Sunday, January 20, 2008

The Black Dahlia Murder with 3 Inches of Blood, Hate Eternal, and Decrepit Birth [Worcester Palladium, 1/19/2008]

When I got in to the venue, there was something or other going on at the DCU center, and parking was hard to come by; I parked in the usual lot, but it took two passes through the lot to find somewhere that wasn't occupied. The only comfort in it was that this looked like a kid-type event, and would thus be over when the show got out.

Inside, the merch stand was six rows deep and the bar was empty. I shook my head at the Kindermenge, got a beer, and headed down for the front; my primary interest at this one was in the first two bands, and if the people who are concentrating on the headliner are standing in line waiting to buy gear, they're not camping the front row. I did get up pretty close, about where I usually end up when I decide to go down front at Palladium gigs.

Decrepit Birth [6/7]
There was a bit of a wait before the band went on, but when they finally came out, it was well worth the wait. The sound board didn't handle the new material optimally, but given how badly opening bands have been jobbed at this venue in the past, it wasn't all that bad. While their older Suffocation-styled stuff is really strong, the performance of the new stuff is what really sets them apart, and the execution here was excellent. A few places might have been a little tighter, but there's pretty much no one playing this kind of death metal right now, and as good as the fusion of late Death and traditional brutality is on the new album, there's definitely the sense from this performance that they can still develop it further and do something really groundbreaking.

What was most remakable out of this performance was the degree to which Decrepit Birth has the bass double not the rhythm guitar, but the lead. Matt, of course, did all the stringed instruments on the new disc, and he's primarily a guitarist, so it's perhaps not too surprising, but it still is interesting to watch and hear -- because it's a cool effect, and because as a bassist, I'm far too lazy and unskilled to ever pull off something like that.

Hate Eternal [6/7]
This is the second time I've seen this band, on both occasions at this venue, and also the second time that I've seen them get absolutely jobbed by the sound board. For most of the first song, the guitars were so low they might as well not have been there, and Erik's might as well have been unplugged well into the second song for all the sound he was able to get out of it. Fortunately, they overcame this and put up a really good, really intense set that pumped up the crowd and informed those down front who didn't know exactly what is involved in being on the floor at a death metal show: namely, that no one is safe anywhere, ever. A few took advantage of the breaks between songs to go back, but most, including quite a few of these guys, did stand in, and hopefully were better for the experience. Unlike the last time they were around, they did play "Behold Judas", and yes, it was wicked cool.

Following this set, I walked back up to the bar area; the part I came for was done, and now it was time for merch, etc, before the bonus started. I nabbed a bunch of Decrepit Birth stuff, drank some Jager, and ended up back down on the first level above the floor, in what appeared to be kind of the RTTP tier; I ran into three or four people that I knew a lot better by screename than by face, all back up off the floor and entertaining at least a little skepticism about the coming bands.

3 Inches of Blood [5/7]
Once upon a time, this band was a joke, doing the early-80s power-metal deal for the lulz. The last time I saw them, it was uncertain how much it was for real or still a gag; on this go-round, there was very little doubt that this is now about 100% serious, in what has become probably one of the oddest turns in recent musical history. Now, 3 Inches of Blood is a classically styled power metal band in the vein of Saxon and Grim Reaper -- if with occasional decays into hardcore in long sets -- and if they're not terribly original to the ear of an old fart who has a prominent Running Wild patch at the top of his jacket, they're definitely novel to the majority of BDM's audience. It remains to be seen just how many, if any, of the kids in attendance will actually go out and get into, say, Manowar or Grave Digger as a result of this band, but as a reminder of heavy metal history, it's pretty cool and noteworthy.

I did a second swing by the merch table later and picked up a superstrip from these guys; I don't know precisely where it's going to go (on the ultralight, obviously), but I do kind of have a trigger impulse as regards getting patches.

The Black Dahlia Murder [5.5/7]
Yes, split scores suck. However, there isn't really an easy way to address this: in a longer set, they don't have quite enough awesome material to keep up their string of really strong live sets to date, but it was still a good performance. I noticed more of the less-inspired stuff that I remember clogging up their records than I'd seen from them live in the past, but they still had more material that sounded good and original than stuff that came off as tired and recycled from the heyday of the NWOSDM. Outside of the music, there were several injury timeouts in the pit -- a good thing for all those except the people who had to get taken out for medical attention -- and they flavored "Statutory Ape" with a dude in a gorilla suit running out and jumping out into the audience. Good stuff; still not quite my style, but as a bonus to Hate Eternal and Decrepit Birth, it was all right.

What wasn't, quite, was the presence in their merch stall of a certain shirt featuring the band's name done up in the style of At The Gates' Slaughter of the Soul. Maybe the band's just poking fun at the critics -- self included -- who still call them out for biting too hard on Gothenburg's best, but I'm not a fan of the whole "write your band name in someone else's logo form" thing. This didn't influence the score above, but it may influence perceptions of anyone who happened to buy one of these shirts.

The drive back was pretty uneventful; the show got out around 11, and the roads were more or less empty -- none of the trucks all over the place that I typically get coming back from Metal Thursdays -- until I got back to 128. It was a little early a night, but still definitely a good time overall. Next gig is up in Manchester at the end of the week; I'm going to have to do that one right from work, and also find my way to a new venue, but it's worth it to try to get up and see Rohirrim again, plus all the good -- if much more grindy/slammy -- bands ahead of them on the bill.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Ehnahre with Cyaegha, Revocation, and Dysentery [O'Brien's, Allston, 1/13/2008]

I almost didn't go to this show; the weather was threatening to start getting shitty when I would be driving back, and my left front tire was so low that I thought it had gotten damaged (no, it just is the closest to where the sole weight is in the car when it's moving, and I'm in the car about another 8-10 hours a week with the new commute). I was going to just go home after getting money -- where I saw how fucked up the tire was -- but the air station was being hogged at that gas station, so I went to the one up by the highway. The tire filled right up and looked good, and at 8:30 I had a choice to make: left and go home, or right and go see metal. Damnit, I thought to myself; you're a metalhead, man up and act like it. I turned right and didn't look back.

It was about 80 minutes later when I got to the venue, which was split almost evenly between driving and walking in from Cambridge; if I didn't hate driving in Boston so much, I wouldn't park two miles away and have to go over a river and an interstate to get to this place. Unfortunately, I do hate driving in Boston, and this is the most straightforward way to go, so I can deal with the exercise.

Dysentery [5/7]
I was afraid that I'd end up missing their set due to coming down late, but fortunately this was not the case, and I got to see most of their performance, even though they had started at least by the time I got into earshot of the venue. They put up a solid performance of slamming death metal, and definitely impressed with their cohesiveness for how long they've been playing together (Dysentery in this iteration is pretty much is a new band, even though they're composed completely of long-time scene veterans), even if there was more brutality than variety in their set. Dysentery's music is reminiscent of getting a house dropped on your face; it's brutal as all fuck, but there's only so many different ways that you can manage to do it. There's definitely a place for this kind of music, and I was bummed that they closed up their merch desk before I could pick up a CD, but my preferences run a little more technical. Still a solid set, and they probably had the thickest crowd of the night.

Revocation [6.5/7]
Revocation is currently in the studio, recording their debut full-length -- and none too soon, since they are now sold out of Summon The Spawn and have only the Cryptic Warning album available -- and favored us with a couple cuts that will be on the new one. In contrast to their older, more death-influenced stuff, these new tunes show that there's been some Realm, Imperium, and/or Toxik floating around their practice space recently; since two of the songs in question weren't performed with lyrics, it'll be interesting to see what they do with them at that point, as Dave and Anthony's voices aren't really suited to the kind of singing that you got from that sort of thrash back in the day. On the music as demonstrated here alone, this is going to be one of the top releases of the year, and the fire that they showed on their older material also demonstrates that the final recorded product will continue to show an evolution of various strands in classic thrash, rather than a straight revival. It's due out sometime in the spring, and while the band isn't letting on as to whether or not they've got a label lined up, the quality of this performance would definitely make a neutral observer question if there's an extreme-music label that wouldn't want these guys on their roster.

This show also saw the IRL-sales debut of Revocation's two new shirt designs, of which I bought one. They're both high-production, vibrant designs that stand up ahead of most of the monocolor prints that you see from local bands, which seems to indicate that they may be doing some more extensive travel to get their profile up -- though that in itself is a loss leader, and a more intensive commitment than the shirts by far.

Cyaegha [6/7]
Up from Virginia, these guys continued the technical attack with some sick and complex death metal, including a cover of Decapitated's "Spheres of Madness" that they not only pulled off flawlessly, but also integrated tightly with the rest of their material. Their locked-in precision and twisted riffage weren't the only things recalling Carcass, though; their singer's "death metal voice" carried with it a West Country/Welsh accent reminiscent of Xentrix...though this is probably my take mostly because I have live performances from a really weird selection of British bands. This was a kickass set, and unfortunately for the band, they didn't have any merch available; the crowd devoured the free CDs they had (I got one, but haven't listened through it yet), and many of these people would also have grabbed the disc had it cost the usual $3-5, and possibly picked up a shirt or button or something as well. This was more of a test-the-waters outing, though, and the band will hopefully be out again soon for a full run with some stuff for people to buy to offset their expenses.

Ehnahre [6/7]
I was interested to see this band, just from their other projects; when people formerly in Biolich and Kayo Dot unite to revive a grind band as a doom project, anyone who can tell you how it's going to shake out beforehand is either in the band or lying. Playing slow on a lot of their tunes, they were a strange fit to the bill, but definitely more than heavy enough, and as a former brass player I was really pleased to see their trumpet player being used effectively and creatively. It seemed like they ended a little short, but this may have been due to the amount of time that they put into long drone sections that seemed to a certain degree not to count. If you like drone-doom, or can get through these long drone sections without falling asleep, Ehnahre is definitely a band to check out.

Despite the stated prohibition on hipsters at this show, there was still some talking amongst the crowd while this band was playing. Seriously, shut up and eyes front. They may be boring right now, but they're also extremely cool in much of the rest of the set, and there is enough time to talk when the rest of us aren't trying to concentrate on the music.

I wanted to get some stuff from Ehnahre, but looked up at they sky outside, and decided that it would have to wait till whenever I see them again; the clouds were filling in, and I had two miles to walk before I got to my car and could start trying to drive away from the snow. I made it back without issues, but am pretty much snowed in right now; let's hope the weather breaks soon, so that not only I can go to work like normal tomorrow, but also make it out to Worcester for Summoning Hate and Composted at Metal Thursday.

Just a note, but as of right now, I'm on pace: 13 bands in 13 days this year. I fell short last year by about 80 sets, but with less short-term international travel and maybe a trip to MDF if Carcass ends up playing there instead of NEMHF, I'm hoping that I can finish with 366+ in 366.

I, Destroyer with Unholy Goatfucker, Suffering Bastard, Mechannibal, and Unity Resistance [Midway Cafe, Boston, 1/12/2008]

I'm a big fan of these matinee shows, because I don't have to drive: as before, I just got on the T at the stop three blocks from my place and rode in. I got in a little early, though, and took the opportunity to walk around Jamaica Plain a little before I actually went in. I ended up going a little further into the Dominican 'hood than I initially planned, but managed to get out in one piece, so it wasn't as bad as all that. Definitely an interesting experience.

So eventually I got back into the gentrified part of JP and got in the club, though most of the bands weren't there yet, and this would become a little important later: this was, as mentioned, a matinee show, so the bands would have to be all finished and packed out in time to start the second event around nine or so. Hanging out for the intervening time was decent, though; the PBR was cheap, the people as they filtered in were cool, and eventually the Packers decided to stop sucking and started pasting the Seahawks.

Unity Restistance [5/7]
I hadn't heard this band before, but hoped they'd be better than their name indicated. Despite the pull-two-words-out-of-the-Hatebreed-ballcap moniker, they fortunately provided a solid set of doctrinaire hardcore in an older style. It wasn't metal by any strict definition, but it was fun, butal music, and definitely an enjoyable time. Their set seemed a little short, probably due to the environmental factors, but with a band like this, you want them to keep their set relatively down, so that the material sounds fresh throughout. They probably could have done a couple more without people getting bored, but this was still a nice solid set.

Mechannibal [6/7]
I hadn't seen these guys in a while, and was quite pleasantly surprised at the strides they've made. This was a techncially near-perfect, textbook grindcore set that really stood out on what was overall a very solid bill. Mike drums with more raw power than about any other drummer I've seen lately, and the rest of the band is eminently able to keep up. It's always difficult to see which local bands are going to stick and hang around, but Mechannibal really sounds like they could be one of them, and go on to do some pretty impressive stuff.

Before this set, the juice was set loose as a harbinger of things to come: Mike snapped one of the anchor points of a cymbal leg clean off the shaft, and had to borrow a stand from (IIRC) the Suffering Bastard drummer. Raw MUSCLE.

Suffering Bastard [5/7]
I hadn't seen the R.I. bands on this bill previously, and thus was interested to see what this grind act would sound like, with their two bassists, zero guitars, and hipster fans. The answer tuned out to be along the lines of "what Mortician would sound like if they listened to a lot of Napalm Death". I know this doesn't explain the hipsters, but if they have sense, then yes, it is understandable that they'd like short, gravelingly brutal songs powered by a dense low end. They took a black metal turn on one song that was kind of interesting, but most of this set was solid grind, made distinctive to a certain degree by the unusual configuration. The sound was wearing a little by the end of their set; maybe due to the phenomenon, as mentioned, of grind bands as a class having a half-life for live performances. Still definitely a cool time, and I did get their current CD, where it'll be interesting to hear how they present the dual-bass sound in the studio.

Unholy Goatfucker [5/7]
Back before they pussied the show out by making it about Elmo, taking away Cookie Monster's cookie addiction (and pipe in the Monsterpiece Theater sketches wtf), and making Oscar stop being such a dick to people, there was an occasional segment on Sesame Street about "one of these things is not like the other/one of these things does not belong". You seldom think about Sesame Street bits at a DIY show, but when a corpsepainted black metal band comes out after three mostly-grindcore bands, it's to a certain degree a natural leap. When this band goes on to play in the style of early Dimmu/early Immortal and changes it up with intermittent female vocals, the questioning becomes stronger. Though they were really weirdly matched to the rest of the bill and started out kind of rough, Unholy Goatfucker got better as the set went on, and did manage to finish with a decent performance.

I, Destroyer [6/7]
I thought this style of music had gone extinct, but fortunately, here it is, alive and well. This was a really kickass performance of brutal thrash in a style most prominently seen on demo tapes from about 1987-1992, which is rare to see live these days, but always good when you can find it. I wasn't able to get a CD, but will be doing my best to see them at any further gigs in Boston or northward, and maybe they'll have some more recordings or more merch at those. Regardless, if they're on their game to this degree or better, it's going to be an awesome show, as this one was.

Conscious of the need to try and get back to at least the bar at North Station if not all the way home ASAP due to the Pats game, I split about as soon as I, Destroyer finished. It was slow going due to infrequent trains, but I was back at my place to catch the end of the game; good guys win, and hopefully they'll be able to beat the Chargers without me spending the first half of the game at some show, because the only gig next weekend is Decrepit Birth and Hate Eternal (oh yeah, and BDM) on Saturday.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Ramming Speed with Howl, Coctopus (CD release), and Hydronaut [Church, Boston, 1/4/2008]

So after pussing out on Metal Thursday due to distance, illness, and single-degree temperatures, I went in to Boston to catch Coctopus' record release rather than up to Haverhill for the most-of-Pinkerton-Thugs reunion for the first show of the year. Either one would probably have been pretty cool, but I think I made the optimal choice.

This was the first time that I'd been in to Church (which I think used to be the Linwood Grill, but I didn't go to any gigs there either, and could be totally wrong), which despite being in Boston, wasn't too hard to get to. Parking was readily available, but this was a bit of a two-edged sword; I actually got up to the club before doors and managed to get in out of the weather more or less by luck.

It was a while before the bands started, so there was time to front-load on beer and buzz through the distro table; waiting may be expensive sometimes, but when it lands you a Hirax 12", it's usually worth it. A little after 9, though, Hydronaut went on, and the party got rolling in earnest.

Hydronaut [5/7]
If you were expecting Hydronaut to sound kind of like Clouds on the basis of common members, then you probably just don't recall that Clouds didn't really work out like that relative to Cave In. If you didn't know the six-degrees-of-kevin-bacon backstory of the personnel, though, or just didn't care, what you saw from this band was a short but entirely satisfactory set of slightly punk-inflected southern-rock metal that did set the tone for a lot of what was to come. Good music, and worth checking out, but they're still kind of setting themselves up as a band; they don't have any recorded material out yet, but when they do, fans of, say, current Corrosion of Conformity, ought to be interested.

Coctopus [7/7]
Unfortunately, the security (at about the Tabu level here, not nearly as fascist as Mark's) made them turn off the smoke machine after the first song. That being said, once their Thin-Lizzy-meets-early-Maiden sound got cranked up, there was no shortage of atmosphere, or of awesome music. Though Ocean (who had to drop) were initially down as the headliner on this bill, Coctopus put up a more than worthy headlining-class performance. Sadly, this band can't tour for a while (due to some niggling legal technicalties that I can't really comment accurately about), but this just ought to mean than those in the environs of Massachusetts get to see more of them than they otherwise would. Despite the lack of a bar, they'd definitely do well up at Welfare Records -- if the Bones Brigade name among their antecedents doesn't catch the staff's attention, the fact that they're one of the best bands playing this sort of primal metal right now ought to.

Howl [6/7]
The highest-billed on the original flyer of the bands that appeared on the program, Howl put up a kickass set, even if it was a little more back toward the conventional in its mix of death and stoner doom. One of the more aggressive acts in the lineup and debatably the heaviest, they went over well not only with the half of the crowd in the "still metal doods" bracket, but also with the "punx all growed up" segment -- the audience was pretty evenly split, but the split didn't really show itself in behavior rather than what shirts people were wearing.

If this sounds interesting and you live south of Boston, you didn't miss your chance completely; they're playing at AS220 in Providence with Saint Jude before heading out on tour for the next couple weeks. Those in other areas will want to check their local underground venues, as these guys are definitely worth checking out.

Ramming Speed [6/7]
Also going out on tour for the next couple weeks (if for no other reason than they're sick of working real jobs, which no one will blame them for) are these guys, and if people can remember that they're not Municipal Waste, they ought to do well. This may be a little difficult, as they've sharpened and honed their grind-based reinvention of crossover to the point where some may find it difficult to separate them from their more famous Virginian forerunners. Of course, even though their style is a reinvention rather than innovation, this doesn't make Ramming Speed a Waste coverband any more than it makes Municipal Waste a DRI coverband, and this set eminently showed off their abilities at delivering quality thrash. They ain't super-technical, but that's not what you want from a band like this: kickass fast thrash and a turbulent front row is, and that's what we got here, and what people in other markets will be seeing from them in the next two weeks. It's too bad that they only have their 7" available, because they've got more really good songs than are on said record, and not everyone has a turntable, so some toolbags may be able to rationalize not buying their music. However, they won't be able to avoid being mocked by their friends if they also fail to pick up an awesome and fashionable TOP OF THE DUDE CHAIN shirt. Bonus!

Next show technically is tonight at Dodge Street with Cocaine Tongue, but I'm not sure if there'll be enough non-cover bands involved for it to count. If not, it's looking like a matinee grind gig at the Midway Cafe next weekend, and then, of course, Revocation supporting Cyaegha at O'Brien's.