The last show before yet another on-call stand that was going to endanger the schedule, this was also a strong bill in and of itself; the chance to see Hessian again does not go missed lightly. I was a little late getting out of work, but managed to get through the roadworks without much difficulty and in to Ralph's about as Triforium Dawn was finishing setting up. Some days you cut it close, some days you twiddle your thumbs for half an hour. This turned out to be one of the former, probably due to the need to keep things rolling for the headliners, down from Maine on a one-off.
Triforium Dawn [5/7]
I hadn't seen this band before, and if nothing else they were immensely interesting, doing what at times seemed to be a fusion of Final Chapter-era Hypocrisy's rhythm section with Dickinsonian vocals. The concept behind this band, though, is a little better than the execution at this point, as showed clearly in their cover of Emperor's "I Am The Black Wizards"; the abundance of guitar mistakes in the faster first half of the song and their almost complete absence in the second half is a really clear indicator that the weird fit in a lot of places in their originals is down to the guitar parts having an effective speed limit, beyond which the guitarist/vocalist can't play with predictable accuracy. The best performance, musically and vocally, though, came when he put down the axe and was able to concentrate on vocals, with the bass filling in both melody and harmony; this band used to be a four-piece (established by later research), and would probably benefit from getting back to that configuration, at least on the evidence offered here. This was still a good set, and showed off some incredible bass skills, but this band has the immediate potential to become much better.
In here, I went back to get another beer, and the barman had it to hand before I even got belly-up. I remain as ever embarrassingly predictable in my ongoing dedication to being cheap.
Skull Hammer [5.5/7]
Skull Hammer's slightly changed their lineup up since the last time I saw them, bringing in Matt from Seax on the four strings. This, though, didn't make as much of a difference as going from the Champions' PA to the much better Ralph's system; unlike the bands before and after them, Skull Hammer didn't have any problems with the vocals (or anything else) cutting in and out, letting them blast out a quality thrash battering. Nobody's going to accuse this band of doing anything particularly new or groundbreaking any time soon, but their execution isn't to be questioned; there's always going to be an audience at the DIY level for well-delivered straight-ahead thrash metal, and as long as Skull Hammer can keep executing, they're going to continue to satisfy that audience.
About here I did my merch for the night: a couple buttons off Skull Hammer due to already having both of their records, and another shirt from Hessian, which is a little more general-use-friendly than the last one, which I can wear out pretty much only in northern Europe, where standards of how much vagina you can show on a t-shirt are a little looser. Still a cool design, still will probably make it over to next year's Party.San.
Black Trip [5/7]
Most of this set was done instrumental, because the PA was not working; this cut off the vocals almost entirely, but since this was a DIY show, there was still plenty of sound coming out of the cabs and off the drumkit regardless of the micing. Ralph's has had equipment problems in the past, but in retrospect this one is probably down mostly to the band overloading the system: while the PA cut in and out intermittently, it was fine for Skull Hammer and also fine for Hessian. Regardless, the band still executed decently, doing, as previously mentioned, endZone with some tweaks for localization, and Ben continues to establish himself as one of the better and more underrated lead guitarists in eastern New England. I'm not 100% sure that this set would have been notably better with vocals in, but their absence was a definite distraction, and if they're turning up to an extent that habitually overloads the venue's circuits, this is something the band has to work on, if only from the logistics standpoint.
This was a little more developed of a Hessian set than last time, a little longer, with a few more covers, and some more new originals, but pretty much of a measure. The band's taken it up a notch, but the previous level was pretty damn high, and in some ways there's only so much that you can tinker with this sort of first-principles heavy metal before it mutates into something else entirely. Hessian are continuing to fully explore that space, though, and the next record, at least on the evidence that we got here, will at least be a worthy successor to Old, Wild, and Free. Hopefully, we'll see them down again sometime before that point; they got a strong response here as in Boston, and probably made a few converts who hadn't seen them here back in July. They played right up until the limits, taking an encore or two when offered by the soundboard, but eventually did have to close up; one of the perils of playing licensed establishments.
The bands having closed up, I beat feet back to the east, getting back in time to take a quick nap before work, then have my weekend hogged by production tickets, which meant neither Mayhem nor The Binary Code. No good; hopefully nothing catches on fire tonight before the end of Cynic. Work has to come first, but that doesn't mean I enjoy walking out on good bands.