In the middle of a hard week at work, I also get the bonus of two high-line shows in a small space at reasonable prices, which I guess makes up for getting blitzed over the weekend and being first busy drinking, then tremendously hung over, for last weekend's gigs, both of which planned I missed. This wasn't the case here; I finished up a couple knotty problems and headed out directly from the office, arriving a little early due to light traffic. I got in and processed smoothly once the doors opened; this was upstairs, and the floor area wasn't anywhere near full at first, though as the night went on more people piled in.
With time to kill I hit the merch stand and got the Eluvetie swag that I hadn't been able to afford at Metalfest, and also Keep's new disc. This was in the upstairs of the upstairs, which remained sparsely populated throughout the show; Wednesdays will do that, and if this was less convenient to get to than had it been at the Middle East's upstairs, it was a lot easier to move around.
Keep of Kalessin [6.5/7]
I don't know that I've headbanged this hard to a black metal band since Emperor. I saw them on Metalfest, of course, but that performance paled next to this one; a lot of it echoed Emperor, but to call it "standard-form" in any way is not only a disservice to the band, but also an indication that you may not listen to as much black metal as you think you do. There's a lot of black metal that's a hell of a lot worse than this, especially in the modern era; that we went back convincingly to the sound of the Norwegian second wave, and the band blew the roof off in the process, should not be treted as an everyday occurrence. Great stuff, and maybe a couple songs short of full points.
This was, as can be seen up top, a really, really weird lineup to be all touring together. It seems like the idea was that there'd be people who liked Keep and Eluvetie, Keep and Kataklysm, and Kataklysm and Dying Fetus at this one, thus bringing in three distinct audience segments, but that's kind of a weird organizing principle, and when you do it on a Wednesday night, you may get into rougher shoals. They did draw more, though than any of those three tuples would have as their own tour playing the Mideast Upstairs, so perhaps there's something to be said for it.
Also back from Metalfest was this Swiss horde, who were short their piper for this outing. How much of a problem this was is debatable; they did a really good set, if not quite as strong as back in April, but there was next to nowhere for anyone in the band to move around on stage, and it's difficult to see where they'd've found space to add a seventh across the front. Some of their tunes, particularly the one they closed up with, reminded me really strongly of In Extremo; part of this is the founder effect of said band basically re-inventing folk metal, but some of it may be intentional: since In Extremo's basically let North America go by singing almost exclusively in German, why shouldn't another band that does more in English bring that same sound over here, and earn a share of the success? Not the best set I've seen from them, but to say this about a Swiss folk metal band in North America at all is pretty damn staggering, and this was quite a fine performance even so.
The funniest moment of the night was doubtless about 3 songs in, when the singer yelled "ARE YOU GUYS STILL SOBER?!" and more people answered with "HELL YEAH!!!" than "FUCK NOOOO!" If you're either a) not paying attention and just yelling whenever someone does stage banter, or b) so goddamn drunk on a Wednesday night that you can't understand what the singer's saying at the start of the second band's set, you deserve to get ripped on, as the band briefly did before hitting back into the music again.
Dying Fetus [6/7]
I was talking with some acquaintances before the show started up, and one mentioned that he'd never seen Dying Fetus; I'd been in this position as recently as before Carcass, and he found it just as odd as I did then. Anyone else in the audience who hadn't seen DF live yet got a solid representation of the band; a nice thick set of relentlessly arranged stone-brutal death metal. It didn't stand out to me as superlative, but even when Dying Fetus is just simply executing, the result is impressive to behold. I'm more of a fan of other kinds of death metal, but this was a great (and ridiculously battering) time, and a high-quality set.
Post-DF, I was significantly impressed enough to go up to the merch stand again and pick up one of their "antipope" shirts; while bumming around as Kataklysm set up, I ran into a short sample of several North Shore metal bands....who were bummed out that they'd only gotten to the venue in time to pay $20 for 2 Dying Fetus tunes. They weren't much into Kataklysm either, and a little at loose ends about what to do with themselves. Some of the answer to this involved sitting around upstairs heckling the Canucks as they set up, and some of it involved yelling Manowar memes at people downstairs who weren't listening; hail creativity.
I didn't stick for their whole set, but I resolved to stay long enough to give them a fair shake; my opinions on this band's rapid and seemingly nonsensical decline have been made very clear in the past, but every new album is a chance to get back to relevance, and every gig is a chance to wake up and play soe interesting music. I hung around for four or five songs, but the verdict is still unchanged; not so much Canadian Hyperblast as Canadian warmed-over Hypocrisy. This wasn't a bad set, but Kataklysm will continue to run aground as long as they a) continue to ignore their earlier material, which has a distinct voice of its own, and also b) continue to suggest a lamer Hypocrisy to anyone who listens to them. Sure, echoes of more famous bands were kind of a theme tonight (except for Dying Fetus, who are the imitated rather than the imitators), but Keep and Eluvetie's material can stand in, more often than not, with that of their exemplars, and Kataklysm's new stuff just can't. Those who came for them appeared to be having fun, but those like me who came for any of the other three were either upstairs or shortly on the way out.
Leaving early, I managed to get back home a little after midnight. Tonight's probably into the breach again; Amorphis, Samael, and Virgin Black, same time same station.