Friday, September 16, 2011

Bobfest day 2 [O'Brien's, Allston, 9/10/2011]

Hopelessly late due to work being a bastard, here it is; the second part should be up shortly.

After three iterations, I finally got down for most of Bobfest, missing only the first day out of three. This was, overall, the most impressive package that Wren's put up yet, both in terms of volume and headliner value, but the undercard was cool throughout as well.

Despite various traffic obstructions, I got over and in about on time, and was able to get set up drinking as the first band was getting set up. I still had to watch out due to eventually having to drive rather than stumble back to a pup tent in the railyard or somewhere, but despite the indoor environment, it was still possible to get into festival mode.

Splatter Effect [4.5/7]
I hadn't seen this band before, but they made a cool start to the day's events with some good if moderately pedestrian music, NWOSDM (or Gothenchusetts if you prefer and still have a bug up your ass about that scene five years after it mostly died out) somewhere between Sacrilege and Shadows Fall, slanting more towards the Swedish end of that continuum. They showed off good chops, but the music was more or less pro forma: as they continue to develop, they may do something more unique, but at this point, this is the right slot.

O'Brien's was pretty empty as Splatter Effect started, but people steadily filled in, and there were a decent number in as Blessed Offal got in and started setting up, including the Deceased guys.

Blessed Offal [5.5/7]
This felt like a really short set, but it was still damn cool. It felt in some ways a little more on-point than the last outing I caught from them, but it didn't quite match up to that show as regards feeling and atmosphere. Regardless, this is a good band on a definite upward trajectory, especially as they seem to have finally beaten the lineup-cohesion issues that have plagued Ross in former years.

In between here, I went over to grout up Deceased's merch table, which is an adaptive decision for anyone who likes old metal that's not easily found in physical form elsewhere. We know of old that King has some strong opinions and connections to the days of old, and that manifests itself in a pretty kickass distro box. In addition to the latest Deceased record, I also got Demolition Hammer's entire label discography, Pantera's epically-stupid but historically-important Power Metal, and Halloween's famous Don't Metal With Evil, which I never thought I'd run into a physical copy of, but was somehow re-released by Twilight out of Germany last year. Everything old is new again.

Phantom Glue [5.5/7]
Since the last time, the band's taken a significant step forward, rebalancing to a less exploitative configuration, but vastly more importantly, improving the content and execution of their material. This was a killer set of ear-destroying aggrodoom held back principally by the vocals getting lost now and again, which is kind of a casual risk in a setting like this one where most of the sound is coming straight out of the cabs. As they get into venues that allow better sound balance, and continue to develop their music beyond as well as through sludge-soaked Sabbathisms, they'll likely continue to progress from here.

After Phantom Glue unplugged, I headed out to scare up some food; of the bands on the day, I'd seen Led To The Grave about the most often, and in general their set is about the most uniform, as regards content and execution level, of the bands that I was familiar with. I reckoned that I could run the risk of taking longer than the set break to get fed, confident that whatever sample I ended up getting from LTTG would be representative.

I stumped around the block for a bit in an unsuccessful search for a deli sub, and ended up at Asia Wok, picking up an unchallenging entree that I know I could eat on the sidewalk, and ended up getting nearly all of it down before the band started; if I'd gone in directly, I could have caught their set from the start, especially given how things went Sunday.

Led To The Grave [5/7]
I thought initially on coming in that I'd get about half of LTTG's set, but as it turned out I only missed about a song or two, at least based on the length of the performance I heard relative to other sets. That performance, of course, was an energetic and violent outing of replacement-level thrash metal: this was a good, fun, performance, but just about as good as Led To The Grave gets with their current material. They got good crowd reactions, as good thrashing music necessarily does, but the material here is a clear and critical limiting factor. They're allegedly heading out on tour soon, and will likely get good reactions on the road as well, but the band desperately needs to take a strong step forward in the writing department on their next one, if only to keep pace with their live energy.

Elder [5/7]
If we're relating musical styles to kung fu, Elder is the clear successor to the Black Pyramid school, now that that band has decided to hang it up. This was a good strong doom metal performance, but almost completely within that towering shadow to the degree that in several places I wondered if someone'd just dropped Stormbringer on the stereo. Elder did show some signs of getting out and establishing their own sound, in some cool breaks that were far more hippie than anything I've heard from Black Pyramid, but they need to continue to differentiate themselves beyond claiming this vacated territory.

In here, it was time for a break; I unwound my back outside, and eventually got back in to see a hedge of people around the stage, watching the bassist for Oneiric Realm dance in harem pants.

Kate Hale NR
This certainly was an interesting break, and a good demonstration of the actual art of bellydancing as opposed to the popular conception of it, but if you really want to step away from the ero-ero connotations, "St. James Infirmary" is probably not a song you want to put in the rotation. The mix of metal and traditional tunes was also interesting, if occasionally sacrilegious for some of the audience; again, it's hard to consider this as an absolute success, but it certainly drew interest, and like the incredibly diverse lineup and Star Trek movies playing on the TVs, is yet another element setting Bobfest apart from other indoor DIY fests.

Back to music, and what a "return" it was.

Returner [5.5/7]
Because I do zero research on bands before seeing them (part work demands, part laziness, part wanting to form opinions based solely on what they present live), Returner were the surprise of the festival for me. They blasted the audience with a hammering, killer blend of technical Death-styled extreme metal flavored with traditional doom elements to great result, and hopefully the rest of the audience gave them the support they deserved for getting up from Philly. Their sound wasn't quite finished, but the execution as it was was immensely promising, and the more bands like this that we have in the scene, ultimately, the better.

I cut it kind of tight, but did end up getting their last two records before the end of the night. For those looking to steal records first, then legitimize them after, The Black Notes is a pretty accurate picture of Returner's current sound, and is good enough at a low enough price point to just buy off the band directly sight unseen, you goddamn leech.

Deathamphetamine [5.5/7]
As with the other band containing most of these members a couple hours before, this was a killer set, if a little short, and marked by occasional complaints from Scott about exactly which of the Star Trek movies was playing at the time. The banter also included some insights about corporate decision-making vis-a-vis DIY punk songwriting, but the humor of both was given its real edge by the music, still strongly thrash but with the most punk/hardcore content of any of the bands on this day's bill. Most of that music, of course, coming from their more recent work, which is more suited to the current three-piece lineup; unless I was truly out of it and missed it, they didn't respond to the jerk yelling for "...Hand Axe..".

Given the date involved, the band also did a lot of promo for a certain t-shirt design that I'm not sure is suitable to mention on the internets, the home of the most permanently-offended people ever, especially on the subject in question. LOLOLOL FEDERATION DID 9/11 LOLOLOLOL.

Deceased [6/7]
Deceased, 25 or so years in, are nothing if not consistent with expectations, blasting out a killer-cool set of screaming deathy thrash metal of another era. King absolutely throws himself into the material, executing with the same passion as ever, despite the changes to the band surrounding him, and to the constraints he's now subject to (mostly on stamina, which is why they had to go on exactly here, and no later), and getting a suitably turbulent and amped-up response from the crowd. This was an awesome set -- and then they played "The Premonition". Sue me, I'm a sucker for old shit, especially delivered this well.

Predictably, after Deceased, the Pegelstand went down a little -- though what this meant in real terms is that the people the door was keeping outside on a one-in-one-out basis were mostly allowed in. Yep, O'Brien's hit capacity, and for the most part stayed pretty close to it for the remaining two bands.

Soul Remnants [5.5/7]
Soul Remnants are also starting to develop a reputation for critical consistency; again, as on all other previous occasions, they smashed out a set of tuneful yet punchy death metal grounded in the Swedish scene. This kind of consistency does make it hard to identify a given Soul Remnants set as getting to a level beyond where they've been before, but it also implies a professionalism that when they bring out material that kicks on from here, it'll've been drilled on and perfected to the point that it's also a consistent and persistent step up.

Scaphism [6/7]
Tony may have lost some of the crowd with his banter -- probably impenetrable unless you're familiar with ICP's banter or have lived in southeast Michigan for a while and can infer such -- but the actual musical performance in between calling the audience juggalos was as solid and kickass a Scaphism set as anyone's likely to require. With more time in the headlining slot, they had more room for more RAEP material, but with the set rebalanced to make sure that the focus was on the OTT-brutality aspects of the songs rather than sexual assault as the agent of brutality. Malika's vocals got lost for most of "Tower Deflower", a casualty of the room, and probably the sound board not realizing the second mic needed to be on/balanced for this band, but most of the crowd knew the chorus involved and was able to make up for it. All in all, a good performance, a killer close to the fest, and no nerd gang fights broke out, despite closing with "Slowly Digesting..." while there were still Star Trek movies playing.

Day two wound up, I headed back over the bridges to commute home, worn down but well ready to have another go the next day. I'd've preferred for day two to be a Friday rather than Saturday for work-recharge reasons, and to sleep locally rather than commute, but things work differently in this least for now.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Dreaded Silence with Worldecay, Forever's Fallen Grace, and Lore [Ralph's, Worcester, 9/1/2011]

I left a little later for this than planned, mostly due to hurricanes and laziness forcing a delay in the last writeup, but still made good time out -- the sun being completely down as the seasons run ever on and the days grow persistently shorter -- and got up to Ralph's while Lore was still setting up.

Lore [5/7]
Lore came out with a cool, aggressive set driven by some badass "lead bass", but throughout could not shed the niggling impression that this was not actually a metal band playing. Their version of "heavy alternative" might stand in well with the diverse likes of current Cynic, Tool, Sleepytime Gorilla Museum, Ehnahre, or Autumn Above, but the style and relative lack of riffs relative to other elements in the music is the kicker in this largely meaningless classification. Still good, and also still heavy, though, and if they come back on, say, a Boarcorpse bill, they'll fit in better than here leading into three melodic doom bands.

Forever's Fallen Grace [5.5/7]
This was an all-new lineup from FFG relative to the last time, and if it wasn't as ballkickingly crazy, it was also a pretty uniform upgrade in sound and style. Though they're still definitely a doom band, the greater and more structured melodics in that style really hearken back to Arcana XXII, about the last band you'd be expecting to be influential here, provided that you were familiar with doomy Namibian power metal bands in the first place. They closed in style, covering Mercyful Fate, but were complete class all the way through.

Forever's Fallen Grace, in addition to the five playing members, also took a while loading up the stage with styrofoam sculptures, many of which were full of dead plants. The reaction from the Dreaded Silence guys, while FFG was setting all this up, was along these lines: "We can't get upstaged like this. We need someone to find us a shrubbery." I thought briefly about getting up a band to write songs about dinosaurs and encumber the stage with all manner of live, green, plants, but rapidly dismissed the idea as impractical. That would involve practicing, getting at least two other people to buy into the "dino metal" concept, and writing songs that would not-suck to a sufficient degree to get shows. The smarter and more adaptive approach would be to mention this idea to Composted at Bobfest or something and help organize the plants if necessary.

Worldecay [6/7]
Up from Pennsylvania, this combo immediately justified the trip by kicking right into a killer if very short set of classic melodic doom inheriting from Opeth, Katatona, and Daylight Dies, maybe a little bit of Woods or GER for flavor. They did manage to take it in an original direction as well; while they're not completely independent of those influences, the synthesis is definitely original, and promises good things as long as the band can keep it going. The only downer was closing up after five songs; there was probably not a single person in the venue who didn't want them to keep playing, but that's very much all the material they have.

I got a shirt and CD from Worldecay here; I need to follow up and get FFG's record sometime, and Dreaded Silence can wait till their CD release if necessary (their current shirt is cool, but I already have all their recorded material), but I needed to support the touring band, and ended up kind of helping with change in the bargain.

Dreaded Silence [6/7]
The band's recent silence and temporary absence has been to good use; "Ghosts..." apart, this was all new material and all amazing. If Dreaded Silence was from Finland, they'd've never got past Jet Black, Blood Red unsigned, but if the new one is as good on disc as it is live, labels even here will have to pay attention. The music was so new that on one of the songs, Ken needed to go to the "cheat sheet" on his phone for the lyrics, apologizing after the song finished. Of course, the crowd didn't care, one jerk going so far as to yell back "Clip an iPad to the mic stand about it". Music with clean vocals has a lot less room to cover over misremembered lyrics with growls or screams, and the kind of involved, complex texts that you get in this kind of doom are a bigger ask in terms of memorization than lyrics that are more repetitive, so good bands will get cut slack when bringing out new stuff.

On their last song, though, Chris did something that I'm not sure I've ever seen from a local band, which is either telling about the boundaries that metal allows with regard to experimentation, or an even more telling indictment about my inability to pick up time signatures (see also, why I don't play in a band): he counted off in 3 rather than 4 (unless you want to read it as 12/4 in order to be deliberately difficult; yes, it was 4-bar 3/4, but with a 3 feel throughout rather than a triplet 4, and much too slow for that to be realistic), and kept in 3 throughout the song. If your band plays songs in 3, or even 6/8, fire in and give me a smack for not paying attention to other 3-feels, but at least going on the time it felt distinct and different.

For whatever reason, it felt like Dreaded Silence also closed up early, but they closed up regardless, and as the road miles ran on, it was clear that it was about normal; I must just have been less exhausted than normal for whatever reason. Let's hope this also carries forward to Bobfest at the weekend, and I can get the writeups of that turned around a little faster.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Hekseri with Soul Remnants, Cythraul, and Worms In Women and Cattle [PT-109, **REDACTED**, 8/26/2011]

First off, apologies to those who had shows on 8/18; I ended up missing all of them through a combination of exhaustion from coming back and going on call a week early. Seriously, there were like seven shows in greater Boston on this date, which is a continuing argument for the scene here being as good or better than the next contender.

This one, though, I was done the on-call shift and on full power, so after loading up after work with essential supplies, it was down into the city and over the back roads to the location-blacked-out-as-per-prior-diktats. I was early and with improperly-sized bills, which caused Meg no little grief, but I was able to get in and set up, and also hand over to Larissa the Voivod live set that I'd been holding for like a month. I apparently ran into Meg indirectly at Party.San as well, likely in the fugue state of either Belphegor/1349 or Watain, darkness and disorientation being at fault for me (at least) not making a positive ID at the time. Cheers!

As per normal DIY expectations, WIWC took some time setting up, but did get going a little after the designated start.

Worms In Women and Cattle [5/7]
WIWC presented a cool take on third-wave black metal as it's come to be in the States, not burying their indie antecedents but also never allowing them to overwhelm the traditional elements. The result was something resembling a recital, through that proverbial darkened glass, of the first two Burzum records. This was cool, but maybe wore a little by the end, the band though definitely has the passion and commitment, as shown here, to take this forward, and it'll be cool to see how they resolve that great contradiction of third-wave BM, to diversify without destroying themselves.

It was probably in here that I had to go downstairs and hit the head, in the process discovering that the **REDACTED** bathrooms, male and female alike, were completely out of toilet paper of equivalent substitutes, which was a lot worse for the women waiting to potentially raid the men's room for TP than it was for us. If you go to a show here and think you may have to crap at some point, Asian rules (squat or pack your own tissues) are in effect; the alternative involves ripping flyers off the wall and having a very sure hand with a faucet.

Cythraul [5.5/7]
This was allegedly Cythraul's last show, and a hell of a way to go out. The sound was a little rough at the start, as might be expected from a five-piece with a lot of clean parts at a DIY space, but this got resolved and the band powered on. Driven principally by the Norwegian second wave with touches of Candlemass and funeral doom (at least as my poor not-listening-to-very-much-doom-at-all ears could pick out), this was a sound that we don't get a lot in this area, which makes it more of a shame if Steve's really decided to fold the tents. The lineup apart from him was completely changed up, at least as I can remember, from the last time I saw this band (admittedly aeons ago), but they did get in a partial point of continuity by bringing up a hooded, robed, and very drunk Cody for assistant vocals on some Mayhem and VON tunes towards the end of the set. Stellar outing, lots of smoke, lots of wreckage -- along every possible axis -- you could ask for little more in closing up a good band at an elite DIY space.

I spoke briefly with Cody after, inside and partially outside, and in the course of such he promised some new Bone Ritual material sometime in the short-term future. I might have gotten a deadline on that at the time, but due to front-loading my beer consumption for homebound-roadblock-related reasons, I don't remember if or when.

Soul Remnants [5.5/7]
Changing gears to death metal, Soul Remnants put up a cool, punchy, and macro-structurally melodic set about par for the course over the couple times I've seen them. Movement in the crowd accelerated a little here, though not up to the levels seen during Hekseri. For those who expected some kind of friction, or that a mostly black-metal audience wouldn't also get into it for good Carcass/ATG-influenced death metal, you need to actually go to shows once in a while, rather than getting your information from books about 20-year-old events in other countries.

As kind of expected, I got pumped for a lot of information on the Euro fests by various people over the course of the night. I answered as best I could, but somehow missed out on the critical summation of Party.San: just like this, but expanded by two orders of magnitude. Whether a DIY space with a 60:40 ratio, no pressure, and moderately-famous dudes like Dave Davidson and Colin Conway just walking in and hanging out like anyone else (ok, so Colin was also playing, but the point stands) is a smaller Party.San, or whether Party.San with every beer held in community trust, as much jury-rigging as official construction, and a community that takes absolutely everyone in is the world's biggest DIY space hangs only on what you're more familiar with.

Hekseri [6/7]
Für den Bodhrann-öffnung is gläubig Odroerir oda so schuld. Daran gewöhnt man sich nur in Deutschland. Though some people didn't get or appreciate said bit (some of the jokes cracked over it were funny, though), the band quickly got the audience back into it with a vicious performance of desperate witching black metal. Hekseri, at least on this outing, is not merely back in 2011, but somewhat better than they were the last time that they were active, before Megan hied off to Germany. The audience was super up for it as well, with room-spanning pits that had a habit of wiping out the mic stands, several of which were improvised anyway, but the band kept going at the heart of the chaos. Only for seven songs, if I read the setlist right, but it was a killer seven songs, and I'm pretty sure no one went home unsatisfied.

Eventually, though, that "went home" bit did have to happen; leaving my last vessel in community trust, I hiked back to my car and went back to my own country by a different route. There were a lot more people at this one than for Ash Borer; if PT-109 continues to gain in popularity, its days are surely numbered. Thus the paradox of DIY spaces (and, really, life): anything good will be gone sooner or later, so enjoy it while it lasts, and hasten its doom.