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.

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