Unholy Two brings a near-death experience to life at Ace of Cups

Andy Downing, Columbus Alive

Unholy Two crafted an unholy swell of noise during an appearance opening for Merchandise and Lower at Ace of Cups on a recent Sunday.

The abuse started before the music even kicked on, and the brief sound check/tune-up that preceded the set conjured images of a sadist preparing his or her torture chamber for its next subject, the four bandmates strangling out sharp, corroded blasts of feedback and menacing electronic bursts.

Once the musicians locked in, Unholy Two manipulated these waves of feedback as effortlessly as Magneto shaping metal, crafting crunchy swarms of locust-buzz and sharp squalls that echoed a long-shuttered sawmill sputtering angrily back to life.

This was not music created in celebration of life's beauty; instead the quartet ventured into the deepest muck, turning out swirling, stampeding death marches steeped in corruption, nihilism and violence. "Blow out your brains," howled frontman Chris Lutzko, aka Ripper, on one typically bleak tune. If "The Purge" were a real event, it's a safe bet this crew would provide the soundtrack.

The four bandmates looked as though they had no business sharing the same stage. Ripper and fellow guitarist Ax Bomber (not his given name) could have passed for '80s German hit men with their zipped-up track jackets, while drummer Dr. Death (ditto), who sported an unbuttoned leopard-print shirt, long, wild hair and enough scarves to make Aerosmith's Steven Tyler sit up and take notice, appeared to have been whisked in "Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure"-style from the late '80s Sunset Strip hair metal scene.

Regardless, the four moved with the singular purpose of a marauding army - all the more impressive considering the lineup shifted drastically following the departure of Adam Smith, previously credited with "power electronics," who left the band on amicable terms following a tour in support of the full-length Talk About Hardcore, released earlier this year. Hor$e stepped into this void, crouching behind a mysterious box jammed with gear and layering the dense songs with washed out, ghostly textures and chunky outbursts that mirrored silverware jammed in a garbage disposal.

It was a thrilling ride - at once nerve-rattling and weirdly invigorating - like a near-death experience transformed into 30 cathartic, sweaty minutes of noise-rock.