Despite being at Mark's, this was a really good show, and the drive back was a lot less dangerous than it's been in the past. Good time.
Leaving directly after work again, I fortunately managed to get up and in just as Eternal Embrace was starting; the traffic was still kinda thick, but after Labor Day, it starts to get a whole hell of a lot easier to get into New Hampshire on the weekend. This is fortunate, because there's an absolute ton of shows coming up at this place, and many of them are worth going to.
Eternal Embrace [3/7]
I did see nearly all of this band's set, and while some people will dispute the score, this is a critical opportunity to showcase the distinction between doing something well, and doing something good. The band executed well, but what they were executing was boring as all fuck. Their goth-metal sound may have fit in all right with the overall tenor of the show for some of the attendees, but as a rule the guys in ridiculously overbuilt kuttes with seven rows of studs on each shoulder are not in that group. This was not the worst gothed-up metal performance I've ever seen, but it was on about the level of when I saw Tristania at Wacken, who got the exact same score for, similarly, being largely uninteresting and failing to provide anything new. In the eyes of the band and their fans, though, being on the same level as Tristania is most likely a good thing, and they -- or at least the handful who were there, showing that selling tickets for Mark's is a losing proposition, because you may have to go on first and play to barely more people than are on stage -- doubtless enjoyed this set while I was trying to avoid falling asleep.
This is the first time I've seen Frozen that they couldn't be put into a bucket; the Evergrey influences were a lot more subdued on this outing, and the sound seemed to be a lot more well-rounded and mature. Their progressive NWOSDM-driven sound fit in well with the traveling undercard, and it particular contrasted nicely with Scar Symmetry as an alternate (and, personally, more appealing) way of turning out a heavier take on Tom Englund's sound. While this wasn't as good as when I saw them out at Ralph's, it was a really good showing and hopefully converted some of the people who hadn't heard of them yet and were camping out for the headliners.
Dreaded Silence [5/7]
In a marked contrast to when I saw them back in April, Dreaded Silence didn't sound so much like Sentenced, which is probably due more to the band maturing than to Ken being more or less sober on this go-round. The older material is still strongly reminiscent of the Northernmost Killers, but their new stuff blends in a strong degree of Opeth; the forthcoming record sounds like it's going to be really cool from the stuff that they did in this set, and the performance was very strong overall.
This is the price of pay-to-play gigs: you will occasionally get crummy bands that can, for some reason, sell their fans on paying 20 bucks to see them on a bill that they completely don't mesh with. As has been stated elsewhere, when you have 'i's replaced with 'y's in band names, the band is going to be nu-metal, deterministically, and that also has pretty strong deterministic implications for the quality of their music and performance. This band was more laughable than sleep-inducing in their aspirations, and concordant failure, to be Tool, instead settling for a third-rate imitation of a second-rate radio rock band trying to be Tool, but after a while it stopped being funny and just started sucking. They allegedly covered "Refuse/Resist", but when a band is going to make a Sepultura song sound like this one did, they usually just refrain from playing it to save themselves the embarassment. This set was completely unnecessary, and if Bernie didn't need their doods' money to pay the headliners, there is no way that they would have gotten on this bill.
Swallow The Sun [6/7]
Probably the most completely doom-oriented of the headliners, these guys got the show back on track with a depressive but stone-heavy set that, as might have been expected, tilted more towards later material. I knew them only from The Morning Never Came until picking up their current album from the merch stand, so while I knew only a little of what they were playing, I was decently impressed with the progression. I don't recall if this was their first US tour or not, but they did go a long way to justifying the degree of interest I've seen in them from various quarters.
The first impression of this band was "wow, Warheart-core." ;) It'd been a while since I last heard ...Day It All Came Down, so while I knew, abstractly, what I was getting into, the impression of a non-urban Dark Tranquillity was the dominating one from the first row, and also, completely awesome. Where DT's keys and electonics are all sharp angles and modernistic push, Insomnium's fill in -- when they're used, which was not universal -- around the edges of the sound and give a sense of space and nature, which is probably associated with Drudkh only because I was listening to Estrangement before coming up for the show. As the above indicates, the second and more lasting impression of this band is that they were totally amazing, and stole the damn show; Katatonia were similarly impressive, but as will be discussed later, this was the band of the night for the dyed-in-the-wool metalhead.
From the conclusion of the set:
Niilo: Thank you, Bedford! This is our first US-tour, but we will be back.
Dude A: HEADLINE!!
Dude B: Headline?!
Dude A: Why the fuck not?!
Indeed, why the fuck not? Insomnium is definitely good enough to do so over a room of this size, and if this set is any indication, has thoroughly convinced American audiences of this fact, so if they do come back as support, it had better be with Dark Tranquillity at the Palladium or a similar hall.
Scar Symmetry [6/7]
After the Finnish portion of the bill concluded, this was somewhat of a letdown for the start of the Swedish half of the headliners; lacking a standing doom or black metal component, Scar Symmetry fit in only tenuously under Katatonia, and while their set of modern NWOSDM was well turned-out, it seemed to lack a certain degree of inspiration or fire. It was good music, and well-performed, but while this band took a step forward from the last time I saw them (at the Palladium, I think touring with Bodom and Amon Amarth), it wasn't a huge step, and they were probably the down point among the headliners.
This band is a continuing testament to the injustice of commercial radio in this country. Their most current material is good and interesting enough in its dark indie colorings that they ought, by rights, to be playing the Paradise in Boston and likely selling it out, but because they have that remaining extreme metal strand running through their music, they're playing Mark's, sponsored by 'AAF, who don't exactly make this style a cornerstone of their brand. While they demonstrated with "Deadhouse" and "Murder" (the de riguer closer in a setting like this) that they still have strong pure metal chops -- the sound on these was so clean and fluid that a whole show of similar old stuff would have been just sublime -- they also demonstrated with the bulk of their set that their older sound just isn't as interesting, or perhaps, as challenging, to the band any more. Katatonia has pushed off from what might be considered a doctrinaire metal sound into waters that are damned interesting, even if they're not quite as appealing in a live setting, and thoroughly original, but it's frustrating to think that the other ports may be closed to them because what they're doing is also too challenging to fit neatly into a playlist pigeonhole. This is a really good show, but it's frustrating to think that a band like this can't get their sound out to the audience they need to cross over into to get as big as they deserve to be.
All in all, a killer show and a great time, and at least this time around, the roads were dry on the drive south. The bands were mostly really, really cool, I got a chance to talk kutte shop, and hung out a bit with Frozen, which included some surreal moments as Colin and I conversed in German, which is not totally out of the ordinary at a metal show, but not something either of us do much on this continent. There was also some kid in a Wacken '07 shirt and wristband, but I wasn't able to successfully corral him and find out whether he was from here and had gone there or vice versa.
Most importantly, though, I picked up a rumor from Aaron that some frickn' huge band that every metalhead in New England will want to see is going to be playing Mark's next spring. He, of course, didn't drop the name, but if this gets around, it's going to be an entertaining six months of guessing until it finally gets announced for real. Based on the available, albeit limited information (translation: the conclusion about to be drawn has been pulled out of my hindquarters and should not be regarded or disseminated as real), the current conclusion is that through some means of skullduggery or other black arts, Bernie has gotten himself another date added to the King Diamond/Kreator tour. Granted, the King only dubiously fits the qualification "normally, like, opening for Iron Maiden at the Tsongas Arena", and it's difficult to see how any concert promoter in New England could win the cage match with Scott Lee that this would require, but this is the only tour that's been announced for the spring so far, and thus has a slightly lesser chance of being completely left-field wrong than any other wild-ass guess at the moment. It probably still is, of course, completely off base, but then again, most rumors are.
Thanks to being broke and short on gas, I didn't pull myself away from Reid Fleming, World's Toughest Milkman #1 on Saturday to go up and see Epica; next show is a friend's (non-metal) band in Boston on Thursday, with the next reviewed show being up at Mark's again for Edguy. I'm going to bring up my two digibook Edguy records, and if they won't sign them, yell "ey, wo iss euer Heli" after every song until they tell me to shut up.