Concert review: Medusa, Coffinworm at Tip Top Tavern, Feb. 21 

The Tip Top Tavern took over a show originally scheduled for the recently closed Sam's Saloon on Saturday night, and the staff seemed overwhelmed by the size and thirstiness of the crowd. Although service may have been slow, everyone seemed in a good mood and eager to see how this relatively unused venue would work out. Indy's metal elite held court in the back of the room, enjoying the pitcher specials and catching up while they waited for the show to begin.

Sleepbringer opened the show with "Eulogy," a piece that began with long, slow, held-out chords that concentrated on lows and made room for some drum fills, establishing the pace for the rest of their set. Their songs tended to begin in a down-tempo vein and deliberately built to mid-tempo mutes with hammer-ons that added a stoner rock sensibility to their doomy sound. The lead vocalist doubled as lead guitarist, performing rambling solos in the midst of bass-laden riffs when he wasn't bellowing gruffly and unintelligibly. With their Eyehategod influence, it was no surprise to see that they finished their set with a cover song from that band.

The audience left their tables and seats at the bar to watch Coffinworm's ridiculously heavy metal: They sounded like they were decapitating statues made of granite and barbed wire with power tools. The band started their set with rough and ropy downstrokes and guttural vocals that were woven perfectly into the melee. The bass was an unstoppable driving force of steady, infectious riffs, leading the two guitars into throbbing ring-outs and frenzied wails while the drums pounded furiously to underscore each brutal refrain. The crowd responded enthusiastically to the entire set, pounding fists and headbanging along with the beat, clapping and cheering in between songs. Coffinworm has undoubtedly perfected their sound, making them contenders for one of the most talented bands in Indianapolis.

Bloomington act Medusa followed Coffinworm with an irreproachable, high-energy set of intense punk-inspired thrash and mud-mired ferocity. Vocalist Scott Van Buren stormed around the small stage frantically, all bulging veins and scarlet-faced, as he screeched insanely on top of the fairly simple power chords that throbbed with downstrokes and thrashy bass with lots of ride accents on cymbals. The audience was definitely into it, crowding the front of the stage to share in the band's forceful vigor. The two guitars complemented each other neatly, with solos that added complexity without being masturbatory. Medusa's live show is a brick wall of glorious energy and pure noise that faultlessly combines deep down-tempo and battering momentum for a rare, one-of-a-kind sound.

Worn out from the intensity of Coffinworm and Medusa, the throng began to thin out during Nidus' set. Although they were the last band on the bill, they showed no sign of fatigue as they went into a noisy goulash of cavernous clamor that featured a raw blend between the single guitar and bass and lots of snare and crash on drums. Without warning, the songs would slow down and produce meditative ring-outs on guitar, providing a hypnotic contrast to the fracas of the mid-tempo sections. They also experimented with effects to create some shadowy ambient sections that dripped with creepiness, further mixing up their overall sound. Though their performance paled in comparison to that of the previous two bands, it must be admitted that those were very, very tough acts to follow. Nidus finished up a fierce night of brutality that left even the elitists excited. The staff of the Tip Top Tavern looked exhausted at the end of their evening of serving a room crammed with metalheads and heavy music lovers - hopefully they won't be too shocked to put on another show like this.

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