Though it was a little late -- I had Raise The Flag back before I went to Texas the last time, which was more than two months before this gig -- this release show was a lot better done late than never, and MPD and their support definitely rang out the old year in style. Of course, most people were either at the Bullpen's last show or watching the Patriots make history, but for those who were there, it was pretty damn cool.
It was wicked foggy getting up, but otherwise not real difficult; Welfare Records is easily reached by largely empty back roads from about anywhere in Essex County or southern New Hampshire, and is served by both a MBTA parking lot and a large public garage within two blocks, which is just another factor in why this is an awesome venue. Getting inside, this was re-confirmed: anywhere that has "DO NOT SWING ON THE PIPES: THEY WILL NOT SUPPORT YOU" signs posted instead of disclaimers about moshing being illegal is automatically a good spot for aggressive music, and the presence of little craters at boot and elbow level in the walls of the main floor area proper is definitely heartwarming. The house distro was a little punk-heavy (surprise surprise, as Welfare is, um, a punk and hardcore specialty store), but I managed to find a Scorn disc that I remembered from the radio station and never thought I'd see again, and also an oi comp that looked promising -- and for two discs for five bucks, there is a lot of room for error. As they do more metal shows and get more crossbreeding from the area's other underground distros (Y HALO THAR Oak Knoll and Pathos; Obscenity Cult seems to be OK at this point, at least going by the number of Psycho shirts on the staff), they'll probably start stocking more metal, but even as it is, it's pretty cool.
Eventually, the first band started, though this had to be accompanied by a bit of haranguing the other people to get on the floor; attendance was sparse for sports-related reasons, and there would not be a lot of moshing at this gig -- probably the least there has ever been at this venue -- but seriously, when the bands start, get on the floor and off the damn couches by the Golden Axe machine.
I hadn't seen this band before, and there's probably a reason; what they presented was a fairly formative sound of dense thrash with a few more expansive touches, like mid-'90s Testament if they were somehow also Agalloch and Isis fans. Yes, this makes no sense, but this should probably be excused; this band seems to be just starting out, and as soon as they figure out what the hell they want to sound like, their songwriting should take that next step up. The technical riffage was competently done, but there weren't a whole ton of unique riffs, and the lack of experience in the writing department was palpable. These are common symptoms of new bands and underfinished material, though; as they rehearse more and get a stronger sense of their stuff, they'll definitely be able to push forward with stuff that's more differentiable and more self-contained.
Where Barron seemed to be just stepping out, Pyad seemed to be stepping back in order to step forward; this was one of, if not the very first, shows for them as a five-piece, and the new second guitarist didn't know all the material yet. This held them back to a degree, but it's easy to see that it will have a positive effect going forward. I hadn't seen them since like August of '06, but in that time, the whole band has greatly improved, and if they aren't as strictly experimental as before, they're a whole lot tighter, and are producing thrashed-up doom-death that will or ought to bring them to wider notice. This pretty clearly wasn't the optimum performance from this version of the band, but it was pretty decent, and the knowledge that they'll continue to improve as the new guy gets more worked in is really encouraging.
Only Ash Remains [5/7]
Next on the list, Only Ash Remains, doing, as those accustomed to South Central shows have come to expect, a set of decently executed, non-groundbreaking metalcore. They may not have their sights set on the Palladium, but they can be relied on for, as here, a half hour of highly listenable music, and the work that Mark has done in setting up shows in this part of the state is definitely laudable. Unfortunately, despite being the last band to start before the football game, they were short on a lot of their usual audience thanks to the Patriots' run at perfection, and as a result got next to zero crowd movement, which is kind of a shame, especially at a place like this. It was a decent set, and there would have been some nice chaos had the Patriots lost to the Ravens or someone and just been playing out the string for 15-1.
My Pet Demon [6/7]
First: they did nearly all of the "real songs" from the new album, which included "La Maudite", which like the rest of said material is extremely kickass live.
Second: they went back and actually did "Self Destruct" and "Demons Are Forever" from their first demo, even though they normally assert that the first song does not actually exist.
Third: they did both "Fight For Your Right", which included Matt going out into the crowd and bodyslamming people, and "Rockin' in the Free World", which was again so thunderous and B-side worthy that you really have to check yourself and remember that it's by the same guy who wrote "Heart of Gold".
Fourth: they closed with a new instrumental that at this point seems somewhat half-written (several riffs seemingly dropped in from other recent MPD songs) at this point, but still fully badass.
Fifth: this band's guitarist/lead-vocalist has apparently changed his name to Kenny Pellmister. Either that, or he is a huge Chester A. Arthur fan. With facial hair like this, there is a fine line between awesome and hilarious, but when MPD is on stage, there's enough metallic power going that Ken can pull off the Lemmystache.
Though there were a few rough moments at the start, and a bunch of mood-breakers from people getting text updates on the Pats score between songs, this was overall an excellent outing in support of a really good album that ought to get these guys a little more noticed. They would have benefited from a denser and more active crowd, like about every other band here; the breakdown in "Between the Pages" demands attention, and then there's that monster section at the end of "What Would Jason Do". At this point, they need to think about opening their horizons up a little; there's few bands left on the North Shore or in the Valley that they're not going to draw well over, but Boston, as well as points south and west, is basically unconquered territory, and there are enough melodicish thrashish bands out there to get them early on a decent bill at a Metal Thursday or something. Even now, they're a bit of an odd act out musically, but opening for, say, Graveheart or Dreaded Silence would go a good ways to getting them into more of the right ears south of Lynn.
All in all, it was a good show, and though I had to bail basically as soon as MPD finished, there was still a positive to this: I changed into my Hoops shirt to go to a friend's party, and from that point on, the Patriots stopped losing and started to play kickass football. This is not a coincidence but a cause-and-effect relationship, so I will continue to wear a Scottish soccer shirt for all succeeding games until the Super Bowl or the magic runs out and they lose.