Because I was coming right from work (dress shirt off revealing Wolven Ancestry shirt, kutte on, shirt into the trunk), and 128 is right there, I decided to try going down to 93 and coming up directly that way, instead of using the normal backroads. This worked great in that I got from work to the border in 45 minutes, about 10 or 15 faster than usual, and didn't encounter any morons going 65 in the breakdown lane because the DOT won't expand the highway. Unfortunately, going from the border to the turnoff for 101 took another 70 or so minutes. Let this be a lesson: don't go north into New Hampshire on I-93 on a Friday night in the summer and expect to get there with any kind of timeliness.
King Diamond [N/A]
This set isn't rated because it was performed, rather than merely witnessed, and the King obviously wasn't actually there. Given that I was stuck in a two-lane parking lot somewhere south of Manchester instead of seeing Putrescine when the King's songs on this Roadrunner comp-CD came up, it seemed only fair that everyone else should hear them too. So down went the windows, and those around my got a little dose of surreality in the form of "Abigail" and "The Family Ghost" in their traffic jam.
Eventually, I got in to Mark's, and was able to pick up some live bands instead of stuff recorded 20 years ago.
Tommy Coma [3/7]
This may not be an accurate representation of their quality as a band -- the lead guitarist was out attending the birth of his child and the bassist was filling in for him -- but it is an accurate representation of the set they played here instead of cancelling. The result was a consistent -- in the way that creamy peanut butter is consistent -- slurry of sameish, undifferentiated guitar following the lead of the NWOAHM, without a whole lot to recommend it as interesting, or even in a broader sense musical. The parts that were not straight-up riffing were either ill-done or ill-considered, but if the guy who normally plays them was out on a family emergency, this is somewhat excusable. I'm not going to go on record saying this bunch should disband, as many others have, but I can comment that playing a show a member down when there was no time to prepare and a legitimate excuse available was probably not the right decision; absent the financial investment they had to make to get on the bill, they could and should have cancelled; the guitarist could go birthe his kid without throwing the rest of the band into chaos, and the rest of us wouldn't've had to hear this boring and often crummy performance.
Iridescent Exposure [4/7]
I had a hard time keeping from breaking out into laughter through this band's entire set. This is, of course, monumentally unfair to them, because it has nothing to do with their qualities as musicians or the quality of their music, but everything to do with their circumstances as a band. If I closed my eyes, this was a decent, well-delivered but somewhat pedestrian hardcore outing, but with eyes open, there's a seven-piece hardcore band on stage, and that's just inherently hilarious. Six is dealable, but when you go to seven, you pass the laugh threshold; there was a five-piece act on Saturday, as detailed later, and as soon as they brought two more of their doods out of the wings for supplemental vocals, I just cracked up and couldn't keep a straight face the rest of the song. Iridescent Exposure brought a lot of people in and gave a decent performance, but the fact that they (allegedly) added an extra dood recently made me unable to keep a straight face, which is probably not what they were aiming for.
Severed Survival [5/7]
I went back to the rear stage and saw them setting up, after which the singer announced "we're Severed Survival, and we play death/thrash". I thought to myself, "yeah, you better play death/thrash, and you better be good at it, because there's no excuse for a band that sucks to name themselves after an Autopsy record". Fortunately, they were, on both counts, and the result was a surprisingly kickass performance. A more apt description of their style might be 'death metal Baujahr 1987', as it really was pure death metal in that thrashy style of the old days, and in this case it might be doubly accurate, as several of the band members were wearing black Xes, indicating their personal vintage as no older than 1986. If they weren't really good at this, one might question why they're reviving a style of music that was most current when they were in diapers, but like the retro-thrash revival, good music is its own justification.
True to form, they covered Death's "Zombie Ritual", and did a good job on it, but true to the critic's core values (i.e., to never be satisfied with anything ever), I almost immediately thought, "well, this is killer, but it'd be really cult if they did "Primitive Ways" or "Infernal Death" or "Archangel"." There will be more on this topic of "covering songs that people don't like, or may not actually know" in the comments on Saturday.
If Goatwhore are turning into a black'n'roll band, rooted in black metal but adding rock grooves to their sound for either diversity or accessibility (depending on whether the observer likes them or not), the Daath are the other side of the coin, a rock band adding extreme metal elements, particularly from black metal, for extra edge and metal cred. We'll call this style rock'n'troll for purposes of symmetry, and also because I'm dog-tired and can't think of anything less stupid. They put on a good show, and it's good to see a band like this that has the potential to become flat huge still keeping touch with the metal underground on shows like this, but all things considered I'd personally rather still see Goatwhore. Daath will make a stir at Ozzfest, but I'm not in the Ozzfest audience.
Eyes Sewn Shut [4/7]
This band played a decent set of modernish metal, but didn't make a huge impression, perhaps because of all their material, they were most up for the Pantera cover ("This Love") that they closed with. I certainly didn't mind seeing them, nor would again, but this set was of the sort that is just kind of there, which isn't quite what a local band looking to get some traction would be looking for from a show that they had to fork out for. If you're going to pay to play, you'd better get people to want to see you again, and this wasn't the result that this band got.
My first thought on seeing this band before they went on was how tiny they all were; sterotypically, Asians are, but even the Taiwanese that I know personally are somewhat taller and more solidly built. Fortunately, this wan't the only lasting impression of Cthtonic; they put up an excellent set of quality evolved black metal despite a few sound problems. It was a great experience, and the use of the Chinese fiddle was definitely an interesting turn on the classical sound of the style, but I couldn't help thinking that this band's epic sound needs a larger tableau than a strip bar in New Hampshire can provide; they'll get that at Ozzfest, but they also need to be playing at night in that context, and I'm not sure they'll get that yet there yet. Maybe next time; hopefully, I won't need to pick them up in Europe for such. Great show, and if you missed it, you'd better catch them on Ozzfest, because Asian underground bands average about 5 years between American tours, and you may not see them again. Hopefully, they'll be back soon -- and bring along Oathean and either Method or Magwi, because Korea has some cool bands that need a look from metal sinophiles as well.
If you've heard that there are two female members in this band, whoever told you this is wrong. There is only one woman in Cthtonic; it may be confusing for some people, but I've spent a lot of time in east Asia and around east Asians in the course of my professional and academic associations, and I can reliably tell when Asians are dudes or not. ;) (This is mentioned because it came up on Saturday, from someone who is usually a lot more well-informed about who's in what bands than I am.)
Chthonic used to have a female keyboardist, who was in the band the last time Aaron saw them, but she's since been replaced with a dude keyboardist. So, used to be two women, now only one.
Because their tone was so low-driven and stone-heavy, it took a little while to realize how heavy their Gothenburg influences were with regards to composition. They had some problems with their sampling rig, but very few with the rest of their sound -- and as students of Swedish death metal know, when you add the composition and melodic structures of Gothenburg to the solid low end brutality that you'd get from, say, Stockholm, you get mid-period Hypocrisy, and from my perspective at least, this is pretty much the opposite of problems with the sound. Though they did suggest Hypocrisy, they did so in putting forth a fairly original sound; unfortunately, they didn't have any CDs yet, which they had in common with the other local bands that I actively liked from this weekend. Hopefully, I'll see them again, and they'll have something recorded.
While not as staggering as other tech-death acts I've seen in the past, Nile put up an incredible performance of crushing brutality that covered basically everything that I wanted to hear from them (well, except "Unas...", but expecting a 12-minute song in an 80-minute set where there's a ton of other classics competing for time is unreasonable), as well as stuff off the new album that I didn't know was so awesome yet. This was also a first in that Karl is the first guy I've ever seen play death metal on a 12-string guitar; most of the new material was done on 12-string, though the chorusing wasn't as immediately obvious as a lot of the other times that you hear people using 12-strings. I did get Ithyphallic, so it'll be interesting to see how it plays out on record. Overall, a kickass performance that definitely made up for the traffic and pain of coming up.
Nearly as cool was surviving the trip back; New Hampshire was a little slow due to the downpour, but 93 in Lawrence, etc, from the border to 495, was just flat dangerous due to a general absence of lane markings and some mismanaged bridge construction that made for a fair amountof hydroplaning. Fortunately, there was next to no traffic, so even if I had lost control, I probably wouldn't've hit anyone or anything. I like my car, but going fast on crummy roads with a lot of water on them is a lot more nerve-wracking than it strictly needs to be, especially at night.