Monday, May 24, 2010

Autumn Above with Obsidian Divide and Snake Piss [Overtime, Beverly, 5/22/2010]

This was a local benefit show for a friend of the bands who is in a tough situation in Texas, and needing money to get herself and her young kid out, and back to the North Shore. As such, especially given the need to get turnout before anything else, I wasn't expecting that this would be a show that would need writing up. The first band led to some wavering, and then the next two sets sealed the deal; this was still a well-attended benefit show that spun what hopefully was a very decent amount of money from the cover and various raffles, but it was also a decently metal show and a reminder that, since I live down the block from this place, I really owe it to myself to go over when they get bands in playing originals, at the least.

Snake Piss [4/7]
This is not the same as the thrashcore band from Nevada. These guys are a grungy rock band from Georgetown, metal, to the extent it's applicable, in much the same way that Alice In Chains was metal, putting out a set of blasting, overdriven material that occasionally succeeded in getting people to pay attention to them rather than to the unholy beatdown that the Celtics were putting on the Magic over on the TVs over the bar. As alluded to above, this was probably the least metal set of the night, and in an environment with other rock bands, this wouldn't really be enough to justify writing either them or the gig up. However, it's not completely certain what I would be doing actually going to see this band with other similar rock bands rather than local metal; the playing was good enough, but the material wasn't really on a level to pique my interest.

Obsidian Divide [4/7]
This is why you follow DIY music: to have the experience of going out to a bar to support your friends and randomly seeing a prog-metal band play decidedly weird music. Obsidian Divide, individually, had skill in spades, and I could watch their bassist riff all week, but not all of the material came together as songs. This is a problem you get at this level, and also a problem with prog-metal in general; the potential is definitely there, but rather incompletely developed as yet. I got a copy of their demo, which may shed some further light on things, but in all likelihood, this is just a fair representation of a developing prog-metal band caught too early by someone whose taste generally is a bit farther out on the "makes you want to hit things" axis.

Autumn Above [6/7]
Hier stehen wir. Wir kennen nix anders. So might as well be written around the angel/gunsight logo on Autumn Above's current material (if, of course, anyone in the band spoke German and if anyone besides me in their potential audience had an appreciation for obscurantist puns in said language), such has been their continuing struggle, for the past two years, with their metal roots and their desire to write music that is not just metal, and that people will listen to and get into who would not show up to a metal gig. Results at this point are still a little mixed, but this outing, a killer set marred only by Tone busting a string and Chris's vocals coming in too low in the mix, was at the same time one of the least and the most metal performances that I've seen from the band.

When you have stuff like "Heaven Without", "Till Paradise" and "Skydiver" in your set, you obviously aren't totally a metal band; these are pop songs built around pop sensibilities, but this was also a set studded with the borderline apocalyptic: "The Beginning", "Trail of Roses", and a newer one whose name I keep forgetting that is a legitimate contender to outdo both of these for darkness and blasting. It seems like this comes up every single goddamned time that I write about this band, but there is an absolute and definite reason behind it: the defining attribute of Autumn Above, and why they are so good and capture the imagination of so many, is this unique ability to transition between metal and pop styles, to play metal on nontraditional instruments (sure, metal bands use acoustic guitars every now and then, but you don't see other bands using them on every single non-percussionist, to the complete exclusion of electrics) without defining themselves rigidly as a metal band, either internally or to their audience, and to play music that has both aggression and undeniable crossover appeal without seeming insincere.

These guys deserve to be bigger than they are; to the extent that 4/5 of this band was once in Endless Ruin at some point and that the influences involved there shaped their musical development gets in the way of that, it is a crying shame. The world, as gigs like this prove every time this band steps out in front of an audience where the metalheads keep themselves on the downlow, IS eminently ready for Opeth breaks, slashing leads, heavy lyrics, and Gothenburg composition in the right context, but getting people to realize this before they hear the band is a little difficult. Support Music, Not Rumors, as a great man once said, so support this band up to your less-metal or non-metal friends, even if you have to jam the headphones on them yourself.

And so eventually "Trail of Roses" ended amidst screaming of indeterminate genre origin, and the raffle was quickly done up before people got thrown out, and then I stumped my way back down the street. This week is an on-call stand, and future shows are up in the air, but I've started to get festival plan finalized and there's no shortage of gigs in the intervening two months before I go take my chances with the sea and the volcano.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Dysentery with Goreality, Abdicate, and Humanity Falls [Ralph's, Worcester, 5/20/2010]

I was originally going to go to the Wednesday date on this tour, but that fell through for various mostly work-related reasons, making it even more imperative that I get out for the Metal Thursday version. The late-breaking Goreality appearance sealed the deal even further; for a band as ballpunchingly awesome as they are, they don't play outside New Bedford a whole lot, and that, like Providence, is just outside my "willing to drive to for a normal show" radius.

Of course, I should have planned a little better if I had known that 290 was going to be all fucked up, which made going in slow and coming back complicated. This sucked, but ultimately didn't matter; despite the traffic and the weird road closures, I got over well in time to get in and get a beer before the bands started.

Humanity Falls [5/7]
When I went over to their table to buy some swag after their set, and ended up talking with Eston for a bit, about the first thing he remarked on was the Maruta patch on my rig, which was only logical: their set, death-flavored but heavily grindcore, staffed out as vox+drums+guitar, had me thinking of Maruta's performance with Impaled two years back first off as well. Humanity Falls isn't quite that developed yet, and though the band did a hell of a job holding up these songs with just the one guitar and the drumkit, I can see where other people would be coming from in suggesting that they might add a bassist (back) or another guitar. The floor wasn't really enthusiastic, but the crowd had only started to fill in during their set; it might also be argued that this wasn't the sort of grind crowd that would get super up for this material, but I'd be more inclined to argue a weird down night for people getting hit at Metal Thursday. This was a good performance from a band that's already gotten significantly better than their demo; if they come back to Boston and are in at the Democracy Center, the Midway on a grind bill, or any DIY space, watch out, because people are going to completely lose their shit.

Abdicate [5/7]
Much as on the last time I saw them, on NEDF 2009, Abdicate put out a good thumping performance of sold brutal death metal in that good old New York way. They'd changed out a few members recently -- the bassist and singer were new, the latter conspicuously so by not being a 12-foot yeti -- but there didn't appear to be any adverse effect from getting the new guys integrated so shortly before hitting the road, and as this package goes on, the band's probably going to get tighter even from here. They still don't, to me, step out and immediately separate themselves from the general brutal-death sound, but regardless, they do this music very well, and are worth a listen when the tour package comes around to your area.

Because I am a moron, I spent about the first half of their first song thinking "wow, the member change has a definite effect, they're not nearly as slammy as I remembered them", because I'd read the promo materials wrong and thought that Abacinate was playing. The logo on their merch and CDs should have tipped me off, but apparently, no effect; chalk this one up either to getting old or, more likely, that I've had a pile of bricks located where my thinking apparatus ought to be the entire time.

Goreality [6/7]
Between one thing and another, I'm not sure that I've ever seen Goreality twice with the same lineup. This one seems to be still coming together to a degree, but for the first time in a while, Goreality is a five-piece again, and it makes a difference when it comes to their songs. I've seen better sets from the band, but this was still a good and powerful one, with all the pieces back in place, and a relentlessly high and solid level of execution throughout. Hopefully, this lineup will stick for a while and we'll get some new material; even since Perverse Depraved Indifference three years ago is too long for a band this good.

Dysentery [6.5/7]
Maybe it was just that I wasn't as significantly challenged to keep from getting knocked unconscious as at some gigs in the past, but this came out as a really top-shelf Dysentery set, a ne plus ultra of locked-in, floor-pounding, relentless slam riffage that really should have gotten people a lot more violent than it did. By any other band's standards, there was a decent amount of movement, but this was Dysentery, even more absolutely on than they've been in the past, and so of course Will is taunting the crowd: "I'm down here on the floor with you guys, and I'm not scared at all. If this was New York somebody'd've hit me already." People rose to the challenge after that, but not to the extent that's made Dysentery's pits so legendary in the past. Part of this may be just natural cycles: Dysentery gets people going apeshit, so the floor turns into a Mas Oyama kumite-sen, so people get scared that their whole face is going to get kicked off, so they don't pile in, so pits get more placid, which encourages people to dive in and go crazier, repeat. Even taking that long view, it's kind of depressing to lose to New York at anything, so it may be worth training up again or getting knee surgery done in order to do something, at Dysentery gigs, beyond keeping people from running into the wall or into metal poles at speed.

At the end of the night, though, all my joints were still in place, so it was pretty trivial to lumber back out and pick my way back to the highway, despite the 290-90 exchange being closed. This made things a little more complicated than they needed to be, but I got home in one piece, and actually managed to get this writeup out in some kind of timely fashion. Next show may not be for a while; I'm on call this week and then have a conflict with Hypocrisy on Saturday -- and anything further out than that is going to require actual planning.

Friday, May 07, 2010

Cold Northern Vengeance with Bog of the Infidel and Morgirion [Champions Cafe, Everett, 4/22/2010]

It's now been several personally-hectic weeks since this gig, and there have been, in all likelihood, more shows at Champions', so the novelty element is somewhat reduced, but regardless, here are some impressions of a good solid show at a place that will likely become a stalwart of the greater-Boston scene, at least until Mos Eisley goes back in business.

A short note for the unfamiliar: Mos Eisley was a DIY space that hosted a bunch of shows over the last 6 months or so, but had a dispute with their landlord recently, hence becoming a promotion company booking gigs into Champions, a bar a few blocks away that, as demonstrated by a paucity of regulars on the day, did not have a hell of a lot going on most weeknights. The Mos Eisley dudes were, at press time, still trying to get back into the old space for accessibility reasons (hard to do all-ages shows in a bar), but for the meantime, this looks like a workable compromise for all interested parties.

So I got down a little before technical doors, having stayed on late at work, because I overestimated the time and complexity of the drive getting in. Champions is easy to get to from the outer belt roads around Boston, and located near several T bus stops for those coming out of the city, which is pretty sweet. This led to a decent amount of standing around while Morgirion loaded in, with the eventual decision, based on the fact that none of the other three bands had showed up yet, to go in and start drinking in the anticipation that doing so between bands, whenever that happened to be, might have negative consequences for the drive home.

Champions is a bar in the classic sense; just a bar, literally, running the length of a long room with stools along it, and behind the stools, another room that the stage was set up in. This is a good layout; ordering drinks doesn't have to interfere with floor motion, and if desired or necessary people can get a beer without getting kicked. It also allowed us, in this case, to keep the general public from getting in the way of the bands when they eventually pulled up and got loaded in; Darkwor (who should have headlined, see as follows) and CNV were late, and Bog colossally so, but Morgirion and the few of us who came in after them had a decent time drinking moderately priced beer out of disposable cups ($2 Rocks = win) and generally hanging out while the rest of the lineup got themselves in and arranged.

Eventually things kicked off, amidst LAZERS and other things not generally associated with DIY metal shows; all the more interesting for the experience.

Morgirion [5/7]
There were sound problems all through Morgirion's set; not really screwing anything up, but more on the order of just getting the PA dialed in and everything. With good attention, though, those in the audience could sort out the sound on their own and pick out a good strong Morgirion performance. Connor was still doubling on bass and keys, so obviously this wasn't going to have the full recorded effect, but live black metal very rarely does, and this was good regardless. The guys had, as mentioned above, actually gotten to the venue when they were supposed to load in, which made for a lot of drinking between then and when they finally hit the stage, but they brought it off with few if any ill effects.

After Morgirion closed up, Bog started loading in, which was a welcome surprise for many of those at the venue. Their legend goes before them; several other people, like me, had tales of a 50% hitrate between shows that they were supposed to play and shows they actually showed up for. With this one already starting so late, people were in a pessimistic mood that they might cancel again, but thankfully, they did get in in time to play.

Bog of the Infidel [5.57]
And play pretty damn well they did. There was less Bethlehem about their sound than the last time I saw them, and they were a little pressed for time, but this was still a good strong set of storming black metal and vaguely menacing farm implements; nobody got hit by the pitchfork that got thrown off the stage, but that it was thrown, and that people had to step back, is what's important. Black metal isn't supposed to be safe. The other important part, that the music was damn good, was also relevant; the band allegedly has a full record out, and they did a couple tunes off it, but didn't have anything available at this gig. For another time.

At this point, things were getting seriously pressed for time, and Darkwor, despite being all in the venue, decided to cancel and let CNV play for as much of their intended set as possible (one or two songs did end up getting cut), since this was their tour kickoff and they had to get on the road ASAP. This sucked, but bars unlike DIY spaces have set closing times, and with the show starting so late, there weren't a ton of other options. I was still able to get Foederati, so the night wasn't a total loss Darkwor-wise, but it's still mildly disappointing.

Cold Northern Vengeance [6/7]
More of a solid set than on the lines of the spectacular performances they've laid down in the past, this outing still saw CNV in good fighting trim as they headed out on tour, a tour that is now completely over because I took so goddamned long writing this. Going from "Black Metal Isolation" straight through new material from the forthcoming record (potentially out this summer, but don't quote me on that), the band mastered the sound (which had gotten progressively better) and laid out a kickass set of material both atmospheric and ripping. CNV has been, for some time, a band that people outside of New England need to take notice of; if they brought this show on the road as strongly as they presented here, they'll get that increased interest, and hopefully open some doors for other NEBM bands to get out there.

CNV closed up shortly before the bar shut off the taps, and while there was a brief amount of time to commiserate with Darkwor that they hadn't been able to go on, we eventually got flushed out and had to go on home. Though there weren't a lot of people in to start, the venue filled up nicely by the end, and the bar staff could have no complaints about getting 30-50 hard-drinking, often big-tipping (well, relative to the cheap beer costs) people in for three hours on a Wednesday night. A good show despite the late start, and hopefully this place will continue to be receptive to metal even if/when Mos Eisely comes back as an independent space.

And then work stuff hit and I was unable to finish writing this for like 3 weeks. Next show is tomorrow at this very venue, and if I manage to survive Dysentery and the other bands on the bill, maybe Thursday out at Ralph's for another spin of the chamber. Then on-call, then hopefully Hypocrisy the weekend after if I can swing it.