Sunday, November 09, 2008

Autumn Above with Drunken Above and The Real Smokin' Power [Dodge Street, Salem, 10/31/2008]

In Which I Discover I Should Have Budged My Lazy Ass Up And Caught The Goddamned Train, And Am Colossally Bad At Figuring Out Alternative Ways To Go Generally North Or East From Salem, But Get A Bonus Eyefull Of Downtown Lynn And Revere.

The headline above basically says it all: when your friend's band is playing in Salem on Halloween, get there early or on public transit. Of course, had I come on the train, I would have gotten stuck thanks to sticking for the Misfits set, but as others have demonstrated, there's more than one way to get out of Salem without motor transport....though for some of those, you may need both a bicycle and a banana costume. (Don't ask. Seriously.)

So I left too later and had to drive over, which had me crunching around through the disordered mess of Salem streets with a bunch of people who didn't know where they were going, around police barricades and through hordes of drunks who believe that Halloween costumes include a force field that wards off cars. Both the railyard and downtown were kind of hopeless, and I parked off 114 on the other side from the Point, then had a way to leg back to the gig. There was allegedly another opener, but by the time I got to the venue and waited out the entry line (the one day a year that you're going to see a lineup at Dodge Street), there was basically just the one band with three faces left.

The Real Smokin' Power [5/7]
Tone and Sean's art-noise instrumental practical joke has developed further since the last time I saw them, but with the expanded audience mostly there to get drunk and slaver over girls dressed like prostitutes, they may not have gotten through to many of those in attendance. The dancing garden gnome was a nice touch that hearkened back to historical non-instrumental participants in weird North Shore bands, but it remains to be seen if this is going to be a regular feature rather than just a Halloween special. Those who "got" this set got a cool time full of both speaker-ripping distortion and layered grooves; those who were staring slackjawed got a dancing guy with a gnome mask and some thorough confusion before they waded back into the bar area.

Speaking thereof, the drinks wait for real beer was atrocious, but the club wisely put a bucket of four-dollar cans out their pickup window facing the stage room. Budweiser - It's Not Atrocious, And You Don't Have To Stand In Line For It.

Autumn Above [6/7]
The band continues to evolve; this was probably their most progressive and debatably the heaviest outing yet, but given the environment, this may not have been optimal for their prospects. They opened up with "Trail of Roses" and went backwards through To The Inferno, interspersing new material as they've been doing lately, though with the wider general audience, this might have been a good opportunity to play the CD down in order and sucker people in as they did on their early gigs, get the drunks grooving on the smooth acoustic pop-rock and slowly work the changes until they find themselves neck-deep in a morass of metallic despair. Then again, a confused and disturbed lumpenvolk doesn't exactly go over and buy CDs en masse. Regardless, this was a hell of a good set, with the band pushing harder and reaching further than they've done in the past (or are likely to do again -- see Ryan's comments on never playing three songs as one ever again, which is made more strenuous by the fact that most of AA's songs run around six and a half minutes), to good results.

Drunken Above [5/7]
This is an ad-hoc name suggested by Ryan for a merely somewhat ad-hoc band; here we had Autumn Above playing, in various configurations and with some supplemental personnel, fewer Misfits songs than they initially planned to, aided by as many beers as those of us on the floor could scare up. As alluded to, this set was cut short by the club in favor of some live techno crap that few cared about, but fortunately, Misfits songs are wicked short and fast, and we got about eight ot ten or twelve of them before the plug came out, which was enough time for a ton of frantic thrashing, an accidental fist in the head, and someone's elbow to blow up a beer bottle half over my shirt. A nice slice of fast horror punk, violence, and airborne beer; how the hell could you tell this from a 'real' Misfits show, especially since the Misfits today aren't exactly the Misfits Misfits any more? Good stuff, and it should have gone longer, but this is Salem's big
Kommerz night, and something had to give.

It was shortly after 12:30 when they finally closed up, so I would have missed the last train, but I took the walk back up to my ride in stride. Unfortunately, I decided not to fight through the city center and everyone else trying to get out of Salem, and ended up going further south and west, eventually cutting through Lynn and Revere to pick up 60 to 93 to 128. I saw a lot of the southern North Shore that I don't normally see, including a closeup of the dog park at Wonderland, but this was a long drive after a late night that, given that I could have probably walked back as fast, was completely unnecessary. Good show -- not such good planning on the peripheral stuff, especially since I live here and ought to know better.

Master with Estuary, Sexcrement, and Summoning Hate [Church, Boston, 10/19/2008]

On this night, the choice was either this show or hang out back home and be social watching the Red Sox (ultmately lose the ALCS to the Rays). Naturally, I went with Master and a ridiculous walk in, despite feeling a little under the weather. I'd missed the Amon Amarth gig the night before resting up, which sucked, but those bands tour, generally, and Master pretty much does not.

Despite the aforementioned ridiculous walk -- I parked back in Cambridge again and hoofed it down to the Fenway -- I got in a little early, in time enough to drink a couple beers and do my merch (a bunch of Master swag, and CDs from Estuary and Sexcrement) before the bands started. This wasn't the most well-attended gig I've been to here, but there was a good feeling all around; an Ibex Moon tour is about as interior death metal as you're going to to get, and those who came out were there for mostly the same reasons, and mostly for all of the bands.

Summoning Hate [6/7]
Summoning Hate continues to blast out solid, high-class thrash-death metal; this set was no exception, though it took a song or two for them to get properly cranked up. This was a nice long, filled out set, including a couple of tunes with Juan back on vocals, and high-quality front to back. At this point, the band's main or perhaps sole problem is that they don't have anything recorded available, and it's only so often that they play live. They were a really good match for this show, their style fitting in well with Master's, and they did a hell of a job opening up.

Sexcrement [6/7]
There was a bit of lag going into this set, as Sexcrement had to get their new bass player in; Blue (of Dysentery, Parasitic Extirpation, Porphyria, and it seems like every other slam band in eastern New England) had played another show with PE up in New Hampshire and got down pretty much just in time to load in. Despite working out a new 1/4 of the band, Sexcrement came out hitting on all cylinders, and turned in a thoroughly awesome performance. This band always puts up a good show, but in this case they seemed maybe a little tighter than usual; maybe because they were working out a new member and hadn't rehearsed together enough to play off each other as usual, or maybe because of the brief reunion stint that Goratory recently did in Europe -- whatever it was, this was as good a Sexcrement gig as I've seen in a while, and another indication that this was building towards a truly classic gig.

Estuary [7/7]
This was the most significant surprise of the night; I hadn't heard literally anything from Estuary before, and had bought their CD basically solely on credit, on the idea that if the guys from Incantation had set them up to tour with Master, they had to at least know what they were doing. This hypothesis was vindicated, and then the expectation thoroughly exceeded. If it wasn't Master closing up, Estuary definitely would have stolen the show, blasting the audience with an appropriately old-school but still fresh-sounding blend of thrash and death metal. They got a hell of a reception as well, likely from people who similarly had their minimal expectations shattered; here's hoping that they come back, as the stage height may have been a limiting factor that wouldn't be present at O'Brien's, and, regardless, we'd get another Estuary set.

Master [7/7]
This was the reason that we turned out, and Master certainly didn't disappoint. Master is past their peak at this point, though some of this may be attributable to the fact that Paul built a new American band for this tour rather than trying to bring over the Czech guys that he's been playing with since going into self-imposed exile. There were a few minor flubs, and this obviously wasn't what we'd've gotten had this been 15 years ago, but what Master did then, they still do, and if Master today is Paul Speckmann dragging his sidemen to greatness by pure force of will, he's still certainly able to do so. Just crunching, thrashing, no-nonsense brutality that took back the audience after Estuary's crushing set, and if there was a little grousing about the crowd being run-down on a Sunday night, it didn't lead to an impeded performance. They closed with a Death Strike tune, but it's been so long since I listened to Fuckin' Death that I didn't pick out which -- and it's debatable as to how many others here had managed to reel in that demo out of the dark recesses of the internets to catch the reference.

Slowly, things broke up; it was still an atrociously long walk back to Cambridge when I could have parked closer and I may have picked up a tweak in my left ear from standing up close and unprotected again, but this was the kind of real true, interior death metal gig that only comes around once in a while, and there's no regrets to be associated with what's probably going to come out as one of the best gigs of the year.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

fucking finally

Thank You for your order!

The order was shipped.

The following articles were ordered:

Quant. - Itemno. - Name - Price - Total

1 - 24158 - WOA - 3-Tages ALL-IN -ANNIVERSARY- Festival-Ticket 2009 - 30.07. - 01.08. 2009 - 130,00 EUR - 130,00 EUR


At long last, my Wacken ticket is on the way. Now I can start planning around W:O:A + Party.San, and not Party.San + Summer Breeze; it's probably too much of a stretch to do the full and undoubtedly filthy W:O:A + Party.San + Summer Breeze, unless of course I drag around a bunch of technological crap and do support whenever I'm not drunk.

It'll be interesting to see what the serial is on this one; last year I was #1419 or thereabouts, but this time there's almost certain to be five digits. Also, I now have to care about the lineup, and hope that more good bands will be added than bad.

Iced Earth with Into Eternity and Saviours [Worcester Palladium, 10/15/2008]

In Which I Am Too Poor To Buy A T-Shirt, But Score Free French Fries And Then End Up Detouring Through Downtown Boston Largely By Accident.

With a headline like that, you know there's going to be a colorful anecdote after the show content. This will come in good time.

As on the night before, I left right after work in order to get over and buy a ticket before they sold out. This was a consequence of me being too damn busy the week before and thus unable to purchase in advance, which kind of had a knock-on effect in terms of the rest of the night. I got in, paid my $25, and after getting my first beer, realized that I didn't have enough money for a t-shirt, thanks to the door cost, getting dinner on the way out, and the fact that Kamelot was like $30 the night before, which wasn't in the budget. This sucked, but I rationalized away; better to not buy beers then, and just camp the rail. I was going to do it anyway, and the rationalization made the fact that I had to do it without a cool Iced Earth tourshirt through my belt a little more palatable.

Saviours [4.5/7]
I didn't got to the extent of finding out how long this band's been around, and thus determining if their late-80s demo-tape sound is a survival or a re-creation; they could go either way, and the fact that I didn't do this research is a strong indicator about the quality of the band. They had some nice riffs, but they never closed the deal in terms of building memorable songs out of them, and I'm not sure that anyone in attendance could accurately determine, based on the performance offered, why they were on this tour. The advantage over any random local band is pretty dubious.

Into Eternity [5.5/7]
Once again, the Palladium's shitty sound strikes down a good band. Even if Tim was back in BC because his wife was having a baby, there's no excuse for the soundboard to effectively turn off both of this band's guitars for the first song and a half. Seriously, you wankers, there's virtually nothing in Into Eternity but guitars, and if they're buried, the audience is full of people looking around at each other wondering seriously, what the fuck is going on? They recovered as soon as the sound guys got their shit together, and did a good set; the new material is pretty cool, and it's an interesting tack to take; one wonders if they're able to pry a couple points out of Century Media to send to a cancer-research fund. No Tim, though, did tell, and this wasn't quite as good a set as some of the earlier ones that I've seen from this band.

Iced Earth [7/7]
It took a while, but here it was; the real thing, in top form. There's a lot to be said about bad business and artistic decisions, and Jon's ego squandering their chances to break through massively, but that Iced Earth is one of the absolute best power-thrash bands currently operating cannot be denied. It felt like a step back, even with Matt in full cry, at the start of the set, but then "Burning Times" starts up, and someone rams into me, and my cold's gone, I'm snorting fire, and I'm back ten years to when I first heard Something Wicked... and everything is right once again. The musicianship was pretty ace, as expected from Matt and Jon, though maybe not from the three interchangeable parts backing them, and covered every record (except maybe The Dark Saga, but they might have squeezed "The Hunter" in somewhere) in at least cursory fashion, though there was a heavy weighting towards the three Something Wicked records -- only one or two from the new album, though, so Jon has a decidedly different idea of what 'touring on a record' is than, say, Steve Harris. This wasn't Iced Earth at their peak, but the reunion felt genuine, and Matt's vocals on Ripper's parts beat the CDs virtually down through the ground. No "Dante's Inferno" or "The Funeral" -- though either was pretty much out of the question from the get-go -- but we didn't have to sit through any political disquisitions from Jon; call it a wash, and also a balls-out performance that challenged Gamma Ray's set in this building last month for the best power metal outing of the year.

On the way home, I stopped as I usually do for some eats and a large cup of cold coffee to keep from crashing into stuff on the way home. I put in my normal order at the McDonald's on the pike, and because there were actually some other people there -- probably also on the way home from the gig -- I got fries tossed in that I didn't ask for. Abstractly, it's healthier to not eat McDonald's' fries than to eat them, but they came free, and technically, I was ahead on calorie burn via only drinking that one beer at the show, and spending the whole time standing. Hooray rationalization! Things got more interesting when I attempted to get off the Pike at 128, and found that the entrance to said road was closed. I followed the detour signs, but apparently not very well, because I ended up pushing east, and eventually got onto Commonwealth Avenue. This was fortunate, because I now knew how to get home. The only problem is that this involved riding into Boston; following the T in from Chestnut Hill in through Allston, through Kenmore and taking the Mass Ave bridge across to the Cambridge side to pick up Memorial Drive, then over to Route 1 and north again. Thus this trip home was kind of a superset of the roads I traveled the night before getting back from Edguy, but done later, as an extension of something that burned a hell of a lot more gas in aggregate.

In retrospect, it's not real interesting. However, even at 1 and 2 in the morning, it's possible to make an adventure out of getting lost rather than cussing because the fucking highway department decided to close the connection between two of the most major roads in the area. And it probably was shorter than following the real detour to the next exit onto 128.

Kamelot with Edguy and Hypersolid [Middle East, Cambridge, 10/14/2008]

This is colossally late due to a thick stretch of shows and high demand at work. There are four such show reviews that will hopefully all get posted before the next gig comes around.

I left right from work for this one, and though I was a little later leaving than I anticipated, I wasn't exactly concerned; seriously, it's Kamelot and Edguy, in Boston -- how many people's it going to draw? Boy was I wrong; I got up to the Middle East, and got re-routed into the end of a ridiculously long line that eventually extended back nearly to the Cambridge Salvation Army and the firehouse. Yes. A lineup nearly a full block long, for a power metal show, in Cambridge. In the future, the answer to that first question is going to be "almost six hundred, and 'go up'".

One way or another I got in, bought a shirt from Edguy, and managed to get kind of forward before the place filled up completely. At the merch stand, I saw a sale lost for the dumbest of reasons -- a markedly rotund patron disappointed by the fact that the bands' shirts stopped at XL. Seriously, you're a power metal band, and you don't stock "size 68 extra fat"? This wasn't even their first tour, where it might be excusable; both Kamelot and Edguy should know their American audience by now.

Hypersolid [5/7]
The second time I'd seen this band in two weeks, the better sound in this venue combined with probably knowing more of the songs better to produce a little flatter experience. They got a little more time, but didn't fill it much better; the Carcass twitches were still there, but overall, they sounded a lot more like a metalcore band obsessed with Dream Theater in this outing, and the heaviness wasn't quite what was needed to really win over the crowd. This was a decent show, but they did better in Worcester.

I pushed a little further forward; these guys were the reason that I came in, and as I had a cold, I was in kind of two minds about staying much after they finished.

Edguy [6/7]
This wasn't really a better performance than when I saw them at Mark's, as they were pinched for time, but it was pretty damn cool all the same. They continued to not play the mid-period stuff (no "Picture On The Wall" or "Pharaoh" still, boo), but did a lot of the new material that people knew, and a few name-checks on their older stuff, with a fairly minimal distribution of infield antics. If's nice that they do this, but here at least, they're realizing that this should probably be saved until we can fix the stupid alcohol laws in this country and set up some real open-airs. Since they didn't have a ton of time, they didn't fuck around much before coming out for "King of Fools"; they got a stellar response, and when they come back in 2009, they'd better be headlining.

At this point I moved back and got another beer; I didn't have a great abiding interest in Kamelot, and I'd rather that someone else saw them up close. Unfortunately, where I ended up standing (next to the mixing stand) turned out to be a really bad choice, as once the band started, Roy's vocals were buried, and the strobe lights were hitting me right in the eyes -- time to move again.

Kamelot [5.5/7]
This was a better performance than I saw at Wacken this year, and I was paying more attention to it, and to their credit the band did keep me there the whole while, even as other fans were leaving -- it's a tough spot to be in on a Tuesday night, having to wake up and go to work in the morning. Nevertheless, they still didn't do anything that would really convert me to being a Kamelot fan; their prog-power sound was much the same as it's always been. It was a decent performance, and those who were singing along definitely liked it, but the band didn't do much to move me, and if they don't have their intended effect in this environment, it's doubtful where they will.

They did, I think, two encores, and the end was a relief that they weren't going to drag things out any longer; as mentioned, there was a slow trickle of fans out the back from about 11:30 onwards that allowed me to move a little forward. Not "too much" Kamelot, but definitely "enough" for all concerned, and given that it was a Tuesday, it was nice not to spend an eternity getting back home. The recharge was swift -- back to work and then out to Worcester the very next night for Iced Earth.