Wednesday, February 21, 2007

God Forbid with Goatwhore, Mnemic, Arsis, and Byzantine [Middle East, Cambridge, 2/20/2007]

Another Tuesday show, and another good time, but this time on the north side of the river with a few more people and the extraction process wasn't as stressful. I got started driving a little late and hit some slow spots on the way down, but still got in in time to join the lineup in front of the door. This lineup thing probably saves them a decent amount in heating, but it's still lame. I got inside just before Byzantine started up, and barely had time to order my first beer before they started playing. This turned into 1.75 beers for the price of one due to one of the kegs running out, but by the time I got said beers, I was already steamed about having to yell instructions over the band. Things fortunately got better from here, but it's a very minor inconvenience that results in you getting 1516 beer for 1933 beer prices.


Byzantine [5/7]
The nu-elements that I heard in Worcester now almost a year ago were not an illusion, and were still strongly present in this set, but the presentation was nonetheless different and probably better. Whether it was more time and maturity or just playing in a more normally-sized hall, they came off as a lot smoother and more fluid, more in command of their music and their identity as a band. While I'm not a huge fan of bands like Fear Factory and Mnemic, their approach of blending the nu and the true can be interesting at times, and the way Byzantine does it, with stronger death metal roots than either of the aforementioned, is fairly cool. I'd be interested in seeing them again after they put their new record out, but I'm not sure that at this stage in their development they'd get me out to a show as a primary draw -- or at least, not on a Tuesday night.

At this point I went back and picked up some merch, successfully not falling all over myself asking Doc for a "Real Black Metal" shirt and gathering a bunch of low-impact Goatwhore stuff; they're coming right back in five weeks with 1349, and I'll be able to pick up a shirt then. Unfortunately, I zweifelte my way out of Arsis gear; there were too many cool shirt designs available to choose before the band went on, and after their set, they were entirely sold out of everything XL. Of course, they're awesome and it's the end of the tour, so it's kind of expected; fortunately, they're playing in the area again sometime in March and will hopefully have refilled their merch tubs in the interim.

Arsis [6/7]
The new lineup is coming along fine, a lot smoother and tighter than when I saw them up in New Hampshire at the start of this tour. Six weeks of constant practice will do that for you. Their sound was really good, and the music of course top-notch; it's still very much the James Malone Band, but the other instrumentalists were also impressive in keeping up and executing his parts. The vocalist needs to work on his presence a little more, but he's got a tough gig trying to stand out among the composition and firepower that this band brings to the table. This incarnation of Arsis is still developing as a live act, and will probably do even better in the future.

Mnemic [6/7]
By cleverly timing my drinking, I was able to pick up my final beer, then slide right down front for these guys. Of course, I had no compelling interest in seeing Mnemic, but I did have an interest in seeing Goatwhore and God Forbid from the front, and the easiest way to do that is to move forward for bands that most people in the hall don't like. ZOMG campz0r l4m3. :roll: At any rate, this was a decent set; if I could have been persuaded to use fractional ratings, it would have gone as 5.5/7. While I'm still not crazy about their stuff, the execution was really good, and the presentation seemed more compelling, for whatever reason, than when I saw them at Mark's at the start of this run. The high point, though, came after the bassist blew out his E-string on the last song: with smarts and professionalism, he ripped the dead string out of the axe, then transposed everything he needed to play onto either the B or A strings (5-string bass, fortunately) and finished the song. This isn't as easy as it sounds, and they thus get full credit for this set.
Before Goatwhore went on, I leaned across and picked up the ripped-out part of the string in question. Even though I'm still fairly ambivalent about this band, it still makes a cool souvenir.

Goatwhore [6/7]
It's probably more that this band is growing on me than that they've made more than incremental improvements in the three and a half months since I first saw them; their blend of drone and crush inherits heavily from older Celtic Frost, and this also is a gradually acquired taste. Of course, it certainly doesn't hurt that they're constantly on tour, increasing their opportunities for acculturation, but it's most likely that anyone who saw this really good set would have reacted likewise. The set was basically the same as the two prior times I'd seen them touring on their current record, but the feel was a little more black'n'roll; "...Black Sun Cult" must be doing well for them, or even as good a song it is, its influence wouldn't be spreading through the rest of the set. The band also continues to level up their gear; the bassist has a Moser custom now that he didn't have at Mark's, which has the back wet-sanded and has picked up a few signatures in silver paint marker. No idea on who's signed it so far, or who he's planning to try and pick up on it in the future before he eventually gets it clear-coated to seal them in.

God Forbid [6/7]
I got pushed back a little by the usual rush of people up front for the headliner, but it was cool; I'm almost 2 meters tall in boots and can accordingly see over most people, and also not so passionate about this band that I'd feel cheated seeing them from the second row rather than the first. It was still a cool set, though it wasn't as transcendant as the other times I've seen them, probably due to being somewhat short. Also, while the execution was great, the band's energy level did seem lower than the last time I saw them, whether from being worn out from the road or from playing to a half-full house on a Tuesday night. Though God Forbid had the most intense pits of the night, they were still somewhat underpopulated, as it seemed like many people left after Goatwhore. Given that it was a weekday show, they can't be entirely blamed, but they did miss a great performance. The set, as usual over the 3 times that I've seen them, was dominated by Constitution stuff, though they did play a bunch of older material as well, of course, but so much of the stuff on that record is so good that it wouldn't be entirely surprising to still be hearing it as a large slice of their set the next time they come around, behind the next record. Despite the occasional energy issues, this was still a rock-solid performance that says a great deal about the band's dedication to their craft, as well as to the music and its culture.

Overall, this was a really good show, especially for a weekday, and the higher temperatures kept shit from freezing up and made the travel process more or less pain-free. Not all gigs can be amazing, but solid and entertaining for fifteen bucks and a quarter tank of gas is a definite win. Good stuff, and hopefully the enthusiasm shown by the just-under full house in the times when the crowd was at its high point will convince the bands on this bill to schedule Boston on the weekend the next time they come around.

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