(show is from Mark's in Bedford, on 11/17/2007, but the local openers completely filled up the title field)
(also, apologies to the Summoning Hate dudes; I wasn't thinking when I did up the title and used their old name, and now I can't replace it without pushing some other band off the end.)
So I got up shortly after doors, as usual for a Saturday show, and got reacquainted with stages on shipping pallets, insipid pseudobeer, invasive security, the long parade of local bands, and all the other accoutrements of Mark's. I had almost forgotten how bad Coors Light is. This was enough 'nostalgia', though; the bands started up quickly, and the music got underway.
With their Pantera roots and death metal aspirations, along with the singer's scenester look, Judecca presented what many outside observers would categorize as a neat snapshot of metal in the Myspace age, and probably would include an egregious comparison to Job For A Cowboy. The only similarity between these two bands, though, is in that neither is particularly original or interesting; where JFAC cribs directly from Morbid Angel, Judecca are much more of a Pantera-following bro-core band who occasionally try to play death metal. They weren't in any sense bad, but they didn't do anything in this set that gave any indication that they're going to do anything as a band; the riffs were decent, but composition was lacking and as a result the songs never seemed to go anywhere.
Judecca started things off from the main stage, which led to a double-clutch later; given the lack of doods in-house, I'd have started the first local on the second stage to reduce total latency and give more bands longer sets. I'm surprised, though, that Bernie didn't – or, hopefully, couldn't – just add another local to the second stage.
Severed Survival [5/7]
I was quite pleased to see these guys again; aside from Summoning Hate, I hadn't seen any of the other locals I'd seen mentioned around yet, and it's nice to get a positive sure thing on a pay-to-play bill. This time around, they were a little more deathy and less thrashy, but it's really a matter of degrees, and this was still a kickass set of old-school extreme metal. They closed with some Dying Fetus rather than early Death on this one, and the impression was inescapable that they really ought to try to get slots that are not at Mark's; these guys would kick ass at O'Brien's or at Welfare Records with any number of other bands, and they'd probably have a better time if the crowd was moving around.
The same girl who was screaming for Suffocation (and maybe some of the other nationals, but she wasn't right on the rail next to me for Skinless and Immolation) was also screaming for these guys, so she probably knows the band. Regardless, it's a positive; every band needs someone to scream for them, and it's better to have girls doing so than the normal complement of sweaty hairy dudes.
Seize The Day [5/7]
Now, back to the main stage, for a decent but unfortunately somewhat forgettable metalcore band who at least did pass my most basic test: does this band adequately sound like second-rate In-Flames-circa-1997. They did, and it was a decent time; I tried to find the demos they said they had available later, but unfortunately did not. Like a bunch of other bands from this area, they could be the next new band out of Gothenchusetts, and they were pretty good. Interestingly, they had a third guitar on a stand for their bassist to swap onto, rather than adding a sixth member to play mostly rhythm and occasional leads. The sound balance didn't always bring it all the way through, but it was definitely an interesting wrinkle.
The most fortunate thing about this performance, though, was that the singer's ass managed to stay in his pants for the whole set. The same cannot be said of his boxers.
Devil's Champion [5/7]
If Judecca was a bro-core band attempting to play death metal, Devil's Champion came off as a solid death metal band trying to play bro-core with their standard tunings. More death metal got into their sound in the process, and the result was fairly good; I'd seen their name on a couple Pyad bills and some other shows from the Valley, and they're definitely worth checking out for folks on the North Shore and surrounding areas. I did get their demo, but haven't listened through yet; it'll be interesting to see these guys develop, and which direction they decide to take. If this was the sound of "modern death metal" in the US, there'd be a lot fewer people complaining about it.
If you're a real nitpicker and wanting to know which of the three bands at each of the 4, 5, and 6 points on this gig was better than the others, there's an easy solution: go to more shows. The comments only go so far, and you really need to be there live to get an accurate handle on these situations where I resist the urge to do split ratings, which are inherently kind of dumb.
Summoning Hate [6/7]
Changing their name definitely hasn't changed Boston's best Latin death metal band; despite a few hitches – which later caused David (drums) to insist that their performance sucked – they were easily better than the other locals on the bill, and hung in well with the nationals, meriting the billing that had them WSGed for the touring bands on most of the venue flyers leading up to the gig. Despite those few points where the Avilas were out of phase with each other, this was a good set featuring some really good music; death fans in the Northeast should check these guys out, not least because at least according to the band, you're likely to see even a better set than this one.
This was the part where the stage scheduling double-clutched and left no band playing while they did a set change on the main stage. On one level, it's understandable; Summoning Hate belonged on the same stage as the nationals, both in skill level and general degree of recognition. On another, it's not, given that they could have started with the second stage, played around with the lineup, and had less latency and longer sets. The hopeful part in here is that there was another band originally scheduled, who had to drop due to not meeting their ticket commitments, and Bernie wasn't able to convince any of the other brutalish metal bands in the area to submit to the required reaming. Henry was looking around before the gig to see if there would be enough Mortis Dev supporters going to make taking a slot viable, which apparently didn't pan out; it's always good to see bands get shows, but it's better for them to get paid for doing those gigs (which MD has no problem doing).
This is what we were all waiting for, the irresistible force (Skinless) versus the immovable object (New Hampshire's anti-mosh laws and TNT's rigorous implementation thereof). This round was a draw, but it was a draw done to the strains of some killer slammish death metal, drawn heavily from Skinless' early catalog, which is being reissued on CD by a combination record label and wrestling promotion. Hooray for the internet driving disruptive business models! This set's crowd-participation activities included the Wave, jumping jacks, and the Zombie Wall of Death, as well as one guy unfortunately getting thrown out for, you guessed it, moshing. The band was quite upset about this last, but this didn't show up for another couple sets.
With the nationals starting up, the venue started to fill up, with a lot more people that I recognized coming in. I gave Brandon (Rohirrim) the Graveland patch I'd woven into an order of some other stuff a while back, and noticed, courtesy of the Summoning Hate posse coming up to see their guys, something that does not happen often: Megan from Hekseri standing next to a guy at an 18+ show that she was legitimately taller than. ;) This was in addition to a bunch of other people I recognized, but unfortunately for the Skinless drummer, not any of the Sexcrement guys (because he was wearing one of their shirts). They, like a lot of the scene in the area, were occupied with not supporting this club due to the pay-to-play and anti-mosh policies.
Slayed Innocence [4/7]
I went back to take a look at these guys, and found them to be mediocre bro-core. I decided I had different priorities and finished getting my merch, then went back to camp the rail for Immolation and Suffocation. They didn't do much by hearsay to convince me that I'd made a mistake, but they weren't actively bad either.
Immolation, by contrast, put up a killer set, much more tilted to their new stuff than when I saw them at Metalfest. Of course, they were touring behind a new record this time, and the Shadows In The Light material is tremendous, but if you hadn't seen Immolation prior to this, you did miss a bunch of their classics. Of course, the music and delivery thereof was so good that any first timers probably didn't notice or care; the dual leads and prominence of melody in Immolation's music made them a strong contrast to the denser brutality of the other nationals, and should have attracted the interest of people who came out mostly to see the less brutal local bands.
Never The Next Day [4/7]
Like, for, example, these guys, who presented very little evidence that they should be anywhere near a Suffocation bill, let alone playing it. What this group offered is what should be understood as "scenegrind", a new and mostly crummy variant that people need to stop calling grindcore just because scenesters think it is. The mixture of metalcore vocals and a few slammy riffs repeated incessantly did not do much to help the band's cause with the death metal troopies there to see some of the genre's leaders in technical brutality, and, truthfully speaking, the music wasn't really good in any kind of independent sense – and you'd need to be really good to overcome having your singer in a white dress shirt and a gelled-up nohawk with this crew.
Then, of course, there's Suffocation, who could debatably come out wearing spandex and Devo hats and still slay. Of course, they didn't, keeping their keep-it-brutal maxim as always, but they did slay, delivering a top-class set of death metal, including a bunch of stuff that they hadn't done in a long while. The sound wasn't quite as good as last year in Worcester, but the performance was maybe a little more consistent. Either way, it was damn killer, and provided an excellent cap to the evening and a perfect soundtrack to victory in the Battle of Bedford.
During Suffocation, two guys got thrown out, but they didn't go down without a fight, and managed to take out two of the security guys in the process, including the huge guy who stumps around for intimidation effect. After this, the secus were a lot more cautious about stepping in down front; core death metal guys fight back a lot harder than most of the opposition they probably get in ejecting scene kids.
The finishing blow, however, was delivered by the guys from Skinless, who blitzed in across the stage and jumped out into the crowd, who managed to keep them from just going straight into the floor. I was concerned that they might get tossed and cause a huge blowup, but Jason (vocals) resolved that as soon as he got out: "They can't throw us out, Frank!" At that point, the balance of power shifted; if the nationals are down front brewing things up, the security can't charge in and brutalize anyone without running the risk of injuring them and causing major trouble with the promoters. From then till the end, there was a nice little pit running down front, a first, at least for a while, at this venue.
So, we won the Battle of Bedford, at least in this particular confrontation, and hopefully, it'll force a shift in how TNT and Mark's approach the moshing issue. The state laws aren't going to change, but the enforcement has to; you cannot really have a metal show in a strict, ejection-only, no-mosh environment. People will get violent and get carried away at times, and if you want a no-mosh environment, just give them a bear hug and tell them to watch where they're throwing their limbs, try not to hit anyone smaller than themselves. There's no need to eject people violently for moshing, rather than actually fighting, even under a state ban: the caution signs at the Palladium work just fine to shield them from liability, and similar signs, subject to state constraints, would probably do it here at Mark's.
The problem here has always been artificial: fascist security, bad location, and ill-advised booking regimes. The second isn't that bad, and the other two can be easily overcome. If more bands are refusing to buy into p2p tactics and the security is starting to get a clue about how to handle metalheads, this could be a decent place to see a show. Could be – for once there was a positive trend at the end of a Mark's show, but there's no sure sign that it's going to continue.