"Summer is a-comin' in, arise, arise." The weather has turned here in New England, and with shows like this, it really does seem like the festival season is right around the corner. I may not be going to NEMHF, but between one thing and another, I'm already looking ahead to the coming run of dust, mud, beer, and pounding metal.
The rain was a little difficult, but didn't really interfere with the drive out, and there are certainly worse ways to go out to a Finntroll/Moonsorrow show than through a gray rain that throws clouds of fog off the road when driven on, deep green trees against a stormy sky, pounding Equilibrium on the stereo. I got up shortly before the first band started, in time to get a beer and some merch, but not soon enough to resolve that and get much more than halfway forward before they got underway.
Infinite Descent [4/7]
This band had some good ideas, but they were incompletely developed, and the soundboard gave them a pretty rough going over. Prog-metal seasoned with brutal bits verging on the metalcore at times, the idea seemed to be to aim for Into Eternity or Evergrey in that mix of the aggressive and neo-symphonic, but the songwriting isn't up to standard, at least yet, to carry those ideas forwards to a band that is going to make people stand up and take notice.
At this point, it is necessary to note that this is also a clear example of this record's relentless even-handedness and absolute focus on the music; those who were there will agree, looking at the way scores have gone in the past, that this is about where this band came out, allowing for differences in personal taste. There are no indications that the band was penalized for having inflatable swords, dragons, and battle flails at their merch stand, but nothing recorded, and I am exactly the kind of vindictive old stick-in-the-mud that this sort of thing rubs the wrong way. Seriously, what the hell is happening with our music? The inflatables played into the festival atmosphere later, but it was desperately artificial; people are supposed to lug these with them to fuck around in the campground with and accidentally throw in the fire, not to buy them from a band's merch stand.
Swallow the Sun [6/7]
Once again, as in the summer, these guys had a hard time getting the sound to pick up from the start, but this time it was the vocals, and the fault of the soundboard, rather than the guitarist having to tune up while the rest of the band was going through the first song. Once again, also, they laid down a strong, worthy performance once everything was brought in correctly. They showed a little more of their black metal roots than I'd seen (or at least remember) from them previously, but balanced it with some of the New Moon material, which continued the Katatonia-like trend towards accessibility that's been current in their material at least since getting off Firebox. All around, this was a high-quality performance of high-quality doomic metal; these guys have got to come back around headlining sometime, hopefully with Insomnium in support.
The performance wasn't quite as long, or quite at the full level of the summer, but it was a definite step up from the last time I saw them in this building, and the audience, confined by the small space, was another level up as well. As at Party.San, the band's increased willingness to go back to the start of their catalog for rougher and folkier songs got people thrashing more intensely, and this was an American audience, not a German one. Absolute, total pit chaos, but unlike Finntroll's set, it always remained secondary to the music on stage. Taking it all together, this was one of the best sets so far in this relatively young year. If you missed it -- or potentially worse, saw if from the balcony rather than on the floor like an honest metalhead, it's your loss.
After Moonsorrow, it would be difficult for practically any band to make a notable impression; fortunately, though, Finntroll did manage to break through to a degree. Not all of their material in this set was up to the level of what Moonsorrow presented, but those who came to mosh were here for this band, and they didn't hold back in driving the floor into a frenzy. Most of the time, there was enough of a buffer -- or enough people folkdancing in the middle to slow things down -- for me to listen up instead of just tossing people back to avoid getting smashed, but this, also, is what we go to metal shows for, to smash and get smashed, to drown in sweat and splattered beer, to bang our heads into oblivion.
Unfortunately, though, they wound down, downed axes, and the security started shouting at people to get them out the door. If you followed their directions, you screwed up; the rest of us pressed in on the stage, kept yelling, and eventually the band's people prevailed upon the venue operators to give them an encore. At this point, I went up, stuck my head practically into the PA cab, and got decleated on their final riff because I wasn't watching myself. If I squashed you between the wavebreaker and the stage or the cab, I apologize, but in reality that is what the goddamned wavebreaker is for, so don't stand on the wrong side of it next time and you won't get crushing injuries if someone gets fired into it.
From there, back out, and despite the exhaustion, it was clean sailing. Next show is back out here, Bloodsoaked at Ralph's for Metal Thursday, and then likely more on the weekend. Summer is a-comin' in, arise, arise.