Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Pelican with Clouds and Priestbird [Middle East, Cambridge, 7/23/2007]

I'm already on record against weekday shows. However, let the record also show that there have been times in the past when it's been worth it to go out on a Monday or Tuesday night and catch a band that couldn't schedule a better date. This was another one of them.

It's, of course, not at all normal for July in Massachusetts to come gray, rainy, and socked in with fog, but it was a definite plus for atmosphere with regard to seeing this particular band, and it also kept most of the people off the roads, so the drive wasn't too bad, despite all the wet. I got down right around nominal doors (not the same as real doors, but it wasn't raining that bad), and fortunately managed to get in despite not having an advance ticket. Given that they brought in about 400 people on a Monday night, it may not be real advisable to try this stunt the next time Pelican comes around, especially if it's on a weekend.

While the rest of the line was stragging in and Priestbird was setting up, I got a beer and took stock of my dismal cash situation before hitting the merch tables. I got Pelican's new disc (which I, like a dumbass, didn't realize was out) as well as Lair of the Minotaur's first (which the drummer from Pelican played on, and had gotten good reviews from what I noticed back at the time, in addition to being the precursor to the very awesome The Ultimate Destroyer), but at that point was effectively broke, modulo another beer and parking fees. However, I didn't realize exactly how bad this sucked for about another 45 minutes.

Priestbird [6/7]
This is why I was bummed not to have the spare ten-spot or so to put down on another CD; this band was just as talented and expansive as you might expect a post-metal band from NYC (see also Dysrhythmia, Behold...the Arctopus) to be, and the spots of sheer genius in their performance made me really want to see how they'd show up on record. With a fluid instrumental cloud of guitar, cello, bass, drums, and mouth organ, they put up a solid 45 minutes that contained a lot of stuff so completely original that you'd expect it from the headliners on this bill...but also a fair share of largely normal doom cribbed almost note for note and tone for tone from classic Sabbath. They also fell into their own springes in a few spots; the line between the thoughts "damn, this is extremely great" and "damn, this is extremely pretentious" is razor thin, and Priestbird didn't always stay completely on the right side of it. Sure, this wasn't a perfect set, and there's room for improvement, but this shouldn't obscure the fact that this was also a great set, and the music involved was pretty damn special.

In the short time between sets, I had enough time to get over and get another 'beer', even though in actuality it was just a PBR. Because doors were pretty late and you kind of have to give post-metal bands longer sets so they can play more than just three or four songs, the set changes kept going right snappy to keep the headliners from getting cut off by curfew.

Clouds [5/7]
I'm still trying to puzzle out exactly why this band was on this tour. They did a decent job and played an entertaining set, but it didn't really mesh with the other bands on the bill. Admittedly, Cave In did a lot for post-hardcore (Clouds is Cave In guitarist Adam McGrath's current project), but Clouds is not Cave In, and by the end Cave In had gotten away even from post-hardcore. What Clouds is, at least from this set, is a decent thrashpunk band with major grunge elements that would really do better playing a show where people moved around. The crowd for Clouds was so still I thought I was back in Europe early, which is a real shame for a band playing energy-first music. Though I'm not especially interested in this style, this was still a good, entertaining set, and people into hardcore as it used to be, before the toughguys took over, ought to check them out...though maybe not when opening for a post-metal band on a Monday night.

Pelican [7/7]
They came, we saw, they steamrolled. There are few bands that can match the combination of the heavy and the lyrical that Pelican brings to the table, and both sides were in eminent display at this gig. The whole of post-metal as a separate genre from post rock depends on having that ultimate firepower to back up the post-rock leads and melodic explorations, and Pelican's resolute willingness to stand up and blast the hell out of the audience after drawing them in with stellar melodic songwriting is a significant factor in setting them apart from the rest of this scene. Staying true while being accessible is always a holy grail in metal, no matter what the variety, and Pelican have a firm grip on it here, just as firm a grip as they had on the entire audience. They did do an encore, whether completely planned or not (indications went both ways), but unfortunately had to close up at about quarter to twelve; a great set and a great night, and while it wasn't as long as the audience might have liked (still 75 minutes or so), as the guitarist said, they will be back....and hopefully, on a weekend (so more people can come) and in a bigger hall (so my lazy ass doesn't have to prebuy a ticket).

Next show is Zircon at the end of the week in Worcester, then I unfortunately have to miss a good Metal Thursday and Revocation's two tour-kickoff shows; if this was for any other reason than spending the better part of a week back in Germany for the world's greatest open air, I'd be mighty pissed.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Sounds of the Underground - GWAR with Shadows Fall, Every Time I Die, and Chimaira [Worcester Palladium, 7/13/2007]

Since I've been going to see Immortal in August on the world's grandest stage since last year, I don't have to go see them in New York, on a club stage and requiring driving that I hate doing even when it isn't the middle of the night. Also, that Wacken ticket implicitly carries with it about a week off from work, so taking another day off to get in at doors and see Amon Amarth (ripped up about missing, but they'll be headlining over Decapitated in the fall), The Acacia Strain (who are from around here, and will eventually do another sufficiently metal-heavy bill that I'll see them) and Goatwhore (who I would not be entirely surprised to see show up on Loudfest...or the Wolfen Ancestry gig at Ralph's...or as an emergency fill-in on the Funeral For The Skybar....you get the picture). Missing good bands sucks, but it's a fact of life for the gainfully employed; I'm probably missing Testament on Monday because it is a MONDAY show in SOUTHBRIDGE, which is practically in Connecticut. I'm sure it's a great venue, and that Testament and CSDO will slay, but I can't both do this gig and function at a high level by 8 AM Tuesday.

Nevertheless, I saw some good sets, and if GWAR on a proper stage with three decent to awesome supporting bands isn't worth 30 bucks, I don't want to share your value system.

Chimaira [5/7]
I came in about when they were starting up, and couldn't figure out for the life of me who they were until I realized that there wasn't anything in front of their banner. They put up a decent set, and their metamorphosis from a nu-metal band (to the degree that they ever were) to a death-thrash act is now complete; they weren't terribly original or distinctive, but one man's 'pedestrian' is another's 'meat-and-potatoes', and if they're able to play decently and entertain the audience, it's rather immaterial. I'm still not terribly into this band, but they did a good job in this set and played some decent music.

Before ETID, I went and hit up the merch tables, coming up with a GWAR shirt and patch, the latter of which is going to finally, finally, balance the Sigh patch at the top of my jacket. I looked over Amon Amarth and Goatwhore's stuff, but Amon Amarth didn't have any patches that I didn't already have, and the stuff that Goatwhore had out wasn't terribly compelling. I should support this band more, but the problem is that such support is easily postponed -- "they'll be back again in three weeks, I can hit them then" -- and the excuse repeats itself ad infinitum as they circle back time and again with more compelling bands who don't come around as often.

Every Time I Die [5/7]
I saw some review of this band describing them as "death metal meets a Buffalo Bills tailgate party", and in all honesty that is the dumbest thing ever. The band, though, was fortunately pretty decent, though at the start of their set they played a couple songs as the slave butt to the soundboard's Cuttlefish of Cthulhu. (For the non-GWAR-fans out there, this means that their sound was raped by a giant alien wang.) This got straightened out fairly quickly, and they proceeded to entertain the crowd with a decent and fairly even mix of thrash metal and Northeast hardcore. They did the chug-a-beer-to-this-riff gag that they've run out at previous stops on this tour, and as observed in other places, the riff in question is slow and long enough that any proper metalhead should be able to throw back a Litermass by the end of it, let alone one of these meager 12-ounce cups. Again, not a band that I'm into, or will follow on record, but they did a pretty decent show and played some entertaining music.

Shadows Fall [6/7]
As anyone might rationally expect, the crowd was hugely up for these guys; Shadows Fall is popular among this set anyways, but this was also a homecoming set, and the response was as expected. The band put up a set worthy of it, too; solid, developed, and almost completely independent of the influences that led the band to where they are today. This was a stellar demonstration of modern thrash metal, moving beyond 'metalcore', 'NWOAHM', and whatever other trend labels get stuck on the bands that follow and imitate them. Some might chuckle at Brian Fair shouting "Death to false metal!" like he's Eric Adams or somebody, but in clawing their way out of New England's crowded underground and into the international spotlight while getting debatably more metal in the process, there's a strong case that they've earned the right to it. A kickass performance, but not quite superlative.

GWAR [7/7]
This is the sort of band that the word WAEOME was invented to describe (if you aren't familiar with the word, go look at Dramatica or something). GWAR are by now legendary, and their shows just as infamous, and despite the somewhat abbreviated set (see below), we got the full load -- though the floor were the only ones to get it in more than one sense, as the alien cumcannons didn't really throw more than 20 yards. The performance art part of it (making an end of Cho Seung-Hui, a whiney emo, the Ultimate GWAR Fan, and Satan, Oderus licking his dead dog's butt (but, unfortunately, no Michael Vick references), then battling the fuck out of Gor-Gor with swords, axes, and mock-up Mesa cabs) was as balls-out as expected, and the music was just as solid as their recorded performances indicate. It's probably the best-kept secret in metal that GWAR is actually a really good band and pretty sweet musicians; people are sufficiently entertained by art students from Virginia being rubber-suited space monsters from Antarctica, and may miss that they've actually got some pretty impressive chops. The music wasn't quite to this level on its own, but the total GWAR experience offered here was to top standard. Kickass.

After GWAR closed up and the lights went up, I looked at my watch with disbelief. This show was seriously closing up at 10:30 PM. WHAT THE HELL MAN. The Summer Slaughter gig closed up early too, but not this early, and though this one did draw a lot of kids, they don't have school or anything now, so there's no social responsibility incumbent on the club to get them home and in bed. If this one could have shifted itself an hour and a half down to close at midnight, I maybe could have seen Amon Amarth, and little would have changed with the setup. As it was, this was a cool show, but logistically it could have been set up a little better. As such, I got back nice and early...but I'd rather have gotten back at the normal time and seen a few more good bands.

Friday, July 13, 2007

now saving soccer in America in.....

Those who follow the debatably-like-fourth-or-fifth-but-maybe-higher-because-NASCAR-and-golf-are-kind-of-dubious-most-popular sport in the US are probably well-aware that today is David Beckham day, and those who don't but turned on their televisions at some point know that he is here to play for Los Angeles and, incidentally, save soccer (at least in the US). This has brought out the usual assortment of idiots on the interblags, who are for the most part each arguing one of the following points -- and sometimes more than one, if they're exceptionally confused:

1) Soccer sucks, and it will never be popular in America, no matter what Beckham does.
2) Beckham is OLD and WASHED UP and just a SET PIECE PLAYER ANYWAY, and will make some money in endorsements, but can't save soccer in America.
3) Soccer in America is JUST FINE and DOESN'T NEED SAVING.

All three points, of course, are wrong -- bet you never thought you'd see that from the internet, did you? The first point is mostly argued by people who've never seen a game above the U-12 level, if at all, and comes with a bunch of spurious stuff about how it's a sissy sport or boring or other tripe that is easily laughable to anyone who's ever seen a decent professional game or strapped on a pair of boots themselves. The second point is closer to the truth, but Becks showed good form in helping Real Madrid win La Liga this season, and the manager who didn't want him back has since been sacked. He's got a couple good seasons left still, and at the MLS level, this could easily extend.

That kind of cuts to the heart of the third point, which since it's coming from people who generally follow soccer in this country, is the most worrisome. Sure, soccer is much better off in this country than it was when I was a kid; the Cup in '94 and then the good showings of the national side in '02 and '06 have helped a lot, and MLS is nowhere near as bad as it once was, and a lot more visible. But I've lived in Europe, and seen ten-year-olds playing at a level that we'd consider good in high school, and seen 20,000 people pack a stadium for a team that was sliding out of the national leagues. Soccer is on a shaky footing in this country and needs all the help it can get.

Case in point: I was watching the Thursday night prime-time MLS match on ESPN2, where Dynamo Houston defeated Chicago 4-0. In this game, Houston looked like a decent professional side; there was solid play and a couple spectacular goals, but the impression that we have a world-competitive league in the US is a Potemkin village. Houston is the MLS points leader. Chicago is at the bottom of the table, in managerial chaos, and they were making some absolute bush league mistakes last night. I play with a bunch of guys from work on an informal basis (not good enough to play in a pyramid league, nobody else has a works side to play against in this area), and some of the stuff Chicago was doing, we yell at each other for. Just mental and physical mistakes that you wouldn't want to make playing in the park.

In any other league, though, there would be consequences. Bad play gets you relegated; you lose money from TV contracts and it is such a difficult and painful process to retool financially and rebuild your team that the owners have an explicit and relentless capitalist motivation to win games. In the current model, based on the cartels in other American major league sports, the clubs are not independent entities, and the relegation of a franchise based on poor play would be basis for a breach of contract suit. Ask an Arizona Cardinals fan what it's like when owners don't feel any pressure to win games.

Unfortunately, relegation only emerges as an option when you have a pool of hungry-but-not-quite-top-flight clubs beneath the top league desperate to move up. We don't have that here, not yet; though there are four tiers down the pyramid from MLS (MLS2, then three leagues that do promote/relegate) in most places, the quality of the game there is not high, and a lot of the players are foreign born and in many cases not permanent residents. My brother plays on a bottom-tier club in Boston, and is one of three or four Americans on a roster of 15 to 20. This is one of the integrated sides; they've played against the local Brazilian team and Boston Nigerians, and there are so many Irish clubs kicking around that his team, which actually has a Gaelic word in their name, had to pick Barca's colors in order to avoid coordinating their particular shade of green with everyone else.

Some of these folks will stick around and continue playing until they have to start an Altliga, providing a broader foundation for the game, but others will drift back off to where they came from. This is our loss, because what really drives soccer in other countries is the idea of sport as something to do rather than something to watch. It's fundamentally something that anyone can do with minimal equipment, and people do do it, all the time. Fans will show up in the stands to watch the game, but what you don't see broadcast back is that many of the people are connected to the game on more than the professional level; they watch their kids, and many of them still play themselves, for a local amateur league side or just with people from their work or their regular pub. Being a fan isn't just about following a particular team, but being involved with the game on a broader level.

The point of all of this is that a lot of things will have to change -- or more accurately, continue changing -- for soccer to establish itself here to anywhere near the level it's at in most parts of the rest of the world. David Beckham will be able to help drive some of them; if he can win a game or two on penalty for Galaxy a season and supplant their defensive enough so that they draw a couple times rather than losing, that's a definite contribution to having a competitive team in a large market again, and his visibility will help draw interest to the sport, perhaps more butts to the seats, and from there into the footballing culture. But the life-or-death attachment to teams won't come until the season is a life-or-death proposition for the clubs via relegation and promotion, and that won't happen until we get enough people -- and, of course, good people, not schlubs like me who occasionally have a kickaround -- playing to form a proper pyramid (leagues in the major footballing nations of Europe are regularly twice as deep as the pyramid in the US) and can bust up the MLS cartel model.

Can it happen? Sure, and a lot of these things are already in place, slowly advancing. But it's a glacial change, and is going to involve a shift in the culture that flies in the face of about every other gathering trend; Americans are getting fatter and socializing less, which speaks ill of their prospects at organizing a team and then playing competently on it. A higher profile for the pro league helps, and a high-profile international can help in that regard, but the work is not just for the likes of Beckham, but also for the likes of my brother trying to lead a motley gang of expats to the local top flight, the likes of our works "captain" Nagi organizing recreational squads and trying to hunt up others to set up a inter-company league, and the likes of me and hordes of others biting the bullet and suiting up, vowing this week to run a little harder, turn a little faster, and kick with a little more control than last week. Do what you can, have fun doing it.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Necrophagist with Decapitated, Cephalic Carnage, Cattle Decapitation, The Faceless, As Blood Runs Black, Ion Dissonance, Beneath The Massacre

(show, at the Palladium in Worcester on 7/6/2007, also included In Dire Need and Zircon as local support, but I ran out of headline room.)

I took the day off from work for this gig, and it was certainly worth it -- not only for recuperating my feet, but because there was a long share of good music that I would have missed if I'd just left for Worcester at 6. As it was, I got moving a little later than I'd planned to -- and without taking my boots over to the cobbler, which I now have to do next week or risk not getting them back for Wacken. I was able to get parking no problem, but the late start and thick traffic on 128 due to a blue-sky cloudburst led to one of the few down points of the night, missing nearly all of Zircon's set.

Zircon [N/A]
As I came in, they were on their last song, which sucked for me. From what I saw, they were pretty thoroughly on, which was good, despite the new guitarist, who can't have been in the band for more than a month or so. The only unfortunate part about their set was the sound, which negatively affected about the whole first half of the bill; the guitars, especially the leads, sounded a little buried, which is totally egregious; there is no reason, when setting up a board for a metal show, to not have the guitars forward by default. I mean, come the fuck on. I can understand the sound guys not putting effort into bringing a local band's solos out, but the first three nationals were also poorly handled, and this particular mismix makes the sound come off as intentionally bad; a new low for the sound in this place.

I talked with the guys later while scooping some stuff, and I stand by my assessment that if Zircon can keep it together, they have an even shot at headlining this kind of bill in a few years. Specifically, four to five years and at least two very good full-lengths, but the band definitely has it in them, and with the right label push it's really a question of when, not if.

In Dire Need [4/7]
I'm not, personally, a huge fan of this style, but this band did a decent job of it; the hardcore influences were honestly and directly done, but I wasn't on the floor for them as I was for Zircon, and the sound was an absolute nightmare. If I could hear what the hell they were doing, I might have enjoyed this more; I got a sampler from them after the show, and that's going to be a much better representation of who and where they are as musicians than this set was.

Beneath The Massacre [4/7]
This band was down for a 4.5 score before I chopped off all the tailing half-scores (still hate doing them), also in large part because their sound was fucked up. They had a few really interesting parts to their sound, but others that didn't come off as so inspired, and the mismanagement at the soundboard really didn't help anything. I'm somewhat interested in seeing this band again, but if the next time they're around is an early slot on a festival or superpackage at the Palladium, I'm really skeptical of the total effect being any better.

Ion Dissonance [5/7]
Maybe it was the sound, maybe it was the prevalence of new material (Minus The Herd is okay, but pretty much just okay), but this set didn't have the same immediate and explosive effect that they put up the last time I saw them (Metalfest '06). It was still pretty well done, with the hardcore standing out more than the brutal thrash parts (almost certainly because I've got a better ear for this now rather than any change on the band's part), but while the sound mix wasn't hurting them much -- the thick and dense sound being basically all that the sound system could convey until the headliners came on -- it wasn't exactly helping them either. This was a decent set, but not, really, what I came for.

In around here, I did my merch run, picking up some Cattle Decapitation and Necrophagist gear. I wanted to support Decapitated as well, but they didn't have any merch out, for reasons that would become clear later. I didn't get the Necrophagist shirt I wanted, but the second-choice design is also cool, and Cattle Decapitation's "GORE NOT CORE" design is something that every anti-trend metaller should appreciate.

As Blood Runs Black [4/7]
Speaking of trends, there was little I could do but shake my head during this band's set. There were a lot of people into them, but all I could think was "we are in New England. We know what Shadows Fall sounds like -- and this band is but a pale fallen shadow thereof." Where Shadows Fall is a good band making good music and diminishing the case for metalcore-as-a-dirty-word, As Blood Runs Black seemed mostly interested in playing through Of One Blood again and hoping people wouldn't notice that the state of the art had advanced. The sound was okay and the playing competent, but the band was doing nothing original, and it was a relief when they closed up. I'm not sure that I recall hearing the singer tell the crowd to "bring the ruckus", but if such occurred, it would indeed be about the dumbest thing I have seen on a metal stage.

Well, not really. I've seen Halo of Thorns use Hood strawberry syrup as a blood substitute. That still takes the cake.

The Faceless [5/7]
I hadn't heard this band before, but had heard a little about them and was skeptical, as you kind of have to be about any new band that calls themselves death metal and gets press attention. Fortunately, though, they had some decent sound and a decent sound to deliver through it, an even and smooth mix of melodic and brutal death metal styles. While it wasn't terribly distinctive, it was well-done and a good time; a decent set, and worth remembering even though the top of the bill was coming up, and with it, absolute devastation.

Cattle Decapitation [6/7]
This was a definite top-class set, and if it had been the last of the night, it would have been a fitting capstone to a very good show. While the grind elements were still dominant, there was also a lot of black metal in their sound as well that I didn't notice in the limited experience I've had with them on record; it made for an interesting contrast and a cool overall sound. They've rubbed some people the wrong way personally in the past, but as this set bears out, there's been little complaint about their actual music, which continues to kick ass.

Cephalic Carnage [6/7]
At this point I went down on the floor, because it opened up significantly after Cattle Decapitation, and I needed to get close up for the last two bands. Down closer, the sound was slightly better, but the major advantage to this set was CC's rounded, diverse sound, probably the most wide-ranging of the night. Despite the complexities of their music, they still kept the pit moving as well; towards the end of their set, a kid came out of the pit right in front of me and proceeded to hurl on the ground at the side of the rail, whether from getting spun around of from getting hit in the stomach, it wasn't clear. This was basically the only negative on the night that wasn't directly my fault, and fortunately the kid in question didn't look too much the worse for wear after he'd gotten his guts out onto the floor. Even with this mishap, this was still a killer set.

Decapitated [7/7]
HOLY FUCK. The band basically got right off the bus/van from Quebec due to allegedly forgetting all their money at the hotel in Montreal (there may be a case here that the noncommercial DIY ethos needs to be flavored with a little practicality) and going back from half-way in order to retrieve it, then went on stage, but proceeded to wipe the floor with everyone who had played to this point, and gave Necrophagist a serious run for their money. Their set back in November was good, but not well-mixed, and this one saw one of those rare cases where the stars align and the Palladium soundboard produces a diamond, much like Suffocation back at that gig. The sound was tremendous, world-crushing, and as close to perfect as this building is likely to come, and the set as a result was a pure triumph of Polish death metal. If the headliners had been anyone else, this would have stolen the show fucking blind. Simply incredible; you may commence kicking yourself if you like brutal death and missed this. The floor was similarly insane in their response to the band; it was during Decapitated's set that the dude in this pic got his tooth knocked loose, which he was showing off to the doods on the rail next to me after surfing over the front.

Between Decapitated and Necrophagist, I talked with the Rev, who was similarly overpowered by Decapitated's set -- but also concerned about how the hell he was going to get one of his better cameras over to his girlfriend to shoot Live Earth with; living together makes some equipment issues a little easier for two of New England's most prolific live-music photographers, but does occasionally exacerbate logistical problems caused by how throughly they do cover the region.

Necrophagist [7/7]
The Marco Minnemann Show [7/7]
In addition to being a kickass death metal set, this was also a thorough masterclass in extreme metal technique, arrangement, and songwriting. I saw it from about the 6th row, which is the place to see Necrophagist from, as further back you won't be able to see the hand action, and may not realize exactly what Muhammed, Sami, and Stefan are doing and how exactly it's so mind-blowing. Everyone who knows this band also knows that Muhammed is probably the most accomplished and significant Turco-German musician of his generation (if not of Turkish history in Germany), and most people are probably aware that they've recently enlisted Marco Minneman, who definitely ranks among the greatest living German drummers, but Muhammed's writing and arrangements would go for naught if Sami (guitar) and Stefan (bass) weren't stellar musicians in their own right and able to keep up, allowing the intricacies of the parts to stand forth and impress the pure hell out of the audience. There was some pit motion, but most of Necrophagist's set saw the larger part of the audience absolutely spellbound, watching and listening as the band ripped through cut after cut of stuff that can't be assessed but as light-years ahead of what's going on in the main line of death metal today, and at a level of composition that's rarely touched even by the best of the more technical bands. There was one section in which they moved seamlessly and flawlessly through four riffs in three different tempos and two different keys that was just absolutely stunning; it's difficult to pick out casually, but it's the little things like this that make the band relentlessly awesome.

Marco gets his own rating because he also got (kind of) his own set, in which he generated as much awesome as 3's percussion show with half the drummers. In this tour-de-force, he moved from jazz to funk to hip-hop to tribal to Japanese-traditional to death metal through a long share of technical showing-off with no interruptions or disjunctions, even despite two stick drops. It was about the most incredible performance I've ever seen out of a drummer, and the range of sounds that he could get out of his (admittedly non-traditional) kit was truly awe-inspiring. His abilities are fully tested by backing up up such a technically challenging band, but this solo showed not only his non-metal background and diverse influences, but how he weaves those back into a death metal context; how he contributes to the next Necrophagist record will be really interesting to see, and will likely make it a further and stronger step up from Epitaph.

Sadly, the building curfew kicked in and prevented an encore, though the whole building was screaming for it. It was barely past 11, but the lights went up and the roadies starting tearing down the kit. Oh well; Arsis may have been missed (they had to scratch most of the tour due to van issues), and a double-headliner of Arsis and Necrophagist would be a stupendous clash of tech-death titans, but the bands that remained delivered a kickass show to be sure, and produced enough slaughter last a long slice of the summer -- hopefully the next max-package (Sounds of the Underground) at this venue won't break down the coolness from here too much.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Watchmaker with Hirudinea, Cythraul, and Graveside Service [Skybar, Somerville, 6/29/2007]

I pushed it a little later coming in this time, and the bands also got in earlier than Thursday. The only unfortunate parts was that I was short on cash, which meant that I only picked up two records from Jeremy's table...but fortunately (?) there wasn't much of an option to directly support the bands; not because I like stiffing them, but because choosing who to support on my 20 spare bucks -- and worse, who not to -- is a choice I hate making.

Graveside Service [4/7]
I hadn't seen this band before, but there's a debate to be made that this may be a positive; with a stage cluttered with various props and stage dressing, and with their gothic/black metal sound coming out of the somewhat unusual instrumental alignment, it definitely felt like there may not be a whole lot to differentiate one Graveside Service set from the next. That being said, I was pleasantly surprised that from this combo of vocalist, keyboards, and some seriously well-handled drums were able to produce a sound that hewed fairly close to black metal. My tolerance for stringless goth music -- especially with an overabundance of props -- is really low, but the legitimate black metal elements in their sound made the time worthwhile. There was some slack time, and there were a few parts in the writing that were less than inspired, but the music was overall decent, and it's an experience to be recommended at least once.

Cythraul [5/7]
With a full complement this time (staffed out by Cody from Witch Tomb on bass), they somehow didn't make as deep an impression as the last time I saw them. I have no idea as to why exactly this is, perhaps due to the sound (overall decent, but we didn't have the "usual" Sunday guy on this gig, who was also in on Thursday), but the overall impression was of a trebled-out scream-and-drone take on black metal that didn't seem to really take a bite out of the audience. They did a solid cover of Mayhem's "Freezing Moon" (with the intro taken directly from Live In Leipzig), but it was only in this and the subsequent, final song that it felt like they had stepped it up to their potential. This was some good stuff, and the main part of the set was decent; as they move forward and do some rewrites of their existing material to take better advantage of Cody's talents, there's definitely the potential to improve and put up kickass sets even despite potential sound problems.

Hirudinea [6/7]
If someone tells you that hardcore and black metal simply cannot mix, they are liars -- though you can't blame them, as the whole impulse of both scenes have been diametrically opposed since the time that both existed. However, this set showed that the two can be blended -- and when it's done right, it can be pretty damn awesome. Mixing black metal arrangements and hate with hardcore composition and intensity, this was a tremendously cool, turbulent set that was thoroughly awesome even before they closed with Carnivore's "Sex and Violence". If you like extreme metal, you need to see this band -- but this was not the best fusion of the opposed ends of the extreme on the night.

Watchmaker [7/7]
This, though, was, and damn was it ever intense. Watchmaker are among the old masters of the Boston thrash scene, and they definitely showed why in this set, mostly coming out of grind and thrash but with significant black and noise touches as well. The music was great, with a lot of subtlety as well as straight-ahead violence, but the audience reaction was something else, with most of the house down front going crazy. Those who weren't there may think this is an exaggeration, but there are few descriptions that should otherwise be used for an event where people are stagediving onto a handful of people at a bar show. There weren't any major injuries despite a lot of close encounters with tables and the floor, so despite the raw insanity incurred as they closed with "Damage, Inc." (obviously, not identical to the original, but in this setting definitely the better for the reinterpretation), there was only just the right amount of pain, strain, impact, and bruising to let all participants know the next day that they were at a kickass gig.

After checking to make sure that all my body parts were still attached, I headed back out to get going home....which took a lot longer than expected because the tunnel up to the northward routse was closed for repairs again, and the detours led around in what seemed like the longest possible route through Revere. This is the only bad part about Boston shows; the commute's easy, except when the highway chokepoints decide to be unsafe to drive through. Next gig's in Worcester, so this problem won't be an issue -- just the challenge of driving back the hell over the Mass Pike amid too many overloaded trucks going too fast on inconsistent surfaces. When gigs are this good, though, it's not worth complaining about the drive unless you actually get brewed up or killed.