Saturday, October 23, 2010

Black Pyramid with Ichabod and Livver [Bangkok Paradise, Salem, 10/22/2010]

Thanks to a late-striking production ticket, I missed out on Ipsissimus and Nachzehrer the night before, but the combination of coming off that shift and this show being one stop away on the T meant that it was going to be very difficult to miss out -- or to justify it if I did so.

Fortunately, it was as easy getting in as anticipated; quick hitch on the train over and then literally right across from the station, less than a hundred yards from the steps up out of the parking lot to the venue. This remarkable convenience is probably a major reason we don't see a lot of metal shows here, especially this time of year; access this easy is going to be highly contended for. Despite being laid out kind of weird inside, and the lengths the Livver guys had to go to in setting up to get everything powered, the ease of access makes this one of the better small venues on the North Shore.

Livver [5.5/7]
A quality set to open things up, of pretty much just the kind of doom metal you'd expect from a band showing up to play a gig at a goth club in Disfear and Rotten Sound shirts -- classic Boston hardcore gone doom, much like we've been hearing from various bands around here since Doomriders, but with, obviously, their own take on the sound, coming out a little grindier than the common reference points might indicate. Solid set, good foundation for the bands to follow.

Ichabod [6/7]
There's got to be a better description for this band than "Eyescale covering Sabbath", or at least one that anyone reading this is likely to recognize an understand, but this is how they sounded live, that mix of warbling yet still harsh electronics and classic doom grooves. Though this was still, of course, fully qualified metal, the dark-industrial elements took this set the closest to what this place most often has on offer for their Darque Gathering nights. This was probably why there was more floor movement for this band than any of the others -- though not floor movement as we know it. Still, though, there's a place for hawt goth girls dancing, just as much as there is for sweaty dudes slamming into stuff -- and for those who violently disagree, there's some potentially bad news incoming.

The audience thinned out a little while Black Pyramid was setting up; the reason likely being that the last train inbound was leaving at 11:24. Too bad; this band rules, and while I didn't get to stay for all of their set either, this was one of the rare occasions that living up here in the Blight actually worked out to my advantage.

Black Pyramid [6/7]
They had some sound issues at the start, the vocals not cutting through as necessary, but these were smoothed out in short order, and the customary head-fuzzing crunch rapidly cycled up to full power. It was almost physically painful to step out when I did, but the three songs that I did get to see, likely about half their set on the pace that the other bands had set earlier, were simply straight-up class. Those who left earlier than I did missed out; this was a killer performance rounding off a hella good show overall.

I could probably have stayed one song longer, maybe two; I misoverestimated the time needed to get back to the station relative to when the train was coming through, but even this worked out; I was able to avoid some potentially violent drama by coming in when I did, and I also got to sing the Fields to an appreciative audience. These also, like metal shows on gothic nights at a Thai restaurant, are things that can happen in Salem around this time of year.

Next gig, likely Champions tonight, and definitely tomorrow at O'B's for the benefit for Jason from Abacinate.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Hessian with Summoning Hate, Iron Will, and Skull Hammer [Champions', Everett, 10/8/2010]

In retrospect, this was a terrible weekend to get sick, and if I knew that I'd be missing the next three shows because of it, I'd've leaned harder to get out to the first of the five in Worcester. Unfortunately, that didn't happen, but I did make it to this one, which turned out to be eminently worth it.

I went down right from work, having stayed late to finish some stuff off, but this turned out not to have been strictly necessary. Like most of the other shows I've been to at Champions, this one turned out to be on PRST, with the notional 8PM being set to about 9:15, but not much damage; one of the five bands that was supposed to be on the bill, at least as of the organizer's last understanding of it, didn't make it, and the bar had a 1AM curfew due to not being in Boston. DIY, how we love ye. At a minimum, there was a decent amount of time to spend hanging around inside and outside drinking cheap beer, which is also a strong attraction of this place, and the bands eventually did go on, with results as good as anticipated.

Skull Hammer [5/7]
I hadn't seen this band before, and the usual trepidation about seeing a thrash band you haven't heard of in this modern era was present going in. Fortunately, they overcame that barrier right away, and knocked out a solid set of grooving early-'90s-styled thrash metal. Song to song, their material isn't the most differentiated in the whole world, and they're pretty firmly in the second rank of thrash bands in this area, but this doesn't matter a whole lot, at the DIY level, as long as they're able to get up like this and knock out some thrashing tunes. It's not like this kind of sound is super common in the thrash ranks these days, either, which is a point in their favor as far as differentiation goes, and good any way you cut it; getting this style back from extinction is only a good thing.

While I was picking up their records, Ace was sharing some stories from the road, including getting hosted on their one off-day by a certain outlaw MC. They're not affiliated with that club in any direct way, of course, but people in said club's area of operations might want to think twice before screwing this band over. Screwing bands over, of course, is never a good idea, but sometimes the prospect of potential personal violence is more of a disincentive than having your name blackened in metalhead circles five states away.

Iron Will [5/7]
Though these guys have been around for a while, this is the first I've seen them on a bill, let alone one I've gone to, since I've been back in the Boston area. You can see why Ravage would be a higher priority for the Firicanos than this project, on hearing them, but that isn't necessarily a knock on this band, which as the arbitrary number next to the name above indicates, was still pretty decent. The music on offer was, as might be expected from the members' antecedents, was well-composed melodic thrash in a classic (or, depending on perspective, just "older") style; while Tony's vocals were a little rough at times, Al is a surprisingly good drummer -- not a second skillset that you generally expect from a guy who's made his name as a vocalist. All around, solid; maybe not much more, but if you go into a DIY gig expecting much more, you are in for a lifetime of disappointment. Stay rooted in reality, and you can enjoy good bands for what they are.

Iron Will closed up with a cover of Manowar's "Hail And Kill" which is a reminder for the geography-challenged that Everett is located outside the northern limits of Boston. On the North Shore, we don't fear no Manowar.

Summoning Hate [6/7]
Wow. And not just for the band; while this performance was probably the best I've seen from these guys since Dave left, maybe since Juan left, what really put it over the top wasn't the band's execution (of course, solid and kickass as always) but the sound balance, which was absolutely perfect -- not what you'd expect from a bar show, and definitely not for the only death metal band on an old-school-heavy bill. All the PA trickery in the world wouldn't help if the band hadn't absolutely killed it, but they did, and the sound probably helped in getting the audience into it. This is about where the floor started moving, partly from the usual Summoning Hate doods, but partly also from people who'd been in mostly to see other bands; result.

Seriously, Summoning Hate needs to put out some new material, or just re-release the old Downfall stuff under the new name; I'm tired of seeing these guys every so often and not being able to support by paying over the odds for a CD-R or some fabric with ink on it, and I'm pretty sure there are a lot of other metalheads in the Boston area that this applies to.

Hessian [6/7]
This writeup is ultimately going to be colored by personal impressions; it should be noted up front, though, that I've been looking for a band like this for a while, somewhat without knowing it. Hessian didn't get that much longer of a set than the other bands, despite coming down from Maine, but what this meant primarily was that they didn't overrun their material, pumping out a class set of melodic thrash that wouldn't feel out of place with a recording date of 1982 on the back. People were referencing Angel Witch afterwards -- which Angus didn't deny -- but ultimately Hessian is a thrash-revival band, if in a different style, and one that could only come from Maine, where no matter what your other influences are, rock radio consists almost solely of WBLM and some intermittent non-static. If you were looking to rebuild heavy metal from first principles, out of '70s melodics and pure aggression, you could not ask for (let alone find) a more perfectly preserved set of initial conditions. And that's what's on offer from this band: old-style American heavy metal with killer hooks as well as crushing riffs, put together in a way that hasn't been done much in a while, and not with any real prominence since Savatage decided they wanted to be Andrew Lloyd Webber.

I picked up Old, Wild, and Free off the band before hitting the road, which is an adaptive decision for anyone who likes metal; on the way back home, though, I passed up stopping in at one of the several still-open Chinese takeaways in Everett and Malden, which turned out to be maladaptive. When your brain says "no, we don't need Chinese food at one in the morning", and your gut says "no, seriously, we do", listen to your gut, it might save you missing a kickass basement show and then Thrones over the course of the rest of the weekend due to being sick. Next gig, due to on-call and provided I don't get fucking sick again, is likely Ipsissimus and Nachzehrer at O'B's, and then Black Pyramid in a venue I don't have to drive to come next Friday. Killer.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Composted with Dysentery, Scaphism, Boarcorpse, and Abnormality [Church, Boston, 10/3/2010]

Because I was a little late coming down, I bit the bullet and actually drove-in-Boston enough to park by the venue for this one. With baseball season over, this was almost surprisingly easy and cut out what would have been a bastard-long hike, which came in useful later on.

Anyway, I got in with time and spots behind the restaurant to spare, got some beers, and was ready when the bands started ahead of the announced schedule, in order to fit in everyone before the hard midnight curfew.

Abnormality [5.5/7]
In some ways Abnormality seemed almost like a new band in this outing, though I hadn't really seen enough of them in the previous four years to make that assessment with any degree of confidence. I was concerned that Mike leaving might take them down a peg, but this hasn't really happened; Abnormality is still just as technical, maybe a little more riff-focused and a little more melodic, but still crunching out kickass brutal death metal. It's still a little weird, almost, to see them with a bassist after so long without one, but Josh fills out and solidifies the sound, allowing the guitarists to concentrate on other things while he puts in the low end. (This has been your promotional message from the Bass Players' Mutual Benefit Society for the day.) The set was a little short -- the first four bands had to shoehorn themselves into 30-minute sets to make the timing work, so this is going to be pretty consistent across bands on this gig -- but pulled heavily from their upcoming EP, which is really looking like one to watch out for.

I was talking with Juan Untombed and some other people in here, and he mentioned that Boarcorpse had a new song built on black metal. I was a little skeptical about this -- even for Boarcorpse, that's a little out there -- but lo and behold, in the middle of said band's set, a song that comes out with straight-up Emperor riffs before blending them back into more typical weird tech-death. This is the last time I doubt Juan on something, provided he's functional enough to say words.

Boarcorpse [6/7]
This was Boarcorpse's last show as Boarcorpse has been, at least as long as they've been Boarcorpse, maybe even a little longer, and what a way to go out. In Terrence's last show out front, they smashed out a heavyweight-champeen performance of odd, challenging, brutal, and generally awesome material, including some new stuff from the forthcoming split with Composted and Scaphism, which is allegedly going to master this week. Perhaps impermanence adds coloring, but a set like this doesn't really need that enhancement; Boarcorpse has killed it like this before, they killed it here, and they will hopefully kill it in the future with Mark out front, who is a talented vocalist and class doer of odd things in his own right. A band this good doesn't often become not-good by amicably swapping one good musician for another, but they do change; if you missed this set, you missed the closing of a chapter, but there's no reason not to get onboard with the next iteration of this band as well.

Scaphism [5.5/7]
A good, solid, if a little short, set of meat-and-potatoes death metal from greater Worcester's favorite band of RAEP RAEP RAEP fetishists; this is about their metier, as far as I've seen them to date. Their brand of crushing, chunky death metal may not lend itself to the sort of performance that I'm likely to pick out as a particular high, but if they continue to keep up the quality and the consistency, people will continue to pack in for their sets and continue to respond well to the music. Over the sample space that I've seen from them, this was about an average Scaphism performance; it's just that the average outing you get from Scaphism is wicked good.

Dysentery [6/7]
Solid music, violent floor. So let it ever be. On the musical side, the band continued the trend of the past couple shows, unifying in the new material off the forthcoming-in-the-indefinite-future new record with stuff going back as far as the Excruciatingly Euphoric Torment split; the balance on this one was about 1/3 "old", 1/3 "new", and 1/3 ...Past Suffering..., all strongly integrated. Whenever the new one's out, it's going to be a hell of a crusher. The floor, though, didn't hit maximum violence; some people may have been intimidated by those who were throwing themselves around, some people may have been saving themselves for Composted, and the standards used may just be unrealistic. Is it even possible to make a pit that Will is going to be scared of? I've seen the guy in action, and don't believe that he'd be scared of any floor action that wasn't also indistinguishable from an armed gang fight. As pointed up before, though, this may be the problem; appropriately-violent pits scare people off, which leads to an empty front, which leads to people jumping around more, which eventually hits the local maximum of violence again. Local maxima are just rare.

Composted [6/7]
Some people, on seeing the relative decrease in antics and corresponding increase in ballistics-grade slam, might be motivated to shed a bloody little tear, with a sniffle, in the belief that Composted is growing up. Other people who are paying more attention will note that Mark still did this entire set in a banana suit. The current state of Composted can be most easily likened to the intro to "Sausage Cathedral": direct and to the point, but still relentlessly weird to the point of dada. There will be more antics, in other places that will mind the strewing of baked goods and inflatables less; what should be taken away from this set is that what's been true since the beginning of Composted is if anything even more true now: if you strip off the antics, you still have a very good and very funny slamming death metal band. The audience was up for it, with Aaron Hivesmasher (who's owned up to it under his own name elsewhere, so I can go ahead and be specific here) filling the air with empty pint cans, and a full, active pit that was at times almost as weird as the band on stage. With tanking the dudes and ladies flying around, and with trying to flip the glass shards back out of the killzone (unfortunately, not all of them or not in time to keep the dude who was moshing in his bare feet, having kicked off his flipflops, from stepping on them), there was never a dull moment for me in this set.

Glass shards? Yes, glass shards:


Way back, when I was working in a line of business that made products that could kill people in any number of disruptive ways by accident, the EHS (Environmental Health & Safety) folks continually drummed it into everyone who had direct contact with a tool that accidents always have priors. This isn't strictly true, but it is most of the time: more accurately, because accidents are a combination of random chance and an unsafe environment, it is overwhelmingly likely that if you look at an accident, you're going to find a distinct pattern of unsafe situations and near-misses that in hindsight should have warned people that something bad was going to happen. Because I was stuck in traffic coming home (DPW can GTF, closing down 93 to one lane, even at midnight), I had time to go over the night mentally and work out the priors.

What happened: a little after midway through Composted's set, a particularly active mosher threw or swiped an empty pint glass off a table at the edge of the pit. The glass flew through the air about 10 feet without hitting anyone and crashed on the floor, where it shattered. The active ingredients in this one are a violent pit and the presence of glassware.

Near misses: I was pretty certain at the time -- before the glass actually hit the floor here -- that I'd heard another glass bite the dust in between two songs immediately before the break incident. It didn't appear to be in the pit area, but I'm pretty sure I heard breakage somewhere. More concretely, during Scaphism, a girl in the pit (which was not real violent) got knocked into, spilling her drink out of its glass vessel and all over her. No glass hit the floor here, but that's why it's a near miss, not an accident.

Environment generally: There was a lot of glassware on small and high tables near the pit at this gig. With the pits being as violent as Dysentery and Composted pits can get, people likely didn't want to keep holding onto their drinks after finishing them, and it's a hell of a lot shorter to duck back and put the glass on a table rather than lugging it back to the bar. Glass in the pit is always going to be a risk, but a glass that's sitting on a table is a lot more likely to hit the floor than one that's in someone's hand or pocket.

Does any of this exculpate the person who ultimately put the glass on the floor? No, not at all; at the minimum this was a reckless move that could have for real killed somebody, which if intentional makes it even worse. However, looking at this situation and realizing that we'll never be able to completely stop crazy people at the door, it's possible to try to reduce potential injury risk just by moving the bar tables back behind or at least level with the sound desk on shows like this where there's going to be a lot of crowd movement. Even if glass piles up on tables, if they're not on the edge of the pit, it's less likely that they'll end up in the middle of it. And even if people carry pint glasses into the pit, it's less likely, if they're holding onto them, that they'll get swiped/snatched away and end up on the floor.

We'll see how and if this gets implemented; a response of "no metal shows" or "no glass drinking vessels" is not warranted and is complete overkill even from the basic EHS perspective.

Amazingly, this writeup isn't completely late; hopefully, this trend continues over the coming five-day block of shows, where, circumstances permitting, I'm out at four venues over each of the five nights Thursday to Monday seeing bands. Hopefully that comes together; a nice block of music before I go on call, then transition into prepping for Hong Kong.