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.
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.