It had been a sad week for Metalheads all over the world, shocked at having to mourn the sudden tragic loss of Black Dahlia Murder frontman, Trevor Strnad. Felt deeply by the entire Metal community, the weight of a loss like this makes the air heavier, particularly at events where groups are able to gather to distract each other from the cheerlessness of grieving alone. Such was the case on Friday at Sanctuary Detroit, where local hardcore thrash band S.N.A.F.U. were set to perform as support for Eyehategod, along with Escuela Grind.
The crowd trickled in slowly that night. It seemed people were moving more intentionally, pausing more frequently to enjoy the moment, and taking more care with conversations as they attempted to say everything without saying too much. Members of S.N.A.F.U. were chatting with friends and fans, myself included, though only briefly. It was the first night of the tour for them; a hometown show, and also a birthday for vocalist/guitarist Scott Curnow. There was plenty to celebrate, despite the complicated intensity present in the room, and S.N.A.F.U. was eager to pierce some fresh ears.
Indeed, they wasted absolutely no time, showering indignant feedback into the crowd before exploding into “Amazing Waste.” The songs that followed – all but one being from last year’s Exile//Banishment album – came in rapid bursts like Heavy Metal machine gun fire. The chugging rhythms, riffs, and furious vocals of tunes like “Choking Game,” “The Pear Of Anguish,” and “Wake Of Vultures” torched up the room with high energy therapeutic rage, which the crowd gleefully inhaled. Eyes forward, heads nodding and banging – Fuck yes! This is Detroit Metal!
A little over half way through, the band took a moment to dedicate the set to Trevor Strnad. An emotional Scott Curnow spoke about the importance of checking in on your friends, and making sure they know they can reach out if they’re struggling. “It fuckin’ sucks losing someone like that,” he said. “You just always wish you could talk to them then maybe you could change what the fuck happened. Thankfully we have an awesome outlet for this shit. To be able to get up here and be fuckin pissed and get all of that shit out.”
That outlet, he admitted, is not something everyone has. He encouraged anyone struggling with depression to reach out to him or anyone else – which really needs to be said more often – thanked the room for helping keep the engine running, then introduced a song he wrote about wanting to die. This song,“Closed Casket Habits,” about feeling hopeless and defeated, made an extremely powerful statement about survival that night. And I don’t think a single person in that room showed up knowing how much they needed to hear it. Moments like these are why we go to shows, and the reason keeping clubs like the Sanctuary open is so important.
Detroit has a thriving Metal scene. Proud of being what it is and where it’s from, and it felt a different sort of heavy last week. But watching S.N.A.F.U. cut through that brick wall of pent up sadness and confusion was a medicinal experience. There were a lot more smiles in that room after they played, I can tell ya that. Great band. Great venue. Check out both. Cheers!