Thursday, December 11, 2008

Mortal Decay with Goreality, Abnormality, and Summoning Hate [O'Brien's, Allston, 11/29/2008]

I'd skipped two shows due to work commitments (part of the reason that this review is so colossally late) -- and depression at Celtic crashing out of Europe -- earlier in this week, so this one was pretty much de riguer. It didn't hurt that it also packed a hell of a lineup, and allowed me to avoid going out locally and running into people back in town for Thanksgiving and/or reunions that I had little interest in seeing.

I left a little late due to working on some other junk, but managed to get in to Boston and stumped over to O'Brien's while the bands were still setting up. It was fairly crowded; Saturday show with a lot of good bands will do that, and there was a decent amount of time to hang out, stretch out, and drink chemicals.

Summoning Hate [6/7]
There are a lot of people who complain about NEDM being all slam these days, and far too many of them just sit on their asses and whine, instead of going out and supporting this band. Summoning Hate's old-school attack may not be as complicated as the other bands on this bill, but holy crap is it heavy, and you're not a fan of the likes of Obituary and Master, you really need to take a look at yourself and try to figure out exactly why you're in death metal, anyway. The songs that they pull Juan back in for may be borrowed finery, but they do a good job with them, and their original material is pretty killer as well. The night did only get better from here, but listening to this set, that wouldn't've been a rational expectation.

David later promised me that they'd have patches out sometime in the nebulous future, but we'll see if this materializes; there was a fair amount of Milwaukee's Purest Biotropic Reactant in play at that point, but doing patches would be in-character for the band, and their logo is pretty freakin badass.

Abnormality [6.5/7]
I thought they'd added a bass player recently, but I was wrong; fortunately, Abnormality proved that they still don't need one, with probably the best set that I've seen from them. Their low end sounded stronger, and the riffs were still ridiculously complex, for a killer total effect that set the stage for the bands to come. This would have been a killer headlining set in any other circumstance, but here it was just the second of four -- we have an embarrasment of riches as far as death metal goes in Boston, so go to local gigs and enjoy it.

Those not in the Boston area can check out Abnormality via their song "Visions" on Rock Band 2 -- and if you like torturing yourself, you can actually try to play it. The track is generally rated "impossible", which is the way technical death metal should be in a rhythm game, and cleverly positioned (Malika, the vocalist, works for Activision) to achieve maximum exposure from the band via YouTube videos of people killing themselves to beat it on Expert.

Goreality [7/7]
This must have been Leave Your Bassist Home Day; I swear that Abnormality announced that they'd got one, and then Goreality, who normally do have a four-stringer in the lineup, came out without theirs. I was initially concerned about this, as what really drives Goreality is the mixture of that absolutely punishing low end with the ridiculous technicality of the guitar lines, but Steve and Mark stepped it up here, and if the rhythm section wasn't as thick and overpowering, the sound wasn't any thinner for it. I'd rather see this band with a bassist than without, but they fully earned this mark even as a four-piece, and that they're able to do such a great set with an integral part of their sound removed is truly mind-blowing. They set a high bar for Mortal Decay to follow, and if they got the exposure that they deserve, they'd be setting that bar for the death metal scene as a whole.

Unfortunately, the number of people who stuck around for their set was a little diminished. Part of it may be people getting into Abnormality from the game, then not wanting to stick around late, but part of it was people leaving to catch the last train to wherever. Part of this is fail on the part of Boston, which needs to keep its public transit open later, but part of it is people needing to buck up and buckle down -- seriously, you go to a DIY bar show and miss Goreality and Mortal Decay? Sure, the first two bands are plenty of value for your seven bucks, but this was some of the best death metal of the year, and missing out on it would've sucked.

Mortal Decay [7/7]
From New Jersey, but frequent visitors to this region, Mortal Decay demonstrated why Boston loves them (and hence, why they love Boston). This was a ripping set of technical brutal death metal that united a lot of elements present in the three bands that had opened up, but also did take it to a higher level, as hard as that is to believe given how good the bands had been to this point. Shit also got brewed up in the crowd as well; Malika and Juan, along with a few others, finally managed to get people moving enough to start a classic O'Brien's pit (one with a pole in the middle), and only a few containers got broken, and nobody injured. Things were running a touch late, so the lights were on for curfew when they finally closed up, but I don't think there was a single metalhead left in the building who actually wanted them to pack up. Seriously, it wasn't even one in the morning! On a Saturday! Bogus is what it is.

Of course, the bar had to close, and threw everyone out, so it was time to beat feet back across the bridges, then get lost in Boston because I fucked up the Memorial Drive approach, but one way or another I got home, and one of the better local shows in recent memory went into the books. Next is a bunch of thrash bands at this same place on the 15th, then not too much until the turn of the year.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Autumn Above with Drunken Above and The Real Smokin' Power [Dodge Street, Salem, 10/31/2008]

In Which I Discover I Should Have Budged My Lazy Ass Up And Caught The Goddamned Train, And Am Colossally Bad At Figuring Out Alternative Ways To Go Generally North Or East From Salem, But Get A Bonus Eyefull Of Downtown Lynn And Revere.

The headline above basically says it all: when your friend's band is playing in Salem on Halloween, get there early or on public transit. Of course, had I come on the train, I would have gotten stuck thanks to sticking for the Misfits set, but as others have demonstrated, there's more than one way to get out of Salem without motor transport....though for some of those, you may need both a bicycle and a banana costume. (Don't ask. Seriously.)

So I left too later and had to drive over, which had me crunching around through the disordered mess of Salem streets with a bunch of people who didn't know where they were going, around police barricades and through hordes of drunks who believe that Halloween costumes include a force field that wards off cars. Both the railyard and downtown were kind of hopeless, and I parked off 114 on the other side from the Point, then had a way to leg back to the gig. There was allegedly another opener, but by the time I got to the venue and waited out the entry line (the one day a year that you're going to see a lineup at Dodge Street), there was basically just the one band with three faces left.

The Real Smokin' Power [5/7]
Tone and Sean's art-noise instrumental practical joke has developed further since the last time I saw them, but with the expanded audience mostly there to get drunk and slaver over girls dressed like prostitutes, they may not have gotten through to many of those in attendance. The dancing garden gnome was a nice touch that hearkened back to historical non-instrumental participants in weird North Shore bands, but it remains to be seen if this is going to be a regular feature rather than just a Halloween special. Those who "got" this set got a cool time full of both speaker-ripping distortion and layered grooves; those who were staring slackjawed got a dancing guy with a gnome mask and some thorough confusion before they waded back into the bar area.

Speaking thereof, the drinks wait for real beer was atrocious, but the club wisely put a bucket of four-dollar cans out their pickup window facing the stage room. Budweiser - It's Not Atrocious, And You Don't Have To Stand In Line For It.

Autumn Above [6/7]
The band continues to evolve; this was probably their most progressive and debatably the heaviest outing yet, but given the environment, this may not have been optimal for their prospects. They opened up with "Trail of Roses" and went backwards through To The Inferno, interspersing new material as they've been doing lately, though with the wider general audience, this might have been a good opportunity to play the CD down in order and sucker people in as they did on their early gigs, get the drunks grooving on the smooth acoustic pop-rock and slowly work the changes until they find themselves neck-deep in a morass of metallic despair. Then again, a confused and disturbed lumpenvolk doesn't exactly go over and buy CDs en masse. Regardless, this was a hell of a good set, with the band pushing harder and reaching further than they've done in the past (or are likely to do again -- see Ryan's comments on never playing three songs as one ever again, which is made more strenuous by the fact that most of AA's songs run around six and a half minutes), to good results.

Drunken Above [5/7]
This is an ad-hoc name suggested by Ryan for a merely somewhat ad-hoc band; here we had Autumn Above playing, in various configurations and with some supplemental personnel, fewer Misfits songs than they initially planned to, aided by as many beers as those of us on the floor could scare up. As alluded to, this set was cut short by the club in favor of some live techno crap that few cared about, but fortunately, Misfits songs are wicked short and fast, and we got about eight ot ten or twelve of them before the plug came out, which was enough time for a ton of frantic thrashing, an accidental fist in the head, and someone's elbow to blow up a beer bottle half over my shirt. A nice slice of fast horror punk, violence, and airborne beer; how the hell could you tell this from a 'real' Misfits show, especially since the Misfits today aren't exactly the Misfits Misfits any more? Good stuff, and it should have gone longer, but this is Salem's big
Kommerz night, and something had to give.

It was shortly after 12:30 when they finally closed up, so I would have missed the last train, but I took the walk back up to my ride in stride. Unfortunately, I decided not to fight through the city center and everyone else trying to get out of Salem, and ended up going further south and west, eventually cutting through Lynn and Revere to pick up 60 to 93 to 128. I saw a lot of the southern North Shore that I don't normally see, including a closeup of the dog park at Wonderland, but this was a long drive after a late night that, given that I could have probably walked back as fast, was completely unnecessary. Good show -- not such good planning on the peripheral stuff, especially since I live here and ought to know better.

Master with Estuary, Sexcrement, and Summoning Hate [Church, Boston, 10/19/2008]

On this night, the choice was either this show or hang out back home and be social watching the Red Sox (ultmately lose the ALCS to the Rays). Naturally, I went with Master and a ridiculous walk in, despite feeling a little under the weather. I'd missed the Amon Amarth gig the night before resting up, which sucked, but those bands tour, generally, and Master pretty much does not.

Despite the aforementioned ridiculous walk -- I parked back in Cambridge again and hoofed it down to the Fenway -- I got in a little early, in time enough to drink a couple beers and do my merch (a bunch of Master swag, and CDs from Estuary and Sexcrement) before the bands started. This wasn't the most well-attended gig I've been to here, but there was a good feeling all around; an Ibex Moon tour is about as interior death metal as you're going to to get, and those who came out were there for mostly the same reasons, and mostly for all of the bands.

Summoning Hate [6/7]
Summoning Hate continues to blast out solid, high-class thrash-death metal; this set was no exception, though it took a song or two for them to get properly cranked up. This was a nice long, filled out set, including a couple of tunes with Juan back on vocals, and high-quality front to back. At this point, the band's main or perhaps sole problem is that they don't have anything recorded available, and it's only so often that they play live. They were a really good match for this show, their style fitting in well with Master's, and they did a hell of a job opening up.

Sexcrement [6/7]
There was a bit of lag going into this set, as Sexcrement had to get their new bass player in; Blue (of Dysentery, Parasitic Extirpation, Porphyria, and it seems like every other slam band in eastern New England) had played another show with PE up in New Hampshire and got down pretty much just in time to load in. Despite working out a new 1/4 of the band, Sexcrement came out hitting on all cylinders, and turned in a thoroughly awesome performance. This band always puts up a good show, but in this case they seemed maybe a little tighter than usual; maybe because they were working out a new member and hadn't rehearsed together enough to play off each other as usual, or maybe because of the brief reunion stint that Goratory recently did in Europe -- whatever it was, this was as good a Sexcrement gig as I've seen in a while, and another indication that this was building towards a truly classic gig.

Estuary [7/7]
This was the most significant surprise of the night; I hadn't heard literally anything from Estuary before, and had bought their CD basically solely on credit, on the idea that if the guys from Incantation had set them up to tour with Master, they had to at least know what they were doing. This hypothesis was vindicated, and then the expectation thoroughly exceeded. If it wasn't Master closing up, Estuary definitely would have stolen the show, blasting the audience with an appropriately old-school but still fresh-sounding blend of thrash and death metal. They got a hell of a reception as well, likely from people who similarly had their minimal expectations shattered; here's hoping that they come back, as the stage height may have been a limiting factor that wouldn't be present at O'Brien's, and, regardless, we'd get another Estuary set.

Master [7/7]
This was the reason that we turned out, and Master certainly didn't disappoint. Master is past their peak at this point, though some of this may be attributable to the fact that Paul built a new American band for this tour rather than trying to bring over the Czech guys that he's been playing with since going into self-imposed exile. There were a few minor flubs, and this obviously wasn't what we'd've gotten had this been 15 years ago, but what Master did then, they still do, and if Master today is Paul Speckmann dragging his sidemen to greatness by pure force of will, he's still certainly able to do so. Just crunching, thrashing, no-nonsense brutality that took back the audience after Estuary's crushing set, and if there was a little grousing about the crowd being run-down on a Sunday night, it didn't lead to an impeded performance. They closed with a Death Strike tune, but it's been so long since I listened to Fuckin' Death that I didn't pick out which -- and it's debatable as to how many others here had managed to reel in that demo out of the dark recesses of the internets to catch the reference.

Slowly, things broke up; it was still an atrociously long walk back to Cambridge when I could have parked closer and I may have picked up a tweak in my left ear from standing up close and unprotected again, but this was the kind of real true, interior death metal gig that only comes around once in a while, and there's no regrets to be associated with what's probably going to come out as one of the best gigs of the year.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

fucking finally

Thank You for your order!

The order was shipped.

The following articles were ordered:

Quant. - Itemno. - Name - Price - Total

1 - 24158 - WOA - 3-Tages ALL-IN -ANNIVERSARY- Festival-Ticket 2009 - 30.07. - 01.08. 2009 - 130,00 EUR - 130,00 EUR


At long last, my Wacken ticket is on the way. Now I can start planning around W:O:A + Party.San, and not Party.San + Summer Breeze; it's probably too much of a stretch to do the full and undoubtedly filthy W:O:A + Party.San + Summer Breeze, unless of course I drag around a bunch of technological crap and do support whenever I'm not drunk.

It'll be interesting to see what the serial is on this one; last year I was #1419 or thereabouts, but this time there's almost certain to be five digits. Also, I now have to care about the lineup, and hope that more good bands will be added than bad.

Iced Earth with Into Eternity and Saviours [Worcester Palladium, 10/15/2008]

In Which I Am Too Poor To Buy A T-Shirt, But Score Free French Fries And Then End Up Detouring Through Downtown Boston Largely By Accident.

With a headline like that, you know there's going to be a colorful anecdote after the show content. This will come in good time.

As on the night before, I left right after work in order to get over and buy a ticket before they sold out. This was a consequence of me being too damn busy the week before and thus unable to purchase in advance, which kind of had a knock-on effect in terms of the rest of the night. I got in, paid my $25, and after getting my first beer, realized that I didn't have enough money for a t-shirt, thanks to the door cost, getting dinner on the way out, and the fact that Kamelot was like $30 the night before, which wasn't in the budget. This sucked, but I rationalized away; better to not buy beers then, and just camp the rail. I was going to do it anyway, and the rationalization made the fact that I had to do it without a cool Iced Earth tourshirt through my belt a little more palatable.

Saviours [4.5/7]
I didn't got to the extent of finding out how long this band's been around, and thus determining if their late-80s demo-tape sound is a survival or a re-creation; they could go either way, and the fact that I didn't do this research is a strong indicator about the quality of the band. They had some nice riffs, but they never closed the deal in terms of building memorable songs out of them, and I'm not sure that anyone in attendance could accurately determine, based on the performance offered, why they were on this tour. The advantage over any random local band is pretty dubious.

Into Eternity [5.5/7]
Once again, the Palladium's shitty sound strikes down a good band. Even if Tim was back in BC because his wife was having a baby, there's no excuse for the soundboard to effectively turn off both of this band's guitars for the first song and a half. Seriously, you wankers, there's virtually nothing in Into Eternity but guitars, and if they're buried, the audience is full of people looking around at each other wondering seriously, what the fuck is going on? They recovered as soon as the sound guys got their shit together, and did a good set; the new material is pretty cool, and it's an interesting tack to take; one wonders if they're able to pry a couple points out of Century Media to send to a cancer-research fund. No Tim, though, did tell, and this wasn't quite as good a set as some of the earlier ones that I've seen from this band.

Iced Earth [7/7]
It took a while, but here it was; the real thing, in top form. There's a lot to be said about bad business and artistic decisions, and Jon's ego squandering their chances to break through massively, but that Iced Earth is one of the absolute best power-thrash bands currently operating cannot be denied. It felt like a step back, even with Matt in full cry, at the start of the set, but then "Burning Times" starts up, and someone rams into me, and my cold's gone, I'm snorting fire, and I'm back ten years to when I first heard Something Wicked... and everything is right once again. The musicianship was pretty ace, as expected from Matt and Jon, though maybe not from the three interchangeable parts backing them, and covered every record (except maybe The Dark Saga, but they might have squeezed "The Hunter" in somewhere) in at least cursory fashion, though there was a heavy weighting towards the three Something Wicked records -- only one or two from the new album, though, so Jon has a decidedly different idea of what 'touring on a record' is than, say, Steve Harris. This wasn't Iced Earth at their peak, but the reunion felt genuine, and Matt's vocals on Ripper's parts beat the CDs virtually down through the ground. No "Dante's Inferno" or "The Funeral" -- though either was pretty much out of the question from the get-go -- but we didn't have to sit through any political disquisitions from Jon; call it a wash, and also a balls-out performance that challenged Gamma Ray's set in this building last month for the best power metal outing of the year.

On the way home, I stopped as I usually do for some eats and a large cup of cold coffee to keep from crashing into stuff on the way home. I put in my normal order at the McDonald's on the pike, and because there were actually some other people there -- probably also on the way home from the gig -- I got fries tossed in that I didn't ask for. Abstractly, it's healthier to not eat McDonald's' fries than to eat them, but they came free, and technically, I was ahead on calorie burn via only drinking that one beer at the show, and spending the whole time standing. Hooray rationalization! Things got more interesting when I attempted to get off the Pike at 128, and found that the entrance to said road was closed. I followed the detour signs, but apparently not very well, because I ended up pushing east, and eventually got onto Commonwealth Avenue. This was fortunate, because I now knew how to get home. The only problem is that this involved riding into Boston; following the T in from Chestnut Hill in through Allston, through Kenmore and taking the Mass Ave bridge across to the Cambridge side to pick up Memorial Drive, then over to Route 1 and north again. Thus this trip home was kind of a superset of the roads I traveled the night before getting back from Edguy, but done later, as an extension of something that burned a hell of a lot more gas in aggregate.

In retrospect, it's not real interesting. However, even at 1 and 2 in the morning, it's possible to make an adventure out of getting lost rather than cussing because the fucking highway department decided to close the connection between two of the most major roads in the area. And it probably was shorter than following the real detour to the next exit onto 128.

Kamelot with Edguy and Hypersolid [Middle East, Cambridge, 10/14/2008]

This is colossally late due to a thick stretch of shows and high demand at work. There are four such show reviews that will hopefully all get posted before the next gig comes around.

I left right from work for this one, and though I was a little later leaving than I anticipated, I wasn't exactly concerned; seriously, it's Kamelot and Edguy, in Boston -- how many people's it going to draw? Boy was I wrong; I got up to the Middle East, and got re-routed into the end of a ridiculously long line that eventually extended back nearly to the Cambridge Salvation Army and the firehouse. Yes. A lineup nearly a full block long, for a power metal show, in Cambridge. In the future, the answer to that first question is going to be "almost six hundred, and 'go up'".

One way or another I got in, bought a shirt from Edguy, and managed to get kind of forward before the place filled up completely. At the merch stand, I saw a sale lost for the dumbest of reasons -- a markedly rotund patron disappointed by the fact that the bands' shirts stopped at XL. Seriously, you're a power metal band, and you don't stock "size 68 extra fat"? This wasn't even their first tour, where it might be excusable; both Kamelot and Edguy should know their American audience by now.

Hypersolid [5/7]
The second time I'd seen this band in two weeks, the better sound in this venue combined with probably knowing more of the songs better to produce a little flatter experience. They got a little more time, but didn't fill it much better; the Carcass twitches were still there, but overall, they sounded a lot more like a metalcore band obsessed with Dream Theater in this outing, and the heaviness wasn't quite what was needed to really win over the crowd. This was a decent show, but they did better in Worcester.

I pushed a little further forward; these guys were the reason that I came in, and as I had a cold, I was in kind of two minds about staying much after they finished.

Edguy [6/7]
This wasn't really a better performance than when I saw them at Mark's, as they were pinched for time, but it was pretty damn cool all the same. They continued to not play the mid-period stuff (no "Picture On The Wall" or "Pharaoh" still, boo), but did a lot of the new material that people knew, and a few name-checks on their older stuff, with a fairly minimal distribution of infield antics. If's nice that they do this, but here at least, they're realizing that this should probably be saved until we can fix the stupid alcohol laws in this country and set up some real open-airs. Since they didn't have a ton of time, they didn't fuck around much before coming out for "King of Fools"; they got a stellar response, and when they come back in 2009, they'd better be headlining.

At this point I moved back and got another beer; I didn't have a great abiding interest in Kamelot, and I'd rather that someone else saw them up close. Unfortunately, where I ended up standing (next to the mixing stand) turned out to be a really bad choice, as once the band started, Roy's vocals were buried, and the strobe lights were hitting me right in the eyes -- time to move again.

Kamelot [5.5/7]
This was a better performance than I saw at Wacken this year, and I was paying more attention to it, and to their credit the band did keep me there the whole while, even as other fans were leaving -- it's a tough spot to be in on a Tuesday night, having to wake up and go to work in the morning. Nevertheless, they still didn't do anything that would really convert me to being a Kamelot fan; their prog-power sound was much the same as it's always been. It was a decent performance, and those who were singing along definitely liked it, but the band didn't do much to move me, and if they don't have their intended effect in this environment, it's doubtful where they will.

They did, I think, two encores, and the end was a relief that they weren't going to drag things out any longer; as mentioned, there was a slow trickle of fans out the back from about 11:30 onwards that allowed me to move a little forward. Not "too much" Kamelot, but definitely "enough" for all concerned, and given that it was a Tuesday, it was nice not to spend an eternity getting back home. The recharge was swift -- back to work and then out to Worcester the very next night for Iced Earth.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Watain with Withered, Book of Black Earth, Cold Northern Vengeance, Revocation, Blessed Offal, and Ipssisimus [Middle East, Cambridge, 10/7/2008]

Long awaited, it was finally here; the return of Watain to North America (well, techncially they started in Canada 3 days earlier, but still), along with a top-class bill of support, good enough to make up for being as long as your damn arm. Even though this was on a Tuesday, anticipation was still high as they'd been tremendous on the last pass -- their gig upstairs was the short-listed show of the year of 2007. As is getting to be usual for these early-start Boston shows, I left directly from work and got in too early. This gave me time to drink an IPA out of a bizarre triangle-bottom glass, then stand around outside for a while, waiting for real doors. The Middle East was, as usual, a little slow with their Einlass, and as a result, I didn't get in until after Ipsissimus had already started.

Ipsissimus [5/7]
Fortunately, their last song and a half turned out to be about half their set. Well, fortunate for someone who came in late; they, like the other locals, were a little constrained by the fact that there were seven bands on this bill, but they did a good job with the time provided. They've come up significantly since I first saw them, and this was a class performance of melodically complex but still true black metal, which impressed those who were down early and probably led to a bunch of CD sales, even though their EP's been free online for a while. The sound wasn't perfect, but the parts where they were cutting and cool greatly oughtweighed the down bits.

After Ipsissimus, I did most of my merch-getting; some cool shirts, a few CDs that I didn't have, some patches, pretty much the usual. The most notable thing in this was the realization, via Withered's tourshirt, that New York City is actually in Cali. I blame the Pail and Shovel Party, personally.

Blessed Offal [6/7]
To this point, I'd had difficulty getting a firm handle on this band; now, though, they've established themselves a lot more cleanly. There's a lot of good black metal bands in New England, but with this raw, dirty, pummeling black/death performance, Blessed Offal should be out of the pack and readily recognizable. They've still got some issues establishing their lineup (Bobby from Hirudinea on bass for this one rather than Cody from Witch Tomb), but if they can keep this one together, they may well get up into that first rank. Unfortunately, they didn't have anything recorded, but this, too, will probably come with time.

Revocation [7/7]
Prima facie, Revocation did not belong on this bill, as every other band on it is at least partly black metal, and Revocation are composed almost completely of death-thrash. So, naturally, they remedied this situation by writing a long neo-black metal instrumental intro, then ripping through it and playing everyone else off the damn stage. Fortunately, technical execution isn't absolutely necessary for black metal, so this didn't matter a whole lot to the overall enjoyment of the rest of the show, or, I suspect, make the touring bands think they were being upstaged (which, really, they weren't), but god damnit are Dave, Phil, and Anthony good at what they do. Everyone and their brother is thrash-revivaling 1986 in the Bay Area, and these guys are doing Wisconsin, Florida, NYC, and Germany circa 1990 -- plus all this modern tech-death stuff in the bargain.

Revocation were the only band that had merch that I did not buy at least something off of. I felt bad, but I'm full up on their buttons and stickers -- if they made, um, a PATCH or something, I'd definitely put down for such.

Cold Northern Vengeance [6/7]
In their first appearance since putting out Domination & Servitude, CNV came out with a new lineup and a new sound, sticking closer to the old Norwegian sound than their previous resemblances to the east. This is not entirely out of character with their previous stuff, but just darker, more direct, and more droning, and the result is one of the more truly original sounds in USBM. They did only 3 songs (due to length), and all new stuff -- "The Abraxas Trance" was simply massive, and on their closer, they cut out one of the 3 guitars and the bass for a truly cultic sound on the order of Agalloch from the regrowth forests instead of the old-growth. They had a better set the last time they opened for Watain -- which due to recording issues and misconceptions people have about the band, was I think their last show before this -- but there was nothing wrong with what they delivered here.

Book of Black Earth [5/7]
Throughout their set, this band exhorted the crowd to move forward and move around more. If less of the audience had been around for Ipsissimus, and CNV immediately before them, they might have had more success with these appeals; on a musical basis, Book of Black Earth steps away from the 'hipster black metal' tag that may be applied based on the appearance of some of their members, but in this performance they didn't really set themselves a part as being better than the (very good) local support in inaugurating the touring part of the bill. This was a good performance, but Ipsissimus handled their melodics in a more interesting way without resorting to keyboards, and CNV out-grimmed the living fuck out of them. Decent, and worth the CD that I picked up, but they definitely went on in the right place relative to the rest of the touring bill.

Withered [5.5/7]
I was standing further back for Withered, and subsequently; I'd seen the rest of the bands remaining and didn't feel like wedging forward just to say that I was at the front, at the expense of someone who may not have seen either. The result was that the sound felt a little messed-up during Withered's set, and at least less powerful for Watain; others have also commented on the intermittent quality of the board at this gig, but much of it I didn't notice because I was up front getting the sound from the cabs rather than the PA. Regardless, this set wasn't quite as inspiring as the last time I saw them -- here, opening for Grave and Dismember, incidentally, and surprisingly two years ago -- but still provided a nice slice of quality crunching death/doom/black metal. Next to Revocation, this was the least black metal outing of the night, but it was well-delivered, and those who would have objected to them took the opportunity to have a last smoke break or whatever before Watain.

Watain [6.5/7]
There were a lot of high expectations for this performance, and most of them were met. However, while this was a really great set, it wasn't perfect, and the expectations made for a high wall to climb. Last year, Watain played upstairs and produced debatably the best gig of the year, and on this run, they were playing in a larger space, and had loudly advertised their intent to go whole hog, with more blood and Satanism and dead animal parts than they'd been allowed to do on the last run. Unfortunately, the plug got pulled on new blood -- the red-brown dust all over their gear, and the accompanying reek, testified that they are serious about this stuff -- or dead flesh, and what was left was a solid musical performance that fell a little short of the peak, perhaps also hampered by the sound being less than optimal. This was still a Watain gig, and a damn good Watain gig, but between the PR and the word-of-mouth from last year, people were expecting Live In Leipzig part II, and it didn't happen. It may be unrealistic for anyone to be disappointed with this set, but it's certainly understandable: even in the raw and bloody-minded world of underground black metal, people can build castles in the air, and get run down when they crumble on contact with reality.

There was allegedly some aggro between NS skins and SHARPs afterwards, but I didn't see it, having bugged out ASAP; I had to work in the morning, and the demands of work have gotten this review impossibly delayed down to the current point. Next gig's tonight in this same hall...though Kamelot and Edguy will draw a LITTLE different crowd. Iced Earth tomorrow, then I get my extreme-metal bonafides back with Amon Amarth and Master on the weekend.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Amorphis with Samael, Virgin Black, and Hypersolid [Worcester Palladium (upstairs), 10/2/2008]

Second verse, not quite the same as the first; as per the day before, I left right from work, but there were a few contributing factors that slowed down the ride out, and as a consequence, I got in right after doors rather than right before. With the lack of a lineup, I got "VIPed" in; security at this point knows my ID by heart and is pretty confident I'm not going to stab anyone, but as professionals they're not going to wave 'regulars' through while they've got a lineup to process correctly.

As on Wednesday, the attendance was a little sparse, especially at the start, but it would pick up as the night went on. I picked my way through the few there and picked up a couple CDs as well as a first beer, then tried to finish up the text I was writing to avoid being "that guy" for Hypersolid.

Hypersolid [5/7]
Unfortunately, I wasn't completely successful, and I was a little zoned for their first song or two. Once concluded, though, they cetainly didn't disappoint, and in contrast to the last one, there was a lot more late Carcass (mostly Swansong, but some Heartwork too) in their prog-thrash sound than I remembered from before. Their overall execution level's come up since 2006 as well, despite the fact that they were working out a new guitarist; if you missed them here, you can see them with Edguy in a week or two, and marvel that with the change in their sound to more prog-thrash (which fit better here) than prog-power, they're still able to get opening slots on power metal bills.

Virgin Black [6/7]
The crowd was still a little light at this point, and between the volume and the band's sound, it definitely felt like this would have gone even better upstairs at the Middle East. The only really cult band on this tour, they made their presence felt with a deep, solid set that closed with a shattering rendition of "Walk Without Limbs". In contrast to the more accessible bands at the head of this bill, Virgin Black's vicious blend of gothic black metal and funeral doom was pitched straight for the undergrounders in the audience -- which on a Thursday, and at the start of the touring bill, was maybe more than a significant minority.

Samael [6/7]
It's hard to find a dedicated Samael fan these days, and the balance of this set definitely testifies as to why; the black metal in their sound is deprecated in favor of more mainstream, accessible, stuff, and while this was a decent time, Samael have been better than this. Those who missed it, though, missed out: not only is Xy still about the best live drum programmer going, but they did "Into The Pentagram" for the first time in the US (allegedly), and for the duration of the song, new Samael was old Samael again, just with the instruments a little changed up. They did a couple more after, and while they should have just closed up after "Into The Pentagram", the little extra blackdustrial is to be forgiven since we, y'know, got "Into The Pentagram" out of the band.

At one point, Vorph referred to Passage as an "old album". It is, but that makes me an Old People -- what the hell is Ceremony of Opposites then? Well, besides 'awesome', but you get the idea about how this band currently looks at their catalog, and how that varies from how we see it out in the cheap seats.

Amorphis [6.5/7]
There'd been some scuttlebutt before the gig that Tomi had lost his voice earlier on the tour, but he'd recovered enough by this gig to put up a stellar performance. He was still swigging tea rather than water or beer throughout, but his voice held up all the way through a long and diverse set covering a bunch of tunes from the last couple albums, but also more early stuff than likely anyone was anticipating. It was a better outing than I saw last year at Wacken, and on the music rather than just on the minimum qualification of the venue not catching on fire. Like Samael, Amorphis may get written off these days due to the changes in their style, but more unambiguously than the band that preceded them on this bill, they've improved as well as changed. Another Thousand Lakes tune or two instead of taking a break before their encore, and this might have gone full marks; regardless, it was a great set to cap off a great show, and a great two-day stand at this venue.

The trip home wasn't that difficult, and the next show promises to be awesome; Watain Tuesday night in Boston with six other bands including CNV and Revocation. After that, free time to take care of personal matters, and then something like 6 or 7 gigs in 8 days. We'll see how many of those actually get attended.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Kataklysm with Dying Fetus, Eluvetie, and Keep of Kalessin [Worcester Palladium (upstairs), 10/1/2008]

In the middle of a hard week at work, I also get the bonus of two high-line shows in a small space at reasonable prices, which I guess makes up for getting blitzed over the weekend and being first busy drinking, then tremendously hung over, for last weekend's gigs, both of which planned I missed. This wasn't the case here; I finished up a couple knotty problems and headed out directly from the office, arriving a little early due to light traffic. I got in and processed smoothly once the doors opened; this was upstairs, and the floor area wasn't anywhere near full at first, though as the night went on more people piled in.

With time to kill I hit the merch stand and got the Eluvetie swag that I hadn't been able to afford at Metalfest, and also Keep's new disc. This was in the upstairs of the upstairs, which remained sparsely populated throughout the show; Wednesdays will do that, and if this was less convenient to get to than had it been at the Middle East's upstairs, it was a lot easier to move around.

Keep of Kalessin [6.5/7]
I don't know that I've headbanged this hard to a black metal band since Emperor. I saw them on Metalfest, of course, but that performance paled next to this one; a lot of it echoed Emperor, but to call it "standard-form" in any way is not only a disservice to the band, but also an indication that you may not listen to as much black metal as you think you do. There's a lot of black metal that's a hell of a lot worse than this, especially in the modern era; that we went back convincingly to the sound of the Norwegian second wave, and the band blew the roof off in the process, should not be treted as an everyday occurrence. Great stuff, and maybe a couple songs short of full points.

This was, as can be seen up top, a really, really weird lineup to be all touring together. It seems like the idea was that there'd be people who liked Keep and Eluvetie, Keep and Kataklysm, and Kataklysm and Dying Fetus at this one, thus bringing in three distinct audience segments, but that's kind of a weird organizing principle, and when you do it on a Wednesday night, you may get into rougher shoals. They did draw more, though than any of those three tuples would have as their own tour playing the Mideast Upstairs, so perhaps there's something to be said for it.

Eluvetie [6/7]
Also back from Metalfest was this Swiss horde, who were short their piper for this outing. How much of a problem this was is debatable; they did a really good set, if not quite as strong as back in April, but there was next to nowhere for anyone in the band to move around on stage, and it's difficult to see where they'd've found space to add a seventh across the front. Some of their tunes, particularly the one they closed up with, reminded me really strongly of In Extremo; part of this is the founder effect of said band basically re-inventing folk metal, but some of it may be intentional: since In Extremo's basically let North America go by singing almost exclusively in German, why shouldn't another band that does more in English bring that same sound over here, and earn a share of the success? Not the best set I've seen from them, but to say this about a Swiss folk metal band in North America at all is pretty damn staggering, and this was quite a fine performance even so.

The funniest moment of the night was doubtless about 3 songs in, when the singer yelled "ARE YOU GUYS STILL SOBER?!" and more people answered with "HELL YEAH!!!" than "FUCK NOOOO!" If you're either a) not paying attention and just yelling whenever someone does stage banter, or b) so goddamn drunk on a Wednesday night that you can't understand what the singer's saying at the start of the second band's set, you deserve to get ripped on, as the band briefly did before hitting back into the music again.

Dying Fetus [6/7]
I was talking with some acquaintances before the show started up, and one mentioned that he'd never seen Dying Fetus; I'd been in this position as recently as before Carcass, and he found it just as odd as I did then. Anyone else in the audience who hadn't seen DF live yet got a solid representation of the band; a nice thick set of relentlessly arranged stone-brutal death metal. It didn't stand out to me as superlative, but even when Dying Fetus is just simply executing, the result is impressive to behold. I'm more of a fan of other kinds of death metal, but this was a great (and ridiculously battering) time, and a high-quality set.

Post-DF, I was significantly impressed enough to go up to the merch stand again and pick up one of their "antipope" shirts; while bumming around as Kataklysm set up, I ran into a short sample of several North Shore metal bands....who were bummed out that they'd only gotten to the venue in time to pay $20 for 2 Dying Fetus tunes. They weren't much into Kataklysm either, and a little at loose ends about what to do with themselves. Some of the answer to this involved sitting around upstairs heckling the Canucks as they set up, and some of it involved yelling Manowar memes at people downstairs who weren't listening; hail creativity.

Kataklysm [5/7]
I didn't stick for their whole set, but I resolved to stay long enough to give them a fair shake; my opinions on this band's rapid and seemingly nonsensical decline have been made very clear in the past, but every new album is a chance to get back to relevance, and every gig is a chance to wake up and play soe interesting music. I hung around for four or five songs, but the verdict is still unchanged; not so much Canadian Hyperblast as Canadian warmed-over Hypocrisy. This wasn't a bad set, but Kataklysm will continue to run aground as long as they a) continue to ignore their earlier material, which has a distinct voice of its own, and also b) continue to suggest a lamer Hypocrisy to anyone who listens to them. Sure, echoes of more famous bands were kind of a theme tonight (except for Dying Fetus, who are the imitated rather than the imitators), but Keep and Eluvetie's material can stand in, more often than not, with that of their exemplars, and Kataklysm's new stuff just can't. Those who came for them appeared to be having fun, but those like me who came for any of the other three were either upstairs or shortly on the way out.

Leaving early, I managed to get back home a little after midnight. Tonight's probably into the breach again; Amorphis, Samael, and Virgin Black, same time same station.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

hail hail the Celtic discounts

In addition to a nice win at Killie on the weekend and a fitting domination in their League Cup opener today, there is some extra-good news out of Celtic Park: the super-awesome old away kit is on sale to clear inventory to make space for the weird yellow ones. Unless you, like, have a bowler hat implanted directly in your brain and you never take off your Rangers shirt because it's signed by everyone from your local UDA cell, you should agree that the "Iggle green" shirt is wicked awesome, and with slow shipping, it'll get to your door in two weeks for about $30.

If enough people buy these shirts, maybe the club will a) realize that the new away uniforms look silly, even with the positive quote under the collar, and b) use the extra money to buy a new left defender when the transfer (kind of like free agency) market opens up again in January.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Helloween with Gamma Ray [Worcester Palladium, 9/20/2008]

There will be some who will slag on me for going to this show; call me a pussy, or a poser, or some such shit because I went to see these bands rather than Deceased and their local support. These people, though, were probably not at the grindcore combine Friday night, and if they were there, they didn't see as close to as a full-on classic Helloween reunion as we are likely to ever get, especially in North America (see below).

I got out with plenty of time to spare, and ran into an old Landsmann going in; once inside, I headed for the rail through the largely empty floor. Things would fill in later, but getting in early definitely had its advantages.

Gamma Ray [7/7]
A disadvantage, though, was that I was on the rail drinking my beer and waiting for the long part of an hour before these guys went on. The advantage, of course, was that I got a top-class Gamma Ray set essentially at contact range. Unlike the last time they were here, they didn't do the full version of "Rebellion In Dreamland", but they did do "Heaven Can Wait" and "Heavy Metal Universe", plus all their festival-scale fan-participation stuff, in a hall that was filled up and actually allowed for it. Kai didn't hit all of the high notes on the records, but the performance was incredible regardless, and if they only did one song on their encore, it was after nearly and hour of normal set, and it was "Send Me A Sign", in the which process I really felt like I'd break my own neck headbanging.

Some time, someone needs to interview Dan Zimmerman rather than Kai, and at that time ask him something along the lines of "given how heavy the start of 'Empress', which you wrote. is, how come Freedom Call is uniformly so, um, poofty?" Seriously. By a significant margin, Gamma Ray had the best regular set of the night, and the authentic, hard-hitting heaviness had a lot to do with this. (The rest was having significantly more really good material, but that'll be as it may.)

During the break, I got another drink, hit the head, and picked up a Gamma Ray shirt; $25, so US bands charging more are officially on notice. I'd previously been a little peeved about the $40 asking price for tickets ($35 plus bogus "convenience" charge), but now, after Gamma Ray's actual set, I was just fine with going home after the stellar headliner-caliber performance, like I'd missed two locals and another touring band upstairs or something while waiting on the rail. Anything we got out of Helloween was going to be purely bonus.

Helloween [7/7]
This is based largely on their encore, which is also treated as a separate set below. The main part of their set was strong enough, and we got a lot of Keys material, but there was a lot stronger of a correlation between those two points than the band might have liked. You listen to the singles off the recent discs, half In Flames and half Schlaeger, and then the old stuff, and it becomes crystal clear that this band peaked ridiculously early, back in 1988, and while half of this is probably that no one else has materially surpassed the Keeper of the Seven Keys records with regard to inaugurating a power metal epoch either (okay, HammerFall's Glory to the Brave, but that CD is a lot less good than it is influential), half is that Kai Hansen wrote all the good music, and they picked Kiske over him and got the band in this mess themselves while Hansen's been doing awesome metal with pure integrity ever since. This was a decent Helloween set, but as implied from the foregoing comments, it was about to become superlative, probably the best that we're likely to get in the modern era.

HelloweenoRay [7/7]
Ingo Swichtenberg has passed on out of this world. Michael Kiske is so far away musically from the rest of the remaining lineup as to make a reunion of the living Keepers members impossible. But Jericho -- that's something else. The acrimony of the original split made it hard to contemplate, but it was still at least possible. And 'possible' became 'actually happening' as the techs dragged a fourth mic out, putting the lie to the venue ops who had turned some of the lights on. I was expecting the reunion. What we got was something entirely different.

Dan Zimmerman was out in the bus packing up his kit and making sure the local meth fiends didn't steal his cymbals or something, but every single other member who'd been on stage to this point came on back, Dirk and Markus doubling up the low end while Sascha and Henjo traded leads, Kai and Weiki ripping up their fretboards and rubbing shoulders, chatting like they haven't been moderately estranged for most of the last 20 years, and Andy Ders trying, occasionally in vain, so find somewhere to stand that didn't have a headstock flying through it. The world's best eight-member German power metal combo cranked up "Future World" and "I Want Out", to massive acclaim and backing vocals from a thousand or so fans; this was technically Helloween playing, but not Helloween the band as they currently are. This was Helloween the history, the idea, the manifestation on a stage in North America of the fundamental idea of German power metal: fast, heavy, singalong, melodic, and overall fun. If you missed it, you probably wouldn't appreciate it -- and if you did, where the hell were you, this didn't sell out or anything.

At the end of it all, it was a nice swift swing back north; next week's somewhere betweeen two and four shows, depending on if I go to Apocalyptica and this punk show Friday or just the metal gigs on the weekend. We'll see.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Wendol with Atakke, Ramming Speed, Man The Conveyors, and Unholy Goatfucker [Democracy Center, Cambridge, 9/19/2008]

Originally, this was supposed to be the middle show of a three-day stand, but that was before the Mass. DOT/DPW decided that it would be a smart thing to close the ramp onto the Pike from 95 on Thursday night. I got spun around, missed the northbound entrance, and said fuck it, by the time I fight through the southbound backup again, fuel up, and drive out to Worcester, Summoning Hate will probably be closing up. Not a good time; fortunately, I got down to this show without state or commercial interference.

I left directly from work because this was billed as a 7pm show; I got in on time, but, as per the last time I was at a gig here, the bands weren't quite there yet. The locals were loaded in, but the touring bands were still inbound; traffic was apparently really tough from New York on up, but despite the later start, none of the sets really felt cramped for time. During the intervening time, I pretty much hung around and killed some time by reading through a couple zines; Boston anarchists and a prisoners-rights group. Some people might not be comfortable having a 9 to 5 job, then showing up at an underground grind-thrash show held at an all-purpose radical clubhouse, but think about it; if you believe in the idea of the underground, it's better to take money out of the corporate system and put it into the underground, rather than refrain from doing so because you're afraid of going to cult shows.

Soon enough, though, the bands went on, and concerns of ideological economics were pretty much put aside.

Unholy Goatfucker [5/7]
This band's changed up their lineup, I think, since I last saw them back at the Midway, but the change has definitely been for the better; the sound, at least, was a lot better here, allowing the content of the music to come through. In principle, this isn't anything new; however, if you consider it old hat, you probably have even more records issued on Head Not Found and Napalm between 1995 and 1998 than I do. Unholy Goatfucker's sound hearkens back to this era of the solidification of the Norwegian black metal sound, somewhere between Gorgoroth's early stuff and bands like Twin Obscenity and Obtained Enslavement. It's at least superficially odd to hear on a bill like this -- the long-noted correspondences between black metal and punk rock notwithstanding, the sound'll fit in a lot more seamlessly when they play with One Master and Witch Tomb at the end of the month -- but still cool to hear. We're still waiting for some recorded material, but the live stuff is good as it is, and having a classic-Norweigan-sounding, corpsepainted black metal band around definitely increases the already-strong diversity of the New England black metal scene.

Man The Converyors [5/7]
With the initial wait resolved, the bands came fast and clicking. Man The Conveyors came out with a ripping set of thrashed-up grind that got the crowd moving. They had had some turmoil (allegedly, I picked this all up at the show, so there's no prior information or sources outside the band) since their last tour, but from this set, it looks like they've got their feet back under them, and definitely with enough punch to provide good entertainment for anyone into grindcore.

I picked up their CD after their set, after rehydrating, and in the booklet there's some nice explanations of the lyrics alongside the actual texts. As noted alongside one of the songs, too often radical politics becomes a scene-points contest, and there's little education to go with the advocacy; this is a good step in the opposite direction, which is kind of necessary given that people tend to gut-level oppose progressive changes until someone explains to them exactly how they benefit when everyone benefits.

Ramming Speed [6/7]
How is a bat like a pterosaur? When you answer this question, you can also answer how this band is like, say, Tankard, twenty-five years earlier. The combination of punk, hardcore, and melodic metal now sounds almost perfectly like the thrash revival, but it's convergent evolution in this case, and the result is that they're probably the most likely of the Boston party thrashers to take their sound to that higher level. Here, the execution was top-notch, and so was the response; in addition to the requisite moshing, there were also a couple abortive attempts at crowdsurfing, and, of course, you had metalheads, punks, and crusties of all stripes (patches ranging, for example, from Infest to Asbestos to Amebix to Iron Maiden to Sodom to Pungent Stench) banging along. The touring bands made a strong case for themselves, but it could also be equally argued that Ramming Speed put up the best set of the night.

I picked up their CD from Ricky after they closed up, and since they're going on tour for most of the next six weeks, I have a fair margin to review it (as I ended up not promising Jonah because I suck at replying to email) before they start calling me a hoser. Watch this space.

Atakke [6/7]
The NYC half of the traveling bill was up first, and they hit like a ton of bricks. I love the hell out of early D-thrash (in this case Kreator, Sodom, and Holy Moses -- and their actual sound, too, not just the singer's gender), and Atakke's fusion of grindpunk into their
Ruhrpott influences kicked a hell of a lot of ass. The floor may not have been as strictly nuts as during Ramming Speed, but the total area thrashed over may have been larger. This set felt a little foreshortened, but the music was good enough that it didn't really hurt. Definitely a band I've got to watch in the future, especially since they're based relatively close.

I meant to pick up their 7", but I declined to between sets; I'd have to either hold onto it through Wendol's set, or put it in my back pouch, and in the first case, someone would probably run into it, and the second, I'd almost certainly lean on it without thinking and break it in half. Supporting bands is good an sich, but I actually have a record player and hence wanted to also listen to the disc in question. Unfortunately, by the time that Wendol finished, they'd already packed their merch up; maybe order, maybe next time.

Wendol [6/7]
From melo-thrashing black metal to thrash-grind to re-evolved party thrash to grindpunk D-thrash, this show ranged all over the map genre-wise, and the final act was no exception. Wendol had a couple difficulties with the PA early, but once they hit their groove, there was no denying the quality of their nearly 50-50 mix of death metal and grindcore. They changed up straight-up death and straight-up grind section by section and track by track, but kept both integrated into a single sound; an impressive compositional feat, but if it didn't kick ass as well, it would have been for naught. Fortunately, everything worked, and this was a strong set right up to the point where the curfew came in; like Coffins the last time, they got a real encore by genuine popular demand versus the venue. Unlike Coffins, though, this felt like a fully fleshed-out set; like them, though, it was a worthy capstone to a quality show.

With the early curfew, I was able to get back home by a little after midnight, even counting time spent chasing down Wendol's guys for merch; they got in late and didn't have time, as alluded to above, to get set up before they had to set their gear up and start playing. This was their split CD and a large patch; there's a space for it on my least-built vest, but I'm not sure where yet. Next gig's tonight with Gamma Ray and Helloween; after that, things are a little up in the air.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Impaled with Phobia, Kill The Client, Illogicist, Maruta, and Defeatist [Middle East Upstairs, Cambridge, 9/9/2008]

Eighteen bands in six days is a hell of a lot of death metal. Fortunately, this concluding segment to the very-long-weekend that began with Boarcorpse on Thursday was just as eminently worthy as the previous two.

Because the show was a bit of an early start, and I was concerned that I'd miss bands as well as waste gas if I went home, I worked a little late, then drove right in; it ws a little bit of an early start, but between traffic and other built-in delays, there wasn't that much latency between when I got in and when the bands started. Unfortunately for my wallet, there was almost precisely enough time to find the one Sear Bliss DVD in the Pathos table, which predictably looted 15 bucks from my wallet and immediately handed the money to Dwyer before jumping into my vest pocket and zipping itself in. Beware black/death metal with trombones; they'll jump you and make you purchase them.

Defeatist [4/7]
Defeatist opened the proceedings with a decent, fairly standard-form grindcore set. As I'm not really a grindcore fan, there wasn't a lot in it that really stood out for me, but the execution was front-to-back solid, at least; grind basically is as grind is, so those who were here for the more grind half of the bill probably dug the hell out of this band. Other mainly-death-metal-fans, maybe not so much, but it was a decent set, and I'm sure that nobody minded their presence or anything.

Maruta [5/7]
I missed this band at the NEDF because I was a goober and didn't go to the first day, and while people who'd seen them earlier ranked this set below their prior performance, it was still a nice sharp deathgrind outing. Sure, they don't have a bassist, but they seem to be getting along just fine without one; the guitarist showed a lot of chops using his seventh string to build low-end while not letting the lower notes dominate over what he was doing on the higher strings. Solid grind, with nice tech chops on top; good stuff.

They had jacket parts, so I ended up picking up a patch in addition to their CD; it'll take some arranging to place and sew it in to maximum effect, but it'll look pretty cool as a finished product. Now I just need to get those other parts from Hell's Headbangers and order that Celtic badge...

Illogicist [5.5/7]
These guys put out a good set, but in any other city, it probably would have rated substantially better. Why? Because in Boston, we have Revocation, who do basically everything that Illogicist do in the line of tech-death, only better and at bar shows like, every other week. This isn't a knock on Illogicist, who played some great tunes, but just an assessment of bad luck that they may have had with their audience selection. If you could get past the "wait, Dave and Phil are down here in the audience, so how are they on stage too?" angle, this was a good set, and if they brought coals to Newcastle, at least it was some nice coal that contrasted well with the grind-heavy balance of the bill.

Kill The Client [6/7]
Nothing but high-quality, straight-from-the-shoulder grindcore. Where Phobia and Maruta did some balance of deathgrind/grind-death (yes, there is a difference, though you may need to own all of Carcass' demos on tape and the entire Swans back catalog to determine exactly what) and Defeatist had a fair salting of death elements, KTC just went straight for the throat with loud, violent, grind. The motion started to pick up in the crowd at this point, maybe because there were more people in, and likely partly because the vocalist dived off the stage a couple times to get things brewing himself. In addition to the rampage through their own material, they also did an Infest cover, which I didn't recognize because the top patch on my main jacket is from Running Wild. (If you're concerned that you may be automatically disqualified to comment on grindcore, don't worry; you already are. Fortunately, nobody cares.)

Phobia [6/7]
It's been a while since I actually listened to the one Phobia record that I've acquired over the years, but though I couldn't recognize any individual songs, the overall sound, grind with a ferocious death punch, was completely familiar. The band killed as could be expected, with the final result being the best grind set of the night, a hard mark given the competition, but seriously, this is Phobia, and excellence is expected. Were this just a grind tour, and they the headliners, I doubt that anyone would have been bummed about this as a headlining set -- though a pure grind tour involving fewer bands would also likely mean longer sets for everyone, and a couple more tunes couldn't've hurt here.

Impaled [7/7]
Impaled, though, crushed all; part of this is that my tastes play into their thrashed-up death style, and part of it is that they kicked ass on a lot of strong material over a nice meaty set. The uniforms were a touch gimmicky, but like other costumed bands that I could mention, they were having fun with it, though perhaps a little subdued to avoid rubbing any of the 'no fun - no mosh - no core' crowd who might have showed up at this show the wrong way. (Though, seriously, who believes in that stuff and goes to a show with Phobia this high on the bill? No idea.) As might be expected when you have six bands and a hard 12:15 curfew, their set was a little shorter than most people might have wanted, but they recognized the time limitations and announced that they were skipping the "let's pretend to walk off the stage lolz" bullshit, and just going straight into the encore portion of the set. Good music, and better honesty; I'm sure that most metalheads would gladly put the planned-encore phenomenon to death in order to get another song in the three minutes the band usually spends jacking around waiting for the crowd to make enough noise.

Alas, shows at the Middle East have to stop the music right on 12:15, so this one did have to come to an end. I headed north and made good time, assisted by not hitting anything; come Saturday, I'll be back down for Wargasm's reunion, but until then, just resting up.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Carcass with Suffocation, Necrophagist, Dying Fetus, 1349, Rotten Sound, Beneath The Massacre, and Veil of Maya [Worcester Palladium, 9/5/2008]

The reunion tour of the summer came around and fulfilled all expectations; I'm still nearly knocked out from exhaustion and such, but even if there hadn't been Summoning Hate et al on Thursday night and Impaled coming on Tuesday, this would be well sufficient for any weekend.

I took a half day from work, and as later comments will show, probably should have just taken the whole day off. Regardless, I had plenty of time to get fueled up and into the Palladium on time. Since I didn't particularly care about Veil of Maya, and because the gig started so early that most people were still at work, I didn't have much difficulty picking up a couple (very expensive) shirts from the merch stand. The weak dollar is probably as much to blame as greed; if you could buy anything in England with twelve quid, maybe Carcass would be a little more sanguine about a $25 price point.

Veil of Maya [4/7]
The most ill-matched band to this bill (well, maybe next to 1349), it's difficult to see even why they're touring with Dying Fetus. They weren't any better or more interesting than their previous appearance at the NEMHCF, and probably the best part of their set was that most of the ninjas got their energy out doing backflips in the empty pit, and didn't go injuring people during the later bands. This was the sole band of the night where I was, seriously, scratching my head wondering how people get into this kind of music; repetitive riffs and unineteresting composition. Maybe it's a moshing thing, but more people were more violent for the next band, and I thought that was why old thrash metal was coming back anyway.

Beneath The Massacre [5/7]
This, on the other hand, was a nice set of straight-ahead mosh music. Beneath The Massacre does not do a whole lot of variety, but fast, dense, tight, deathcore, they do in spades, and they do it very well. I'm not a huge fan of this style without the other adornments of, say, a Dying Fetus, but the execution here was absolutely dead-on. I was up in front of the mixing stand, but it sure looked like those on the floor were enjoying the hell out of the band. Good stuff, even if just for the technical aspect.

Rotten Sound [6/7]
I really can't explain how this band didn't get more of a reaction than they did. The singer's accent was a little dense, but they were still the only 100% grindcore band opening up for Carcass, and people had been thrashing mightily just before they went on. Maybe a different audience; Rotten Sound did a hell of a good performance, and while there was some moshing, this set downstairs at the Middle East -- or, seriously, upstairs here -- would have been a sea of flying bodies most of the way through. Alas, most of the kids who came for Heartwork have no idea who Trap Them are, so the reference and the shirt were probably for naught.

On the other hand, it seemed like everyone who is in a metal or grind band in New England turned out for this -- namedropping said bands individually would take up probably more space than several actual review entries -- and they definitely did pick up on it.

1349 [5/7]
Aborted dropped or didn't show up or something, so 1349 got slightly longer after a slightly longer wait, and from where I was standing made the most of it. I don't know whether they've developed since I last heard them, or if it was just the soundboard fucking up again, but I didn't recall them having so many black-and-roll tunes previously. It made the fit with the rest of the bill a little better, but they're 1349, not Vried, and their more directly chaotic black metal personally came off better.

Dying Fetus [6.5/7]
I really had to go back and check -- did I really never see Dying Fetus before? Well, I missed them at NEDF, and they were touring last fall and I had to go to Texas, I think, rather than seeing them at the Middle East. Before that, I was probably in Germany and before that, in Michigan and/or dead broke. Not so hard to believe after all. I'm not as into DF as the other bands remaining, but this was a great, powerful set, showing off a lot of death-grind punch and a good amount of variety in its application. Good stuff -- now I've just got to remember to go see them when they come around with a headlining slot.

At the conclusion of their set, they told people to stick around for Necrophagist; on one level, this was cool, because there had been a lot of uncertainty about the lineup -- a kind of Champion's League of death metal, with all the early angst about who was going to make it through the qualis -- and it wasn't concretely established that Necrophagist was going to play here, period. On the other hand, it was concerning -- how in the hell does Necrophagist play after Dying Fetus in North America, even supporting Carcass? I mean, I'm much more into Necro than DF, and it sounds weird even to me.

Necrophagist [7/7]
The new drummer's no Marco Minneman, but was definitely up to the standard of their previous material. Naturally, the set as a consequence wasn't as stunning as their headlining appearance at last year's Summer Slaughter, but merely up to their previous standards of ridiculous technicality. This was a top-class set of tech-death, but as good as the band was, even better was the announcement from Muhammed that there's going to be another Necrophagist album, and that they'll be back next year on Summer Slaughter. The tour's less important -- even though it assures that unlike this year's iteration, the package will unilaterally be worth seeing -- than the notice that the preeminent Turco-German musician of his generation isn't ready to trade in his guitar for an AutoCAD workstation just yet. As good as this band is, whenever Muhammed decides that he's going to get on with the rest of his life, it'll be a sad day, but the knowledge that we'll get at least another full-length out of them, plus the as-yet-unnamed Suicmez/Minneman collaboration that's in the works, is a definite positive.

Suffocation [7/7]
I hit the floor at this point, taking advantage of the change in style to get down on the rail. Doing otherwise with a bad knee would be little short of suicidal; as it was, I saw relatively little of Suffocation as opposed to listening to them while keeping a weather eye on the crowd to keep myself and those around me from getting totally wrecked. The music was ripping as usual, including a brand new song from the forthcoming record, which sounded as supremely finished as you'd expect from a Suffocation composition, even though they're still working on the disc in question. Frank also provided a nice sense of history, referencing their past swings with Carcass back in the early '90s, and Suffocation provided an eminently headliner-quality set of slammingly brutal death metal. Killer stuff, but the best was still to come.

Carcass [7/7]
This was what we'd been waiting for since the reunion was announced, and for those who remembered how successful Heartwork was for the band, there's no way they came away disappointed. (Those who somehow forgot shouldn't be chastised too severely; this was, after all, 15 years ago.) This was a longer and slightly deeper set than they did in Germany, but -- perhaps because I had that prior experience, or perhaps because Ken didn't fly over to make a special appearance as he did at Wacken -- in some way not quite as amazing. This was still, of course, Carcass, and ripping through a bunch of killer material as though they'd never been gone, but just great, rather than historically great. The only unfortunate part was, as usual, that they didn't go on longer, but "A Night with Carcass" might have been a harder sell for a band that's been out of commission for 15 years than a conventional tour like this.

Finally, the stage techs rather than the band came out to break the backline down as the autopsy footage rolled, and it was time to head home. It wasn't until after I got onto 128, though, that getting less than three hours' sleep after Summoning Hate the night before (viz "trap show" comments way back up at the top) really started to hit, and I didn't have enough of C.W. McCall's "shot[s] of black C" to make it back reliably without running the car into anything. Luckily, my work is on the way back, so I could take a detour to get an "hour of Zs" in the parking garage and recharge. Well, 30 minutes, but it was enough, and I'm still alive, and if it wasn't absolutely the best show that it could possibly have been, you can't honestly argue with the quality of the actual performances involved.

There's been a fair bit of grousing around some of the circumstantials here, stopping just short of suggesting that Carcass is doing this reunion mainly for the money; high merch prices, most of the set from their mst popular works, et cetera. Those burned up about this should bear the following two points in mind:

1) Every reunion of a successful band after a long layoff is to at least some degree driven by economic factors. Every single one, from Black Sabbath on down.
2) This reunion would not have happened if Holger Hubner had not sat down with Jeff, Bill, and a suitcase containing one million euros, and said "It's yours if you get the band back together and play Wacken and Bloodstock".

The last is a paraphrase, sure, but there have been too many rumors of the million-euro guarantee floating around in the last two years to overlook it entirely. Just from Jeff's commentary in the limited windows that I've seen the band, it's pretty clear that the band is still not terribly happy with the Swansong material and how that record turned out, and that they're not tremendously comfortable with going on as Carcass without Ken Owen in the mix. Instead of grousing about commercialism, people should instead be happy that Carcass is going out and executing with professionalism, passion, and artistic integrity in the middle of what is a fundamentally commercial endeavor. It's possible to do a bad reunion if the band is solely stuck together for the cash, but the Carcass guys still actually like one another, and can still go back to those early days in Midlands clubs while they're on stage, even if it's 20 years on, and they're playing in the US to, largely, people who were in elementary school when Symphonies of Sickness was being written. I'm not crazy about paying 30 bucks for a shirt either, but if this tour doesn't math out as a commercial prospect six months ago, they don't do it, and the band is drinking beers with Ken right now, counting the payoff from the summer's festivals, and there's no Carcass reunion for us in North America. Those who were there got a hell of a lot more Carcass than anyone thought they'd ever get even five years ago, and even if this is all the Carcass we get for another fifteen years, there's a hell of a lot of quality in their performance here to last, Kommerz or no Kommerz.

Next gig is probably Impaled -- who will probably never be accused of commercialism -- and after that Wargasm -- another reunion, but probably with a significantly smaller profit motive -- both at the Middle East. For now, I'm just recovering, and just glad there's no shows I have to feel bad about missing.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Summoning Hate with Hirudinea, Parasitic Extirpation, and Boarcorpse [O'Brien's, Allston, 9/4/2008]

More than either a tuneup show for Carcass -- or a trap show, depending on your perspective -- this was an excellent reminder of why we like death metal so damn much, a vindication for the concept of living close to a metro area large enough to do diverse DIY shows, and a mighty fine time for a Thursday night that for once didn't involve driving to Worcester.

As usual, I mis-estimated how long it takes me to walk from Cambridge to Allston, even on a bum leg and with traffic, so I ended up getting in well before the bands started; this was a decent opportunity to sit around, drink beer -- well, PBR -- and get bored with the lack of action or entertainment value in the Giants-Redskins game. When you're not emotionally invested in an American football game, it's a little easier to see how little of the time spent watching it is spent watching live game action rather than slow-motion replays of players you don't care about. At least in a soccer game that you don't care about, there's something going on all the time, even if relatively little of it translates directly into scoring.

Also, a bunch of old white people were having some kind of party in Minnesota that they kept cutting away to. Seriously, what the hell is that.

Boarcorpse [5/7]
Fortunately, the bands started, and Boarcorpse provided a more than adequate opening. Their lineup for this gig, one of their first if I recall correctly, was the same as when the band was called Ouch, but it's definitely clear that this band is a different animal. They still don't quite have it together to the point that they'd probably like to, but the experimentation was more focused and brutal here, the material tighter, than on the demo that I'd gotten from them last year. This was a solid if short set of somewhat grindy death metal with a few modern-rock touches; good stuff, and as this band continues to develop and get a feel for their sound, they'll likely continue to improve.

Parasitic Extirpation [6.5/7]
Yes, this was total Suffocation-worship. However, when a band can pull off Suffocation's dense, technical brutality and really do it well, they're worth listening to, and seriously, the next time Suffocation plays a local bar show for seven bucks, I'll be there with bells on. Seriously. I will straight up sew those little Christmas jingle bells onto my rig in strategic locations in order to emphasize correctly how awesome such an occurance would be. On topic, this was not quite as slambolic as might be surmised from seeing current Dysentery and Proteus members in the lineup, but even those who may have come down solely for the slam couldn't've gone away unhappy with the output. It may have been by a narrow margin over the two to come, but PE did put on the best set of the night.

Hirudinea [6/7]
I hadn't seen Hirudinea in like forever -- actually, since 2007, probably in like June at the Skybar, which feels like it's been dead and gone for ages, but what the hell -- and initially wasn't sure if they'd changed their lineup around, until, of course, they kicked it up with some good old raw grindblack, and I stopped caring in preference to just enjoying the music. The phrase "locked up with a Burzum tape" is overused as a throwaway signifier for bands that use lo-fi droning and want to add some underground cachet, so there has to be another way to express how strongly the black metal portion of Hirudinea's sound is rooted in Burzum's and Darkthrone's demo phases, while still pointing up that they use this sound to create really cool music. I don't listen to enough grindcore to capture the other sources in the mix, but any time you have a band opening up with riffs that sound cribbed from Kreator's "Phobia" and "Bomb Threat", this should be sufficient. The sound seemed a little low for them throughout the set, but nothing was buried, and the mix allowed every instrument to come through....except the backing vocals, which kind of got lost in places, probably due to equipment issues with the mic.
This set also felt foreshortened; at a DIY show, especially one where load-in and load-out have to go through the crowd and through one door, there's not a lot of room for cracking the whip, and Boston apparently has a 12:15 curfew to keep these gigs from running longer, but the quality of all the bands on this one really makes you yearn for those slightly longer opening slots on national shows, and also for a venue outside the city where the bands can get to play a little longer.

Summoning Hate [6/7]
The crowd had dipped a little after Parasitic Extirpation, an unfortunate side effect of having a nice diverse show like this, where bands draw largely from different bases, on a Thursday night when most people have to work in the morning, but came back up as the Summoning Hate crew arrived in full force. The band rose to the occasion as well; this was the first time that I'd seen them since Juan left and they added the second guitar, but the sound was still thick and thrashy, and definitely up to prior standards. Their set seemed to run a little longer than the bands that preceded them, but still felt too short, despite the tons of thrash-death that they put out, including a couple tunes with Juan back on vocals at the end. Good music, a good bit of movement, and a great cap-off to a great night.

On my way out I hit the Parasitic merch table as Blue was packing it up, and picked up some pins and a Dysentery sticker; because I was more concentrating on the two miles I'd have to walk to pick my car back up, I didn't notice that one of the pins didn't have any actual pin in the back. This isn't much of a problem, though, as I still did get a couple complete ones, and better I take the un-assembled one than someone who only takes one and then finds they can't pin it anywhere. Next, tonight, is of course CARCASS! -- and Necrophagist and 1349 and Dying Fetus and Aborted and allegedly Rotten Sound as well, but the real draw is the scousers slinging the Tools of the Trade once again.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Nightwish with Sonata Arctica [Worcester Palladium, 8/30/2008]

Somehow, I got my wires crossed on this show and thought Amorphis was opening here instead of a month later with Samael. Hence, I came out when I might have otherwise given this one a pass.

I got in a little early, so while there was a huge lineup -- comparable to the Pelican/Thrice show or the first night of Metalfest -- I was easily able to get parking in the normal lot. This was made possible by the demographics of the show; a lot of kids and one-band fans, who either got dropped off or don't go to shows and hence don't know the good parking areas and ended up in one of the neighboring garages. The negative of the demographics was that I was stuck in line for almost an hour with these people, and while I didn't have my knife on me, I unfortunately didn't have any beer either, and wasn't in a country where drinking on the sidewalk alleviates rather than increases hassle anyway. Somehow I made it all the way up to the door without anyone dying, and got inside.

As usual on shows of this type, the bar was mostly empty and the merch stand plugged. Fortunately, after discovering that Sonata Arctica, rather than Amorphis, was opening, I had zero need to do merch, so I stood around and drank a couple beers before the bands started.

Sonata Arctica [5/7]
Amazingly, the band was fairly on, and their sound wasn't terrible despite the board, for some reason, burying the guitar and turning their first song and a half into an effective duet between bass and keytar. (Yes, keytar. One suspects that they know what fans of heavier brands of metal think of them -- seriously, there's only about as many people in Finland as in greater Boston -- and are deliberately twisting their tails.) The guitar, when you could hear it, was in tune throughout, a major first for this band that calls into question exactly what the hell was wrong with their guitar techs in 2005. If they played as good a set as this at Wacken this year, I didn't entirely notice it; what it felt like here was that Stratovarius should be knashing their teeth in frustration, as they were 10 years too early with this Finnish-ultra-melodic power metal to gain mainstream American recognition -- and Edguy should be pissed off that they stole the chords and half the lyrics from "Painting On The Wall" and turned it into a lame power ballad. They closed with "The Cage", but didn't do "Wolf & Raven", and on the whole there was not a whole ton of speed on the program. This was about the best set that I've ever seen from this band, but what this good performance showed was not only the band's abilities, but the limits of their material, in terms of not only metalness but total quality. On tour with Gamma Ray or Stratovarius, they might not play quite this set, but it's difficult to argue that this isn't where they feel themselves most comfortable. This was the most metal set of the night, but with only two bands, and these two bands, that isn't saying a whole hell of a lot.

Nightwish [5/7]
Germany is a little weird, and Germans have weird tastes. This gets brought up because German musical tastes, as an important factor in Europe's largest market for metal, are a main reason in why Nightwish has come to prominence, and gets to play shows like this with people thinking they are mostly a metal band. There are still metal elements in their sound, but it's difficult to argue that stuff like "Bye Bye Beautiful" (the opener here) and "Wish I Had An Angel" (the obligato closer, even still) is more than a hair away from Schlaeger, the weird Germanic folk-pop-disco genre that translates exactly nowhere that was not part of the Holy Roman Empire. A lot of their material fits into this bucket to a greater or lesser degree as well, and the change in singers has only exacerbated this trend; Anette is a better singer than Tarja, but much more of a rock singer, and doesn't have her predecessor's operatic top-end range. The expectation, therefore, is that Nightwish will in the future move more mainstreamward, and introduce their American audience to what they haven't really been missing from female-fronted Eurock bands like Juli and Silbermond. The content of the set was much the same as in Germany, but longer with more emphasis on the new material rather than the old; it would ahve been awesome to hear them do "Deep Silence Complete" or, preferably, "Sacrament of Wilderness", but this is probably never going to happen. The execution was very good, but the content was only debatably more metal than the likes of Autumn Above or, for national audiences (admittedly ones with weird tastes), The Soil Bleeds Black. Six of one, half a dozen of the other at this show; not ultimately satisfying, but the music was at least uniformly entertaining.

Also, the show got out early, in order to make sure the audience got home by their bedtimes (ripping on the young never goes out of style), so I was able to blast along the highway and get back home shortly after midnight. They were passing out flyers for Rock & Shock on the way out, but I didn't pick one up; I've already got the dates in my show calendar, and the atmosphere is going to be much like this gig, except with fewer children and more juggalos. Not sure which is preferable, or if I'll make it to Zircon tonight, but Summoning Hate on Thursday is a cert, and then I've got a half-day on Friday to make sure I'm on site and pumped up when doors open for CARCASS!! on Friday.