Two shows in one weekend is a lot for an old dude who still has something fucked up with his back, as well as a book to write and a shitload of Chinese homework to do, but it got accomplished, and it was a hell of a lot of fun. Katon needs to start having better judgement about promoters so that Hirax can stop having 60% of their tour cancelled, so that everyone can get a chance to experience something like this.
Of course, the show didn't start out nearly as smooth as it finished. This was a Sunday show, and not everyone has the ability to just take the next day off and rock out, so the hall (downstairs, there were some punk/core/emo [no idea] bands playing upstairs) wasn't completely full, and most of the openers played to pretty much a handful of fans. The overall turnout for the openers was similar to Saturday at the Skybar, but with the vital difference that many more of us in the audience here, in both absolute and relative terms, were not in bands on the bill.
Reverend Grundarr and the Unholy Trinity [5/7]:
Maybe it was the better sound from the music-hall (as opposed to bar) PA, maybe it was because I wasn't half as drunk, or maybe because they were opening up the show rather than following Swashbuckle, but these guys sounded a lot better here than they did at O'Brien's two weeks ago. Unfortunately, this is somewhat restricted information, because the number of people in front of the stage watching them was somewhat desperately limited. After I got down to the front, becoming the fifth audience member, I was going to say something about it being okay to start, now that there were more people in the audience than onstage, but didn't, because I don't really know any of the band members personally, and the only thing worse than playing to a next-to-empty floor is when the next-to-empty floor is also making smartass comments. They persevered, though, showing off the diversity in their writing and composition that often tends to get fuzzed out by the sound equipment of the venues they normally play, even some Bay Area touches that I didn't recall being able to pick out on their CD, and we responded on par with the complement of Henry Rollins' old maxim: if a band, no matter how small, is there playing a show and rocking out, you have a responsibility as an audience to rock hard as well, to show appreciation for their hard work. More people came down during the set, and it had to be counted as a success, but this isn't really the kind of band that's best seen behind a huge metal railing; despite the debits to sound clarity, it's probably better to catch them somewhere where they can set up on the floor in the middle of the audience.
I could say that this band put together a strong set of blackened death/thrash, but then someone would certainly say that this statement actually doesn't carry any information at all. Both parts of the above are certainly correct; Hirudinea's sound is mostly thrash with a few death metal turns and some black metal shadings, but just saying so doesn't really give any indication of what this makes them sound like. It probably helps to note that their current release is the A side of a split with Watchmaker, and that they covered the Cro-Mags and some early Mayhem in this set with about equal power and punch. They have good execution and intensity, and their overall sound is plenty cool, but they seemed to need just that little more on their original stuff to make them really stand out. Maybe it's on the CD (which I haven't listened to yet, that's on the plate for tomorrow), or maybe it's still ahead; regardless, these guys are playing good brutal thrash right now, and it's quite worth going up front for if they're opening a show you're at. The only disappointment was that they had to stop right after doing "Deathcrush"; it felt like they were only just getting fired up.
Random Acts of Violence [6/7]:
These guys have played a lot of shows with My Pet Demon, but I somehow hadn't managed to actually see them before this show. In contrast to the rest of the bill, including the headliners, they showed off a much more melodic thrash style, more "North Shore" than "South Shore", which has got to be one of the silliest scene splits out there. It wasn't just the change of pace that set these guys apart; there were some serious skills being shown off here, in the context of a bunch of good music. Their CDs are also on deck for tomorrow, at which point I'll have made a significant knowledge turnaround on yet another "should know more but don't" band; if you don't know these guys yet, you should also do likewise.
Mouth Sewn Shut [5/7]:
Abstractly, these guys were pretty cool; brutal hardcore changed up with reggae, which at least is different and which in this case was executed pretty well. Concretely, though, you really have to wonder what the HELL they were doing on this bill, as they had almost nothing in common with either the headliners or the other local support. They were a nice oddity and had some good music, but they felt a little out of place here, and didn't really endear themselves to anyone by running over their scheduled timeslot and pushing Hirax later. This is a band that you really have to see yourself to decide an opinion on; their mix of the intense and the laid back will appeal to some people, but others will hate it with even greater intensity.
If you've got an illustrated dictionary (to pull out and mock people with when they go back to that old stereotype of metalhead == retarded), and it doesn't have a picture for AWESOME, Aaron has plenty of pictures from this set that you can print out and just paste in next to the definition; almost anything will do. Seriously, this set was something to behold; not as packed down front as this hall was for Vital and Dismember last month, but this just gave the pit more room to be absolutely insane, and the front row was still so thickly stuffed that Katon was able to surf out off the railing on several occasions. The band's intensity and firepower was further amplified by some deft showmanship; the thrash metallers were full up for a rare Hirax date from the start, but they lit a royal fire under the hardcore segment with a punishing cover of "Hostile Territory", and in doing so got everyone's energy up even further. The end of the set -- until the encore, where we had to stop and roar the band back onstage -- was kind of a blur mostly from that point, as I was banging around, throwing moshers -- including this little ~40-year-old-guy who could teach any dozen Palladium tough guys a thing or two about totally insane thrashing -- back into the pit, and much more feeling the music than listening to it. Still, AWESOME. Opeth, you lean back and listen; Hirax, you charge forward and feel. Rumor is that the band will be coming back around "soon", or maybe just "next year", and it's not totally impossible that someone in Rhode Island could get a backline and some axes together for the band and get the Providence date on the 16th uncancelled; whatever the opportunity that avails itself, you should take advantage and check these guys out.
My stack of patches that I still haven't put on my jacket increases; I got one of Hirax's good (as opposed to the more common "crummy plain cloth") patches in addition to the Barrage of Noise EP, and may have time to sew it up on Friday before Hypocrisy (yes, Suffocation and Fear Factory are nominally above them on the bill, but my jacket should speak amply for my mind on the matter), if I'm not doing Chinese homework or typesetting the book. This'll be the only show next weekend; someone's getting up a gig at Mark's on Saturday, but there is officially No Fucking Way I miss Michigan battle Ohio State effectively for the national title. GO BLUE!!!