Sometimes you get the showmanship, sometimes you get the rocker, and sometimes you get neither. Luckily when In The Valley Below took the stage at Mercury Lounge on Thursday there was plenty of both to go around. Even before the band took the stage, just by looking at the two headed mike stand with metal work resembling something you’d find in a medieval dungeon, you knew you were in for something different, something almost dangerous.
The first thing that strikes you is the band itself. Guitarist and vocalist Jeffery Jacob Mendel walked on the stage looking like John Wick, if his weapon was a six string and not a six-shooter. And Angela Gail Mattson looks like a certain Addams family daughter decided to cast her spells using keyboards, vocals, and chains.
In The Valley Below have been getting some strong press since the release of their latest EP, Elephant, and after seeing them live, it’s easy to see why. The band has a knack for bringing some disparate elements together into a driving mix. You can hear touches of new wave, blues, and some straight up seventies rock rhythms. The interchange on vocals between Mendel and Mattson only fuels the fire that drives their music. That interplay isn’t just present in their vocals, but also in Mattson’s electrified keys, and Mendel’s spectral string work.
While Mendel and Mattson work their magic at the front of the stage, drummer Josh Clair brings a thunderous presence to the band. The man moves across the skins with fury and a singular focus. In The Valley Below may be the creation of Mendel of Mattson, but it’s acquired an indispensable element in Clair.
The band brings an intimacy to their performances, and when you’re listening to them tear through songs that touch on the senseless shooting of Michael Brown [Bloodhands (Oh My Fever)] or a seductive invitation [Pink Chateau], that’s a necessity. In The Valley Below seems to touch the darkness, but in the most accessible of ways. Calling forth elements that lesser musicians might lose control of and be destroyed by. But Mattson and Mendel are operating tightly, efficiently, and effectively when they work their magic onstage. This isn’t to say they don’t put a show, cause they sure do (you won’t find them working through sets motionless with one hand in a pocket), but you won’t find them distracting you with superfluous elements to their live shows. This is a band that melds look and music seamlessly. And if you’re lucky enough maybe they’ll throw a Danzig cover your way.
Article: Omar Kasrawi