The great dilemma: work prevents you from seeing the shows you want to, but if you don't work, you don't have the money to go to them and get in the door. I had to take a pass on the first large, ill-matched tour at the Palladium this week, and cut this night's excursion short rather than go the few streets over to see Metal Thursday, but it was a good night of metal all told, despite some extraneous stuff, and the rest of the winter touring season is looking to be shaping up pretty well.
This was another direct-out-from work special, but I timed it right to get through the bullshit on the Pike and up to the venue right about at doors. I also remembered to bung the knife in the car before leaving it, but this was not enough for the security. Twits stole my fucking pen again. It's fucking ridiculous, first that they do this and second that they don't do it frequently enough that I know to grundle it in advance. It was in the process of dying, sure, but stealing people's pens isn't fucking cricket. Not cool; however, they did let me take my phone in to make digital notes with at the price of looking like a lamer. And I still could have easily brought a knife or chisel in undetected to do much more serious vandalism, if that was the point. Paying customers unreasonably inconvenienced, nothing actually blocked or averted; security theater at its finest.
Cussing about this under my breath in a mix of four or five languages, I bought my ticket, got banded, and got in to browse the merch while the bands were setting up. This turned into a Warbringer patch -- which I have serious reservations about actually putting on anything, see below -- as well as their new record to make the change come out, a trip to the bar to break up my bills so as not to inconvenience Vader's merch stand, Necropolis and two special-edition Decapitated patches (to raise money for Covan's medical bills, not just because Vogg's playing in Vader now), and the latest cool shirt design from Decrepit Birth. These guys have mastered the "lots of t-shirts" model allegedly required by the new paradigms in digital music distro, but it'd also be awesome to see this art (and the art on the "Living Doorway" shirt) done up for a 10" pic-disc or something (maybe the song that inspired it, a couple live tracks, a random fuckaround jam...like Out of the Dark..., I don't know, just throwing shit out there). T-shirts fade when used for their intended purpose, pic-discs don't.
Eventually, though, I decided I had to stop buying shit if I wanted to go to Metal Thursday or, for that matter, be able to pay the tolls to get home, and Swashbuckle was starting up anyway. Downstairs for music.
I can't really see Running Wild ever coming out to "I'm On A Boat". However, this just goes to demonstrate that Swashbuckle aren't Running Wild (or, for that matter, Alestorm, who played here Tuesday and may feel put upon by their fans to take themselves a smidge more seriously than that), and that their attack on the pirate trope is their own. They smashed out a decently long set balanced towards the new record to a pretty good reaction, though I'm not sure what other people's reaction to the people in parrot and shark costumes thrashing about in the pit was. If they'd run out from backstage and stagedove, it'd've been as clear as it was in Germany that they were band-affiliated rather than (as some might have concluded) random hipsters in leftover Halloween costumes, causing the ultra-true to become unnecessarily SO FULL OF HATE. On the whole, about on the level of the last time I saw them here, downstairs; not serious enough for the death metal portion of the bill and significantly heavier than Warbringer (who probably got the most heads in the door), they still got a good reaction out of the half-full floor and less negativity than the other thrash band in the lineup.
If you want a different perspective on shows like this one, or just a general idea of what it's like on the other side of the front monitors at this level, you might want to take a look at Commodore Redrum's tour diary; this gig doesn't get its own entry, but the return match in December when they come back with Ensiferum and Hypocrisy might.
The Forest Lapointe Show [7/7]
I don't pay nearly as much attention to new developments in metal as I could or really should. This means that when I haven't seen or heard a band before, especially on a large, weirdly packaged tour like this one, I wait around in general trepidation, expecting that they, like a lot of bands these days, will suck. (This is because I'm an old stick-in-the-mud almost as much as because a lot of newer bands that are just getting national tour exposure do suck.) This was the baseline for Augury, and fortunately, they blew that expectation out of the water. Their set was a little short, but packed top to bottom with a perfect mix of the technical and brutal schools of Quebecois death metal. Stellar all the way across, even the drummer, who landed from Australia in Montreal (their old drummer quit, and the guy from The Amenta was sitting in) days before and learned the material in a matter of hours, but Forest's bass playing was in a class by itself. The guy annihilated so hard on the first song that when Patrick announced before the second that we'd get a bass solo later on if the crowd reaction was good enough, the whole place erupted, even before he strapped on his fretless to take things to another level, even from those who'd never heard the band before. The solo came two songs later, and was as massive as anticipated. Not a perfect set -- time as much as anything else to do with this -- but impeccably delivered, and probably quite well enough to convince anyone who showed up to keep their eyes peeled for these guys the next time they come back south.
Following this, I went up and immediately forked for their record. I haven't gotten a chance to listen yet, but given that the board was kind of inconsistent on the night, it's likely to be even better than what we got out of the band -- and if nothing else, at least more.
The Amenta [4.5/7]
I was in the way back for these guys because there was a shortage of places to stand further forward, and that turned out to be for the better. They were in most ways decent, but I remember a band called Meridian, and if you have qualms about that score, you probably don't, or just haven't listened to The Seventh Sun in a while. "But they came all the way from Australia! And Meridian isn't even together any more, much less touring!" Sure, but that makes the hurdles for The Amenta taller, not shorter. The performance here was ok, and most people probably won't recognize it as being firmly in the shadow of another and better band, but that doesn't mean that they really did anything to get out of this shadow, and you don't cross oceans to play "ok" gigs.
At this point I went up and got a Swashbuckle shirt ("Splashzone", a little more topically unified than their "The Trooper" parody, and it had the tourdates besides) from Pat; I'd been ambivalent about this first due to the possible need to support The Amenta and then pay the door charge at MT, but both of those issues kind of resolved themselves for various reasons about here. Shirt in the belt, it was back down again, now absolutely skint and somewhat foreclosed from drinking the rest of the night.
I can now firmly say that I've seen Warbringer, and the impressions from before with their limited lineup and with their first record are pretty much accurate. Warbringer are a good thrash revival band, but somewhat allergic to doing anything new with the style. They turn out good, crunchy, Bay-Area thrash metal, but I still haven't heard anything out of them that I can indelibly stamp as the "Warbringer sound". There are Exodus parts and Kreator parts, but this is an empty foundation without a house on top of it. The guys are talented enough to build said house, but they need to do so ASAP -- does anyone remember when Reanimator was in the pole position of the thrash revival? Anyone remember how bands like Faith or Fear sank without a trace in the '80s because they didn't differentiate themselves? True, Denial, Realm, and Devastation also fell off the map despite being awesome, but obscurity happens faster to bands that can't carve their own name into the listener's brain.
There were a few thumbs down passed out during the performance, mostly by a dude of no small standing in the thrash millieu of this part of New England, but the band shouldn't be too dismayed, as they weren't going to get this guy, or those like him, anyways. As mentioned before, thrash fans who were into thrash before the revival started tend to have a rather simple and brutal means of classifying bands, which likely corresponds in this case to something like the following chart:
Band goodness is easily seen to be a dependent variable, and Warbringer of course sounds nothing like Sodom, so they get pelters. I have a very similar chart for personal use, but it usually says "sounds like Kreator" at the bottom, so Warbringer gets slightly more of a break on that one.
In here I went more forward, aided by the fact that a suspicious number of people seemed to go back and then not come back to the front for Decrepit Birth, nor noticeably swell the numbers upstairs. If you actually left in this timeframe you are a lamer, and Devin Townsend will come to your house to take back your metal points, cut up any jacket you have attempted to build so far, and force you to watch while he commits indecent acts on any domestic animals you may have lying around. If you're not scared of Devin Townsend raping your pets, that's fine with me; your loser cred is established and there are fewer people standing between me and respectively Matt Sotelo and Waclaw "Vogg" Kieltyka.
Decrepit Birth [6.5/7]
Seeing Augury's set -- and, depending on your perspective, the two bands that played after them -- it might have been reasonable to suspect that they might steal the show. Nope. Decrepit Birth came out and demonstrated that they are still Decrepit Birth, and still on the leading edge of amazing technical things that can be done in death metal. They played a nice balanced selection of material from both records so far, and teased an upcoming new one though (if I recall correctly) they didn't have anything off it at this one. I don't know if Bill actually believes all his weird inter-song banter, but it fits with the music and lyrical topics, and, hey, California. Ferociously good music, easily on a par with Vader, and quite possibly the best (and definitely longest) performance I've seen from them in this building.
Despite the relative length of the set, there was a strong demand for the band to do more, which they of course couldn't without running into Vader's timeslot, who would themselves end up relatively pinched for time. This show didn't exactly get out early, either, so the problem here is probably trying to shoehorn six bands into just under 4 hours. Like the last Maurizio-put-up tour that I saw in this building, backlining was used to good effect for most of the bands, but this time around there was just too much good music.
The coherence of Decrepit Birth and the backstage presence during their set of the NEDF organizers/New England Green Thumb horticultural society members, though, might argue that they would not have played longer had they had the opportunity, choosing rather to undertake other activities as a preparation for Vader. ;) Nothing implied......
Decrepit Birth set a really high standard, but Vader definitely matched the mark, though to a crowd that was shamefully diminished from the night's high point. For crying out loud, you idiots, bands from Poland don't just wash in every day -- and most of the time when they do show it's fucking Behemoth, so exult, as those of us who stayed true and stayed in did, that you get a good one for a change. There was a lot of new material in this set, which still ripped and popped with as much power as the old. It's Vader -- did anyone expect differently? People were running out of energy by the end, but even if the band were a little let down, they didn't let it affect the music, and both we and they got a good finish out of the night by the time the venue turned the lights back on and foreclosed any further encore.
Unfortunately, this really was the finish to the night; it was late and I was tired as well as dead skint, which cut Metal Thursday out of the plans to continue. No Morgirion, no Mythology, no Kathadin -- well, I'd missed two out of those already just by virtue of what time it was; time to just bear up the pain and get to work in an normal fashion in the morning. This may have turned out to be a blessing in disguise, too, as I didn't have to go in the legendary shambles of the Ralph's parking lot and further aggravate the damage to the tire that ended up dying on the way home from work Friday rather than on the way home from this show. That dead tire may also have bricked any chance of going to Deceased on Saturday, but at that point, I was probably already sick enough that I wouldn't've made the trip back in.
Future shows are up in the air; I've got to finish being sick first, then see what's coming up, and where.