Friday, May 04, 2012
Graveheart with Sauriel, Obsidian Tongue, and Weregild [Ralph's, Worcester, 5/3/2012]
Though the (six-six-)sixth anniversary of Metal Thursday was a little less flashy than the fifth (not to mention contained in one night rather than spread over two), it was still, as usual, a pretty kickass bill on offer, and with two bands releasing fairly anticipated CDs. (Graveheart's record is, so far, only out digitally; the prediction referenced last time is still on for an eventual physical release.) So it was out across the hills and through the rain, under the light of towns and strip malls bouncing back off the blanketing clouds, jamming Sagas again, because for some reason the wet New England spring calls out for this music. Also, under the prevailing traffic conditions, the disc will play through exactly once during the ride from Burlington out to the Ralph's parking lot, which is convenient. I got in, as expected, a little early, and after establishing that there probably weren't going to be any Weregild shirts on offer, I sat about and cooled my heels waiting for the bands to start.
Cape Cod's finest locally-sourced low-fat Amon Amarth substitute have taken their game up a notch since last time, both in design and in execution, despite the fact that they had Kyle from Sentinel covering the second guitar on short notice. There were a few desyncs that probably came down to that, but for the most part, the band was dead-on, and if they didn't ever get the floor motion they were looking for, even on the final breakdown in "Journey Through Muspellheim", they did get a lot of headbanging and a good strong reaction from a crowd that had not yet begun to drink. Weregild remains, and likely will continue to remain, so obvious an Amon Amarth clone that their ceiling in terms of exposure is pretty low, but the excellent execution involved here -- to get to the point where you can actually clone Amon Amarth live in the first place -- also guarantees the band a fairly high floor. This isn't a band that's going to take over the world, but they're likely going to continue to improve local bills around the area for a while yet.
Weregild (permanent members and loanee) concentrating wicked hard. This is the final and most vital part of cloning Amon Amarth as an original band. First, you have to write Amon Amarth riffs, which with the body of work they have, is an easily-referenced task. Then you need to tweak your instrumental and vocal tone to match; with experience, the right gear, and some trial and error, this is also eminently doable. Then comes the hard part: ceaseless precision. It's not immediately obvious, but a lot of Amon Amarth's separation from other bands, and how they got to the top of the game, is that they are incredibly precise about staying locked in and keeping all of the guitars exactly on top of each other. This is, of course, wicked hard to do, especially in a small club where most of the sound is coming out of the cabs rather than the PA and the monitors can be intermittent, but it's also expected if you're going to try to sound like Amon Amarth. Weregild's commitment to precision, even as here at the expense of looking at the audience rather than their own hands, is what keeps them on the right side of the enormous gulf between "cool Amon Amarth clone" and "failbad Amon Amarth ripoff".
Obsidian Tongue [6/7]
In the past, I've had concerns about how far Obsidian Tongue would be able to take what they're doing as a guitar-and-drums duo. Six months on and with a full-length album under their belts, those concerns have been convincingly laid to rest via a fully-developed and significantly diverse set of third-wave black metal. Neither excessively hipster nor necro for its own sake, OT manage to convincingly balance their atmospheric and raw elements as well as keep the music vital despite the reduced instrumentation. They dropped in a couple keyboard passages for effect, and since this was a local show, were able to bring Christina up out of the audience to do her parts on "Distant, Residual", but for the most part, this set was guitar, drums, and two throats, and of this proved to be entirely sufficient.
Brendan contemplating the infinite.
Naturally, in this break, I picked up OT's new record and also a shirt, and continued to weigh the options on Sauriel's stuff. They didn't have the full packaged CD yet, so they were giving away burns in half-height cases with the insert, and though I was not crazy about having to take home another shirt (I purged like 30 a couple months ago, and the stacks have built right the fuck back up again) in order to give the band money, I remain reluctant to take CDs with actual production value on them without paying. Had I known that these were MP3CDs instead of something with uncompressed audio on them, maybe I'd've been less reluctant, but things worked out the way they eventually worked out.
I hadn't seen Sauriel since they were putting out their demo seventeen months ago; in the intervening, they've gotten a little more deathy and a little more vital, but are on the cusp of another member change, on this gig bringing in a new drummer and saying farewell to a guitarist. (The incipient sound changes are still undefined of course, but more significant of the fact is that Rob didn't really deserve to have his last show with Sauriel be the one where he lost his balance and fell over backwards into his amp 30 seconds into the first song. Still happened.) On this sample, playing the new Akasha record pretty much straight down in order, they showed a sound more inspired by the likes of Behemoth and Belphegor in its mix of death into black metal, but independent of those influences even if they stayed within that generally mainstream ouevre. It's decent, to be sure, but given the members' previous history, there's more that they can -- and should, in the future, be able to -- do to distinguish themselves.
Sauriel gets Chris (Smite The Righteous, ex-The Accursed) up to draw some "Ritualistic Circles". Seeing this band is in a way pretty bittersweet; everyone involved is/was in fairly major NWOSDM-driven bands back when "Gothenchusetts" was a thing, and now, they're playing NEMHF-mainstage black metal and having internet bampots question the continued relevance of their sound. Acaro notwithstanding, the tide on that part of the scene has well and truly set.
In the present, though, I still did get Sauriel's new CD, picked up a bunch of stickers to take over, and ended up via the pay-the-band impulse with a shirt that I can wear but won't; it's on the pile with the Herugrim one for export. These things work out, but pack space is, thanks to having to take shirts again, getting more limited faster than anticipated. If you want CDs exported, take action quick.
This set started a little slow, but got cranked up as the band got going, building to a frantic and hammering climax as the floor finally, finally got moving, partly due to "civilian" "tourists" and partly due to Chris and Samantha passing out gratis whiskey shots. (Those who dodged the cover weren't supposed to partake, but there were enough of us stalwarts not partaking due to an impending hour-plus drive through the depredations of the state police that it probably came out in the wash.) Alcohol and metal girls flipping out, in addition to the band's Metallica-Slayer-Sepultura-based deathed-up thrash hitting into a couple of their better tunes right at that point, got things proper violent, and if the "tourists" started out taking the piss, it was pretty clear that at least for a moment, they were into it for real by the end. Graveheart's mix of the accessible and the extreme tends to work that way, and the band delivered a really killer second half after a good first half, and ended the night on a definite high note. We're still waiting for a physical release of Return of the Curse of the Creature's Ghost -- though you can download it, and as a wag noted last night, you can't download alcohol -- but when that does arrive, it'll be a releaseshow and a half.
Graveheart chugging away (trololololol) on "Drinking From A Horn".
After it was clear no encore was on offer, I beat feet for the exits and got home shortly after 2, with a minimal exhaustion load, and accordingly got this turned around quicklike. I go on call tonight, but if everything goes right, I may make it to Sabaton and/or Black Pyramid before the shift finishes. We'll see.