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.

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