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.

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