Tuesday, December 29, 2009

better late than never

Once upon a time, The Alien Blakk played a gig at the Skybar, and unfortunately packed up before I could pick up a CD. Not one to not support a touring band who bothered to come to one of Boston's shakiest venues (which was, in retrospect, even then in its death throes), I went online to order up the CD and a patch, and got duly charged for it. Then I waited, and the CD didn't come. I went to Wacken, and it still wasn't there when I got back. I shrugged and wrote it off; casual risk of doing business with the underground.

Fast-forward two and a half years and one apartment move. I get some extremely apologetic emails from the band to the effect that they are wicked sorry that this stuff never got sent, and they are sending it right away. Unfortunately, the notification that they've already mailed it out (to my old address) is in my inbox by the time I can reply to the previous one with an address correction. :headslap: It's a good thing that bands will go the extra mile to fill two-and-a-half-year-old internet orders, but this particular transaction just seems to be cursed. It would be super awesome and a bonus if this CD actually arrived in my mailbox, but after all this time I'm not going to get my hopes up.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Morgirion with Shabti and Nachzehrer [Midway Cafe, Jamaica Plain, 12/19/2009]

Much like the last time I was down to this place for a matinee show, this was a good gig featuring killer black metal, good attendance, and a lot of beer. Unfortunately, because I got up too early in the morning to hack on some other stuff before class, it accidentally also ended up featuring me falling asleep on the train home and waking up in Rowley, then calling around to find someone awake and in shape to drive while hiking back towards somewhere to get picked up. That wasn't the most entertaining bit of business in the world, but while it's a significant contribution to why this writeup is late, it doesn't have anything to do with the show proper.

After getting out of my last class of the year, I hopped the trains over, still nervous about missing Nachzehrer due to previous experience, but despite rolling up about 4:30, nobody'd started playing yet. I went next door to get a horrible rubbery cheeseburger and some more-or-less decent fries (got to learn some Spanish to try and gull some decent food out of this place) and wait nervously to get burned again. Fortunately, didn't happen; unfortunately, this was because Bog of the Infidel, who were supposed to be headlining, dropped off, but I got to wolf down my takeaway, get in and processed, and put a beer or two down before Nachzehrer started up.

Nachzehrer [5.5/7]
This was their first show, and they came out all guns blazing. It's about as might be expected, from members of Unholy Goatfucker and Razormaze with an 26 Beers stalwart sitting in on the drums, but any time a band's playing their first show ever, there's usually some slack to be cut. In this case, not needed; they trailed off a little at the end, but played absolutely everything they had written (and a cover besides) over those five songs, and set the crowd going with true straight-up black thrash, which is rarer than you might expect around these parts. Someone's got to bridge the divide between the thrash revivalists and the dirty black metal hordes in Boston, and while the lineup difficulties and commitments in other active bands might make it difficult for Nachzehrer to take this full-time, it's a start, and good music at least; we'll see how this develops.

Shabti [6/7]
Shabti came down from Maine again, and again gave a stonnering performance, mixing black metal structures with tech-death elements. Sure, try to write it off to more beer, a closer environment, the band playing directly out of their cabs rather than through a PA, more time rehearsing since, whatever, but the fact remains that this was a definite step up from their set at Ralph's, and, as then, people living south of the Piscataqua should start recognizing that this is a really good band, who you need to see if and when they come around.

I think I got a CD off them, either after their set or at the end of the night; maybe it was off Morgirion, I was kind of drunk at the time and haven't gone through that bag since due to work commitments. Regardless, if I didn't, I need to get after these guys for recorded material the next time they show up remotely local and hope other people haven't looted them out of demos yet.

Morgirion [6/7]
Morgirion continues to impress; this time around, they finally had a bass player in the fold through Connor pulling double duty on bass and keys. Of course, he still had only his normal complement of arms, so this was bass or keys, not bass and keys, but the resulting performance was still on a high level all around. This band is also continuing to get better, so that while the leading lights of NEBM might not have been on this bill, those who were there got a definite earful of the wave behind them. We had an embarassment of riches three years ago, and it's only gotten better since.

Unfortunately, the crowd thinned out over the course of the evening, to the point where after Morgirion's set the place was dead empty. I hadn't been keeping track of time, so this more than anything else was the critical clue that Bog, who had been announced as headliners, weren't going to be showing up. Oh well. After some drunken bantering, it was for nowt except to hike back to the T to the train, and then inadvertently fall asleep going through Chelsea and wake up three towns too far north. For a killer, free-drinking, seven-dollar show, though, there has to be some karmic comeuppance at some point, and the hike back wasn't that awful, especially getting picked up barely an hour into it.

Next gig is uncertain; I want to go to Razormaze's tour kickoff, but that's on a Wednesday at Great Scott and I'm on call that week. Maybe worth chancing it, but we'll see how things shake out. This is, though, probably the last of the year absent some local stuff that may or may not qualify next week; that'll make only 25 gigs this year and 4 festivals, which is kind of disappointing. Of course, it says something when seeing north of 200 sets still qualifies as "need to get out more", but last year was 34 and 3 (ok, maybe I didn't get enough of NEDF to qualify and it's more like 35 and 2) and Boston is still Boston. We'll see about 2010; hopefully, I can make more local gigs, write more intelligently about them, and promote the northeast US better and more coherently at Party.San and whichever of Summer Breeze or Wacken ends up in the other slot.

Friday, December 11, 2009

festival ambivalence

Wacken is currently doing a tedious one-band-a-day reveal of the 2010 lineup, going in to an alleged awesome super-secret band on the 25th. The lineup, so far, is good stuff for those who are making 2010 their first Wacken, or those who weren't there in 2007 (when Cannibal Corpse followed Immortal), or those who don't have to budget in airfare, but for me, it's still up in the air.

So far:
Arch Enemy - could be decent, would be the first time I hear them with proper sound if the PA doesn't fuck up again
Caliban - no interest
Cannibal Corpse - see below
Corvus Corax - interesting especially since I slept through their '05 set
Apo - like the 5th year in a row, when are people going to start bitching about them being the new Saxon?
Edguy - cool if their new album isn't as crap as Tinnitus
Endstille - good enough, though they just played last year
Ghost Brigade - no interest, their demo sucked
Immortal - good, but after '07 not a cross-oceans draw
Orden Ogan - never heard of
Stratovarius - mildly interesting, but more rubbernecking than actual draw
The Devil's Blood - interesting but see below
U.D.O. - again, rubbernecker interest; I saw Udo with Accept here five years ago, and doubt he'll do better with more years under his belt and worse material
W.A.S.P. (not on the page, but they're the answer to the quiz, so watch for tomorrow) - decent

All in all, pretty good, but you can understand why I don't have a ticket yet. The case is building, but I need to see at least two from the set of (Sodom, Kreator, Hypocrisy, Slayer, Necrophagist, (some New England band I know people from)) to push this to a must -- and should Metallica be announced, that'll push the calculation significantly in the other direction.

The quiz answers, so far, have produced the following string as a clue to the secret band:
No ideas so far, especially since each unique letter may stand for multiple letters in the band name. Also, no time to run an anagram generator and check the results against Metal-Archives.

Contrast with:
Party.San bill, so far. Most of the bands I'm actually interested to see at Wacken, plus Aura Noir, Manegarm in the conditions that were so peak for Moonsorrow this past year, and Watain in a context with absolutely no limits (as long as they don't suddenly go NSBM). Hell yes. More draw on fewer announced already; get a few more in, and this will be the main reason to go over.

Summer Breeze is also looking promising. This will mean crossing the old East-West border (as advised against by Sturmi at Party.San last year, who spent 7 hours on local trains going from Bavaria to Thuringia to save money), but even that can be an adventure as well. The guide for doing interior German festivals -- as opposed to Wacken, where you can practically get off the plane and back without having to read a word in German -- will be along sometime this winter, but will probably get tweaked based on these results if I end up doing that this summer.

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.