Friday, August 15, 2008

Testament with Graveheart, Birch Hill Dam, and What Lies Beneath The Tide [Worcester Palladium, 8/15/2008]

The world was a lot quieter this morning, but things are improving; my ears are only ringing a little now, and hopefully I'll completely recover by Motorhead without any permanent damage. Not super-optimistic about this, but I don't have a ton of other options. Any way, we learn things from our mistakes as we get older; tonight's lesson was that no matter how awesome Testament and Graveheart are, it's probably not smart to stand ten feet from an indoor wall of bass cabs without ear protection.

Due to the kind of early start, I left right from work and slogged down to the Pike, then out to the venue in time to get a decent parking space, despite kind of stopping to get some food down. I was surprised that there was actually a lineup outside; Testament is kind of the forgotten son of the Masters of Metal tour, and I was unsure whether this gig was upstairs or down initially, but apparently people are still up for them, especially since they've got 4/5 original members back (Chuck, Eric, Alex, and Greg, plus Paul Bostaph behind the kit), and, of course, are freakin awesome despite not playing in the area for 15 years. Inside, the usual round; touring merch is too expensive ($25 T-shirts for a US band what the hell), beer is dealing with price inflation as badly as gas (if Sam Adams is $5.25, why the hell would you buy a Coors for $4.25), and local bands' stuff is too good to snub them on it without feeling like a dick.

Eventually, I got my merch and realized that my wallet was practically empty, a kind of occupational hazard doing several shows back to back, so I went a little forward in order to keep myself from drinking up my toll and caffeine money.

What Lies Beneath The Tide [2/7]
This was probably the worst-sounding metal performance I've ever heard. Yes, the band got massively jobbed by the sound board, particularly at the start, which plowed their sound into an overly bass-heavy mess, but they also bear some responsibility; if you're going to play on the main stage at the Palladium, being out of phase on your initial breakdown is just unacceptable. Their material wasn't much to write home about: boring retreaded metalcore with little imagination or aspiration and more than a few plain old mistakes in addition to either out-of-tune or horrendously-composed solos. The band, with a proper sound, is probably at the 3 or 4 level; not really good, but not deliberately offensive either. Unfortunately, they did not have proper sound here; it took three or four songs for the board to get the bass PA dialed back to the point where the guitars could even be heard with the drums going. Yes, WLBTT kind of sucked, but the mismix is completely unacceptable; metal bands play here all the time, and most people have at least a rough idea what heavy metal sounds like. Sound this crappy, even from the Palladium and their legendary inability to mix anyone who isn't on tour, is completely out of line, and those responsible should be sacked, and then run over by a moose for good measure.

Having gotten my second and last beer, and seeing that the rail was still kind of open when Birch Hill Dam started, I decided to take a flyer and go down, in order to be relatively forward for Graveheart and Testament. This would have negative consequences for my ears, but as mentioned above, they're getting better, and it's kind of weird to be in heavy metal for more than a decade without permanent hearing loss anyways.

Birch Hill Dam [4/7]
This band was the pleasant surprise of the night; with their lower profile and WB-tween-show name, they could easily have been terrible, but instead were mildly decent, playing southern-fried Sabbath-and-BLS rock-metal that, if it wasn't particularly original, was at least entertaining and a little more properly balanced soundwise. I had previously passed up their free demo on the logic that since my CD-reviewing time is drastically reduced, I don't have the time for every single band's free demo, but I did pick it up later at the door. This band may not be worth going out to see on their own, but if they're opening on a bill that you're interested in anyway, they're at least worth a listen.

Graveheart [6/7]
The organizers kept the sets clicking right along to make sure Testament got their full time, and presently Graveheart was up, and in prime form. They did a fair mix of new material and Blistered Earth stuff, and the floor was full up and into it for them as well. While the other openers were clearly at the local level, Graveheart's prior experience showed strongly through in this set, and may have confused some people who later went up to get their 'tour shirt' and wondered why this excellent thrash/death band that Testament was apparently trailing around had so damn many off dates scheduled. Some of the newer material, such as the groanworthily-titled but still kickass "Axeident", I hadn't heard before, but will again as soon as I get around to listening to the sampler for their new record, which will allegedly be out in October or November, which in Screaming Ferret time probably means slightly after the Mayan Singularity. Wait for it, though; it's gonna be pretty cool.

Testament [6.5/7]
Testament justified the lineup to get in the door and the subsequently full venue (not sold out, but a good bunch of people) with an oustanding set, full of great performances from the classic lineup, that was only minimally damaged by the inabilary of the Palladium soundstaff to manage their bass firepower correctly. It was great to see classic Testament together again, and more importantly really looking like they were enjoying themselves playing the material (from "Alone In The Dark" up through "DNR" and some stuff off the new record, which I couldn't afford after buying their shirt), but until my ears completely shut down a couple of songs before the encore, I'm not really sure that I heard it as it was intended to sound. I'd've liked to get "C.O.T.L.O.D" as well, but I called "The Preacher" about 15 seconds before Chuck announced it, and got an hour and a half of great Testament besides; who am I to complain if it wasn't the best set ever?

As mentioned, the show got out about midnight, a welcome change over previous Palladium efforts that appeared to have a side agenda of getting all the kids to bed before curfew, even if I got a little loopy on 128 from exhausion due to being up since 5:30. Before this, I picked up a flyer for some show on September 12 in Salisbury from Eric CSDO; say what you will about his band -- and "not original", "dinosaurian", and "weird ideas of alleged success" are all popular -- the guy definitely has a talent for setting up shows in all manner of venues, some of which actually work out and start hosting metal regularly. If I've got nothing else going on, I might be up for it; CSDO's decent at any rate, and we need more metal venues north of Boston.

Tonight: Motorhead, Arsis, and like 10 bands that are in no way interesting. Doors at 5, show at 6, I don't show up till like 7:30, a wall of anklebiters at the merch stand, and plenty of elbow room at the bar.

1 comment:

Jonah said...

First off, you're right on about Testament. Great seeing them up there, but the sound was a bit off.

Second off, I play in the band Ramming Speed, would be interested in reviewing our new CD?

Hit me up: Jonah @ tdbrecords.com