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.

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