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.
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.
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.
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.
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.