Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Deathamphetamine with Witch Tomb, Zircon, and Razormaze [O'Brien's, Allston, 7/27/2008]

Though I didn't end up picking up any merch for export, this was still a killer show and a first-class personal sendoff before what is shaping up to be about the biggest and best Wacken ever. More on that, of course, when I get back from said fest.

For this one, I got in a little early, despite a bit of traffic and having to do the two-mile march in wearing my normal jacket; it had been raining earlier, and I also needed to get into festival shape of wearing the full-weight kutte despite the heat. It wasn't so bad, and though I was probably about the first paying entrant, it gave me time to sit and rest up before the bands started.

Razormaze [5/7]
Probably more due to bad luck than anything else, I hadn't seen this band yet -- and based on this set, not seeing them is something that metalheads ought to generally avoid. Drawing from old Metallica, mid-period Testament, and classic Iron Maiden, this was a ripping set of old-school thrash that, if it didn't exactly provide much new (or, admittedly "noticeably different from Warbringer or, say, Fastkill"), still definitely rocked. Very few of the thrash revival (or, to kill a meme flat dead, the NWOHSTM -- new wave of high school thrash metal) bands do melodics the way these guys borrow from Maiden and Ride The Lightning, which will help set them apart to the point where they find more of their own voice instead of the echoes of yesteryear.

I love thrash metal, and I think that people playing it in the old style in the present day is awesome, even when they're significantly younger than me and weren't alive when Reign In Blood was released. I'm not sure why old thrash has come back; hopefully, this isn't just a trend, and these bands will continue and develop, and maybe take their later direction in a different, but just as interesting path, than the way that thrash evolved at the turn of the '90s.

Since Razormaze had patches, in addition to more normal merch, I had to pick one up; unfortunately, I don't have the time before I hit the road tonight to figure out where the hell I can fit it on one or the other of my jackets, let alone do the requisite sewing. If you buy kutte parts, people will make more of them.

Zircon [7/7]
Wow. I hadn't seen Zircon in nearly a year, since their gig with Wolven Ancestry at Ralph's last year, which was the first show after Wacken 07, with this being the last one before the 2008 iteration. In that time, they'd been pretty quiet, mostly known for members being out on loan to bigger bands. Anthony may be with Belphegor near-full-time, and out of Zircon now, but Scott is back, and the time spent as the voice of Vital Remains definitely shows. The band had amazing presence, putting up large-hall force in a dive bar, and the music was viciously awesome, covering, if I heard it right, mostly new stuff since their last split, as well as some older stuff. The tone may be reminiscent of Immortal in some places, but that's seldom a bad thing, and the music is Zircon alone. Looking ahead at the show calendar, it looks like these guys are going to be active again, and, like Revocation (get well soon Anthony) extended activity at this level is going to lead to interest from good labels if any kind of justice prevails.

Witch Tomb [6/7]
Zircon set the bar damn high, but Witch Tomb nearly equalled them, putting forth a top-class set of raw, dirty black metal. As either a concession to the heat, or an assertion that the music dominates over the visual, they weren't blacked up, not even Cody, which is interesting considering how their more usual visuals meshed with the music, and was probably the one implementation of corpsepaint that actually worked in an American underground context. It, of course, didn't have any negative effect on the music, but the one significant takeaway from this set was that it felt too damned short. Though I eventually appreciated getting home earlier, another 10 minutes from Witch Tomb (and also from Deathamphetamine, later) would have made the later time worthwhile.

Deathamphetamine [6/7]
At their last last show, back before the Skybar closed, Deathamphetamine was a five-piece; they're down to four now, more thrashy with less death and hardcore, and looking for a new name to distinguish the new era of the band from the old. It's tough picking a name that's both good and original, but in point of fact the band has a bit of freedom in this regard given how good their fusion of thrash, death, and hardcore is. Again, as with Witch Tomb, it was a little surprising and disappointing when they closed up; I really thought they were good for another couple songs. Abstractly, it's better to leave the audience wanting more than to leave them glad you finally stopped, but the way these guys were going on this show, it's difficult to think of someone who could get bored with them, and more difficult to consider this hypothetical wet blanket coming out to O'B's in the first place. There will be other shows, though, and this one certainly didn't lack for awesome.

Afterwards I hung about talking with some of Summoning Hate's crew -- and apologizing because I'm gonna miss them at the Midway on account of At The Gates opening for Carcass opening for Kreator 4000 miles away -- and then stumped back across the bridges to go home. Good show, and my gear is packed; barring luggage loss, injury, or other accidents, I'll have notice of how Wacken went up in about a week, and pictures and a full writeup after.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Composted with Covenance and Burial [Ralph's, Worcester, 7/17/2008]

There are probably a million and one slam-related puns that could be made on this show, even setting aside the ones that Composted made from the stage. Let it suffice to say that this was a kickass Metal Thursday, and one at which a ridiculous amount of slam was passed out.

That being said, there is no guarantee that the author's purely vestigal sense of humor will be able to refrain from making slam-related jokes further on in this review.

Getting in to this iteration of New England's best regular concert series was a little tougher than normal; the DPW apparently decided that Thursday evening was a grand old time to tear up large parts of 128 and the Pike for resurfacing. The drivers trying to use the road did not agree, and as a result it was getting a little late when I finally pulled in to Ralph's; fortunately, the bands hadn't started yet, and I was able to unwind a little -- including picking up a couple interesting records from Oak Knoll -- before they did. Unfortunately, this was because Archaeon had to drop, which was kind of a bummer. I was also a little surprised to see the way the running order sorted out, with the touring band on next-to-last; on the other hand, they probably took one look at Composted's past history and shrewdly said "yeah, we're not going to try and top a local supergroup that dresses up in costumes and still plays good music, we'll take the next-to-last slot and get our van packed up earlier."

Burial [6/7]
In their last show under this name, Burial, veterans of long standing (thirteen years under this name, or since several members of Archaeon, who were scheduled to open, were last in kindergarden), put up a quality set of death metal bridging the gap between Suffocation-style brutality and the slam that would dominate the rest of the bill. Some of their material wasn't the most inspired, and their slam breakdowns definitely came off the third best, but this was a solid outing of death metal that should have eminently satisfied any brutal death fan in attendance. Unfortunately, they didn't have any merch, probably looking ahead to the name change, but they're definitely a band to watch out for.

Covenance [6/7]
There was a decent interval for set change between the bands, but as Covenance went on, the show changed gears sharply, from trad-brutal-death plus slam to slam plus hardcore. The floor got more violent, and the breakdowns a little better managed, but the main difference was in style rather than total level of execution. They may not have been quite as on as their antecedents in Dying Fetus and Misery Index, but this was still an awesome slab of slam/grind/death that would have easily overpowered most other bills even in this style. They're on tour for the next couple weeks, so if they're at a bar near you, go and get your ears blown out.

Too much of Covenance's merch is free for a band touring in an era of $4.20/gallon gas. Their CD is free, which was cool, but I'd've gladly dropped 3 to 5 bucks on the seven-inch (also free) in addition to the ten for the shirt. They're to be applauded for their DIY dedication, but sometimes you do need to eat food too, and metalheads certainly won't begrudge good bands for charging reasonable prices for good music.

Composted [6.5/7]
Composted has probably never heard of Rapid Charlie, and will no doubt be slightly saddened by the fact that they are not absolutely the first band to introduce pool noodles to heavy music. However, Rapid Charlie's knifers and conductor never put their noodles to as good or violent use as the audience did here, which is probably due to having a very special crowd, one that is as fine with turning a dead beachball into a keffiyeh as with whipping people with it, and one whose first instinct on seeing a stray flipflop in the pit is to beat themselves in the head with it. Composted, as might be inferred, was in luau gear on this outing, but still as usual passed out simply retarded amounts of slam. They've really got the interplay of breakdowns and pileups down to an exact if chaotic science, and if Rich spent less time destroying food with his forehead in this set, he spent more of it as a real co-vocalist, a uniformly positive turn for an already killer sound. This was not a perfect set overall, but it's easy to see how someone could get that impression if they were downstairs at the start when the sound system decided that Eliot's bass was just bringing too much slam, and decided to stop working for him. Once this was ironed out, yeah, it's hard to think of how it might have gone better, especially since they had the time at the end to grind through a couple unreleased TYAG (RIP) tunes.

The low point, if there was one, of this set was towards the end, where one of the girls in the pit collided with Crazy Dan when she wasn't expecting to and munged up her knee. Fortunately, the injury wasn't so critically bad that the bar had to call for the SLAMbulance. (See, I told you; no escaping the horrible slam jokes.)

I picked up a bunch of stickers from the Rev for the Sonderwerbeaktion Wacken; now to make up a sales pitch to convince Europeans to check out metal photography from the Americas. Unfortunately, Composted was pretty much out of stickers, so I'm not carrying over any bandmerch yet; fortunately, this means I still definitely have space. I was at a friend's wedding this weekend, so no shows, but there may be one or two this week before the last declared opportunity on the 27th.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Smite The Righteous with Our Final Chapter, My Pet Demon, and Eyes Sewn Shut [Ralph's, Worcester, 7/3/2008]

Blame my laziness more than the Fourth and assorted pileups for the lateness of this review; nevertheless, it's done now, because this week has some cool show content on a close schedule.

Attending this Metal Thursday was a more stress-free proposition than usual, as I didn't have to go to work on Friday. The holiday weekend, unfortunately, probably adversely affected turnout, as this wasn't really a peak night for attendance, but those who did come out saw a pretty killer show. As Eyes Sewn Shut set up, I talked a bit with the MPD guys, pawed through Oak Knoll's distro and picked out a couple CDs, and also weirded out Jeremy and Blue by laughing at a disclaimer written in German on the back of a CD with the rest of its external text mocked up in Hebrew (Nazibands FTL; nix koennense sogen, allerlei trotzdem erkannt). I didn't pick this one up (obviously), but did end up with a demo from Covenance (next time's headliner) and a NEDF flier -- need to find out more about Providence in order to find out how much of the fest -- weekend right after Wacken -- I can make it down for.

Presently, the bands started, first those who I'd seen before.

Eyes Sewn Shut [4/7]
I'd seen these guys a while back at Mark's, which was a place not conducive to optimal performances by, really, any band. They got, if I recall correctly, exactly this score, but didn't demonstrate, as they did here, as much why this should be the case. ESS did a decent set, but the whole was not greater than the sum of the parts; the individual performances were strong from each member, but the songwriting wasn't really up to the same standard, with, as before, the Pantera cover at the end of the set coming through the strongest. This was a basically entertaining performance, but it was overshadowed by the bands that followed them, and if they don't develop further and differentiate themselves from other death/metalcore bands that can't stop thinking about Pantera, this situation may repeat on further gigs, which likely isn't the outcome the band is looking for.

My Pet Demon [6/7]
The following things, the Worcester crowd should understand from this set to not be past their "Expiration Date" here on the North Shore:
1) Hockey hair.
2) Neil Young a la balls-out.
3) Kickass melodic thrash metal.
This probably graded out a little lower, but a 5.5 here is not really worth opening up the legended Split Score Keg of Worms; what matters is the impression that MPD made outside their core catchment areas, and this was pretty good. Sticking only with material from the last two records (as might be expected), they did their half-hour-and-more with a minimum of downtime, and until Pat's bass started cutting out during their final song, free of technical difficulties. Unfortunately, if you're going to have issues with bass functionality, about the last song you want it in is your Iron Maiden cover, which did run down the mood a little bit. They had an uphill struggle here out of market, on a bill that didn't really flow to their strengths, and a slightly depressed turnout, but they pulled it off, and hopefully made a good and lasting impression.

Our Final Chapter [6/7]
The short and highly inaccurate version of this band is "Connecticut hardcore in a Metal-Thursday-style spin pit with Hydra Head"; much of their stuff was fairly direct, but very well-finished musically, and while they had the first major crowd motion of the night, those who weren't thrashing themselves out had a lot of technical tricks to enjoy along with the slamming breakdowns. The newer material was really good (though maybe a little whacked out -- 9/11 wasn't an inside job, even if the tragedy's been cynically exploited for political ends since), and their upcoming record is definitely worth watching out for if the live performance is a fair representation.

Smite The Righteous [5/7]
The show wound up with these guys, who've been
zu Gast here a couple times, though as yet not when I was down. They started off simply but effectively and stayed true to form throughout the chaos down front; New England NWOSDM in the style of bands like Beyond The Embrace before they decided to be Metallica, Life In Vain, The Accursed, and innumberable others, maybe up to the level of Shadows Fall. There's nothing wrong with this when it's done well, and this was done well enough for good times, bruises, and broken glass that fortunately we were able to get under control before anyone fell into it. They didn't have any demos or anything available as I saw, which was a shame; they came out at that "cool but not especially memorable" level, and it'd've been good to get a second look at them on record, where I could give full attention to the band rather than having also th worry about getting wiped out by doods flying around and slinging themselves off poles.

As the music died, I checked myself for injury -- no joint problems despite not wearing my brace to this one, and no bleeding from the feet after using my fat soles to pre-mop the shattered pub glasses. Other pit-wall dents were too minor to mention, and it was one in the morning after seeing a bunch of cool bands and thrashing to some cool music; how Metal Thursday goes, and this was definitely a good one.

The show calendar is a little confused upcoming; I'm definitely down for Revocation at O'Brien's Wednesday, but whether or not I go to At The Gates is kind of up in the air. I'm glad that Wacken is coming, and that I'll see them there regardless of the plans of my non-metal friends for this weekend. We'll see.