Saturday, March 24, 2007

The Haunted with Dark Tranquillity, Into Eternity, and Scar Symmetry [Worcester Palladium, 3/23/2007]

Despite the Kindermenge and the stress of the accumulated travel, this was still a good show and worth the time and grind.

I came basically right off the plane and into the venue; of course, I did have to go home and drop my gear off and get the car, but it was pretty much just another step in a continuous travel sequence that began when I woke up at 5 AM (4 Central). Because of this, I was initially uncertain about going, but as it turned out, I didn't fall asleep behind the wheel or anything, and the show was certainly cool enough to justify the strain and exhaustion.

Despite the usual problems with coming out of Boston in the evening, I got to the venue right around doors and got in. One impression was overwhelming: I would not have to wait in line at the bar this night, an impression that was borne out. There was a pretty good crowd at this show, but most of them were under 21 if not under 18; not really surprising, given the bands, but it's not what you usually see at a metal show. I got some merch, but passed on a DT flask; they looked pretty cool, but I have two more shows planned for this weekend, and only so much cash.

Scar Symmetry [5/7]
I was curious to see this band, because I'd heard them on record and found them kind of decent; the live performance was also decent, but somewhat impaired by the venue. The Palladium has a reputation, especially with opening bands, for making them sound like the speakers are currently being run over with a truck, but there have been few instances where it's gotten quite as bad as the few worst places in Scar Symmetry's set. When you could hear what the band was doing, the performance was pretty good, mixing classic Soilwork with a lot of Evergrey. The potential from their albums is still there, but still isn't completely developed yet, and the lead guitarist needs to diversify his style, because when they tour Europe, there are going to be a lot more people yelling "you are not Tom Englund!" Still, Evergrey wasn't on this tour, and Scar Symmetry, despite the sound problems, put up a good set, especially for an opening band.

Into Eternity [5/7]
Though this set was still pretty good, it was the flattest that I've seen from Into Eternity, and also still affected by sound problems. It was still a good and entertaining performance, but they did better at the Middle East recently, despite fitting much better with this package. The singer's protestations to the contrary, they aren't really death metal except incidentally (and that only because of where Chuck went towards the end of his life), but their progressive attack fits in well with Scar Symmetry and DT. They came off a little better than Scar Symmetry did, and several people have reported that Into Eternity substantially stole this show, but I'm not so sure about that; they've done better in the past, and there were some good performances following it this time.

If there's one thing that this show demonstrates, it's that Evergrey needs to do a full US tour; even though they'd have to go as support (at least the first time), the scene is more than ready for them.

Dark Tranquillity [6/7]
Even though I don't have any real points of comparison (not having seen them before), this also seemed a little flat of a set. However, because this is Dark Tranquillity, a slightly flat set can still be really awesome; from the Gallery stuff to the Fiction tracks that they ran out, there was no shortfall of killer material. The new stuff is every bit as good as what they've been doing recently, and I'm really looking forward to the new disc -- they were selling preorder slips, but it's like a month that I'd have to keep track of it for. This was a really good set, and well worth the ticket, even to this point. I hope to see a better performance from them sometime, but I'll gladly take any DT set that I get in the process.

I was thinking about leaving at this point, as I'm not really a fan of The Haunted, and it had been a long, long day to this point, but I wanted to see them with Dolving, since I'd only seen them with Aro in 2003.

The Haunted [7/7]
There were a lot of people who reacted negatively to this set, but that's probably due more to the nature of the material than the nature of the performance. This was probably the least technical and most mainstream set of the night, but the execution was simply incredible. The band was dead-on and the sound was clear and clean enough to show off their full range. And whatever "it" is that great rock vocalists are supposed to have, Peter Dolving has "it" in spades. He's at least twice the frontman that Marco Aro was (even though he didn't really do justice to the few Marco tracks that made it into the set), and as almost a force of nature has really taken over this band, which has had consequences for their live show as positive as the consequences for their recorded output have been negative. With Aro, the Bjorlers were able to assert the heritage of At The Gates; now and going forward, The Haunted is the Peter Dolving (Thrash) Band. It makes for a hell of a show, and I'm glad that I stayed, but it's made me more skeptical about getting The Dead Eye or further albums. Dolving is a great vocalist and an interesting guy, but my metal interests lie mostly elsewhere.

On the drive home, I had some close calls due to low speed; whether it was the headlights or my eyes, I wasn't able to resolve far enough ahead to drive at a normal speed of traffic and had to basically do the speed limit the whole way back. That's no way for a Masshole to drive, even at 1 and 2 in the morning.

Though this was a good show, it did have the negative side effect of making me unable to go to one of the few non-Sunday metal gigs at the Skybar; I missed Downfall and Zircon, among others, and what was allegedly a really good time. At least there's tonight and Sunday for local coolness; I'll have some notes and hopefully a few pictures from Texas up later.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

goddamnit, no Cynic

Cynic has cancelled their appearance at MDF. Anyone in NE want a pair of MDF tickets? Without Cynic, this fest is no longer worth the ridiculous hotel fee, so I'm probably not going; I don't have a strong interest in enough of the other bands, and though missing Brutal Truth is a bummer, I've already seen Zyklon.

It's too bad that I've already gotten my vacation approved for MDF weekend, because otherwise I would seriously look at rejiggering my flight plans and just bumming around Germany for the downtime between Wacken and Party.San. Next year and following, I may do just that, provided that the weekends still stay consecutive. And if I can do it this year, I may as well; Kreator's headlining Party.San this year, and the ability to see them in a slightly more intimate setting than the '05 mudbowl would be killer.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Hekseri with Goreality and Abnormality [Skybar, Somerville, 3/18/2007]

This is a little delayed because I had to spend all of yesterday going to Texas, but it still doesn't impede the fact that this was an awesome show. Unfortunately, I got in late due to having to prepare to travel Monday, and missed almost all of Abnormality.

Abnormality [NR]
I hate giving bands a null rating. This isn't because it gives my life some perverse obsessive-compulsive critical meaning to assign relative weights to bands' sets, but because it means that I saw the band, but not enough of them to give a fair assessment. In this case, I got in to the Skybar just at 8 PM, just in time to see Abnormality's last song, which turned out to be just enough to get me disappointed that I couldn't get there sooner. Despite the absence of a bass player (no idea whether this is their normal configuration or not), the death metal sound was nice and thick, not quite as dense or frenetic as Goreality, but still pretty crushing all the same. I've got to try and see a full set from this band sometime.

After their set, I got a beer and hit the Pathos table; as usual, Dwyer had about 87 time more interesting or cool-looking records than I actually had money for, but I was able to pick up some Horn of Valere and Cianide that I didn't have, and he recced me two more cult German albums....none of which I've listened to yet, or will listen to for another week, because I had to keep the weight of my gear for this trip to a minimum.

Hekseri [6/7]
Assuming that Abnormality usually has a bassist instead of using their guitarist's 7th string for the low end, this was the second band of the night to show up without their nominal bass player. However, unlike the last time, I saw Hekseri without Jason, Larissa switched over to bass, presenting yet another version of their sound. It looked like she was mostly just transposing her normal rhythm lines down rather than duplicating Jason's more gymnastic attack, and the result was a slightly simpler sound, but one that in its evolution of folkic melodies out of ripping noise recalled the best of true black metal. The best part, though, is that this is still a band that can evoke Dissection as easily as Darkthrone, and even though recent shows have shown that their sound is still very much under development, they're still creating quality music and putting up kickass sets.

The reason that Hekseri played second, despite setting up the show and nominally having top billing, was that Goreality's singer didn't show up until the end of their soundcheck. The Skybar is a little difficult to get to, but only the Harvard rotary and the turn at Porter Square are technically challenging, and the band has actually played here before (with Godless Rising, back in January). Be that as it may, though; the band did get in place with their full lineup, just in time to start blasting.

Goreality [7/7]
This was not as superlative a performance as the last time I saw them here. However, it was still completely awesome, both in music and in the audience reaction, and so simply well-refined that you really have to wonder how on earth this band is still toiling in such relative obscurity. Of course, ultra-brutal gore-death is never going to get you on the Billboard 200, but people on other continents into this scene should know who this band is; hopefully, their new record will get them over that mark, especially if Dwyer is able to get it out in good distro channels and reviewed by some high-profile sources. The new stuff that they played is just as awesome as the older material; all that remains is to get it out into people's ears.

The audience reaction mentioned above is no joke; the Skybar is not generally a huge moshing venue, but it's also not a no-mosh venue either, and the front got pretty turbulent for Goreality. I did my best to keep people from flying into the tables, and while this wasn't completely successful -- though I was able to catch the two guys who knocked that one table over before they fell down on it and its sharp-cornered metal foot -- it was still fun as hell and a great addition to the music. There were also a good number of people in throughout the show, and hopefully more of them will start coming regularly to Sunday gigs. The genres vary, and some shows are more awesome than others, but it's still always a cool time, and always gets out in plenty of time for people to get home and get enough sleep to face work (or a plane ride to Texas) on Monday.

Next show, presuming I don't get held up here, is on Friday at the Palladium, where I'll finally get to see DT; next underground show is on Saturday up in Haverhill, with Shroud of Bereavement, Hekseri, and probably some other Merrimac Valley bands that I ought to be keeping better tabs on. Of course, I have to complete my mission here and get back out of Texas, but it's some pretty simple stuff that I have to long as things don't go sideways.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Bane of Existence with Sin of Angels and Shit Fuck [Skybar, Somerville, 3/11/2007]

The lack of shows recently led to lack of updates, but I needed to get this out now so that it wouldn't logjam the next one and I could do that before I had to go to Texas. More about the whole 'going to Texas' thing at the bottom.

Between leaving late and traffic, I got down to the venue around 8, which was in time to see most of Shit Fuck's set, though not all of it. And unfortunately, this also meant no Chinese food. This was not my day for transportation, but it did include a pretty good show.

Shit Fuck [4/7]
Again, I didn't see all of their set, but I saw a fair bit, and enough to get a fair assessment, I think, of their Motorgrind at this point in their development. Of course, that's not a real genre, but it's a convenient enough way to explain their seriously punk-driven grindcore sound also having its occasional metal moments. It was a pretty good performance, with a relative abundance of covers, but they were all well-performed, and the originals were pretty good as well. While they came off as somewhat loose -- and a little disorganized when Rich was unexpectedly next door getting Chinese and they had to scramble up their own vocals on "Mother May I Come Out And Kill Tonight" -- this isn't really the kind of band that you want to set up and be absolutely serious about what they're doing. It was a decent set with a lot of good music and a fair share of humorous moments -- due to popular demand, they played "Premature Ejaculation" four times in a row -- and despite the lack of energy, it did set the tone well for the rest of the night.

Chris (bass) from this band is also in Volatile, and I think also IWEIPH, and I swear I've seen the guitarist with some other local band. This was a real 'core scene' night in terms of people who came out, which is both good and a shame; good that we have people who are this committed, and a shame because this was a good show that more people would have enjoyed, and it got out well in time for people who didn't get lost to get home in time to go to bed for work.

Sin of Angels [5/7]
Initially, they came off as a fairly even blend of doom and death metal, but as their set went on, it became more clear -- whether from them getting more comfortable with the setting or the sound guy getting them dialed in -- that they were much more doom metal, just played at room-graveling volumes. I've been just outside the minimal lethal distance from the Party Stage bass cabs, so the vibration of everything I had on didn't come close to those waves that come close to physically pushing you around, but this was still a loud, loud fucking set. It was also a really good set, the absolute sonic domination forcing you to really dial in on the music to the exclusion of anything else. It was definitely a cool experience, and I'm definitely looking forward to seeing them again. Unfortunately, I don't think I can make it down to New Bedford on the 30th for their gig with Godless Rising, despite the awesomeness of that bill.

I also have to see this band again in order to get a CD; I didn't go over and pick one up after their set, and by the time Bane of Existence finished, they were packing up. It sucks, but it's also kind of to be expected, as there were very few people in the building (especially by then) who weren't connected to one of the bands or could otherwise be expected to have all the merch they'd need. I really ought to start doing my part to bring more general public to these things.

Bane of Existence [6/7]
I first heard these guys a couple years ago, while I was still in Germany, and it was cool to finally see them live, especially as they put on a fairly killer set. The most major problems weren't the band's fault, mostly just technical accidents that loosened up the atmosphere a little. Most of them were fixed quickly -- the sound guy this time was on top of everything and really competent overall, putting up some of the best overall sound that I've heard in this place -- letting the band get back to the death metal. When they weren't having issues with the bass cabling, BoE put up an excellent performance of some really well-composed and arranged material, solidly brutal and technical but also verging on the epic in places. Great stuff. If I have all my facts together, the band is currently re-emerging from the effects of some exceptionally weird drama, but they're certainly ready to explode as is, and seeing them on the bill should definitely ought to motivate people to come out to a show like this, even on a Sunday night. They didn't have any gear available after, but they've been around a while, so I should be able to get ahold of some of their recordings by some means.

I left the bar around 10:30, and if all things had gone correctly, I would have been back home shortly after 11. Things did not go according to plan; by virtue of where I parked, I wasn't able to turn around on Somerville Ave, and got lost for a bit until picking up another major road. This road turned out to be Mass Ave/2A, but I didn't find this out until I was nearly out of Arlington. At that point, I should have pressed on to 128, but instead I went back down into town to pick up 90 and go back like normal. The final cost was like half a tank of gas, plus having to pay tolls, but at least I discovered a new path home for normal use...and maybe to get down with as well, avoiding 93 and the Harvard rotary entirely. Dunno if I want to try it next week, though; the lineup for that gig is also truly killer, and I don't want to get stuck missing music like this time.

Unfortunately, I probably won't be going to either Isis gig; both sold out, which is completely not surprising. On the positive side, MPD's new record is in post-production, and according to Kenny is really killer; of course, it's his band and his record, so of course he's going to say that, but from what I've heard, I'm entirely inclined to believe him. There's not the same density of bands on the North Shore as in other parts of E-Mass, but we've still got some good ones.

Regarding Texas, I have to go train some of our field guys next week; unfortunately, due to luggage and time constraints, I probably won't have time to go check out any Dallas local shows. Fortunately, the CNV show at the Skybar Thursday got cancelled; well, it's fortunate for me not missing it, unfortunate for everyone else, as that was a really good lineup.