Writing songs with titles like "Darlings of New Midnight" and "Drinking From the Necks of the Ones You Love" had already given Seattle art-punkers These Arms Are Snakes a vaguely vampirish tinge. Still, seeing singer Steve Snere's face covered with blood at the Black Cat on Thursday night was a little shocking.
The quartet wasn't pulling a cheap Gene Simmons trick, either: Snere's spastic gesticulations caused him to smash headfirst into the end of Ryan Frederiksen's guitar, opening a gash. Punk rockers -- especially from the Great Northwest -- are generally stout souls, so it wasn't long before Snere was back to finish the band's brief but sterling performance, a slash-and-writhe campaign that balanced brooding dynamics with near-hysterical noise bursts.
Drawing inspiration from sources such as seminal Texas screamers Scratch Acid, slasher movie soundtracks and a plethora of D.C. punk bands, TAAS used a bank of strobe lights to blur its movements, but the most powerful weapon was Frederiksen's angular guitar attack. From the coil and strike of "Big News" to the off-kilter edges and indecipherable howls of "Angela's Secret," the guitar battered against the voice and rhythm section with relentless fury.
Although the band's just released, archly titled new disc ("Oxeneers, or the Lion Sleeps When Its Antelope Go Home" ) probably won't be slithering to the top of the iTunes charts, it has some powerful (and spooky) moments. And the Snakes' short but invigorating foray into them Thursday turned out to be one of this year's more committed -- and bloody -- art-punk assaults.
-- Patrick Foster