Home / Music / Concert Reviews / Ratt Trap w/ Steel Iron, Ahab’s Ghost and Uhtcearu @ Cactus Club March 4, 2017

Ratt Trap w/ Steel Iron, Ahab’s Ghost and Uhtcearu @ Cactus Club March 4, 2017

Mar. 6, 2017
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The bill of local metal bands could have gone in any direction at the Cactus Club last Saturday night. But it ended in affectionate idiocy.

That isn’t an insult. One of the members of Ratt Trap, his head adorned with an outrageously teased long and tall wig, welcomed an audience peppered with head bangers, air guitarists and leg kickers to their set of “idiot rock.” Is that any way for a musician to respect his band’s repertoire? None of the aforementioned enthusiasts seemed to take offense, though.

And the gusto with which the group plowed into their assortment of ’80s metal, however loosely executed from time to time, was undeniable. Especially so was the commitment of their lead singer. It seemed only incidental that the often silly, sometimes seemingly sexually predatory lyrics were being executed by a woman whose lusty performance and tight, leopard print pants didn’t so much signal provocation of libido as they did acting a part. Whether it was W.A.S.P.’s “Animal (F*ck Like A Beast),” Grim Reaper’s “See You In Hell,” Quiet Riot’s “Metal Health” or, to fulfill the expectations of their name, Ratt’s “Round And Round,” she performed free of the irony her and her bandmates’ sartorial and tonsorial choices belied. And the inclusion of a manager with a smart tan suit and slicked-back hair, akin to a less goofy analogue to the Sleazy P. Martini character associated with more extreme metal parodists Gwar, to announce their encore seals how far Ratt Trap is willing to carry their proficient shtick.

Ratt Trap prove, regardless of their nostalgia and laughs, that before grunge’s ascent cast a pall of depressiveness that haunts much of commercial hard rock to this day, the decadent, if sometimes silly, music preceding it contains some actually smart pop craft and deserves a fonder look back than it’s often given. But the headlining of an act specializing in laughs and nostalgia drew attention away from the admirable diversity offered throughout the rest of the bill. Even then, most of the others have some humor about them.

The very name Steel Iron, for instance, drew chuckles from some when the vocalist for the first band of the night announced it. Band members’ pseudonyms including Alexander von Stradivarius and Dave David Davidson give the impression they’re in it for yuks, too. Their power metal/thrash hybrid (think of a cross breeding of prime Iron Maiden with early Metallica), spoke to a more serious intent, however. A speeding up of Boston's greatest hit, “More Than A Feeling,” and the single on their Bandcamp page, “Spread Eagle (Heart Fly Free),” display ingenuity and perversity that could serve them well in the future.

Ahab’s Ghost were the veterans of the evening, having three EPs to their credit in an eight-year career. The latest of those releases, Wasted Forever, Ferociously Stoned, comes in a cartoon cover featuring The Hulk and The Creature From the Black Lagoon among those improbably assembled in a defiled graveyard full of zombies disinterring themselves. So, yes, more goofiness was a given. Singer/bassist Joe Widen’s archly comic between-song comments, including the assumption that attendees were familiar with the tundra wolf about which he sang, fulfilled that promise. The way the sludgy twang of Widen’s axe often overpowered the trio’s guitar makes for a use of bass at least unique as Primus’ spazzy, angular incorporation of the instrument in their ’90s heyday, too. Any time they’d like to release a full album, it should come as some welcome comic relief.

The opening threesome Uhtcearu were certainly the most “serious” act of the night, as may be expected from musicians who would name their band for an Anglo-Saxon word meaning pre-dawn anxiety or nighttime sorrow. Their often complexly structured black metal is still delivered with more aggression than apparent despair. Vocalizing bassist Zach Ostrowski avoids the Cookie Monster lows and falsetto highs of many of his sub-genre peers with a relatively natural tone for his tales of burning effigies and other physical, emotional and spiritual atrocities. The poetically downer nature of the lyrics was enlivened by guitarist Dustin Studelska’s upwardly pointed fan, creating a breeze to ease whatever sweat accrued from his rapid attack and a dramatic effect on his long, brown hair.

Venues such as Cudahy’s Metal Grill offer this kind of fare on a more regular basis, but it appeared that hard and heavy music was a good draw on this occasion for at least one club in Milwaukee proper.

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