Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Nocturnal with Witchaven, Sarcomancy, and Nachzehrer [Ralph's, Worcester. 5/24/2011]

No latency on this one; I blasted straight out from work as a result of getting held over there till 8 on a customer call that was probably indistinguishable from the world's stupidest and most complicated ethnic joke ("So this Pole, a Taiwan Chinese, and an American white guy call in to help an Indian and a mainland Chinese install some French software on a German server at a client in Canada, and...."). With the natural lack of traffic at this hour, I got in in good order, and got a decent amount of beer down before the bands started up.

Nachzehrer [6/7]
Another day, another quality set from Nachzehrer. Despite the title of their demo, this set showed the band as they've actually become, thrashing black metal rather than the thrash that would go up later. It can be a pretty fine distinction, and prone to more than a little I-know-it-when-I-see-it-ism, but to the extent that it actually matters, there you go. The unimpeachable musical quality (and as a bonus, antics such as Mike stormdetonating at least one beer all over/through his Beard of Disease) of this set (again, heavily new material) was and should be the real point; if you hear this band and get your pants in a twist because they play thrashing black metal rather than blackened thrash like it says on the label, you're probably too true and ultra-kvlt to go to shows in the first place.

Here, I did merch part 1 and bought a shirt, CD, and tour EP (Das war missbewerbt! 180/200 auf Werbungskopie, und dann ist meins noch 130/200! ANKLAGE!!! ... (hatte ich trotzdem gekauft aber....)) off Avenger, in German, and as in the prior experiment with MDF-bound bands, he didn't appear to notice or react weird. Learn languages, avoid getting ripped off overseas, inject surreality to touring bands' shows in your area.

Sarcomancy [6/7]
Sarcomancy continues to get better and better; on this outing, someone else might have dinged them for going too far towards ATHOW + Mithotyn/early Borknagar/late Enslaved parts, as the set was fairly dominated, in feel and tone, by impressions of Immortal in that period. The reason I don't, though, is that anyone who doesn't think that record is one of the best black metal albums, if not metal albums, period, of its decade, needs a rock bounced off their skull. The musicians in Sarcomancy are too good and accomplished to continue to clone Immortal forever, but as a place to start as regards composition and musicianship, cloning classic Immortal this well is a hell of a place to start. We have a lot of raw black metal bands in New England of varying types, but not many that can put together these kinds of song structures, and fewer still that can do lyric composition and still keep it true.

Witchaven [6/7]
I hadn't heard Witchaven before, and must admit to being pleasantly surprised. As an old guy and one who was kind of ambivalent about Anthrax the first time around at that, the progress of the thrash revival, as it has gone, makes it unfortunately inevitable that a bunch of young guys from Cali are going to get looked askance at. Apologies, dudes; those who have come before you have poisoned the wells. Along with some straightforward if well-worked borrowings from the Black Circle (Mayhem especially), Witchaven laid out a set of solid thrash metal with readily apparent roots in Slayer and Dark Angel rather than the more usual suspects. Though we got a lot of material off their fairly politically-charged Terrorstorm record, Henry played these themes down somewhat on the mic in favor, mostly, of party-hearty banter to keep the floor riotous. Not that it was strictly necessary; Metal Thursday always responds well to thrashing music, and what we got from this band was not just a classic-styled thrash band doing something new with it via the genuine blackened parts, but doing it pretty damn well.

After Witchaven wrapped, I picked up some patches and a CD off Jorge and Erik via a sequence of events that is difficult to understand and far too stupid to be related here, the stupidity coming mostly on my end and the classic banter on theirs. Nevertheless, CD GET, so I get the excuse to talk further about Terrorstorm. This is a really "correct" CD, from someone whose main interest in thrash is the "culmination" period between 1986 and about 1992. In addition to the musical stuff discussed in the bit about the band's set above, there's the sharp, brutal lyrical focus on socipolitical issues and the 100% oldschool layout and liner notes content in the booklet. It looks and "smells" right, and there's enough substance to it that you can discard the thesis "well, the band just really likes that period of musical history too, so they designed the booklet that way to look like a Kreator insert from 1989, not because doing what they want to do has the end product of looking like a Kreator insert from 1989." That doesn't wash. Full marks for the old-kuttentraeger audience.

There are points to pick that maybe this set shouldn't go quite this high, but it's better than a 6.5 and I try, admittedly without much success lately, to avoid split ratings. Also, everything they played after, about, "Merciless Murder" is difficult to put much below this mark, so grumpy persons can fuck off. Coming off as closer to Destruction than Desaster, as far as the Germanic black/thrash axis goes, Nocturnal laid waste to the room with a brutal onslaught of fast, screaming, DIY blackened thrash metal. The turbulence continued even after the dude who was falling about like Sergio Busquets on fainting-goat pills (or, in reality, half the bottle of whiskey he snuck in with him) got ejected for mosh fail, through the end of the set, the preceded-with-minimal-bullshit encore, and the band's closing rendition of Manowar's "Kill With Power". (This marks the first time that I've seen a Manowar song done live by a band not from the North Shore; Koblenz isn't on the north shore of jack shit.) After this, the venue ops put the lights on, and it was sadly made clear that the band wasn't getting any more time; so it goes, at least for those of us who weren't going down for MDF.

I picked up another Nocturnal single on the way out the door; either there was a communication breakdown or I for certain won't be harassing them in their campsite with a slab of Radeberger on my shoulder at this year's P.SOA. Wenn so, so gehts, wenn nicht, Saufwettkampf! I made it back in good time and in one pice, but unfortunately had to bag Born of Fire due to camping prep; next show is coming up quickly regardless, and the tour after that, almost as fast. Enjoy MDF, you lucky feckers, I'm off to drink in the woods.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Euro Tour 2011 RFM

This is the official Request For Merch for the 2011 European "tour", "Suomi Finland Tourkele". This tour is going to involve minimal exposure in Helsinki, Stockholm, potentially Malmo, and Copenhagen, then go on to Wacken and Party.San, with an intervening layover in Berlin. I'm going to have about as much pack space as last year, when I took over about 50 CDs and the better part of a hundred stickers, promo cards, and other small pieces, passing nearly all of them out (essentially, everything but the buttons). The concept is simple: bands give me stuff they normally give away for free, and I give it away for free at W:O:A and P.SOA. The following are the basic rules:

- Don't send anything that breaks. This is traveling by air in a frame pack, so I can't guarantee integrity for anything frangible that isn't in a case. You'll be out a stack of 7"s that people here would actually listen to, and I'll be on the ground in Helsinki with a pack full of broken vinyl. CDs work better if you want to send music.
- Unless you have nothing else, no buttons. They're hard to move and don't have your contact information on them. I'm sick of taking buttons over, not being able to pass them out, and coming home with half a bag full.
- The literal dregs of your merch bucket are OK. As long as it's got contact info on it, or room for me to write such on the back while I'm on the boat from Helsinki to Stockholm, it's useful, and your new audience in Europe doesn't know or care that it's last year's/last tour's junk, or that you've retired that logo.
- Any CDs in full-height cases will get repacked into half-height cases for space reasons. This has never been an issue yet, as all of the bands I've lugged stuff for have sent only burns/demos in sleeves or half-height cases, but just in case. If there's a tray inlay with the CD for some reason, it'll be packed along.

If you go to shows in eastern New England, you should be able to find the large bearded guy in the excessively overbuilt kutte (Hypocrisy with seven bands of shoulder studs and full sleeves, or alternately Revocation (sleeveless) depending on weather and other circumstances) before the last weekend in July. This is the tentative schedule of shows at which you'll be able to give me stuff:

May 24 - Nocturnal - Ralph's (Worcester, MA)
May 26 - Acaro, Untombed - O'Briens Pub (Allston, MA)
Jun 2 - Metal Thursday CXXVII - Ralph's (Worcester, MA)
Jun 4 - Gravewurm - Midway Cafe (Jamaica Plain, MA)
Jun 9 - Metal Thursday CXXVIII - Ralph's (Worcester, MA)
Jun 18 - Summoning Hate - Champions Cafe (Everett, MA)
Jun 19 - Dysentery - Palladium (Worcester, MA)
Jun 23 - Abnormality - O'Briens Pub (Allston, MA)
Jun 24 - Faces of Bayon - Ralph's (Worcester, MA)
Jul 9 - Hate Eternal - Palladium (Worcester, MA)
Jul 16 - Abnormality, Human Infection - Ralph's (Worcester, MA)
Jul 23 - Vital Remains - Middle East (Cambridge, MA)

Like last year, I reserve the right to miss any of these for work, family, or fitba preseason emergencies. Other opportunities will likely come in as more shows are announced, and an updated version of this list will get put up in July as I get closer to flying out. As last year, this is the billing for Wacken and Party.San, so that you can check and see if the people there would include your band's likely audience. (The answer, in case you're lazy, is probably "yes".)

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Morne with Now Denial, Blood of the Gods, and Nachzehrer [Church, Boston, 5/14/2011]

Despite being technically on call, I made my way in for this, because 1) Morne; 2) nobody called during the period of maximum danger; and 3) if I stayed in the house, I'd continue to subject myself to a risky and fattening food experiment that will be detailed in a future post. Regardless, T in, T over, and then some time killed sitting around on the sidewalk, as the club didn't open up the doors when they allegedly said they would.

Doors did come a little after 1, and, ensconcing myself somewhere that I wouldn't get in the way of the bands loading in, I tucked into a plate of BLT and fries and a couple Gansett porters. Dark beer, meat, bread, and veg, and the damp chill of midday as the bands get set up; like I'm getting started on Party.San a couple months early. This meal set is seriously recommended for other people at Church for day shows; no doubt the rest of the brunch menu is cooked to the same standards of quality, but this sandwich is also a bargain on volume at $7, and the beer's in a container that won't injure anyone if you end up accidentally bouncing it off the floor later.

Presently, the bands started up; Nachzehrer first due to some external commitments.

Nachzehrer [5.5/7]
Built mostly out of new material (seriously, look up the new stuff on the band's various social-media and other sites, the new record is going to be killer), this was a solid set that was probably limited a little by the early hour and drummer fatigue -- between Nachzehrer and InTheShit, Alex had done, when this set wrapped, four sets of blastbeat-heavy material in 36 hours. Going forward, endurance and quick turnarounds are going to be important for the band, but that kind of workload's ridiculous and not to be anticipated. Exhaustion and opening slot aside, this was still a quality performance of black metal vitriol to go with the crust-death, doomcore, and sludge-death hateblasts on the remainder of the bill.

This was a day show, so there was Serie A on the TVs, AC Cagliari. In this break, the game started, and the Isolani got an excellent chance through, but the forward with the ball stopped with it rather than one-touching it at goal. That's how you place 11th, idiots: not shooting at AC Milan when they hand you a golden opportunity on a plate. This is a legitimate reason for swearing at the TV for five minutes straight, even in a game between two teams you don't care about, rather than another sad symptom of the unquenchable rage tap.

Blood of the Gods [5.5/7]
Another sharp but not transcendent set, this was a step up from the last time I saw the band, and a little more easily identifiable as crust from the increased prominence of punkier elements. This set, like Nachzehrer's (and, actually, all of the openers), felt a little short, but it was pretty class all the same; looking forward to seeing these guys again, but I'm not exactly 100% sure on when that's going to be.

BOTG wrapped after about 25-30 minutes, and the fitba was at 3-0 for the home side at about 36 minutes in. Genarro fucking Gattuso was on the scoresheet. This is what happens when you don't pull the fucking trigger against the big clubs.

Now Denial [5.5/7]
Continuing the punkward swing, these guys set out a decent set of doom-rock obviously more grounded in hardcore than the metal that provided the base for the other overlapping bands on the bill. Despite the tangential North Shore connection (the guy listed in the liner notes of their Fuck 12" as a member for "Immoral Support" is a friend of friends and, more importantly up here where parochialism is everything, from my town), I'm not sure that I'd go seeking this band out, based on the style they play, the bands they usually play with, and the general direction of my interests, but they did a good job here and put up some pretty class music.

Having heard Now Denial, I went and picked up the aforementioned record and did merch generally, getting a CD from Morne and a patch basically free from BOTG for buying some Appalachian Terror Unit and After The Bombs material off their distro.

Morne [6/7]
Morne, as anticipated, completely crushed. Dark floods of graveling sludge, death and and grind melted down into a suffocating paste of aural violence. They may not play out so often, but performances like this definitely make it worth the while. A night show might have had a different feel, but this set on a dismal, grey afternoon hit the spot just about exactly. Full on killer.

Things having closed up, I started hiking back into the transit system, and eventually back to the north. I wasn't completely recovered for this show, and knock-ons from this (and the stresses of the on-call stand) essentially knocked me out for the end of the week following; I missed Summoning Hate, Bone Ritual, and Defeated Sanity (to endless regret) on three succeeding nights. Nocturnal is tomorrow...and then I go camping at the weekend, and probably miss Revocation in fucking Foxboro the night before.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Destruction with Heathen, Warbeast, Panzerbastard, and Razormaze [Church, Boston, 5/12/2011]

The early start on this one combined with me getting out of work later than I thought, and a huge amount of traffic, for some unexpected synergy; instead of throwing the car in Cambridge and hiking in, I bit the bullet, drove down Beacon dodging cyclists, scooters, and assholes who leave their BMW in the middle of the street with the blinkers on while they fuck off and do something else for an hour and a half, and parked decently close to the venue since the Red Sox were out of town and the garages south of the Pike weren't charging rates that need to be put on an installment plan. It was a much shorter hike getting over, and if it was $6 more expensive than just parking down back, I also didn't have to negotiate the Church parking lot, which is like a Korean highway except all just sitting in one place. I paid my way in, got a beer around the extremely incongruous regulars/softball team, picked up Razormaze's most recent EP, and was up in place by the time the band got going.

Razormaze [5/7]
I hadn't seen these guys in a while, and in the interim they've taken their game up a definite level. Of newer thrash metal bands from Boston, they've always been the most prone to being written off as "just thrash revival", but while their sound is still strongly rooted in Bay Area classics (a lot of Exodus and a fair measure of Dark Angel -- in tone if not in attitude or subjects -- as it came off on this hearing), there were more signs from this admittedly wicked short set that they're starting to assert a style that's not as easily pigeonholed, and one that can be asserted as definitely 'Razormaze' as opposed to 'dudes who like Testament a lot'. The band's core competency, as before, is playing good thrash metal in a readily familiar style, but when you're opening for Heathen and Destruction, you need to go beyond that a little or risk getting written off completely, and to their credit Razormaze did go that extra notch up.

I also got, unexpectedly gratis, a new mini-strip patch from Razormaze with their new logo, to go with the old logo I got the first time I saw them and the intermediate logo as seen on the CD. Regression towards evil? See below:

Panzerbastard [5.5/7]
After checking back, I hadn't seen Panzerbastard before, but the check is understandable, as I'm pretty sure that I've seen every member (except maybe Keith) playing with at least two other bands. The music, though, needs no introduction or pedigree: tar-sludge thrashpunk'n'roll with touchpoints in every thrash, sludge, or grind band you could care to name, or, more succinctly, Motorhead dropped an octave and even more dubiously civilized. People had been thrashing around for Razormaze, of course, but this is where the pit started to get seriously violent, culminating as they covered Celtic Frost's "Usurper" to close.

They bastards didn't have any merch out, probably as a side effect of selling through everything they'd done up previously on their recent UK tour; instead, I picked up stuff from Heathen and Destruction, and ended up talking extensively with Mike Nachzehrer about a bunch of things, including their upcoming EP, their shows with Nocturnal (there) and Abazagorath (at PSOA, oh well) in the coming weeks and months, and the difficulties of getting Germans to remember things when drunk. Technically, I gave die Nachgezorene a head start on the official RFM, but 1) who cares and 2) I seriously doubt I'm going to run out of pack space.

Warbeast [5.5/7]
Though, as people generally somewhat expect from Texas bands these days -- and to be fair, as promised by the prominent mentions of Phil Anselmo's production role on, um, everything not printed on fabric they had available -- these guys had a few Pantera echoes, most of the set was solid thrash metal in line with the German and secondarily Bay Area traditions. (If I'd known in advance that multiple members of this band had been in Gammacide, this would be self-explanatory.) This was a solid set, maybe not overtopping the locals, but we tend to have some pretty good bands in the Boston area, and the opportunity to go out, open for Heathen and Destruction, and give a good account of yourselves does not come easily or instantly.

I picked up their current record on vinyl after the set wrapped; I was thinking about CD, as it'd've been a lot easier to manage, but as far as I could make out, vinyl was a better deal from the band's perspective, on margin as well as the "actual dollars we get back from carting this stuff around" dimension. This also meant taking a step or two back for the last two bands, but I saw Destruction from contact range a few years back, and seeing Heathen at any depth was something that I wouldn't've expected at all a couple years ago.

Heathen [6.5/7]
A "7" set from Heathen includes "The Goblin's Blade", at least personally. This one didn't, but also, at a very immediate level, it is fucking stupid to bitch about any aspect, at all, of a Heathen set performed live in 2011, especially one featuring "Open The Grave", "Death By Hanging", and a large measure of new songs from a new album that largely measure up to and fit in with the band's previous ouevre. The takeaways from this set should be as follows, in order of importance:
1) Heathen is still playing
2) Heathen is still awesome
3) Heathen is still putting out quality new music after nearly two decades, "breaking the silence" as it were DURR HURRR HURRRR.
The crowd got turbulent in places, but for a lot of people, there was as much or more value in just standing, banging, and listening to Heathen live, at last, and the band delivered. Class, class set.

Destruction [7/7]
As with Master in this space, Destruction's set was marked by technical difficulties and a lot of imprecations from the vocalist/bassist against the club's equipment and overall setup. Schmier's frustrations notwithstanding, though, this was an absolutely graveling set of thrash metal that is probably the best outing I've seen from Destruction, definitely the best since that Middle East gig linked a few paras up. Despite international fame, three decades in harness, and a four-digit guarantee, at heart Destruction is still a dirty, violent, down-to-earth DIY thrash band, thriving in spaces like this as much if not more than festival infields. The band might not have been able to hear themselves, but what we on the floor heard was an excellent set well worth the $25 ticket. Some people might have balked at paying that for a bar show, but when a bar show includes kickass performances from Heathen and Destruction as well as solid outings from the openers, you dig yer haun intae yer feckin poakit.

When the club put the lights up, foreclosing on the possibility of any further encores from Destruction, I beat feet out; not too long back to the garage and the surprisingly helpful payout machine, and then back the hard way to the highways north. Though this is late, at least it's done -- and none too soon as, the pre-MDF stretch is coming in.

Saturday, May 07, 2011

November's Doom with Woods of Ypres, Gwynbleidd, Goddamn Zombie, and Faces of Bayon [Ralph's, Worcester, 5/6/2011]

With the earlier start (and the lurking threat of a sellout), I had an earlier start coming out, and thus a bit more traffic. Regardless, I got out in good order, and in to the bar just as November's Doom was closing up their soundcheck. I picked up a beer and restrained the urge to pour the contents of my wallet out entirely over the Oak Knoll table; Jeremy always has a great selection -- and this time, a brand new Black Harvest record -- but there were four touring bands this time, and I wanted to be sure I could support as needed.

Faces of Bayon [5/7]
Whether it was because they were opening, or just because Matt'd had his gall bladder out the day before, this wasn't quite as ripping or as powerful a set as I'd seen from the band last time. The brutal, crushing, glacial doom was the same, and the heaviest doom on the bill this night, but maybe not as violent in pushing the nails through your boots and into the floor. They're putting out a new record at the end of June; with a headlining slot and hopefully none of the band recovering from surgery, the record release show will hopefully see them step up again.

Goddamn Zombie [4.5/7]
The last crowd reaction to that I recall as comparable to this band that I can recall is Graveside Service at the Skybar four years back. This is appropriate, because with two guitars, no other instruments, costumes, stage dressing, and extensive playback, this band is like the other half of Graveside Service (at least as they were four years ago). And like GSS, this band is probably too weird and not metal enough to get a uniformly good reaction from the serious (and, frankly, occasionally SRS BSNS) metalheads at a show like this. Their nifty cover of Death's "Zombie Ritual" and the "it's not murder, it's just meat" refrain aside, it's hard to argue that this band wouldn't do a hell of a lot better with a more gothic audience than the one they had here. They had some decent moments, but the unenthusiastic reaction was pretty much warranted; when you've got two vocalists and your entire rhythm section on playback already, there's just no excuse for having vocals on playback while one of the vocalists isn't singing.

Gwynbleidd [6/7]
Much more Opethy than the last time they were around (which shook out more like Primordial), Gwynbleidd executed a top-class set of melodic doom metal that really got the audience going again after the dip; this was the first set of the night that wouldn't've been out of place on the really stellar outing the night before. A lot of the set came off the new(ish) record, Nostalgia, but they didn't slack on the older material for either volume or quality, closing with "Awakening" off Amaranthine to huge acclaim.

All of the following should be easily corroborated by anyone else who showed up. It's not at all influenced by the fact that the Gwynbleidd guys are cool dudes who gave me a free shirt (naw sized for my frame, but I'll find a good home for it) and a large stack of stickers to take over on the festival tour. I got some stickers off them for that purpose by request; the unsolicited, much larger, extra stack was just bonus.

Woods of Ypres [6.5/7]
Probably down in significant part to being a lot more balanced, across all four-and-a-half records, than the last time, this was a better Woods set than I've seen since last year, and in its diversity and strong black metal components the best set of those on offer here tonight. Omitting "Ontario Town" (shock horror) and changing up the selections from Woods I and Woods II, the band continued to demonstrate their strength in depth as well as the virtues of the current record and the current single that they effectively released at this gig. If this band comes by and you miss them, you're missing out; they're on a hardcore touring binge, but with this variety in the set, you're going to miss great performances of classic songs.

Also, bring your wallet. Dan maintains high standards of quality in design and manufacture in Woods' merchandise, but this comes at a cost. It hurt not having the $40 for the "whoodie" they had on offer, and it hurt forking out $20 for the new single, but this is $20 for a new, limited, hand-numbered, Woods 45 on clear vinyl, signed by all the band members, and with an enclosed coupon for a free download of the new tracks, so you don't need to dig out the USB cable for your turntable to get them into a portable format. That's what you call "improving the value proposition". The music is also pretty cool, so buy the record, provided they have copies left when they come by your town.

November's Doom [6/7]
By this time, weighted down with only three hours' sleep between shows, I was approaching dead on my feet. Fortunately, the band was far from it, smashing out a strong and consistent set of precisely-machined death-doom. The setlist was built strongly around the new Aphotic record, but also pulled in a fair measure of older stuff; I've never been super into this band, so while I can't attest to how they did on really early material, they hit my personal high points off The Pale Haunt Departure and sold the new one pretty well. Tremendous music and an entirely worthy capstone to Metal Thursday's anniversary mini-fest.

Somehow, I managed to get home in one piece and neither stabbed nor arrested while out on the booze Saturday; that and paying two nights' worth of sleep debt Sunday is why this is a little late. Next gig is probably Destruction provided it doesn't sell out; my Party.San ticket should get in shortly, and when that's in and the tour's planned, there'll be a formal RFM.

Friday, May 06, 2011

Scaphism with Ipsissimus, Ravage, and Nocuous [Ralph's, Worcester, 5/5/2011]

Having narrowly avoided getting stuck on a difficult production ticket, I got out of work in decent time to get out to Worcester, aided by the fact that the roads were empty and I was on the correct side of 93. Time saved, and gas saved too, especially since I'm going to be doing this again tonight; as tasty as Goreality + Composted looks, the onramps to 93 were already closed at the end of last night, making getting in to Boston, for the rest of the summer, an exercise in insanity and overloaded back roads.

That aside, I got in with plenty of time before the bands started; enough time to get some beer down, read up on the print version of the anniversary article, and check out the merch set up. Unfortunately, Ipsissimus' Metal Blade debut isn't out yet (and I've had Three Secrets... since buying it off Ryan opening for Watain with his leg in a cast), and Ravage didn't have their Metal Blade record with them; I eventually got a Ravage patch and missed on the new Ipsissimus shirt, leaving chagrined at not supporting bands.

Nocuous [6/7]
These guys have taken a significant step forward since December; their sound's now a lot more developed if still not super cleanly-fused, and the excellent venue sound -- consistent across bands, where this hasn't always been the case lately -- really helped them showcase this to the full extent. I wasn't able to pick up their demo, but strongly advise doing so for anyone who's better at cornering band members than I am; as soon as they grind and fill the joints in their sound smooth, this is music that Nuclear Blast will eat up like candy.

A really good indicator that a band's doing something at least really original is that nobody can decide who they mostly sound like. Other people noted Opeth or Carcass as main points of comparison, and I'm about to disagree with them and introduce a ridiculous influence stew below. Nocuous is basically a Witchery-type band, despite not really sounding anything like Witchery at all: they bolt together elements of thrash, black, and death metal and make it sound consistently cool. They do first-wave Swedish-death melodics and structures in the vein of late-'90s Hypocrisy, they drop in Slayer and Immortal breaks, and they do occasional breakdowns. It's not as finished as Witchery yet, but if you like that band's first two records and thought that what they were doing was a super awesome idea 10 years ago, Nocuous will have good results for you when they eventually put out a full-length and demonstrate that true full-fusion extreme metal is still a good idea in the present day.

Ravage [6/7]
While this was the "local" night of the five-year-anniversary show complex (tonight features multiple bands from over a thousand miles away), it still bears noting that half the bill was nationally signed. Ravage's had some difficulties since getting signed to Metal Blade (like getting stuck in Oregon when their van essentially fell apart like the cop cars in the intro to Castle of Cagliostro), but didn't show it in this performance, which was as good as they've done in a long while. Fitting in with the anniversary theme, they brought out some real old ones, as well as some off the new disc that they hadn't done live before -- and as usual they ignored the twit yelling about "Wyvern".

While tonight is pretty much all doom -- albeit different species of doom, to be sure, and that involves partially reclassifying Woods and maybe also Gwynbleidd -- this gig went fusionthrash->power->black->death, really showing off the diversity, not just the top-class performances, that have made this series great and contributed significantly to its success and popularity. Normal Metal Thursdays don't really sort out like this; you'll usually get "mostly thrash, but different kinds of thrash", "mostly death, but different kinds of death", or "black, but different kinds of black" nights, but what's important is that Chris never gets into a rut where it's, say, all death metal for three months straight. Part of it is a deliberate decision by the organizers to not book the same bands too often, but part of it is also the diversity in styles and sheer numbers of heavy local bands in New England that the series can range all over the map stylistically and still draw well two and three weeks a month.

Ipsissimus [6.5/7]
Because I missed the Black Anvil show this past weekend (due to a sudden attack of utter motivation deficit), it has been literally years (well, two of them) since I saw this band last. For context, here are some bands I saw at least twice in the intervening time: Psycroptic (Australia), Moonsorrow (Finland), Korpiklaani (also Finland), Kreator (Germany), Voivod (Canada), Vader (Poland), Exodus (California), Napalm Death (England), Woods of Ypres (boondocks Canada). Connecticut is apparently wicked far away. They more than made up for it, though, with a howling, hammering performance of jamming true black metal that, for those who have not participated in the mysteries and are waiting for Metal Blade to get off their duffs, approximates what FSBM (Former Soviet Black Metal, so I can lump Drudkh in with Old Wainds) might sound like if the lands between the Dneister and the Volga were more like Vermont. There was a high bar at this show due to every single band bringing their A-game, as the narrow range of large arbitrary numbers pasted after their names suggests, but Ipsissimus edged out the rest, and will, if Metal Blade sees fit to kit them out with a van not entirely composed of compressed rust despite their previous for same, likely be evolving similar satanisms in more places around the United States soon enough.

Whether Chris intended it or not, Crazy Dan was up on stage MCing the event (and why not, since he was on the flyer?), which provided nearly as many laughs as the bands and stage crew got the set changes going as he passed out critical collisions in the pit. In a night of many speeches, Chris' was probably the best considered and most complete, Adam's the most philosophical, trenchant, and suitable for rebroadcast (if someone actually videoed this, gies the youtube link so I can spam it), but Dan had probably the most minutes, and definitely the most lols per minute. Happy St. Pedro's Day!

Scaphism [6/7]
Scaphism also benefited from the thick, dense venue sound; it's either that, potentially changing guitarists, or just not seeing them in six months, but they've definitely taken it up a level and provided a class set of less complicated but absolutely slammerific death metal that saw, if not the first, at least one of the very few crowdsurfers I've seen at Ralph's, in addition to the absolute and total pit chaos that's pretty much expected for a mosh-friendly band at the end of a very good night. Via more new material, time taken for Chris's speech, and Exhumed's "Coffin Crusher", there was less in the set about rape than there's been in the past, and nobody got kicked in the balls. Of course, they may have misjudged their audience, vice Tony introducing "Slowly Digesting...": "It's a sad commentary on modern society that we get a more positive response for rape than for Star Wars." "Slowly Digesting..." of course, was absolutely pulverizing, and saw no worse response (if not better) than any of the other songs in a very good set; even if Scaphism is going from Oor Raep Band to Oor Crêpe Band (Composted may have something to say about that, though), they're going to continue to see this kind of good response as long as they continue with the top-class aural brutalization.

By the time things wrapped up, it was pushing 2 AM, and I still had to work in the morning. Futile half-assed attempts to pick up Nocuous' demo failed, and I got moving back onto the roads; hell of a night, and do it again the next day. I got into Metal Thursday long after it'd been established, but I've been about fairly consistently, modulo actually being in the state, for much of the last four years, and the experiences I've had have been thoroughly worth the valediction. Hails to Chris, Sam, Kate, Steve, the bar staff, and all the other ragers and bands who've made it so; part 2 comes tonight, or, if I end up locked out without a ticket, it'll go without me and I'll go up the long roads to Haverhill and try to catch Vattnet and Astronomer.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Do a redesign about it.

I'm not nearly kvlt enough to stay with the old template. Also, I'm bored waiting to leave for Metal Thursday.

What Is This Record I Don't Even XIX: Indestructible Noise Command - Razorback

Yeah, the cover sucks. Still, it's not as bad as the sub-Erol-Otus original cover of Attacker's Battle At Helm's Deep, or the legendarily half-assed painting that delayed Iced Earth's second record while Century Media found something less vomitous. This is the downside of the big canvas; bigger expectations, and the lower technology level meant that you couldn't really kludge something together in Photoshop. Musically, this is average mid-'80s thrash of the kind that shows up on underground labels with bad cover paintings and eventually gets a $1 sticker slapped on it; not revolutionary or particularly influential, but fun to listen to all the same.

What Is This Record I Don't Even XVIII: From Ashes Rise - Nightmares

I must've got this one fairly recently, likely at Armageddon Shop, because it still had the plastic sleeve around it, and I tend to toss those as I have limited interest in keeping stuff pristine. These aren't investments, this is music to listen to. This music is fairly straight-up hardcore, out of my normal line a little but still good enough to justify keeping it around.

What Is This Record I Don't Even XVII: Angkor Wat - When Obscenity Becomes the Norm...Awake!

I played a lot of vinyl in college from New Renaissance, but never encountered anything from Death Records. This slab of formative thrash/death is the other half of my '80s-underground bona fides -- and as far as the music goes, it's pretty damn cool.

What Is This Record I Don't Even XVI: Dead End - Ghost of Romance

This is why I did this project: to find out that random records I own for no reason are sung almost completely in Japanese. With no band credits on the sleeve and no lyric sheet, the hope was obviously that metalheads 25 years ago would buy random records and put it on the stereo after they got drunk, jam out to the mix of Megadeth, Metal Church, and Loudness and not realize that utae wa senbun nihongo, dakara imi ga sensen wakaranakutte. Discovering cool stuff by accident -- isn't that why we buy discount records in the first place?

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

The MDF Crisis Point, or, Build Your Own Stage In A Field About It

Right now, about every underground metalhead in the populated part of the 95 corridor -- and a fair number from other parts of the Western Hemisphere and the world at large -- is freaking out about this. I'm not, because I wasn't going to MDF this year, but I'm still concerned about the implications this has for festivals in the US.

The hiatus that NEDF has been on since 2009 is likely to be permanent for much the same reasons: changes in venue management that lock the festival out. The MDF team are allegedly on top of this and shifting operations to a backup venue, but this only punts the problem down the road. As long as your festival is happening in someone else's building, you remain able to do it only at their sufferance. If they decide "screw this, we're not making enough money as a bar, we should put a Jimmy John's franchise here instead", you'll be off again looking for someplace else to put up your fest.

With the way festivals are in the US, it's not surprising that organizers accept this; most of them book regular shows as well and are thoroughly accustomed to venue operators being fly-by-nights not committed to any kind of continuity, and to hunting up new venues to book DIY bands into as bars fail or change concept. The problem is that festivals are different from normal shows, and treating them as multi-day normal shows has a negative influence on their long-term success. The rituals of place and surrounding circumstance are important in building community around a festival, a core of people who will show up regardless of the bands (well, as long as the bill doesn't totally suck), and changes in this will shake up the community -- hence the assurances from the MDF team that the new venue is going to be close by Sonar. It would go a long way towards ameliorating these problems, though, to start and run festivals not out of existing bars, but on fields or disused airstrips.

Yes, it's expensive to rent/build staging, hire PA, pay security, and there's no guarantee of success, but taking festivals open-air is an adaptive choice in the long run. Rural private landowners are a lot more likely to stay around than urban landlords; the alternate uses of the property besides a pasture/camping ground/festival infield are a lot more reduced, and if they were interested in selling up for development, they'd probably have done so in the last real-estate boom. Rural law enforcement may be more amenable to working with the fest rather than getting stuck in on the "shut it down, shut it down" train -- and in any case, they'll be no less amenable than urban law enforcement can be. It may be an ask to get people to camp out, but all things considered it's cheaper, even if you have to buy camping gear, than to stay over at an indoor festival unless you're sleeping ten to a room or in your van at a highway rest stop.

The only lingering caveat in all of this is that every single camp-in open-air metal festival that's been bruited about north and east of Newark in the last five years has come to nothing: cancelled and/or moved inside. Loudfest was one day at a (terminally empty) stadium; Coos County Chaos Fest is fading into memory. Something is killing open airs, whether insufficient organization or unnecessarily adversarial local authorities or a mix of these and other factors. Thing is, indoor 'fests' have a lot of the same problems and less of the upside.

As NEDF showed, there's room for another underground festival north of Maryland, especially with how NEMHF has gone. CCCF demonstrated that at least at one time, metalheads in the northeast were willing to tent out and thrash it up. I firmly believe that an open air metal festival could be successful again in this part of the world -- provided that it can be successfully organized, allowed to happen, and repeatable. All we need is land for a couple dozen to a couple hundred people to tent on, space for them to stand, 8-10 bands over two nights, and someone to put up the financing for it at the start. Maybe not for this season, but now's the time to look ahead and see if NEDF or CCCF can't get revived -- or some other festival started -- outside, somewhere it'll stay.