Wednesday, April 04, 2007

three shows due to laziness

There are three show reviews in this one, because I am lazy and spent the past week-and-a-half doing other stuff like sleeping, going to shows, and cleaning my house. Let's fuckin go:

This one is from the weekend after I came back from Texas; a good show at a good venue in Haverhill.

Shroud of Bereavement with Hekseri, Burn My Remains, and Wings Never Shattered
River City Billiards, Haverhill, 3/24/2007

So after the exhaustion of the previous night's mostly mainstream show, it was down into the underground and off into the snow and gathering darkness for this one. Given the bands involved, at least the last two, it fit perfectly, though it was a little rough to drive through on the way back.

I got up in time and got in just around when the bands were supposed to be starting, but due to the circumstances around the final lineup -- Id was supposed to be playing this, but their guitarist got clipped by a car the day before and Wings Never Shattered got added hours before they were supposed to go on -- the setup ran on for most of the next hour. This gave me some time to hang out and start drinking, and also to browse through the Oak Knoll table, which is a convenient euphemism for "lose all my money". The gig turned into a free show due to issues with door control -- the venue wanted to keep their normal bar custom as well, I guess, and had another room on the second floor that they needed to have open -- but I still feel bad about not compensating the bands, as this was a good show at a venue that has a fair degree of potential.

Wings Never Shattered [4/7]
Fittingly enough, the replacement band came in at replacement level, which shows why the term exists; if WNS was better, they'd have been on the bill initially, instead of coming off the figurative bench when Id had to scratch. They were okay, but as metalcore goes, fairly generic; there were some good parts, but more that everyone has heard already five thousand times before. The potential is definitely there for this band to diversify or otherwise distinguish themselves, but this step just hasn't been taken yet. Also, the vagaries of their genre mean that whether or not they decide to take that next step up, they could be on the main stage at Metalfest next year, or they could spend their entire career playing gigs no bigger than this one. When the rules for success are so ridiculously nondeterministic, it's very difficult to see the effort to become more than 'good enough' as worth the candle. They were entertaining and they drew well, but the sets did strictly improve as the night went on.

Burn My Remains [5/7]
I'd heard a fair bit about these guys due to interest in other North Shore/Merrimac Valley bands, and they certainly didn't disappoint, pounding out a strong set of brutal death metal, filled in with just enough neoclassical melodics to really set themselves apart. I'm hoping to see them again in the future, though it doesn't seem that they travel much outside their home range -- though this is less of an issue if there are more good shows up here in the Blight. The only real issue here was that I couldn't entirely hear the bass; the bass lines tracked mostly with the rhythm guitar, but for a 8x10 cab, there ought to have been a little more sound coming out of it. The sound guy was also a last-second fill-in, but in the main did a good job, fillips like these aside.

Hekseri [6/7]
Though there were some issues with Megan's mic initially -- like it wasn't on or someone moving equipment across the floor had kicked the other end out of the soundboard -- this was a thoroughly strong and dominating set of thrashing black metal that even drew in the bouncers who were supposed to be watching the door to the upstairs to marvel not only at girls driving a sonic tornado, but also at Seth's relentless blastbeat pace. The floor was thinner for them, at least initially, as the only non-local band, but it filled in properly in short order, though some weaklings might have been intimidated off by Larissa getting on the floor and attacking people with her bass (a good time for the rest, though). While their set was a little clipped at the end -- the bar wanted the bands over at midnightish, maybe due to noise ordinances, so the delay in startup made a definite difference -- it was still pretty fully developed, and definitely kickass.

Shroud of Bereavement [6/7]
This is where the time limitations really hurt; Shroud came right out at an amazing level, and had this set run as long as it was probably intended to, would have gotten into the top echelon. Though the stage was crowded with the six bandmembers, including three guitarists, it definitely made a difference, as this sort of doom metal really requires that kind of wall of sound to crush over the audience and get their full attention. The strongest comparison is probably to Novembers Doom, as a similar inheritance from multiple sources strongly reworked, but there were also parts where I couldn't help but notice the resemblance to Nightingale. Since he lives in Sweden and doesn't tour so much any more, local bands that can evoke a similar depth and maturity are definitely worth your attention. Though they did get cut off a little, this was still a great performance, and I'm going to make a point to see them in the future.

Unfortunately, I didn't stick around either to pick up Shroud's CDs or to go to Dan's after-party, both of which I should have; like a goober, I parked at the T station again, and like a goober, I was worried about getting towed or shit. I've got to either start parking smarter or caring less, as I still had to scoop slush off my car and drive home over windy back roads, but I did it short two discs from an awesome band and without further metal socialization. Not fun.

Now, shows from this past weekend:

1349 with Goatwhore, Nachtmystium, and Averse Sefira...and Mortis Deveia, Aura of Aquila, Zircon, and Cold Northern Vengeance
Mark's, Bedford, 3/31/2007

I had to bag a party for one of my high school friends in order to get up for this, but friends who've stayed around where they've been their whole life will tend to stay there; 1349 comes and goes, and the chance to see them on a small stage rather than out in front of 20,000+ ragers through crappy PA towers (like I will this summer) is something that does not occur a whole lot. However, as things panned out, I probably could have dropped in and said hi before going up, but of course there was no way to know that at the time.

Doors were reported for 6, and I got up there around 6:15, fully expecting to go in and find that I'd missed a couple local openers, because this is Mark's, and their ridiculous pay-to-play policy and its attendant circumstances have led to the running gag in the scene that doors for any Mark's show are at about 10 AM on the day before, and that by the time anyone actually gets there, they have already missed half of the 1500 local openers. Your band has just been added to this show, and you need to sell 15 tickets, even though this event is now in the past. However, wonder of wonders, the local support had been frozen at four bands, all of whom were quite good, and doors was actually delayed for soundchecking for the touring acts. So I stood around outside for a bit and talked some with Henry (Mortis Dev) and then briefly with Paul (CNV), who was then working on rounding up his band and understandably a little chafed about having to go on first. Given the circumstances under which CNV got on this show, it's perhaps not surprising that the club would do this, but looking at this bill and how the lineup fell together -- and also, to a lesser degree, what kinds of performances were delivered -- it makes a lot more sense commerically than it does artistically or socially. Somebody always has to go on first, because otherwise the show just fails to start, but on this occasion it should not have been CNV.

Eventually, they let us in, and after getting a beer I went down to the second-stage end to make sure that I didn't miss any CNV. I didn't, even including their initial start, which got cut off because they were still soundchecking up on the main stage. Though they were able to get their sound dialed in, they were notified after this that they'd start playing in 20 minutes. This is far too long to leave metalheads in the vicinity of three full merch and distro tables; I need to train my wallet better so that it doesn't immediately jump up and start vomiting money all over the dealers' hands in this situation. I'm more than satisfied with picking up everything Moonsorrow's ever done that I didn't have yet, plus some other rarities, but it was tough slapping it down enough to still be able to support the local and touring bands. Sure, it's all the same metal scene, but direct support is a lot better than having it routed through some sub-licensor label in Russia.

Eventually, CNV started around 8ish. If I'd dropped in on Jay's, I probably could have seen most of their set, but I had no way of knowing a Mark's show would start this late, and I'd feel pissed about missing any part of CNV in any case.

Cold Northern Vengeance [6/7]
CNV's Arising Dungeon Cult is one of the best black metal records from the North American continent, in its clarity and atmospheres as much as in its rawness and starkness. Live, with imperfect control over their sound (the second stage at Mark's is really good, but it's still a second stage at a bar), the stress is more on the raw aspects, presenting a different sound, but one no less cool or less black metal. Though it still hadn't really gotten dark when they started, if you closed your eyes at any point in the set, it wasn't hard to immediately infer the kind of frigid and snowing night as when they should have played supporting Enslaved. It was a great experience, probably the truest set of the night, and, of course, full of kickass music; they closed with "A Past Forgotten", and there was not a song the rest of the night more frigid or more epic.

As good as this set was, though, their support for Watain and Angelcorpse in Boston next month should be even more interesting, as there are a lot more antifas in Boston than in New Hampshire, so some might show up, even though you very seldom get antifas at a black metal show. I believe Paul in his assertions that CNV isn't a political band, and because I also believe in Amon Amarth's live-and-let-live-as-long-as-they-also-live-and-let-live approach to the right, I'm not going to stir shit with their more politicized fans, but some of the more political on the other end might. Burzum, Nokturnal Mortum, and even Graveland kit I can understand, but when you show up to a black metal show wearing Skrewdriver gear or shirts explicitly advertising racially-oriented forums, it's pretty obvious that it's being done for polemical or recruitment purposes. People have a right to believe whatever they want, as long as they aren't forcing it on others, but I'm not sure that the streets of Cambridge will take that view.

Political bullcrap aside, CNV is still awesome, and I'm still, obviously, looking forward to seeing them again, even though Boston in May is necessarily going to be much less grvm than New Hampshire, anytime.

Averse Sefira [5/7]
The venue was still filling up, so I was able to basically turn around from CNV and walk straight up to the stagefront. This was good and bad; I was, indeed, right the hell up front, but as a result I'm not sure that I got the optimum sound out of the experience. This was still a really good set, but they had the misfortune to be bracketed between two stellar locals, and while they aren't as thoroughly derivative of early Emperor now as on the earlier recorded stuff that I've heard from them, they haven't completely differentiated themselves either. If Zircon hadn't been on the bill, this would have been the most death-driven set (well, of the actual black metal bands, anyways), but unfortunately, they had to cut in between a band that evokes the spirit of old Norway better than they do, and one of the most complete crushing machines that the Northeast has to offer. After another record, they'll probably have their feet under them better, but on this night, Averse Sefira was just really good in a setting where there was a lot of greatness available.

Zircon [6/7]
I was playing around with the idea of doing split scores, and had I actually gone through with it, Averse Sefira would have come out with a 5.5 and these guys with a 6.5. As the last time, they absolutely slaughtered; just an excellent performance, little short of the transcendant. If you live in New England and like the sound of a Naglfar-Dissection-Zyklon fusion, you need to get to the show or shows that Zircon is doing within easy driving distance of you over the next two weeks (don't ask me where, just check your local bills, everyone knows Zircon is on every show); everyone else, either hit up the Oak Knoll mailorder or wait for Jeremy to upsell them to Candlelight or Relapse or something.

Nachtmystium [6/7]
I hadn't heard anything from these guys, but was looking forward to seeing them anyways; new and different music is always a good thing. of course, it's debatable how much was new and different in the set of black'n'roll that they cranked through, inheriting more from Celtic Frost than from what Goatwhore would do a little later on, but it was quite well-executed and the crowd actually in front of the stage -- I was off to the side again, ahead but out of the way of the people who wanted to be front and center -- was thoroughly into it. If the black'n'roll sound puts down permanent roots in the US, so much the better, especially as a contrast to the current dominating school in USBM, but I really need to get out my Vried disc again and be sure what and how much the differences are. Of course, Vried wasn't on this bill, and this was a really good set regardless; I'll have to see them again at Metalfest to be sure that there wasn't any acoustic-shadow bits getting in the way of my understanding of their sound.

Aura of Aquila [5/7]
These guys are actually from my area (Danvers, close enough, even in ultra-parochial New England), and Jim was allegedly in [Endless] Ruin with Ryan and Danny et al (I don't really remember him, but I only saw them once and it was like 4 years ago). Though they had an interesting sound, it wasn't always completely together in performance, and anyone who knows anything about the New England black metal scene would have to conclude that they were slotted where they were for commercial reasons, pushed this late so that people who bought tickets from them would stay at the club, buying drinks, at least through more than half the gig rather than seeing them and leaving early in order to avoid driving an hour and more home at Police Harrassment O'Clock in the morning. They were decent, and I have to pick up a CD from them at some point -- forgot this time -- but even considering their innate qualities, and that this was the bass player's last show, they should have still gone on earlier rather than later, if only in favor of the more high-profile bands on the local half of the bill.

Goatwhore [7/7]
Your eyes are not deceiving you, though I sure thought my ears were while watching the set. Despite the fact that Goatwhore at this point is, as commented (by the bassist from CNV), total Celtic Frost worship, there's nothing wrong with such when it's delivered with such absolute power and such amazing clarity of sound, especially since Celtic Frost isn't exactly doing this early-period sound themselves any more. About equal parts black'n'roll and old Frost, even down to Tom Warrior-style "ugh!" exclamations, this was by a long ways the best performance that I've seen from Goatwhore, and while they aren't particularly revolutionary in anything they do, they're definitely always entertaining, which is the goal to be aspired to for such perpetual road warriors; sometimes you just get a decent set, and sometimes you get an amazing one like this one, but you know they're always going to at least put on a good performance.

Mortis Deveia [5/7]
The Henry Khiev Show [7/7]
While the comments outside the show before doors from some of the other fans that Mortis Dev "didn't fit" on this bill were good for lulz -- because Henry and I were standing less than ten feet away from the people making them, apparently invisible or something -- they were also true to a certain degree; Mortis Deveia is not a black metal band, and they were principally on the bill for two reasons: first, they kick ass, and second, they draw a lot of people from the Valley who might not otherwise show up for a black metal show. Accordingly, they went on a lot later than I was expecting them to, to keep those extra bodies in the venue and drinking and tipping as long as possible. Their set was decent, and fairly high-energy, but there was very much the feeling of a fairly standard-form NWOSDM-driven thrash band riffing out, with occasional intermissions where Henry would do something incredible with his axe. It's not at the Joe Stump level, but it's also not nearly as balanced as some of the other local bands with sick lead guitarists that I follow. As a career pessimist, I can't see this as having good implications for future band chemistry, but there were some external factors that may have led to this being a down night for the other four members; I know I've seen better overall sets from them in the past, and hope to continue to see good sets from them in the future.

1349 [6/7]
The sound at the beginning of their set was oddly really quiet, much as with Dark Funeral the last time I was up here, and additionally I was standing over at the side of the stage, in a bit of an acoustic shadow, which pushed the sound that much lower and less clear for me. Despite this, the band soldiered on and eventually got properly dialed in all across the hall after a couple songs, unleashing their take on the oldest and coldest of Norway over all those in attendance. It may be me misremembering Dark Medieval Times, but the feel as far as I could compare was closest to a more closed-in and aggressive early Satyricon -- though Frost was not on the drums, at least at this gig, for reasons of undisclosed origin that might be personal as well as legal. (Frost allegedly beat the crap out of some guy over a girl or something back in the early '90s, and as a result has a felony assault charge on his rap sheet; perhaps not as significant as Jon Nodtveit or Bard Eithun's Murder Two convictions, but still problematic for the INS or whatever they're calling it these days.) It was still a kickass performance and a fitting capstone to the night, even if it wasn't quite as well-presented as Goatwhore's unexpectedly killer outing; black metal, even the kind that crosses the seas to play gigs, thrives on making people fight through the circumstances to the quality music beneath, and there was certainly plenty of good stuff here.

Eventually, of course, they had to close up, and since Mark's has learned their lesson about putting local bands on after the headliners (at least when the tour is as relatively inexpensive as this one), it was time to head home through the cop-ridden roads and highways down to the border and freedom from dunnage. While Louis from Goatwhore is certainly right that as soon as you stop supporting shows, you'll start bitching about how nothing good ever comes around any more, it's better for all concerned to support shows at places besides Mark's. The security is inconsistent, not patting people down but throwing people out without warnings for moshing, the local support has to pay for the privilege of playing (on an admittedly well-tuned PA setup) at the back of the hall to mostly the same people who would be there at a bar or basement show that they would be getting paid for or at least not losing money on, and on leaving, people have to deal with New Hampshire's finest, who are an obstacle not only to those who are legitimately too impaired to operate, but also to anyone else they happen to decide is a likely mark. This may strike some people as harsh on NH cops, but these people don't have anyone in their family who got a $300 ticket for reckless operation for pulling over when directed by a police officer on an empty highway. New Hampshire extracts enough revenue from Massachusetts by selling liquor on Sundays and without state taxes; it's not strictly necessary to supplement this by pulling over anyone with Mass plates that they think they can hang a violation on, but it still happens.

This last one is from Sunday at ye goode olde Somerville watering hole & Chinese dining room. Note: the Skybar does not actually serve Chinese food, but they don't mind people taking in takeout from the Chinese place next door.

Deathamphetamine with Dominatus and Volatile
Skybar, Somerville, 4/1/2007

In sharp contrast to the previous night's black metal festivities, this was a firmly grounded thrashout, but no less cool or possessed of less good music. There are a lot of high scores on the books for this weekend and nothing average or lower; maybe my standards are dropping, but the more likely conclusion is that the bands this weekend were just really that awesome.

Chastened by previous weeks, I made it down earlier and got there right at doors, in time to check in and go next door to pick up some Chinese, then come back and eat it before Volatile started up. It was a little close, but helped by the fact that the band delayed a little, potentially waiting for more people to show up, which I don't understand. The people, not the bands' reaction to them not showing; it's a Sunday evening, there's no football, so you come down, get some good Chinese food, drink some beers, and are done and can stand up sometime during the first band's set. It's not hard, y'all, and for the most part -- this one definitely included -- the Sunday shows at the Skybar have been really cool.

Volatile [6/7]
lol Volatile moar liek Vo-latile amirite lol
Now that the Encyclopedia Dramatica-style description is out of the way, it's time to be moderately serious, as the band is; they're not doing a 3 Inches of Blood-style piss take with their interpretations of primal thrash, but they definitely still are having fun with it, as it's fun music. If you go through your collection in alphabetical order you can find a lot of similarities: Venom, Vio-lence (viz the joke above), Volatile. While the focal point is still on their covers and the frantic passion that they execute them with, their originals are steadily improving, and there's a few that can stand in with their takes on Slayer and Kreator's early periods without losing out in quality or intensity. They're still developing as an original band, but they're already fully formed in their handling of other people's material, and the good reaction to their insanity in executing it seemed to feed forward into their confidence and project the later originals in the set stronger. Volatile may not ever stop playing a long slice of covers, but there may well come a day when people will wish they didn't, in order to give more time to their original work.

Volatile played as a four-piece, though I could almost swear that they had another guitarist when I saw them at Great Scott. The sound wasn't materially degraded for it, but if they're currently normally a five-piece, they're just the latest in a long string of bands playing the Skybar a member down.

Dominatus [5/7]
Like Deathamphetamine, Dominatus is currently in lineup flux, but unlike Deathamphetamine, they weren't able to persuade the exiting member to show up for this gig. The bassist search continues, and the consequence for this set was an occasionally confused sound; the composition was strong enough that the absence of the low end tying things together did make a difference. The impression was of a decent death metal band in the brutal style most common to this area -- Bane of Existence is probably the closest -- trying to play with one hand tied behind its back, though the sound did get better and more together as the set wore on. They also made an interesting exception to the regular practice, covering "Hermod's Ride to Hel" off Amon Amarth's most recent record, which they did a good rendition of. Metal bands, as with practically everyone else, cover mostly old standards, with contemporary material rarely getting played; it's not really possible, in the age of the internet, to do like Metallica did and clone some far-off band to wow local audiences, but nobody's really doing that, either. This will hopefully lead to more contemporary covers in the few non-original slots available; there's a lot of good deep cuts out there that the bands who wrote them don't do live, and someone might as well play the ones that strike their fancy.

This one incidental bit definitely inspired me; if I revive Coelem with actual people as opposed to a studio project, any shortfalls in the set will be filled with uncredited (except in this notice) endZone and Solar Signs material, both because it's really cool and to see if I can get away with co-opting stuff from ten years ago in Russia that never even made much of a stir there. It's not going to happen, but that doesn't make it not a cool idea.

Deathamphetamine [7/7]
Slightly less epic and slightly more crossover-driven than when I saw them last, Deathamphetamine left nothing on the table for Ben's final gig on vocals before moving out of state. Though there was a lot of commentary from the band members about how much stuff they were fucking up, it wasn't immediately noticeable, as the band for the most part stayed together and in time, and throughout laid down a battering barrage of variously-influenced thrash-death. They also got one of the longest sets I've seen from a local show; chalk that one up to three bands on a nearly-three hour timetable and quick setchanges. The result was a mad frenzy of headbanging and flailing limbs, driven up in intensity by action as well as invective from Rich (IWEIPH), who is also not long for this coast. It was a great set, one of the few at this place where the band has gone down off the stage to thrash along with the crowd, and the second-craziest in terms of forward motion to the last time I saw Goreality here, because this time I was the one getting knocked into the table, and I was able to catch it before it fell all the way over. Good times, and hopefully the band will pick up a suitable vocalist in short order so that they can continue rolling on. It'll be tough to replace Ben, but that's also what they said about Taneli Jarva, and Sentenced did okay once Ville got on the same page with the rest of the band.

Though things got over kind of early, despite the long sets, I still left shortly after nabbing Deathamphetamine's CD, overdue by about 5 months through nobody's real fault, except maybe the band's, indirectly, for not realizing how fast their awesomeness would run through their initial pressing. Can't go wrong with 18 tracks of Deathamphetamine for 3 bucks, but I also did have to go to work in the morning and finally take my car in for repairs; after it gets the new bumper, I can start subtly stickering it, which I hadn't done before due to the fact that it was popped and needed replacing.

In other show news, Revocation has been added to the NEMHF. This is the best news about the festival since I found out that there were a lot more bands that I didn't care about playing than bands that I really don't like. They're playing Friday, and they're probably going to be mired on the second stage, but they're still going to be blowing large cavities into the poser hordes and hopefully catching the ear of some of the industry types who are always about. The only downside to this is that now I need to add two offensive-lineman-style knee braces to my festival expenses. \m/.

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