Sometime around 9:30 on Saturday night, in the back of an art gallery nestled in a black-windowed industrial strip, a band rose from the ashes of Holding Onto Sound. It calls itself Illicitor, and for 30 minutes, it made its audience both nostalgic and incredibly hopeful.
Bassist Zabi Naqshband, guitarist Bob Gates and drummer Vanessa Tidwell have been rehearsing together quietly since Vegas punk outfit Holding Onto Sound parted ways in April of last year. Now, the dub elements of HOTS have fallen away and left only the heavy, unforgiving crossbeams of a chaotic hardcore trio, vocally surly in its address of problems global and social, heavily injected with personal frustration as Naqshband and Gates meet vocally on a powerful, even keel.
“Depending on the song, he’s backing me up and on the others I’m backing him up,” says Gates, the former quiet new guy turned throaty howling co-frontman. “It takes a lot of pressure off writing songs, since it’s half me and half [Naqshband]. And it’s definitely angrier.”
On a bill along with locals The Quitters, The Core and Narrowed, to an audience of roughly 60, Illicitor rifled wildly through its debut performance, Naqshband pausing to promise that the band rehearsed before unleashing itself upon the Valley. But any slips were only internally recognizable. From the cold studio floor it was a series of crushing blows, stoner metal-influenced guitar lines and mercilessly high-energy screaming, naturally garnering comparisons to the old project.
But while a punk band evolving from another punk band will naturally cause its audience to draw parallels, Gates insists Illicitor doesn’t waste time deciding if it’s a copy or a negative. “I don’t think we really focus on what this sounds like compared to what HOTS sounded like,” he says. “[We] just do what we like. We like metal. We like punk. ... We just like throwing things together that kinda shouldn’t go together and making it work. It’s fun to write challenging music and that’s what we’re doing, having a hell of a lot of fun.”