Right, this is quite late enough as it is, and if I dicker around any more on this, it's going to run into the review of the next show and cause a pileup like I had last year around this time, but this time without any semblance of reason for it.
There are a lot more bands on the bill than noted in the title, but unfortunately I missed Woe of Tyrants and all of the local support -- who were packed into the upstairs while the touring bands went on below -- due to getting out of work at a normal time and then crunching through the normal Pike traffic. It's good for kids and those on flexible schedules in the immediate Worcester area to see a bunch of good locals in with the touring bands for the same price, but it's a bummer, being kind of a completist and coming from the Boston area, to come out to a show like this and realize when you get in that you've already missed as many bands as you're going to be able to see.
Regardless, I paid my $25 without complaint and mustered myself down to the floor and got onto the rail, because Evile was already warming up, and I had missed goddamn near enough bands already just due to the trip in.
I'd listened to Evile's new record since the last time they came around, and been thoroughly unimpressed, so I was unsure which was the real deal: the solid and in-command live thrash metal band that I saw upstairs, or the the uninspired, samey one that ground out Infected Nation. This performance swung it back to the live take: again, Evile laid out a quality opener set of blasting thrash metal despite stumping for people to spread the word and get them a headlining jaunt, and again, I was impressed by the overall execution. They're not ready for a headlining tour yet, no matter what they think, but if they can continue to deliver at this level -- and find some way of getting it onto record -- they'll be at that level in good time.
After their set wrapped, I went up to hit the merch decks and get another beer, not being emotionally invested in the idea of having to be on the floor for Warbringer. Along with a couple God Dethroned CDs I didn't have yet and a Vader tour shirt, I also picked up the DVD edition of Evile's first record, leading on to the disquisition that's about to follow.
Evile really is a tale of two bands. They deliver really well live, as attested by the two times that I've seen them and the sampling of live stuff that made it into the making-of DVD, and, as demonstrated by their two studio albums since getting signed to Earache, they have colossal problems sounding interesting on record. This is maddening, because self-apparently, it's the same band and the same goddamn material, but from the band's perspective, this probably isn't so bad: it's a lot better than sounding good on plastic and being lame and boring live. However, this leads to the conundrum that there are not going to be a lot of people who hear Evile on record first and then want to go out and see them (well, outside of the eighties-revivalists who will follow anything with a polka-beat that you can pit to).
They do have some good material, and it's a sign of their good judgment and strength as a live band that they can pick, pretty much, exactly those songs and make a solid opening set out of them, then deliver at an extra notch up when actually out on stage. This makes them a good bunch of thrash metal musicians, despite their difficulties in (so far) producing high-quality albums; if they go on to become the Overkill of the current thrash generation, the band will probably take that.
Warbringer, another new thrash metal band touring behind their second generic and often samey record, was up next, and fired up a solid if completely unsurprising set. They're about as material-bound as Evile is, so the differences in relative quality of the material were down to execution (and, as always, subjective listener experience). Would that have been different if I was on the floor instead of on the lowest tier of carpet? Probably not; I saw Warbringer from the rail while waiting for Kreator last year, and then upstairs in front of Vader in November, and this is about where they are as a band. Warbringer are still good live, and even if I have my doubts about buying their next record, I'm certainly not going to complain about this set. They're not ready to headline yet either, but they do quality support, and even if they don't take it to the next level up from here, the kids in their audience will probably buoy them to headlining slots before they get old, grumpy, and fixated on comparing bands to Kreator.
God Dethroned [5/7]
God Dethroned lost a fair number of people with their set, which was kind of to be expected from the only black/death band on a largely thrash metal bill. I really don't know what they and Vader were doing here, but for those who were up front, able to give them a chance, and 'got' the melo-death influenced black metal, they put out a good set. Some of the Passiondale material did not mesh in that well with the other stuff, and despite it being Good Friday they did not do "Bloody Blasphemy", which was intensely disappointing, but it was still a good performance, all things considered. If all tours were booked by the same higher authority, God Dethroned should have been playing this building in the slot that Swashbuckle, for no immediately rational reason, has on Hypocrisy's tour at the end of May, with the aforementioned pirates playing somewhere on this package, but the world is not run to such general advantage.
As will be discussed below, this was the reason that I came out mainly, and Vader didn't disappoint. Pounding out a strong set of blasting death metal, they justified their presence on this bill -- at least, for anyone primarily going on musical quality and not an absolute thrash purist -- with blast and fire. Abstractly, I might rather have seen them, as in November, on a purer death metal bill, but they led back from God Dethroned to thrashing metal in convincing fashion, and gave a real shot in the arm to anyone lost by the previous band or, like I was, with wavering uncertainties about the headliners. If this had been the headlining set, it would have been a worthy capstone to a solid concert.
Fortunately, though, Overkill was still to come. And fortunately, that's a "fortunately". I talked a bit with Aaron before Evile started up, and he was of the opinion that "Overkill never disappoints". Bearing Wacken 2005 in mind, I couldn't completely agree with that assessment, but it was a strong enough endorsement -- respected source, and I'd never seen Overkill indoors with a US audience before -- for me to stay on the rail, which turned out to be the right decision.
That rainy Saturday on the plains of Schleswig-Holstien must have been the anomaly, because Overkill, to pardon the pun, completely killed it, laying down a solid hour and a half running through their whole history as a band, which at this point is going on three decades. The performance was top-notch, high-energy and ceaselessly entertaining; the limitations of the material showed up in a few places, but given the band's history, you'd be hard-pressed not to expect this: if Overkill's writing was generally at that higher level, then with this level of performance, they would have taken over the world a long time ago. Overkill's M.O. for the past 25 years and change has been the same: to take good music and execute the hell out of it. Because this is, fundamentally, live music that finds its worth in the live experience, whether in a grimy basement, a mud-soaked infield, or a club like this, as long as Overkill plays out like this, they can afford to make albums, occasionally, like W.F.O, which contributed in long measure to my uncertainty about them.
I'm still skeptical about buying Overkill records, but for now and the future, they're a must-see whenever they come around.
Things being concluded, I made my way on home, in time for the rest of the weekend to be occupied with family stuff and another week of work. Tomorrow is Finntroll and Moonsorrow, and then the calendar starts getting dense with local shows again. Good stuff, can't wait, and fortunately, I'm not super let down by being on-call for Metalfest weekend (which I wasn't planning on going to anyway).