Moment of Truth 

Piston Honda

Piston Honda is an alternative metal band -- taking the heaviness of metal and giving it more of a post-punk twist with weightier, more thoughtful lyrics (judging from what little I could make out) and less visual and musical excess. From their clean-cut looks to their lean, hard sound, Piston Honda is atypical of the post-Korn brand of heavy bands, instead evoking more hardcore- oriented, early-Nineties bands such as Helmet and Quicksand, bands that Honda lead-singer/guitarist Jake Cook expresses admiration for.

According to Cook, the band formed in 1998 with the moniker Further, changing to Piston Honda (the name of a Japanese competitor in the video game Mike Tyson's Punchout) in 1999. The band consists of Cook, 22, a Rhodes student; guitarist Jason Babin, 22, a CBU student; bassist Patrick Umstad, 22, a U of M student; and 18-year-old drummer Austin Morlan. The band has played out-of-town sparingly so far, which Cook says is a result of the band members' academic commitments. But they have been in the studio: Piston Honda released their debut album, Paradigm Shift, last December. It was recorded locally at Nustar by Robert Picon and Justin Short.

At a recent show at Last Place on Earth, the band was a mixed bag. Honda proved to be a tight, unflashy hard-rock band whose music seemed to be based on emotional commitment rather than commercial calculation, and they employed stop-start dynamics to nice effect. The standout this night was Morlan, who is a powerhouse of a drummer. Unfortunately, the band's songs tended to run together, lacking both strong melodies and hooks and the grab- you-by-your-throat aggression of the best punk and hardcore -- though I guess I could make the same complaint about the genre itself. It may have been an off night, but though Piston Honda came off as a serious and solid band, an already sparse crowd just got sparser as the set wound down. -- Chris Herrington

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