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.

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