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.
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.