Friday, March 18, 2011

Woods of Ypres with Shroud of Bereavement, Obsidian Tongue, and Vattnet Viskar [Ralph's, Worcester, 3/17/2011]

Despite difficulties getting out of work on any kind of timely schedule, traffic was light, and I blasted my way out to Worcester at possible personal bests for speed and fuel efficiency. I got in and up and drinking just before 9; plenty of time to browse merch before the bands started.

Vattnet Viskar [5/7]
It's an overreaction to say that this band means that the tide (the hipster one, not the orcish tide) is reaching the shores of New England at last. This kind of droning black metal's been around for a while, just not as obviously third-wave as these guys make it. That being said, they put out some solid if completely undiversified music, showing good chops despite PA issues that gimped their sound at the start. (With the rhythm guitar essentially turned off, they sounded like Witch Tomb gone third-wave, which was cool, but further songs showed that this wasn't actually what they were going for. The foundations are there, but there's a lot of improvement that needs to come if Vattnet is eventually going to get into the first rank of NEBM. And if they can do so, given how high that mark is, getting assimilated into that black cascade won't be so bad.

Some people might pull the band up for blacking up for a local show in 2011, but it would be extremely poor form for someone who once did an academic presentation with Abbath-scale incursions of shoe polish on his face to do so. Actually believing in black metal can excuse a multitude of sins, from corpsepaint down on to hipster shoes.

Obsidian Tongue [5.5/7]
A better showing than last time, maybe just down to improved PA, maybe not. The sound felt a little more muscular, slightly more death-influenced, but still with the band's unique highs and lows. At some points, it felt like they were running into the limitations of what it's generally possible to do with one guitar and a drumkit in a black metal context, but despite these limitations, they still closed really strong. Time will tell if these apparent boundaries are real, or if I'm talking out of my ass, but if OT can continue to devise new and cool things to do with their existing instrumentation, they're definitely going to be a band to watch.

Shroud of Bereavement [5/7]
This was not a real good set from Shroud. "From" rather than "by", because most of the issues were not their fault. The PA wasn't really well-balanced to handle their relatively complex and somewhat delicate sound, and the monitors apparently weren't consistently balanced to allow the vocalists to hear themselves. Woods had some intonation issues on clean vocal sections as well, but nearly all of Shroud's material has at least one clean vocal line going, often two, and too often the exposed vocals were either buried in the mix and/or out of tune. When things came together, they cane together very well -- Shroud also finished strong after the technical issues had been mostly sweated out -- but the tradeoff as demonstrated is inherent in the ambitious music and arrangements that the band does. You can play intricately composed 20-minute doom metal symphonies, and you can play stuff that's always going to be balanced correctly by the soundboard, but it's not really reasonable to expect that you can always do both at the same time.

Woods of Ypres [6.5/7]
Though this wasn't quite as good as the summer gig, and, as will be seen, a lot of that is on the band, even that is somewhat out of their control. They've been picked up by Earache, who're re-releasing the Green Album (go buy it in the store or online if you can't make it to a show, leech), which translates not only into formalism -- vice four work visas for touring in two countries, and Dave carping about it -- but also this being an album tour. Where July was a diverse set heavy on Woods II, this one was almost completely pulled from Woods IV. It's a good record, but the songs that are not its best are not as good as the stuff off II and III that got left out of the setlist in order to sell the new record. That's the debit; the good news is that Woods still don't lack for power or shading in presenting the new material or reshaping the catalog stuff. Dave had a couple intonation issues mid-set, but this is a casual hazard of doing clean vocals at the DIY level, and it didn't stick out in an overall well-delivered set. As the band showed in closing with "A Meeting Place and Time" (well, before doing "Ontario Town" as a perhaps-legit encore), execution-wise they were dead-on -- just handicapped a little by playing their latest-best material to the exclusion of some of their best overall.

Home over empty roads; the heavy police presence must've scared the drunks off. Next show is Agalloch tonight at the Middle East, provided I can get in; Bat Cuntry, JJF, and The Frog over the weekend didn't really end up being under survey.

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