Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Every Shirt II: My Pet Demon

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shirt: My Pet Demon original logo
size: XL (US)
vintage: 2006
provenance: band

If I recall correctly, I picked this shirt up from the band at the first show I saw Stateside after coming back from Germany, with Ravage and some other bands at the old Peabody Jam Rooms in March of that year. Regardless, this DIY shirt tells as much of a story as any more "pro" design in my pile.

Just looking at this, you see readily the perpetual criticism that a lot of the North Shore metal scene had for MPD between about '03 and '06, namely, that they had gotten really good, and yet were still using a logo -- that had to go on shirts and stage banners -- that they had made out of the Big Internet Book of Scary Fonts when they were high school freshmen back in 2001. Unfortunately, the North Shore scene, as in so many other ways, was underdeveloped relative to the South Shore in terms of artists, and thus there wasn't really an analogue of the indomitable Mark Richards available to redo the logo into something more metal, or at least less "fontsy". Crime Pays had good surrounding design to compensate for the logo, but it wasn't for another year and a half, when Raise The Flag dropped, that MPD finally got a graphic look for the band that matched what they'd been doing musically for most of the past, like, five years previously. There's your "support music, not [ancilliary property x]" for you; whether the band's popularity in that span vindicated their not taking the time to change the logo or whether they might have had more success if they'd changed it earlier is largely in the eye of the beholder.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Ipsissimus with Summoning Hate, Bog of the Infidel, Vaettir, and Unholy Goatfucker [Midway Cafe, Jamaica Plain, 3/28/2009]

One of the signal reasons I like festivals is that I normally have to go to shows by car. Thus, at Wacken, and at NEMHF (except for this year because I dawdled and couldn't get a room at one of the five hotels within walking distance) where I can go to the show on foot, and at NEDF where I have a decent cooling-off period built in, I can drink to levels between "comfort" and "to excess" without endangering anyone but myself on the way back from the stagefront. Since Boston has public transit still running on Saturday nights after this matinee show got out, I could and did similarly go all out, only having to walk about three to five blocks on either side of the rail network. This, along with the fact that there were some seriously good bands on the bill, made this gig pretty awesome.

I got down a little after anticipated start due to some rail delays; I was coming from French class in Kenmore and had to backtrack to Park (because the Green car I picked up wasn't going all the way to GC), then across to Downtown to get the Orange line to JP. However, the Goatfuckers hadn't started yet, so I went to the burrito place next door to get some eats and missed about two songs because they apparently had to raise and slaughter the cow to make the meatballs out of or something.

Unholy Goatfucker [5/7]
As noted, I heard about the first third of their performance through the wall, but what I saw out of them for real was pretty damn good. This band keeps coming in at this score, but this outing here was probably the best I've seen from them, and the way they keep moving from strength to strength leaves you with the impression that they're going to make some major noise outside the area one of these days. There are still a few points of cliche to their sound, but on the whole it's done so well, and it's such a good style, even when it's being derivative, that you can't help but get into it. I should probably stop talking about Obtained Enslavement until I listen to the records from that band that I have again, but if you've discovered bands of that ilk, from the Norway of that time, that largely went undiscovered, you'll discover them again with Unholy Goatfucker and be damned glad of it.

Because I was missing their set, I went right in instead of eating the food I bought, so after finding that the place was still packed to capacity -- that's right, a matinee black metal show in Boston sold out, so keep crying, scene elitists in other places, your tears are a delicious part of our complete breakfasts -- and there wasn't going to be anywhere to unwrap it, I went outside and so missed explicitly getting one of UG's demos. I later found one off the floor, but I'm not sure what kind of condition it's in, so that's something to watch out for next time.

Vaettir [5/7]
I hadn't heard this band before, and was pleasantly surprised. While they didn't really separate themselves out from their influences, it's definitely not usual to hear a band that inherits half from Cold Northern Vengeance, half from Sigh, and on a song by song basis at that. The combined effect was really cool, and as they move forward, this should lay the groundwork for some really interesting music. As it was, we got a set of Arising Dungeon Cult following mixed with b-sides from Infidel Art, and at least I enjoyed the hell out of it; Vaettir did justice to their influences with good music and good execution, and as they mesh more, this is going to be another must-watch.

I moved around here a bit, partly because the bar area was overly packed, part in order to try and hear a little better; pretty much, it's only the vocals and maybe the drums going through the PA. Guitars and bass just come straight out of the cabs, which saves on micing, but also makes where you stand important depending on the angle that the band has their speakers pointed.

Bog of the Infidel [5/7]
I could sum this band up as "a less creative Bethlehem", but that would give the wrong impression; there's a lot of Bethlehem in Bog's instrumental sound and especially in the singer's screechiness, but if you're not familiar with Bethlehem and particularly with what they've done since S.U.I.Z.I.D., you may not be familiar with exactly how far you can go and still be less creative than Bethlehem. Bog of the Infidel hew more towards the doctrinaire sound from Dark Metal and Dictius Te Necare, but (or, accordingly) put forward some quality black metal. I did get one of their demos, and will be digging it in the next review block; this was a quality set, even if the sound did start a little overdriven for the PA, and it'll be interesting to get another sample from this band to see where they're going and how they develop.

Summoning Hate [6/7]
This band was on the third-from-last show I saw, but there's been some substantial change since; Dave's no longer behind the skins, and the Avilas have recruited Seth (ex-Ascendancy, Hekseri, Herugrim, etc) to pick up from here. Also, the second guitarist cut his hair, so you might forgive the casual observer for thinking that there's been more substantive change than there actually was. This only lasted until the band actually started playing; while this wasn't quite as strong as some of the SH sets I've seen recently, it was still a solid and well-finished outing. Seth's recently taken some heat for his playing allegedly coming apart when the tempos start to increase, but if such happened here, it didn't noticeably hold back the band. The thrash-death break was well received amid the surrounding black metal, and as noted the execution was quite good; we'll have to see, going forward, if they get up to further heights once Seth gets some more practice with the material.

Ipsissimus [7/7]
Wow. It's not absolutely certain how much of this is the band leveling up, and how much is ancilliary contribution from the fact that, as alluded to above, I was swilling five-dollar Guinness like water throughout this show, but you can't deny that this was a thoroughly dominating performance. At the start there were some problems with the bass, but these were quickly remedied, and black metal got promptly bent forward and backward all over the damn place. This wasn't a perfect set, but it was so freaking good that I can't really justify giving it a lower mark. We really have an embarrasment of riches in New England when it comes to black metal, and Ipsissimus' complex melodic attack is as much a part of that as Witch Tomb's raw violence and CNV's Thelemic drone. So damn good. If you live between Boston and NYC and haven't see this band, you're doing it wrong.

The Ipsissimus merch table set itself up on the section of bar-cum-divider that I was sitting at before and after Summoning Hate, so I got to talking with Ryan (guitar) about all kinds of stuff, from shows -- the Wolves In The Throne Room gig he's putting up that I may have to knuckle and drive three hours to, and the Walpurgisnacht one he's trying to put up, provided that he doesn't have to beat up the headliners for declining (bands not named here, to avoid shaming them and to maintain the surprise should things go right, because it's a pretty "wow" combo to be able to get for a one-off) -- to headstocks...and how with an older axe with the old super-pointy BC Rich Widow (he had a new seven-string with the short-horned Beast headstock for this gig) he'd once slashed open the singer of Capharnum's hand. This is DIY, and in the course of it, yes, you do learn the weirdest things.

Of course, even at at free-drinking matinee show, things have to close up, as there are "last trains" and such that one has to avoid missing to make this sort of thing work. And so it was that I hit the road, got mostly soberish by the time I got back to North Station, and got processed to head north without incident, either from general aggro or by accident from the hordes of Villanova fans on the way out of the Garden and into the Final Four and the history books. Next gig's out in Worcester for this week's Metal Thursday; on this note, said concert series is continuing to be successful, as Chris is now getting, it seems, every other Thursday rather than just the first and third of every month. More Metal Thursdays mean more guaranteed nights of 20-40 excess patrons drinking and tipping for four hours in Ralph's upstairs; it's a pretty simple calculation for them to continue to allow the ritual to expand until it starts drawing less per night than other uses of the space -- and with Chris continuing to book top-quality bands across a wide variety of metal genres, this isn't going to happen any time soon. Bands don't get overexposed, the series doesn't fall into a rut of just attracting only the same people every time, the potential audience stays large, and with enough ebb and flow that people never feel they have to show up just to support, and Metal Thursday continues to be an artistic and commercial success for everyone involved, which is hellishly rare in the underground, even if 'commercial success' occasionally just means 'not in the red this week'.

Every Shirt I: Wacken 2006 Black Stage

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shirt: Wacken:Open:Air 2006 Black Stage
size: XL (EU)
vintage: 2006
provenance: festival

I know that every time I open my mouth, or in this case a text editor, all that comes out is WACKEN WACKEN WACKEN, but this was completely unintentional that this shirt should be the top one on the pile. Serious.

This shirt was, obviously, picked up on site at the '06 festival. While I can see eye to eye with people who buy tour shirts without going to the tour -- maybe it missed their area, or they couldn't get in to the venue it went through -- it's kind of weird to buy a festival shirt without having gone to the festival in question. Especially a shirt like this with the lineup on the back where someone might ask them questions about what certain bands sounded like.

Wacken does a total of 3 lineup shirts per festival: one with everything, and one for each of the True and Black stages, with all the Party and W:E:T stage bands sorted out among them as close as a stylistic fit can be made. I tend to listen to a lot more of the Black Stage and other extreme bands over the True Stage, so I have this shirt, and I think the '07 shirt was Black Stage as well (we'll see when we fecking come to it, won't we?).

Of the bands on the back of this one, in the case that you find me in it without my jacket and want to put me on the spot as above, I saw all or part of the following, as detailed in my posts about the festival from the time:
Celtic Frost
Six Feet Under
Amon Amarth
Arch Enemy
Legion of the Damned
Mystic Circle

I missed Morbid Angel, Soulfly, Apo (ok, Die Apokalyptischen Reiter, not everyone knows German pet names for bands with no distro outside the EU), Vried, Aborted, Bloodthorn, Obscenity, Fleshgore, and Transylvanian Beat Club, and I was critically drunk for Finntroll and way back in the beer garden.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Every Shirt: An Introduction

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That is a stack of t-shirts. It is more than four feet high, not counting the box it's sitting on. If you figure that each shirt, folded, is on average about half an inch thick (though in the process of piling up this stack, I found numerous shirts that had been compressed by the weight of others to a quarter-inch or less), it stands to reason that there are somewhere between 90 and 100 shirts in this pile, potentially more.

This pile exists because I support bands. Most of the shirts in this stack are less than 3 years old and were bought out of some band's merch tub, or off a merch table somewhere, though some were not. For whatever reason, heavy metal t-shirts for, by weight and by volume, the dominant share of my wardrobe; what will follow at the pace of one shirt per day, interspersed with real show reviews and other stuff, is a cataloguing of every shirt in this pile: where it came from, where it fits into my history, and anything else the delusion needed to embark on something like this, much less publish it, might consider interesting or relevant.

Most metalheads will probably have the ability to build a stack like this; we all pick up shirts at a pretty steady pace, year by year, because the designs are cool or the band played an especially good set, or whatever, and they tend to stick around; not often destroyed, less often still donated, sold, or just thrown out. Like CDs, patches, and other detritus of being a metalhead, the shirts you have and choose to wear become in some ways an extension of yourself; this is mine, and over the next three months or so, modulo the normal rate of shirt acquisition, I'm going to go through in in stupidly excruciating depth.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Dysentery with Sapremia, Deconformity, and Dhoulmagus [Ralph's, Worcester, 3/19/2009]

Going into this one, I felt pretty relaxed; I got out of work in time to get home and unwind a bit before coming in, then the traffic was bearable all the way out along the Pike. Shortly after Framingham, though, this all went to shit as I realized that I had come this far without my knee brace. There are Metal Thursdays that you can go to with bad knees and no brace and not have it matter; anything with Dysentery on the bill, though, is decidedly not in that subset. This was going to be interesting, and potentially also extremely painful, but that's the way things go sometimes.

Anyway, I get in, drink some beer, browse Blue's distro box, get formally introduced to Jim (Boarcorpse) and Drew (Dysentery, Parasitic Extirpation, ex-Proteus, etc), and soon enough the bands go on, with me being careful to stand somewhere not directly in the line of fire.

Dhoulmagus [4/7]
This band had chops, and some interesting riffs, but also only 60 percent of their intended membership, and not really enough material to cover the length of time they played. They sounded a little raw, but while I initially chalked this up to the band's presumed inexperience, it's also quite likely that this was a forerunner of the sound problems that would continue through the rest of the bands. I'm interested to see how this band continues to develop, especially with a filled-out lineup, but this set of standard-form death metal done between guitar and drums was pretty much an appetizer for the rest of the night. Not a bad performance, and not a bad introduction, but stuff would get better from here.

To put some forerunning speculation to rest, this band's name is pronounced "DOOL-maggis", to rhyme with "ghoul haggis", which would be an interesting name for a goregrind band from Perthshire. Allegedly, this is also the name of a boss in some Dragon Quest game, so it is to the band's credit that they're not using the weaboo pronunciation, though it would have been funny to hear that from the stage. Overcaffinated exhausion; putting bizarre non-sequiturs into post-Metal Thursday posts since 2007.

Deconformity [5/7]
With a drastically revamped lineup, this was the second time I've seen Deconformity on this stage and the third time total. This may also be the last time, as they've been variously reported as thinking about a name change to reflect the changes in personnel. The sound issues aside -- a lot of feedback that didn't fit with what the band was trying to do with their lead-heavy technical brutality, plus some persistent problems bringing the guitars forward enough -- this was a good set, though it felt a little foreshortened, maybe due to lack of prepared material, maybe due to me losing track of time thanks to beer and good music. Josh (Strappado, Neuraxis, ex-Sexcrement, etc) is at least a sidegrade relative to Mike, and it should be interesting to see what this band does going forward, as they always had a lot of potential, but have been historically limited by lineup issues. This was some good stuff when it cut through the PA mess, and a good time overall.

After their set, one of the guitarists was going through the crowd barking their CD for five bucks. I picked up a copy because a) it's cheap, b) I support bands, and c) barking, rather than setting up a merch table and hoping people walk over, is not something you regularly see. Would bands get more sales this way? Would they eventually rub people wrong by going up to everyone individually and hitting them up to buy a disc after every set? There's a balance to be struck here, but it's interesting to see people selling rather than just putting their stuff out for purchase.

I'm doubly interested to hear this CD, because, as odd as it sounds, I have heard nearly nothing good about it, and most of that from the band themselves. As I recall, they were deeply dissatisfied with the production on it; any time a band frankly discusses problems with their work, it piques your interest, both for their honesty and to see what they're not happy with, and how that meshes with what they deliver live. Of course, I might have the wrong demo /album in mind, and I'm one of those weirdos who actually liked the original mix of Enemies of Reality, so it might turn out to be badass after all.

Sapremia [6/7]
This was one of those sets that really reminds you why you love death metal, and why you go to shows like this. It wasn't perfect, but it was still a dominating performance of straight-from-the-shoulder brutal death metal. You immediately can see why Sapremia's been around as long as they have, with the simple but never simplistic intention of just delivering quality, punishing death, no frills, no compromises. If there was any cause for complaint, it was that they didn't play long enough; another song or three would have kicked ass, but set times are ultimately set times. This set also saw probably the peak of pit action by volume, for reasons that will be discussed fuller when we get to Dysentery, and probably the best soundboard treatment of the night.

This was kind of odd, because the sound at Metal Thursday is usually really good, and Deconformity and Dysentery were kind of sloppily handled, maybe Dhoulmagus as well, but not having heard them before, I'm not sure that I can discriminate relative to their usual sound. The guitars were low in the mix, feedback was an issue rather than an effect, and both Sapremia and Dysentery saw major PA dropouts, Dysentery just with Will's mic, but Sapremia with everything, every channel. Maybe the sound guy was having an off night, maybe he just needs to fix his equipment and/or cabling, but something got screwed up here, and to their credit the bands soldiered through and did decently despite the circumstances.

Dysentery [6/7]
Somewhat oddly, a void opened up down front going into Dysentery's set. The void didn't last long, but it was never quite as full of flailing bodies as the band would have liked. Despite some mic issues and the lack of insane mosh, Dysentery put up a kickass set of locked-down slam-death with a decently acceptable amount of "friendly violent fun" (original Combat pressing of Fabulous Disaster picked up last weekend ftw) in front of them. As mentioned, the guitars were a little low, but the breakdowns cut through as needed, and if it wasn't the best Dysentery set I've seen, it was still a damn good one.

One of the more prominent features of this set (apart from the normal ten-ton pile of USDA Grade A slam, that is) was the mostly empty pit and Will's continued frustration with it. The reason for this is patently obvious: Dysentery have become victims of their own success relative to pit action, and there are only so many people who think they can survive in a Dysentery pit, there being fewer of those at Ralph's on a Thursday than perhaps there might be in other contexts. If I had working joints (or, failing that, two braces equipped), I might have joined in rather than just keeping people from running into poles, but I'm a 6'3", 275-pound behemoth who is not likely to take permanent damage from getting run into by Chris or Crazy Dan, and whose head is far enough off the floor that getting Allen-Chenned by the similarly huge dude in the scally cap is probably not a concern. Dysentery have put up an admirable history of epic pits, but an inevitable effect of that is that people look at the huge and the crazy warming up during their soundcheck, and think to themselves "I have to work tomorrow, do I really want to go to the ER tonight? Better stay at the bar where the chance of getting punched in the head is a little lower." O'B's on a Friday or Saturday night, though...watch out.

Dysentery also could concievably have gone on a little longer, but this show, like all good things, had to end, and I made my way out with my jacket stuffed with CDs. I of course then immediately lost all metal points when I did the retarded yuppie remote-unlock-to-find-the-car thing, but seriously...it's a black car in a dark parking lot full of black cars, what the fuck was I supposed to do? On the way back along the Pike, I again noted the Higgins Armory Museum billboard that I keep forgetting to mention -- "Death Metal Was So 1080s". The confluence of Suffocation on the History Channel plus the Palladium taking over as the extreme metal venue in Massachusetts means a lot of people are going to be going east on the Pike after shows, and a fair chunk of them will point at this billboard and go "dude, that's right, that medieval war museum's in Worcester, we gotta go check that out sometime". Good idea, and it's good to see that our still somewhat marginal subculture has some kind of ripple effect.

Next show is probably next weekend, a black/thrash matinee at the Midway after French class; tonight with Runaway High and the last song or two at Autumn Above's pilot taping gig at the Wonderbar in Allston tomorrow don't count...though you should probably go to AA if you're in Boston and not doing anything between 1 and 4 in the afternoon.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Destruction with Krisiun and Mantic Ritual [Worcester Palladium (Upstairs), 3/6/2009]

With the relatively early doors to this one, I left straight away from work, got bogged down in the usual retarded Pike traffic, and got in to the venue while people were still lined up outside. Only a couple, though, and as I threaded my way in, I got what would be the first of a bunch of compliments on my rig -- in this case, from some dudes who were debatably better ausgerustet. There will be more on this later in the post; this was definitely a kutte-heavy gig, for better or worse.

Mantic Ritual [5/7]
Almost as soon as I got my first beer, these guys started up. I hadn't heard them before -- well, to be accurate, I hadn't heard this band before; everything they did was well-foretokened by Metallica's first two records and Testament in general, even more so than a lot of other thrash-revival bands (think Warbringer doing Exodus, Razormaze's Maiden/Onslaught passages, Toxic Holocaust passing for
In The Sign of Evil B-sides, etc.). It was decent music, but you really wonder where the original input is going to come in and make this an original band, rather than an impressionistic cover ensemble doing half Combat and half New Renaissance (stop me when I hit the snooty-I-know-Eighties-underground-thrash-and-you-don't-cap, I don't want to have to namedrop Agony Column or Deadhorse here OH WAIT). That bands like this are able to tour and be successful speaks to the idea that there's a need for music like this, and while it's certainly fun to listen to, the promise of thrash revival is going to go unfulfilled as long as bands are content to do it statically as a form exercise, rather than go back to thrash, start there, and do something totally different from the way that metal's developed since 1988 so far.

I picked up a CD and some jacket parts from them after their set; it's always good to support touring bands, even the middling and not completely original ones. In the process, I saw a lot of Meltdown gear; if you're familiar with thrash revival in Pittsburgh and the "near Midwest", but haven't heard this name recently, that's what Mantic Ritual used to call themselves, with the change likely coming as a result of getting signed to Nuclear Blast. I also got rung up for a badass Krisiun shirt, and what turned out to be entirely the wrong Destruction design, but eh, what the hell.

Krisiun [7/7]
They were awesome the last time they were here, and they were no less awesome this time around, from nearly contact range in a much more intimate venue. The new points in this one were that they played after Mantic Ritual rather than before Behemoth, and they did stuff off Southern Storm, which was not out in 2006; the rest of the set, namely the parts about playing annihilating straight-up brutal death metal and being completely dominant, were pretty much the same as ever. This is about where the pit really started getting cranked up, and when we started getting crowdsurfers -- not as extreme as people doing so at Sputnix or O'Brien's, but still, this is an upstairs show with zero hardcore bands en suite; you know that if things are getting this hectic, it's got to be good, and it sure as hell was. They closed up, some including me felt, a little too soon, given a 7PM doors and how relatively early this one ended up getting out, but it's always better to have people pumped and wanting more after a band, yelling aimlessly at the organizers, than drifting relievedly back to the bar to wait up for the next group. Not surprising, of course; this is freaking Krisiun, the band who legendarily got the most out of their late-90s/early-00s work visas by scheduling tour support slots from the day they landed in the US until the day the permits ran out. There are few bands who as thoroughly define "road warrior", and few who bring as reliably dominant death metal.

The venue was a little underpopulated at the start, but people continued to fill in throughout, to the point where in this break, I noticed a hell of a lot of people up on the "merch deck", the floor modulo the pit being completely packed. Some of them would stay there even through Destruction; while there are some valid reasons, such as personal decrepitude (if my knee wouldn't allow me to go down front, I'd probably be up hung on the railing), you still have to question the able-bodied in that population. Why the hell do you pay 25 bucks to see Destruction and not even try to go down front? One boggles; theoretically, there may be some people who like thrash, but hate getting "stuck in", to use a fitba colloquialism, in or on the walls of the pit, but it's difficult to consider someone like that actually existing.

Destruction [7/7]
This was the best of the three Destruction performances that I've seen; the execution was at least on the level of their last local date (at the Middle East during Metal Winter Break '07), but the content was better, even if not quite on the level of their mega-reunion W:O:A gig that I didn't hear correctly because I was standing in front of the other stage. We got a lot of hella old material, as well as a bunch of new stuff, and it was all seamlessly integrated together; Destruction doesn't really have a disconnect between their first and second active periods, which is an advantage, but it takes performance skill, not just a restricted stylistic range, to do something off your latest album and then follow it up with something from one of your demos and make the shift transparent. There was a fuckload of crowd movement, with a lot of accompanying spillover, all through the set, and though Schmier may have been a little annoyed about the mic stands getting thwacked around by stagedivers, he didn't flip out on anyone, and was probably glad that this venue, packed to the gills, was going flat bananas for his band. I did actually see a fair bit of Destruction as well as hear them, but for a lot of the set I was facing inward on the pit, trying (mostly successfully) to keep myself and those behind me from getting destroyed by the dudes (and ladies) flying around. The knee brace held up, and I only got crushed down once, but even then, my ass didn't hit the floor, and nobody who fell on top of me hit the floor either. That's pro tanking right there.

Eventually, after what seemed like an eternity of slashing, biting D-thrash, including a regulation encore and their trademark rip on "In The Mood", the lights went up and security started shooing us out of the building. With incoherent yells, demands for "MORE!" from much of the audience, and "Zugabe!" from some dick who likes showing off that he can speak German, the thrashing hordes were pushed out the door, past the NEDF street team -- it's not on the same weekend as Party.San! I'm gonna be able to go! -- and to their vehicles. It was still before midnight, but it was the end of a truly kickass gig, and the only regret that anyone should have had was that it didn't go longer.

There was a fair bit of kickup on RTTP, and perhaps other places, that this gig was plagued with what some people see as the bane of the modern scene: kids in cookie-cutter kuttes, couples talking over the bands, people having fun, and general insincerity and not enough old farts scowling while headbanging with their arms folded. All these things were present, but it's an open question as to whether this is the bane of metal or, long term, a positive.

I dig kuttes. I have one, and it's a point of pride for me that mine is one of the more ridiculously overbuilt that may be seen around Boston. A lot of effort and time went into turning a denim jacket into a wearable tapestry of my metal interests: when I wear it, people know where my tastes lie, and when someone sees Judas-Priest-style shoulder stud banks over full sleeves at about 80% patch coverage, they can confidently slap me on the back or punch me in the kidneys (depending if I've recently pissed them off or not) and be confident that they have the right guy. I am pro-jacketcrafting generally; anyone who picks up a needle and turns "a" jacket into their jacket deserves encouragement. That being said, there is generally a right and a wrong way to go about the jacketcrafting process; there's no wrong way to actually build out a vest, but your heart has to be in the right place.

As has been said before, you should build your jacket to be your jacket, not a replica of someone else's you know, or of one you saw in some picture from 1986. Your rig may end up looking like it's from another era, but as long as it's unambiguously yours, rather than someone else's, it's not a problem. You can build a 'true' jacket from easily-accessible parts, and you can build a 'false' one out of ultimate-kvlt patches; there's no bright line here. Thus, it's not wrong to build one that follows the 'formula' (backpatch, three per border side with spacing, one per pec, one per pocket, sleevless denim), but why the fuck would you want to? The idea of "violently different from the norm" still has currency in metal circles, and there are some great violently original rigs out there (mine probably not among them). Go look at them -- not to sew yours up to look like theirs, but to see what they're doing different, and to see what angles of departure fit with who you are and what you want to strap over your back.

With regards the couples issue, yes, it's uncalled for people to have a conversation over the band, but if this is harshing on you, you are obviously not up at the front, where it's too loud and dangerous to carry on a conversation, and my prior comments about not getting stuck in at a thrash metal gig apply. Even for those whom the exceptions apply to, though, a little jibber-jabber is a small price to pay for more women in metal. Even if you don't get any, and even if they merely tolerate the music rather than live for it (not the case for those I saw up front), they are not making their guy quit metal, and their presence reduces the number of guys who quit metal in order to get laid. The more women at shows, the more women will come out to shows, and the more women who come out and honestly thrash out, the more we get rid of the idea that women can't, in general, be sincere about extreme music, which is good for the scene and good for society at large.

Lastly, those who went in for a nostalgia trip went to the wrong show. Destruction's time active and, more importantly, average material quality, are about equal pre- and post-reunion. They are fully as much a modern thrash metal band as a classic thrash metal band, and they're going to pull a current audience as well as us old scowly guys who divide the world between Sounds Like Kreator and Sucks Balls. Additionally, M. Renault is shocked, shocked that people are having fun at a thrash metal gig. You'd never think that energetic music and high alcohol consumption would make people move around and act crazy; it's not like there's five thousand years of recorded historical precedent or anything.

What the ultimate complaint here is is that this is insincere: those who build generic jackets don't care enough about the music to do more; those who chat and make out during the bands don't like them enough to dial in, thrash out, and get back to their lives during the set changes; and those who are flying around all over the place are at the gig because thrash metal gives them license to flip out, not because they love thrash metal so much that they can't avoid flipping out. This is a conclusion, not an observation; people may be no good at jacketcrafting, standing in the back of the hall, or legitimately possessed, and still come off this way, and we shouldn't go out of our way to condemn them. That being said, there is definitely a measure of 'trend' at play here, much in the same way that there's 'trend' at metalcore gigs or in all other walks of life. To some extent, some people at this show were doing what they were doing, wearing what they were wearing, and carrying themselves as they carried themselves because of the impression that that's what you're supposed to do at a thrash metal gig, rather than as an organic response. You can't get away from this, but it's an open question as to how much it matters.

It certainly shouldn't matter to any real fans of the bands. What other people do, provided you're standing somewhere reasonable, is entirely incidental to what the band's doing on stage. It certainly doesn't matter to the bands; the trend followers' money is just as good as ours, and there's often more of it. No underground band is going to ride the waves of trend, especially not long-running ones like the headliners here; rather, they'll be sanguine about it, do what they do, let the tide wash some extra cash into their coffers, and not get bummed out when this particular tide rolls out. The only concern is cultural: the question of whether we as a scene are going to have to deal with this long-term, like the indie/altie crowd has their continual entry-level horde of idiots with that lazy Demitri Martin/Beatles haircut and the unshakable conviction that the Smiths invented the wheel, fire, and upright locomotion. Maybe not, maybe so; I don't have a good and fast answer. We're currently in about year three of the current thrash revival; date it to whenever you like vis-a-vis Municipal Waste breaking out or Three Inches of Blood becoming serious. If it goes on for another five, suspect that it's permanent, as it will have lasted longer than the historical period it's emulating.

Next shows, with hopefully less philosophizing, will be Summoning Hate on Monday night and Metal Thursday's slamboree (ok, only Dysentery is real slam, but with Composted on job hiatus for the time being I have to use the joke somewhere). And a month from now, we do this again, with all the neck-snapping, body-slamming fun up front and teeth-grinding in the back, as Kreator and Exodus (and I think Warbringer) come around to this same room for more thrashmageddon.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Summoning Hate with Boarcorpse, Unmen, and Untombed [Ralph's, Worcester, 2/19/2009]

The first Metal Thursday of the year (for me anyway), this one started off a little delayed for me as I took my leave from a work get-together a little later than planned (blame an excessive table delay and accordingly, one too many Pacificos, necessitating a longer dry-out time before hitting the Pike, for that one), but I did arrive in time to catch the end of the first set.

Untombed [5/7]
This is Juan (ex-Summoning Hate)'s new band, and it's great to see him back fronting a band regularly. Untombed came off as a little less developed than SH, but provided a solid performance of trad-brutal death metal, something that often gets lost in the shuffle of slam and technicality in this region. I wish that I'd seen more of them, but even this much was good stuff, and got a killer response.

In the break I picked up a beer and a couple Circque du Carne promos; they weren't playing, but they had a stack of CDs out, and since Boarcorpse is still in the process of putting out their demo, and SH appears to be boldly forging along the super-kvlt path of “be awesome, but have absolutely no merch available for purchase”, there weren't a lot of options here for take-out music.

Unmen [5.5/7]
This was a really cool and interesting band, on tour from Jersey, and doing a style of grind that I hadn't really heard before, one that relied as much on thrash circa 1984 as on the good old basics of Napalm Death. The fusion was compelling as well as brutal, in good contrast to the rest of the bill, and anyone who might have been grumbling about their inclusion either wasn't by the end of the set, or has their head screwed on wrong. A ton of energy and some killer music; if you can catch these guys on the road, do so, whether it's on a punk or metal bill.

From them I scored, afterwards, a CD and their last small patch. Bands, especially grind bands for some reason, are wild about huge patches, but they'd do better cash-wise with them if they could dial the ego back a bit and make more smaller ones and fewer larger. With a big patch, you ask yourself, “do I really like this band enough to make them the focal point of my jacket and take up all that real estate”, while with a small patch, it's more on the lines of “hell yes, DO WANT, I'll find somewhere to stick it, these guys rule”.

Boarcorpse [6/7]
This band has taken it up significantly since the last time I saw them; some of this is the addition of the irrepressible Elliot (The Body Farm, Composted, TYAG) Bayless on guitar, but some of it, certainly, is the development and maturation of the music to the point where someone like Elliot fits in with the ensemble and is pushed by the music as much as he pushes it. A lot of structured chaos and hellishly sick technicality, but still solidly within the song frameworks; this is definitely a band to watch going forward, and to pick up their demo when it comes out. Others have made Cephalic Carnage comparisons; I'm not enough into CC to confirm or deny, but it does certainly appear to be on the right track.

Summoning Hate [6/7]
Things had emptied out a little to this point; a consequence of having a very well-attended Metal Thursday, like this one, is that those non-core people are going to leave around midnight, before the headliners start. All this meant, though, was more room in the pit for Chris (the organizer), the Unmen dudes, and eventually Crazy Dan, to fly in and throw themselves around. This was a really good, maybe even peak, set from Summoning Hate, going full time with crushing thrashing death metal – maybe too crushing for the sound system, which didn't catch up to the band for most of the first song, but just right on pitch for Metal Thursday. Juan guested on a couple songs; the band and he are apparently fine with the lineup SH has going right now, and the conclusion seems to be that if he has the time to sing full-time again, why not have two awesome death metal bands instead of one? The logic convinces, not least because the musical results of this parting of the ways are pretty fucking convincing themselves.

Eventually, though, all good things have to come to an end, and the lights went up and I had to bail, having to work in the morning and such. Four awesome bands, a fairly easy drive back, and a great time thrashing; this is why Metal Thursday keeps going, and keeps drawing from even as far as I've got to go to it.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Dysrhythmia with Tombs, Izzi Creo, Monera, and Led To The Grave [Church, Boston 2/2/2009]

After a long layoff, this was the first show of the new year, and a hell of a way to kick things off in 2009. I got in, as usual, a tad early, because Church was advertising a 7pm doors, and though I came right from work, I didn't make that mark. I did, however, wash up about an hour before the bands actually started, in time to drink some beers, buy some merch, and get complemented on my CD and patch selection by some of the Tombs guys. Huzzah scene points.

Soon enough, though, the music started, which was the reason that we'd all stumped out to this place on a Monday night the day after the Super Bowl.

Led To The Grave [4.5/7]
An odd fit to this bill, this band ranged around stylistically; now more death, now more black, now more thrash metal, and while they were decent throughout, the lack of a unified sound hurt the songs as well as the set, and the composition came off as uninspiring. They were decent enough, but 'decent' isn't how you want to come off when you're opening for Dysrhythmia and a bill otherwise kind of lacking in the metal dimension. They'll do much better on something like Metal Thursday, and there's every indication this band will get better, but this band on this bill is, like Mouth Sewn Shut opening for Hirax, pretty much an indicator of Robin's penchant for eclecticism getting the better of him.

Monera [5/7]
Post the metal band, the post-metal bands started; Monera, though, fell much more on the lines of post-hardcore rather than post-metal or post-rock. My appetite for this style is a little diminished, but they put up a good performance, decidedly original while still bearing witness to their HC roots. Of course, I know nothing about this band or its members, but I've been around long enough to recognize signature NE hardcore tropes when they're being thrown about left and right. Decent, again, but unlike the other bands on this bill, these guys probably wouldn't draw me, as someone who was wearing Sodom's s/t cover on his back to this outing, out to a show on their own.

Izzi Creo [6/7]
Though the backline stayed the same from the previous band, the style took a bit of a bend; Izzi's set was instrumental-only post-rock/post-metal in the vein of a cut-down Pelican. I'll take the real Pelican any day, but playing in this slot under Dysrhythmia, a decent impression thereof was plenty cool. Because of the cultishness of this genre as a whole, it's odd to see a band in this style that doesn't blow you away with their originality; these guys were good, and the indication is that they'll keep improving, but their absence from Hydra Head's roster at this point probably isn't a lot to get bent out of shape over.

Tombs [6/7]
At this point, the brutality got added back into the progression. Tombs had warmed up with some Celtic Frost during their soundcheck, and in their full performance, they were a spitting ball of noise fury, Neurosis fused with Scorn (Mitch from Napalm Death's industrial project, remember?). The result was a smashing, aggressive set that reset expectations for the headliners and reminded those who may have dozed off over the last two locals that this was a Relapse show, and things were going to get violent.

Dysrhythmia [7/7]
I don't know when Colin from Behold...the Arctopus joined up with the band, but while he was on a conventional six-string bass instead of some of the weird axes he's slung in the past, this was a definite positive; they announced that they weren't "going to play anything you like tonight", but blasted out a killer, pulverizing set regardless. Everything was dead-on, and the sound clicked all but perfectly, though there were some issues getting everything set up correctly to start. This is kind of a weird band, even so, and they have weird micing requirements, so kudos to the soundguy for letting this all come through. As some dude in the audience said after the show – while we were all standing around waiting for the band and crew to start tearing down, because you don't want to accidentally walk out on a Dysrhythmia encore – this band is now Behold...the Dysrhythmia, a fusion of two of the absolutely top bands in this niche of technical extremity, and the new record that they're working on with this lineup is going to be beyond killer.

They did a song "inspired by Metal Church" -- and while most people probably picked up on the "Ton of Bricks" sting-riff at the end, I'm not sure that many others caught the stuff from "Beyond The Black" woven into the middle. Go go metal nerd power!

Eventually, though, we got the idea from the venue keeping the lights on and the band bumming around in the audience that the show was over; some stayed to drink and hang out, but I'd walked two miles and more to get down, and additionally had to work in the morning. I left, and walked back through the lonesome streets and across the windswept bridges above sprawling fields of ice. Utterly unsurprisingly, I picked up a vicious cold and munged up my feet, and thus missed work. There is a knock-on effect from this, and it is a large part of why this review is so atrociously late. The rest is that work has been absolutely deadly; there's a late Metal Thursday review coming down the pike as well, hopefully tomorrow if I get the time after writing up the Destruction gig tonight.