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.
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?
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.
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.