I actually got out of work early for this one due to my boss telling us to just go the hell home; he's got some kind of inverse Korean complex and doesn't feel comfortable leaving while we're still around; as a consequence I got onto 93 before the big clot of traffic coming out of Boston hit, and got up just before doors. Hopefully this'll keep up; the fall touing season is just lousy with Mark's shows, and a bunch of them are really good.
This was the third time I've seen this band, with, as far as I can tell, the exact same setlist. They added a little wrinkle this time by letting a flanged-out low end dominate their sound, but it was the same songs in mostly the same order. The vocalist referred to them as "the generic opener that nobody remembers", and while this is true to a certain degree, Troll does have some memorable riffs and lines; it's just that they get tiresome after a while.
In contrast to a lot of Mark's shows, the front row was full right from the start, and there was never any question about there being more people on stage than in the crowd. Of course, this was probably due to the "non-core" people who came for Edguy (and camped the front all night), and weren't aware of how this place operates. Hence the exchange between one of the newcomers and the security while I was coming in, which went something like this:
N00b: Do you have anything to eat in there?
Secu: No, I don't think so. They sometimes get pizza in later, but we just opened.
N: Ok; when's the band start?
S: First band goes on at seven.
N: That's the opener, right?
S: Yeah, that's the first opening band. The first local opener, there's seven bands tonight.
N: Seven?! When does the show get out?
S: Uh, around one, I think.
N: Wow, one o'clock, I didn't realize that. (N00bs huddle up in consternation before leaving to find a BK.)
SRSLY, LERN2P2PVENUE. I was actually surprised that there were only 3 locals against 4 nationals, but the bands got longer sets, and this may be an indication that Bernie's working out who's going to draw from outside the core scene, and will continue to refine the moderation of his policies in the future.
Chapter 50 [4/7]
I'm sure that it's possible to have a more pedestrian metalcore band than this one. I just have no idea how that would be implemented. The sound was pretty much a direct follow-on to almost everything going currently in the "bands who wish they were as cool as Heaven Shall Burn and Shadows Fall" caption, and there was the persistent suspicion on the part of several people (documented elsewhere) that some band members were actively trying to look like people from bigger and better metalcore bands. Whether this was to drive interest in their band or just to pick up girls with lip piercings and Myspace haircuts was unknown at press time.
As a convenient distraction, while this band was playing, one of the guys from From The Shadows came up and tried to sell me Firewind tickets; I didn't bite, but might end up going to the gig anyway. The 29th is a busy night; if I can remember to order a ticket I might go to Megadeth (though I'm not real thrilled about their openers), and if I'm poor and my knees are feeling all right, it might be Toxic Narcotic up in Haverhill. Otherwise, sure; the drive's as long but less intense than going to Worcester, and I like Firewind better than Sonata Arctica anyway.
Mortis Deveia [6/7]
Duuude...I don't know what's up with Henry, man. The new singer for Mortis Deveia is, like, the ugliest chick in the world. SERIOUSLY. ;P
Ok, now that we've got the required-by-law lame joke out of the way, let's have some real information about the band. Andrew presents a different feel than Caitlin did, but the sound is still thoroughly Mortis Deveia, and this was one of their better outings. This was a moment of truth, and the band rose to the occasion, showing that any previous gimmick was incidental to the core purpose of just playing awesome music, and that they remain a leading contender for the next band to break it big out of New England. They had sold out of CDs again coming in, unsurprisingly, but there were also a few songs not on the current demo, so there's likely the prospect of more MD recordings in the non-distant future, and as in the last time I saw them on a properly raised stage (the Skybar had more of a one-step riser, and I think everything else was just on the raft at the back of Mark's), they did "Raining Blood" to close. Unfortunately, it wasn't quite as good as back then, but only because the bassist snapped his E-string at the end of "The Disappearance". The bass dropping out is not, of course, necessarily fatal to a Slayer song, and they blasted it up as a two-guitar, two-vocal lineup for a bit to a great audience reaction, but in all likelihood it would have gone better if everyone's axe was still in proper working order.
In between the local and touring lineup, I went back and got some merch; no kutte parts, but I did spring for a CD from Light This City, as it definitely felt like they were the odd band out on this tour and the most in need of support, which was fortunately justified later. Their merch guy commented favorably on my Watain patch as a rare find; he, however, was wearing a Craft shirt, which is the absolute definition of kvlt (hint: if you like black metal, Terror Propaganda is killer.).
Echoes of Eternity [5/7]
Thus started the mostly progressive, mostly power-metal touring bill, which was a bit of an odd composite hooked together in an uneven chain rather than a truly solid package. Unfortunately, it's not really possible to put together an economical and strongly connected undercard for Edguy that will draw in this country. Echoes of Eternity was decent, but ultimately didn't leave a tremendous impression; the music was good, but seemed to lack impact and immediacy. I don't know if this is a personal thing or a "this is Boston, not L.A." dynamic, but it really seemed like the best thing this band had going for them was pretty much the same thing as Robin DeSanto's electoral advantage. There's nothing wrong with having attractive people in your band, but it's got to be "this band kicks ass, and the singer's hot", not "wow, the chick singing is hot, this band must rule".
Light This City [5/7]
I had a pretty good idea what to expect when I flipped over Facing The Thousand back at the merch stand and saw that they were on Prosthetic, though the name itself was a clue; a thrash band that used to be hardcore and hasn't completely accomplished the transition yet. There were still strong metalcore elements to their sound, but this was a lot more of a thrash performance; some progressive elements, but not on the whole on-topic with the rest of the tour. They fit in with Into Eternity's Headbanger's Ball mode, while Echoes of Eternity connected to IE's deeper cuts and IE's power metal split personality provided the connection to the headliner. It's like mapping hydrocarbons back in chemistry class. On topic, Light This City did a good set, better by a slice than Echoes of Eternity, and people were into them, but they probably would have been better served with a different environment in terms of staging as well as surrounding bands; Aaron mentioned that they were also allegedly playing some "off dates" on this tour with locals around the various stops, which is probably the better bet if you're not as into the rest of the headlining bill.
Into Eternity [6/7]
When this show was being booked, Bernie probably thought to himself, "wow, I've got a lineup with four bands with girl singers in a row, that's got to be a first on a normal show." Then Mortis Dev changed their lineup and he found out that Stu was a dude all along. ;P I kid, I kid.
There were a couple problems with the sound at the start, not that many of them really came through to where I was, and given that they seem to be on every time I put on the cable metal station, I'm thoroughly sick of the hits off Scattering of Ashes, but this was still a good performance, and one of the better I've seen out of them. I'm not a fan of the band, but they play some good music, and there's always something technically amazing on every set; here, Tim was basically just executing rather than stunning on guitar, but Stu was hitting some notes that even Maynard (R.I.P.) might have had a hard time with. That's just not natural, but it's friggin' killer when someone can pull it off.
I had a chance to observe Tim's hand action, which is something you get to do when you're in a small club and a music geek, and while he is fast, he's also fast because he has to be; his finger spread isn't the widest out there, and so he has to reposition a lot more to play stuff that someone with larger or more stretchable hands might be able to play without shifting their arm. His right hand, though, is where the really notable speed and accuracy comes in, much more than in the left.
Despite this obvious plug (ignore the emo first row and start from the first panel in the bottom row), I didn't see Tetraccino at this gig; maybe he hit the gig down at the Webster in Connecticut, or maybe he was in the back in the main part of the hall. I was up front in front of the bar, in the thick of a bunch of doods who were yelling for some kind of reaction from the drummer, who used to be in Beyond The Embrace, and for whom this was the homecoming gig. With this band and Despised Icon, there's the sense of the start of a troubling trend for Massachusetts metal; it's good to see musicians getting into bands with more visibility, but it's kind of embarrassing when your state is the farm system for freakin Canada. Seriously, it's a good thing that no one actually cares (and that there are a lot of Mass bands that succeed on their own), or it would be hard to live this down. ;)
Unfortunately, they came to the venue in a normal tourbus instead of by air, but while Tobi did cut his hair (he's thinning on top and it's a little less obvious now), he also left his zebra-print spandex pants back in Fulda, so the result was a net IMAGE UP. The music was also a step up from Wacken two years ago, partly from the longer set and partly from somewhat better conditions; I was right on top of the band instead of a hundred yards back, and nobody could get lost on here. Though they talked a good game about playing old stuff, this meant basically "playing stuff they hadn't done since the Mandrake tour"; if you have Burning Down The Opera and the two studio records they've done since that one came out, you basically have this set. Older stuff was replaced with newer material, but their deep back catalog material has remained basically the same since that time. "Save Me" from the new one has replaced "Land of the Miracle" as the requisite 'gay ballad', though in this part of the US, they probably could have made the Manowar reference that they used in Brazil (c.f. "for the wimps and posers out there...and women" on the bonus in the digibook version of Rocket Ride) and people would have gotten it. They ran through their normal crowd-participation antics, despite being in a hall of about a quarter the size needed to really sustain them, and definitely provided a good German Heavy Metal experience. They need a bigger stage, so Tobi can do his kicks-above-head-level without risking injury to anyone else in the band, and a bigger audience to play their side-vs-side games with, but I'm not sure that they can get either on this continent, as they may be a little too confident in their own heterosexuality -- and thus in their willingness to camp up the "straight band from Germany playing Gay-Metal" angle -- for the American power metal audience. We'll see, and we'll hopefully see them again, and in a more accessible venue thanks to their flouting of the ridiculous no-drinking-on-stage ordinances. Es sind hier Deutsche Musikannten! Es ist ihnen Alkohol kein Suchtgift!
On getting out, it was raining, and I steeled myself for a long, wet, and accordingly dangerous drive home. Fortunately, between exits 6 and 5 on 93, a miracle happened, and I outdrove the weather. The rest of the ride back was dry, fast, and stable, which you don't get much coming back from Mark's in the fall. It's raining now, but I'm on my couch and it doesn't matter, the show in the books.
Some words about Autumn Above from Thursday night: this was a remarkably heavy performance, though it might be expected as the band is composed mainly of people who are better known as being in several North Shore metal bands, mostly Endless Ruin. Sure, they're all-acoustic, and on CD their sound is a lot easier to interpret as more indie-rock (verging perhaps on emo due to the lyrical obsession with suicide), with nicely plucked guitar lines and close vocal harmonies, but live, up front, the impression is much different. The stop-on-a-dime riff blasts are pure metal, and if Ryan's been able to change his vocal style for this project, Chris has still definitely got his other influences (specifically, the ones that animate Cocaine Tongue) going strong. "Burn With Me", to call out a particular example, was significantly heavier, played sitting down on acoustics on Thursday night, than anything Chapter 50 did with synchronized headbanging on Friday night. As a result, this is a band that presents various sides that any rock fan can get into; the intent is still indie, but they were coming from a notably different place than the other bands at this gig, and the resulting sound is really interesting. If you know anyone who likes post-hardcore, point them at the band and tell them to spread the word; I haven't heard a whole ton of post-HC, but from what I have, listeners may find something to like, and I'm not sure that the band is going after that audience as of now.
This coming week is thick with gigs; Metal Thurday has a good lineup, MPD, Indignation, and Rohirrim provide eminent excuse to skip the drive and expense of going to Machine Head, and then it's Finntroll on Saturday. It may get expensive, but it's a fine time.