Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Terminally Your Aborted Ghost with Composted, Dysentery, Proteus, Archaeon, and Brutal #2 [Welfare Records, Haverhill, 4/7/2008]

Early-week shows are always kind of tough; people are back at work or school after the weekend, and are just caught up in the grind rather than seeking to actively escape it. This may have been the reason that this show wasn't as well-attended as it ought to have been, but it also may well have been a strong reason why TYAG wanted to do start their tour with three fairly-local shows early in the week, both to get the bugs out in front of the home crowd, and also to hit into the first leg of their travels on a weekend. As it was, this was a good show that would have been better with more doods, but still was about as good value as you could get for eight bucks on a Monday night.

Since the show was starting kind of early, I had to go right up from work, and got up to Haverhill about a quarter past six. I figured I'd miss a band or two, which would suck, but as it turned out, the music hadn't started yet, and I was able to wolf down my overpriced ghetto pies outside and get in with time to spare. Eventually, a DIY show will start on time somewhere, but until then, people stuck in traffic can relax a little.

Brutal #2 [5/7]
I hadn't seen this band live previously, but I did remember not being terribly impressed with their demo; this, though, was recorded nearly a year ago, and they've come a long way in the intervening time. They haven't yet set themselves apart as one of the top death metal bands in this area, but as the rest of the bill will show, this is wicked hard considering the depth of the New England scene, and they put on a solid, bruising set regardless. They've got a lot of ability, and the way it's being used has definitely improved since their last recording; whether they continue to push it up, or continue to play good meat-and-potatoes death metal, they'll continue to provide good music and good entertainment regardless.

Archaeon [5/7]
From a certain perspective, Archaeon has more potential than any other band on this bill. Of course, that perspective has to also admit that they were about the rawest band of the night (this being about their third show, if I recall correctly), and to a certain degree it did show in their performance. Less slammy than the surrounding bands, they set forth a strong set of highly insular brutal death metal that unfortunately was marred by a couple hitches where everything wasn't quite together yet. I like their style a little more, in general, than the slam-death offered in the main here, but they also hopefully impressed the other attendees enough with their chops that people will look for them on bills once they've got a little more experience and a little stronger sense of themselves as a band.

It was about here that I did the merch bit; I picked up an Archaeon shirt as well as a tour shirt and a kutte part from TYAG, and talked with Mark a bit; he recognized me from RTTP and OH NOES MAI COVER IS TEH BLOED. :roll: Well enough; it's hard to be anonymous when you're regularly in attendance at gigs where there's often only a handful of people not in one of the bands on the bill. I was also cursing my mostly empty wallet; I wanted to pick up a Composted shirt, but was running out of belt space and, not having seen Proteus before, didn't know what if anything I'd need to drop on them.

Proteus [6/7]
This was a splendidly killer set, with a sound that only TYAG really approached in its absolute diversity; as though Neurosis won a battle with half a dozen slam-death bands and carried away their breakdowns as trophies. At times, when they were locked in and going on for minutes at a time, it seemed like their set consisted entirely of one huge breakdown, and while this was not really the case, even if it had been, they definitely raised the slam break to the level of a high art. They had a few issues with the bass, but they were mostly corrected before they interrupted the run of the set, and the band succeeded in imposing their will on the crowd regardless. The set felt a little short; the set lengths on this gig were fairly short generally, to pack six bands and four stage changes (Composted and TYAG, for obvious reasons, use all the same gear) into four hours, but a really good set always feels shorter than it is.

At this point I picked up Proteus' CD, and was officially out of useful cash. Another $20, and I could have swung shirts from both them and Composted. I'm not sure whether to blame the need for Epic Leg Armor, or just the fact that I need to eat food, but regardless, it's pretty bogus.

Dysentery [6/7]
Dysentery was also in top form, and more so than when I last saw them, showed off their chops in addition to slam as well as the subtle technical demands that are still present when they're just dug in and blasting. Of course, this may be due to being that much closer to the band, and actually seeing their whole set as much as anything, but their music flowed together smoothly, and as before, also hit like a house to the face. There may not have been as much movement as they might have liked, despite the contributions of the Proteus guys, but a likely explanation is that Will was kind of constrained by having to hold onto the mic and do vocals, and thus couldn't flip out as much for his own band.

Composted [5.5/7]
Those expecting to see the visual spectacle that this band's presented in the past may have been let down; this was Composted Lite, with no costumes or props, probably because 3/4 of the band was going to be spending the next 3 weeks living out of the back of a van as Terminally Your Aborted Ghost. They were also down to a four-piece, with Eliot switching to bass, and this did have a material result, as the sound wasn't as thick or dense as when I saw them at O'Brien's with two guitarists. Even without gimmicks and with a less dense sound, though, Composted did put up a strong set, and quite as funny as expected. There was a little more fan participation in this one than the last time, probably because the stakes were lower and people just had to sit down for the intro rather than risk getting baked goods all over themselves. Unfortunately, my knee didn't bend all the way and I also failed at even sitting down. Fortunately, this was the sole piece of fail manifested during this show.

Terminally Your Aborted Ghost [5.5/7]
The score stuck onto this performance illustrates the problems -- and, actually, a signal critical failing -- of trying to attach an arbitrary number to a holistic experience. I was really impressed by TYAG musically, but their skills and sound couldn't quite erase a bunch of purely incidental stuff that cut into the experience; namely, Mark breaking a string and the room energy (the band less so, even though 75% of them had just done a full set as Composted) slowly running down towards the end. Fortunately, this all is stuff that the band will work out as they get back into touring mode; they'll be more solid as they work with and get used to a regular setlist, and Mark's too much of a pro to regularly go breaking strings, and in most cases, they won't be playing on a Monday night mostly to people in other bands on the gig, and their real abilities will cut through more significantly. On hearing these guys, it's clearly apparent why they've had such a high profile despite an extended period of inactivity; their sound represents a fairly perfect fusion of hardcore, grind, and death metal actually done right, and blending in a bunch of stuff that most bands combining those genre buckets will never think to include. Despite the technical difficulties, this was a really good musical performance, and if you see them on this current run, whether at one of the remaining New England dates, somewhere else in the country, or on the last day of the tour in Yonkers with Vital Remains and Monstrosity, you're quite likely to have an even better time of it.

The music over and the venue nearly empty, I stumped my way back to the T lot to get home, and thankfully avoided further injury en route. Four hours of quality death metal - not at all bad for a Monday night.

Friday, April 04, 2008

(Joe Stump) with Gwynbleidd, Dreaded Silence, and Revocation [Ralph's, Worcester, 4/3/2008]

After missing a total of four shows over the previous weekend thanks to a major injury about an hour before Vital Remains' first show of their current tour was due to start, I was anxious to get back into action, and it was thus that I armored up my bad knee for the drive out to Worcester; Metal Thursday is usually a good time, and this was a pretty exceptional lineup. Of course, this was all nearly knocked into a cocked hat when I ran over someone's thrown tread doing 70 while trying to pass a semi on the Mass Pike; said mat of rubber and steel was lying folded up in the middle of the center lane, and bounced like hell as I hit it -- there was no report or jerk from the wheels under me, but when you hit something big as those speeds, assuming that there's no tire damage is kind of stupid. Fortunately, there was a rest stop within a couple miles, and I didn't feel the tires deflating on the way, so I could spend five minutes punching rubber and comparing the left (hit) and right (didn't) sides in a lighted parking lot rather than on the shoulder with occasional traffic screaming past at relatavistic speeds. The verdict was no flats, and I continued on, losing only about 10 minutes and fortunately zero tires.

I didn't get to Ralph's till about 9:30, but didn't end up missing anything; one of Dreaded Silence's guys was late coming down, so the start time got pushed back and Revocation switched slots with them to open. I got a beer, got on the hook for a couple records from Oak Knoll, and picked up Gwynbleidd's CD; I declined a shirt at this point, but picked one up later. If, though, they'd have mentioned anything about sounding more than a little like Primordial up front, I'd've saved time and they'd've got their second ten faster.

Revocation [7/7]
This was debatably the best set that I've seen from these guys, which is really saying something; they were absolutely on top of their game, even when Dave accidentally rocked his cable out of his jack, and the new material -- in addition to the old stuff, even going back to their earliest days as Cryptic Warning (they opened with "Snakestrike" in a new and improved form) -- is absolutely ace. "Age of Iniquity" hit like a ton of bricks, perhaps not least because there's an extended section that really sounds like a reworked Imperium song (I think "Messiah Mask", but I'll have to go back and check), magnified, of course, and refocused into Revocation's existing and evolving style. Empire of the Obscene is really looking like it's going to be one of the better albums of the year, even with Diminishing Between Worlds already in the books. Hopefully, it'll see a decent label release as well as the band's private distribution, but with no signing announcement, either Revocation haven't inked with anyone yet or they're keeping it seriously close to the vest.

Even before Revocation went on, Dan and some of the other guys from Dreaded Silence were grousing a little about having to follow them; not seriously, but still recognizing that it's kind of difficult to get up after these guys and be confident about making an impression. The singer of Gwynbleidd made similar remarks on stage when they came up, and while both subsequent bands definitely put up really good sets, the atmosphere points out something about Revocation that is probably a strong contributing element to their success: even though they're often so good as to seriously intimidate other bands, they're by and large ego-free about where and when they play in the setlist, and have not, as far as I can recall (or can know, not being directly involved in booking anything), ever pushed to go on later when taking an earlier slot would help another band. This generosity may, of course, be made possible by being so intimidatingly good -- even if Revocation played at 4pm on the second stage at Mark's (provided, of course, that the entire band huffed a vanfull of crazy-stupid gas and somehow ended up on a Mark's bill), they'd make enough of an impression that people'd be jawing about them well into the touring portion of the bill -- but being sozial is something that other bands remember, and in some if perhaps slight degree helps them get shows.

Dreaded Silence [5.5/7]
lol Dreaded Silence moar liek Dreaded Sentenced amirite lol
Ok, now that that is out of the system, on to the more serious comments. While this was the most Sentenced-like performance I've seen out of the band (in the prior two shows, they displayed a little more range of Scandinavian influences), it was also the
best, so far, and their ability to capture the Amok sound and do something that stands on its own (as their material does) as well as drawing from the past is in itself impressive. They started out a little rough, but quickly hit their stride, and delivered a really good set that would have been a standout most other nights; fortunately, the Metal Thursday crowd is pretty much uniformly able to recognize that one band being ridiculous has no effect on other bands being really good.

When DS closed up, it was pushing on towards midnight, and my ability to keep standing throughout was starting to wane. Even with the brace, that knee was still damaged, and standing even remotely near the front while Chris (Zircon and also organizer) and Crazy Dan were flying around all over the place was a little risky. Topped with exhaustion and how late things were going to have to go if I stayed to the end, it was at about this point that I started to think about pulling before the headliner.

Gwynbleidd [6.5/7]
If you missed this band's set and spent any portion of last night whining about how all American bands are the same, and how it sucks that bands like Primordial don't tour here barely ever, you need to punch yourself in the face repeatedly. First, because you're a wanker who didn't go out to support a good show, and second, because in not supporting this show, you missed a killer set from about as close a band to Primordial as we have in this country. Gwynbleidd's sound draws on other elements as well (some nice chunks of Katatonia and Daylight Dies interwoven to good effect), and the result is thoroughly their own, but the base of their sound is the same Gaelic black metal as inspires Alan and the bhoys. The doomy, folkic, aggression was much welcomed as the clock slopped around past midnight and fatigue and drunkenness started to get the upper hand over adrenaline, but the crowd -- at least those who remained up front, not intimidated by the basically uncontained pit. This was an excellent performance, with enough material not on Amaranthine to make those who have this record very enthusiastic about the prospect of another EP or album down the line -- and those who didn't turn out ought to be disappointed in themselves for missing it. I'm bummed enough that I missed them the last time around (in September), but I think I was in Texas at the time and couldn't do much about it.

When I got my shirt off them afterwards, I stopped to talk a bit, but somehow forgot to mention Rohirrim, who would complement these guys really well on a bill like this, but who due to the provenance of their origin, always seem to be stuck out of place on grind shows. It's a match that ought to happen eventually, but it's more of a promoter's lookout to get such bands together than mine or theirs.

Shirt in hand and wallet more or less empty, I checked myself over: past 00:30, knee wavering, and an hour and a half plus fill-up time remaining to get home -- and an actual commute in the morning to not kill myself driving. Regretfully, I hit the stairs; no Joe Stump tonight, but while I was impressed with his virtuosity the last time out, the degree of variety in his stuff left something to be desired, and if I had to pick out one of these bands to miss, his would probably have been the one anyways. I felt like crud bailing before the end, but it's better than ending up in bloody chunks on the road this morning, and given that my knee's nowhere near completely healed, three bands out in Worcester is a fair challenge of its own. The Symphony X show tonight is looking sold out, so it's a nice relaxing weekend of resting up and potentially camping -- and then pure chaos Monday night in Haverhill as what seems like every slam band in New England gets together to chuck Terminally Your Aborted Ghost out onto the road for their reunion tour.