Monday, May 19, 2008

Coffins with The Endless Blockade, Scapegoat, Raw Radar War, and Noosebomb [Democracy Center, Cambridge, 5/16/2008]

I left work a little later than I had anticipated; France didn't follow through on something, and I was stuck waiting around to officially conclude that it didn't happen. Nevertheless, I got moving a little after 5:15, figuring that even fi hitting doors was out of the question, I at least ought to be able to get there by the official start. Unfortunately, this also turned out to be desperately unrealistic. At 7, the scheduled start time, I had barely gotten parked, much less walked the mile up to the venue, which was located about across from the Harvard dorm that I saw my last Cambridge gig in. Fortunately and unfortunately (explained later), several of the local openers had also gotten stuck in traffic, so the show didn't get started immediately.

More to the point, the show didn't get started expediently in any kind of reasonable sense. First the organizers were waiting for Scapegoat to show, then for Noosebomb to agree to take their slot, then for said band to get set up and rolling; this took until -- if my hazy recollection is right -- about 8:30, at which point the gig was thoroughly on PRST (Punk Rock Standard Time), which would have a lot of unpleasant consequences.

Noosebomb [5/7]
Noosebomb, when they finally subbed in, though, definitely was viewed as a positive development. After in most people's cases an hour or so of standing around without music, their straightforward crunch was more than welcome, whether the listeners in question were there more for grind or for death metal. In a nutshell, those unfamiliar with the band will do fine with the description "as if Motorhead was influenced by Hellhammer, instead of the other way around"; a raw and dirty sound both black and rockish, music that picks its spot, whether to avoid getting pigeonholed as grind, punk, or black metal, or just to rock the fuck out. Good stuff, and they were one of the few bands to get a proper set time.

At this point I went back to the parlor -- this gig was in basically a house, which is apparently normally in use for leftist sociopolitical pursuits -- and hit the merch tables. I had the cash and interest to support both touring bands, and in the process provided Coffins with some free surrealism by doing my merch transaction entirely in Japanese. This was made possible not only by a lot of time watching anime set in the real world, but also by the tendency of the language to leave words out. Ordering CDs and shirts is not hard if you know "this", "that", "the one over there", and a couple colors. Regardless, it worked like intended, with about the usual transaction content that I get when buying stuff off bands in English or German, and the guys didn't really catch on until the end. Amerika ni youkosou, Coffins -- hen na yatsu ni kiyotsukerro.

Raw Radar War [5/7]
This band took the show back in a more punk direction with a solid set of Boston hardcore in the traditional style. There were a few slower, sludgy parts, but the main focus was on straightforward aggro. They also got a decent-length set, and they definitely justified the time with a good performance. As with Noosebomb, and indeed as with all the bands up through Coffins, there was not a lot of movement in the audience, whether from people saving themselves for the headliners, or just because there was a high emphasis placed on not damaging the venue unnecessarily. While hardcore and grindcore are both always better with people moving around, the band and the audience both had a good time despite the lack of turbulence.

Scapegoat [5/7]
I stepped out to get a drink from the convenience store next door -- an absolute essential at a dry show -- and came back to see Craig (Weapons Grade, the promoter) crossing off RRW as he'd previously crossed off Noosebomb; I figured that Scapegoat would get cut from the bill for not showing up, and the touring bands would be starting up next. This was not the case, as Scapegoat, having rolled up while the first two bands were going on, did get their chance to play, even if it was an extremely abbreviated set. Their straight-from-the-shoulder grindcore was served well by the time restriction, though, as they ended leaving the people who came to see them wanting more, and those of us who were down for Japanese death metal not bored or annoyed. They had a decent amount of movement, in the course of which water managed to end up on both the floor and the ceiling; how, I'm not precisely sure.

There was a considerable amount of opinion on various fora after the fact that maybe Scapegoat should have just been cut from the bill when they failed to show up ready to play by, say, 8pm, an hour after the show was supposed to start, in order to give more time to Coffins and secondarily The Endless Blockade. While they played decent music, it wasn't so good as to whelm the headliners, and as rough as it sounds, they could probably have been safely omitted without diminishing the overall fun factor of the show. Regrettable as it may be for those interested mainly in the traveling headliners, there's a clear reason that they were left on.

DIY promoters have a vested interest in making sure the bands from their own area are happy. Bands who like them will play their shows and bring out fans to make the gigs a financial success, which is not only good for the wallet, but also builds good karma to get more bigger touring acts from farther away to play on one of their promotions. While this is purely hypothetical, and not necessarily representative of his mental state, it should be noted that Craig is going to have to deal with Scapegoat and their fans and friends on a continual basis as both are based out of Boston, but Coffins won't (on average, given the past schedules of other Japanese DIY bands) be back in the US for another 5 years. Who knows if they'll still be promoting shows in 2013, or if there won't be someone else equally as capable and with just as good an in to the band? Sure, it's not an optimal situation, but these tough choices and hard realities are simply the less pleasant side of the DIY coin; larger promoters would just say "a brutal death metal band? From Japan? With no label backing to speak of and no proven draw in the package? Forget it", and then we wouldn't see Coffins at all.

The Endless Blockade [5.5/7]
Finally, we reached the touring portion; I had put down for one of this band's CDs and a cassette sight unseen eariler, and was glad to find my investment justified. They opened up with some dissonant noise stuff that was pretty cool (or at least I felt that way), then hit into more or less straight grind. It was very well-delivered, with a fresh sound separating the Canadians from the Bostonians, and while the set was cut short due to the time constraints alluded to above, it was definitely a good time. I tend not to follow grindcore because even for someone used to the bewildering maze that is current extreme metal, it is really confusing to keep straight all the time, but it's a nice change to get good grind out of a band that you have absolutely no expectations for.

Coffins [6.5/7]
And now, the band most people were waiting for, making their first appearance in North America. The set was criminally restricted in time and they took a song or two to really get cranked up properly, but in the end they delivered a thoroughly awesome performance that satisfied most of those not going to MDF, and really gave a kick to those who were already intent on doing so, in order to see them with a minimum of scheduling problems. The music was really cool, a slightly more technical take on the black-thrashing-death that you get with Abigail, or really any number of Japanese underground bands, given the extreme difficulties of setting up shows in said country. With zero opportunities for the scene to fragment, what happens is that bands get really good at fusing various threads, and Coffins certainly didn't lack in that department. The band was really hitting into their stride as they hit the 11 PM barrier, but the organizers were prevailed upon to allow one more song, a small measure of justice for the band and a relief to the crowd; those who don't see them on this tour or at MDF may never get the chance to again, and any extra minute that can be grabbed is welcome.

Following this, it was back out into the slackening rain to walk back out. Abstractly, this show sould neither have started nor finished so early, to make scheduling easier, but sometimes your weird DIY venues have weird rules, and you just have to roll with the punches. Less Coffins, more traffic, and a 11:15 curtain call is a hell of a lot better than no Coffins, or no show at all.

I came away with a large pocketful of crumpled hxc flyers, some of which look interesting, but most of which are booked against gigs with bands in my primary sphere of interest, or are taking place while I'm out in New York or something. Due to celebrating Portsmouth's FA cup win, I probably will have to give Defeated Sanity a pass (much to my chagrin), but the next show will be another MDF-warmup on Wednesday, then nothing on the weekend due to my brother's graduation.

And now, a few words about Autumn Above's non-gig last night; band practice done for friends and family at a yacht club booked because one of the members just graduated from college does not warrant a full review, but they were on point despite the circumstances ("My Name Is" Sean Cahalin playing a ride, a hi-hat, and a kids' conga instead of his full kit), and did some new material as well as stuff from various people's prior bands, and a good time was had by all, the aged relatives as well as the dudes who showed up in kuttes. No idea when they're playing a real gig next, but it'll be a good time, and you can also take your friends who aren't as into brutal music, and they'll have just as much fun.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Pelican -- opening for Thrice and Circa Survive [Worcester Palladium, 5/10/2008]

I go to a lot of weird lengths to see shows. I've flown to Germany to go to festivals, driven the 93 corridor at rush hour to see local bands in a jumped-up practice space practically in Rhode Island, braved rain, snow, and cratered roadways, parked illegally, nearly got frostbite walking around in a kutte in the dead of winter, suffered joint injuries attempting to get pits going and smoke inhalation from just standing in the wrong place, dumped, in aggregate, hundreds if not thousands on merch, and more still on camping and festivalgoing equipment that was just unusable by the end. I've put up with crummy venues, incompetent soundment, larcenous beer prices, and the occasional band flakeout; many others certainly do and give and accomodate as much and a lot more, but I am not some part-time rager who sees only their favorite bands in their most choice environments -- and as such it should carry at least a little weight when I say that this was just about the most onerous experience I've had to go through for a band -- thankfully, Pelican delivered an awesome set that made it absolutely worthwhile.

The odd form of the title should indicate that this was not a normal show; instead of headlining, as they did when I saw them at the Middle East back in July, Pelican on this round was playing support to Thrice's tour, which saw them kind of oddly fit to the bill. When I expressed back then that I'd rather see them playing a bigger venue, this was not really what I had in mind: a limited set time and an indie-rock audience. Nevertheless, I bundled myself out to Worcester for this gig, because Pelican, live, is cheap at any price, and not having heard anything from the other bands, there was at least the chance that they wouldn't be terrible.

I rolled up to the venue just before doors, and was kind of dumbfounded to see a lineup stretching nearly as far down as it had at Metalfest (on Friday). Apparently the headliners were kind of big, which would be good for Pelican in that they'll get their material into more ears -- even if it's bad for me in that I won't be able to get right up to the front, because the crowd was to all appearances overwhelmingly underage, so they'd be camping the rail instead of hanging around in the bar. This did turn out to be exactly the case, but despite the lineup I was able to get rail even after picking up a shirt and some CDs (Lair of the Minotaur and Tusk, I already own Pelican's entire catalog). What followed was a stressful 45 minutes as I stood and waited and managed to avoid killing anyone in the surrounding crowd.

Hopefully, I merely had the bad fortune to be stuck in with several of the few annoying people in the audience; if this is not the case, I foresee doom for both people who actually like the headliners and for any future efforts to ameliorate my scene xenophobia. This was far from a metal crowd, and while it was interesting to observe how normal people react to a show, I'd much rather have been standing around with fewer children and gits. In this case, though, the burden was to be bourne, thanks to the payoff coming.

Pelican [7/7]
At the gong, Pelican came out swinging; the crunch of their opener immediately suggested Mastodon, and while they amply displayed their melodic chops over the course of the set, they also hit with power throughout, delivering a dominating sound despite a few hiccups from the PA. Too often metal is criticized for lacking subtlety, but what Pelican demonstrated in this set was that there is another side to the coin: that subtlety and artistry are given contrast and shading when they can be delivered alongside and blended with pure volume and visceral punch. The set was fairly short, covering two songs each from City of Echoes and ...Fire In Our Throats..., but as expected, impeccably delivered and drawing a fairly good crowd reaction. Having seen them in this building on this kind of bill, I've seen the error of my ways: next time, it's in Boston, headlining, or nothing; in several places the downstairs of the Middle East would have literally detonated, but the crowd here did nothing, starting not even the barest hint of a pit. I should have kicked things off instead of complaining, of course, but I was without my knee brace, and it's difficult to say whether I could have accomplished anything, even with all working joints, other than getting ejected.

Following their set, I went back up top and picked up the Pink Mammoth EP -- vinyl records down front are a wasted investment -- then found a wall to lean against waiting for the next band to go on. Despite my suspicions that the rest of this bill was going to be crummy -- or at least not to my taste -- I was determined to give them a shot to prove me wrong. If Circa Survive was any good, I'd stick around, then give Thrice the same shot.

Unfortunately, no, Circa Survive were not any good. They do some good works, but their music utterly failed to make any kind of positive impression; it brought me back to the basement of the radio station, exploring random indie rock at dumb o'clock in the morning while some Anthrax or Bathory side was spinning on the air, and the same wonderment that people can listen to this stuff and actually get into it. The world is full of all kinds of people, I guess, but this hall was presently full of one less metalhead, as I hit the doors to get back home at a more reasonable hour and to burden myself with less time spent listening to music I don't like. In the end, this was a good show; I got good music from Pelican, and I got home early. Sure, it could have been better, and it sucks that I had to miss Cinco de Dudo to go to it, but I'm happy with my decision.

Revocation with Mechannibal and Ramming Speed [Quincy Cage, Cambridge, 5/1/2008]

Another late post, but not so late; I'm catching up and this was a killer show to catch up with.

If you go to enough underground shows, you will eventually hit up more than a few that are totally weird for some reason or another, shows that become memorable not so much for what the bands do as for other stuff having to do with the particulars of the situation. For many of those involved this time, this show was in that number.

This was a decently late start that I was able to get back from work, play some soccer, shower, and get from Green Street up to Harvard well before the first band started. Yes, Harvard; Anthony from Revocation is a student at this fine institution as well as a badass bassist, and this show was held in a cleaned-up PE-equipment alcove -- set off from the basement hallway by chainlink fencing, hence the name -- underneath Quincy House. There are very few metal bands that can say they've played Harvard, and this, in addition to the fact that this was a free show, probably helped trump the fact that it was technically dry and got a good number of people out; metalheads of all stripes, crusties with pants sewn basically into their legs, and Harvard students who didn't know a bass from a guitar and were probably wondering where all these weirdos came from.

After managing to get past the door and its associated locks, I rode down in the elevator with most of Mechannibal, who were already a little bemused with the state of things, but had managed to pick up some foods despite aggro from the college authorities. That this was going to be an interesting cross-cultural experience was already evident, which became clearer as we got into the basement, climbed over the bands' stuff, and settled in among others simultaneously trying to hang out and prevent the building security from discovering their alcohol. At this point, it was mostly metal people still, including of course a few metal Harvard people, but the Harvard people were starting to trickle in from upstairs.

Ramming Speed [5/7]
This was a pretty good set, if a little short, but one which was negatively affected by the somewhat ad-hoc PA. With basement shows in general, it's a bit of a crapshoot as to whether you're going to have the bands sound like anything, and Ramming Speed's melodic layer on top of the thrashcore basics, which is what separates them, mainly, from other bands, is kind of dependent on the leads cutting through. This didn't happen consistently here, and the result was probably the punkiest set I've seen out of this band; it was pretty good, and the attendees definitely got into it, but Ramming Speed is more than a thrashpunk band when they're in a hall that allows their music to come through as intended.

Mechannibal [5/7]
Mechannibal, by contrast, was pretty well-served by the PA; not everything came through 100%, and a lot of the vocals were pretty buried, but their straightforward grind attack is the kind of music that lives and breeds in basements, and though there wasn't a whole lot of movement, even in the even mix of metal and crust d00ds who were at that point the majority of the crowd, this was still a pretty fun time. Not the best set I've seen out of them, but a whole lot of solid power and killer music all the same.

It's probably been widely commented on already, but Mike plays his drums like they punched out his grandma immediately before Mechannibal's set started. There aren't many drummers who hit harder around Boston, and there's none that I can recall looking like they hit this hard; his performance sees his face set in an iron grimace of rage almost throughout, and the effect of this expression, combined with his heavy-gauge sticks and the amount of force he puts into his kit, is that anyone who's watching can't stop wondering how he doesn't damage more equipment.

While Revocation was setting up, the Harvard people started to show up in numbers. They could be easily recognized by wearing shirts in actual colors, and because they didn't actually know what Revocation sounded like. This led to some lulzworthy overheard conversations, but these won't be repeated because, to their credit, most of the non-metal Harvard people actually did stay after the band got cranked up.

Revocation [6/7]
The PA was dialed in a little better, but there were still some bits that got lost, as entirely expected; fortunately, they weren't enough to obscure a really good set. Like the others, it was a little short, but brim-full of
Empire of the Obscene material, as well as older stuff that's been renovated and updated. Oddly, despite the fact that the other two bands on this bill were a hell of a lot more punk and core, Revocation also saw the most and most consistent pit motion of the evening, and even a few of the non-metal (or, hopefully, not-previously-metal) Harvard types got involved as well; it's just as exotic for them to have punks, hardcore kids, and thrashers in their basement listening to progressive death-thrash as it is for us to go to a show on the Harvard campus, and in this context they could go brew stuff up without having to get outside their comfort zone at, say, O'Brien's.

Eventually, things closed up and the basement emptied out. It was an interesting experience, to be sure, and hopefully to be repeated in the future; Anthony's allegedly going to be booking this space consistently come fall term, and if that works out, it should be an interesting place to play for a wide variety of bands, and hopefully a way to bend more Harvard kids into the scene. Cross-cultural exchange is waeome, but it doesnt happen unless people actually go out there and start crossing between cultures -- if the upper strata of Cambridge won't come to heavy music, heavy music'll just have to move into their basement and start making loud noises.

NEMHCF report - severely delayed

Being a brief overview, with a lot of side comments, from the 2008 edition of the New England Metal and Hardcore Festival. This covers three days and more than 30 bands, so hang on for the ride. Nearly all the material in this is from notes taken at the time of the events, but there's a little that's woven in or touched up after the fact.


4:30 - lineup
I've been in lineups at the Palladium before, but this is fookin ridiculous; the front, two blocks down the side, and nearly another block around the corner, just wall-to-wall metalheads. Tonight sold out, and it really looks like every single goddamn head of the count is out on the tiles, as it were, right now. We had an enterprising guy take a case of Poland Spring down the line to his place -- at $2 a bottle, that's a nice profit on the relatively short walk to a long stand.
I may not see High on Fire due to this, but what the hell; at least it ain't raining.

5:15 - still in the lineup, but about a block from the door
Still in line -- it's like Itzehoe, but sober. And, fortunately, much, much shorter of a wait.
Noted by a bus: a red floormat placed by the door, that the band may not dash their foot upon a stone when alighting. Lol rockstars.

High on Fire [5/7]
I saw most of their set after all, despite the time spent at the merch and beer stands, and they were pretty decent, though nothing especially worldbreaking. A good and mostly true start to what'll hopefully be a good fest; "true" is probably a little much to ask at this point.

The security stole my fuckin' Kuli! Seriously, one of my Grade A pens got jacked on the way in, presumably as an anti-graffiti move. GARBAGE. So I went over to the ESP raffle table, pretended to fill out an entry, and stole one of theirs back, but it sucks; I've got to go procure another Grade A pen from somewhere to jam down my boot for the rest of the fest.

The heightened security was heightened just enough to be annoying; thanks to my Epic Leg Armor and the unwillingness of the security to check certain areas, I was able to bring in a pair of Powerbars for Saturday and both the stolen pen and my folding letter opener on both remaining days. I don't want to deal with metal-detector wands, but it'd be better to have a sane policy and more bathroom supervision than to make people stuff inocuous items down their grundle so that they won't get ripped off.

Job For A Cowboy [4/7]
Other people have been using "Job For A Girlboy" lately to get to a certain acronym that expresses their disapprobation for the band. In this case, though, "Job For A Goatwhore" would be more apt, and get to the acronym as a total side-effect; it should be damning enough of this band's lack of originality or interesting material that their set was such that a completely derivative band could have done what they were trying to do better, and in a more interesting fashion. It's pretty sad when you're derivative of derivative bands -- as well as Morbid Angel, into whom this band's teeth are still sunk -- but this started decent, then tailed off in an immediate and drastic fashion. After 3 or so songs, it got physically difficult to listen to, and this is coming from someone who actually likes Lugubrum, and can put up with J-pop in certain situations. No fucking idea why people like this band -- no, wait, that's right, a lot of people are fooking imbeciles.

looking at sampler CDs in the merch area:
What the hell is all this Kiuas on the Spinefarm sample CD? There's better bands on Spinefarm than fuckin' Kiuas, fer chrissake.

Children of Bodom [6/7]
Maybe a 5.5 (it wasn't, even when I opened that box with the Megadeth score), but I'm not doing split scores yet and would prefer not to. Alexi's solos were a little muted, but they were pretty cool despite the weight of new stuff in the set, and they closed with "Touch Like An Angel of Death" -- what the fuck more do you want? At least they realize that their old shit's where the power's at -- now why don't they try and evolve that instead of continually trying to be "In Flames with balls"? The world may never know.

In Flames [5/7]
There was once upon a time a little record called Colony. It marked an inflection point in In Flames' career, and proved that NWOSDM -- Edge of Sanity and Dissection made accessible, or a nice bowl of Dismember with some Iron Maiden drizzled on top -- would sell to a broad audience. In Flames did 12 songs tonight, including precisely one from this record or earlier (the namecheck on Jester Race). For this I blame not metalcore but the Euro festivals. In Flames has grown accustomed to playing at 2 in the morning, pumping tunes out over the exhausted, pitch-black infield at Wacken, at Reading, at Rock Am Ring and the like, and this was a 2AM set, a long pile of unflavored, all-things-by-implication-to-all-people radio metal with only the barest trappings of anything real, lazy metal for exhausted people...delivered south of 10PM in an indoor hall. Maybe Megadeth's audience is yawning past their bedtime, but most of us are awake, and not nearly as gassed as I normally am when one day's bleeding into another north of Hamburg, and the sky's so actively black as to block out lights. In Flames is a good band when you're in the tank and half dead on your feet from a day of better music; here, not so much.

Megadeth [6.5/7]
Though this would ahve to be really, really stretched to represent a peak Megadeth lineup. they put on a near-peak performance, with Dave his usual ripping self, James and Shawn solid on rhythm, and Chris Broderick impressive, but not surprising to anyone who was familiar with his talents from Jag Panzer and Nevermore. The set was balanced well between old and new material, down the whole gamut from "The Mechanix" to "Gears of War". We got a lot of hits and also a few deeper cuts; it's difficult to se how, now, in the age of Dave Mustaine and His Amazing Sidemen, you'd see a better Megadeth set. Maybe in a larger venue -- Gigantour was originally booked for Thursday at the hockey arena next door -- but this was a damn fine performance and anyone who's somehow disappointed is simply delusional.



Veil of Maya [4/7]
What a fuckin' disappointment. If you're going to name your band after a Cynic song, you ought to be at least a little original. Instead, fucking lameass metalcore. I didn't stick too long -- I had to get down front for Keep of Kalessin -- but from their first few cuts, things were not going to improve.

The End [6/7]
Fuckin' A -- now this is how new-school metal is supposed to be. They had a lot of the progression of a 3 or an Unexpect, but with a more solid thrash core, and the result is an overwhelmingly and unambiguously positive reaction from those assembled. If you slept in and missed this band, you lose.

Keep of Kalessin [6/7]
And the good shit continues; I was right up front as before, and what their solidly Norse-tradition black metal lacked in immediate originality was patched over amply by excellent execution -- and the fact that neither Emperor nor Immortal was on this fest. It's good to hear real, honest black metal at a festival like this -- even better to hear it done this well.

The perils of being up front with a notebook and an overbuilt jacket: I got mistaken for a member of Nightmare by the founders of a Myspace page for kuttes, and for an actual journalist (Metal George of The Accursed) by an established photographer (Frank White, if it matters). No portfolio, no credentials, no worries. ;)

On a related note, people who actually belong to said "heavy metal vest" community need to seriously re-evaluate why they are in metal and why they choose to build a kutte. If it's to fit in because Municipal Waste told you to sew patches on your vest, you need to burn your rig and jump off a bridge. Jacketcrafting is an ancient and noble artform practiced to announce your preferences in metal to all and sundry: you do it because you want to build a jacket, not because all your friends have one, and you build it to look violently different from anything else out there, not exactly like one you saw in some pictures from '86.

Monstrosity [7/7]
It was fucking criminal how these guys got cut off -- the drummer was rightfully ripshit, throwing pieces of the kit and backline around the stage -- especially since they were in the middle of an absolute gem of a set: tight, dialed in, and with the superb soundboard support that the Palladium only gives to death metal bands once in a blue moon. This was Florida's best, setting a high standard for Hate Eternal, and on any sane fest, they'd've had a lot more than 20 minutes, and hence, no cause for frustration and wreckage.

Skeleton Witch [6/7]
If they were other things before, this set at 20 minutes showed them stripped to the bare essence as a melodic thrash metal bad. A thoroughly good set, but as with the preceding band, cursed by inadequate time.

During this band, Aaron got back at me decisively for the "sleeping on the job" picture. What remains to be seen is if this picture will be published or privately held -- it's looking like the second for now, or if it's published, nobody cares to point out the silliness.

Since I continued to stand down the front through the last two bands as well, my jacket continued to draw interest. Well, overbuilt is overbuilt.

Through The Eyes Of The Dead [5.5/7]
Their output was better than most of the other modernistic death metal bands on this bill, but oddly, not markedly different. To a certain degree, I'm just the wrong audience, but there are other slammy and core-y bands out there that are better.

Animosity [5/7]
I've been pretty selective about what I see, but this was the first band that could even partway qualify as hardcore. I'm much more of a metal fan, but this is the NEMHCF, and the HXC portion of the bill shouldn't just get pushed into some closet upstairs. They had a few technical difficulties at the start, but presently hit their stride and gave a kickass performance. This probably wasn't an ideal venue to see them in, but I and my busted knee don't care, and the kids on the floor throwing down didn't look like they cared either.

At this point I gave Arsis -- and, as it turned out, Municipal Waste, though that's in another comment -- a pass in order to keep my seat. At intervals like this I took the brace off to keep the skin aerated and not rotting away, but every second of potential rest for the joint was precious.

Despised Icon [5/7]
Truth told, I did actually break out laughing in places. Not many, but in taking deathcore to its ne plus ultra, DI also drives up the elements of the style that are only silly: form-pattern breakdowns, vocals worthy of a trained hog, and faux-hip-hop posturing. Despite the lulzworthy parts, they still made some decent music, and if the singer hadn't killed the mood by mentioning the Bruins going down to the Habs, it might have graded out as yet better.

Scott was at stageside for these guys, in sharp visual contrast to the Scott Lee Clothing banners hanging up; it's a little early for central New England's foremost heavy-music-promotion impresario to branch out a la Russell Simmons, at least from my perch. Seriously, would you buy designer casual wear from this man? Enough people have issues buying the bills he puts together for these fests, let alone stuff with his name and face on it to stick next to their skin. The Myspace for it is pretty tongue-in-cheek, but people are apparently still buying it.

As Blood Runs Black [5/7]
I was tempted to dock them a point for turning "bring the fucking ruckus" into a chorus, but did not; when not being laughable in this regard, these Angelenos worked up a quality set of heavier metalcore that recalled old In Flames in its best places; as good as can reasonably be expected for a filler band playing before re-entry closes.

Heaven Shall Burn [6/7]
A hell of a US debut, but this fest always seems to get its share of good ones. Their Wacken set was better, but this perfect fusion of metal and hardcore will hopefully make believers out of the contingent here.
A real class touch was Marcus going along the barricade after the last song to slap hands with the faithful; it's a little thing, but such things go a long way in hardcore. Willkommen in da VSA, HSB!

Spotted in the pit: a big dude with the National Alliance logo on his shoulder, throwing down and singing along with the band. If he's still NS, I can't wait until he gets into their back catalog and the material about Primo Levi and Hans and Sophie Scholl -- to say nothing of that cover of "Destroy Fascism".

Vital Remains [5/7]
We're in Worcester, and Scott's bellowing from the stage while Crazy Dan is passing out mayhem to all and sundry below -- must be Zircon at Metal Thursday, right? Not this time, and despite the sound problems and the necessary dropoff in total execution due to Tony's change in sidemen (Scott debatably outperformed Glenn, but the other instrumentalists had some slop in the toes of the big shoes they were trying to fill), Vital still put up a thoroughly killer set. It wasn't a peak by any means, but still through-and-through quality death in the old style.

This entry was almost entitled "Vital Receipts", but while I trust Mark (Composted, TYAG) Richards to be generally accurate in his reporting of why his band gets de-listed from certain shows, I don't want to stir that pot until the local dudes who are actually in Vital have had the chance to comment on it, as it's quite possible it's an issue with the promoter rather than any of the bands involved.

This festival is missing a lot of things -- and outdoor venue, internal food vendors, and more, less vile toilet accomodations come to mind -- but the most striking is a SIMPLE FUCKING WHITEBOARD, which is easily provided so that attendees can be kept apprised of schedule changes. I missed Municipal Waste due to the second stage, as usual, getting fucked up, and didn't learn about it until I happened to run into Matt (MPD) Kenney while in line for the head. WHAT THE FUCK.

Also, re-entry closed early, so instead of going back to the hotel to drop my merch, I got stuck at the venue listening to nu-Kataklysm. Again, what the fuck.

Kataklysm [4/7]
These guys must be thanking their lucky stars that Cryptopsy have suddenly decided to become terrible, so that their own decline into mediocrity goes unnoticed. This was as boring and staid a set of mid-paced death metal as you'd like to see, and having it sold as "hyperblast" in any regard should be getting more people madder about being ripped off. Sure, Hypocrisy wasn't playing this festival, but the day that modern Kataklysm is remotely as interesting or as original as Hypocrisy is the day I stop ranting about them like this.

I've seen now 3 different people in 3 different Wacken shirts here. The word is spreading -- maybe I'll have to do a roll call come July or so and see if anyone among the RttP hordes is also going to be in attendance this time out.

Hate Eternal [5.5/7]
This band is seriously cursed or something -- 3 times I see them in this building, 3 times they get a seriously raw deal from the soundboard. As before, Erik & co. fought back through it, but it remained thin and low, a serious disservice to the band, and to those in the audience counting them as the last decent band of the day. I'm still looking forward to Shadows Fall, and to a lesser degree Dimmu and -- heresy, heresy! -- The Acacia Strain, but those whose tastes are less catholic than mine may well be heading for the doors to catch Toxic Holocaust's in-town basement gig, and this wasn't as good a valediction for them as it could have been if the tech side had their goddamn oars all in.

I don't know where exactly the "line" for Kommerz is that bands best dare not cross, but Iron Maiden Chuck Taylors are definitely across it. It is only small consolation to know that not only do Bruce, Steve, and the rest have this kid's money now, they are probably laughing at him as well.

The Acacia Strain [5/7]
Vincent's gotten fat with success -- or maybe he's just got a bad case of "studio ass", as they're in recording right now. In any case, the band has similarly become "more so"; content-free mosh-spree breakdowns-by-the-numbers that only gets interesting when the singer's talking off the cuff to fill time. This time, he ripped on trends and image...but if he looks up his band's '06 set here on RttP, he'll see his Myspace haircut and tight jeans on the eve of their debut. OH SNAP LOLZ.

Thanks to Behemoth, we now have children in clumsy corpsepaint waiting for metalcore bands to finish so that their Satanic idols can go on. Somehow, I get the feeling that this isn't what Dead cut himself up on stage for, or why Samoth and others did their two years in stir for arson. Dimmu has 8x10 rockstar glossies out now courtesy of ESP -- this from a scene where bands use warnames to defer credit and for a while didn't even put their own pics in the liner notes of their records. FUCK TRENDS -- BLACK METAL ISOLATION!!

On music and wrestling:
- Skinless issuing their demo compilation on a label that is also an indie wrestling promotion: very metal.
- Victory Records cross-promoting with Wrestlemania, as on shopping bags here: not punk rock at all.
It's not the "wrestling" per se -- sriously, put ropes around a mosh pit and you've got a bout, one bunch of dudes pretending to fight each other is much the same as the next -- or the fakery (it's all just entertainment); it's the fucking Kommerz that sticks in my craw. True, there's no money in metal, so every dollar helps, but it's a lot less lame when it coems from somewhere with some fookin integrity.

Behemoth [6/7]
Despite my skepticism going in, this was actually a really good set -- sticking to their hits and pretty deathy as well as black metal -- not perfect, but a fun time, and that, like the last band, is sufficient excuse for them to have fans. It aint enough to put me in that total, but it's enough to make the time spent bearable.

Overkill cancelled, so bands lately have been playing a little longer, which is good all around -- bands don't get shafted into an opener-length set as a headliner, and I don't have to sit through Overkill. Maybe I just got a bad set from them at Wacken in '05, but it was good on the few good songs that they did there -- which is a bad indicator that they may actually be that overrated after all.


Blame dysentery -- the gut condition, not the band -- for me missing the last two bands Saturday. Jaeger and street food do bad things to your stomach in combination, but don't expect me to stop doing either at this fest.

Waking The Cadaver [4/7]
As silly as might have been expected, but their BREE BREE BREE SLAM BREE BREE was a decent enough backdrop to my final merch spree (modulo an Ensiferum shirt later at night).

After The Burial [4/7]
An entirely competent metalcore band, but I was really expecting to see Unexpect here. I'd've been pissed if I ended up missing them, but fortunately the schedule dislocation on Sunday was fairly straightforward.

Unexpect [7/7]
Fucking wow. You won't, I expect, see a better 20-minute set than the one this bunch put up, and even better, those people who were there seemed to realize this as well. Good stuff; hopefully their spastic evolved black metal will continue to attract people with an appreciation for it.

Emmure [4/7]
Bree bree bree snore snore snore. I came back in time to make doors and be sure to be in position for Paganfest; seeing the tail end to this block of same-ish 'core that I mostly sat out on is merely a side effect.

A Life Once Lost [4/7]
I think I saw this band here once before, and they didn't make an impression on me that time either. I thought metalcore was dying out, and the coming thing was WTC and other bands ripping off the first wave of slam-death, but I guess not.

Three bands worth the candle of being up front for, then I can go sit down in back. There isn't seatage for love or money in here, and my back is getting friggin telescoped.

Eluveitie [7/7]
Neither quite In Extremo or quite Finntroll, this Swiss combo nonetheless put up quite the dominant performance, packing in the crowd into what was originally a half-empty front, then bloody well destroying the place with a frenetic and more folkic version of the black-fusion that drives the Paganfest package. If this is the standard, the two other support acts are on notice; Ensiferum at least can kick it out at this level easily.

Tyr [6/7]
If you're following a crazy-party band and want to sell the crowd on your doomy, progressive, vikingarock, it may not be the brightest idea to open with an extended a capella section sung entirely in Danish. The true viking fans in the crowd dug it, as this was a very well-turned-out set on all counts, but I'm not sure how many converts they made. Maybe victims of the bill, but they gave a damn good effort and hopefully managed to draw on this away leg -- they'll win at home when folks download or buy their CDs.

Since there's been approximately zero immigration to the Faeroes in the last 800 years, it's easy even for people who didn't know that Tyr is a 3-piece on record to see that the guitarist of Eluveitie is giving them a hand on this tour, rather than vice versa. It's the world's easiest game of spot-the-not-a-viking.

Turisas [6/7]
In principal, we've heard this before -- at least some of us -- as Otyg with a little extra Ensiferum over the top. However, it was well-delivered, and the crowd was fucking psyched -- if they had more material on the level of "Rasputin", they'd have a strong case for headlining this roving melee. Even as is, though, a hell of a fun time.

You've got to wonder about the history of Turisas' accordionist; the band is about my age and a little younger, so there she was, growing up in Finland on the turn of the Cold War, going to accordion lessons, likely playing "Lady of Spain" over and over until she wanted to throw the damned thing down the stairs, and the teacher after it, never dreaming that she would one day be a professional in a rock band, the world's coolest live keyboard replacement, and get to stand on stage on multiple continents wearing furs and lederhosen, face painted like an Apache, as the crowd roared and screamed for more. If it doesn't make any sense on paper, imagine what it's like to live it. And you thought your life was odd....

Ensiferum [7/7]
Score does not include adjustments for injury; unlike last time, I came out of an Ensiferum pit-wall with all my joints intact. It would probably still be on this level even if I'd brewed something up; like all the Paganfest crew, the set was too goddamned short, but every last second was quality. The whole floor went into pit mode, German-style, a couple times, and dudes were getting crowdchucked like Bury Your Dead was laying it down. An ace performance, and full worth being the last band I was down front for.

If you can see this tour when they aren't on a festival bill, definitely do it. Four great bands is too much to be done service by barely 2 1/2 hours, including stage changes.

So Mike Hsiu of 'AAF got a lifetime achievement award from Full Blown Chaos (and maybe the organizers, who knows), and Divine Heresy cancelled (due to a ridiculous incident in Poughkepsie that many of the attendees here would have given given an arm and a leg to see and laugh at live)....can't say I'm sorry about the second....

Meshuggah [7/7]
I think I remember their '03 set here as being a little longer, but if this time was shorter and less well-produced -- the bass up too high for a couple songs -- the musical performance was nonetheless stellar. The hall started to empty out after they took their leave, and while the early birds'll miss Ministry, they got a pretty fuckin' cool headlining set out of Meshuggah.

Seriously, it's not even 11 and the crowd is in full flight. WTF? I know people have to work in the morning, but they stay to the end of normal shows at this place when the next day's a workday.

The sole disappointment of the day is that I end it broke, down to my last ten-spot. If I had another C-note coming in, as planned, I'd have an Eluveitie shirt on my belt, and CDs from them and Turisas in my jacket pouches. Such is life, though; never money nor time enough for everything we desire.

Ministry [6/7]
I didn't end up sticking for the whole set, but what I saw was choice. Ministry is a band that appropriates both metal and industrial on their own terms rather than the genre's, and a standing that comes not only from close on 30 years of service, but also from the top-class music that's allowed them to be a working band for longer than many members of this audience have been alive. While this wasn't a peak set, and the experience was near equal parts visual and music -- and in that caption, less of their older stuff -- it was still a good time, and I'm glad to have seen them live before Al folds the tents for good.

Final returns:
Friday - 5 bands
26.5 points
average 5.3
Saturday - 15 bands
81 points
average 5.4
Sunday - 11 bands
62 points
average 5.64

It's amazing how high average scores can get at this fest when you skip nearly all the bands that you don't like, and the soundboard doesn't fuck over the bands you do.