Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Bone Awl with Ashdautas, Volahn, and Witch Tomb [O'Brien's, Allston, 6/15/2009]

No longer sick, on-call, or preoccupied with moving stuff, I went in for this rather awesome black metal gig, and effectively reacquainted myself with the protocols of Boston shows. Traffic was almost non-existent, and my anticipated time for the walk in from Cambridge must have been set when I was a lot less walk-capable, so I ended up getting over to O'B's about half an hour before nominal doors. Of course, this was a DIY show, so nobody cared; I sat around on the sidewalk cooling down for 15 minutes or so, then went in and got some beer and some merch.

There was some lineup flux in the show going in, and -- always a sign of good bands on a successful tour -- the merch selection was not biased towards the convenient and the portable. I missed the last Volahn pin, but scored an Ashdautas record (good stuff, nearly as impressive as their live effort) and some Bone Awl cassettes. I was thinking about maybe getting a 7" or two as well, but the awkwardness of hand-carrying them through the rest of the show, and the certainty that they would end up snapped if I put them inside the back jacket pocket, put the nix on that until it was too late.

Witch Tomb [6/7]
It'd been a while since I'd seen these guys last, but the performance proved that I hadn't just been building them up in my head all this time; just as black, brutal, and hateful as might be desired. They allegedly had some new material, but I'm not sure that I heard anything I didn't recognize; if there was new stuff, it's solidly in the dominating tradition of the old, still holding up the vicious end of NEBM. Cody was, as often, the only one on the bill blacked up, but either as a new angle or as a concession to how hot it gets inside O'Brien's around this time, he had a more conventional corpsepaint design reminiscent of Alan Nemtheanga (Primordial) or Sarcofago. With a limited supply of data points over a long time axis, it's difficult to determine if this is a manifestation of developing ideas on what image Witch Tomb should present, or a postmodern (and thoroughly old-school BM) refutation of the idea that image, or indeed anything except what's coming out of the speakers, matters when considering a band. In regards that most important dimension, though, the sole shortfall in this performance was that there wasn't enough of it; Witch Tomb got a good thick set for an opener, but any time you've got a good band cranking along and hitting their stride, it's a bummer when they have to close up and make way for the next.

With Mind Eraser not on this show (they'd previously been announced, then dropped, then reannounced, then dropped again), there was a nice symmetry of brutal-mystic-mystic-brutal as regards the emphases of the bands, which meshed well with the crowd that showed up. As seems to be the case for black metal in Allston these days, the venue was packed, in about equal proportions of hipsters, normal people, and aspirational militants. ('Normal' here, of course, being normal metal fans.) I try not to judge people by appearances, or begrudge anyone the right to support touring bands, and my black metal militant days are long behind me, but you look at some of the conduct seen here, and think back to the days when people used to huff dead animals and fuck up their own lives permanently for this music and think, how do we get from A to B? No declaration of genre death, though; eventually, people who are into black metal because it's kvlt rather than because they love the music will move on, and DIY shows like this show that the music will continue to go back to its deep dark wellsprings to reinvent itself whenever it needs to.

Volahn [6/7]
The first of the touring bands, they'd been billed as sounding like early Immortal, but while I'm not sure how accurate that is as a description of the music, as an indicator of quality it was pretty much dead on. The band (in this live iteration) included nearly all of the same members, in nearly all of the same positions, as Ashdautas, and as someone who didn't take notes but did take several pints of beer while at this show, it's not always the easiest to discriminate between these two bands. Volahn had a little more instrumental bite to them due to having two guitars instead of one, and more screamed than shrieked vocals -- and if you're asking yourself what the difference is in that regard, you don't listen to enough underground black metal. They also felt like they could have gone on a few more songs longer, but unfortunately did not; this, as seen above and below, is kind of a theme of this show.

I got another beer, sat down for a bit, and turned back around to find virtually the same band setting up on stage. It's like Composted and the last TYAG lineup, except that the singers in the aforementioned band usually have baked goods or dildo hats or something on top of their heads, rather than rendition hoods.

Ashdautas [6.5/7]
The general expansive Norwegian-first-wave sound was common with Volahn, but the slightly sparser instrumentation meant more space in the sound, which was a plus in this mystic and ritualistic outing. The singer also delivered with some of the best absolute shrieking I've heard from a band not named Bethlehem, and did it while wearing a bag over his head for the entire set. Some cynics may correctly observe that wearing a tentlike bedsheet cloak does not make you Wormphlegm, it merely makes you a guy under a black bedsheet with armholes, these people weren't in the audience, obviously, because if they were, they'd see how well this one bit of costuming works in this particular context. The sound, of the instrumentals and of the expressive vocals, really goes out and grabs you, and then you stop thinking about Jawas and shit and concentrate on how awesome the band is being.

Bone Awl [6/7]
A return to the dirtier and more brutal sounds that Witch Tomb had started off with, Bone Awl brought the proceedings full circle with a nice thick set of thrashing, vicious black metal. There was, as might have been anticipated, not a whole lot of movement on the floor at this shindig, but Bone Awl saw the most intensity and most collisions of the few that were. They may not have had the musical highs that Ashdautas did, at least from my perspective, but they did lay out a hellish fun set of crushing music, and what turned out to be an appropriate conclusion to a damned good show that will probably turn up among the year's best.

The "turned out" part is in there because after Bone Awl wrapped, I and a bunch of other people hit the sidewalk to chill out and cool down, not certain if Mind Eraser was going to play or not. Eventually, I decided that even if they did, it wasn't worth the extra time spent, so I hiked back across the bridges to pick up my car, drive home, and get to sleep a little after 2AM, leaving barely four hours before I had to get up and go to work. And we do this again come Thursday; Composted, Hivesmasher and Parasitic Extirpation in Worcester. One expects many fewer hipsters, and a much, much lower chance of getting through without injury in the absence of appropriate leg armor, but about the same levels of skullcrushing metal.

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