Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Scaphism with Formless, Totality, and Replacire [Church, Boston, 6/28/2011]

Because I misread Church's door time as something that might have some relationship with the show start (I should know better about this place by now), I headed down a little earlier out of work than I strictly needed to, and since there was no baseball game, was able to park south of the river and get in as the bands were loading in. This resulted in a lot of time to kill, but if the Red Sox were hopeless, the atmosphere at Church is still class, and I was able to get in a couple beers, a good bit of hanging about, and 32 copies of the BCS split from the Scaphism guys. It'll be a little challenging to get all of them moved, but 8 total at Wacken and 8 per day at Party.San isn't outside the range of possibility. Challenge accepted.

A little after 9, everything was ready to go, and the bands started up.

Replacire [4/7]
This set really demonstrates how hard it is to get up to average. You can't fault Replacire for listening to the last Cynic record and saying "this is cool and all, but it'd be awesome if there was more death metal in it"; the issue is that this turns into a really big ask for a band to do originally and to perform live. The band's chops are solid, and their modern-jazz influences just as apparent as their death-metal ones, but their compositional and arrangement skills are significantly short of where they need to be to make this kind of music really work. It's good, in a way, to see younger bands biting off more than they chew like this; as they go on, they're going to get better at junking the parts that don't work and stitching the ones that do together into a more cohesive framework. There's nothing wrong with this band that isn't going to improve with experience, but they don't have that experience yet, and it showed in this performance.

Further indicating that this band will have better results as they learn to put songs together better, they did a bang-up, smashing cover of Bloodbath's "Eaten"; it stuck out like a sore thumb as being significantly less complicated than any of their original work, but they killed it basically down to the ground. This is not a bad band, and as soon as they get a handle on the black art of turning riffs into songs rather than pasting them together with Bondo, there's every chance that they're going to come up with something really cool.

Totality [5/7]
Cutting immediately back in the other direction came Totality; there are a lot of precedents for brutal 7-string death metal with a lot of breakdown parts, but if you execute it well enough, people concentrate on the band in front of them, not the foot-high stack of CDs in their closet that they're not super separable from. Solid, heavy, and vicious, Totality turned in a kickass death metal performance; looking across at the remaining shows list, I'm down to see them a couple more times in the next couple weeks, which is definitely something to look forward to.

In about here, I picked up a swack of Scaphism stickers to go with the CDs -- or, more accurately, to leave on tables when I'm not able to push CDs on people. The trick to successful festival promotion is not just having a lot of stuff, and the right stuff, but the right mix of stuff to stand out and appeal to varying audiences.

Formless [5/7]
Much better than the last time I saw them, Formless put out a quality and crunchy performance of technical death metal that also got the crowd moving, probably at its high-water mark, which was pretty dense for a Tuesday night show. They had a few pick points with timing in a couple places, and with either the equipment or the mix in a couple others, but this is a dynamic, developing band that, if they continue on this trajectory, is going to be one of New England's better death metal outfits in pretty short order.

Fun (?!) bass facts: Craig plays with up to eight fingers, which is rare enough to warrant comment, at least from other bass nerds, and combined with how he does a lot of his fingerings, is a pretty strong indicator of a lot of formal training. Some bad habits might suggest that that training came from someone who was more comfortable on guitar, but can be otherwise explained: it's actually pretty normal to not have the hand strength to fret stuff on the E or B strings with your pinky, and I learned bass playing an upright, and also have persistent issues with leaving my thumb on the lowest string rather than on the pickup, let alone freehanding like you're supposed to. This may not be very interesting, but I do have previous; when someone's doing something technically interesting to me, I reserve the right to nerd out about it.

Scaphism [6/7]
Scaphism have also picked it up a notch lately, one would suspect partly from this being the conclusion of a mini-tour wrapped around an appearance at Brutality Reigns. (Obviously, I didn't make it out to this one; a lot of cool bands, but not quite enough, overall, to balance out the "drive out to goddamn Rochester" part. Maybe next year.) In addition to the older material coming out punchier and somehow more crushing, the band continues to crack out new stuff -- in this case, the obligato Lovecraft piece -- that meets or exceeds their previous high standard. Malika coming up to do guest vocals added some extra bite to the set, but the raw quality of slamming death on offer was consistently high from start to finish. When they finally decide they've got enough material, between the demo, their third of the abovementioned split, and the newer songs that haven't been released yet, to put out a full length, it's definitely going to be a record to watch out for, and probably one that committed death metal fans aren't going to have to work too hard to hunt up.

The only regret on this, obviously, was that I wasn't amenable to getting thrown in the pit on various occasions; I've got zero ligaments left in my knees and kind of need to keep my feet set if I want to be able to walk at the end of the night. Mass and friction coefficients took care of that, so after minimal checks to make sure my leg parts were still in working order, it was back out, and back home fairly early as I parked less than a mile away and 93 is much closer to 'functional' than it was a couple months ago. Next up is Coffin Birth, then probably Autumn Above and a preliminary gear check at the weekend.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Faces of Bayon with Black Pyramid, Dead Languages, and Pilgrim [Ralph's, Worcester, 6/24/2011]

Due to a late-breaking prod ticket tying me up at work, I wasn't able to make it in to Abnormality the night before, but with my on-call shift finished and nothing tying me down for the weekend, it was a quick out to Worcester for Faces of Bayon's release show. As usual due to consistently budgeting more time for travel than I actually need, I was one of the earlier members of the general public in, but the room quickly filled in as Pilgrim set up and got ready.

Pilgrim [5/7]
Whether you define this band as "classic" or "not doing anything new" is primarily going to come down to how you feel about doom metal in general. This underage power trio sump-vented a thick, long set of slow, heavy material inspired heavily by Black Sabbath and Candlemass, and did so with a quality of execution, especially on the mostly melodic vocals, that a lot of other bands can only aspire to. At the same time, though, there wasn't a lot in this set that didn't have those obvious precursors, and on a couple songs, the length of the composition somewhat overran the ability of the riffs to hold it up. Local bands being heavily influenced by those that have gone before them, in any style, though, is not exactly news, and Pilgrim are all really young; if they've crystallized doom as a style to this extent at this age, it's going to be really interesting to see where they go with it in the future.

During Pilgrim's set, they mentioned that this was about the largest number of people they'd ever played for. This was one of the denser crowds that I've seen at Ralph's for an all-local show (probably have to go back to Darkwor for an immediate comparison), but given their performance, they'll likely be back on a Metal Thursday bill for a similar audience sooner or later.

Dead Languages [5/7]
Despite having spent a significant amount of time on the 2010 Euro tour (pssst, time is running out on the 2011 RFM) moving their records and stickers (and of course, on the front end listening through the EP I had in order to know what I was talking about), this was the first time I'd actually seen Dead Languages live. They generally matched up to recorded expectations; mostly doom, but with occasional grind tendencies that manifested themselves off and on in faster tempos, breaking up the main flow of slow, heavy, heavily distorted doom. Most of the set here was off their Ancient Astronauts record, but they also did a hardcore song that nobody in attendance was able to claim the prize for recognizing...maybe because doom and hardcore don't traditionally have a huge degree of audience overlap, but maybe also because they doomed it up, taking the tempo down by half and burying the expected up-beat hits beneath a sludgy morass.

In here, I did most of my merch (getting a self-build kit of Dead Languages' record later), which ended up running to recorded material from all four bands, which is kind of rare these days. Pilgrim and Faces of Bayon on CD, and Black Pyramid's Stormbringer 8" on what turned out to be red vinyl -- I don't collect, so no care -- plus a nontrivial whack of various kinds of Black Pyramid stickers for export. Unlike the last two pretty-much-doom-dominated shows I was at, though, I didn't end up with one of the bands giving me a free undersized t-shirt for little readily discernable reason, so that part of the export mix remains unaffected.

Black Pyramid [6/7]
While the other two openers followed mostly in Faces of Bayon's vein of extremely heavy, graveling doom, Black Pyramid cut the other way, pulling in more melodics while still not stinting on the heaviness. That's in many ways the great strength of this band: the ability to pull in early-Iron-Maiden shadings from prog rock and early-'70s electric folk rock (cf. Wishbone Ash) in a doom context and play equally as well, and as well-received, with Faces of Bayon as with a band like Truckfighters in a couple weeks. Seriously, listen to something like "Macedonia" and try to honestly claim there's no late-'70s/early-'80s Harris influence in the mix. This was a killer set that got a strong and turbulent crowd response, probably more so than most people would have expected from a doom metal band, sending more than a few people running for cover when they unexpectedly found themselves in the middle of the pit.

The crowd filtered down a little after Black Pyramid, which was a bit of a shame; on the one hand, some people do have to work Saturdays, but this was pretty late already, and Faces of Bayon was about to put up a pretty class set themselves.

Faces of Bayon [6/7]
Most stuck, though, and those who hadn't bought the CD at the start of the night and spun it in their cars during parking lot rituals in preference to seeing the other bands on the bill got a good first look at the record as the band played it straight down, thirteen-minute songs, tricky and ethereal ambient parts, and all. This was an emotional set for the band -- a year removed from their first show (if I remember Matt's words correctly), and they've not only finally gotten this record out, but tragically lost their original drummer -- but they executed the material little short of flawlessly, conveying those emotions of passion and desolation out to the audience. Heart of the Fire is a long, meaty, diverse record, the variation in sound making this performance come off a little close to Sabbath and a little farther from early Cathedral than I've heard from them in the past, but there was plenty of molten-glass pounding in the set as well, especially in closing with "So Mote It Be".

As mentioned, Heart of the Fire is kind of a long album, so when the band finished up, we were basically shooed out by the venue management; I gave trying to buy Drudkh's Blood In Our Wells off the Ragnarok distro table a pass and headed out, getting back home a little past 3 AM. Fortunately, I don't have to work weekends, so I could sleep all day and then stay out on the booze till 3 on Saturday as well; eventually, I recovered from all of this and got this pile of likely-mostly-inaccurate verbiage loaded out just in time to head in to see Scaphism.

As alluded, there is a month until I head out across the ocean, and these are the remaining shows:

Jun 28 - Scaphism, Totality - Church (Boston, MA)
Jun 30 - Coffin Birth, Totality - Ralph's (Worcester, MA)
Jul 7 - The Accursed, Warblade, Hirudinea, Autolatry - Ralph's (Worcester, MA)
Jul 8 - Untombed, Humanity Falls - Champions Cafe (Everett, MA)
Jul 9 - Hate Eternal - Palladium (Worcester, MA)
Jul 14 - Truckfighters, Black Pyramid, Mockingbird - Ralph's (Worcester, MA)
Jul 16 - Abnormality, Human Infection - Ralph's (Worcester, MA)
Jul 17 - Ash Borer - PT-109, Allston (provided I remember to get the location from the Nachzehrer guys)
Jul 21 - Morgirion, Nathruzym, Vattnet Viskar, Bog of the Infidel - Ralph's (Worcester, MA)
Jul 23 - Vital Remains - Middle East (Cambridge, MA)
Jul 24 - Acaro - Church (Boston, MA)

The last two may be somewhat endangered by my on-call schedule, so get your stuff in early.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Excrecor with Weregild, Infera Bruo, and Wormwood Prophecy [Ralph's, Worcester, 6/16/2011]

On the way out to this rather awesome show, as I got onto 290 from the Pike, I saw, ominously stretching back towards Worcester, the westbound side of that highway at a dead stop. I've gotten gun-shy about construction due to my commute being across the 93-95 interchange (and thus wrecked by knock-on effects of the Fast 14), so I was cautious about this, but, crucially, I didn't take a look in the rear-view to see what exits were blocked. This will show up again later.

Regardless, I got in to the venue in decent time, drank up, and watched Wormwood Prophecy get their gear in order. It's not often that you see DIY bands touring with their own lights, in-ear monitors, a guitar rack for their axes and a trolley to lug stuff around with, but there you go. It took a while getting all of this set up, but eventually, everything was dialed in, and the touring band kicked things off.

Wormwood Prophecy [5/7]
You see a bunch of young guys with good gear out on the road these days, and you automatically think "thrash revival"; fortunately, Wormwood Prophecy was anything but. Their composition was a little lacking in places, but they brought a lot of energy and good chops, earning a good positive response from the crowd, and quite a bit more motion than you normally see with an opening act. Some people might want to dock them points for originality, but that's priced in; I don't listen to Children of Bodom past Hatebreeder either, and if bands want to play high-energy blackened melodic metal that stripmines Something Wild and said other record for riffs, so much the better. If these guys are touring with all this hardware this young, they've got the necessary drive and ambition to take their composition up a notch going forward, and when that happens it's better to have a band aiming at the limelight built on classic Bodom rather than the modern turn-the-crank version.

Wormwood Prophecy closed with a Katy Perry cover that few people recognized and some suspected the band had made up out of whole cloth to excuse a poppy song. Not the case, but those of us who've seceded from pop culture weren't missing much, as even for a pop song, the original is kind of crap.

Infera Bruo [6/7]
First gig, my eye. If this is a baseline of what to expect from Infera Bruo, the other third-wave black metal bands of New England better start looking over their shoulders. Fusing turn-of-the-century Emperor and Enslaved in a storm of electronic noise, but also starting to evolve a sound not strictly dependent on either, Infera Bruo put out a solid set of a limited number of expansive but still fairly raw black metal compositions. "Expansive", actually, may undersell the band a little; the guitarist blew out his D string midway through a song, continued until reaching a break where he didn't have much to do, swapped to a backup about as that part was finishing, and then had his original axe back re-strung and roughly tuned by one of their guys at the end of the song. I'll definitely be looking out for this bunch on future gigs, watching out for them to record something as well.

In about here, I picked up a Wormwood Prophecy shirt and demo; I can take the hit on the shirt, and decent bands that make the trek up from Jax deserve the support. I also wheedled a couple extra demos out of them for overseas distribution; most of that allocation is still going to New England bands, but five CDs in sleeves isn't going to hurt any, and it's not like I don't have weird extras from Gwynbliedd and Morne already affecting the total balance.

Weregild [5/7]
If there's a band out there that sounds more like Amon Amarth than these guys do, it must be Hegg and Mikkonen's horde themselves. This is both a good and a bad thing; bad because for the life of me I can't see how Weregild gets any traction at all, but good because Amon Amarth does not tour the states every month, and seeing Weregild provides a significant fraction of that experience, one would hope, significantly more often. Seriously, the resemblance in tone and song structures is so close as to almost be a cover band -- not like this is a bad thing, though; as noted, there is generally not enough well-executed live deathviking music with melodic leads out there in this part of the world, and if you aren't in serious danger of banging your neck in half listening to "Journey through Musphellheim", you need to definitely re-evaluate why the hell you go to metal shows, or even listen to this music generally. If this is Weregild's ceiling, I don't think the band, or their audience, will have any complaints -- and if they kick on and end up doing something different and more independent of their influences (or even broader to take in, say, Unleashed's thrash/punk tempos or Mithotyn's more developed melodics), still better.

It was with great anticipation that I picked up Excrecor's EP here; I'd been waiting four years for this, and was stunned to get it for free. This also vindicated itself in the CD player on the way out; Synchronicity is a solid fucking record.

Excrecor [5.5/7]
There's a lot of room for change in four years; in that time, or at least in the change of venues from a couple pallets at the back of Mark's to the regionally-renowned Ralph's PA, Excrecor's opened up their sound substantially, weaving in more developed leads and a greater range of influences. The base of a Hypocrisy-like bridging of the first and second waves of Swedish death is still there, but so's a nontrivial measure of late Carcass, as well as a dose of more blackened metal, resulting in the first band on this bill that I don't have an immediate and easy point of direct comparison to. Ultimately, the labels don't matter; Excrecor is a solid, hard-hitting, technically developed death metal band that knocked out a nice, longs, solid set here, and are worth a listen on future bills, or just on record if that's the only way you can get ahold of their stuff. The floor wasn't as violent for them as for Weregild, but they still got a strong response, and near everyone hanging about in front of the stage after they finally got called time on.

Since the show had started late, and had its times slip further as DIY set times often do, Excrecor were pushed to start and pushed to close; when I checked on my phone at the end, it was well past 1 AM and I still had an hour and a half of driving to finish off...or so I thought. I hit the road, and found out to my chagrin that the connection from 290 to 90 was closed. Dead closed. The road needed the repairs, sure, and the full moon through the clouds was pretty awesome, but the detour around on back roads to go further south and then back north to switch to the other side of the highway and use that onramp added about 20 minutes to the trip. It was past 3 by the time I got home, but somehow I cycled, got to work without dying, and wrote all this up without passing out.

I'm on call this weekend, and thus probably at neither gig tomorrow; next is accordingly Dysentery at the Midway if I can swing it, or Abnormality at O'B's if not.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Hirudinea with Blessed Offal [O'Brien's, Allston, 6/9/2011]

I was a little later getting out of work than anticipated, and a little later getting over, accordingly, and had fucked up in the morning, barely remembering to bring my kutte, so I didn't have my flag with me to trade over. Weekend; all I need to do is not get completely blasted watching internationals again.

Regardless, I got a couple beers in, enjoyed good company and parts of some '80s action movies, and presently the bands got going.

Blessed Offal [5/7]
This was a little bit of a short set, but still quality, straight-from-the-shoulder American death metal. This may be down from previous scores (though, as always, if you care, you're a mentalist), but most of that is probably down to the sound, which was a little overdriven, at least where I was standing. Some of it, though, it probably down to this being the third completely different lineup that I've seen from this band; Ross has some good musicians in now, but any band, as they get their feet under them, is going to take time to cycle up. Good stuff, though, and both the commitment to keep going and the known quality of the new guys should provide a strong inducement to keep watching out for Blessed Offal.

Neither of the bands had merch out, so I wasn't able to wheedle stuff for export. This is probably ok, though; the musicians and (regrettably, few) general-audience attendees represented a significant chunk of who's generally about the Boston scene, so it should not be difficult for any of the Hirudinea/Blessed Offal/Deathamphetamine/Panzerbastard/Nachzehrer/Composted/otherbandsthatIforgotordidin'tnoticeamemberofbecauseI'maderp guys to find and shove stickers at me over the next six weeks.

Hirudinea [6/7]
This was a short set (I complain about this a lot in regard to this concert series, but then I complain a lot in general), but pure quality, front to back full of sharp and punishing death-grind. All you could reasonably ask for from this set might be MOAR, but the pure vituperation that went into "Just Kill Us" as the closer might even be enough to counterbalance that. Just devastating. This probably would've gone better still with more floor movement, but there weren't really enough people around to sustain such. This is a shame, of course; if you weren't out in Worcester for the first South American band to play Metal Thursday and you missed this, you missed one of the best $5 portions of death and grind you're likely to have served up this year.

Though it was still 15 minutes before midnight when Hirudinea closed up, I headed straight out; it had been pouring earlier and I had no idea if it would come charging back. So it was off over the bridges again, and a fairly quick trip home, even if the holes in the road in Everett and the submerged ramp onto 93 made it more exciting than it really needed to be. This weekend is committed as noted; shows coming up are Excrecor at Metal Thursday and then Summoning Hate next weekend (despite the next-to-last pre-festivals on-call shift) if I can't get into the Composted/Boarcorpse gig.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Roadhorse with Black Trip, Myopia, and Red Blade [Ralph's, Worcester, 6/2/2011]

Despite not really knowing any of the bands, I headed out for this one after about the normal amount of whiling; I tend to see basically the same selection of bands over and over again, and it's good to broaden your horizons and also to see some stuff that's less extreme once in a while.

I got in on time, got a beer or so -- Red Blade kind of falsestarted in soundchecking and then taking a 10-minute break before starting their set, so I went up front and looked dumb in that process -- and soon enough the bands got cranking.

Red Blade [5/7]
Up from Connecticut, these guys set out a decent set of radio-ish thrashy metal with a strong hardcore flavor. The room was practically empty when they started, but they were game about it, and people filled in as they went on. Nothing earth-shattering or ultra-kvlt, to be sure, but this is a good spot as any for a band to start to climb out into the MA scene, and they got a good response from those gathered. Maybe they'd do better at the Fat Cat or whatever venue's still operating out of Springfield (out of my normal stomping grounds), but as far as I know, other venues in this state don't have a series like Metal Thursday.

I talked with some of the guys after and picked up a CD and some stickers; all of the above are still in my jacket and need to get unlimbered at some point, but the collection of stuff to take across continues.

Myopia [5.5/7]
This band, though, I really regret not being able to scare up flyers or something from, at least, because Germany, especially Wacken, would eat them up without bothering to go for the forks. "Du willst die neue Sonata Arctica entdecken?" Well, maybe not quite; they had a few more thrashier parts and some of the compositions were a little rough, but this is what you get, generally, from bands at this level, and it's more noteworthy when an extreme-power metal band can play a bar show and not have stuff like this come up. This was a really good performance, and it got a really good response; as noted, on the music, they'd get a good response across the water as well, but I'm not sure I'll have the drive to do up flyers for them on my own hook.

Some of the response, though, was probably due to them bringing their own people with them; the crowd density went down sharply after they packed up, which is kind of a shame. It's always good to support the bands you believe in, but if you go out for a show, try and stick with it. The other bands might be just as cool, but you won't know if you hit the road as soon as your friends close up.

Black Trip [5.5/7]
Though the crowd was a little smaller, those who remained made up for it in energy. Black Trip's relatively straight-ahead thrashing metal went over well with the remaining stalwarts, with the result of ceaseless if not exactly Dysentery-level mosh throughout the set. I did listen to the band as well, and they were good enough to vindicate the decision to get a ticket for Hate Eternal off them, but the crowd action was the main feature of this set, at least for those of us who were down in the middle of it.

Despite talking rather extensively with various dudes in here, and despite having stopped drinking before Black Trip for highway-patrol-related reasons, my mind is almost a complete blank about it. That which isn't forgotten will be followed up on, but work and other shit this week has been kind of intense, as the lateness of this writeup shows.

Roadhorse [5.5/7]
It's fair, if not exactly complete, to describe this band as "total Motorhead worship". (Ok, there are Sabbath elements too but.) However, this then leads to the question of when, exactly, this became a bad thing in the metal scene. Roadhorse kicked out a good, worthy set of whiskey-and-motorcycles rock and roll, took a couple anti-corporate cues from later thrash metal, and wound up with a cover of "Iron Fist" (rather than "Ace of Spades"), which is what you get from an actual metal band that draws on music from this period rather than a bar-rock combo. Sure, it's not exactly original, but it's good music, well done, and definitely worthy of the headlining slot. (Note no room for additional points from the bassist getting his house blown down; hopefully insurance and/or state/federal disaster relief will cover that.)

With Roadhorse finished and the lights gone up, it was time to head out; I got back in decent time, fucked over my weekend by waiting (and drinking really, really heavily with a mix of Irish and Paraguayans) to find out where to meet up and trade my flag over, and eventually managed to get this written up. I'm not going to be able to make it to the Tombs release show tonight, but Born of Fire tomorrow is go; meet up, gie me your band's leftover stuff to pass out overseas.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Today in flag news

1) I found my Vinnland flag, so I can trade it to Bobby from Panzerbastard.

2) I will need to get a new 1916 Republic flag, because my current one is getting thrown at Alan Nemtheanga in two months and change.

Seriously, the P.SOA bill is really closing in on "quit-your-job-and-crawl-there-good".