Friday, June 29, 2007

Witch Tomb with Hekseri, Baphomet's Horns, and Blessed Offal [Skybar, Somerville, 6/28/2007]

Burned by missing part of Revocation Sunday, I got down right around 8; unfortunately, none of the bands were anywhere in sight, which led to basically just hanging out for an hour and a half. This sort of thing has allegedly been a problem for the Skybar lately; despite being allowed to play out the string, some bands have taken the hopeless view and just canceled, which is really weird as the place is still perfectly open for now. When I heard about this from the bartender, though, I immediately gainsaid it; I didn't know Blessed Offal yet, and it had kind of slipped my mind that Baphomet's Horns were the second band on this gig, but I could definitely vouch for the professionalism and commitment of Hekseri and Witch Tomb. These aren't bands that will back down from a tough gig, or bands that'll just cancel day-of without telling anyone, and soon enough, Cody and then Megan came in minutes apart pushing gear.

The positive of the bands taking so long to get in and set up was that I had the time to paw through the distro table -- or maybe this was a negative, at least from my wallet's perspective as it was estranged from a majority of its cash. I got three tapes and three CDs split between Angkor Vat, Attacker, and a couple other bands that I knew more by reputation than actual music, and if it wasn't for concerns about it getting broken, I might have picked up this Sabbat 7"; buying vinyl at the start of an often violent underground show is a real throw of the dice -- in this case, it would have been OK with regards to movement down front, but there's seldom an easy way of knowing that. I also saw that they had a copy of the Adolf Satan record in the rack; I thought about picking it up, but decided not to: I don't have a driving interest in the band, and there's been a lot of chatter on RTTP lately about people wanting it and not being able to get a copy for love nor money. Better to let it lie in that case and let someone who wants the record get it; sure, I hog rarities, but only rarities that I have a strong interest in listening to.

The really raw part of the deal, though, was that I didn't pick up Toxic Holocaust's album because I wasn't sure if I already had it or not. I have good recall over most of my nearly-1400-record collection, but it's not perfect...and in this case, it prevented me from getting the CD, because it turns out that I don't own it already. I'd almost think about getting a PDA to put my catalog on to refer to in situations like this, except for the fact that this would be the lamest thing ever.

Eventually, all the bands got in and got their gear assembled, and the show got going in earnest.

Blessed Offal [5/7]
The only band on this bill that I hadn't seen previously, these guys blasted out a tight, compact set of dirty, necro NEBM that may not have attracted as many people as the headliners who followed, but definitely caught people's attention. Unfortunately, some of that focus may have been artificial, as they barely got 15 minutes as a result of the performances starting so damned late. The passion and the potential are definitely there, even as seen in this small sample, and though their sound at this point tends to establish stuff that's been done already rather than break new ground, this is definitely a band that I'm interested in seeing a full set from, not restricted by time constraints.

Baphomet's Horns [5.5/7]
It wasn't until they announced themselves from the stage that I remembered that Baphomet's Horns was supposed to be on the bill; I certainly didn't recognize them setting up. Of course, the only time I ever saw them before was almost 6 months ago at DeeDee's, and though I'm not positive, I think they've had some lineup movement since then. This set was more solid than I remembered from them (well, yeah; five months has a lot of time for improvement), and though their influences from Celtic Frost and the Black Circle showed through rather transparently, the external elements were well-blended, making a sound that's almost completely this band's own -- and at the very least very well-executed. In sound and skill they've come a ways since their split with Amputator; this is definitely a band to look for on the rare occasion that they play out in this area, and any future recordings will also be worth looking into.

Following this set, I had officially seen more bands in the first half of 2007 than in all of 2006. I'm off the "see more sets than days in the year" pace I was on earlier, but the difference made by being in a country that does local shows and being motivated and able to go to them is striking.

Tonight saw Hekseri back to their full complement, but more strikingly, this was one of the best solo guitar outings that I've ever heard from Megan. I've seen shows where her lead playing could only be charitably described as "Kerry King-esque", but in this set she was dead straight on, nailing everything and really taking the performance to the next level. With Jason back and the lead guitar basically on fire, their sound shaded more towards Immortal than I recall hearing from them previously; the dirty roots are still there, but the epic is lurking in the way that the riffs go together, and this set like few previous that I've seen really brought it forward. They had to cut a few songs from their set for time, but this didn't really detract from a fairly incredible outing.

Witch Tomb [6.5/7]
My initial impressions were that this set was incredible, but not quite the 'peak outing' they had opening for Watain. Then I went back and checked my notes, and found out that I had rated this one significantly better than that. While Witch Tomb wasn't as concertedly visual on this outing (Cody and Mike somewhat blacked up, but still in their normal clothes), the music was simply crushing, and this is what made the difference. The keys and samples are more streamlined into their material, and the new stuff, both from their forthcoming Martyrvore split and from the rumored full-length to succeed it, is really cool, combining their vitriolic black metal with ten-ton death grooves. The fusion works, as music an sich and within the context of the rest of their material, and the result is quite impressive.

Right around midnight, the bands closed up, and then it was back off to the north for the night. There's another black/death/grind gig down here tonight, and while I'm still hoping for a good time, I'd be flat stunned if it reached the levels of this one, despite both Hirudinea and Watchmaker on the bill -- though of course it would hella rock to be proven wrong.

June is wearing down into July, and thus festival season approaches. Unfortunately, this is Boston, not Gelsenkirchen, so "festival" does not mean tents and mud and bad smells and astronomical amounts of beer under the open sky, but smallish, crowded clubs, beer doled out by the bottle, and long tired drives home with a different kind of stink. This aside, there are four fests in the planner for July, with something like 50 bands total playing, in addition to the usual salting of normal gigs. That's basically one a weekend, but there are actually two on the second weekend; the final weekend in July is at the moment show-free....though I kind of need it that way to rest and pack up for the fifth fest of the summer.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Indignation with My Pet Demon, Ravage, Reign in Ruin, and Rohirrim [Haverhill Elks, 6/22/2007]

From Friday, out of order due to internet problems (and laziness).

One day after pulling both sides of my groin playing soccer (and thus missing Shroud at Metal Thursday, damnit), the time spent sitting on my ass was enough to allow me to drive up to Helltown and get turbulent at this benefit, the first gig in unfortunately too long. I also lugged up my youngest brother, whose arm I've been trying to twist into shows for a while; he digs metal, but unfortunately hates people even more than I do -- and worse, he's got red hair and a red beard, so the sullen-corpsepainted-31337 thing absolutely isn't happening. This gig was well worth it, and hopefully will get him out more in the future.

We got up a little early, but used the time to wait out the torrential-downpour part of the rain. When we actually got up to the door, Rohirrim was just starting. This is a really good venue: easy access from major roads (take 97 north and turn right when the road turns left on the hill -- doesn't get much easier than that), all-ages with a full bar, decent sound, and a huge parking lot across the street that's usually empty because the Haverhill library isn't open when a show's going down. Good stuff; hopefully, the good relation between the Haverhill Elks and the Valley scene will continue and we will continue to get good shows here.

Rohirrim [4/7]
I hadn't seen this band before, but I did recognize a bunch of the members; I think the vocalist was in (Endless) Ruin (the death-thrash band that half the North Shore scene was in at some point, not the tech-death band from Maine) when I saw them a few years back, and I'm pretty sure that I've seen the guitarist around somewhere before, either with some other local band or just at shows. They did a decent set, but one that wasn't without a few typical problems of newer bands: the music was decent, but fairly undifferentiated, its power metal and black metal elements setting off but not materially changing the base brutal death sound. The centerpiece of their set was a longer song that contained in it about 80% of each of two good songs, and another 60% of a mediocre song; the riffs in themselves were good, but the composition came off as unfinished and disconnected. More experience as a band will of course fix both of these problems, and the technical ability here is good enough that even with the composition lagging, the band puts on a cool and fun show.

Rohirrim also got a good response for the first Manowar cover of the night. Yes, the implication of this statement is correct: there was more Manowar to come, for reasons to be discussed later. They did "Warriors of the World", which a surprising number of people knew more than the chorus to.

Reign In Ruin [4/7]
I also recognized several people in this band; the guitarist guested with The Four Horsemen when I saw them last August with the top three bands on this bill, and I think the vocalist was in Four Horsemen as well. It's possible that this is a new alignment of that band with a new name, but I hadn't been paying a lot of attention to them and thus don't know for sure. The music might have given more credence to this line of thought if there weren't a lot of other bands doing heavily Pantera-influenced modern thrash; some basic research established that yes, it's the same band. As noted, the music owed a lot to Pantera as presented, but according to Pat (MPD) they were down a guitarist for this set, and may sound less derivative with their full complement. Still, they put on a good show, and the vocalist has definitely gained in presence over the past year. It's good stuff, and if they can step a little further out of Pantera's shadow, both stylistically and with less emphasis on covering them, they'll get even better.

Between sets was not only time, as usual, to get beers, but also to listen to Emily Russo, a friend of the bands, provide light entertainment with keyboard covers of various classics. She has a good voice and a solid command of her instrument, but for whatever reason I didn't end up picking up a CD. More importantly, probably, her intermezzos provided some less challenging (or at least less loud and abrasive) music for those patrons who weren't in for the show, of which there were a few. Before MPD's set, Matt accompanied her on the drums; maybe the seeds of the North Shore's own Mambo Kurt experience, but even if not, still a cool time.

Ravage [6/7]
The sound wasn't as clear as when I saw them in Worcester, but Al seemed a lot more on (maybe due to a lack of mic issues), and with a band like this, the vocalist's state is a major factor. The set was a little shorter, also, and as a consequence consisted largely of new material (DamnNation is allegedly going to drop before the end of the year). This is by no means a bad thing; the new material is awesome, and as last time, they stuck "Nightcrawler" into the middle of "Nightmares". The result takes up a significant chunk of any set, but they really nail it, and given the riff similarities between the two songs, it'd be difficult for them not to acknowledge this somewhat underrated Priest classic.

My no-account brother was one of the few people in the venue who did not recognize "Nightcrawler". Seriously, I don't even know this kid anymore; doesn't recognize "Nightcrawler", doesn't like Jaeger -- what the hell is wrong with him?

My Pet Demon [6/7]
After a long layoff, the Demons returned, and it was well worth it, not only for the kickass new material, which is a lot more tuned and focused for the recent recording process, but also for the reworkings of older tunes. I'm not sure that turning "Between The Pages" into a hardcore song is 100% the way to go, even though it suits the lyrical direction, but there's really nothing else to complain about; "Jaws of Life" sounds immense, and if they were based out of anywhere in Europe, they'd be blasting the close-harmonic chorus of "Raise The Flag" every time the local 3rd-division soccer club netted a goal. Terrace anthems are kind of a lost art here, but this one should catch on with metal fans as well as theoretical football supporters. It's not the best set I've seen from them, but it came close, and if the new CD is on this level, they ought to attract some interest from at least someone.

In addition to talking with Ken about the ins and outs of European distro -- like a lot of traditionally-minded metal bands, they're looking east for their first contract -- I also found out from Pat that they'll hopefully have the new CD out by the benefit-carwash festival they'll be playing up here next month.

Indignation [6/7]
This set from this band really epitomizes what "hometown heroes" is all about. The response was intense and amazing, but this is far from surprising when you step back and look at the band; you've got a tight, practiced combo pushing a sound most reminiscent of early (Spreading...-era) Anthrax, a singer seemingly incapable of doing his set from anywhere but right in the middle of the madly thrashing crowd, and also a bunch of originals that are just as good and well-executed as their arsenal of covers. "Kickass" doesn't even begin to cover it; this was definitely the best set I've seen from them so far, the improved execution and overall energy only slightly tempered by the fact that a lot of their set is still by other people. Nobody really minds the cover volume as long as they're so well-executed, but this band could majorly go places if they could put together a full-length of original material at this execution level. As they are, they'll be awesome at the local level forever, but with more originals to match those they've got, they could take on the world.

The transformation of Indignation from a hardcore band to a power-thrash outfit may seem a little odd, but with their power metal side drawing from Manowar, this is a little easier understood. The existence of the internet allows people to get into all kinds of bands that they might not have otherwise, and if you can get past the fuzzy loincloths, Manowar is a straight-ahead, riff-driven, crowd-driving synthesis of the aggressive and melodic; that such a band should appeal to people coming from a punk background and connected to metal bands that don't take everything super-serious ought to surprise no one. And once one band picks it up, others will follow; thus we have this pocket in northeast MA where you have bands not only covering Manowar (Indignation did "Hail And Kill" for the second and last cover), but also writing Manowar songs for their own bands (Indignation again with "Warriors", which killed as expected). Odd, sure, but it's cool music, and nobody's going to seriously break out the furry underwear.

As mentioned, this was a benefit for Delusions of Grandeur, who lost all their gear in a practice-space fire, and with somewhere around 120 or so attending, they made enough money to allegedly get all new gear. I know next to nothing about them, but a band getting burned out is always worth helping, and they're on the bill for the fest on the 22nd.

The Alien Blakk with Silencio, 8 Weeks Dead, and Revocation [Skybar, Somerville, 6/24/2007]

The post from the show on Friday will be up later; my home internets are acting up, and I can't access the final version of it from work.

The Skybar's closing its musical entertainments, but it's not quite dead yet, and as this show demonstrates, it's far from going quietly. I got down a little after eight, but didn't miss much in terms of music; Revocation kicked ass for the portion that I caught, and I'm seeing them again tonight anyways.

Revocation [6/7]
Anthony later mentioned that they were a little off on this set, which was the impression that I got as well in the half that I saw. However, an off night for Revocation merely brings them down to that "casual awesomeness" level again, and even when the band's grinding it out, they're still capable of just flat stunning the audience. They did "Symbolic" again, which may be becoming a fixture, but the sound came off a little rawer than it was in Worcester. Though not a peak performance, this was still a damn good show, and it's too bad that most of the eventual audience wasn't in the building yet.

8 Weeks Dead [5/7]
In the title of their CD (Projects in the Junkyard), they tip their hat over to Pantera, but this Danbury combo pulls in a wide range of influences from other places to their blend of modern thrash; the death metal bits are the most prominent, but the Iron Maiden elements are no less well-executed. The singer was complaining about his voice being busted, and when he eventually got warmed up, his performance bore him out, but this was still a solid and yeomanlike metal set. They weren't perhaps optimally matched to the bill in sound or technical emphasis, but they did put up a solid set and entertained the metal portion of the crowd. If you can catch them with a more straight-ahead bill at a hall that's going to draw a fair number of people, go see them; even to the handful of people here, they did a good job and impressed.

The Alien Blakk [7/7]
If you'd get into post-metal if only there was more, say, metal in it, this is a band that you need to get into. Without a drummer and heavily driven by acoustic guitars, this band still dazzled over the full course of their set with both intricate musicality and a significant share of raw power. Most of the set was, of course, original, but they also included a tone-perfect cover of "Fade To Black" and a take on "All Along The Watchtower" that stretched on into an awesome instrument-swapping 15-minute jam. I may be slightly prejudiced because the bassist used an electric upright on a couple songs, and that automatically makes a band awesome, but the non-bassists and even the non-scene people in the audience all seemed to agree that what they were doing was pretty incredible. Since they have roots in this area, despite being from Arizona, they'll be back again -- and if their tour's coming through your town later, you need to go the hell out and see them.

I screwed up and got a CD from 8 Weeks Dead before grabbing stuff from The Alien Blakk, and unfortunately they closed up before I got over. The CD I can get from retail, but I'm going to have to order their patch; even though it's screened cloth, this band is too cool not to sew on somewhere.

Silencio [5/7]
The Alien Blakk was the touring band on this gig, and their set was so thoroughly dominating that there were a fair number of people thinking that the show was over, especially since the bar closed shortly after their set. However, Silencio did still get the last spot for their full set, which definitely pleased the throng of new faces who came down to see them. I have the ethnic standing to use the g word to describe this audience, but will refrain from doing so, not only because it's a slur but also because to do so would be disrespectful to the band, who made up in energy what they lacked in cohesiveness. Despite the incessant apologetics of the singer for headlining over The Alien Blakk (and to a lesser degree the other bands on this bill), Silencio put up a frantic and somewhat chaotic set of screaming melodic metal with prominent hard rock bits; the ideas seemed decent, but inconsistently put together, whether for lack of a bassist or because something was weird with the sound. Passion means nothing without the music behind it, just as the most technically excellent set can bore if the band is just turning a crank, but there were enough good elements in Silencio's music to leave the impression that this is a band worth seeing again, maybe in another setting and definitely if they were a member down for this one. However, they're not a band that's going to draw me out on their own, or at least, not yet.

The gig got out right around midnight; not too late but late enough that most of the idiots were off the roads, and I was able to avoid both the cave-in damage in the tunnels and the random tire-spiking debris on 128 coming back. Hopefully the same will hold tonight for the gig at Great Scott -- and hopefully I won't get another damn parking ticket, even if it's a lot better than getting towed and potentially cheaper than paying for parking.

Also, it's now less than 40 days to Wacken, and the orgas have filled me with hope anew. Check out these maps: the campgrounds have been greatly expanded, there is a large no-cars tenting-only area (close to the stages woot woot), and the Party Stage has been realigned to create another main infield. This is going to be so fucking awesome it's not even funny. Wer faehrt mit?!?

Monday, June 11, 2007

Doro Pesch with Joey Belladonna, Chris Cafferty, Meliah Rage, Steel Assassin, Candy Striper Death Orgy, and Troll [Mark's, Bedford, 6/9/2007]

This show was not only kickass, but also informative; as we can see below, doppelgangers touching does not cause either to explode, and they aren't compelled to kill each other when they come in close contact either.

Photo credit goes obviously to Rev. Aaron Pepelis; Ms. Doro Pesch (right) appears as herself, "young Doro" (left) played by Ms. Megan (Hekseri) Leo. Meg didn't get the old-school heavy metal band she's been trying to put together up and running in time to play this gig, but the show was still seriously cool.

Despite starting out a little late and the ususal concern about going north early on the weekend in the summer, I got in right around doors and was one of the first in, though not the very first, and ran across yet another shortcoming in club security, which I'm going to try and exploit next weekend if I actually end up going up for God Forbid. This may be documented later, but for now I need to keep it sealed to do the proof of concept. When I got in, Troll was soundchecking, so I had time to go poke around the merch tables and talk to Aaron for a while before the bands started rolling. By this point, I had already seen two anime accessories hanging off various people and seen the New Hampshire chapter of the KISS Army setting up a merch station, and thus was not feeling enormously optimistic about the show. Any gig where I am among the thinner and more active people, at 115 kilo or so and two bad knees, has to be evaluated critically. This was probably the first show I've seen at Mark's, even counting Metal Church where there was a lot of the same support, where the no-mosh regs probably were not an active factor in crowd control.

This implication may not be entirely fair, because when the bands did start, people did move around a little, and it's difficult to believe that "Caught In A Mosh" would not have provoked same when Joey finally got around to it in his set, as it does everywhere else they do it. For most of the bands, though, this wasn't really an issue.

Troll [4/7]
There were slack parts in their set, but there were high points as well, and if I hadn't revised the split scores across, this would have been a 4.5. However, the material that last time came off as pedestrian felt not only pedestrian but a little tired in this outing; the songs are decent, and the performance was pretty good this time as well, but there is practically nothing in their WBLM-core to make anyone actually sit up and take notice of it. Troll's music entertains en passant, but gets old desperately quick, and all the craftsmanship in the world can't hide the shortcomings in the writing. The first time that you hear Troll, they're enjoyable, and there are enough good points in their sound that they provide a cool backing track for doing other stuff if you aren't really listening to them, but if you're there paying attention because you have to pay attention (like, say, you think that other people for some reason care what you think when you write long-winded and elitist concert reports later), the most salient thing about Troll is the emphasis of just how much work, passion, and skill it takes to be even a desperately average metal band. This shit is not easy, and as such the band's dedication is obvious, but at the same time they've also managed to avoid writing anything that has any significant degree of lasting appeal.

Here I went back and got some merch, which wasn't completely out earlier; the one CD Meliah Rage had in stock and a snappy "got thrash?" shirt from CSDO. I continue to be disappointed by the lack of Steel Assassin swag; they should know by now that they're awesome and that this induces people to buy shirts and CDs; a band this good without merch available is effectively shoveling cash out of their van. The KISS Army was flyering for a demonstration in Cleveland to try to get the Rock'n'Roll Hall of Fame to induct KISS; I probably wouldn't've gone anyway, but it's on the same weekend as Wacken, and from this end of the country, if you can get to Cleveland, you can probably get to Germany, and thus anyone who goes to this has their priorities messed up. Of course, those who'd go to this are rabid KISS fans, so that kind of goes without saying, but still.... :roll:

Candy Striper Death Orgy [5/7]
More than any other band on the lineup, CSDO was negatively affected by the no-mosh regs and the power-metal crowd; when they eventually got warmed up enough to execute hard, they did a decent job, but there were quite a few confused or uninspired parts, for an overall effect significantly less impressive than when I saw them Thursday. Of course, this may also be partly due to the fact that Eric was the only member present onstage with both long and permanent standing; Cliff couldn't make it, so they had a replacement bassist, and the drummer (also in Graveheart) is a recent addition to the permanent lineup. Aaron also mentioned that he's mostly seen them with a second guitarist; this would also have helped thick up the sound, but the bigger issue is probably being the heaviest band on the bill and not quite knowing how to handle this kind of relatively non-thrash crowd.

I finally got a good look at CSDO's logo, and yes, those are candy canes crossed below the gas mask. There's definitely an argument to be made that this is the finest example of career suicide by silly name that has yet been observed; CSDO is a good band, and even if they weren't this practiced back when they were starting up, they were definitely good enough signed back when Meliah Rage originally did if they had a) not waited until 1993 to record anything and b) called themselves Obliterator or something, or seriously, any band name that didn't start with the word "candy". Names and image shouldn't matter, but CSDO's is weird enough that unless someone explains it to you or you take the time to sit back and think about it, it just makes no sense and does not really convey the sense of a band that likes Slayer and Nuclear Assault a lot.

Steel Assassin [6/7]
Another seriously impressive set from Steel Assassin, very successfully evoking late-80s Iron Maiden (a definitely underappreciated chapter of the band's history), but it wasn't quite as inspiring and absolutely awesome as the last time I saw them. Oddly enough, though, I was standing in exactly the same place but managed to hear pretty much all of their sound, and didn't get my knees broke by the bass pulse; I noticed this from several other locations around the main stage (the only one open this time) and definitely got the impression that the sound setup has been improved either in hardware or tuning, because the acoustic shadows are pretty much gone; no idea whether this is permanent or an artifact of not having the second stage open to potentially pull equipment out.

Meliah Rage [6/7]
While they didn't really have the same fire to them that they had when they played with Metal Church here -- overall a much more energetic night than this one, which might have contributed -- this was still a really good set that got better as it progressed. They played a little more new stuff and if I recall correctly, previewed some stuff that's going to be on their forthcoming disc, but there was also the sense that their set was shorter than expected. Theirs was a good performance, but they were also the last band to not mention that they had to cut parts out of their set.

Yes, that's right. All three of the headliners had to make some cuts to their sets, despite the fact that the show was still running on time. The problem is partly that there were four local openers and no second stage to put them on to reduce latency, and partly a natural consequence of pay-to-play policies: the locals are putting money into the club, but the nationals are taking money out, once the performance has been simplified to this kind of abstraction. What's odder is that this kind of show will support itself without pay-to-play (and may have, actually; almost all of the locals are high-profile enough that they should have gotten paid rather than selling), as it's getting people outside the normal scene who will buy their ticket at the music store rather than hunting up a band member. Whatever the reason for it, there's no excuse for cutting the sets of the touring bands, who most of the audience came to see, rather than just cutting one of the locals off the bill. On a touring show like this one, the local openers are there basically at the sufferance of the tour; if they don't like this implication, they should book gigs without a tour where they can be the focus. The only positive out of this is that hopefully tour management concerns will hear about this and book through places besides Mark's where they won't get cuts.

Chris Cafferty [5/7]
Chris came out wearing W:O:A gear ('02 artist edition), and played a cool but fairly short set of mostly original material, with the only exception being "Edge of Thorns". This was in contrast to Belladonna, who followed him, but unfortunately he also spent a lot of time talking about how his set was getting chopped. It was cool to see him on a stage this small, demonstrating a lot of sophistication as well as pure technical chops, but the mix of songs that survived the cuts didn't really hang together as a whole or present an optimal picture of him as either a guitarist or a solo artist. This was a decent set, but you definitely got the feeling that it could have been much better if he had been allowed to go on for the full scheduled set.

Joey Belladonna [6/7]
Wisely, Joey refrained from the state-fair connotations of running this lineup out as "Joey Belladonna's Tribute to Anthrax", but this didn't change the fact that most of the material in this set was from Joey's time with Scott, Charlie, Danny, and Frank. It's what people want to hear, though, and the performance was really good on all the covers -- including "Antisocial" which was double-covered in that they played it down basically in exact replica of the way it's done on State of Euphoria. The floor got a little turbulent during "Caught In A Mosh", but no full-scale pits broke out, which was really a shame. In normal circumstances, it's not possible to play this song without inducing a circle pit, which may say more about the crowd than the venue. All in all, this was a kickass set, and if Joey isn't quite being Bruce Dickinson as regards originality, he's definitely also not being Paul DiAnno.

Between Joey and Doro's sets, I got noticed by some other scene doods who I hadn't run into before, and had to do the full turn-around thing to show off my jacket. Upon completion, I was pronounced "nearly as cool as Batman", which is allegedly quite an accomplishment. (Shortpacked! jokes not implied in original conversation.)

Doro [7/7]
Despite the few cuts that had to be made, this was still just as cool and anthemic a set as might possibly be desired, with the reigning Metal Queen transforming a bar in New Hampshire into probably the world's smallest festival infield. The performance covered basically all of Doro's career, from a couple cuts off the first Warlock album right up to several tunes from the new one, including at least one song that's never been officially released in the US, and the performance was of uniformly high quality...though it probably helped in this regard that Chris Cafferty, who was playing lead guitar for this tour, was still fresh due to only playing like half his set. The performance was really awesome and the crowd response was impressive as well; though the other touring bands had gotten a decent rise out of the crowd, this was at a different level that made you almost forget that this was about the lowest turnout that I've seen at this place, or that this was, in the last analysis, a bar in New Hampshire. This is the hallmark of real professionalism, and the result was just a stellar set, as thoroughly expected. Despite a lot of ranting and cheering from the audience, there was no encore, and people made their way out the exits. Good show, good night.

Of course, the salient point for the Boston scene is that Megan and Doro didn't try to kill each other. This either proves that clones don't do that, or that they aren't clones in the first place, though the first is a lot more likely, because there was definitely a moment early in her set where Doro came to the side of the stage where Megan was for the first time of the night, and visibly pulled up, as though wondering where whoever got the time mirror out of, and why they set it up in a hall like this one. You can't really tell in the picture up above, but they are within millimeters of the same height as well as exactly the same build, and the facial resemblance is straight dead on. It is a singularity and a deep wonder of our universe, but one that nobody will care about because both women are metal musicians rather than characters in a sci-fi novel, and have other gigs to do.

I wasn't feeling well enough to go down to see Discreate et al Sunday night (overwork + three straight days of drinking + messed-up sleep hours + beat-up throat from seeing a show in NH), so the next show is either going to be God Forbid back up at Mark's on Saturday, or Zircon and The Accursed on Sunday if my brother ends up going to Germany and has his sendoff party Saturday night.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Candy Striper Death Orgy with Graveheart, Ravage, and Legion of the Dying [Ralph's, Worcester, 6/7/2007]

The comment's been made before, but aside from being out in goddamned Worcester, Ralph's is an awesome, awesome venue, and with spectacularly few exceptions, Metal Thursdays there boast an awesome lineup. This time was certainly par for the course; kickass metal, Sam Adams under 4 bucks, The New Devil In Miss Jones and some kung fu movie starring a thalidomide-dude on the big screen, moshing, camaraderie, more cool records in Jeremy's boxes than I could afford....and then a long dark drive on roads filled with trucks moving at relativistic speeds back home while totally exhausted, and less than three hours of sleep before going in to work today. We've got to take over, like, River City Billiards in Haverhill or pick up one of those dead function-hall restaurants on 114 in Middleton so that people from the North Shore and the Seacoast can get cool shit like this without having to put up with all the bad parts.

As it is, though, even with the bad parts, for an experience like this, it's still worth it. I got in just about doors and had time to waste piling up new records -- partly because the Oak Knoll table always has cool stuff, and partly because the bands were not that great on getting merch set up. It sucks not supporting the bands directly, but if there isn't anything out where doods can check it out, it's kind of tough. All four bands on this bill have new records coming out shortly, though, so perhaps next time.

Eventually, I finished my beer and Legion of the Dying went on, with remarks to the effect that they had gotten a ride at least part of the way with the police. There's doubtless a story in that, but it's for them to tell, especially since I don't know it.

Legion of the Dying [4.5/7]
I think this was a small step up from last time, but they got kind of a raw deal from the sound, so I can't be certain. In contrast to the clear sound and proper balance that everyone else had, theirs was heavily trebled out to the point of obscuring what they were doing. This is unfortunate, but perhaps symptomatic of the band; they did some cool things, but didn't present a really cohesive idea of how it all fit together. The likeness to Bifrost is still strong, which may be a bad thing as well as good; Bifrost did create some great music, but the countervailing directions in their sound probably contributed strongly to why they never made another record after Mythistory. Legion of the Dying is being pulled in two directions by their heavy metal and extreme-metal elements, and it's somewhat disheartening to realize that they haven't really made much progress on harmonizing the two since January. The potential is definitely there, both to create a working fusion and to do something really cool with it, but the band (in the opinion of this goober, of course) needs to take another look at their arrangements and make sure that everything's really developing the way they want it to.

Ravage [6/7]
This set started out a little rough - Al's mic was apparently off or something - but Ravage quickly pulled it together and laid out another killer set that improved as it progressed. While they did a fair share of new material from DamnNation - which is allegedly going to be out soon, and hopefully available in this country as well as in Europe - there was also a lot of old stuff in the setlist. No "Wyvern", though, despite some goombah in a ridiculous jacket who was giving the band guff about it. :roll: In the middle of their last song, they took a bit of a break to crank through "Nightcrawler", one of my favorite Priest tunes and also one that more people ought to be more baffled as to why it isn't covered more often. On both the originals and the cover, the execution was top-notch, and though the mix could have brought Al's vocals a little further forward, there isn't that much better that could be asked for.

Unless my memory is totally deceiving me, Jay, the 'new' bass player, was previously in Ravage a couple years ago, which may explain why they did relatively more old stuff than new. Of course, I could also be completely wrong, which would not be a first.

Graveheart [6/7]
This is the band for Legion of the Dying to look to as they try to refine and balance the traditional and extreme elements in their sound. Graveheart's smashing blend of thrash and melodic death metal pulls in a lot of traditional HM elements, especially in their lead-swapping guitar pyrotechnics, but there wasn't ever any tension in the direction of the sound, just singleminded domination. Of course, this band has plenty of experience -- they cracked out an old tune from their Blistered Earth days, which was just absolutely razor-sharp -- and LotD is just starting out, so a similar flowering could well be in the cards. If I were to be really picky, I'd give this the edge as the best set of the night, but by a narrow margin. They closed up by bringing up Al Ravage to guest on two Priest songs -- well, more like one, but he did sing over "The Hellion" as well as on "Electric Eye" where there are actually lyrics. More cool times.

Candy Striper Death Orgy [6/7]
I have seldom been more sorry to be without knee braces than during this set; CSDO's Slayer-driven thrash creates the inevitable lust for destruction, but I couldn't go throwing myself around and running the risk of snapping one or both pegs. I did what I could to keep those who were moshing moving around, but it frustrates me to no end that I wasn't able to get things circled up and moving oldschool-style. While CSDO is not exactly the most original band in the world, they're rock-solid technically and compositionally, and use that perfect thrash lock-in to kick extreme amounts of ass; one has to wonder why they're only just now putting out their debut full-length; maybe they weren't this practiced back when Meliah Rage and Wargasm were the core of the scene, but thrash has been 'back' for a while now, and they gig enough that somebody should have noticed them. I'm currently slotted to see them opening for Testament in the middle of next month, and the kickass set they laid out here in Worcester definitely makes me more likely to drive down to friggin Southbridge and catch that one.

After CSDO closed up, there came the announcement that due to continuously outstanding turnouts -- due both to the venue's attractions and the awesomeness of the bills -- Metal Thursday is going to start going bi-monthly, with the first "second show" in two weeks. This is what happens when people support shows; more of them happen and we all see more bands, who have more opportunities to practice their craft and get better. Everyone benefits; hopefully, we'll be able to see those benefits in Boston and get some non-Sunday shows at the Skybar by patronizing the hell out of the Sunday gigs.

Next show is Doro (kickass) at Mark's (blech) on Saturday, then Skybar on Sunday. I'm trying to pull people along for these from the North Shore, but haven't had much luck so far...gotta try harder, both to get people in other regions into our native bands, and to try and overcome this damned blight.