Concert preview: Eyehategod brings chaos, catharsis to Ace of Cups

Andy Downing, Columbus Alive

With a name like Eyehategod, it shouldn't surprise that the long-running New Orleans sludge-metal crew tends to strike an angrier, more confrontational tone in its music.

"Sometimes I'm stuck together," singer Mike "IX" Williams growls on the swampy, sullen "Parish Motel Sickness," a song off the band's 2014 self-titled LP. "Sometimes I'm so unglued!"

"I always try to have a little hope. Itry. But it's hard sometimes," said Williams, who joins his bandmates for a concert at Ace of Cups on Wednesday, April 20. "It seems like every musician now is like, 'I had a horrible childhood!' But it's true! Most artists, if you want to call them that, there's usually some sort of pain everything comes from. Starting back as a kid, yeah, you see things or you're around things. Or maybe it's just genetic. Maybe you're born manic depressive."

Williams channels these more tortured moments into his vocal performance onEyehategod, alternating between pained, guttural moans and corroded, throat-shredding howls that practically arrive covered in phlegm and loose bits of larynx tissue.

"I'm basically just a punk rock vocalist. There's no technical aspect to any of it. I couldn't see myself being like, 'I can finally sing that operatic falsetto after all these years! Thank god!' said Williams, 47, who grew up idolizing the likes of the Sex Pistols, Black Flag and the Ramones before discovering heavier bands like Slayer and Exodus.

Recording vocal tracks, in turn, can be a cathartic process, dredging up old memories or allowing Williams to tap into present-day frustrations. "It could be anything," he said. "It could be something in the dark recesses of your mind, or something that happened that day. Or it could be a particular combination of chemicals you consumed. It all depends."

The frontman certainly has an abundance of pained memories to tap into, having struggled with addiction, incarceration (he was jailed on drug charges in 2005) and the fallout from Hurricane Katrina, which led to his Lower Garden District home burning down following the storm. Then, in 2013, friend and Eyehategod drummer Joey LaCaze died at age 42 due to respiratory failure. Even so, the band never considered calling it quits in the months following his passing.

"When Joey died we had already decided to keep going no matter what, because that's what he wanted us to keep doing," Williams said. "We had even talked about it as a band because we're a bunch of morbid defectives. 'Who are you going to get to replace me when I die?' We'd all say that and crack up laughing."

After LaCaze died, Eyehategod auditioned a handful of drummers, including some who played in nationally touring bands (Williams declined to mention names out of respect for the players), before settling on New Orleans-based Aaron Hill.

"We're a clique-y band, so if a guy came in from another band and another city and tried to be in Eyehategod he would be the most miserable motherfucker. That's just the way it is," Williams said. "But Aaron is from New Orleans and he's in our scene. Being from New Orleans, you grow up with this groove. Living in the city you always hear blues and jazz and R&B and Cajun music and all this tribal, rhythmic stuff. And Aaron had all that in his head, just like Joey did."

Eyehategod's continued existence was a more open question in the years prior, however. The band allowed nearly 14 years to lapse between studio records (its previous album,Confederacy of Ruined Lives, surfaced in 2000), and there was a brief stretch where Williams wondered if the project would continue.

"There was a year maybe where I was thinking it wouldn't go on. But at the same time I think in the back of my head I always knew it would in some form," he said. "The band was bigger than anybody who was in it at that point."

Though the group hasn't been particularly active in the recording studio, Williams said the musicians maintained a steady live presence both with Eyehategod and in a handful of side projects, including Outlaw Order (essentially Eyehategod minus Jimmy Bower). Besides, in spite of Williams unhinged, bug-eyed stage presence, he's someone who doesn't want to force the music, preferring to allow things to unfold as they're meant.

"Music is organic; it grows the way it's going to grow," he said. "I could never be in a band that sat down and forced out a record, went on tour and then forced out another record. I couldn't do it."

While the slow-and-steady pace hasn't necessarily effected the band's still-chaotic sound, Williams admitted to a degree of long-overdue settling in his personal life, along with a new sense of optimism he's still learning to apply in his day-to-day.

"I know now all you can do is try to be hopeful," he said. "Things might not work out, and everything still might fall apart right in front of you, but you've still gotta try. I try a lot harder now to be positive in that way."

Ace of Cups

7 p.m. Wednesday, April 20

2619 N. High St., Old North

ALSO PLAYING: Graves at Sea, Order of the Owl, The Black Antler, Weed Demon