Friday, November 18, 2011

Joe Stump with Benedictum and DesDemon [Ralph's, Worcester, 11/17/2011]

Since I was not paying attention as usual, I didn't know that this was a late start -- just figuring that the two touring bands would get slightly longer sets -- so I started out earlier than strictly necessary, but no later than I could really stand sitting around twiddling my thumbs. As I left the sub shop to head for the highway, the precipitation was coming down at weird angles; the air's getting colder, and the time when slick roads and excessive frozen water deposits tempt me to wuss out on excellent shows is coming back around. The slushy rain continued almost all the way out, but didn't stick, and the roads didn't freeze when I eventually came back, and the quality of the bands and performances involved demonstrated the other side of the argument: I'm still good enough, and my car is still good enough, to pretty reliably not get killed in these early mornings, and missing shows will lead to regrets.

In at Ralph's about normal doors, so with about an hour to kill, I sat around, browsed the merch tables, drank more beer than initially anticipated, and did a bonus shot with Yosh, Chris, one of the other bartenders, and the sound guy for being one of the few "regulars" in the building at the time; this show pulled in a lot of people who don't normally go to local shows, and the barkeeps were getting anxious over potential stress and non-acculturated tipping behavior. This also led to some examination of, but nobody actually doing, Cocaine....because said barely-nonpoisonous "energy drink" is no longer produced, and the single can by the bar remains for reasons of historical interest and lulz only. (And, also, the obvious reason that even if it was being actively produced, the thing contains the liquid-meth-emulator potency of about four cans of Red Bull in an equivalent delivery vector, and nobody was at that point either looking to have a heart attack or drunk enough to think that doing this kind of drugs was a good idea.)

DesDemon [5/7]
I hadn't heard of this band, so it was somewhat surprising to see such a high level of production value on their CD packaging....until I saw that it was in Japanese. To be fair, the market for this kind of music is absolutely huge in east Asia: in Korea, Helloween deep cuts just randomly come up on the jukebox, Morifade records are in print ten years on, and Dark Moor gets featured placing in HMV and extensive biographical inserts in the CDs. The band brought that high level to their live performance as well; if they resemble nothing so much as 2002- or 2003-vintage Nightwish, it is humbly offered that this is about the optimum period of Nightwish to clone. They had some sound level issues at the start, particularly with getting Chelsea's mic all the way on and responding to her vocals, and as kind of implied, they didn't really assert an identifiably original sound, but this is a sound that Nightwish isn't exactly using any more, and the execution was pretty kickass. Being from NYC, they'll probably be back up sooner or later, with the response they got, and they'll be worth seeing then as well.

During DesDemon's second or third song, one of my co-workers made a surprise appearance; he'd shown a little interest in the show earlier in the day, and apparently after dinner and a couple Ketel+krans, he decided to head over. Good dude, and he was genuinely into both the music and the scene, but if you were weirded out by the dude in chinos and the button-down shirt going bananas in the first row, yeah, mir schuld.

Benedictum [6/7]
I had wanted to see this band at Wacken a couple years ago (either '07 or '08) and had not been able to, a victim of the scheduling; the two or three songs that made it onto the DVD were straight-up killer, though, so I was well amped to see them. They certainly didn't disappoint, with a high-energy set of technical melodic metal that took things back in more of a thrashier direction. Veronica's vocal attack really suggests early Anthrax for some reason; whether you see the comparable as Neal Turbin doing Spreading... or Joey doing Fistfull..., it's hard to miss, and also indisputable that Benedictum's definitely pushing off in their own direction from that base. Veronica's plenty hot, but sticks to a classical Classen-following metal style rather than crooning, and Pete has some serious chops, but never lets shred become an end over a means in the song structure; Benedictum may not be the most fashionable or best finished metal band around, but they are a damn good one, and this was a killer set. The band appeared to enjoy the nearly packed house and enthusiastic crowd as much as us on the floor dug the band, and a smashing good time was had by all.

I almost picked up Benedictum's first record here as well, but didn't get the opportunity; just the two most current, then. Even as the CD heads towards the dustbin of history, it remains a more attractive proposition than a $20 t-shirt, at least as long as I have to spend a minimum of 90 minutes a day in a steel box not having a coronary at the idiocy of other drivers. Good metal releases rage at shows and bleeds it off on the stereo.

Joe Stump [6/7]
As before, a Joe Stump set follows some time-honored parameters: Jay and Hector lay down some rhythm structures ranging from the basic to the moderately complex, and Joe flips out and flies around wailing on guitar, because he is a mammal and shit, snakeskin on his feet to the contrary. Joe's act is to all intents and purposes nothing but shred, but it's to his and his sidemen's credit that he can make those shred virtues work over a full-set runtime. Those without a significant interest in guitar virtuosity might get more bored with this set faster, but this is heavy metal, and there is always going to be a place for sheer unadulterated guitar wizardry, and as it goes, Joe has it nailed, without any pretense of doing anything but shredding the fuck out. It worked, the audience who remained (down somewhat, but not a whole lot, from the peak at Benedictum) dug the fuck out of it, and it provided a class capstone to the night.

Joe eventually closed up just short of 2 AM, and the bar staff wasted no time shooing us the fuck out the venue. I ended up, through various circumstances, at a diner under 290 with Chris, 40% of Avariel, and also about half the other "regulars" that ended up being in attendance. A good time for sure, but as a result I didn't hit the road back till 3 nor, consequently, get to sleep until 4:30, resulting in a caffeine-undermined two-hour nap before heading in to work. And yet metal, still, is worth it: only by stepping away is there ever anything to regret.

If traffic is not awful and I'm not dead from the holiday, I may make it back out for Scaphism here the day after Thanksgiving, but otherwise it's looking a lot like nothing till after I get back from my turn around the old Hapsburg haunts. Bi'sp├Ątz, leutz.

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