w/ Napalm Death, Exhumed, Vektor and David Carradine. $16. 7 p.m., Oct. 28. The El 'n' Gee, 86 Golden St., New London, manicproductions.org
For a band whose name was pilfered from the side of a garbage truck, Municipal Waste sure do have some perfect back story. "[For] our first practices, we used to set up house shows at Ryan's old, beat-up garage. Ryan's guitar rig is chewed apart from rats from one of our practice spaces. The rats actually chewed the leather off his Marshall cab," vocalist Tony Foresta says, referencing the MW guitarist best known as Ryan Waste. "The band just came from this dirty place, and we always had a sense of humor and were always influenced by old horror movies and comic books. When you have this group of people, it's the fucking Waste, and that's the shit that comes out artistically from us. It just seems like it fits us, and it's fun to write about the ridiculous shit we write about sometimes, too."
Foresta made an error in the above passage: He used "sometimes." Truthfully, the Richmond four-piece's feisty thrash metal almost exclusively engages the absurd. The band roam a strange wasteland that doubles as an alternate post-1980s America — one where the Cold War turned hot and only the most terrible of terrible things happen. During MW songs, Foresta yells about radioactive weapons, exploding toilets, the Chernobyl disaster, acid baths, freaky genetic mutations and vicious repo men. (To add some sugar to wash down all the bile, Municipal Waste have also occasionally written about partying — always a nice way to temporarily forget that Armageddon isn't underway.)
But even with all the chaos, the vocalist isn't simply tortured by the circumstances. Instead, Foresta searches for tonal middle ground, both spewing self-righteous rage at war merchants and gleefully embracing the havoc. The violence is just so bizarre, so improbable, so removed from normalcy that it's turned hilarious and thrilling. King Id now rules the land and Foresta is just a helpless plebeian.
The title track of April's The Fatal Feast, Municipal Waste's fifth and latest album, is an excellent example of Foresta's merciless lyrical content. He plays one member of a group of space travelers sent into the ethereal reaches to witness the unseen. Unfortunately, their trip is a total bust, and the crew grows increasingly anxious. As rations diminish, they decide to cannibalize the captain and make him suffer for pushing them around. He becomes the main course of said "Fatal Feast." The scenario is unspeakably horrific from all angles — grand despair has melted into unforgiving hunger — but Foresta and company play it up for cackles. Prepare to be entertained and disturbed at once.
On lyrical and visual levels, the Municipal Waste tradition is in debt to horror flicks like Peter Jackson's 1992 flick Dead Alive and 1984 Troma classic The Toxic Avenger, horror comics from the 1940s, bugged-out skateboard art from the likes of Pushead, Garbage Pail Kids cards, and over-the-top pro wrestling characters. All these sources often suffer/benefit from "so bad, it's good" aesthetics, which is a good way to describe what makes MW appealing. Sonically, they owe everything to the 1980s — specifically, paranoid punk rock and epic, outrageous thrash. Because their sound is so rooted in the latter, Waste have been repeatedly characterized as a "thrash revival" band alongside similar-sounding acts such as Toxic Holocaust, Warbringer, Skeletonwitch and Gama Bomb. Foresta is miffed about being associated with the tag, which is understandable. Three-quarters of the time, a musician complaining about a genre makes for an exercise in delusional self-pity, but Waste predate their trend. Thrash revival began gaining legs in 2007, and these guys debuted at a Richmond house show on New Year's Eve 2001.
As an interviewee, Foresta is exceptionally fun. On the whole, Waste seem like the most lighthearted guys you'll ever meet in metal. So why are they so obsessed with violence and, specifically, making it comical? "I guess sometimes you've got to laugh at that sort of thing, especially when it's that over-the-top. Richmond is a pretty rough town, especially right now. A kid got killed two blocks from my house, like, a week ago at a party — a regular-ass college keg party," Foresta says. "Shit like that goes on a lot here. It's a really, really violent town, and it comes in waves. I don't really need to get into it, but once every few years, something horrible happens. It's good to throw a little humor [into our violent music] and not be so goddamn depressing about it."