This was probably going to be the last show of the year, no matter how China shook out, and it was definitely noteworthy. I was late driving down because I wasn't able to get the 4:30 train after Chinese class, and thus didn't get going from my apartment until past 6:30. I got in only a matter of minutes before Sanctity got on, though some of this was in finding parking; this show was brim-full up, even to the point where they had to open the balcony, a first for metal shows (that I've gone to, ofcourse) since I've been back full time. So I got my beer and paid out for merch from the undercard -- Bodom was going to be making their full share, and I'm not going to be the one letting Amon Amarth and Gojira go hungry -- and went on down to the last row above the floor; the floor was ofcourse packed, and having seen Amon Amarth from the front rail at Wacken, I didn't need to be hogging someone else's spot who hadn't.
Sanctity [5/7]: These guys had more than their share of problems with the sound, but it got better through the course of their set. Once the "mismixed PA noise" factor was dialed out, they were pretty much NWOSDM with some thrash grooves, which is a different feel for a Georgia band, but still pretty cool. Unfortunately, they didn't do a lot that was real distinctive, and the singer desperately needs to get some real vocal lesons; melodic vocals are fine and dandy, but you have to be able to stay on pitch consistently when you do them. Such was not the case here. They were decent enough, and improvement is definitely possible, but it's going to take a good deal of convincing to make me want to hear these guys again; we have quite a few better thrash and thrash/NWOSDM bands around this state.
Gojira [6/7]: These guys started up brutal, hit hard, and did not disappoint, delivering amply with both complexity and heaviness; a shorthand would probably be about equal parts Morbid Angel and Converge. The problem was that this made them both the most brutal and the most complicated band of the night, and in an auditorium full of people who want to hear Janne Warman play singsongy keyboard melodies, you're going to get a few literal "hate crew" yelling in undeserved abuse. However, most of the audience 'got' this band, and got into them as well, despite some of the oddities in arrangement and composition. They'd probably have done better, reaction-wise, on a more underground bill, or in areas of the country where this package is more underground, but they were still strongly appreciated.
Before Amon Amarth went on, we had a chance to contemplate their guitar sound during their soundcheck. Now, guitar tone, especially for metal bands, is often referred to as 'meaty', but this was something else. Amon Amarth's guitar tone sounds like MEAT itself, barely cooked meat dripping with juices, chopped and brought to the mouth with the same battle knife, and washed down with giant flagons of beer so thick and strong that you almost have to chew it as well. When Amon Amarth's guitar sound leaves the amplifiers, it soars out over the audience, then up into the heavens and across the Rainbow Bridge into Asgard, where it wraps itself around the bones of Thor's slaughtered goats, building the new flesh that is required to return them to life, so that they may be slaughtered anew the next night, to provide the Einherjer with the roasts and steaks for their feasting. That is what Amon Amarth's guitars sound like.
Amon Fucking Amarth [7/7]: I was prepared for a letdown. Of course, this turned out to be in vain, because they executed a thoroughly awesome performance, but since I'd last seen them at the world's biggest and best festival with the Jomsvikings, plus a bunch of selected totally awesome shows on Wrath of the Norsemen, I figured that I was due for an average Amon Amarth gig. Well, if 'average' for Amon Amarth is the same as 'massively awesome' for other bands, then yes, this was an average set. Despite some hardcore problems with Johan's mic crumpling up (understandable, the dude yells fucking hard), the sound was great, and the performance awesome. It weighted heavily towards the newer part of their catalog, and they didn't have enough time to work in "Victorious March", but this was still a high-class performance all the same.
I ran into Kenny from MPD back in the bar after their set and enthused significantly about Amon Amarth, but after I got back from the head, he was nowhere to be found, and so I just hung by the bar to get another beer. While in this spot, some guy in a Burzum longsleeve asked me if I was NS; I said no, and immediately started thinking, as I collared my Sam Adams and set off for the relative front, how he could have come to that conclusion.
The answer is that given certain gear on my jacket, it's quite possible to make the inference that it belongs to a rightist. My left shoulder is probably what he saw first, with the Slayer version of the Reichsadler as the top patch, and then behind that, on the same left side, are my Vinnland flag and an Iron Cross. Also on my back are a German flag and the Dresden city crest, all of which have meaning to people who choose to put political meanings to them. However, none of these means what suspicious people might think they mean.
The Slayer patch is just a Slayer patch, and gets its value not because of what it represents, but because it isn't available in the US. The Vinnland flag expresses, for European travel purposes, my pride in my homeland and my disagreement with many of its government's recent antics....and also highlights the fact that Type O don't have any good patches of their own. The Iron Cross is just there to look cool, like it is whenever Lemmy or bikers use it. I know enough German military history to realize that it's nothing special; by the end of both of their wars of aggression, it was basically only possible to avoid the Iron Cross Second Class by active insubordination or treason. The Dresden crest is to remember Dresden, yes, but the Dresden that I lived in for a year, not the Dresden that got burned down 35 years before I was born. It's a onetime home that I want to go back to, not a war memorial. And the German flag is just that: the flag of the democratic Germany that I like living in, and feel in many ways almost as comfortable in as my nominal homeland. It's a shame that so much German paraphrenalia 'belongs' to the right, but under no circumstances are other people's ideas going to make me cut stuff off my rig that I already feel belongs there.
As for rightists in general, my stance is basically the same as Amon Amarth's (who have had similar confusion in the past): I don't support them, but as long as they aren't stirring shit or starting trouble, they've got the right to their opinion too. At my age, extreme politics cuts into my sleeping time, and that's something to be avoided at all costs.
Ok, back to the show.
Children of Bodom [7/7]: Their performance wasn't quite at the level of Amon Amarth's, but it was very well-executed, the songs sounded great, and the visual presentation was staggering. They only had about half their festival gear for this run of indoor halls in North America, so the trucks and additional lighting trusses stayed home, but they did bring the lasers and the large metal backplates that spelled out the band's initials in mini-spots. They kept the crowd pumping in top form, which is admirable since it seriously seemed that Alexi had to change guitars after every other song. No idea if this was different tunings or the axes just getting driven out of tune, though I'll consider the latter more probable, since he was just pounding around the stage like a madman, throwing the guitar around his neck, crushing bends around, all the stuff that you expect from Alexi Laiho. After some brief and hoarse yelling, they came back out for a perfunctory two-song encore, then did some fan appreciation, and Alexi led the crowd in the chorus of the Beastie Boys' "Fight For Your Right" before spitting beer in the air and heading off for the last time. Good set, good gig, good way to end the year if this is how it goes.
No idea on when or what the next show is gonna be; nothing definite before God Forbid and Goatwhore up in Bedford.