| Napoleon Complex|
w/ Hoax, Curmudgeon, Long Pigs, Brass Caskets, and Dawn of Humans. $8, 8 p.m., Feb. 25, Freight Street Gallery, 170 Freight St., Waterbury, (203) 993-2685, freightstreetgallery.com
Which is why I'm hesitant to trot out the “female-fronted” qualifier to describe Napoleon Complex, a Waterbury hardcore/powerviolence trio. Part of me thinks it's important to note that there's a woman in the mix, since music in general (and aggressive music in microcosm) is, by and large, a sausage-fest. I like to think that by mentioning it whenever someone besides a white straight man makes music, it gives all the other outsiders that much more guts to go forth and rock. On the other hand, part of me thinks that if the music kicks ass, then what does it matter?
In the end, the main reason I even debated mentioning frontwoman Tracy's gender is because her distinctly female vocals are one of the first things listeners are bound to notice about Napoleon Complex. Tracy sounds like she's rapidly approaching the end of her rope. Her scream cracks and wavers in ways that aesthetically place her firmly in the D.I.Y. realm. It's not the studio-polished, multiple-takes version of someone screaming. It's not a scream transformed, as in the metal and hardcore tradition, into a wall of white noise, or an unintelligible sound that may or may not be communicating lyrics. It's an actual person screaming about actual things that have pissed her off — and she's clearly feeling pissed.
Which brings me to the second thing listeners are bound to notice: You can understand every fucking word Tracy utters. One wonders if gender doesn't factor in here somewhere, considering that in underground hardcore and metal, male vocalists seem desperate for their lyrics to be indecipherable, encrypted in a shroud of noise. To Tracy, understanding her lyrical content is clearly as important as the way in which she delivers it.
As for the rest of the music, imagine that the basic Napoleon Complex song is your character in “Mario Kart,” ripping along the racetrack at full throttle. Imagine that you've already passed all your competitors and you've achieved maximum hardcore punk velocity. Now imagine that right before the finish line, you hit a turbo boost that launches you into superhuman blastbeat speed. That's kind of their formula: fast songs with even faster parts grafted on at strategic intervals.
Napoleon Complex is a relatively new band, but its members have been around the block. Guitarist (and Tracy's husband) Grizzly played in recently disbanded grind outfit Hip Cops. And drummer Crow used to hit the skins for grinders Misanthropic Noise, until a recent falling-out left him “almost not on speaking terms” with a member of the band. I caught up with them after a recent gig at a punk house in Hartford. We chatted about this Friday's show, which kicks off a small tour down the coast to Philly. When I asked Grizz if they intended to continue doing small weekend warrior tours, he noted that Crow is currently in school, which limits their ability to travel. “I'm focused on contacting distros to try and get my shit out.” He quickly corrects himself: “Our shit out.” At the same time, he reaches out to Tracy and Crow to touch them both on the shoulders.
The shit he's referring to is their debut 10-song tape, Flesh Control, which they put out earlier this month. The name and the tattoo-style album artwork come from Tracy and Grizz's love for body modification of all varieties. Grizz works as a piercer in Waterbury, and is a devotee of the Modern Primitives movement. Flesh Control will be available at Friday's show for $4.