Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Test outputs and trial runs

Back at this show, I shot some videos as a test of the camera I'm going to take over, seeing as it has that ability. The results are below, showing both good and bad results.

Forced Asphyxiation - last half of "Blunt Force Trauma"

mediafire: 33.7 MB

This was the general does-this-even-work test. The answer is "kinda". Everything renders in dark blue because there's not enough light, and the sound sucks. This done, it was time for some more sophisticated tests.

Boarcorpse - "Baby Paste"

no mediafire, my quick-and-dirty render is too big.

This was a test for internal purposes to see how much space a video would take. It turns out to be, in raw form, about 60 MB/minute. This also sucks, but is doable; somewhat in response to this, I went out and got a much, much larger SD card for the camera, and an additional memory stick to offload stuff to in the stints of the trip spent in civilized locations.

Boarcorpse - Jimbo's drummer faces

mediafire: 14.5 MB

Jim is well known in the Boston scene for making some of the best faces ever while drumming. This makes this zoom test at least a little more interesting. Ultimately, what this shows is that the zoom isn't very effective for video purposes, and that the light problems there only get worse. While this doesn't have a lot of funny faces in it, it definitely establishes what I'm able and not able to do with this camera.

What this all comes down to is that I can risk camera confiscation to shoot about one song per day before the sun starts going down. Videoing performances is still technically against the rules, but since I don't need to zoom or anything, I should be able to put the camera just on the rail, point it at the stage, thrash out, and turn it off after without being too conspicuous about it. More likely though, is using the limited video availability to do slice-of-life shots from the beergarden or the infield while I'm eating or writing stuff up; the festival DVD is eventually going to be out there, and bootlegged, and chopped up on Youtube, but random walks through the campground aren't.

Speaking of slice-of-life and the raw basics, everyone who read this article some months back, and anyone who didn't but is still inspired by the idea of doing open-air festivals in this country, really owes it to themselves to run this through a translator. Check out that stage -- from such humble beginnings on a flatbed hay-hauler with not even a tarp over it, fifteen years later you can get Morbid Angel and At The Gates headlining.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Morgirion with Nåthruzym, Vattnet Viskar, and Bog of the Infidel [Ralph's, Worcester, 7/21/2011]

I could crack a joke in here about heading out to Finland early somehow, but this heat wave is no joke. As long as we're having to deal with oppressive heat, rotten air quality, and idiots who insist on screwing over normal people to benefit the rich and the Chinese government, I might as well fuck off to Hong Kong about it, where environmental and economic exploitation can be taken pure, and without the base alloy of hypocrisy. The food is also better and 141 is legal, providing additional inducements, but to wrap up the cranky political bullshit part of this post, the music scene kind of sucks. As long as New England remains such a boiling cauldron of good metal, I'll take the few weeks a year when half of Lake Erie evaporates, slumps east, and turns the region into an actual boiling cauldron.

Despite leaving later than I anticipated, there was a fair bit of traffic heading out, maybe from the unexpected roadworks on 95 and maybe from people who don't have AC in their houses just driving aimlessly around to cool off. Despite this, I got in to Ralph's in pretty good time, had a chuckle at Spinal Tap playing against the wall of the warehouse next door, and got up, in, and beered in time to drink most of it before Bog started playing.

Bog of the Infidel [6/7]
It had been a while since I'd seen Bog, and there were, going in, still reservations expressed that they'd show up; once a band gets the rep for bailing, it's difficult to shake. With their performance here, though, Bog should have not only reset that expectation, but also most of the others that people tend to hold about this band. They've developed greatly in that intervening time, adding melodics and dynamics to their still fundamentally harsh sound that recall, favorably, not just Bethlehem and Shining, but also any other underground elements of the second wave that you might care to name. Primordial and Stridborg stick out for me because I listen to them more often; others will find other touchpoints. There were a few issues with the sound -- some possibly dependent on where I was standing, since one of the guitar cabs was behind the stage skirting from where I was -- but this didn't hold back the set much. Killer result.

In here I went and picked up Bog's Proud Descendants of Satan record, which was a good thing not just on the "getting Bog of the Infidel material" front, but also because the band packed up and packed out during Vattnet's set. If you want something from Bog of the Infidel, strike while the iron's hot.

Vattnet Viskar [5.5/7]
I was interested to see how Vattnet developed since last time, with their lineup reajusted (Colin's out and not replaced with another guitarist, and I'm not sure if they originally had a keyboardist or not) and with the natural development that any band, especially a new one, is going to undergo in three months of practice and gigging. The resultant solidification is a definite positive; Vattnet's still third-wave black metal, but much less generic-sounding, and with definite potential for further development. It remains to be seen whether they take it in more of a black metal direction, or bring in more of the post-metal elements that came through here, but this is a good band that's still improving, and worth paying attention to.

I decided going in that I would make no comment on band footgear at this show because a) Chris got his tail in a twist last time about a phrase that appeared here, as well as in some other places, and more importantly, b) my real boots were in the shop, preparing for the summer trip, so I was wearing my urban-use taps, and thus not really in a position to comment. Ohnoes i haz a false.

Nåthruzym [6/7]
Their sound was a little thinner than the last time] that I saw them, but the ultimate effect was still impressive. The Immortal influences are still present, but more subordinated to the solidifying Nåthruzym sound. This continuing development makes it less ironic to see most of Sarcomancy up front giving appreesh for this set, as it becomes more difficult to imagine the two bands doing an Immortal-off on, like, Born of Fire should it line up on the winter solstice; necessary in that case because, when it comes to Immortals.....

....wait for it....


...there can be only one.

Ok, that was terrible. Nåthruzym is apparently going on hiatus for the time being, and they deserve to go into hibernation with the last memory being this rather cool set, not some derp's stupid nerd joke.

I got a shirt off Nåthruzym after their set; just the logo, not the one with the death moose head, but still cool, and also a bunch of stickers to pass out. If you see something marked "LOBT DEN ELCHGOTT!", this is the band it's from.

Morgirion [6.5/7]
The bands before them had been good, and been ripping, but Morgirion took it up another level and tore the damn room completely in half. It'd been a long time since I'd seen Morgirion, and the change is not so much development as pure and simple leveling up. They've had this sound for a while: the blade's long forged, and now ground down to a ripping, uncompromisingly sharp edge. The crowd had declined a little off the peak -- the movie outside and the obliterating heat probably to blame -- but those who stayed got a killer performance from Morgirion and some class hectoring from Connor: "This place is a LIBRARY! You fuckers spent this whole set reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's fucking Penis!" No pig heads -- or pitchforks -- were thrown, and the vituperation was largely for comic effect, but this kind of competitive, adversarial stage banter is black metal down to the bone.

Eventually, Morgirion had to go to bed, calling the crowd layabouts in the process, and we cleared out after waiting a bit to make sure they weren't trolling. The trip back wasn't too strenuous, but the heat and a persistent summer cold caught up with me, preventing me from getting in to Vital on Saturday. Next gig to be reported on is probably Pilgrim, Shabti, and Hessian the middle of next month...and sometime after that, the tour report will get done.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Ash Borer with Ruin Lust, Blessed Offal, Nachzehrer, and Katahdin [PT-109, **REDACTED**, 7/17/2011]

This show report has been edited by the Punk Rock Ministry of Information in order to eliminate the potential distribution of sensitive state secrets to agents of unfriendly foreign powers. As noted at the actual show, an impression pretty readily confirmed, PT-109 is probably the best DIY space in Boston, and if you like going to shows here, keep the address schtum. Loose lips sink ships, khed.

Anyway, so I was a little late between gorging on clam strips and threatening a friend with building a bar in his shed (long, and also stupid, story) and then traffic on 93, despite the late hour on a Sunday. Fortunately, there weren't any exits closed -- in what must be a first for Boston highway repair, they somehow finished the bridge before the end of the day, leaving clean sailing past about route 28. This was clean sailing, though, through a sirocco of concrete dust still blowing around on the road, which you don't really get in this part of the country. Not exactly kvlt, but verfremdend enough to go along with getting you out of the normal and into the alternate space of the DIY show.

Off the highway, I navigated through the streets to **REDACTED** in **REDACTED**, where I drove around in circles for a while looking for somewhere I wouldn't get towed from, then stumped around the neighborhood, knocking twice on the wrong door. Fortunately, I figured out the actual location before I blew the game, and followed the signs **REDACTED** in to the show, **REDACTED**, and got set up by the trash can left around for **REDACTED**. Amazingly, despite all this bullcrap, Katahdin still wasn't finished.

Katahdin [5/7]
I'm pretty sure that I caught only the tail end of this one, the last couple songs, but I'm also fairly confident that I got enough of the band to paste on an arbitrary number. Something just seemed off about the sound, at least from where I was standing -- it may be the room, but the music didn't completely build up to the standard that I remembered from the the last time. This was still a good set, as much as I heard, but just sat differently.

Nachzehrer [6.5/7]
This sort of dirty black metal is pretty much custom-built for closed-in rooms like this one, and by some trick of fate Nachzehrer were still non-drunk enough at this point to fill out the promise of the material and setting. As alluded, the sound for them was pretty near perfect, and they gave us a nice, long, solid set of blackthrashing. There may not have been as much crowdthrashing as the band might have liked, but with a black metal audience in a cramped space like this, you pretty much take what you can get.

Blessed Offal [6/7]
As noted previously, this was a good weekend for really good death metal sets, and between one thing and another, this was probably the best total performance that I've seen from Blessed Offal. They had some technical issues -- among other things, a bottle of tequila somehow got wedged in the band, which probably had the most significant effect -- but still hammered out a pure quality performance of old-school death metal beatings, including likely the most crowd- and other-band-participation of the evening. This, again, was likely the room; both the close quarters and the atmosphere, which got Scott doing more hardcore-styled tricks than I've seen him do when playing in commercial venues. Great stuff.

Later on, Marcus gave me a single copy of their current record to take over, under instructions to give it to "the dude who likes old Incantation the most", who will probably be found at the bar at Party.San during Morbid Angel's set, cussing about "Hardcore Radikult" in Franconian dialect. I didn't make that particular musical association live -- because I suck at listening to old records -- but in retrospect, the mix of brutal speed and even more brutal slows makes the connection obvious....and if you like old Incantation, you could do a lot worse than hunting up Blessed Offal material.

Ruin Lust [5.5/7]
As advertised, Ruin Lust put out a punishing performance of primitive, raw death metal heavily colored with black metal blastbeats. "Primitive", though, does not always imply "tuneful", and despite my known admiration for Thrones and Lugubrum, this set was occasionally trying to listen to. It was still pretty good, within the limitations imposed by the style, though, and they both had a decent amount of diversity in the straight-ahead deathblasts and closed up before it started to get old. I'm not sure I'd go see them headline yet, but a tight 20-minute set in a DIY space is well worth the time.

Ash Borer [6/7]
This wasn't a one-song set -- I timed it out as about 40 minutes, and I'm pretty sure the band doesn't have anything quite that long -- but it came close. The compositions involved were as long, as involved, and as ferally noise-saturated as you might expect from the band going in, even if, listening to the music, they might have benefited from a little clearer sound. Though third-wave black metal inherits from the lo-fi start of the second wave, and the stuff that I've heard from Ash Borer on record is fairly lo-fi even among third-wave, it's a more precisely mediated lo-fi that would probably be better brought forward in like an O'Brien's setting rather than this kind of room. Regardless, though, this was a strong, class set that definitely stood in with the locals and justified the headlining slot.

With everything wrapped up, I picked up a demo from Ruin Lust and Ash Borer's split with Fell Voices to go with the shirt I'd grabbed earlier, then headed out. My car hadn't been towed, so I slung my gear in, swung a uey, and extracted over **REDACTED** out to **REDACTED**, getting back home not much past 2. Weekend complete; now that work for the week's been mostly tanked through, it's out to Metal Thursday, and then gear checks and other prep for the tour.

Abnormality with Scaphism, Boarcorpse, and Forced Asphyxiation [Ralph's, Worcester, 7/16/2011]

Friday night, I got a call from my brother, wanting to see if I wanted to go out. I begged off; it was like 9:30 and I was dead from three hours between Truckfighters and work, and I had to rest up for two back to back shows with significant other stuff in the mix. Festivals are different, but it's getting tougher to go out to all hours four nights in a row and still go to work. Getting old sucks.

Fortunately, because I did sacrifice love on the altar of war, I was able to scout the location for the Ash Borer show (incorrectly, as it turned out), take a nice long nap, and head back out to Worcester again for this gig. Though this was a weekend, and 93 is still tore up, putting more cars on 95 longer, travel was a nonissue, and I got in with plenty of time to get a beer while Forced Asphyxiation was setting up.

Forced Asphyxiation [5.5/7]
Other long-suffering members of the Bassists' Mutual Benefit Society, so often pointed and laughed at when even our more famous members can't get their roadie to heist oxies for them (incredibly common comment: "Of course he can't tell someone else to get him drugs. He's the bass player. He should be glad they let him eat."), take heart: this was probably the best set I've seen from FA, and the cause is pretty much down to significantly upgrading the bass position. Some of it is the natural improvement curve that any band that sticks together and takes their craft seriously is going to follow, but what's thickened out and filled in the sound is the contribution from the bass. Forced Asphyxiation is still not the most complicated band in the entire world, and they're still building on old-school roots while solidifying their sound, but the development of that basic brutal death metal sound here is plenty promising.

While drinking my second beer of the night, Brian came over and set me up with a bunch of demos to take over, as well as the news that FA is working on a potential split with Human Infection, who were originally supposed to be on this show as well. Definitely one to watch out for, and good in a scene-development sense as well: between Manchester, NH and about Springfield, VA lies the largest contiguous extent of US territory populated enough to support a metal environment comparable to that found in continental Europe. When people moan about how the US sucks because we're not as metal as Europe, this is why: we're a decided minority in both territories, but more people per square mile means more metalheads within travel distance of venue X. More Virginian bands becoming more prominent in New England, and more NE bands becoming more prominent in VA means more likelihood of more, better, tours along the 95 corridor getting better supported, which is better for touring bands, locals, and the general audience alike.

Boarcorpse [6/7]
It had been a while since I'd seen Boarcorpse, so I'm not sure that they had a second guitarist before, but whether or not they've played as a 5-piece in my previous experience, this was definitely a flip to expectations in that Terrence was (back? did they play any shows with Mark singing?) on vocals. Strike all that transience crap, at least for now. Anyway, this was as rambunctious, hammering, and weird a set as expected from this band, generating a fair amount of movement on the floor, but also rewarding those who just wanted to stand and listen. Boarcorpse isn't just a weird band, but they're not "just" any variety of death metal band either; there aren't many bands in Boston that are more diverse, and very few of those can claim to have anywhere near their technical chops or raw hitting power.

Here or maybe a little later, I bought a ticket for Vital Remains' Middle East all-dayer off Eric; it's hard to call it a "fest", but despite on-call potentially throwing a wrench into things, it's worth getting a ticket off the band rather than dealing with door aggro or door prices. I also picked up some immense stickers for overseas distribution, 1) because they are, as will be seen in the trip report, far too big for most people to put on most stuff, and potentially doomed to languish in the merch bucket, and 2) because due to the size, I can re-brand them as tent repair kits and guarantee that they will get picked up. If you saw something on a picnic table claiming to be a band-branded official tent repair kit, wouldn't you take one?

Scaphism [6/7]
This was a good weekend for good death metal sets, and this was probably or potentially the best set that I've seen from Scaphism yet. Get used to that phrase going forward; on recent evidence, this band just keeps getting better and better, and there's not, as far as I can tell, a ceiling on that combination of appeal and ability. The sound here was particularly killer -- Scaphism's musical M.O. is basically to go for the crowd with a sledgehammer made out of death metal, and they can survive bad or mediocre sound, but good sound as is as beneficial to straight-ahead slamming as it is to more intricate sounds. The floor, of course, went nuts; this is Ralph's, so this is Metal Thursday come on a Saturday, and if Dan wasn't breakdancing, the pit was no less riotous for it.

Abnormality [6/7]
Despite a bunch of technical difficulties, from broken strings to untracked drummers, Abnormality still powered through a crushing set of high-velocity, practically-unreproducible death metal. With any other band, a 7-string lead guitar packing 30+ frets might seem like overkill, but the guy got full use out of it, whether to keep up with Mike's parts on the old stuff or to put his own drive on the new -- and to jam on a tech-death take on "Kickstart My Heart" with Josh while the other guitarist changed the aforementioned broken string. With the interruptions, the audience response was maybe flatter than it could have been, but as long as Abnormality was actually playing, there were no complaints that could be had. Killer set, worth the headlining slot, and that even perhaps without the flat-out obliterating performance of "Visions" to close.

This one also ran a little late, but I got home without issue, and prepared to sleep in; no festival mode yet, and I had another show the next day.

Truckfighters with Black Pyramid, Mockingbird, and Blue Aside [Ralph's, Worcester, 7/14/2011]

Coming out for this, the drive wasn't a problem, and the sky was magnificent. Going out to a show like this, it's somehow more fitting that the clouds twist themselves into crenellations and funnels, lit by the sunset into a tapestry of intricately woven orange, like an old LP sleeve that you need to spend an hour with your nose literally jammed into to pick up everything. It's not really possible to do this with the sky, of course, nor safe to attempt to do so while driving, but it fit in well all the same.

Despite starting out a little late, I got in with enough time to get a beer and realize that I had less money with me than I thought, and would be coming back with less Truckfighters material than optimal. Oh well. Soon enough, though, the music started, and this stuff became a little more academic.

Blue Aside [5.5/7]
It wasn't until the start of their fifth and last song, when they actually introduced it as another song, that I was sure that Blue Aside's set was composed out of discrete songs rather than several movements of a single longer piece. This was good stuff, flowing material that connected strongly to itself and hung together not only internally but song to song; built, like a lot of doom (if not so many of the bands on this particular bill) on a lot of Sabbath, they also mixed in a fair amount of Yes and non-trace concentrations of Slough Feg. Their set progressed from wicked doomy at the start to a lot more upbeat and 70s-rockish at the end, kind of an anti-Autumn Above, but maybe with the same motivations of suckering in an audience who might not initially react well to the way the set balanced out. This was a good outing, but in a way it's not surprising that I hadn't seen this band before; the audience for a good, proficient metal-rooted band that can cross over is greater where they can cross over than it is in the metal context, and they don't come from my town.

Mockingbird [5.5/7]
In from Ohio, these guys flipped the script around: this is the side of doom not touching on Black Sabbath, but built out of pure, gravelling punk'n'roll rebarreled down to 10-gauge. They didn't get an especially long set -- maybe it just felt like that, after Blue Aside's endlessly flowing compositions -- but every minute was pure crush. Less variety, but it's kind of heaviness, not necessarily variety, that this kind of band aims for, and they delivered abundantly on the heaviness front.

In here I went back and did my merch: I'd now heard or at least decided on (only Truckfighters exposure was their movie trailer, and that they were in from fucking Sweden) all of the bands on the bill, and so put down on the headliners' Mania album, Mockingbird's self-titled EP, which came with an unexpected number of extras, and Blue Aside's The Orange Tree record on CD, along with a couple spare stickers to pass around in the east. All good stuff, as it turned out, but 12" LPs don't fit in the occasionally-useful trauma plate pouch in my lightweight kutte, so what the fuck was I supposed to do with these unwieldy and highly frangible chunks of wax for the rest of the night? Fortunately, genetic advantages saved the day again: there's a shelf on one of the walls about 7 1/2, 8 feet off the floor that has a hacked station of the cross or something on it, and there was enough space that your size-enabled correspondent could slap his vinyls up there, have his hands free to handle any pit action -- not that there was a lot of it -- and be pretty sure that almost nobody in the room would be able, much less inclined, to swipe them or inadvertently knock them off.

Black Pyramid [6/7]
I'd just seen Black Pyramid again here three weeks ago, and most of the notes on that set just carry straight over. This set was a little shorter, and maybe a little heavier, but in the main Black Pyramid is a very good, very consistent band who can be relied upon to produce a great set of crowd-friendly doom-drenched heavy metal. In that regard, this was about the most metal of the performances on offer, and got probably the best response; some of that is Metal Thursday being Metal Thursday, even when a gang of stoner punks from Sweden are headlining, but most of it is a very good band turning in a very good performance in front of a crowd that, if they aren't exactly hometown (Black Pyramid is technically based further west), still sees them on a regular and knows most if not all of the material.

Truckfighters [6.5/7]
I obviously hadn't seen Truckfighters before -- this was their first US tour, and they haven't played any of the festivals I've been to elsewhere -- and no one else who wasn't in Providence the night before was likely to have either, so for this set there was a lot of the odd dynamic of a band and an audience trying to figure each other out, to see what worked and what didn't. At the start, the response was a little flat, maybe a little frustrating for the band, but people got into it as the set went on, because seriously, how can you not get into this kind of bouncing, driving doom/fuzz/van/desert rock, Kyuss or Fu Manchu infused with the manic svenskpunk energy of a Millencolin or No Fun At All. Seriously, Dango gets more air onstage than anyone I've yet seen, and better than anyone except Jim (Aura of Aquila, Autumn Above) Joyce. (Sorry Jim, longer legs mean bigger hops.) They played all over their ten-year catalog, and straight up to the deadline -- no encore, despite pleading with the bar staff to go on a little longer. If anyone at this show complains about not getting enough Truckfighters out of this, though, they're straight mental -- or planned their parkinglot rituals incorrectly, which would also be a mental failure on their part.

It was 1:45 in the morning by the end, and not only did I have to work in the morning, but everyone was getting loudly shooed out by the staff. High-volume show, to say the least. I made it back, and somehow was able to cycle for the weekend -- the training helps, but more of it is festival mode coming back on line. Of course, the other two shows this weekend, and then catching up on tour prep stuff, meant that this didn't get written up for a while, but here goes, and the other two are in the pipeline as well.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Gesetzveröffentlichung = Verpackungsmittelangebot

Yes, I'm working on the writeups of the last three shows. Yes, they will be done by the time I head to Worcester for the next-to-last one on Thursday. And yes, this is worth writing about.

(For the title, see similar from last year.)

Wacken have published their regulations for this year, and as kind of necessary for a festival of 70,000 people, they are a little more extensive than "don't be a dick, seriously", which is usually all that's needed among metalheads. Most of them make sense and are nonintrusive, but as usual, there are some that attract further comment, as excerpted below.


5. Verbotene Gegenstände
5.1. Auf dem gesamten Festivalgelände sind verboten;
5.1.1. Glasflaschen jeder Art, Tiere/Haustiere, Waffen aller Art (auch im technischen Sinne), Fackeln, pyrotechnische Gegenstände, Wunderkerzen, Himmelslaternen, Vuvuzelas, Megaphone, Shirts von rechten Bands, kommerzielle, politische oder religiöse Gegenstände aller Art, einschließlich Banner, Schilder, Symbole oder Flugblätter sowie gefährliche Gegenstände jeglicher Art.

The "banned items" here include glass bottles, weapons, several kinds of fireworks, noisemakers, right-wing crap, and....flyers. This is a little poorly written, as maybe the flyers banned are just those that might be classified as "political or religious materials", but this section may well be used against the idiots who dump 9000 copies of their bova'd-up, poorly photoshopped band bio all over the beergarden. This will make it a little cleaner, and maybe a little more difficult for me to leave stickers around.


6. Hausrecht; Verhaltensregeln; Fotografieren und Filmen
6.1. Das Hausrecht wird vom Veranstalter sowie seinem Ordnungs- und Sicherheitspersonal ausgeübt. Auf dem Festivalgelände gilt die Haus- bzw. Festivalgeländeordnung sowie die Park- und Campingordnung des Veranstalters. Den Weisungen des Personals des Veranstalters ist Folge zu leisten. Besuchern ist es untersagt, auf dem Festivalgelände:
6.1.5. außerhalb der Toiletten zu urinieren oder die Notdurft zu verrichten,

Yeah, good luck with that. On the bright side, it appears that after 20+ years, the festival is finally getting serious with the "jesus christ, people are just pissing everywhere" aspect of the experience.


6.1.7. ohne vorherige schriftliche Zustimmung des Veranstalters gewerblich Handel zu treiben, Marketingaktionen oder Werbemaßnahmen durchzuführen. Werbemaßnahmen gleich welcher Art, d.h. Bewerbung eines Produkts, einer Dienstleistung, eines Unternehmens oder einer Marke, sowie das Anbringen von Dekorationen und sonstigen Gegenständen sind auf dem gesamten Festivalgelände grundsätzlich untersagt

This is the big one, and it is new this year. Let's do a full translation:

6.1.7. (It's forbidden for visitors to do the following in the festival area:) engage in commerce, marketing, or advertising without the prior written permission of the festival organizers. Advertising of whatever type, whether for a product, a service, a business or a brand, including the bringing in of decorations and other materials, is completely forbidden in the entire festival area.

The point of this is to cut down on bullshit "street team" stuff -- and, of course, for the anticorporatists in the audience, to guarantee that Beck's and AMD and whoever the fuck else is going to have their logo all over the official banners this year will get full value for their sponsorship euros via exclusivity. Unfortunately, the Sonderwerbeaktion is exactly that: advertising. I am, in a certain excessively stupid way, an uncompensated one-man street team stumping across the sea at great expense to proclaim the virtues of the New England metal scene. Could I get lifted for what I do? Yeah, sure. But at least for the time being, I probably won't, and probably will be able to get off the hook for it, because I'm not getting paid for this....and am able to explain such to the security officers.


6.2. Fotografieren für den privaten Gebrauch mit Kleinbildkameras und Handys ist gestattet. Die Persönlichkeitsrechte Dritter sind dabei jederzeit zu wahren. Das Herstellen von Film- oder Tonaufnahmen jeglicher Art sowie deren Veröffentlichung Online oder Offline ohne Genehmigung des Veranstalters sind verboten.

Again, good luck with that last part. There will still be pictures in the trip report this year, and if I get a takedown notice, it's going straight to Chilling Effects. Lack of ads should indicate, correctly, that I'm not getting paid for these uninteresting and often decidedly incorrect scribblings either. This is made funnier by the following, also new, addendum:

11. Recht am eigenen Bild
Der Veranstalter ist berechtigt, im Rahmen der Veranstaltungen Bild-, Ton- und Bildtonaufnahmen der Besucher ohne Vergütung herzustellen und in jeder Art und Weise umfassend in allen bekannten und zukünftigen Medien zu nutzen oder nutzen zu lassen, insbesondere aber nicht abschliessend zur Berichterstattung, zur Bewerbung des Wacken Open Airs, zur Sponsorenakquise und aller sonstigen Geschäftstätigkeiten des Veranstalters und seiner verbundenen Unternehmen.

If you take a picture of yourself and your friends in front of your tent, doing metal signs and drinking beer, you are technically not allowed to publish that without approval of the organizers. However, if there is a passing festival photographer, they can take the exact same picture and put it in the advertising next year without consulting or compensating you. Since you paid for a ticket and agreed to the rules (which are actually printed on the back), people accept the latter part, but the ridiculous contradiction remains.


Wacken has a long tradition of obsessing endlessly about shit that mostly doesn't happen, bleating endlessly on about pickpockets and the availability of locker trucks when in six years, I've met one person who even allegedly had their tent robbed, and zero who've gotten dipped. The changes this year, though, seem to be focused on stuff that does happen: ubiquitous public urination, intrusive advertising, and people constructing their own multimedia narrative about the festival. This would be a better fest if people weren't pissing everywhere, and though it makes it a little more difficult for me to do my own promotion, I would like to not have to wade through a sea of crumpled flyers advertising a shitty Greek Night In Gales ripoff as I go from the bar to a table in the beergarden to write up the pictures/events of the night before. The last, though, is really troubling.

Last year, Wacken brought out a new service for people to build their own photo albums. "Just what I always wanted," you say. "Now I can upload my personal photos to a third party under nebulous and likely-exploitative terms and conditions, and then they can send them back to me in a nice binder with better pictures of bands." What it does, though, is open a window to chill non-accredited media outlets: better pictures of bands are easily available through this service, so stop taking shitty ones in low light, from the side of the stage, and a mile away. And definitely stop publishing them, because your DIY view of what the actual visitor sees is at odds with our branding.

The effect is likely to be minimal, and many of these rules are not likely to be strongly enforced: weapons have been banned forever, but I've always managed to bring my camping knife through the controls, and drugs are of course banned, but in any sufficient concentration of people, you can expect to spend a max of like, 30 to 45 seconds before finding someone with some kind of cannabinoid. I'm still going to spend most of my thrashing time trying to move CDs and slyly distributing stickers and tent repair kits (more on that in a couple show reviews), and I'm still going to write, photograph, and publish a festival report, but if the organizers believe the changes will have a significant effect, they'll get enforced strictly. The festival went glass-free and cut foot injuries by 60%. If they think they can reduce trash volume by a significant figure (to publish with their environmental branding efforts), they'll be searching bags and jackets at the gate.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Hate Eternal with Origin, Vital Remains, Abysmal Dawn, Sexcrement, and Black Trip [Worcester Palladium, 7/9/2011]

I was getting a little eye fatigue on the way out to this; charging hard on various fronts had been the order of the day, so I was still incompletely recovered from Humanity Falls the night before. What worked to cut down on it, though, was the car's AC, which boded ill for the gig itself. The Palladium is always wicked hot, especially in the upstairs, and especially for a death metal show with a lot of motion in the audience.

I got up just about doors, which meant only about a 15-minute wait or so at the end of the line. This was necessary because the Palladium has previous for being nebulous about what actually "doors" means, and since I'd gotten my ticket off Black Trip back at Destruction, I wanted to make sure I at least saw them. After getting processed in, I got a beer, looked over the merch selection, and found myself a decently close spot on the floor where my Old Person knees wouldn't end up getting absolutely killed.

Black Trip [5/7]
The sound was pretty good to these guys, and while they have a host of structural debits that I'll get into in a sec, they put out a decent performance that brought me a lot closer to being able to concretely describe their sound. With crunchy death grooves and a lot of prog/power metal influences in the guitar leads, Black Trip resemble nothing so much as a less blended, less-finished endZone, though that is a hopelessly impenetrable reference because nobody listens to Russian metal that isn't NSBM, and fuck-all nobody was listening to Russian music at all at the turn of the century when these guys were actually active. There's promise for this kind of music, but not in slots or on bills like this. Black Trip didn't really match in with the rest of the bill soundwise, which explains the lukewarm reception they got from the audience, and they didn't really appear to have a handle on the time demands on their set; despite nearly running over their slot, it looked like they were cut off midway through relative to expectations. This, though, like the better blending of their heavy and melodic influences, is something that should get better with experience.

The only really major sticking point in this set was at the end, when they called out for noise for every single band on the bill except Sexcrement. This is really, really bad form; it might be just honest tunnel vision, but when you're one of two local openers and ignore the other one to call out for appreesh to yourselves and the touring bill, it looks like you're trying to get over on them, and this is a bad idea generally -- but especially when the band getting dissed by omission is as high-profile as Sexcrement. It's not just being a long-running, fun, well-liked band that includes members of other well-liked bands and leading promoters; Sexcrement is pretty much the one band that people ask me about first when I'm on the road overseas, after they find out I'm from New England. It's bad form anywhere, on any bill, to single out bands by omission, no matter how well or poorly they played, but in this case, that omission might have specific and significant negative consequences, and they could have easily been avoided by going "oh yeah, and SEXCREMENT!!!" in response to the audience yelling "what about Sexcrement?!"

Sexcrement [6/7]
Sexcrement also got a pretty short set, as expected from opening, but handled it in a simple and effective way: they came out, set up, and fucking killed it straight across. Their fairly simple, always solid grooving slam-death battered the audience and got the pit nice and proper violent. Though they cut against the more tech-oriented grain of the bill, they were effective and enjoyable, and that ultimately is what playing live comes down to. Killer.

The sole disappointing thing about this outing was that when I went up to hit the merch deck, Sexcrement was sold out of the XXX Bargain Bin EP. Bad luck, but a good lesson: when good bands put something out on their own hook, go see them and get a damn copy, because it's going to sell out and not get re-pressed sooner rather than later.

Abysmal Dawn [5.5/7]
Maybe it was the sound -- which was kind of inconsistent here, good for some bands, less good for others -- but for whatever reason Abysmal Dawn didn't really translate live. A lot of the more technical stuff from their Leveling the Plane of Existence record either didn't end up in the setlist or, more likely, didn't make it through the mix, leaving them sounding like a less-varied Immolation. This was still a good set, with enough of the music making it through to get the crowd into it, but it could have been better, at least according to the recorded evidence, with a better presentation.

Speaking of that recorded evidence, I went up for the third time after Abysmal's set to try and purchase it, but they still didn't have their merch desk manned. I did get a copy a little later on -- which bore out the impression I got, live, of technical parts that should have been there getting lost or buried -- but with the heat and attendant attrition, they may have missed out on some sales to people who wanted to support the band, but packed it in early for whatever reason.

Vital Remains [5.5/7]
The course of the last few years has not been kind to local perceptions of Vital Remains. This was the third time I've seen the band, and for the third time, an almost completely new lineup. Tony is still there, of course, and Scott's been retained on vocals, but with new members in the other three positions, seeing Vital again under these circumstances can approach seeing Vital again, for the first time. They got off to a very, very, rough start, though this was probably due to bad house sound, as they improved steadily through the course of the set to close with "Dechristianize" as completely expected. Vital are still a good band, and I still like "Dechristianize" and "Hammer Down The Nails", but the former song and how the band has developed since the album of the same name came out really emphasize the huge effect that one hit can have on a band's career. Vital is, catalog-wise, an extremely deep and varied band, but nowadays, practically all of their set is done to emulate "Dechristianize" in sound: tons of speed, a lot of blasts, thick riffing and relatively clean leads over the top. I still like what they do, but I continue to hope against hope that the next Vital show I go to -- hopefully the "fest" on the 23rd -- we'll finally get to hear "Forever Underground" again, or "Isolated Magick", period, as I don't remember them playing said song back in '06.

Origin [6/7]
Despite having them down in the notes from some Metalfest or another, I apparently haven't actually seen this band before, as Jason (Mucopus, ex-Skinless) claimed that they hadn't been to this building since 2002, and I'm not sure that I recognized the members from previous "Origin" sets. Regardless, good sound, great execution, and a wall of triggers so fast and pervasive that they might as well have connected the drums directly to a strobelight allowed Origin to completely pulverize the crowd, and comprehensively meet and surpass expectations. Jason's a good addition, solid on vocals and with tons of character and presence; most of the mad stagediving and crowdsurfing is down to the music, but some of it surely was amped up by his persistent insistence on the DIY ethic and removing the gulf of the raised stage and front fence. In a venue like this, it isn't really "our stage too"; the bodybuilders in white shirts and walkie-talkies will still eject people if certain lines are crossed. But the thought still counts.

This was a strong set, but those fuckin' triggers, man. Doin' ma nut in. I can understand that this is kind of what Origin does, and like and appreciate the other stuff they do regardless, but the conversion of the drumkit into, effectively, a wicked loud metronome is the chief reason why I don't own any Origin records past Echoes of Decimation. I should, abstractly, listen to more of their stuff and see if there's more variation lately, but the content of this set kind of argues against doing that. I can take Origin a set at a time, or in that specific 25-minute dose, but more, like the triggers themselves, seems like overkill to these old and crabbit ears.

In between Origin and Hate Eternal, I, like about 40% of the crowd, got the hell out of the main room, ending up in the much cooler foyer while others ducked outside for a smoke or some fresher air. People had been doing this earlier -- when I originally went forward for Sexcrement, the heat in the moshpit area was like there was an oven open at shin level -- but this is where it really started to reach critical mass. The venue had the fans/AC going, but the system couldn't move enough air fast enough to deal with the body heat of 300 or so furious thrashers packed in at close quarters and running around like madmen. This didn't affect the bands -- on stage, you're pretty much melting all the time just from the lights -- but would have an unfortunate effect on the audience for Hate Eternal.

Hate Eternal [6/7]
This was one of the better sets I've seen from Hate Eternal in this building, but the issues that've plagued them here in the past were still evident as they, like a lot of the bands on this bill, got jobbed by the soundboard, losing a significant amount of clarity. This, as the foregoing observations indicate, is kind of a bad thing for technical death metal where lines need at least occasionally to stand apart rather than get smashed together, but the debit wasn't uniform, and the band's material, even muddied, is still strong enough to get through. Unfortunately, people were continually slipping out from the half-hour mark on; this set didn't deserve it, but with the heat being what it was, eventual fatigue was probably inevitable. Count me among the weaklings; I made it to two songs from the announced end before slipping out. I saw most of a very good Hate Eternal set, but missed out on not only the closer but any encore, which sucks. More training definitely needed; the requirements are different, and I'll be benefiting from "festival mode", but you need to be able to handle the heat in order to be able to do open airs.

The upside of leaving early was that I didn't get killed on the way home, and I've bounced back and marginally trained up enough to realistically look at three shows in four days over the weekend, starting with Truckfighters tonight. The merchpack is getting closer to its limit as well.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Humanity Falls with Scaphism, Untombed, Blood of the Gods, and Nocuous [Champions', Everett, 7/8/2011]

Since I'd missed the Metal Thursday gig the day before due to getting out of work at 10PM as an exhausted and overcaffinated wreck, the onus was doubly on me to get to this one: in addition to the potential stuff to pick up, I really wanted to see Humanity Falls again, and the local part of the bill was pretty damn killer as well. Congestion on 93 made things a little dicey, and I nearly got lost once or twice on the way in (took 28, because no way was I going all the way down to the 60 interchange), but ultimately ended up at the bar with plenty of time to spare, but enough after doors that I was able to get right in and nab a beer, and another, before the bands started.

Nocuous [5/7]
This was supposed to be Nocuous' last show with their current bassist, but he bailed at the last minute, so it turned out to be their first without him. The sound suffered a little without the low-end contribution rounding things out, but even with just the three members, they were able to put out a fairly decent set of Scandinavian fusion. Maybe there was a little much feedback in the guitar -- or particlarly exposed without the bass -- but it's not like the likes of At The Gates or Edge of Sanity never used feedback for extra distortion, and it was cool in places here as well. Hopefully, they'll get a new bassist in and worked up quickly, but the strength of this performance might lead them to think about taking opening slots like this one in the meantime regardless.

A little later on, I got a CD from Reuben outside, and with it a very large pile of stickers. This is more good stuff; Nocuous' sound should appeal to just about goddamn everyone that I'm likely to meet in the course of the festival tour, and the few it might not will almost certainly, just by process of elimination, take something from the slammier or grindier contents of the merchpack.

Blood of the Gods [5.5/7]
I'm not sure how much of the difference can be put down just to the sound here rather than at Church -- I've seen this band three times now, with three different general sounds -- but on this outing, BotG came off as a little less grind, a little more death and a little more doom. I ran into one of the guitarists the next night at Hate Eternal, and he mentioned that they'd substantially reworked their lineup, so this may have been a factor as well. Regardless, a cool set, and stuff that we didn't get from the other bands on this bill.

Untombed [6/7]
This was the slot that Humanity Falls was originally supposed to be going on in, before they got wedged up in traffic -- far from unusual, to get the touring band in and out quickly so they aren't driving around at five in the morning -- and Untombed swapped to keep things flowing. However, because of that swap and because of the changes they've made to their lineup -- which is now, if I recall correctly, pretty much a functional superset of Summoning Hate back when they were Downfall -- I got a little confused about who was going on, exactly. Natural reaction; you see Milo Avila coming in with his bass over his shoulder, and you think "wait, is Summoning Hate playing?" Despite the member overlap, this of course wasn't the case; Untombed draws from many of the same old-school brutal death influences, but in this set was a little slammier and a little grindier than you'd usually get from the new bassist and guitarist's main band. Dave and Juan's vocal styles are different enough to justify two full-time vocalists, and they also pulled it off well as regards structures, working the lines with and against each other, which is where bands with two lead vocalists usually fall down. This may not have been the best performance I've ever seen from Untombed, but it was a hell of a good start for this lineup, and the crowd got into it as well, with the first really significant motion of the night.

Scaphism [6/7]
This was a mightily awesome set that may well overtop the last two times that I've seen Scaphism recently as the best outing I've gotten from the band. There's not that much more that needs to be said: you know what you're getting with Scaphism, and the only variation is how well the sound presents them, how much violence that particular crowd is up for, and if anyone throws back any unexpected bon mots for Tony to riff off of between songs in addition to his normal banter selection. In this case, the crowd was turbulent but not injurious, someone said something about "assholes" to provoke a digression paraphrasing Pete Steele's "fifteen American dollars" bit, and most importantly, the venue sound was tuned about perfectly for Scaphism's barrage of slamming death metal. This was, as noted, a killer set from front to back, but they closed especially strong with "Slowly Digesting..." and "Tower Deflower", and it's going to be really cool to watch these guys continue to go from strength to strength.

During Scaphism's set, Humanity Falls finally finished getting through the 93-enabled tangle and to the venue, and they got set up right quick to make sure they were able to get their full set in before the cutoff.

Humanity Falls [6.5/7]
As indicated last year, the low stage, small room, and Boston-area crowd all worked to the band's advantage, as did bringing in a bass player -- and this was still one of Umar's first shows with the band. Ammo's skullwreckingly twisted mix of grooves, riffs, and leads still drives their annihilating death grind forward, but the low end adds more power to the foundations, as well as hints of additional complexity -- as might be expected given his other band -- that, as they can be worked in on new material, will drive the band's music even further into insanity. Not all of the audience that was flying around for Scaphism got into the unrepentant technicality, but most did, and if Eston seemed to get frustrated, at times, with the relative lack of violence, it's hard to match up with him in the madman stakes on a normal gig, let alone one with the band fresh off spending five+ hours threading through the mess of idiots that covers New England highways on summer weekends. I'm just glad that I was able to see a set this good, standing for most of the night right by Aaron Hivesmasher, and make it out with all my limbs in their right places.

After Humanity Falls closed up, I picked up a burn of TBC's newish EP and what turned out to be the last of the Humanity Falls shirts, at least in XL. Good for me, good for the band -- always better to run out early than have boxes of unsold merch left over -- bad for other folk on this mini-tour or at least this stop, as they were off to Jersey next and might have been able to pick up any extras from their homebase that they didn't lug out initially. I also tried, unsuccessfully, to pick up an Untombed shirt -- their new design is fuckin' sick -- but they were also out of XL, and this isn't as much of a deal, as I see the band or at least the members semi-regularly at shows. After this, some nebulous talk about additional organization potentially coming to the metal scene in Boston, and a couple minutes trying to get the other side of a staff argument before I got tossed out for being a non-band-member in after closing, I got out, through the rain, and back home in decent order. Of course, this didn't lead to this getting done any faster -- there was still Hate Eternal coming up the next night.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Coffin Birth with Soul Remnants, Naegleria, and Totality [Ralph's, Worcester, 6/30/2011]

Due to getting meshed in much less pre-holiday traffic than I was anticipating, I got out to Worcester pretty early and spent more time than anticipated rattling around in a nearly-empty Ralph's, moderating my beer intake. I probably could and should have found more stuff to kill time with before leaving, but fast transit is never really guaranteed, roadworks are unpredictable, and staying in the goddamn office until damned near 8 pm is soulkilling enough as it is. Regardless, people filled in presently and the bands got going.

Totality [5/7]
Totality's sound here was a little less dense than Tuesday, which maybe opened things up some; whether real or illusionary, they came off as more technical and less straightforward B-string fanning. (Not a real term, but if you watch enough 7-string death metal bands, you should understand it immediately.) The sound was also a little mangled at the start, maybe as a consequence of one of the guitarists playing directly into the PA rather than through a cab. This was a little odd, but consistent with the still odder intimation that the band had showed up in a taxi and borrowed a drumkit and the cabinets they did have from the other bands. Weird, sure, but still pretty killer, and still a band to pay attention to going forward.

At the conclusion of their set, Totality chucked a bunch of CDs into the audience rather than having them on a spindle at a table in the back. This was a little rockstar for a Metal Thursday, but more and more importantly, less effective. I picked one of them up and, unsurprisingly for a CD without a case or sleeve that was bounced off the floor and had to hang out in a jacket pocket for the rest of the night, the second of the two tracks on it was scratched pretty much to unplayability. If you want to get your music out to people, it helps if they're able to listen to it -- and when you're this good, you don't need to throw your media at your audience and risk damaging it.

Naegleria [5/7]
I hadn't heard Naegleria previously, more due to bad luck on my part than the band, as they've been around and on decent bills for a fair while now. What we got was decent, unassuming, high-powered straight-ahead slamming death metal that made up in crush whatever it gave away in originality. This is another band that I was frustrated not to be able to move around for; the lesson, for all the wee kids in the audience (i.e., anyone under 25), the lesson is to thrash as hard as you can, whenever you can, because someday your legs will call it a day on you, and you'll never be able to do so again. The rest of the crowd, though, started getting violent here, so there was no lack of people to toss back, and with the exception of "You're Gay" (probably the first time in the history of the world that people have just stood around and listened to an Anal Cunt song being played live rather than thrashing around while dodging half-bricks and broken furniture getting thrown off the stage), the violence served to complement and round out the music rather than as a necessary condition. Still a cool set, and yet another reason to get another knee brace before that Dysentery gig at the end of August.

Soul Remnants [5.5/7]
I'm not sure quite how much of a notch Soul Remnants took it up from last time; something, to be sure, but picking points between scores can get to be a real exercise in hair-splitting sometimes. Their influences from Carcass and At The Gates were probably a little more prominent here, and the venue sound really allowed it to cut through. While Soul Remnants are a lot more solid than superlative right now, there's not a lot of bands in New England doing this older style of death metal, and a solid set from a good band is still good value for your night out.

Coffin Birth [5.5/7]
Vice December, the fan made a comeback, but here, was more necessary and less stagecraft -- Ralph's gets devilishly hot in the summer just standing around in the general audience areas, let alone under the stage lights. Also as in December, Coffin Birth quickly put any peripheral silliness out of mind with a hammering set of black-death metal -- with the important difference that this was in Worcester, so on this set, you could have Crazy Dan taking things to new heights with the first instance of breakdancing noted at Metal Thursday. Whether it was intentional or he just had difficulty standing up initially after going over in the pit, it happened: I would instantly lose all credibility if I tried to make something like that up. That, even more than the usual pit action, was pretty hardcore radikvlt -- fortunately, the Morbid Angel cover that the band closed with wasn't.

At the end of the night, I was pretty well dead; fortunately, the highways were mostly empty and nearly free of egregious construction, so I blasted home in good time, then didn't finish writing this up for most of a week because holiday weekends tend to be over-strenuous for some reason. Next up is the next Metal Thursday; The Accursed dropped, but the rest of the bill is well worth it, and then it's another two shows in two days, in the which time I probably have to do a gear-out check. Just over three weeks till I hit the road.