Monday, January 23, 2012

Fires of Old with Katahdin, Mythology, and Crypter [Ralph's, Worcester, 1/5/2012]

I got moving out about normal, with a minor delay to gawk at the Bruins kicking the crap out of Calgary in Barca-vs-pub-teams-in-the-cup fashion; it was 5-0 when I left the sub shop at the start of the second period, and 9-0 by the time I got out to Ralph's. The run this team was on, frustrating losses to Vancouver aside, has been just mindblowing.

Beer in, it wasn't too long before the bands started up.

Crypter [4.5/7]
I hadn't seen this band before, though they've been playing out a lot recently, and was concerned that they might be just another thrash-revival band. This fortunately was not the case: Crypter does have a strong revivalist streak, but the world could use more young bands who are thoroughly convinced that Scream Bloody Gore is the best record in the history of ever. The ideas are on the right track, even if the writing and arrangements aren't fully matured yet, and the turn-of-the-century Immortal tone that cut through on their more developed leads made for a nice contrast with the faster and rawer parts. On the evidence of this set, Crypter doesn't quite have it all together yet, but they are frustratingly close, and are going to be damn good when they get themselves shaken out.

There was a bit of longer downtime here while Mythology set up their gear and figured out how to hang their banner off the hardpoints on the Erol Otus-inspired monster backdrop that's become a Metal Thursday regular of late, and I scored some beef jerky and a can of expired, non-reliably nonpoisonous energy drink off Yosh, as did several other people. The beef jerky part, at least; Yosh's jerky is pure class, and most people are too smart to take the free cans of Cocaine.

Mythology [5.5/7]
I'd missed seeing Mythology a couple times here, and was glad to finally be able to not miss a show they were on for stupid reasons. Despite a bit of ring rust, they set out a killer set of Norwegian-inspired black metal with a few Germanic touches, done at a level that wouldn't be greatly out of place from the actual Norwegian second tier (see Keep of Kalessin, Den Saakaldte, etc). The band's currently gearing up to be more active again, which is a good sign not just for more people seeing Mythology, but for how they see them: the slack parts in the set were about 70% down to the band resynching with each other rather than inherent to the music. Good signs.

This is wicked late, but part of the delay is kind of on this band; it took some disciplined recall to work out what their set really was after a solid week of spinning their Impaler record. Why? Look, go listen to "Rebuilding Poenari" and tell me you wouldn't have this stuck in your stereo a week straight.

The whole disc is not quite this good, but it's a lot better than skeptics would expect of a concept album about Dracula by an unsigned black metal band. Definite support.

Katahdin [6/7]
More than the openers who I hadn't heard yet, I'd come out for the last two, and they certainly didn't disappoint. Pure slashing fire, third wave without a hint of hipsterism, and as good a set as I've seen from them so far. They had some major technical difficulties with Kyle blowing a cable or something, but Eric was able to hold down the melodic fort alone, and the set barely took a dip. Straight killer.

In here I did merch, picking up Mythology's Tepes and Impaler records despite the duplication (the first is the demo version of the latter), and not only the new split but also Katahdin's first LP. All of this is highly approved; The Black Hours is about the most diverse BM split you'll hear, and a solid package in the tradition of Black Death.

Fires of Old's mic stand is now almost completely unhandleable, a jagged upright pile of spikes and barbed wire.

Fires of Old [6.5/7]
Maybe it was the slot allowing more time and thus more old stuff, but this set was a lot rawer than I've seen from these guys lately; the ripping Satyriconesque stuff "of old", though still allowing room for the more expansive Primordialisms of "V" and "Majestic Death". Both sides complemented each other, and the result was another completely killer outing that no amount of wannabe critical detachment could keep off that mark. Still excellent, and the sooner they get some recordings done/available again the better.

From there it was back home, with subsequent shows missed to work, on-call, and work drinking; this is done at last, and next was supposed to be Untombed before the football stress and beer consumption made driving in a nonstarter; fortunately, there's no game next weekend and no shortage of tasty shows coming.

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Scaphism with Coffin Birth, Vaporizer, and Xatatax [Ralph's, Worcester, 12/29/2011]

Despite a somewhat late start and traffic starting to pick back up again, I got out in good order, only most of the way through Woods II; this of course being in response to David Gold's passing, as would be a persistent and somber theme on the night. We will not hear these works live again here -- and if we'd thought the same a month ago, it was with the hopeful prospect of grooving on Woods V and scorning hipsters at the Middle East and larger venues further down the line. So it goes.

It was not all, of course, authentic despair, and presently the bands got rolling.

Xatatax [4/7]
I hadn't seen these guys before, but had heard decent things about them, and was interested to see how this was going to shake out. The basic impression was one of a 21st-century, post-underground answer to the Kinks or Blue Cheer, making up for their shortcomings in composition and technicality through loudness. As the set went on, they picked up a little, bringing stronger elements of black metal and hardcore into their fairly basic doom mix, but at this point the band still sounds a little underfinished. They're a young band, and there's no reason that they won't be able to develop the interesting parts of their sound further, but they're not quite there yet. This was a decent opener on a strong bill; it'll be interesting to see how they do next time out.

Vaporizer [6.5/7]
If this band template-cut their sound to Heaven Shall Burn's and wedged doom in where all the NWOSDM parts are in the original, they could not get closer. This isn't a bad thing by any means, though, just self-satisfied back-patting about a comparison that I happened to get right eighteen months ago. In the interim, the band has if anything solidified, further refining their doom-riffs-with-metalcore-delivery style to weapons grade. This outing may not have been as mindblowing as that first time, before my expectations were set, but it definitely felt more precise and replicable: Vaporizer is going to be this good, pretty reliably, whenever you see them, and if it wasn't for the unorthodox way that they approach doom metal, more people would be talking them up as the successor to Black Pyramid's vacated title belt. They're not, really, though; this is a band that stands on its own and should be appreciated for their own significant merits by a lot more people.

I'm not going to put a mark down on Matt's acoustic tribute to Dave and Woods in here; he didn't cover all the riffs or hit exactly the right cadences in the lyrics, but it was a good and valid tribute, scared up in the space of less than a week, from flat nothing, and one that I think Dave would probably have enjoyed and respected. If there's anything you get from Woods, it's the importance of taking things that other people have defined, refusing to be defined by them, and putting your own interpretation down. This was not Woods as Woods has been here before, but it wasn't intended to be: this was Matt Smith and a guitar taking a break to remember and let others remember.

The slack on "flat nothing", also, is mandatory, because Woods was one of those bands that everyone listened to but no one would dream of covering. For all Dave's impressive compositional abilities putting songs together, and his knack for memorable riffs and a biting, artful, turn of phrase, what really drew and will draw metalheads to Woods of Ypres was his gargantuan personal courage as a lyricist, the ability to strip-mine the most intimate highs and lows of his life and set that trauma to music. Who among us has not wrestled with shedding their own "Deadwood", and who has not bounced along the bottom of a "December in Windsor"? This identification gave a lot of people what they felt was a real personal connection to Woods and the man behind the texts, even if they didn't know him personally all that well, or at all, but the respect for that connection, and the respect people had for David in baring his soul that way, meant that nobody had ever sat down and tried to play any of his stuff for themselves past, maybe if that, "A Meeting Place And Time" off Woods I. There's something almost sacrilegious about putting your own interpretation on someone else's personal history; "...Mount Pleasant..." is abstract and well-known, and "You Are Here With Me" is short and nonspecific, making them approachable for a tribute like this. There's no way someone's going to sit down and try to interpret "The Ghosts of Summers Past" or "Into Exile", and that fact is what makes the loss so significant. Other bands will get tributes, and see covers worked into their fans' sets after they cease to be; Woods' material, the band ceasing to be, is in large part never going to be played live again. What we experienced, finally, on those three dates as they got some actual label support and were able to tour across English-speaking North America, has been foreclosed upon for future metalheads with a definite and sobering finality.

Coffin Birth [6/7]
I'm not sure about stabilized, but the Coffin Birth lineup has definitely solidified, for the time being with the additions of solid technicians Dana and Ari alongside Anthony. The result was a finely tuned, professionally processed-out set of blackened death metal, rolling forward with a firm and singular commitment and purpose, and not really getting blown back by the fan that various people in the front row lifted off the stage to blow air on Anthony from different angles with. Getting used to such stage gimmicks may happen with Belphegor, but what's much more relevant is that the band as they are is fully and completely beyond them. Eventually, they're going to get something recorded, and the world beyond New England is going to get a glimpse of the new-forged steel here.

Scaphism [6/7]
Back on home ground, Scaphism kicked out another solid set of straight-ahead brutal death metal, along with the usual banter bits; Tony alternately doing a best-of Pete Steele's crowd-heckling Type O lines and ripping on the audience for cheering for rape over stuff like chainsaws, Star Wars, and H.P. Lovecraft. The headlining set and no "Tower Deflower" left room in the set for the full Rape Trilogy ("Chainsodomy" -> "Raped Till Death" -> "Violating The Dead"), though not, if I recall correctly, all exactly one after the other. Truth told, though, the Metal Thursday audience is not a bunch of deranged perverts (ok, that may be a little far, "not a bunch of actual real-life rapists" is more strictly accurate), and the best crowd response was probably for "Pathogenic Bacteria", mostly because it came out fucking immense in this performance. As has been noted before, Scaphism is nothing if not consistent, and that consistency in producing high-level performances is going to get them noticed further afied sooner or later...and if they keep getting occasional out-of-region deathfest slots, it'll come sooner.

The bands having finished up, I headed out; I was technically on call and worn down from an early start to the day, but managed to get back home in one piece, and finish this shortly before heading out to see Fires of Old. Life rolls on, and sooner or later I will get better at documenting the relevant parts faster.