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.
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.
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.
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 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.