the performers' faces.

Savage Aural Hotbed's show at Steb's was an extraordinary event. Their combination of artistry and hard-driving rock should intrigue the most experienced music aficionados. All in all, a performance not to be missed, even if one must travel to SAH's hom etown of Minneapolis to catch it.