Tuesday, December 29, 2009

better late than never

Once upon a time, The Alien Blakk played a gig at the Skybar, and unfortunately packed up before I could pick up a CD. Not one to not support a touring band who bothered to come to one of Boston's shakiest venues (which was, in retrospect, even then in its death throes), I went online to order up the CD and a patch, and got duly charged for it. Then I waited, and the CD didn't come. I went to Wacken, and it still wasn't there when I got back. I shrugged and wrote it off; casual risk of doing business with the underground.

Fast-forward two and a half years and one apartment move. I get some extremely apologetic emails from the band to the effect that they are wicked sorry that this stuff never got sent, and they are sending it right away. Unfortunately, the notification that they've already mailed it out (to my old address) is in my inbox by the time I can reply to the previous one with an address correction. :headslap: It's a good thing that bands will go the extra mile to fill two-and-a-half-year-old internet orders, but this particular transaction just seems to be cursed. It would be super awesome and a bonus if this CD actually arrived in my mailbox, but after all this time I'm not going to get my hopes up.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Morgirion with Shabti and Nachzehrer [Midway Cafe, Jamaica Plain, 12/19/2009]

Much like the last time I was down to this place for a matinee show, this was a good gig featuring killer black metal, good attendance, and a lot of beer. Unfortunately, because I got up too early in the morning to hack on some other stuff before class, it accidentally also ended up featuring me falling asleep on the train home and waking up in Rowley, then calling around to find someone awake and in shape to drive while hiking back towards somewhere to get picked up. That wasn't the most entertaining bit of business in the world, but while it's a significant contribution to why this writeup is late, it doesn't have anything to do with the show proper.

After getting out of my last class of the year, I hopped the trains over, still nervous about missing Nachzehrer due to previous experience, but despite rolling up about 4:30, nobody'd started playing yet. I went next door to get a horrible rubbery cheeseburger and some more-or-less decent fries (got to learn some Spanish to try and gull some decent food out of this place) and wait nervously to get burned again. Fortunately, didn't happen; unfortunately, this was because Bog of the Infidel, who were supposed to be headlining, dropped off, but I got to wolf down my takeaway, get in and processed, and put a beer or two down before Nachzehrer started up.

Nachzehrer [5.5/7]
This was their first show, and they came out all guns blazing. It's about as might be expected, from members of Unholy Goatfucker and Razormaze with an 26 Beers stalwart sitting in on the drums, but any time a band's playing their first show ever, there's usually some slack to be cut. In this case, not needed; they trailed off a little at the end, but played absolutely everything they had written (and a cover besides) over those five songs, and set the crowd going with true straight-up black thrash, which is rarer than you might expect around these parts. Someone's got to bridge the divide between the thrash revivalists and the dirty black metal hordes in Boston, and while the lineup difficulties and commitments in other active bands might make it difficult for Nachzehrer to take this full-time, it's a start, and good music at least; we'll see how this develops.

Shabti [6/7]
Shabti came down from Maine again, and again gave a stonnering performance, mixing black metal structures with tech-death elements. Sure, try to write it off to more beer, a closer environment, the band playing directly out of their cabs rather than through a PA, more time rehearsing since, whatever, but the fact remains that this was a definite step up from their set at Ralph's, and, as then, people living south of the Piscataqua should start recognizing that this is a really good band, who you need to see if and when they come around.

I think I got a CD off them, either after their set or at the end of the night; maybe it was off Morgirion, I was kind of drunk at the time and haven't gone through that bag since due to work commitments. Regardless, if I didn't, I need to get after these guys for recorded material the next time they show up remotely local and hope other people haven't looted them out of demos yet.

Morgirion [6/7]
Morgirion continues to impress; this time around, they finally had a bass player in the fold through Connor pulling double duty on bass and keys. Of course, he still had only his normal complement of arms, so this was bass or keys, not bass and keys, but the resulting performance was still on a high level all around. This band is also continuing to get better, so that while the leading lights of NEBM might not have been on this bill, those who were there got a definite earful of the wave behind them. We had an embarassment of riches three years ago, and it's only gotten better since.

Unfortunately, the crowd thinned out over the course of the evening, to the point where after Morgirion's set the place was dead empty. I hadn't been keeping track of time, so this more than anything else was the critical clue that Bog, who had been announced as headliners, weren't going to be showing up. Oh well. After some drunken bantering, it was for nowt except to hike back to the T to the train, and then inadvertently fall asleep going through Chelsea and wake up three towns too far north. For a killer, free-drinking, seven-dollar show, though, there has to be some karmic comeuppance at some point, and the hike back wasn't that awful, especially getting picked up barely an hour into it.

Next gig is uncertain; I want to go to Razormaze's tour kickoff, but that's on a Wednesday at Great Scott and I'm on call that week. Maybe worth chancing it, but we'll see how things shake out. This is, though, probably the last of the year absent some local stuff that may or may not qualify next week; that'll make only 25 gigs this year and 4 festivals, which is kind of disappointing. Of course, it says something when seeing north of 200 sets still qualifies as "need to get out more", but last year was 34 and 3 (ok, maybe I didn't get enough of NEDF to qualify and it's more like 35 and 2) and Boston is still Boston. We'll see about 2010; hopefully, I can make more local gigs, write more intelligently about them, and promote the northeast US better and more coherently at Party.San and whichever of Summer Breeze or Wacken ends up in the other slot.

Friday, December 11, 2009

festival ambivalence

Wacken is currently doing a tedious one-band-a-day reveal of the 2010 lineup, going in to an alleged awesome super-secret band on the 25th. The lineup, so far, is good stuff for those who are making 2010 their first Wacken, or those who weren't there in 2007 (when Cannibal Corpse followed Immortal), or those who don't have to budget in airfare, but for me, it's still up in the air.

So far:
Arch Enemy - could be decent, would be the first time I hear them with proper sound if the PA doesn't fuck up again
Caliban - no interest
Cannibal Corpse - see below
Corvus Corax - interesting especially since I slept through their '05 set
Apo - like the 5th year in a row, when are people going to start bitching about them being the new Saxon?
Edguy - cool if their new album isn't as crap as Tinnitus
Endstille - good enough, though they just played last year
Ghost Brigade - no interest, their demo sucked
Immortal - good, but after '07 not a cross-oceans draw
Orden Ogan - never heard of
Stratovarius - mildly interesting, but more rubbernecking than actual draw
The Devil's Blood - interesting but see below
U.D.O. - again, rubbernecker interest; I saw Udo with Accept here five years ago, and doubt he'll do better with more years under his belt and worse material
W.A.S.P. (not on the page, but they're the answer to the quiz, so watch for tomorrow) - decent

All in all, pretty good, but you can understand why I don't have a ticket yet. The case is building, but I need to see at least two from the set of (Sodom, Kreator, Hypocrisy, Slayer, Necrophagist, (some New England band I know people from)) to push this to a must -- and should Metallica be announced, that'll push the calculation significantly in the other direction.

The quiz answers, so far, have produced the following string as a clue to the secret band:
No ideas so far, especially since each unique letter may stand for multiple letters in the band name. Also, no time to run an anagram generator and check the results against Metal-Archives.

Contrast with:
Party.San bill, so far. Most of the bands I'm actually interested to see at Wacken, plus Aura Noir, Manegarm in the conditions that were so peak for Moonsorrow this past year, and Watain in a context with absolutely no limits (as long as they don't suddenly go NSBM). Hell yes. More draw on fewer announced already; get a few more in, and this will be the main reason to go over.

Summer Breeze is also looking promising. This will mean crossing the old East-West border (as advised against by Sturmi at Party.San last year, who spent 7 hours on local trains going from Bavaria to Thuringia to save money), but even that can be an adventure as well. The guide for doing interior German festivals -- as opposed to Wacken, where you can practically get off the plane and back without having to read a word in German -- will be along sometime this winter, but will probably get tweaked based on these results if I end up doing that this summer.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Ensiferum with Ex Deo, Blackguard, and Swashbuckle [Worcester Palladium, 12/4/2009]

Almost a full month between gigs. That's what being on call the only week people are playing out during Thanksgiving month gets you. Anyway, more than past time or not, this was Ensiferum playing upstairs at the Palladium, which made up for the somewhat uninspiring lower part of the bill and Hypocrisy cancelling due to, as I've heard anyway, visa problems. This was another struggle to get out to after work, but I made it up shortly after the announced start, and while I may have missed Under Lying Truth, I did get in just after Swashbuckle started, which would suffice for the bands I actually had the expectation of seeing.

Swashbuckle [5/7]
Since I came in late for these guys, I was back by the upstairs mixing desk, then the bar, which in both cases are the furthest distance I've ever seen Swashbuckle from, which is a little odd considering that the upstairs is usually the intimate version of the Palladium. Chart it: on top of the band at O'Brien's, first row the first time they played in this building, three rows back on the Medieval Stage this summer, three rows back in this room a month ago. This was also the fourth time I'd seen them this year, which is fucking weird for a gimmick metal band that isn't actually from this area (hell, a touring band at all), and when they come back next month with Tyr and Korpiklaani it'll be five times in nine months. More power to them. Their fill-in drummer (what, you didn't know Crashride couldn't get into Canada? tour following fail) did a good job, and the band blasted out a stand-up set of brutal pirate thrash despite getting a little jobbed by the soundboard (Justin's mic didn't appear to be on for the majority of the set), without the inflatables or fuckaroundery that they've had on previous gigs. Probably just as well; too much of that and they run the risk of overexposure and gimmick fatigue. No doors knocked down with this set, but a solid opening performance.

Blackguard [4/7]
In all fairness, this band got a great response from the crowd. I just can't figure out why. Are North American Children of Bodom fans that desperate, seriously? I mean, the band does tour on this continent pretty regularly. Blackguard, as last time, put out a technically satisfactory performance of extremely artistically limited material, including an older song that showed them as a slightly better if much more transparent imitation of CoB back when they went under the name Profugis Mortis. I'm not sure progress has been made. I can understand, in 2001, starting a Children of Bodom cover band on the theory that they're on fucking Spinefarm and unlikely to ever tour outside Europe, but then they break through and your career path then becomes to be Maurizio Iacono's pocket Bodom, trotted out to collect the acclaim of high schoolers and pelters from surly guys in kuttes whenever he can't book a better opener in this style. Yes, it's tough to even get up to average as a metal band, and this style is obviously working for them, but this was the definite low point of the night musically, and it's difficult at this point to envision a Blackguard set where a) this is not the case, and b) I actually decide to show up based on the balance of the bill.

The most entertainment during this period probably came from the Swashbuckle dudes storming the stage, still in costume, during "This Round's On Me" to spray the crowd with beer and hold up hobo signs parodying the singer's expressions. It's not really a natural drinking song out of the box even to the extent that something like Ensiferum's "One More Magic Potion" is (let alone, say Korpiklaani or Tankard's repetoire), but it got almost to that point with the fun add-ons.

Ex Deo [5/7]
I hadn't heard this band before, but was somewhat aware of the pedigree; after seeing Kataklysm tats on, like, everyone, I checked into it and found that this is basically Kataklysm hiding out in the Teutoberger Wald to get away from idiots like me who say stuff like "what the fuck is this, where's the hyperblast" about their recent material. This is fine by me; if Maurizio wants to fold Kataklysm's tents and play meat-and-potatoes death metal with black touches and Roman themes, I'll show up and give full support. Less decaying modern Kataklysm, more vital and inspired imperial crunching. Ex Deo put out a good long set that was more solid than superlative, but executed the concept without coming off as overly gimmicky, justifying the decision to pick up their record earlier. Good stuff, and while this would have been better leading into Hypocrisy, it definitely filled the RDA of death metal on the night, and it'll do a good job raising interest and expectations the next time they come around.

Ensiferum [7/7]
No "Token of Time", but no injuries either. Call it a mixed bag -- or, really, a typical Ensiferum set, blending epic humppaa metal with gonzo floor action and stretching out to take full advantage of being the sole headliner on the bill. They played just absolutely as long as the venue allowed them (modulo the obligato pretend off before the encore that really needs to start getting cut in favor of MOAR by the bands that do this crap to fap their egos), weighted a little more to the new stuff but still covering their whole catalog, and after having the crowd pick "Iron" as the closer, decided to jam "Battle Songs" (the other option) in after it to take full advantage of the remaining time until the lights went back on. I didn't know they were slotted for nearly two hours, nor did it feel like it on the floor; just a splendid performance of kickass music by probably the best current exemplar of the accessible side of viking metal, and an incredible headliner to a good solid show.

Out on the sidewalk as I was leaving, Eric CSDO was doing promos.....of what looked like porn DVDs, but probably also including drag racer and old-school thrash content. Eric Paone, ladies and gentlemen. This wasn't really a "scene" draw, so hopefully those intrigued by this stuff will outweigh those weirded out and the deep underground gets a bonus shot of new blood as a result.

Next gig: same bat-time, same bat-station (almost); Municipal Waste, Brutal Truth, Phobia, and Cauldron Tuesday. This is a knee-brace-or-upstairs show -- and hell, Brutal Truth and Phobia, even upstairs isn't guaranteed safe.

Unrelated: I'm wearing my Swashbuckle "Splashzone" shirt for the second Saturday in a row, and for the second Saturday in a row Celtic have run riot over the opposition. Correlation is not causation, but this is a streak worth trying to sustain.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Vader with Decrepit Birth, Warbringer, The Amenta, Augury, and Swashbuckle [Worcester Palladium, 11/5/2009]

The great dilemma: work prevents you from seeing the shows you want to, but if you don't work, you don't have the money to go to them and get in the door. I had to take a pass on the first large, ill-matched tour at the Palladium this week, and cut this night's excursion short rather than go the few streets over to see Metal Thursday, but it was a good night of metal all told, despite some extraneous stuff, and the rest of the winter touring season is looking to be shaping up pretty well.

This was another direct-out-from work special, but I timed it right to get through the bullshit on the Pike and up to the venue right about at doors. I also remembered to bung the knife in the car before leaving it, but this was not enough for the security. Twits stole my fucking pen again. It's fucking ridiculous, first that they do this and second that they don't do it frequently enough that I know to grundle it in advance. It was in the process of dying, sure, but stealing people's pens isn't fucking cricket. Not cool; however, they did let me take my phone in to make digital notes with at the price of looking like a lamer. And I still could have easily brought a knife or chisel in undetected to do much more serious vandalism, if that was the point. Paying customers unreasonably inconvenienced, nothing actually blocked or averted; security theater at its finest.

Cussing about this under my breath in a mix of four or five languages, I bought my ticket, got banded, and got in to browse the merch while the bands were setting up. This turned into a Warbringer patch -- which I have serious reservations about actually putting on anything, see below -- as well as their new record to make the change come out, a trip to the bar to break up my bills so as not to inconvenience Vader's merch stand, Necropolis and two special-edition Decapitated patches (to raise money for Covan's medical bills, not just because Vogg's playing in Vader now), and the latest cool shirt design from Decrepit Birth. These guys have mastered the "lots of t-shirts" model allegedly required by the new paradigms in digital music distro, but it'd also be awesome to see this art (and the art on the "Living Doorway" shirt) done up for a 10" pic-disc or something (maybe the song that inspired it, a couple live tracks, a random fuckaround jam...like Out of the Dark..., I don't know, just throwing shit out there). T-shirts fade when used for their intended purpose, pic-discs don't.

Eventually, though, I decided I had to stop buying shit if I wanted to go to Metal Thursday or, for that matter, be able to pay the tolls to get home, and Swashbuckle was starting up anyway. Downstairs for music.

Swashbuckle [5.5/7]
I can't really see Running Wild ever coming out to "I'm On A Boat". However, this just goes to demonstrate that Swashbuckle aren't Running Wild (or, for that matter, Alestorm, who played here Tuesday and may feel put upon by their fans to take themselves a smidge more seriously than that), and that their attack on the pirate trope is their own. They smashed out a decently long set balanced towards the new record to a pretty good reaction, though I'm not sure what other people's reaction to the people in parrot and shark costumes thrashing about in the pit was. If they'd run out from backstage and stagedove, it'd've been as clear as it was in Germany that they were band-affiliated rather than (as some might have concluded) random hipsters in leftover Halloween costumes, causing the ultra-true to become unnecessarily SO FULL OF HATE. On the whole, about on the level of the last time I saw them here, downstairs; not serious enough for the death metal portion of the bill and significantly heavier than Warbringer (who probably got the most heads in the door), they still got a good reaction out of the half-full floor and less negativity than the other thrash band in the lineup.

If you want a different perspective on shows like this one, or just a general idea of what it's like on the other side of the front monitors at this level, you might want to take a look at Commodore Redrum's tour diary; this gig doesn't get its own entry, but the return match in December when they come back with Ensiferum and Hypocrisy might.

Augury [6/7]
The Forest Lapointe Show [7/7]
I don't pay nearly as much attention to new developments in metal as I could or really should. This means that when I haven't seen or heard a band before, especially on a large, weirdly packaged tour like this one, I wait around in general trepidation, expecting that they, like a lot of bands these days, will suck. (This is because I'm an old stick-in-the-mud almost as much as because a lot of newer bands that are just getting national tour exposure do suck.) This was the baseline for Augury, and fortunately, they blew that expectation out of the water. Their set was a little short, but packed top to bottom with a perfect mix of the technical and brutal schools of Quebecois death metal. Stellar all the way across, even the drummer, who landed from Australia in Montreal (their old drummer quit, and the guy from The Amenta was sitting in) days before and learned the material in a matter of hours, but Forest's bass playing was in a class by itself. The guy annihilated so hard on the first song that when Patrick announced before the second that we'd get a bass solo later on if the crowd reaction was good enough, the whole place erupted, even before he strapped on his fretless to take things to another level, even from those who'd never heard the band before. The solo came two songs later, and was as massive as anticipated. Not a perfect set -- time as much as anything else to do with this -- but impeccably delivered, and probably quite well enough to convince anyone who showed up to keep their eyes peeled for these guys the next time they come back south.

Following this, I went up and immediately forked for their record. I haven't gotten a chance to listen yet, but given that the board was kind of inconsistent on the night, it's likely to be even better than what we got out of the band -- and if nothing else, at least more.

The Amenta [4.5/7]
I was in the way back for these guys because there was a shortage of places to stand further forward, and that turned out to be for the better. They were in most ways decent, but I remember a band called Meridian, and if you have qualms about that score, you probably don't, or just haven't listened to The Seventh Sun in a while. "But they came all the way from Australia! And Meridian isn't even together any more, much less touring!" Sure, but that makes the hurdles for The Amenta taller, not shorter. The performance here was ok, and most people probably won't recognize it as being firmly in the shadow of another and better band, but that doesn't mean that they really did anything to get out of this shadow, and you don't cross oceans to play "ok" gigs.

At this point I went up and got a Swashbuckle shirt ("Splashzone", a little more topically unified than their "The Trooper" parody, and it had the tourdates besides) from Pat; I'd been ambivalent about this first due to the possible need to support The Amenta and then pay the door charge at MT, but both of those issues kind of resolved themselves for various reasons about here. Shirt in the belt, it was back down again, now absolutely skint and somewhat foreclosed from drinking the rest of the night.

Warbringer [5/7]
I can now firmly say that I've seen Warbringer, and the impressions from before with their limited lineup and with their first record are pretty much accurate. Warbringer are a good thrash revival band, but somewhat allergic to doing anything new with the style. They turn out good, crunchy, Bay-Area thrash metal, but I still haven't heard anything out of them that I can indelibly stamp as the "Warbringer sound". There are Exodus parts and Kreator parts, but this is an empty foundation without a house on top of it. The guys are talented enough to build said house, but they need to do so ASAP -- does anyone remember when Reanimator was in the pole position of the thrash revival? Anyone remember how bands like Faith or Fear sank without a trace in the '80s because they didn't differentiate themselves? True, Denial, Realm, and Devastation also fell off the map despite being awesome, but obscurity happens faster to bands that can't carve their own name into the listener's brain.

There were a few thumbs down passed out during the performance, mostly by a dude of no small standing in the thrash millieu of this part of New England, but the band shouldn't be too dismayed, as they weren't going to get this guy, or those like him, anyways. As mentioned before, thrash fans who were into thrash before the revival started tend to have a rather simple and brutal means of classifying bands, which likely corresponds in this case to something like the following chart:

Band goodness is easily seen to be a dependent variable, and Warbringer of course sounds nothing like Sodom, so they get pelters. I have a very similar chart for personal use, but it usually says "sounds like Kreator" at the bottom, so Warbringer gets slightly more of a break on that one.

In here I went more forward, aided by the fact that a suspicious number of people seemed to go back and then not come back to the front for Decrepit Birth, nor noticeably swell the numbers upstairs. If you actually left in this timeframe you are a lamer, and Devin Townsend will come to your house to take back your metal points, cut up any jacket you have attempted to build so far, and force you to watch while he commits indecent acts on any domestic animals you may have lying around. If you're not scared of Devin Townsend raping your pets, that's fine with me; your loser cred is established and there are fewer people standing between me and respectively Matt Sotelo and Waclaw "Vogg" Kieltyka.

Decrepit Birth [6.5/7]
Seeing Augury's set -- and, depending on your perspective, the two bands that played after them -- it might have been reasonable to suspect that they might steal the show. Nope. Decrepit Birth came out and demonstrated that they are still Decrepit Birth, and still on the leading edge of amazing technical things that can be done in death metal. They played a nice balanced selection of material from both records so far, and teased an upcoming new one though (if I recall correctly) they didn't have anything off it at this one. I don't know if Bill actually believes all his weird inter-song banter, but it fits with the music and lyrical topics, and, hey, California. Ferociously good music, easily on a par with Vader, and quite possibly the best (and definitely longest) performance I've seen from them in this building.

Despite the relative length of the set, there was a strong demand for the band to do more, which they of course couldn't without running into Vader's timeslot, who would themselves end up relatively pinched for time. This show didn't exactly get out early, either, so the problem here is probably trying to shoehorn six bands into just under 4 hours. Like the last Maurizio-put-up tour that I saw in this building, backlining was used to good effect for most of the bands, but this time around there was just too much good music.

The coherence of Decrepit Birth and the backstage presence during their set of the NEDF organizers/New England Green Thumb horticultural society members, though, might argue that they would not have played longer had they had the opportunity, choosing rather to undertake other activities as a preparation for Vader. ;) Nothing implied......

Vader [6.5/7]
Decrepit Birth set a really high standard, but Vader definitely matched the mark, though to a crowd that was shamefully diminished from the night's high point. For crying out loud, you idiots, bands from Poland don't just wash in every day -- and most of the time when they do show it's fucking Behemoth, so exult, as those of us who stayed true and stayed in did, that you get a good one for a change. There was a lot of new material in this set, which still ripped and popped with as much power as the old. It's Vader -- did anyone expect differently? People were running out of energy by the end, but even if the band were a little let down, they didn't let it affect the music, and both we and they got a good finish out of the night by the time the venue turned the lights back on and foreclosed any further encore.

Unfortunately, this really was the finish to the night; it was late and I was tired as well as dead skint, which cut Metal Thursday out of the plans to continue. No Morgirion, no Mythology, no Kathadin -- well, I'd missed two out of those already just by virtue of what time it was; time to just bear up the pain and get to work in an normal fashion in the morning. This may have turned out to be a blessing in disguise, too, as I didn't have to go in the legendary shambles of the Ralph's parking lot and further aggravate the damage to the tire that ended up dying on the way home from work Friday rather than on the way home from this show. That dead tire may also have bricked any chance of going to Deceased on Saturday, but at that point, I was probably already sick enough that I wouldn't've made the trip back in.

Future shows are up in the air; I've got to finish being sick first, then see what's coming up, and where.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Satyricon with Chthonic, Zircon, and Desiccation [Worcester Palladium, 10/23/2009]

I was technically on call for this show, but I took a calculated risk and went anyway. With a bill like this one, you have to skate a little and do what you have to in order to get in. I ended up getting over a little after doors, delayed by absurd traffic on the pike and the need to go back halfway to the door from the parking lot in order to throw my "discouraging iron" back in the car to avoid getting it confiscated and spending the night in the Worcester gaol rather than thrashing out to black metal. It ended up being maybe a little too late, or maybe just right, because....

Desiccation [NR]
...I ended up missing nearly all of this band's set. From what I heard, though, this was a mixed proposition. For a young band, it was weird and somewhat discouraging to hear a sound this completely foreign, and not in a good way. This isn't the case of a band bringing in a sound that you don't get in the US, like, say, Frozen's tendency to channel Evergrey or Bog of the Infidel doing early Bethlehem, but a New England band sounding like they're from Grand Rapids or L.A.. We don't generally do this style of deathcore around here (at least as I'm aware of), and in many ways I'm thankful of it. This set probably would have graded out as a 4/7 had I been in for all of it -- I missed posted doors by like 10 minutes, so maybe they had a wicked short set -- provided that it was short or varied enough not to get tiresome.

Between them and Zircon I went up to the upper deck (this was upstairs, but still a $20 ticket) and looked over the merch, picking up Chthonic's new one. Zircon didn't have anything out that I didn't have already (kind of expected, since they've just started getting active again the last couple months), and Satyricon can get paid from the fans who like their new stuff; my money was in Satyr's pocket back when Moonfog's monthly turnover was pretty much just keeping the band in guitar strings. Desiccation didn't have anything recorded, and as a dour old kuttentraeger I also have kind of a moral block on buying anything from a band that makes livestrong-style wristbands, especially before they make a record.

Zircon [6/7]
"It's great to be back!" Scott bellows at the conclusion of "Soul Absorbing Underwearworld". "Aren't you guys from here?" yells back some jerk at the bar. The displacement intended, of course, is temporal, not spatial; Zircon is back together, and playing at a definitely higher level thanks to the members' various loan spells (Scott with Vital Remains, Anthony (back in now, obviously) with Belphegor). This was a battering clinic in top-class black/death metal that took not a single step back from the touring bands, and got cut rather criminally short by the venue ops. Some might suggest that the band before them could have been cut to provide for more; I'd rather that no band had gotten jobbed, and Satyricon's techs had more of a fire under their asses to get the band set up rather than letting practically all of Rammstein's Herzleid play between the last two bands. Whatever the proposed solution path, the intended outcome is the same: more Zircon definitely, more Chthonic maybe, and definitely more black metal.

Chthonic [6/7]
This set had more raw energy than the last time I saw them, which Freddy also commented on; with neither the odd fit of Ozzfest nor the fence and draconian security of Mark's, this was their most metal gig in the Boston area. The sound was a little messed up at various points in their set, but the music was also at a high level, with more Sigh influences in their new stuff than Cradle, despite the ill omen of the new, more readable logo. A lot more than the last time, though, was tracked or synthed rather than played live on real instruments; some of this may be having the capability to backtrack stuff live that's also tracked on record, but I'm pretty sure that they cut their full-time live fiddler, with Freddy only pulling out the Chinese fiddle at the end of one song. This is a shame; the band probably sees it as getting beyond any gimmicks and being acknowledged as a black metal band in their own right, but everyone who matters understood them as a self-sufficient black metal band already, but one with unique instrumentation contributing to a unique sound. Chthonic without Chinese fiddle is like Negura Bunget without flutes or Sear Bliss without their brass section; still good music from good musicians, but without that signal element that shows the band are thinking differently about this music from Joe Norsecore.

Alternately, the more concrete explanation is that they left the live fiddler home because they weren't getting as much tour support, and having to fly literally around the world to do three weeks in the US and a week in the UK. Flights to and from Taiwan are fucking expensive, and if you can cut your tour expenses by 16% and still have 90% of your sound, that's an attractive proposition. There's only five members credited on the new record, though, so it may just be Freddy not wanting to be tied to the mic stand all night.

As mentioned above, we waited for what felt like the better part of an hour here in between for Satyricon's people to get all the band's shit together, listening to Rammstein's first record. DO NOT WANT. PLAY BLACK METAL.

Satyricon [5.5/7]
Speaking of..... A good set, as long as you expect going in that Satyricon now is a black'n'roll band rather than a black metal band, and apart from Frost -- whose assault charge must have aged off the books, as he was behind the skins, doing the world's most impressive blastbeat clinic as expected -- not as good at it as Vried is. They're still capable of playing black metal, and the few bits of Rebel Extravaganza and Nemesis Divina that made it through the filter were amazing, but they choose not to, for reasons that (if the purely mercenary is discounted) are absolutely inexplicable. Technically, Satyricon is still Satyricon, but the Satyricon that people wall-of-death and pogo to, the Satyricon that has pileups and crowdsurfers, is not the Satyricon that I drove down for. Still infected with the ideas I drank in a decade ago, I want the history of this band's early catalog to mean something. I'll take what I can get from this set, since any rational person can look at their works this century and know that they're not going to suddenly about-face and suddenly crack out "The Dark Castle In The Deep Forest" on a random US gig, but a "real" Satyricon set, playing nothing recorded after 1997, would be worth crossing oceans for. This set wasn't, but it was worth the price of entry and the drive to Worcester.

Before both the first ("K.I.N.G." and "Fuel For Hatred") and second (said song) encores, we were treated to a singluar occurrence: the venue chanting not for the band, but for a specific song. Yes, "Sa-tyr-i-con!" (or is it "Sa-tyr-icon!" -- half the problem right there) has no rhythm to it, but you'd think that the band would get, on hearing "MO-THER NORTH!" from a hundred hoarse hesher throats, that even the US audience, even the short-haired guys in Killswitch shirts, considers their early material far superior to their current ouevre. We got "Mother North", and it was as good as expected, but that just indicts the rest of the set all the more -- and the band, that they didn't follow it up with "Forhekshet", or indeed play that song at all, despite it being about the only good mosh song in the first half of their catalog. Seriously, guys, if you don't like the old stuff any more, reform under a different name and declare that chapter closed except when you do "reunion" sets with Darkthrone interludes. I'd still show up in the vain hope of hearing "Black Lava" in a set of new material.

Thus closes this chapter; next show is undecided due to the on-call stand, but is probably going to turn out to be the pre-Halloween Metal Thursday; Fires Of Old, Witch Tomb, and Darkwor, heading into Samhain? If you're in New England, not there, and without a good reason, Ryan will have more than cause to pull your werewolfing credentials.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Acaro with Razormaze, Laid In Stone, and We Met Aliens [Ralph's, Worcester, 10/15/2009]

The lateness of this post has nothing to do with this show and everything to do with being sick over the weekend following from it, probably due in large part to gobbling communally-prepared foods heavily dosed with booze on Saturday. No idea how the Swiss do it -- though not dumping in half a bottle of cherry liqueur is probably a good start.


I ended up having to go home before heading out, but got turned around in time and despite the snow got out to Ralph's shortly after We Met Aliens started. Straight into it; how to do a Metal Thursday, even if it means one less beer.

We Met Aliens [5/7]
It's difficult to put up a concise description of this band - "deathcore with some grooves and some weird parts" is a start - but if we can go with implication, a time capsule to Relapse circa 2003 is probably good enough. They played a good set, and anyone who still has a Contamination sampler from that era will dig them, but though this sound almost by definition can't be generic, it still didn't jump out and grab me. Boarcorpse is a functional superset of their sound, but these guys are some impressive musicians, and they played a hell of an opening set here.

After WMA finished, I went to get beered up, then hit the merch desk and ended up buying Razormaze's very last shirt. I felt kinda weird about this, because that's someone else here for WMA or Acaro who they couldn't turn on to them and also sell a shirt to, but in a way it's also good, because they're obviously moving shirts (saw one on some dude at Satyricon last night) and getting people excited.

Laid In Stone [5/7]
They started out a little rough, as might be expected from a band with their sound who trekked all the way out from Michigan to play this one gig (their tour fell through, except this gig, because Chris disnae fuck around when it comes to booking), but as they grew more comfortable on stage, the crowd grew more comfortable with them, and their brand of heavily Pantera-influenced brutal thrash got people flying around and fucking each other up. New England is a lot more wicked-underground than this at the DIY level, generally, but scene heads anywhere will appreciate a good band playing good music, and they definitely got that appreciation.

After they wrapped, the singer went through the crowd giving away copies of their very pro-packaged demo. This was kind of weird to me, because I and probably about 80% of the other attendees -- and this was a large crowd, with the people there for Razormaze and those there for Acaro both still in the building -- would easily have dropped $3 on their four-song EP, both because it's three friggin bucks and because this band came from Michigan with nary a stop in Buffalo or Albany on the way out nor NYC and Cleveland dates returning. Gas is cheaper these days, but seriously, that's like 1600 miles roundtrip. This is New England; we support bands here. As it was, I took a CD and was unable to drop a fiver in the box because the guy kept moving. Maa ii. Hopefully, their next tour will fare better booking-wise than this one.

Razormaze [6/7]
This band continues to get better, with this being probably the peak set that I've seen from them. Sure, small sample size, but at this point, Razormaze is equally as good as any of the doctrinaire thrash-revival bands signed to mid-majors right now. Despite the strong hardcore presence on the rest of the bill, their ripping early thrash got a strong reaction worthy of the quality of the music (and Wren yelling for Aggroculture songs, but that's beside the point) and pleased those who'd made the trek out mostly for them. Probably by intention (like I said above, Chris is kind of a pro at this "booking good shows and getting good draws" shit), this was kind of a dual-headline bill, and Razormaze definitely delivered a headliner-class set.

Acaro [6/7]
Speaking of, Acaro approached things from a different direction, but got an equally impressive and worthy result. This was also the band's anniversary, so we got a bit of history and thankslist between songs; what's more notable is that it's their first anniversary, and that they're this polished and have gotten as much notice as they have. Three years ago, this might not have been the case, but time and changing trends now mean that a band that plays real true New England metalcore, equal parts real NWOSDM and real hardcore, can headline after Razormaze and get hardcore pits out of principally the same people who were circle-pitting and circle-headbanging for the band before. Of course, probably more important is that Acaro is good at this shit, very good, and they would have still stood out back when we had a glut of bands in this style and seven of them were opening every gig at Mark's Showplace, no matter if it was God Forbid or God Dethroned. As a metalcore skeptic, I didn't get their demo before they went on, but this was a convincing performance, enough to make sure I stuck around, picked up the record, gave appreesh to the band, and stuffed it into the inside pocket of my ridiculous anachronistic kutte before heading out into the snow.

On the way back I stopped for my usual dose of black C at the sole Pike rest stop between Worcester and my home base, and ran into We Met Aliens also standing in the McDonalds. I'm not sure that they recognized me, as said jacket was still out in the car, so I didn't want to inject myself into their conversation and produce a weird rockstar moment. Of course, if they did make me (off the Immortal pin on my hat or whatever), it was probably equally weird that I would hang about not talking, but them's the breaks.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Overtime, under budget

The town I live in has a ridiculous surplus of bars, licensed restaurants, and other places to get a drink, nearly all of which are within easy walking distance of my apartment. It also has about two bars that regularly have live music in, but in each case, the music is consistently terrible and ruins the atmosphere in what would otherwise be a nice Irish bar. In particular, there are too many sports bars; these three factors, though, have led the newest of the sports bars to branch out, put in a Club Hell-style semi-stage, and let local bands play.

While I've been skeptical of this venue in the past -- previous bills have included a lot of tribute bands and more Scarecrow Hill than is really warranted on the North Shore -- this weekend was a critical point: two shows back to back, one of which featuring a surprisingly underground lineup for a sports bar just getting its feet wet. If the Overtime starts to put on more shows and become the venue between Boston and Manchester that this slice of the scene has been looking for, in the future, this is the weekend that will be pointed back to as when it started.

I - when the lights go out

Autumn Above [Overtime, Beverly, 10/10/2009]

I got a) lazy and b) bogged down in other stuff, and wasn't able to make it out to Worcester for Todesbonden and Gwynbleidd, but the night wasn't going to be a total loss musically, as Autumn Above was playing a block and a half from my living quarters. Accordingly, I stumped up the street, got some beers, watched the end of the Bruins game, and waited for the band to start. Then, unexpectedly, between their soundcheck and actually taking the stage, the power went out.

Not just the venue, blocks on blocks in every direction. It was good for the ability to stand outside with a beer and cool off without getting hassled by police, but not so hot for sitting in a very dark bar trying to see a band. There was a bit of a kickup while they decided to play on completely acoustic -- turning off the amps to prevent their loss in case of a power surge, everyone popping the mutes out of their guitars, and the bouncer digging up a conga drum from somewhere for Sean to play so his kit wouldn't kill everyone else's sound -- and as soon as the Bruins game went final, Ryan was back to lead the band out.

Autumn Above [6/7]
You'd think that an acoustic-guitar-playing band with significant pop tendencies would play a less metal show when deprived of electricity, but this turned out not to be the case. For the most part, this was the same general kind of highly aggressive Autumn Above set that audiences normally get, and if some of the leads were practically inaudible due to the difficulties of hearing a single-picked acoustic guitar when two others are being strummed really loud and people are stamping on the floor, that was the price to be paid for an energetic set in which the guys tried to the limits of their ability to project volume and keep people's attention. Ryan, Chris, and Jim (when he wasn't standing on or jumping off speakers) took advantage of being untethered to do extended tours through the crowd, and though he couldn't use his electric bass after blowing his D string, Tone did a field repair on the acoustic and came back in time to reprise his Aura of Aquila days in the later parts of "The Hanging Ghost" -- with Ryan and Chris out in front of the monitors, the 3/5 of Autumn Above left on stage also covered 2/3 of a very good Aura of Aquila lineup, screaming their lungs out, stamping on the floor, and generally channeling the quintessence of Satanpure dark spirit of black metal. All in all, this set wasn't as long as originally planned, and there's no saying that it wouldn't've been as good or better with the power on, but for what it was, it was pretty cool, and definitely one of the most memorable shows of the year.

Unfortunately, though the power came back before their set, the next band, The Bitch and the Bastards, was not really ratable in the sense that they played only covers, and no metal at that. Decent '90s radio rock reprised, and several people dancing around to their Paramore closer that may not want that fact revealed to the great wide internets, but not really comparable to the experience that came before, nor really germane to being written up here. I finished my last beer and walked back down the street to my place.

II - even more in the dark

Rohirrim with Old Code Faith and Lethal Design [Overtime, Beverly, 10/11/2009]

So the next night rolled around and after most of the football finished, it was time to head back up to OT for, debatably, the first real metal show at the place and likely the first metal show at a licensed establishment in this town in the current scene's memory. I was a little uncertain about this; there's a fair number of metalheads in the region, but it doesn't take a lot of extremeness to have a sports bar decide to stick with their regular clientele. On the other hand, Rohirrim was active again, and I'd heard a lot of good stuff about Old Code Faith, so I wasn't going to miss this, and hopefully, a good attendance and a fair share of drinking would encourage the bar to keep going with occaional metal nights.

So I got in, met up with my NEET brother who I'd dragged out here to discourage his hikkikomori tendencies, got a beer, and waited a bit. There were a fair number of people in costume, as this had been sold as a Halloween show -- it'd make the metal go down a little easier to the normals, and as a plus Rohirrim got to come out in corpsepaint without anyone blinking at it. There was a brief delay while Pete (guitars, Rohirrim) fixed one of the stage lights; someone else was bringing over a barstool to get up at it, but Pete, being like seven feet tall, had no need of this and got it wired up correct just standing feet-on-the-floor like a normal person. Fuck chairs!

Lethal Design [5.5/7]
I'd never heard these guys before, but that wasn't the last of the "never heard"s that went into their set. Though the balance wasn't super great where I was standing -- an occupational hazard of going to DIY shows where everything but the vocals and maybe some of the drums are just coming right out of the cabs -- Lethal Design did a nice, solid power/thrash set of three good originals and three rare covers; you don't normally pull "Invaders" out of the hat when covering Iron Maiden, but their take on "Fast As A Shark" was the first time I've heard Accept covered on this continent, and this may be the only time that anyone in attendance hears "Trapped Under Ice" live at all. They've definitely got some potential, and I'll be watching out for them in the future, but as indicated above, there's not a lot of venues in this area that bands can start out at before moving on to Ralph's and O'Brien's.

Old Code Faith [6/7]
I'd heard of these guys before, but not actually seen them; they've cropped up on a couple bills around the region that I wasn't able to make for one reason or another, so having them play for free on my own street was an excellent inducement to get out for this one. They backed up the good press that they've been getting lately with a powerful thrash/death set, including (despite my whinings in other fora to the effect of it being a lost art) a fair amount of NWOSDM, with a great and monstrous sound that really should have gotten more people moving for their large number of really good originals. The most, though, came on their covers of Pantera ("Strength Beyond Strength", neither typical nor deliberately obscurantist) and Testament, but these were also delivered with pretty much the same power and fire as their originals, even if their treatment of "D.N.R." wasn't quite to Method's standard. Hell of a good set, all around, and those into brutal thrash metal could do a lot worse than continue to watch out for this band.

Rohirrim [6/7]
This was the acid test: while the other bands on this bill are fairly accessible by normal standards, Rohirrim normally isn't; founded on fundamental black and death metal principles and stirring in folkic elements in a way that isn't usually done in this country, nor appreciated by many outside the true black hordes. The bar was full almost to Metal-Thursday standard, though, and not many left during their set, which even despite the prevalence of covers has to be deemed a success. While there was more of other people's music than I'd've ideally liked to have seen, they did play a bunch of originals (if not "A Greivous Gift", which was a shame), and they were both knocking the rust off after nearly a year of inactivity and bringing Jim (Aura of Aquila, Autumn Above; normal-sized-person-guitar) up to speed.....and playing a show in a sports bar to a bunch of people who were nearly as pasted as they were -- and you've got tae be pretty fuckin' pasted, as the band admitted, to fuck up "Last Caress". Plenty of good music, a lot of it relentlessly true, and even if there were some fuckups, it's probably the first time that Manowar and Type O have ever been covered within the same set by the same band.

Soundwise, this was a great Rohirrim set, and even though there wasn't anything really wrong with Rohirrim's four-piece setup, adding Jim is, from this sample, a good step in the right direction. He's a quality lead player and good songwriter with a style that complements Pete's without cutting against it, and his presence in the band -- and contacts elsewhere -- may help them get out of the North Shore rut.

On the other hand, if Overtime emerges as a legit venue -- to be defined as when they, like O'Brien's, have bands in six to seven nights a week, between varied genres -- it's quite possible that said "North Shore rut", primarily a problem due to an absurd lack of venues that will bring in DIY music, may become a thing of the past, and that, arguably, is a clearly better outcome for metal as a whole. We'll see; at any rate, it's good to live down the street from even an occasional music bar, and having more bands in this area being more aggressive about gigging -- and more importantly, actually getting shows -- is always a positive.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Revocation (CD release) with Sexcrement, Razormaze, and Scaphism [Church, Boston, 9/30/2009]

I should lead this with my original Cryptic Warning demo, but I can't be arsed to dig it out of the seven four-foot-deep piles of CDs to be kept still in my closet. Note that these are different from the four similar piles to be "dissolved"; going to shows, especially good ones like this, generally results in you owning too many records.

I got down a bit early, but in a bit late for this one; I was meeting up with my brother, and his train got in a total of 45 minutes late, which turned out to be just time enough to hike past the remnants of drunks and scalpers around Fenway and over to the venue to catch Scaphism's last song.

Scaphism [NR]
This was reason to be burned up about the delay; from what little I saw of Scaphism, they were pretty damn cool, a chunking, worthy, death-grind band that is likely to be getting up to a higher profile in the future. So far, they've mostly been playing out in the Worcester area, but this was, at least from the limited sample that I can attest to, quite the class set for a Boston debut.

The band finishing nearly as soon as we got in the door, I ordered my brother off to the bar for drinks and picked up Existence Is Futile, kind of the whole reason for coming down. I also showed Dave the DIY patch rework of their (apparently according to Blue) Relapse-only shirt design, which got about the whoa-dude reaction I was anticipating. This vest is still far from finished, and with colder weather coming on, it's likely to get worn out less over the coming months, but if they never get a backpatch version of the Empire of the Obscene cover out, this is a pretty good start.

Razormaze [6/7]
Razormaze also put a record out a couple weeks ago, but I missed the show due to some combination of other shit going on, on-call status, and if I recall correctly, the gig being at Great Scott's, which is a pain to get to from my usual car-caching places. Effectively, this was the premiere for me of the new stuff on The True Speed of Steel, and damn if it didn't make a good impression. There was a lot of Slave To The Maze stuff in the set still, but better delivered, even if Dave's guitar wasn't always cutting through the mix on the solos from where I was standing. They've improved significantly since I saw them last, and though they're still working on the great challenge of thrash revival, to do something materially different with the music that their audience can't get from just breaking out their old Testament records again, they're playing good music, which is reason enough to check them out and thrash along on a show like this.

As should be noted, I had a limited range of options on where to stand and how much to thrash at this gig, as it took place less than a week after I broke my finger, which was still of course taped and splinted up and sensitive to damage. Someone with less commitment might have stayed home with his arm in a sling like I was directed to do, but that's not how we do it in Boston.

Sexcrement [6/7]
Unlike the bands bookending them, Sexcrement do not have a new record out currently, but it's in the works; we got a lot of new material in this one, and as expected, well up to the standard of the old: titles built around groanworthy sex puns, lyrics that will probably read smart even if Adam's gurgling is otherwise unintelligible, and tons on tons of unidentifiable-fluid-dripping death metal. This iteration of the band has been nonstop solid, and the coming EP and full-length are definitely to watch out for. Had this been a normal show, this would have been a definite headline-worthy set, but in this instance, the normal cliches about satisfaction level don't apply: no matter how good Sexcrement was, nobody was leaving this place without their fill of Revocation.

Revocation [7/7]
They say a prophet is unknown in his home country. Well, maybe for prophets, but thrash metal bands don't work that way; Church was full at this point and practically everyone piled up towards the stage to knock heads with the band, and Revocation responded by laying out a top-class set of technical thrash-death fusion. They did a good measure of stuff from the new record -- "Anthem of the Betrayed" has "VIDEO SINGLE LOL" printed on it in large letters, and "Across Forests And Fjords" sounds even more immense than on record, even if Dave has difficulties channeling Johan Hegg long enough to introduce it without cracking a joke -- and also some fanservice for the few who've been there since they were in high school (c.f. "Snakestrike"), but also a lot of stuff, particularly at the end of the set, off Empire.... In a way, this was kind of weird, since you'd think, on a release show, a band would close with something off the new one, but when you think about it rationally, it makes perfect sense. Empire of the Obscene is a frickin awesome record, and if the major labels had had their shit together last year, this party would have happened then to push a mostly-gray-covered record instead of a yellow one. Existence... is a kickass record on its own, and will definitely have legs, but I would be more surprised if Relapse doesn't reissue Empire... in the next year or two than if they do.

The set seemed just a little cut off at the end thanks to the mandatory 12:00 curfew that allows Church to continue to do shows without the old ladies in their neighborhood calling the BPD on them, but it was tremendous all the same. Unfortunately, this was the first and last show of the week; I'd gotten unexpectedly switched to on-call the week before and thus couldn't get out to Worcester for Summoning Hate. Next one is probably Parasitic Extirpation at O'Brien's; after that, I need to check and get my shit in order. Not just going to shows; it's looking slightly more likely that the older Coelem demos will get re-translated, and then, who knows, maybe reissued.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Summoning Hate with Martyrvore, Witch Tomb, and Deathgod Messiah [O'Brien's, Allston, 9/24/2009]

This was the best show I've gotten seriously injured at on this continent. Actually, the seriousness is debatable, because it was only a finger that got broken, and just the end of it, really, but the awesomeness of the performance was not.

I plugged along at work a little too late, at least as I thought, got stuck in traffic due to large portions of 93 being closed, and then managed to hike over to the venue with time to spare regardless. Once inside, I drank some beer, got shit from Raphael and others for cutting off the Sodom backpatch in favor of a DIYed Revocation badge (pics of assembly sequence maybe coming), and waited around a bit occasionally getting quizzed on Euro-festival stuff; pretty much the usual.

After some grousing about "punk rock standard time" (also pretty much the usual), the bands got rolling, and the result was a pretty epic time only a little dinged up by injury.

Deathgod Messiah [5.5/7]
I hadn't seen these guys together before (but, of course, all of the members separately in various local black/thrash bands such as CNV, Deathamphetamine, and Witch Tomb), and the first three bands were backlined with the Martyrvore/Panzerbastard kit, so I was a little confused that it wasn't Martyrvore opening. Once the band actually started, though, the confusion was gone, blown away by a roiling tide of primitive first-wave black metal. Best comparisons are probably to Sarcofago and Hellhammer, but angrier and more focused. Though this was a good set, it also felt kind of short, which is par for the course when a new band shows up (not much material written, and as discussed on Bone Ritual's debut a while back, a general disinclination to play covers), but still hurts. In truth, all the sets this night felt a little short, even Summoning Hate at the end when I was waiting for them to finish so I could go to the doctor; maybe it's just not enough shows lately. Good stuff, and if they had demos I missed them, but a band this good and aggressive is going to show up again on DIY shows, and I'll get another chance.

Witch Tomb [7/7]
You never know with Witch Tomb; some nights you just get a great show, and others you get something completely awesome. This was one of the latter; the band has an excellent history, but this was one of the real true highlights, at least as I've seen so far. They did a lot of stuff old and new, and all with that complete conquering presence that you really only get from a good black metal band at the top of their game. There are a lot of good black metal bands in this area, enough that it's realistic to talk about NEBM as largely or completely independent of USBM as it is today, but when they're putting up a performance like this, it's hard to think of Witch Tomb as anything but the top of that heap. The environment at that '07 outing supporting Watain was maybe a little more special, but the music here was definitely better.

Martyrvore [6/7]
Before these guys started, Seth (Anal Cunt, duh) Putnam had a couple words into the mic lauding the fact that the Boston underground is still going, still producing quality extreme metal and still putting up quality shows like this gig and these bands. Martyrvore basically took it from there, putting out an intense barrage of violent blackened death metal in their expected no-prisoners fashion. I was able to hear more of their set than the last time I caught them -- potentially one of the last times they've played out, but that's really neither here nor there -- due to generally better sound, and the result was a solidly better impression. If you're looking for a quick look into NEBM, you won't do much better than their split with Witch Tomb. As noted, there are a lot of bands from here, but this sort of raw, dirty violence is the dominant strain, and these two bands do it pretty goddamned well.

This show was the end of the line for the cowskull that Martyrvore has had for a while, and brought out corpsepainted. It got slammed into the stage rather hard on numerous occasions, and by the end of their set, Paul had carpeted the stage and front of the floor in bone shrapnel. OH SNAP FORESHADOWING. Another attendee took this Symbolfoto of it sometime before it became completely destroyed; that's no a half-bad desktop background for anyone into DIY metal. I managed to pick up a tooth from it that so far has not been successful as a ritual focus for the Merseburg Charm, but expecting effectiveness out of old Germanic magic is probably asking too much.

Summoning Hate [6/7]
Though I spent about half the set distracted by violent pains in the middle of my right hand, this was still an intense and awesome set from the least black metal band on the bill. Summoning Hate turned in, like usual lately, a nice thick set of pounding thrash-death that sounded a little crisper than the last few times I've seen them, maybe due to the good venue sound. They also got people moving with this music, which is the reason that this score ought to come with that infamous "includes adjustments for injury" tag.

About halfway through Summoning Hate's set, one of their guys got pitched backward in the pit. I stretched out a hand to try and keep him from busting his head open on the edge of one of Martyrvore's cabs, which they'd cleared off the stage after their set but not yet out to their van/truck. This was a partial success; the guy wasn't injured, but his head caught the last digit on my right middle finger right on the fucking edge of the cab, and as it turned out, neatly broke the bone. This hurt like a fucking bastard, but I've gotten banged up before, so with the help of a couple trips to the O'B's bathroom sink to ice it down, I got through the end of the show.

The finger was swelling up and looking bad, and I didn't do any favors on the long walk back to Cambridge by not elevating it and also jimmying the digit around to see if it would bend in a way that wasn't consistent with a single piece of bone between the nail and the first knuckle. I got one of those results, and by the time I got back to my town, the finger was large and purple and worth a trip to the ER rather than just going to the pharmacy next door to my apartment buying some athletic tape.

Since this was kind of a pussy injury as ER cases go -- even in a small town like this, there are issues, like the patient brought in euphemistically described by the EMTs as "significant lower GI bleed" and more candidly by the nursing staff as "gouts of blood pouring from the anus" -- I got to sit around with an icepack for three hours while the doctors took care of the people with real problems, and contemplate the staff, the sounds of other people under heavier treatment, and the bed in the waiting room, and with it the reality that I, like some of the heavier cases, would likely find myself on a similar contraption sometime in the next fifty years, at which point I would stop being an alive human being and turn into a corpse. Pussy injury or no pussy injury, medical gore and forced contemplation of your own mortality is pretty fucking death metal.

In the end, I got what I was after -- a splint and confirmation that the damn finger was broken and I hadn't wasted three hours -- then went home and went to sleep instead of going to work. An outbreak of egregious drunkenness kind of killed off the rest of the weekend, but I'm on the mend now, in fine condition apart from that one damn digit, and will be in prime shape for Revocation's CD release this week.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Coelem now 33% less kvlt

The prime criterion of black metal in too many people's minds is and has been kvltness; in short, how hard it is to get a bands releases, coupled with how inaccessible they are musically and how few other people like them. As of today, my one-man ambient/black metal project Coelem is 33% less kvlt, because any schlub can now get on the internet and get the entire Tenebral Presence single, which originally came out in a run of like 5 CDRs, from the official Coelem page. The Vexilla regis prodeunt infernii (original run: about 5 hand-dubbed cassettes) and Tendrils of Burnt Flesh Ensnare the Feeble-Willed (not actually ever issued) demos are still super-kvlt, though; I have the masters and eventually will probably be able to read from them someday, but that day is not today, and if you think you have either release, you are probably either confused or deluded.

Also, dig the snazzy new cover art, consisting of that shot of the moon from Party.San, some cheap fonts, and a mistake in my image-editing process. A lot better than the weird gray fractals that were on the cover the last time this was available -- and if you have that version, you probably have way more True Points than I do.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Every Shirt CLVI: Running Wild - Under Jolly Roger

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shirt: Running Wild - Under Jolly Roger longsleeve
size: XL (EU)
vintage: 2007
provenance: festival

The last shirt in the pile, this is at the bottom by chance, but it might as well have ended up here by intent. This is probably my least favorite even among longsleeves, and will probably remain so even if I can continue to get less fat: the problem isn't the gut but the sleeves, which barely fit my forearms, which are even now composed almost entirely of bone and muscle. Even when I got it at Wacken, it was suboptimal, but for a long time it was the only piece of Running Wild gear that I could get my grubby paws on, which made it worth sticking with.

That's it; after nearly six months, this stupid excursion is done and over with. There are some good shows coming this week that should get written up, but the real point is that there will never be another of these. Once through this pile is quite enough.

Every Shirt CLV: St. Pauli

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shirt: St. Pauli field-style
size: 2XL (EU)
vintage: 2009
provenance: calalog

Ordered with my first attempt at getting this year's Wacken shirt -- which ended up getting lost or stolen out of the badly mutilated box that arrived containing only this and the last two years' DVDs, which I'm still kind of steamed about -- this isn't quite their field top, but a lot closer than the "zweitklassig" shirt that showed up a while back. It's interesting to look at this shirt and wonder; of course St. Pauli, being who they are and where they're from, would be against Nazis regardless, but would they be so passionate about it if the fascists weren't trying to jack their club colors?

Every Shirt CLIV: GWAR

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shirt: GWAR
size: 2XL (US)
vintage: 2007
provenance: festival/band

From the Sounds of the Underground stop that I ended up missing almost all of (and, admittedly, not really regretting), this is a decent if basic shirt that will likely see extensive service again once I can pick out my own shirts. Unfortunately, I haven't seen GWAR since; their set was pretty awesome, and one of my few regrets from this summer's round was that I couldn't stay up to see their set at Wacken.

Every Shirt CLIII: Woods of Ypres

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shirt: Woods of Ypres
size: XL (US)
vintage: 2006
provenance: festival

In retrospect, and even at the time I felt kind of bad about badgering this shirt out of Jeremy at the NEMHF. It's decent, but would see more use if it was heavier-weight and I could find a way to stop dropping Chinese food on it every time I wear it. However, over the intervening years, I'm pretty sure that I've dropped nearly enough cash at various Oak Knoll tables to make up any loss.

Every Shirt CLII: Nevermore - Dreaming Neon Black

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shirt: Nevermore - Dreaming Neon Black
size: XL (US)
vintage: 2001
provenance: catalog

For a long while this was my basic utility shirt, and it's got the wear to show it from almost a decade of carcass-covering. Even when I got it, it was a little small, but the record it's from being so damned good has a significant redeeming effect. With this project finally concluding this week, it's likely to go back into heavy use in the future.

Every Shirt CLI: Testament

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shirt: Testament - Damnation Vacation
size: 2XL (US)
vintage: 2008
provenance: band

Acquired from their permanent hearing damage show last summer, this is a decent shirt that's improved by not being associated with me having to get hearing aids (yet....). I've missed Testament's more recent tours due to other commitments, which needs to be rectified -- this was a good show with the obligatory classic lineup, but I'm not sure there's such a thing as enough of a good band.

Every Shirt CL: Bifrost

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shirt: Bifrost
size: XL (EU)
vintage: 2006
provenance: festival

This one was picked up at Wacken in 2006, after some awkward attempts to confirm, in both English and German (the vendor was, in retrospect, probably Dutch), that it was for real and actually for sale. It's since gone on to be about the one longsleeve that I actually wear on a semi-regular basis, as the band involved is hopelessly kvlt (and was quite good, without which there would have been no point). Seriously, if you can somehow find their Mythistory disc (the cover of which forms the basis for this design), you need to pick it up.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Every Shirt CXLIX: Blind Guardian - saw/skull longsleeve

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shirt: Blind Guardian - "sawblade" longsleeve
size: XL (EU)
vintage: 2005
provenance: catalog

Ordered while I was still in Germany, this documents a tour I wasn't able to make it to because a) they didn't do any gigs in the East, and b) I was, like I said, in Germany, so I wasn't able to make it up to Montreal. It's a hell of a design, but like most of my Euro shirts in this size class, a little tight. I'm working on that, but this is still a longsleeve, so it's probably not going to enter the casual rotation any time soon.

Every Shirt CXLVIII: Random Acts of Violence

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shirt: Random Acts of Violence
size: XL (US)
vintage: 2006
provenance: band

I probably got this one off the band at this show at the end of 2006, but in truth, there are a lot fewer possibilities on that than there ought to be. My younger brother, who's not particularly active in the scene, has maybe seen them more times than I have, as during the heyday of their activity (between 2003 and this point) I tended to spend a lot of time in Michigan or Germany. As might be inferred, this band isn't together any more, but if you like hardcore-driven thrash metal with melodic leads, they're worth digging up, either for the Cathartes Aura EP this shirt is from, or the earlier full-length that I keep forgetting the name of.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Every Shirt CXLVII: Necrophagist - Ignominious & Pale

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shirt: Necrophagist - Ignominious and Pale
size: XL (US)
vintage: 2008
provenance: band

One of the more salient things learned from this project (in addition to the very obvious "I have too many goddamned shirts" angle), is that I actually have three Necrophagist shirts, but two of them kind of blend together because the front designs are undifferentiated and blurry. I like this one mostly for the song referenced, though the back design is cool as well. Hopefully, when Muhammad brings out that third full-length, Willowtip will do them up some more differentiated merchandise.

Every Shirt CXLVI: Edguy

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shirt: Edguy - 2008 US tour
size: XL (EU)
vintage: 2008
provenance: band

Not acquired this Tuesday -- I was on call and thus couldn't go -- but rather the last time they were around, this is a shirt with a fairly timeless design, but one that has aged poorly, because Tinnitus Sanctus didn't come out until afterwards. This record is not, in my opinion, very good, and breaks up the hot streak that Edguy had been riding since Hellfire Club. This is kind of a casual hazard of being a power metal band, especially one that does so much hair stuff; best to accept that once in a while, bands in this style are going to make a retreaded or subpar record and continue to listen to their good work.

Every Shirt CXLV: Zircon

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shirt: Zircon
size: XL (US)
vintage: 2007
provenance: band

Picked up sometime in early 2007, when Zircon was at their most recent most active, this is a utilitarian DIY-style shirt (back: New England Black Fucking Metal in blackletter) that doesn't need much further explanation or introduction. Unfortunately, the band may; while members have since gone on to make major contributions to Vital Remains, Belphegor, and the running of Metal Thursday, Zircon has been kind of quiet as a band for the last year or two. In their heyday, though, they annoyed some people by seemingly getting on every show ever, and to everyone else, consistently provided killer black-death metal at a level that, obviously, got Scott and Anthony called up for those bands, respectively. Such is the scene; time ebbs and flows, and even good bands pass from the earth.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Every Shirt CXLIV: Dying Fetus

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shirt: Dying Fetus
size: XL (US)
vintage: 2008
provenance: band

This is from that oddest of all possible bills gig back in October of last year, though from the band that really should have been headlining. It's a flat awesome design, but for some reason keeps migrating to the bottom of piles; it'd been a while since I wore this when I started this ridiculous project up in March, and each successive move of the pile has seen it go from near the top to right at the bottom. Fortunately, though, this means this long and pointless march is nearly over.

I'm probably not going to Edguy this week since I'm on call (and their last album wasn't the greatest); something else may appear here in that show's place tomorrow. This was also the reason I regrettably missed Ravage's CD release last night.

Every Shirt CXLIII: Wacken 2005

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shirt: Wacken:Open:Air 2005
size: XL (EU)
vintage: 2005
provenance: festival

This shirt was a latter choice at this festival; I'd gotten my brothers other shirts, but wanted one with the full lineup, and by the time I got around to it (back in the day, there were fewer people, but no on-site ATMs; you had to go into the village and fight off the flies to get your cash out -- with a stick! -- and then hike back -- uphill both ways! wi' only a handful of gravel tae eat!) this was about all there was left. Like my other Euro longsleeves in this size, it's a little tight, and that coupled with the sleeves contributes to it not getting worn a lot, which is just all right; the less wear, the longer I'm able to dredge this out, point at the back, and say "yes, I did see Dissection on this fest, and Sentenced doing one of their last shows ever".

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Every Shirt CXLII: Amon Amarth - Viking Horde LS

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shirt: Amon Amarth - Viking Horde
size: 2XL (US)
vintage: 2006
provenance: band

Probably picked up at the Sounds of the Underground date that I didn't see the band on due to getting out of work late, this, like my other longsleeves, has a tendency to not get worn due to said sleeves. It's a little difficult to wear a longsleeve metal shirt underneath a short-sleeved workshirt, so I can't really wear it as an undershirt midweek, leaving two days a week as possibilities. The end of this project means I have to get through them now; thankfully this one is a little larger than the others and doesn't pinch my arms as much. That's the other reason I don't wear longsleeves much: I hate long sleeves and push the sleeves up on these, roll up anything that comes with cuffs. Cool sleeve designs are SOL; my forearms need to breathe.

Every Shirt CXLI: Revocation - Existence is Futile

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shirt: Revocation - Existence Is Futile
size: XL (US)
vintage: 2009
provenance: festival

As mentioned on the festival report, I got this one (and another that is going to be showing up in a different form here shortly) from the Relapse table instead of the band. I've gotten a lot of stuff directly off Revocation over the years, and will going forward (unless they become Wicked Huge Rockstars, in which case I'll probably be stuck getting just Hot On The Heels/Composted stuff off the members directly), so while I still felt a little bad about it, it makes sense to support the label as well and convince them that they can make money off these guys, if only they give them proper tour support and get them out in front of as many wallets as possible. At the end of their next contract, Revocation will be big enough to tell the labels to pound sand and go DIY again; for now, though, Relapse is their key to the other coast and across the pond.

Every Shirt CXL: New England Deathfest 2009

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shirt: New England Deathfest 2009
size: XL (US)
vintage: 2009
provenance: festival

One of only fifty made and sold on-site (there was a second run done post-festival for those who missed out), this is a cool shirt as well as a worthy memento of this year's fest alongside the super-professionally-turned-out program booklet. You can see the festival report for who on the back of this shirt I didn't see -- in addition to Retch, Atrocious Abnormality and Covenance, who dropped too late to be cut from the shirt, who nobody saw on this fest -- but what this doesn't tell you is the band I saw that may not be on this shirt after a few washes. Digested Flesh definitely showed up, but on my shirt at least, their logo isn't clear enough to be immediately decipherable; probably not enough ink got through this part of the press, and it'll probably be the first to disappear. However, given the ridiculous number of shirts on hand, this probably isn't going to be for another couple years -- at which point I hope to have a couple more shirts from this festival in my closet.

Friday, September 04, 2009

New England Deathfest 2009 [Club Hell & Jerky's, Providence, 8/29/2009 - 8/30/2009]

The festival season, at least for me, comes to a successful conclusion again this year with this festival. With a strong step up in quality and a smaller but significant step up in attendance -- and quite a few absolutely epic sets that will increase that going forward as people see the pics and read the writeups and bang their heads against walls and desks and tables for not going this time around -- it's hard to see how this festival won't keep going and continue from strength to strength.

day 1 - 8/29

With some cancellations pushing back the start time (Retch, Atrocious Abnormality, Covenance, and Behead the Lamb -- who are kind of becoming the Bennie Joppru of this festival, hope they can make it next year -- had to cancel from the original billing), I had the luxury of waiting a little to see if the rain would let up; it didn't, and I made my way down to the PVD through the rain and the traffic rubbernecking at the people waiting for the Kennedy motorcade to come by in the other lane. I cairned my crap at the hotel, stretched out a bit, and somehow managed to make my way through Providence's awkward mess of partially-one-way-streets over to the venue without wrecking my vehicle, and in time to see most of Pathogenic's set after getting banded.

Pathogenic [5/7]
Looking at my running order/notes sheet, these guys were the sole deathcore band on the bill, but were worth the while regardless. They were kind of limited, but the argument can be made that the style itself is kind of limited, a thread that will show up again looking at some of the slam bands later on. They played a decent, solid, opening set, and if the crowd wasn't as super into them as the bands that would come on later, they did at least have a full house, which would be consistent for the midday bands throughout the festival. People were intent on getting the most out of their $25/$30 per day, and Blue et al did an excellent job of getting bands that were worth it.

Here I attempted to go up to Jerky's (first set, and all other 'odd' sets until Quo Vadis at the end, were downstairs in Club Hell) using the street entrance, but the door was locked. Two of the guys in ExCx (see below) were also trying to go up to, like, get ready for their set, and also hadn't been informed that we had to go up the back alley staircase. This was a good decision from an organizational perspective -- saves the need for checking this door until Hell closes (see further down) -- but they could have done with a "NEDF - No Entry This Door Till 10:30" sign at the bottom of the stairs, rather than the door into Jerky's itself.

On getting upstairs, I got a beer, ran into the usual and expected coterie of scene stalwarts, and thoroughly assed up my acquisition of one of the few festival shirts. If Drew never stops giving me shit about this, it will be too soon. Said festival shirts are wicked cool, and if they didn't sell out, there is something wrong with the attendees -- a run of 50 should have been gone by the end of the first day, and hopefully this will lead on to a bigger run next year.
EDIT: Said shirts did sell out, and Blue actually did a second run by special order; looks like there will probably be more next year.

Embryonic Cryptopathia [6/7]
I'm not completely sure that they used all of their allotted time, but anyone who was unsatisfied with this set, whether for not running long enough or for some other reason, was probably not even in the building at the time. About the purest grind of the bands that I saw, ExCx absolutely crushed the Jerky's crowd, despite it being this early in the day, in the process of providing one of the better sets of the day. Fucking intense is about the word for it.

Abnormality [5.5/7]
For the first time, I saw Abnormality with a bass player -- Josh (Deconformity, ex-Sexcrement, ex-Neuraxis) Staples, also one of the organizers here -- though the sound downstairs may have held them back a bit. The band's full sound did come off as more complete than when I'd seen them in the past, but maybe not as biting as some previous gigs. The venue sound was, for the most part, really good, but there were a few sags, including this one, that didn't keep the band affected from playing, as in this case, a pretty damn good set of death metal.

Abdicate [5/7]
I hadn't heard these guys before, but was not disappointed; while they didn't stand heads above the rest of the field -- though their gigantic singer did -- they did smash out a bunch of solid music. Just plain old quality death metal and a good time, though there wasn't quite as much motion as they might have wanted. Put that down to being early in the day, or to lack of slam; you can say what you want about the style, but there is a pretty direct relationship between (at least of the bands I observed) slam content and degree of moshing at NEDF.

Polterchrist [6.5/7]
This band, though, thoroughly exceeded expectations; in the middle of the day, from a band you haven't heard of previously (alright, I spend too much time at work and following Celtic among other activities, and put pretty much no effort into following the death metal scene in detail), you're expecting just a solid effort at this festival, but this was a rock-solid killer, intense brutal death flavored with some classic leads, which was a welcome difference from the run of bands leading up to them. Some of this is personal preference, but it's hard to deny that they kicked ass, and the variation in death of all kinds, as Shawn (Insidious Decrepancy/Viral Load) would mention on Sunday, is what makes this fest stronger. Good stuff all the way.

In between here, I spotted someone in a Party.San shirt, and checked a little closer -- this year's! I tapped him on the shoulder about it, and we got to talking about the festival, and the bands, and German festivals and Germany generally. I've got the sneaking suspicion that I saw him around over there -- 10,000 is a pretty small number for three days -- but regardless it was a good time talking with someone else who's been over. Here's hoping that travel prices shake out and more get the opportunity -- and that our increased support of good US festivals will see our experience here growing towards that.

Bloodsoaked [5/7]
While this was going on, Bloodsoaked started up, and though the initial impression was of a stalwart exercise in keeping in time with one's playback, it built up to a decent death metal performance that yes, was still held back by the limitations of being a one-mand-band, but proved to be a good time overall. If you have to sort out the one-man sets of the weekend, yes, this one is on the bottom, but someone has to be, and the two other guys who showed up backed by a drum machine for their sets are really the state of the art in one-man death metal. I don't think anyone was expecting Peter to play them off the stage, but provide a solid set of playback-backed death metal, yes, and he did do that.

Sexcrement [7/7]
The pictures on RTTP, really, say it all when it comes to this set; an avalanche of perfectly balanced gutterslam, transvestites, and Adam in a Queen of Hearts wig. The pit action was enormous, and the tranny go-go dancer a laugh riot, but what really made this was that the music was killer and the sound downstairs absolutely magnificent. After this point, I don't think I saw a single band downstairs that didn't have an exceedingly good treatment from the sound board, though previously things had been inconsistent. Yes, this is in both cases the last three of the night downstairs, and I missed all the 'day' bands on Sunday, but the fact remains. Probably as good a Sexcrement set as I've seen, and while this is not a huge sample, this was also wicked killer enough that it's unlikely to be displaced for quite a while.

Nur in PVD: I go out front after Sexcrement to get some pizza from the shop next door before the last bunch of bands, and the operator of the "spa" next door is haranguing the security about the death metal fest next door, probably concerned that the noise and hordes of black-clad hessians on the sidewalk in the area were discouraging potential customers, and wanted to go in to take a look, no doubt to try and come up with some bullshit reason to call the cops. That got shut down right quick -- no $30 ticket, no admittance; "YOU'd charge US to just come up and take a look!"

On the one hand, this is ridiculous, as the operation is legal in Providence; if someone wants to come and make use of the "spa"'s "resources", they shouldn't be ashamed of being seen by a bunch of death metal heads who don't know them. On the other hand, if she'd seen the billing in advance and looked up some of the bands' lyrics/song titles, she might have a reasonable cause for concern about the safety of her employees; there's an awful lot of material on this fest about killing and dismembering prostitutes.

Malignancy [5/7]
Back upstairs, and back to a good but not exceptional set from Malignancy. While this was still a good, solid, set, it was a bit of a letdown after Sexcrement, and probably, from unreasonable expectations on my part. I hadn't heard anything from them since the Intrauterine Cannibalism disc, but that was ten years and almost total band turnover ago; it makes sense that their sound's changed, and there are a lot of bands that come off flat playing between Sexcrement and Revocation. Good death metal all the same, still.

Revocation [7/7]
Though their sound wasn't quite as huge or the audience quite as nuts as Sexcrement, Revocation still blasted out a characteristically dominating set heavily skewed towards their new material. Well it should be with their debut coming out, and a national (hopefully) tour to promote it; this wasn't the best Revocation set ever, but it was top class and a good sign for what the rest of the country can expect from them opening for Quo Vadis.

I was a little bummed after this set that I'd jumped the gun and gotten my Revocation gear off the Relapse table, as I also wanted to support the band directly. I'll get the new disc off them, though, probably, at their CD release at Church, and for a newly signed band, it also helps to convince the label that they made a good choice in picking them up, and hopefully to give them a hand with tour support. Hopefully, also, the ultimate fate of some of that kit will help with the reaction....

Insidious Decrepancy [6/7]
At this point, despite the good buzz that I'd heard before the Embryonic Devourment tour that Shawn ended up dropping off of, I was not completely sold on the idea of one-man death metal as a live rather than studio endeavor. This set, though, went a substantial way towards turning that around, even if the sound wasn't as good as the downstairs sound for the next two one-man acts. The music was certainly quality, though, and never came off as simple metronome marking; solid brutal death and a fitting East Coast debut.

Putrid Pile [6.5/7]
Downstairs for another one-man band, and wow. Shaun killed it on this set, aided by a hammering sound, and also by a greater slice of slam than the other one-man acts; maybe the PA setup was optimized for it, and maybe people were just taking their last real chance to scrum around. Musically, this was better than I was anticipating, and aided by the huge sound; some people were whining before the fest about how a lot of the out-of-region quality was being made up by one-man bands (being cheaper to fly in); these people obviously missed the two five-member Canadian acts that closed out this night and the Coloradan and Californian ensembles airlifted to headline Sunday, but even if this had actually been the case, Blue sure did a good job of getting good one-man acts that may have been cheaper to book than full bands.

At this point Club Hell closed, at least for us, and transformed itself into a hip-hop/Top 40 dance club. After coming out of the pizza joint, there was already a significant lineup going back almost to the Jerky's door, which inevitably summoned up certain Dropkicks lyrics. BETTER TAKE COVER THERE'S A **** **** ON RICHMOND

Neuraxis [6.5/7]
The band was disappointed with a lack of movement, but this late, at a festival this slammy, you've got to expect as a tech-death band to get this sort of reaction. The music was great, the appreciation also, and with this set in the books, it was rational to ask how the day was going to get still better. Even this class outing, though, would get topped.

Quo Vadis [7/7]
Though they took a while getting set up -- especially in taping up a large banner that did not make it all the way through the set -- this band matched the high expectations I had based on their reputation, and thoroughly crushed the remnants of the crowd; at this point a lot of people were outside for some or most of the set. Those who were missed an epic performance of technical thrash-death; Revocation got a good match for their inaugural major-label tour, but also a bit of a tough draw in that Quo Vadis are one of the very few bands out there that they will not be able to either play off the stage technically or blast flat with heaviness. If this tour comes to your area, do not miss it. Both these bands did stunning sets here, and looked to be a lot more on pace than peaking, so it's likely to be what you'll see as well. Amazing.

After this, I dragged myself out to the car, gunned down some caffeine, and made it back to the hotel with less difficulty than getting over to the venue back in the afternoon. Providence is still laid out weird.

total points, day 1: 78
total bands, day 1: 13
average, day 1: 6

Well, that worked out conveniently; also goes to show that this was a damn good festival.

day 2 - 8/30

Unfortunately for me, I had some stuff to handle back home in the morning, so I drove back, got through it, saw Celtic hold on for the win despite being down a player and the ref trying his mightiest to toss the game the other way, took a nap, and woke up in time to drive back down in significantly better weather and still pretty much no traffic, ending up at the venue just in time to miss the end of Fit For An Autopsy. FUCK.

All told, I missed Living Void, Boarcorpse, Hivesmasher, Goreality, Parasitic Extirpation, Composted, Gutted Out, Dysentery, Short Bus Pileup, and Fit For An Autopsy. That's about two very good gigs' worth of bands that I either slept through or was in transit for -- and among them some pretty epic sets as the rumor goes. This makes the pizza joint around the corner and the sausage wagon out front all the more valuable; you really cannot comfortably take time off from this fest without missing good bands.

So, coming in just as the downstairs band was packing up, I went upstairs, got myself a beer, got ripped on by Mark and Anthony for missing Composted, bought a bunch of merch, eventually found the Onyx patch I'd gotten for Composted and gave that over to Mark, and got several random CDs pushed on me for free by the Sevared guy. Solid.

Digested Flesh [5/7]
A pretty basic but still very solid set, these Jersey guys smashed out a good performance of slammy death metal that was probably right in line with general expectations. Not quite as remarkable as Abacinate last year, but good music regardless, and from a personal standpoint it was a good warmup set to get back into festival mode with...though regardless I managed to pull a neck muscle or something headbanging, and kept having it tweak the rest of the night.

Mucopus [6/7]
The impulse is to start this entry yelling "KENNEDY!!!!", but that has zero resonance for anyone who wasn't actually there; Jason put up as good a set with Mucopus as can be generally expected from him with Skinless, if a little weirder banter-wise and a little more slammy on the musical end. A good time was had by all, though there was less motion, relatively speaking, than for the next largely slammish outing, probably because the stage here wasn't tall enough for Jason to realistically throw himself off of, despite the walking and bantering room that it afforded.

Inherit Disease [6/7]
Midway through the bands that I was going to be able to see, Inherit Disease stepped up and pumped out a flattening set of brutal death metal that thoroughly fulfilled expectations. They filled out their time well and hopefully drove others besides me to go support afterwards, even if some band members did "California" things like playing in flip-flops. (I'm sure I've see some hardcore bands have people playing barefoot at some point in time, but I'm not sure that'd fly generally here up in the Far Far North.) That's kind of the point, though; that while this is the New England Death Fest, it would make no sense to just have bands from New England and immediately surrounding territories play. And as long as the bands that come in "from away" are of the standard we got this time from Cali (and Texas, Wisconsin, Colorado, and by-all-reports-even-though-I-didn't-see-them Michigan and Virginia), we'll be glad to have them.

Viral Load [6/7]
Downstairs, Shawn Whitaker set up as Viral Load with himself, his amp, and a drum machine, and explained that he'd intended to bring his whole live band along, but when they cancelled, he decided to plug on and do a solo Viral Load set, seeing as he was going to be around for Insidious Decrepancy anyways. The result was a truncated (due to preparation constraints) but still precisely finished Viral Load set that thoroughly overcame my initial skepticism that one guy could sound materially different on two successive nights as he and a drum machine attempt to be two separate bands. The separation was definitely there, Viral Load a little simpler and a lot slammier than ID, and the sound was nail-your-feet-through-the-floor massive, which definitely helped the total experience. The result was a unique Viral Load experience; hopefully Shawn'll come back with the full band in a year or three, but this was a hell of a set as it was.

Speaking of hellish sets....
Southeastern New England. Goratory reunites to headline the slammier day of a slammy festival. The upstairs was flat packed, and as soon as the band started up, the floor exploded with a violence seldom seen even here (yes, I missed the bands earlier in the day where Will (Dysentery) allegedly pushed half a dozen people out the door again and flat destroyed some guy who thought he could mosh hard). They thoroughly justified their legendary status to noobs like me who had never gotten the chance to see them the first time around, and rekindled old fires in the old fans who had been waiting years for this. In the extended time that they had, they crushed through a wide range of slammy and plain-brutal material across the band's entire history, invited Jason (Mucopus) up to do second vocals on "Hang 'em and Bang 'em" (even if his mic was mostly dropped-out for the whole of the song, he was still up there being crazy and diving on top of the pit, inspiring others to do the same), and closed thunderously with "Rice on Suede". Flat amazing. Others have carried on their traditions, and New England is still pretty packed for death metal (seriously, look at the lineups here, about 45% local), but there's still only one Goratory.

Cephalic Carnage [7/7]
Some people might have split; it's late, not everyone could get the day off on Monday (or get into a hotel like I did and have all my work gear in), and there was a reasonable if incredibly naive assumption to be made that Cephalic Carnage might have a hard time topping Goratory. This reckoned without the band, or the fact that, um, they're Cephalic fucking Carnage and have been cleaning up at stellar gigs for a long while. They did, as might be expected, a strong, long, set of highly technical, highly brutal, expertly composed material with strong political and philosophical points between songs, and closed with "Black Metal Sabbath", finishing with humor, strength, and a surprisingly accurate (musically) piss-take on Immortal. Cool stuff, from a band that has been experts at it for quite a while. Few better ways to end this fest, with pure violence upstairs and violently diverse violent diversity down.

Following CC closing up, and after being sure they weren't going to play anything else, I hit the road, sacked out, and managed to get back into work the following morning just after eight. I have no idea how I cycle that fast either.

total points, day 2: 37
total bands, day 2: 6
average, day 2: 6.17

Better on average than day 2 of this year's Party.San, which was the previous high for a festival -- and remember, I missed Goreality, Boarcorpse, Parasitic, and what from all reports was an all-time epic Composted outing. Had I made it for all of day 2, it's conceivable that this could have gone even higher.

What more could you want from this festival? Um, moar? This year took a significant step up in facilities and organization: more vendors in, more bands if I remember right, festival shirts, the signs of a beer partnership (in an indoor setting, you obviously can't get an exclusive beer vendor, but cheap Narragansett was the order of the day), neighboring food shops being open, a sausage truck out front; some of this may have been serendipity, but a lot of it was planned, and a lot of credit has to go to the organizing team, who made a great festival, brought in a ton of killer bands from all across the country, presented a great experience, and probably ended up in the black or at least out of the red. All anyone can rationally want is for the fest to continue; for next year to have more and different non-locals, 'gansett unified on the $2/tallboy price point, and at least as many heads in the building.

Irrationally? Um, move outside 5-10 years ahead of where the fest might do so naturally, and get Katalepsy, Intestine Baalism, and Crackdust? There's a lot of room to be irrational when you've got an organizing team and a festival that is going to deliver the quality at such a high known level. Till next year -- or maybe till the start of next festival season, if the currently half-formed plans to do a black/heathen festival outdoors up in northern New Hampshire floating around in the scene come to anything.