Tugboat at Tom Grainey's

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In June, the last time I saw Tugboat, the band was a mess of a riffs, styles and sounds that didn't function together, no matter how ambitious or skillful they were.

But that's not the case anymore.

The band dropped one of their guitarists, replaced their drummer and began focusing their sound in the direction of operatic metal epics instead of crockpot-style, sprawling indie jams. It was a good choice. Instead of free-form cacophony, Tugboat's sound is more like the score to an action film or video game, primarily due to not having either a vocalist or or an equivalent central focus. The songs are flowing textures of riffs that function well together, but still lack a central melodic lead.

The choice to layer violin on top of metal riffs is an interesting one, and the modes and tones selected provide a slight Asian feel to riff textures, like an ultra-aggressive cover of the Crouching Tiger soundtrack. However, when the violin recedes, the songs lose some of their direction.

Aside from Tugboat being a somewhat generic name for a band and their presentation falling a little flat without a front, the band's only real shortcoming at their recent Grainey's performance was the lack of tightness that comes with personnel changes. But it was remarkably precise considering the band's new drummer has been with the band less than two weeks. And fixing it is just a matter of time.

Overall it was a really great surprise to see how much the band has progressed in the last five months and I look forward to seeing where they'll be in another five.

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