(show, at the Palladium in Worcester on 7/6/2007, also included In Dire Need and Zircon as local support, but I ran out of headline room.)
I took the day off from work for this gig, and it was certainly worth it -- not only for recuperating my feet, but because there was a long share of good music that I would have missed if I'd just left for Worcester at 6. As it was, I got moving a little later than I'd planned to -- and without taking my boots over to the cobbler, which I now have to do next week or risk not getting them back for Wacken. I was able to get parking no problem, but the late start and thick traffic on 128 due to a blue-sky cloudburst led to one of the few down points of the night, missing nearly all of Zircon's set.
As I came in, they were on their last song, which sucked for me. From what I saw, they were pretty thoroughly on, which was good, despite the new guitarist, who can't have been in the band for more than a month or so. The only unfortunate part about their set was the sound, which negatively affected about the whole first half of the bill; the guitars, especially the leads, sounded a little buried, which is totally egregious; there is no reason, when setting up a board for a metal show, to not have the guitars forward by default. I mean, come the fuck on. I can understand the sound guys not putting effort into bringing a local band's solos out, but the first three nationals were also poorly handled, and this particular mismix makes the sound come off as intentionally bad; a new low for the sound in this place.
I talked with the guys later while scooping some stuff, and I stand by my assessment that if Zircon can keep it together, they have an even shot at headlining this kind of bill in a few years. Specifically, four to five years and at least two very good full-lengths, but the band definitely has it in them, and with the right label push it's really a question of when, not if.
In Dire Need [4/7]
I'm not, personally, a huge fan of this style, but this band did a decent job of it; the hardcore influences were honestly and directly done, but I wasn't on the floor for them as I was for Zircon, and the sound was an absolute nightmare. If I could hear what the hell they were doing, I might have enjoyed this more; I got a sampler from them after the show, and that's going to be a much better representation of who and where they are as musicians than this set was.
Beneath The Massacre [4/7]
This band was down for a 4.5 score before I chopped off all the tailing half-scores (still hate doing them), also in large part because their sound was fucked up. They had a few really interesting parts to their sound, but others that didn't come off as so inspired, and the mismanagement at the soundboard really didn't help anything. I'm somewhat interested in seeing this band again, but if the next time they're around is an early slot on a festival or superpackage at the Palladium, I'm really skeptical of the total effect being any better.
Ion Dissonance [5/7]
Maybe it was the sound, maybe it was the prevalence of new material (Minus The Herd is okay, but pretty much just okay), but this set didn't have the same immediate and explosive effect that they put up the last time I saw them (Metalfest '06). It was still pretty well done, with the hardcore standing out more than the brutal thrash parts (almost certainly because I've got a better ear for this now rather than any change on the band's part), but while the sound mix wasn't hurting them much -- the thick and dense sound being basically all that the sound system could convey until the headliners came on -- it wasn't exactly helping them either. This was a decent set, but not, really, what I came for.
In around here, I did my merch run, picking up some Cattle Decapitation and Necrophagist gear. I wanted to support Decapitated as well, but they didn't have any merch out, for reasons that would become clear later. I didn't get the Necrophagist shirt I wanted, but the second-choice design is also cool, and Cattle Decapitation's "GORE NOT CORE" design is something that every anti-trend metaller should appreciate.
As Blood Runs Black [4/7]
Speaking of trends, there was little I could do but shake my head during this band's set. There were a lot of people into them, but all I could think was "we are in New England. We know what Shadows Fall sounds like -- and this band is but a pale fallen shadow thereof." Where Shadows Fall is a good band making good music and diminishing the case for metalcore-as-a-dirty-word, As Blood Runs Black seemed mostly interested in playing through Of One Blood again and hoping people wouldn't notice that the state of the art had advanced. The sound was okay and the playing competent, but the band was doing nothing original, and it was a relief when they closed up. I'm not sure that I recall hearing the singer tell the crowd to "bring the ruckus", but if such occurred, it would indeed be about the dumbest thing I have seen on a metal stage.
Well, not really. I've seen Halo of Thorns use Hood strawberry syrup as a blood substitute. That still takes the cake.
The Faceless [5/7]
I hadn't heard this band before, but had heard a little about them and was skeptical, as you kind of have to be about any new band that calls themselves death metal and gets press attention. Fortunately, though, they had some decent sound and a decent sound to deliver through it, an even and smooth mix of melodic and brutal death metal styles. While it wasn't terribly distinctive, it was well-done and a good time; a decent set, and worth remembering even though the top of the bill was coming up, and with it, absolute devastation.
Cattle Decapitation [6/7]
This was a definite top-class set, and if it had been the last of the night, it would have been a fitting capstone to a very good show. While the grind elements were still dominant, there was also a lot of black metal in their sound as well that I didn't notice in the limited experience I've had with them on record; it made for an interesting contrast and a cool overall sound. They've rubbed some people the wrong way personally in the past, but as this set bears out, there's been little complaint about their actual music, which continues to kick ass.
Cephalic Carnage [6/7]
At this point I went down on the floor, because it opened up significantly after Cattle Decapitation, and I needed to get close up for the last two bands. Down closer, the sound was slightly better, but the major advantage to this set was CC's rounded, diverse sound, probably the most wide-ranging of the night. Despite the complexities of their music, they still kept the pit moving as well; towards the end of their set, a kid came out of the pit right in front of me and proceeded to hurl on the ground at the side of the rail, whether from getting spun around of from getting hit in the stomach, it wasn't clear. This was basically the only negative on the night that wasn't directly my fault, and fortunately the kid in question didn't look too much the worse for wear after he'd gotten his guts out onto the floor. Even with this mishap, this was still a killer set.
HOLY FUCK. The band basically got right off the bus/van from Quebec due to allegedly forgetting all their money at the hotel in Montreal (there may be a case here that the noncommercial DIY ethos needs to be flavored with a little practicality) and going back from half-way in order to retrieve it, then went on stage, but proceeded to wipe the floor with everyone who had played to this point, and gave Necrophagist a serious run for their money. Their set back in November was good, but not well-mixed, and this one saw one of those rare cases where the stars align and the Palladium soundboard produces a diamond, much like Suffocation back at that gig. The sound was tremendous, world-crushing, and as close to perfect as this building is likely to come, and the set as a result was a pure triumph of Polish death metal. If the headliners had been anyone else, this would have stolen the show fucking blind. Simply incredible; you may commence kicking yourself if you like brutal death and missed this. The floor was similarly insane in their response to the band; it was during Decapitated's set that the dude in this pic got his tooth knocked loose, which he was showing off to the doods on the rail next to me after surfing over the front.
Between Decapitated and Necrophagist, I talked with the Rev, who was similarly overpowered by Decapitated's set -- but also concerned about how the hell he was going to get one of his better cameras over to his girlfriend to shoot Live Earth with; living together makes some equipment issues a little easier for two of New England's most prolific live-music photographers, but does occasionally exacerbate logistical problems caused by how throughly they do cover the region.
The Marco Minnemann Show [7/7]
In addition to being a kickass death metal set, this was also a thorough masterclass in extreme metal technique, arrangement, and songwriting. I saw it from about the 6th row, which is the place to see Necrophagist from, as further back you won't be able to see the hand action, and may not realize exactly what Muhammed, Sami, and Stefan are doing and how exactly it's so mind-blowing. Everyone who knows this band also knows that Muhammed is probably the most accomplished and significant Turco-German musician of his generation (if not of Turkish history in Germany), and most people are probably aware that they've recently enlisted Marco Minneman, who definitely ranks among the greatest living German drummers, but Muhammed's writing and arrangements would go for naught if Sami (guitar) and Stefan (bass) weren't stellar musicians in their own right and able to keep up, allowing the intricacies of the parts to stand forth and impress the pure hell out of the audience. There was some pit motion, but most of Necrophagist's set saw the larger part of the audience absolutely spellbound, watching and listening as the band ripped through cut after cut of stuff that can't be assessed but as light-years ahead of what's going on in the main line of death metal today, and at a level of composition that's rarely touched even by the best of the more technical bands. There was one section in which they moved seamlessly and flawlessly through four riffs in three different tempos and two different keys that was just absolutely stunning; it's difficult to pick out casually, but it's the little things like this that make the band relentlessly awesome.
Marco gets his own rating because he also got (kind of) his own set, in which he generated as much awesome as 3's percussion show with half the drummers. In this tour-de-force, he moved from jazz to funk to hip-hop to tribal to Japanese-traditional to death metal through a long share of technical showing-off with no interruptions or disjunctions, even despite two stick drops. It was about the most incredible performance I've ever seen out of a drummer, and the range of sounds that he could get out of his (admittedly non-traditional) kit was truly awe-inspiring. His abilities are fully tested by backing up up such a technically challenging band, but this solo showed not only his non-metal background and diverse influences, but how he weaves those back into a death metal context; how he contributes to the next Necrophagist record will be really interesting to see, and will likely make it a further and stronger step up from Epitaph.
Sadly, the building curfew kicked in and prevented an encore, though the whole building was screaming for it. It was barely past 11, but the lights went up and the roadies starting tearing down the kit. Oh well; Arsis may have been missed (they had to scratch most of the tour due to van issues), and a double-headliner of Arsis and Necrophagist would be a stupendous clash of tech-death titans, but the bands that remained delivered a kickass show to be sure, and produced enough slaughter last a long slice of the summer -- hopefully the next max-package (Sounds of the Underground) at this venue won't break down the coolness from here too much.