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.