Sunday, February 04, 2007

Metal Winter Break part 1: Joe Stump with Polaris, Revocation, and Gutwrench [Ralph's Diner, Worcester, 2/1/2007]

The first day is in the books, and it was a fuckin' awesome start to this four-shows-in-seven-days stand. The drive in wasn't so bad, except for the part about briefly getting lost in Worcester. Next time it'll go much easier; Google's directions are highly biased towards shorter distance rather than easier navigation. I managed to get in though, and had time to get a beer and stretch out a little before the bands started. The grill was a little crowded, so no cheeseburger; maybe next time.

Gutwrench [5/7]
I got up to the upstairs (ambience somewhere between Middle East upstairs and Sputnix -- a really cool vibe and good beer under 4 bucks) just as these guys were starting up. They came off as a little flat, maybe due to opening on a Thursday or maybe because the guitarist was sick, but still put up a really solid thrash-death set, if probably the least technical of the night. Of course, considering the lineup, this isn't really surprising. This was a good performance even without considering any other factors, but the rest of the bands were going to be a significant step up regardless. I hope to see this band again sometime when they're on their game or hear them on record; there's a fair bit of potential here that was shown imperfectly at this gig.

Before Revocation went on, I hit the Oak Knoll distro table and picked up a bunch of stuff: a Toxik tape, Bethlehem's Dark Metal, demos from Zircon and Hekseri, and a bunch of other CDs that I can't recall right now. There were additionally about 5 or 6 other releases that I'd liked to have gotten my claws into; again, later when I'm not as broke.

Revocation [7/7]
For as long as I've been seeing them, the hurdle that Revocation has had to overcome has been this idea of 'casual awesomeness': the band does incredible stuff, but so easily and almost without recognizing it that it goes unnoticed. This was not the case here; I can't put my finger on exactly what with this set took it up to the next level, it was, indisputably, the best performance I've seen from them. Unlike the headliners on this bill, the ridiculous technicality never came off as for its own sake, always firmly applied to where the song was going. Revocation continues to move from strength to strength, so while this was one of the best sets I've seen at the local level, it's also eminently possible that we'll see even better from them in the future, maybe as soon as Wednesday, the last show in this odyssey.

Between Revocation and Polaris, I finally got around to getting the locale for the Wednesday show out of Anthony. I haven't been to a proper basement show in a while; if I can avoid injury to my joints and ears, it's gonna be pretty awesome.

Polaris [6/7]
Though the sound was really good for the other bands, for about half Polaris' set it sounded out of whack, with the bass thoroughly dominating everything else. I did pick up their current CD, so I'll be able to tell how intentional this was. Beyond the sound, the music was quite good and well-delivered, fitting in somewhere between Imperium and the heavier modern progressive bands. I'm also looking forward to seeing them again, though their style isn't the most usual in the underground around here and as such they seem to have problems fitting on bills. It's still good music worth checking out, and this was a really cool set.

Joe Stump [6/7]
Holy Shrapnel Records Batman. Joe Stump is Dave (Revocation) Davidson's guitar teacher, and also a ESP-endorsed shredmaster, and demonstrated why for the better part of an hour and a half. The rest of his band was very technically skilled as well, but this set was all about Joe shredding back and forth like crazy. Technically, it was amazing, faster overall playing than almost anyone I've ever seen, faster hand action than everyone except Dave Suzuki -- but with much less wasted motion, and everything kept perfectly composed, connected, and in tune. To a certain extent, this was more a guitar demo than a real set, but it was still a great performance; if I hadn't seen Tony Choy taking over the Party Stage this year, this would be the top individual metal instrumental performance I've witnessed. Technical fireworks aren't everything, but even when they're the only thing, they can create something pretty damn cool.

In addition to seeing all these cool bands, I'm gradually getting to know more of the scene and other area metal people. I definitely ought to try bringing more North Shore doods in, but most of the guys I know around the area are still in school elsewhere. Tonight, Destruction at the Middle East; maybe an update tomorrow, but the Enslaved show starts at friggin 4 PM due to pay-to-play nonsense. Mark's has got to get this shit under control; if they'd established themselves as a venue first, they wouldn't have to squeeze the locals for the money to pay good tours, because they could count on people buying tickets in the first place. DIAF.

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