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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.