Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Metal Church with Meliah Rage, Steel Assassin, Ravage, Red Right Hand, La Strega, Troll, and Legion of the Dying [Mark's, Bedford, 1/27/2007]

I got rolling a little later than anticipated, but still arrived with plenty of time, actually a couple minutes before doors. It's probably just that the back roads component winds around, and the part on 93 is such a huge pain in the ass, that it makes the drive feel longer than it is. On the way in, I got a ticket off Legion of the Dying; I already had one, but as discussed previously, getting tickets to a P2P show without going through the bands is like stabbing them in the back. There are equitable ways to do pay to play (maybe discussed in a later post), but requiring a band to front $400 to play at 6 PM to barely more people on the floor than on the stage is not one of them.

This settled, I got inside, got a beer, and started fielding questions and comments about my jacket almost immediately. This would be an ongoing theme of the night; there were a couple other guys in kuttes there, but mine as especially ridiculous seemed to draw consistent attention. I talked with the vocalist of La Strega initially -- he had a similar rig but out'grew' it -- and then one of Ravage's hangers-on later, before La Strega, who had a leather vest that patches kept falling off of. Folks, there are tailoring solutions to both these problems. If you get too rotund for your kutte, cut the seams out on the sides and shoulders, sew in a 3- or 4-inch spacer section of denim in all areas, then cover the spacing up with more patches so it looks more natural. And if you've got a leather vest, there are these things called leather needles that are sharp and strong enough to go through it. There's no way my jacket could survive the heavy use and abuse it gets if the patches were ironed rather than sewn on.

Enough with the metal homemaking tips already. On to the bands.

Legion of the Dying
I was really going back and forth on this band, and ended up going with a split score, which I hate having to resort to. However, it turned out to be both necessary and accurate, because there are a fair number of hairs to be split on the first half of the bill. These guys did a decent job despite the fact that the audience never got up to even double the number of people on stage, working an odd but decent mix of power and black metal that probably doesn't owe as much to Bifrost as it sounded to me. It was a pretty good performance, though there's room for improvement in some of the material, and there's definitely a reason that this band was opening up this show rather than playing later. The other five metalheads who saw this set were probably equally entertained, but those who came in later did not miss much, either from this band or much of the first half of the bill.

Troll [4/7]
It probably goes without saying that this is not the Norwegian black metal Troll, but a hard rock combo of the same name from New England. Their set was better than might have been anticipated; the drummer did use all of his forest of cymbals, and though any number of very negative things might have been said about the band based on their average age, none of them would actually have been true. The music was strongly hard-rock based, the kind of attack that the guys at BNR usually call just "'80s metal", and mostly well-performed. In spots I got the impression that I was watching My Pet Demon through a window into fifteen years in the future; I'm sure that the band won't be crazy about hearing this as if they're going to be stuck playing mediocre bar shows forever and not really getting any traction, but the reasons are more positive: a band resolutely swimming against the current, playing the kind of music that drives them, no matter what the trends are. For this reason I really have to respect this band, even though I'm not crazy about their music, and a lot of the local bands on this bill that had several older members, for sticking it out, playing metal, and continuing to put up with the bullshit of underground gigging and promotion despite moving forward in their lives.

La Strega [4.5/7]
I picked both a good and a bad spot to see this band from. On the positive side, I got right up on the rail to get an earful of their guitar. On the negative side, the guitarist was playing through at least a full stack, maybe a double stack, and I could barely hear anything else, and the vocals more or less not at all. The performance was pretty good, built mainly on classic melodic metal, but there were warts on it as well. The guitarist definitely has chops, but I'm not nearly as sold on his musical sense; no matter how kickass a solo is technically, and there were some really good ones in their set, it'll still sound bad if it's not in the same key that the rest of the band is playing in. Even though this was defined by only a bassist last night, it still bears remembering.

Red Right Hand [5/7]
I was having trouble placing these guys until I talked with this other dude at the bar; he commented that they sounded a lot like Exodus, and the light immediately went on. Thet did sound a hell of a lot like Exodus, putting a little more melodics into an aggressive thrash sound and topping it off with a singer spitting vitriol. They were the only band to play a cover on this bill -- how "Highway Star" dropped out of Metal Church's set is a tale told later -- and they did ample justice in ripping through Slayer's "Black Magic". You don't see too many bands reaching back to do stuff off Show No Mercy at the local level, even a cut as well-known as this one. All in all it was a pretty killer set; I scored a CD off them as well, and in this case it was direct support of the band, not, as with the two Troll discs I got, because the other bands didn't have their fucking merch setups out. I'm looking at you, Steel Assassin and Ravage; when you kick ass on stage, make sure you've got some dood in the back with the box of CDs so you can take money from the people you just pumped up.

Ravage [6/7]
This was as good a set as I've seen from Ravage in a long time; Al seemed really on, and the sound guys had his vocals dialed in perfectly, which has not been the case in the recent past. Of course, the last time I saw Ravage was at a disco in Saugus, so there's definitely an explanation here. They did all new material -- off their two albums, no Curse of Heaven stuff -- and all of it sounded great. They did have a banner of the Spectral Rider guy, but it was draped over the front monitors rather than hung in the back (as it probably was on their Euro dates). This is probably just as well, because Steel Assassin had some problems with their banner, which are kind of to be expected when you're tying it to the ceiling rather than to a truss. The guy they got to fill in of Howie (who recently quit) on bass did a competent job, but stayed mostly at the back, probably indicating that he's just filling in on a temporary bassist, and the Ravage bassist search will continue.

Steel Assassin [6/7]
Several people commented that of the undercard, these guys stole the show. I don't necessarily agree with that -- the last three supporting acts were largely even, maybe incremental steps in advancing order, in my view -- but I can definitely see where that assessment would come from. They did a strong set of Maiden-inspired power/thrash metal, and really got the crowd churning up. Again, my position may have cost me some of the impact -- I was up front, but leaning on the stage left bass tubes -- but I was still seriously impressed, and hope to catch this band sometime else when they have merch.

Meliah Rage [6/7]
Finally, the touring bands came up, and the impact showed it to be worth the wait, even for those somewhat mental people who didn't enjoy a very good lineup of local openers. Meliah Rage played with a fire and intensity that seemed deliberately intended to belie certain assertions made about them being D-level generic thrash and unable to gain traction. The music itself was fairly typical, built heavily around ideas originally explored by Metallica, but the performance more than made up for the relative lack of originality in composition; there is nothing wrong with doing stuff that others have done before, as long as you kick ass at it and put on a good show, which was absolutely the case here. They played a good mix of old and new material, and always with a fanatic energy; the singer stagedived three times, and fortunately all three times was caught and returned. This is by no means a sure thing, as he's kind of a big dude, and Mark's has a no-mosh policy, so the first leap may have caught a few people by surprise. It was an awesome performance, but if it ran late (I wasn't watching the clocks), it might come out as a negative....for reasons to be documented a little further on.

Metal Church [7/7]
This is not solely a psycho fanboy reaction to finally hearing Blessing In Disguise stuff live. The key word in that one is 'solely'; hearing this lineup do "Fake Healer" is definitely one of the highlights of my year so far and will probably continue to be even after we get out of January. I don't know whether it's audience- or copyrights-driven, but this set, unlike their performances at Wacken, this set covered the band's whole career, though weighted early, if only because there's just so much awesome material on Metal Church and The Dark. They brought out a couple dancers from the strip club part of the building for "Fake Healer", and while there were a few dollars thrown on stage, I probably wouldn't've noticed even if they had, at any point, taken any of their (minimal) clothes off. Save the chicks for some other number if you want people to look at them, this is FAKE FUCKING HEALER! This set was debatably better than when I saw them on the Party Stage, but was unfortunately cut short before the encore -- "Highway Star" as mentioned earlier -- due to club curfew. The astonishing lameness of this is difficult to comprehend, but this of course isn't the band's fault; the problem lies with the club, and indirectly with the promoter for booking them here...and then via multiple indirection, with whoever booked their tour through New England Concerts rather than trying to get them into Boston. It was still an awesome set even without the encore -- and really, there would probably have been no complaints had they just gone on for another half hour, even with the snow and the condition of the roads outside.

I've now recovered all my hearing damage, and have the newly purchased Metal Church pin affixed to my jacket; next show's probably out in Worcester, Metal Thursday starting off Metal Winter Break, which has gotten a little more potential fill. I probably won't go up to Mark's again to pay Diecast to see Mortis Dev and Frozen on Friday, but I'm mulling over trying to get into this party Mark Fields of You're Fired is throwing Saturday. On the plus side, metal + party. On the minus side, I'm not sure that I could even survive partying out with Anal Cunt and assorted dudes, and it'd be a fucking shame to miss the rest of Metal Winter Break due to being dead or in jail or in the hospital or something. We'll see how this shakes out.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Godless Rising with Downfall, Goreality, and Mortis Deveia [Skybar, Somerville, 1/24/2007]

Midweek shows suck. Well, more accurately, it sucks that shows are put on midweek, and it would suck if a midweek show, once attended, was not so awesome that you don't care that it's on a Wednesday. This show, quite obviously, did not suck, but I definitely would rather have caught it on the weekend for external reasons.

Though it was a little more difficult parking with the factory behind the venue still working, not leaving huge swaths of sidewalk open for cars, I got in without a hitch a little before Mortis Dev went on. I probably could have taken a little more time and got some Chinese food before going in, but I misestimated their ability to be open later midweek and didn't. Instead, I went in, started drinking, and pawed through the distro table while the bands were setting up. Jeff gave me a 20-percent discount on the crazy stack of CDs I pulled out -- sue me, I'm a sucker for anything on Wild Rags -- and also sold me on a plainly awesome Godless Rising patch, which is one of the most well-finished that I've ever seen, especially from so underground a band. Of course, it's the top patch on his kutte, so he's going to be sure that it kicks some serious ass from the design and manufacturing standpoints. Contrast this with Celtic Frost's M.O. of "screenprint something, overcharge for it, and show no signs of caring at any point in the process".

While I was buying the patch, Mortis Deveia started up; this was unexpected because the band was down to a four-piece, and I like most people was anticipating that they wouldn't start until all of the band was there.

Mortis Deveia [5/7]
The bassist had to work or something, leaving the band as a four-piece with little low end. They still did a good set, mostly because the rest of the band is awesome enough to pull such off, even when the number of paying audience members is still in the single digits. The absence of the bass was definitely felt, though, because without the low end solidifying the song, Mortis Deveia transforms easily into the Henry Khiev Show, and as sick as he is on guitar, the band works better when they're playing as a band, not as sidemen. Still a good performance, though not their best. They'll have other chances to establish themselves more strongly in the Boston area, and they definitely moved a lot of demos, which are now in a new pressing with a tracklisting and a larger spiffy logo. The old demos are now collectible, but still have Mortis Deveia on them, making it unlikely that anyone who currently has one will want to part with it.

Goreality [7/7]
I've heard a lot of good things about this band, and was somewhat surprised that they were going on second, instead of Downfall. Of course, bills don't have to make sense; the bands just have to rock. And rock Goreality certainly did, laying out one of the strongest brutal death sets that I've ever seen, and quite possibly the strongest at the local level. The technicality never overwhelmed the groove, and the songs moved and roared into one another in an organic and epic fashion. The other bands on the bill also kicked ass, but Goreality's set, at least to someone who hadn't seen them before, was something else and something special. This was the same kind of feeling that I got seeing Suffocation at the Palladium a few months back: the promise of brutal death metal fulfilled, in this monolith of sky-filling sound that acquires beauty and wonder by disregarding everything except its own existence. Awesome.

I should have nailed them to the wall and got a shirt as well as their split with Clitorture (which I did get from Jeff), but it was at this time that I unsuccessfully attempted to get Chinese. I'm slotted to see them again here in April, though, so I can nab it then.

Downfall [6/7]
And just like that, it was time for Boston's favorite local South American death metal band. Yes, it sounds odd, but only in that this band is based out of the Bay State, not that they're a bunch of Latin guys who play thrashy brutal death. They had a single false start on a song, but otherwise more or less destroyed, putting out a killer set and getting the developing crowd involved. Of course, people had been up and thrashing as soon as people who weren't in bands got to the venue, but Downfall drew a lot of people in, and the craziness from them carried over into Godless Rising's set. I need to get a demo from these guys as well, but they didn't appear to have anything out; have to watch out in the future.

Godless Rising [6/7]
Though to a certain degree Goreality stole this show, Godless Rising went a long way towards taking it all back with their set here. As a NWOBHM freak and semi-professional snark, it's easy for me to think of this band as "Gruslin/Flynn Vital Remains", but that's not exactly the case. They played no Vital covers, and a ton of new (yet-unreleased) material, which strongly establishes this band as doing something independent and self-sufficient. Sure, the concept of fast brutal death metal with a melodic finish inherits from Vital's early work as much as the current lineup of Vital does, but this music is being developed in a different direction, with different priorities. It was a great set, and I'm sure that everyone else there also wished that they could have gone on longer, but they did play right up to the venue's cutoff.

Before leaving I nabbed a shirt (can't have my characters buying their merch if I don't as well) to evangelize them around some, then pulled to make sure that I got home in time to sleep some before work. Closures of 93 did not help in this regard, but I got around and back in one piece, having done 3 shows on one tank of gas. Work being so close rocks.

I'm currently mulling over a compilation project to make my yearly pilgrimage to Wacken more useful for other people, but that's waiting on getting the tickets and flight set, then doing a check on what space I have available in my pack. More info later if I end up deciding it's feasible.

Monday, January 22, 2007

two nights, two shows

Fortunately, it's only snowing now, not over the weekend, and it's not enough that the snow ban lights are on. This means I can stay in and collate two show reviews here instead of having to go drive somewhere, or be worried about moving my car off the street.

Revocation and Deadlikedeath
Caralilly's, Quincy, 1/19/2007

Technically, the bill should be flipped, but Revocation did put this show up, and the two bands here were about equally supported. Two bands on a DIY bill, the order basically doesn't matter.

I got down roughly on time, though before most of the band members got there, despite the usual 93 shenanigans and a couple blocks of walking to get over from the North Quincy T. The venue in question is a nice place, normally a piano bar, but it converts well into a DIY venue. It's a decent place for a local show, and proof that we do have the technical capabilities on the North Shore to host 18+ and 21+ shows...provided that someone gets off their ass and does it. Someone who isn't subject to randomly getting shuttled off to the ends of the earth, just so we're clear on this.

Before the bands got going, I unwittingly provided some opening entertainment by ordering a beer that had to come out of the wrong cooler. Said beer was partially frozen, and detonated on opening, covering the bartender and a fair stretch of the bar in an explosion of beer slush. She was a good sport about it, though, and it gave everyone something to laugh about while the bands were setting up.

Revocation [6/7]
Another show, another casually awesome performance from Revocation. This performance presented more of a relaxed, Bay-Area feel around the more technical or death-influenced parts of their sound, but the set was still unmistakeably in their usual style. Dave brought out some new guitar tricks, Anthony didn't take his shirt off, and a large number of people bought CDs when they finished; I wasn't anticipating this last, because their disc's been out for a while, and Revocation doesn't exactly hide in the forests building their kvlt credits as opposed to doing shows. This band is so good and performs so relatively often that you'd think most people who go to local shows in the Boston area would have Summon The Spawn by now. Regardless, a bunch more people have it now, and well they should.

Deadlikedeath [5/7]
Midway through their set, Murph likened following Revocation to pissing into a wind tunnel, but it wasn't as bad as all that. DLD gave a good performance, more grind than last time I was them either because that's how they're developing, or more likely because I've been listening to more grind lately and know what to listen to. They didn't seem any more or less comfortable in this venue than at the Middle East, but they were definitely a little looser. There were some stops and starts, but mostly just a kickass set. Unfortunately, I couldn't -- or more accurately, didn't -- stick to the end of it for the car-related reasons mentioned above, so I missed probably about 15 or 20 minutes of rockin' and a light fixture getting whacked. Next time, next time; this one, even just what I was able to stay for, was still a cool show and a pretty sweet Friday night.

Hell's Infinite 6 with Baphomet's Horns, Hekseri, Martyrvore, and Witch Tomb
DeeDee's, Quincy, 1/20/2007

After talking a good game about not parking at the T station like last night, I turned around and did it again. This of course was enabled by the fact that this venue is located directly behind the Wollaston Red Line stop (which I know of old), and there was no easier option. It also helped that it shortened the walk in sub-freezing temperatures in a non-insulated kutte. I can do this grim-and-frostbitten-north thing, but it's physically draining to do for too long at a time.

I didn't get in that early, but still got time to sit and regenerate before the bands started. I wouldn't sit down much the rest of the night, not only because there was a minimum of latency between bands, but also because the place filled up gradually throughout the night, to a level that most people probably wouldn't expect for a local black metal show -- provided that people can get over the idea of a local black metal show even happening.

Witch Tomb [5/7]
I was very impressed by this band, despite not hearing much about them going in. Their mix of drone and aggression was the closest that this night would offer to the 'typical' sound of USBM, but different enough to announce how the rest of the show was going to sound. They had a good long set for an opener, which the first three bands would all benefit from, showing off their abilities well.

Martyrvore [5/7]
Another good set, though more pointed and driven, despite being the first of the 40 percent of bands on this bill not to employ a bass player. Black metal by nature is treble-heavy, and the sound worked for both these guys and Hell's Infinite 6, but srsly, we may need to get a union going or something. The singer of this band, at least, is in Cold Northern Vengeance, but unfortunately I haven't listened to the CD I got off him yet, so I can't point to any differences or similarities in sound. Still a good set, plenty abrasive, and the rest of the audience was also into it.

The first two bands here are doing a split sometime in the near future, so something to watch out for.

Hekseri [6/7]
This slot on the bill was about right, and does credit to Megan for putting her own act in the right place while also putting up the show. However, the real story here is the performance that the band put on, a solid set of raw and dirty black metal highlighted by some excellent guitar work. Megan's solo style is clearly rooted in Slayer, but it blends well with the rest of the band's attack, which was at a comparably high level. This was a performance that built up rather than immediately starting and staying awesome, but this shouldn't diminish the quality of the music or its delivery. Very cool, and of course as gimmick-free as expected.

Baphomet's Horns [5/7]
There seemed to be a crowd surge for this band, with more people packing into the floor immediately in front of the stage to see them, then fading back when they finished. They were definitely worth everyone's full attention, providing a cool and fully developed set of nice brutal black metal, though it's always better, from a general scene standpoint, when fans of one band stick around for everyone on the bill. This is of course nothing on the band themselves, who gave a great performance that managed to feel cut off at the end; I'd gladly have watched them go on for another 15 or 20 minutes, but maybe next time. Next time, definitely, I'll get a shirt off them, as their designs are pretty killer, but all I got from them merchwise was their split with Amputator.

I also missed out on Hekseri stuff, but I'm definitely seeing them in like 2 weeks opening for Destruction, so I should be able to make it up at that time.

Hell's Infinite 6 [6/7]
Another ultimately killer set from a cool band, but also one that didn't employ a bassist. The dual guitar sound worked well, and the blending of riffs and feedback/general noise definitely enhanced the experience. Despite two guitarists and one of them wearing a Dissection shirt and a Dissection-derived arm tat, they held mainly to the brutal line that hs dominated the show so far, and did turn out a cool performance that also felt cut off. I'm not sure whether my internal clock starts going off after 23:00 or if it's just different expectations for headliners, but for whatever reason, this band also overcame a slow start to a point where I could have gone for another 15 to 20 once they finally closed up.

I probably could have hung around for a little after, but that would probably mean at least one more beer, and then more time off before driving, and I was again concerned about the Quincy PD booting or absconding with my car. I've got to plan better and/or find different places to park, but these Quincy venues are so convenient to the mass parking lots of our mass transit system that it's difficult to not be lazy and just use them. There's been some post-facto comments about the sound at this show from the bands, but I didn't notice much wrong with it; necro sound is something I've grown accustomed to from black metal, and all of the bands on this bill sounded fine with the sound as it was. Of course, that does mean that they'd all probably come off better with a good sound system, but that's something to look forward to; this show, now in the past, was pretty cool and a definite good experience to look back on.

In other news, I got my ticket for Enslaved off CNV, and several people, including one of the guys from Hirudinea (who was one of several with a better-built kutte than mine there), were rumoring about Rotten Sound playing at some Elks lodge in the area. No idea on the timeline for that one, but if it's north of the MA southern border, I ought to try and get to it; probably going to see them at MDF anyway, but that's pending how much vacation I have to take for Metal Winter Break.

Next show is hopefully going to be on Wednesday -- Godless Rising, Goreality, Downfall, and Mortis Dev down in Somerville -- but I'm fighting a cold right now and don't want to be fucking sneezing all over people. If that fails, I might go up to Metal Church at Mark's on the weekend, but I really don't want to go to a P2P show without getting a ticket off one of the bands. Sure, if I went I'd grout through everyone's merch table, but it'd still feel like I was picking Ravage or RAOV's pocket. Of course, the better step is to simply get rid of P2P shows, but as long as good nationals keep getting booked into them and good locals keep knuckling and playing them, it's going to be a devil's choice. Most likely I'll do the Wednesday show, then take the weekend off to regain my health (there's no way I'll see a better set from Metal Church than I got from the first row at Wacken this year) and hope to corral Ravage's CD releases later.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

NaNo books now available

I finally got my ass in gear and put my NaNo books online. Prices are reasonable, but if you really want one and I know you, just drop me a line or an email and I'll send over the PDF.

The dead-tree version is an omnibus combining both, available here: Two Short Novels of Central European Scumbags. Individually, the two said short novels are only available as e-books because neither really tops 100 pages. Both are formatted for DIY printing at the normal 8.5x11 US paper size: Infernal Abduction and Alex Li Gets Over. Note that these have no cover pages, as these just chew up ink cartridges; I wasn't able to do a 'no cover' option.

Darkly Shining Void may be forthcoming; I still haven't decided whether or not to try to seriously get that published for real. Since these are demos, I'll be open to a demo-for-demo swap.

Monday, January 08, 2007

God Forbid with Goatwhore, Mnemic, The Human Abstract, Arsis, and goddamnit there's way too many local bands to fit into the title [Mark's, Bedford]

[This show was on the 6th, but I ran out of room in the title. :( ]

I started a little late, but the drive up turned out to be much less demanding than I thought going in. As it turns out, if it's not a weekday rush hour, there's not a whole lot of people driving up to New Hampshire. Who'da thunk? There was some rain coming in, and the lack of proper lane markings on parts of 93 made this a little stressful, but it mostly cleared out by the time I crossed the border...and I actually took the right turns off 101 this time.

I got in late from all this, but not too late; I still saw most of the first band, and all of the 11 following. Yes, you read that correctly. Twelve bands, total, and to handle them with a minimum of latency, they were distributed between two stages. Yes, you read that correctly as well. Two stages. In a bar. To fit in 12 bands.

Kipe [4/7]
I got in after this band started, and watched them from the rail before grabbing my first beer. Most of the other people in the venue at this time were hanging about, shooting pool, etc, and truth told there wasn't a lot about the band to make them pay attention. This band put out some decent, solid, mainstream-friendly nu-thrash, nothing really technical or attention-grabbing. Kipe at this point is a replacement-level metal band, dependable but thoroughly average, but this is hardly surprising given that they're the first of 12 bands on this bill. Maybe I'll see them again -- depends when that "Anthrax" show (I thought this was just Belladonna or something) up there is in the week.

Acariya [4/7]
I didn't catch this band's name until I dug through the merch table to their demo, but I did catch nearly all of their set as soon as I realized that there was a second stage. After I got done boggling, I got up into the crowd and watched some largely generic, replacement-level metalcore. They were decent overall, and thankfully they seemed to be more in line with the headliners on this bill than what this subgenre has become. I did get their demo, and I'll see how they match up on record.

Arsis [6/7]
I finally saw these guys live, and they pretty much match their recorded performance. Technical but still song-oriented, and they still get and perform NWOSDM better than pretty much everyone else on this continent. I've heard far more than my share of Swedish death, so I still can't see them as shatteringly original, but they are extremely solid, and they definitely put on a great show here.

There's been a lot of chatter on why Arsis is playing so relatively low on this bill, when, exposure and talent-wise, they definitely ought to be on above The JesterHuman Abstract. The reason is simple; Arsis is on this tour as a last-second replacement for Scar Symmetry, who would have been doing their first US tour and couldn't have appeared anywhere but at the front of the nationals. The slotting was set before they were brought on, not much that they could do about it.

Our Last Sacrifice [5/7]
The second stage was still warming up, but these guys did a good job, putting up a nice set of fairly brutal modern thrash. I remember this set less well than I ought to due to the extended nature of the total show, but it was still pretty cool. I did get their CD, and will doubtless have some more intelligent and relevant commentary on that.

After this band, I hit the merch stand, picking up a bunch of CDs from Arsis as well as some buttons for my jacket. I was going to go back and get a shirt from them and God Forbid, but waited until after Ruin, and they were closed up. Hopefully I'll get another chance; that "The Real Black Metal" design is pretty sweet.

The JesterHuman Abstract [5/7]
I kid, I kid. Seriously, though, this band was fairly good, but so totally derivative of Jester Race-era In Flames in both tone and style that it couldn't escape notice. There were some original bits, and the singer spun it in more of a metalcore direction, and really, In Flames isn't exactly using this style any more, but still. At one point, I thought they were covering "Graveland", but no, it was an original. A nice set, still, but more as a replacement for classic In Flames rather than as a new and exceptional band.

Illconcieved [4/7]
After the first song, the assessment was that the bandname could hardly be more accurate. That first song was the most godawful abortion of a musical performance that I've experienced since the last time I saw Halo of Thorns, but fortunately they got it together after that, pulling up the score somewhat. Once they got their feet under them, even before their second guitarist showed up with half the set in the books, they did a decent but unexceptional set of Sam Black Church-styled hardcore. At this point, I see them as pretty good, but erratic; if I ever see them again, I'll be able to determine more concretely whether they're an ok band with bad luck or a marginal band who makes their own bad luck. Either is probably possible at this point, though I'm hoping that the first is the case.

Mnemic [5/7]
I'll get this out at the start: I have never been an especial fan of Mnemic. I think they're oversold and overhyped as a Danish remake of Fear Factory, another band that I'm not a huge fan of, even though they aren't really. Their modern thrash style fit in well with this bill, and they put on a good show, but didn't push themselves up to a standout level. However, this is still a higher rather than a lower 5 (no, I'm not going to break rank and start doing fractional ratings, I hate when I have to knuckle and do that), and this was a nice performance that people largely enjoyed.

Like many of the bands, they were frustrated that people weren't moshing...due to the club's "No Moshing" rule. If you want people to mosh, book yourselves into the Middle East; it's not in the middle of nowhere, and people can brew it up in the pit if they feel like it. There was a little bit of moshing, which consisted mostly of this other bigdood jumping up and dropping an elbow into my shoulder before getting grabbed by security. Fortunately, he didn't get tossed; there was no damage, the content was mostly incidental, and even though I don't have the knees to get in the pit any more, I also oppose the lameness of no-mosh regs. This place is covered in carpet. There were enough people in the front to keep a pit wall and prevent people from flying out and hitting the bar, the rail, or the pool tables. Abstractly, this is one of the safer places to throw down that I've seen a show in, and they have an anti-mosh policy that would do Varg and Euro proud. Ell-four-em-three.

Mortis Deveia [6/7]
It was probably just the much-improved PA, but this set was significantly better than when I saw them the last time. The crowd was just as into it if not more so, and in total volume was basically equal to the "mainstage", probably the largest for the local-band stage. They definitely got what they bargained for, with an awesome and ripping set that included a little brand-new material...if not the blistering Slayer cover that they did back in Saugus. Henry continues to amaze, though he had some significant competition from the two bands that would follow them on this stage. The only down point was when they announced that they had only 7 demos left/with them; it's safe to assume that these have now entirely sold out, and though they may have had a few more copies for their show at Rusty's on the 7th, another pressing is probably (or ought to be) in the cards. They were the only band on this stage where the crowd yelled for an encore, and fortunately the organizers gave them the ok to hang over for another song...perhaps because this doesn't happen in real life for local bands, and when it does, you don't want to fuck it up or fuck with their fans who are buying your beer and filling your headcount.

I previously met up with Henry and paid him for the demo, over his protestations. Too much pride, too much honor, all sides. It's a point of honor for me to pay my debts like a normal dood, but also a point of honor for him to forego compensation to get his music out into the hands of people who dig it. Recording's still not free, though...but if they had some more merch, I would probably have nabbed that instead. Actually, I would probably have done as I did, then also bought a shirt. What can I say, it's not a rational world here.

Goatwhore [6/7]
This, also, was a better set than I saw from them last time, the smaller space proboably drawing them out more and getting them more up for it -- or maybe it's that Mark's sound system, in terms of, like, correct balance and stuff, kicks the hell out of the Palladium's. This set covered over their whole history, which was an illustrative as well as awesome expeience, moving between the pure black metal of the early stuff, the black/death of most of their output, and then closing with their current 'single', which has a lot more of a black'n'roll feel to it. A kickass and headliner-worthy performance, and it sure seemed like the guitarist picked up a bunch more spikes on his rig since I saw them in Worcester two months back...plus a Moser custom V, which is just over-the-top enough to work with his overall medieval-warclub look. Killer.

Frozen [5/7]
These guys also put on a better set than they did opening for Celtic Frost, despite their guitarist's untreated hernia, and the reason was probably also the better sound. Their set, like last time, trended steadily towards the wow-you-guys-really-like-Evergrey as it progressed, but showed off their significant thrash elements a little better. It'll be really interesting to see where and how these guys take this fusion, especially if the reports are accurate that Colin has left Cannae, presumably to focus on Frozen.

After Frozen's set, I met Aaron from RTTP for real, drawing his attention by nearly beaning him in the knee with a beer bottle. It wasn't really close to hitting him on its way to the trash can, but flying glass (even in a low arc) is a hell of an attention-getter. Fortunately, he didn't step off askance or anything, and we talked briefly before Colin cut in, and I headed back off to the other stage.

God Forbid [7/7]
Most of this set wasn't as transcendent as might be inferred, but it built steadily to this level by the final song, feeding off of and driving energy from the crowd, so that anyone wanting to dispute this assessment has a tough argument to make and probably wasn't actually at the show. Most of the set was from the new record, with a little old stuff sprinkled in in places; not that it mattered to anyone, as everyone was up for all of their stuff, and most of the main crowd was singing along with Byron on everything anyway. All in all, this was a kickass, committed set from a kickass, committed band that will still be going, even if it's playing bars in Bedford, NH, and kicking their asses long after the metalcore wave has rolled back out. Originators and imitators, man, and these guys are definitely among the first caption...and pretty fuckin' metal too.

I went back and saw Ruin setting up, without a bass player, and felt the bottoms of my feet whining at me. "All right," I thought to myself, "if it's past one, I'll grab a shirt and then bag this." I pulled my watch out of my pocket (irritates the hairs on my wrist when it gets sweaty), and read 12:40. Thanks, watch!

Ruin [6/7]
Though there were some technical problems with this set -- a stop-and-start when someone fucked up the intro of a song, and the non-singing guitarist blew out his A-string -- these barely held this somewhat unusual band back in their delivery of some surprisingly sharp and kickass technical death metal. The basics were fairly Death-like, and after a few seconds, you stopped noticing that there wasn't a bassist in the lineup. Unconventional, but quite cool, and I'm definitely going to be looking for these guys in the future; if Boston and Maine weren't so far apart, it would be most natural for these guys to get into an evil alliance with Revocation. Kick ass, and I'm glad I stayed, though I probably should have gotten merch while they were setting up rather than waiting.

All in all, a cool show, and the drive isn't that much longer or more intense than going to Worcester. The smoke also wasn't too bad...well, at least not in comparison to the Alter Schlachthof or to general outside conditions in Beijing, which are my current benchmarks for unbreathability. I'll probably be going back...but they gotta do something about this whole pay-to-play thing. LAME. And the 'no moshing' bit, but there's probably less chance of changing that.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Amon Amarth (copypasta)

This was reposted on RTTP recently, but it's a few years old; I think either Keith Bergman wrote it on the original Infernal Combustion (pre-Roadrunner) or it was this other guy whose site I used to follow (can't remember where it was...and he's out of metal now anyways). And despite the title, I promise that it's not going to turn into the Fresh Prince halfway through.

Though....that would be pretty damn funny.

Once, in the land of Zimble-boo,
Where honkweed grew and brimbles flew,
There lived two fans of heavy metal
Who had a great big score to settle.

One, named Nod, was into stuff
That could never be True enough
He always said to his friend Barth,
"I do not like Amon Amarth."

Barth, instead, was just the kind
To try and have an open mind
He worshiped metal in all its forms
And any music outside the norm.

At the Frizz-Frazz Works, all day they worked
And Barth thought Nod a tiresome jerk
For from his truck, he would go get
Graveland, Darkthrone and Negura Bunget.

"I have here bootleg tapes of Mayhem,
I will not hesitate to play them.
They feature both Dead and Euronymous
You don't like these? Ha! You wuss!

Their freezing grimness frightens thee
And flays your soul and sanity.
Thou art untrue, my weak friend Barth.
That's why you like Amon Amarth."

"But Nod," Barth said, his voice a-quiver
"I have catalogs from Spinefarm and Shiver,
Necropolis and House of Kicks
Some bands have learned a few new tricks.

And while it's true these newer bands
Have killed no one by their own hands
There is no law in Zimble-boo
That says all metal must be true."

"Fuck off, you poser!" Nod exclaimed.
"May thy weak ass perish in flames!
The corporate labels are your friends,
To them you look for mindless trends.

"I will not like your Borknagar,
So please don't play it in your car,
I'd sooner hacksaw off my ear
Than listen to Dimmu Borgir

"God Dethroned just makes me laugh
Cradle of Filth incurs my wrath
And most of all, my lame friend Barth,
I do not like Amon Amarth."

"But would you like them, Nod, if soon
They did a record for Full Moon?"
"Not e'en on vinyl, you buffoon;
I would not like them on Full Moon."

"But would you like them, Nod my friend,
If they did a record for The End?"
"Those corporate followers of trend?
Not on your life. I will not bend!"

"Well, how about Necropolis?"
"On them I take a healthy piss!"
"Surely you like Misanthropy."
"You Christian tool, begone from me!

"Please do not mention Hammerheart
Those thieves of diabolic art
Your head is so far up your ass
You might as well say Nuclear Blast

"And mention not Century Media
Or else I will be forced to beat-y ya
Please, Metal Blade? Have you no balls?
Those bastards signed the Goo Goo Dolls!!"

"But Nod," Barth cried, "this band is good
They hate the Lord, just as they should
Their sound is great, which is what you get when
It's engineered by Peter Tagtgren

And though it's all been done before
It kicks much ass, you can be sure
So take it from your old friend Barth,
You'd really like Amon Amarth."

At this, Nod flew into a fit
And tore poor Barth to little bits
He murdered him with Satan's might
Then went to jail without a fight

And there, he only got to hear
What people taped for his imprisoned ear
He could not buy from catalogs
From Breath of Night or from Moonfog

No compact discs could he possess
Only dubbed tapes, to his distress
But then one day, he got a mix
From some homely Goth pen-pal chick

She taped him Emperor and Dawn
Dark Funeral and Apollyon
She even filled all of side two
With bands like Opeth and Lilitu.

And when our Nod was forced to hear
These different bands, his pagan ear
Was startled, and his beady eyes
Did widen in complete surprise

He liked these bands! Yes, quite a bit!
It made old Darkthrone sound like shit!
It wasn't kult, to be quite fair
But, he realized, he didn't care!

And on the end of this cassette
One more surprise waited yet
Amon Amarth, the very band
That made Nod kill his bestest friend

The final song that was in store,
"God, His Son, and the Holy Whore,"
From The Avenger, their new CD,
Came blasting out of Cell Block Three.

Why, Nod was startled and perturbed:
"Where is this place called Gothenburg?
That buzzsaw sound, these catchy songs
I could enjoy this all day long!

"I've seen the error of my ways
But who is this right now that plays?"
He checked the listing on the tape,
Then laughed and said "For goodness sake!

"Barth, had I but listened to thee
You'd be alive, and I'd be free
So hey, I owe ya one, ol Barth
I do so like Amon Amarth!"

Indignation with Death Defect, Mortis Deveia, My Pet Demon, and Ravage [Club Tabu, Saugus, 12/28/2006]

This was a good show, the first at this venue in recent memory and unfortunately, quite probably the last for a while. Of course, this because it was a good show...though totally unsuited for this club.

Mark and I got in about 15 minutes before nominal doors, hanging out in the parking lot with some of his crew, discussing past shows, expectations here, and, of course, the venue, which someone had declined to come down to because it was allegedly too sketchy. This was a nightclub on Route 1 in Saugus. On their big sign facing the highway, they were advertising JAM'N 94.5 Night on Friday...and on Thursday night, they had five metal bands in. Obviously, this place had nothing on O'Brien's, Exit 13, Club 125, or any other of the legendarily crummy venues that we'd seen bands at in the past, and I'm sure that we were all looking forward to destroying it.

Eventually, it got to be doors, so we went over to the 'door', but it was not, like, open or anything. This defeats not only the purpose of a 'door', but also the purpose of 'doors', and the idea of getting into a venue in a timely fashion. So we stood around a little more in a different place, until after Indignation's two buses of doods pulled up, and the line stretched back around the front of the club. The buses were kind of whacked out, but Haverhill is a long way from Saugus, and it's better than asking metalheads from the Merrimac Valley to drive this far down into the Great Blight on their own for a local show. The odd lack of metal bands between Boston and the New Hampshire border is kind of weird, but by force and with sufficiently good music, we can overcome the Blight. Provided, of course, that we can get some decent venues that will do more than one show, and don't dick around like this one did with their metal detector, which significantly slowed down the entry process. Metalheads don't stab each other! Metalheads don't carry guns to shows! Seriously, fuck this lame shit.

This delayed the start of the show as people got processed, but eventually things got rolling.

Ravage [5/7]
Ravage opened, and were unfairly held back by this fact...because Al Ravage got lost on the way to the venue. It's easy to get to this place if you know how to turn around on Route 1, but this is not universal knowledge, especially as most people just prefer to never drive on Route 1 at all. So they played half their set as an instrumental four-piece, with Pat from MPD jumping in on guest vocals for the last half of "The Wicked Way", and then Al finally got through security and onto stage. The PA wasn't especially kind to them -- the club's PA was so shitty that MPD had to bring their own down -- but this was still a very solid performance. "DamnNation" was the only 'new' song they did, and despite various people's yelling, "Wyvern" stayed retired. Unfortunately, they pulled out of the venue pretty quick, so I still wasn't able to pick up Spectral Rider. I gotta get more on the ball with this, but this time around, there were a bunch more great bands in the offing.

My Pet Demon [5.5/7]
This was a solid set with a few new touches, mostly Alex playing more of the solos, but pretty much -- after five years following these guys, from their first headlining set in my parents' basement -- just another good set from MPD. More of the set is new material, which Kenny is incredibly pumped about recording, but the "Crime Pays" stuff is still a centerpiece. They covered not only "Ace of Spades", but also "Self Esteem", which they hadn't done in a while, in a sludge-thrash style fairly close to the original but still thoroughly metal. They brought a good number of people in, but many of them drifted out after their set; symptomatic of the local scene at large, but still kind of discouraging. Seven bucks isn't much for a show, and one of the best parts of going to gigs, for me, is the chance to see bands that I don't know and hear something new and cool. Besides, what the hell else are you doing on a Thursday night?

Before Mortis Deveia went on, Chris, Indignation's "hype man", came over and talked with us a bit about the bands, the setup of the show, and plans to finish uniting the scene. Haverhill's got a good scene, but it's cut off from the rest of Massachusetts by something like a Great Blight of venues; there's the Merrimac Valley, and then there's Club Lido in Revere and maybe this place in Saugus if they ever book another metal show here, but basically nowhere else in Essex County. The yuppie population forms a barrier preventing metal fans from easily jumping from town to town and hooking up with other fans from other areas and building scene. More shows like this will connect the Merrimac scene with the holdouts left on the North Shore, and if Chris remembers the tip I gave him on Random Acts of Violence and they're able to work something out, the Massachusetts scene may be able to rebuild itself out of its now-separated component parts. It's a long-term project, but eminently doable; promoters need to cross-book more bands out of region, and normal metalheads like me need to go to more out-of-region local shows -- and try to bring friends.

Mortis Deveia [5.5/7]
I hadn't heard these people before -- 'people', because this band is not uniformly 'guys'. Their female singer looks looks like basically any other slight twentysomething woman from this area, but unleashed a vicious NWOSDM-driven performance that melded well with their overall brutal thrash sound. With a brutal female singer and a standout guitar virtuoso in the lineup, the Arch Enemy comparisons are going to be inevitable, but the more brutal sound and Bay Area thematics (the drummer does one of the best blastbeat-polka beats I've ever heard at the local level) make them much more reminiscent of Exodus. They also showed some flashes of real brilliance, but are still obviously developing; I'll have to hear them on record to assess them further, despite their balls-out, uptempo cover of "Raining Blood", which pulled up Chris from Indignation's crew to do guest vocals. I did get their demo, but I now owe Henry three bucks due to not having proper change. I did get a God Forbid ticket off him, though, so the band is slightly compensated, and I'll be able to pay him for the demo at that show. DIY FTW. I was unsure about going to this show, but now it's a sealed deal.

Between MD and Death Defect, Matt (MPD) invited Mark and me up to the "VIP room", a small green-room kind of area behind the bar, where we sat around, shot the shit with Matt and Alex, and met the brother of one of the guys in Indignation, who was definitely taking full advantage of the fact that he didn't have to drive anywhere any time soon. It was a cool and novel experience, but "VIP" or "backstage" at a local show is definitely more to be taken tongue in cheek than to get amped up about.

Death Defect [4/7]
I hadn't previously heard of this band, but they were decent enough, though not especially well-matched to the overall bill. The strongest similarities were to Danzig, and they didn't really push much beyond this. The crowd was into them, especially on "More Human Than Human", which has more meaning for a Haverhill band and for a Haverhill audience like this one, but all the sentiment and audience participation in the world wouldn't've helped had they not been at least decent in executing it. I picked up their demo, and as an inveterate reviewer and scene head I probably would have had it not been free, but this isn't a band that, at this point without hearing them on record, would draw me in to a show. Part of it is the style, but part of it is also that there are a lot of better bands in this area.

Indignation [5.5/7]
All of the bands had at least some sound problems with the carted-in PA, but Indignation's seemed both the most and least severe. Their overall balance was really good, the vocalist's mic had good response, but their lead guitarist kept going over to the board at the side of the stage to tweak stuff. Overall, this time out, they seem to have smoothed their sound some more, coming off much more like early Testament...with, of course, a nice swirl of Manowar, which really came out when they covered "Hail and Kill". Yes, you read that right: a band on this continent covering Manowar at a local show. Indignation presents a really interesting show; it's melodic thrash on stage, but the singer is still possessed with the egalitarian spirit of hardcore, spending half the gig out in the audience, calling people up for guest vocals, doing trustfalls off the stage (until the security came up and made him stop, lameasses), getting the crowd as much involved as the band. At this point, the combination of accumulated beer and headline performance got the crowd their most thrashing, and while the security did enforce the 'no moshing' regulations, they weren't totally fascist about it. No pit ever really developed, but under the circumstances there was a fairly decent degree of motion. Indignation closed with "Warriors", and then those who were left and hadn't come on buses started out to head home. Mark picked up a replacement knit hat from Indignation, and I got a proper shirt to go with the seconded one from the Negro League museum that Chris geve me back in August.

So, a good show overall, and by the end, there was some good proper traction on the floor from spilled beer. It's not much of a metal show if you can't brace yourself up extra by letting your boots glue themselves to the floor. However, this place is normally a dance club, and now their nice dance floor has alcohol all over it, part of the stage support is pulled out, and if we could have found a fire axe, we would have replicated Tankard's Disco Destroyer cover with one or both of the mirror balls hanging from the ceiling. It's not that metalheads inherently destroy stuff, but when you combine a lot of floor movement with a lot of beer, the floor is going to get 'treated', and I don't really know what disco balls are for if not to get smashed up. I don't know what the club management was expecting, but anyone with disco balls on the ceiling and No Moshing signs probably is not expecting to get their club shittified even this much. Hopefully, the janitors won't complain too much, and the bar receipts will outweigh the trouble enough to allow more shows to be booked here. Despite the hassle of Route 1, the drive is about 15 or 20 minutes, and the venue is located far south enough and convenient enough to major roads for bands to come up from the south and in from the west. It's no substitute for a real metal club, but it'll do.

Next show, as mentioned, is God Forbid on Saturday; I saw a total of like 120 bands in the course of 19 gigs or festivals in 2006, mostly between Metalfest and Wacken, and I'm hoping to improve on that in 2007.