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.
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.
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.
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.