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.

No comments: