Thursday, June 28, 2012

Machinage with Sonic Pulse, Endless Decay, and Red Blade [Ralph's, Worcester, 6/21/2012]

In the morning, it was already nuclear-blast-furnace hot, but I picked up my normal rig rather than the sleeveless one as I headed out the door regardless.  The festival trip is approaching, and this too is training, because on the plains of Germany, there's no AC and there's nowhere to hide.  After finishing the fucked-up sub that I did not give the place adequate grief for, I threaded my way out through the normal summertime net of lane closures and idiots with no idea of where they were going, and despite the obstructions and late start, managed to get up to Ralph's and in just as Red Blade was getting started.

Red Blade [5/7]
I initially didn't recognize this band from last year; they've improved significantly in the interim as well as, I think, changed their lineup a little.  There's less of the 'radio' about them, and more of an anti-cult-cult early-'90s sound reminiscent of a saner Scatterbrain (or, ok, a less hxc-driven Ludichrist) in its balance of punk, thrash, and rock elements.  Some of the music isn't the most developed, and the set started to drag a little at the end, but on the whole this was a cool set from a decent, still-improving band in a terminally underfilled niche.  Good stuff.

Red Blade rocking out.

Sonic Pulse's band-branded Mortal Kombat cabinet.  Later, there was an offer from the band of a free CD (a $10 value) to anyone who could beat them at the game.  Some audience members would win a round occasionally, but for the most part, Dan and Dave were completely owning dudes' faces off, as entirely expected.

Endless Decay [5/7]
Coming off the Cape and being fitted out with several Led To The Grave members, Endless Decay didn't really sound anything like LTTG at all, working a sound instead reminiscent of The Haunted, Corporation 187, and Carnal Forge from back in the days when we (ok, just me actually) thought the New Swedish Wave of Thrash Metal might be a thing.  The result was a good, solid, set of death-tinged, hardcore-inspired thrash metal in a style that's not seen a lot around here.  This isn't Chris' main band, but it's still going to be cool to see how they develop from here, and when they get something recorded -- only shirts on this gig -- that's definitely going to be worth a look.

Shirtless Decay battles the ceaseless and suffocating heat of the upstairs.

Sonic Pulse [5.5/7]
In the process of finishing and putting out their album, Sonic Pulse have improved over that last almost-set, but the generally splashy, head-on feel remains.  Their material's a lot more technical with the full band, but at this point they are not quite at the level of their icons in Gamma Ray or Tankard: writing-wise, they're a lot more reminiscent of early Metal Inquisitor, who would in truth not be a bad model to follow for developing this kind of power-thrash fusion.  They got a strong response from probably the largest crowd of the night, despite a shorter set -- this is where the members' extensive experience comes in, keeping the set restricted to exactly just the material they're ready to slay with.

Whether this is more speed or more power metal is largely in the "Eye of the Beerholder".

There is a fine line between criticism and shittalking, and I try to stay on the right side of it by not making personal criticisms of musicians.  This being said, though, Dan and Carmine, no matter who is on stage and who is in the audience, need to stop trading "puns" right now.  Seriously.  These have been uniformly among the worst "jokes" in the history of the universe, tortured to an extent that would make Alberto Gonzales and John Yoo call the Hague crying.  The levels of stupidity involved are customer-ticket-grade, and I get enough of that at work as it is, thanks.

Machinage [6/7]
Ever since 1985, it has been the lazy person's get-out to compare any Brazilian band, from Abrasion to Krisiun, to Sepultura.  Machinage should act as a good test case for filtering out idiots in this regard; while thay did have some Sep parts -- and did cover "War For Territory" to great effect -- these weren't more pronounced than the Pantera elements in a set that drew its thrash influences most prominently from Megadeth and Kreator in about that order.  Despite some problems with Fabio's vocals -- he was losing his voice, so tip the band so they can get some cough syrup as well as food -- they thoroughly justified the long trek with a high-class thrash set that improved as it went on and got the crowd thrashing like mad despite the boiling heat.  The Wall of Death that Ricardo tried to set up on the dropped-in break from "Walk" wasn't entirely successful, but this was more down to a lack of absolute numbers than anything else -- an on balance, it was probably the only part of the set that didn't thoroughly meet its success criteria.

Machinage set it off, as the Rev's flash goes off for some actual adequate lighting.

After picking up a Sonic Pulse CD to replace the one I'd mistakenly been comped (I know Aaron and I are both bearded dudes who work in IT, but that's where the similarity ends; I have about 100 pounds of excess meat and an armored jacket, and he has a camera), it was time to hit the road, getting back in decent order to quick-cycle for the next show the next night.  This too is training.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Scaphism with Blood of the Gods and I Am The Trireme [O'Brien's, Allston, 6/14/2012]

I was still on call for this one, but I geared up carefully and went off hiking in regardless, since 1) I was hoping to pick up some CDs off Alex (Scaphism) for export, and 2) it's very rare that shit will blow up on a Thursday night anyway.  The first ended up not panning out, but I got a decent show out of it, and zero phone calls.  Despite a late start, I rolled up somewhat before doors, and checked in, back-and-forth, between the start of the NBA finals and the middle of Star Wars while putting down my first beer and waiting for the bands to go on.

I Am The Trireme [5/7]
IATT delivered a pretty decent set here, making up for their cancellation at Bobfest, but the evidence for that is unfortunately pretty thin on the ground.  For most if not all of their performance, which was almost entirely pulled from their Pray for Damnation EP, I was, as far as I could tell, the only paying audience member in the building, unless O'Brien's is really aggressive about getting covers out of the girlfriends of band members.  This was a shame, because while the band's melodic, evolved take on black metal, hearkening back to Century Media's window into the genre circa 1997, isn't exactly huge in Boston, they delivered some good music in a high-production-value presentation reminiscent of Hessian's similar outing here, for a total effect that those there -- mostly myself, Blood of the Gods and +1s, and the venue staff -- certainly dug, and those who weren't there due to being broke after WDF would probably have dug it as well.  They had a couple flubs, but in the main the execution was good despite the empty room, and if/when they come back, it'll hopefully be on a gig with an actual turnout.

I picked up a CD from them later because I support bands; I picked up a shirt off them because $7 is wicked cheap for what was effectively a private show.  If the band members happen across this, apologies; people do generally go to shows in Boston, it's just that Six Feet Under sucked all the oxygen and disposable income out of the room the weekend before.  (This may have been exacerbated by the fact that both of the remaining bands on this bill also actually played on that fest.)

Blood of the Gods [5.5/7]
As a seeming case in point, Blood of the Gods put up a still good but less diverse set than they had on Sunday; the sound was a little denser, but their performance didn't have quite the same degree of energy in it, and they seemed a little constrained by the set times.  If I recall correctly, they got five songs; five long, meaty, content-full songs, but five songs regardless, and the lower absolute numbers available may have restricted the band's range a little.  Still, this was a good, solid, set, and as the band continues to develop and improve, they'll see more of the headlining slots needed to show off the range as well as the strength of their music.

The latency between BotG and Scaphism was not quite enough to 'change reels'.  The night had started, as mentioned, with Star Wars on the TV over the bar, and we were now just getting into the second act of Empire.  This would ultimately prove insufficient to get to the end of the Tatooine arc in Jedi in time for Scaphism to do "Slowly Digesting...", which was a shame....for nerds who exclusively dig synchronicity and pop-culture references as opposed to death metal.

Scaphism [5.5/7]
Scaphism also was a little down from the weekend, some of which may have been the by-now-suffocating heat inside, especially on stage, and some of which was probably the accumulation of nicks and knocks, the most prominent being a taped-up finger on Tom's picking hand.  Regardless, the band soldiered on and put out a strong and well-finished set that included some of their obligates ("Chainsodomy" and "Slowly Digesting...", mainly), but also showed off a couple tunes off FHR that they didn't play on Sunday and haven't been playing generally.  This really shows off how solid the record is -- to a first approximation, pretty much everything on Festering Human Remains is 100% killer -- and also shows that Scaphism isn't content to just stick with the stuff that they know they'll get a good response with, but believes in the rest of their material as well, and has the chops to execute all of it, even under suboptimal conditions.  The high temperatures and low general-admittance numbers may have sapped some energy and given this more of a practice-space feel, but on balance, this was a good conclusion to a cool show.

Things being concluded, and Alex unsurprisingly having had more important things to do over the week than finish burning the run of demos he's intending to send across, I beat feet over the bridges, and despite getting back at a decent hour, the weekend was chewed all to pieces with Euros, family stuff, and the monstrous task of finishing the WDF writeup.  Hence two further shows transpired before this got published, the largest backlog since the interruption of the Korea trip in 2007.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Worcester Death Fest [Worcester Palladium, 6/10/2012]

This might have been more accurately written "Scott Lee Finds A Way To Have 21 Mostly-Local Bands Open For Six Feet Under Tour Fest", or I could have just covered the bands I did see in the title, but the first is too long and the second is way too long, as despite continuing my tradition of not watching Six Feet Under close out festivals, I did see enough of about seventeen bands to take down concrete descriptions.  Acculturated as I am to German experience, this barely met the definition of a festival.  Festivals take place outdoors, over multiple days, and pack in a minimum average of ten bands per day.  This "fest" only met one of the criteria, but that's not been a problem in the past, and in the "goddamn everyone shows up and hangs out" department, it did capture a bit of the festival feel.

After shaking off the cobwebs of the night before -- I was on call, and therefore had to play it fine, but even a pint an hour of Guinness adds up if you keep at it for eight hours -- I organized some food and some cash and headed on out, rolling up to the Palladium, around back streets due to a weird roadblock on Major Taylor, in just enough time to stow my steel in the vehicle and hide my pen under my belt before going up to get my ticket and get processed in.  I nosed around a bit and got a CD off Totality before heading down to the main stage; the upstairs didn't look set up yet, and the nebulous rumors that I'd heard waiting in line were indicative that most of the bands I actually wanted to see would be going on sooner rather than later.

Tony (Scaphism) and Brendan (Blood of the Gods) standing by a cairn of guitar cases.  Load in first, find out when/where you're playing after.

Scaphism [5.5/7]
Despite a sparse crowd in the cavernous downstairs, Scaphism got the fest off to a good start with humor, irony, and a good performance of most of their best material.  This wasn't that long a set, but Scaphism tunes tend to be kind of short, so they got a fair few out around Tony bantering with the crowd as well as with other bands setting up on the balcony.  They handled the new space pretty well, but might have brought more energy to the upstairs with a smaller gulf between the band and the audience.  Regardless, this was a good performance, and one that started the fest off on the right foot.

Scaphism on the big stage.

Hivesmasher [6/7]
I practically never goddamn see this band, so my sample space is a little constricted.  From the last time, they've lost their keys/samples guy, but if anything picked the energy up a notch.  In some places the songs seemd to run down after about a minute and a half, but this is why I tend not to listen to grindcore in the first place.  For what they do, though, Hivesmasher are really, really good, and when they're on, in those 60- to 100-second bursts, they are dead fucking on to an extent that barely any bands in the region can stand in with them.  All around killer set.

Aaron Heinold, the secret-Azn Barney Greenway, in a rare standing-still moment.

Since the upstairs bar still wasn't open, I went downstairs to get a beer, if I recall correctly some merch, and happened to see a bit of...

Eyes of the Dead [4/7]
I had not seen this band before and did not get a positive ID on them until checking in with the running order several hours later.  They did not, in the approximately half-set sample that I got from them, do a whole lot to drive me to make that ID, or to check them out on record.  From what I heard at least, they were putting out decently-executed but ultimately replacement-level death-thrash, along old lyrical tropes that didn't do much to grab the attention either.  On festivals, you will get bands like this; decent enough to fill out the lineup in the middle of the day, but fairly interchangeable with the promoter's other options.

Midway through, I ran into Juan from Untombed, who passed along two important bits of info: 1) Spain drew with Italy in what was probably the most entertaining match of the Euros to that point and 2) Sexcrement was going on next upstairs.  I promptly changed zones; I lost a little in terms of total music seen, but getting in place to see all of Sexcrement was more important than making it to the end of EotD's set.

Sexcrement [6/7]
That decision turned out to be well-justified.  I'd missed Sexcrement's release show, but they filled a lot of that value back in, pulling most of the material in this set off the new one, which turns out, unsurprisingly, to be as sleazily slamalicious as their previous output.  There were fewer (well, at least apparently fewer) trannies around than previous, and Adam didn't get his dick out, but even when you take out the chaos that swirls around them, Sexcrement are a damn good death metal band, and they put out a pretty damn good set on this outing.

I went upstairs to the merch area to pick up the two -- as it turns out, they reissued XXX Bargain Bin -- Sexcrement discs I was short, and by the time I got the purchase done and went back down, Blood of the Gods was setting up.  By this time I was running out of bands that I wanted to see, but hadn't yet, and Untombed and Dysentery were going to be going on later downstairs, so I stuck around rather than going to sample the downstairs.

Blood of the Gods [6/7]
This decision also turned out to be correct, as Blood of the Gods took up the challenge of the space (biggest I've seen them on since Church, iirc) and smashed out a strong, diverse, and yet unified set of their bruising sludge-death.  Their crust roots are still evident, if in nothing else than the fact that they're coming at death metal from a different direction from literally every other band on this bill, but they've moved beyond that point and easy Entombed comparisons to making something new, cool, and almost completely independent.  This was probably the best set I've seen from these guys, and the trend looks to be further up from here.

So that I wouldn't miss Untombed, and also because there was music there and a set change in the upstairs, I swapped zones again, and managed to catch most of Conflagration despite not making a positive ID on tha band, again, until I finally ran across the running order.

Conflagration [4/7]
I hadn't seen this band before, and despite my general distaste for the style, I tried to give them a fair shot, but ended up still with the impression that something was just off.  To a certain degree, I could pick out that this main-sequence metallic-MAHXC band (if you don't know what that is, you apparently haven't ever been to the NEMHF) was fighting the mixing board's legendary badness, but in places, it seemed like they were fighting against their own composition and arrangements as well.  They had some good bits in a few places, but not quite enough to convince me to check out their stuff on record and to see to what degree the downstairs board was fucking them over, and to what degree I just didn't care for the music.  They had a decently appreciative crowd/mosh melee, so apparently people into this style might want to check them out, but for the auld, crabbit, and bepanzert, sets like this are more part of the price to be paid for having festivals.

After Conflagration ended, with Untombed coming up, the floor pretty much 'rotated', with its former occupants clearing out and a new cohort, self included, coming down to fill the space.  There were, obviously, more people filling in now than we'd started the afternoon off with, but there was still a fair bit of space, and I was able to get pretty well forward without great difficulty.

Untombed [5.5/7]
More than the other bands that I'd seen moving up to the big stage for the first time, Untombed seemed to struggle a little at the start, whether from the gulf down to the audience or from the different aural environment (whether actual working monitors, or the Palladium-standard mix getting mispromoted through them).  Once they got their feet under them, though, they steadily improved through the course of the set and ended in characteristically strong fashion.  They'll be playing more sets in more intimate venues in the future, but they did a good job with their shot at the big stage, and particularly with keeping the crowd involved despite the distance.

Dave whips up the crowd for Untombed.

I'd gotten a look at the running order by this point, and 'running' was definitely the operative word.  The last three non-slotted bands that I had a particular interest in were on one after the other, and I had to move pretty quick about it.

Totality [5.5/7]
The main attribute from Totality on this exposure was their relentless tightness; as noted earlier, this is an important attribute for death metal bands working their way up, but the material that was on offer in that disciplined presentation was pretty much where Totality has been since I started seeing them.  The guitar solos have improved from that sample, earning the band some extra credits, and their merch distribution off the stage comes off as slightly less rockstar, but Totality is still a band yet becoming, and not quite where they want themselves to be yet.  They're getting there, and if they can take that step up in songwriting to match their execution, they'll be that much closer.

Totality keep it tight.

Dysentery [6.5/7]
As the afternoon wore on, bands got longer sets, and more people got into the venue, making the clip-overs from one set into the start of the next longer, and travel time between the upstairs and the downstairs longer still.  I missed more of Dysentery's set than other bands that got clipped because of this, but still managed to get up relatively close and in about the action, for about 75% of a weapons-grade slam hammering.  Dysentery had played this building before, though not as I've seen them downstairs, but they commanded the large downstairs stage and decently-filled downstairs room with as much aplomb and ferocity as they would have on a run-of-the-mill O'Brien's outing.  My knees still keep me out of pits, but even just listening to the music and holding the pit edge was a pure battle; the band could hardly have been heavier if they were throwing solid rubber bricks the size of shipping containers off the stage.

The dance floor is lit up for Dysentery.

Excrecor [5/7]
Head blasted straight in half, I got into the upstairs in good time for Excrecor, who unfortunately seemed to be having an off night.  Some of it may have been down to the drum monitors, which the band called out to the venue staff as just plain not working, and which could easily have been responsible for some of the desyncs, and some of it was probably the mix, which even in the upstairs seldom gets much past 'functional' for non-nationals, but the most succinct and likely explanation is that the band just had a down set, as bands will from time to time.  Excrecor's material remains what it is, and got a decent performance here, but the band's played more enjoyable sets in the past and will do better in the future than they did on this sample.

At this point, the furious running to and fro was over, and I could spend more inter-band time either browsing the merch stacks, or as I did for most of The Summoned, getting some foods down.  Eight of the nine local openers that I was actually interested in seeing had gone on by this point, and thanks to hard going, I managed to see most of the sets for all of the eight bands in question.

The Summoned [NR]
I heard only bits and pieces of this band, around transactions for food, beer, and merch, some of which were interesting melodeath pieces, and some of which were pieces of less interesting retreaded deathcore.  In total, though, there were not enough of those pieces, nor strong enough connections between them, to make any kind of informed assessment about what the band is like, let alone how this set was on any kind of subjective level.  I did pick up a CD from them, and found a mix of styles similar to that noted, executed at about the level you should expect from a good eastern-New-England local band, but not having a complete impression of this set, I can't accurately tell how much it varied from that recorded performance or in what direction.

Nemecide [4/7]
I had heard of this band before, and seen their name around, but I hadn't actually seen them live or happened on a demo yet.  After this set, I have more of an impression of why this was the case.  Nemecide's Bostonian blend of Behemoth and Killswitch Engage was decently executed, but not especially interesting, and so completely removed from the sound and culture of the local shows that I do go to as to seem to have originated on another planet.  In a way it's good to go to festivals to see that there's such a broad range of viable bands out there, and large audiences for everyone when that range can be unified, but the opportunity to avoid bands like this and overdose on the kvlter than kvlt is why I go to Party.San....and increasingly in recent years, not to NEMHF.

As noted above, I had seen the running order by this point, and yet elected to stay put.  Some of this was due to the fact that even an average metal performance is pretty decent, and inertia is a powerful force, but part of it was the conviction that the remaining bands, upstairs and down, were pretty much of a piece, and I gained more by resting up for later than I might theoretically have been losing by running around.  It all works out in the end.

Conforza [4.5/7]
As it was, I ended up seeing the whole of Conforza's set, another first exposure to a band that I'd seen mentioned on a fair number of bills but not actually seen live before.  They got a good response from the crowd for their performance of a technically proficient deathcore set, though the reigning impression from my seat was of a sound thoroughly past its sell-by date, one that might have resonated a few years ago in the company of Ion Dissonance or Despised Icon, but in 2012 was more just echoing back.  That crowd response indicates there's still an audience for it -- it's just that I'm pretty sure I won't need to take active measures to be a part of it going forward.

The two foregoing notes should contradict any notion that I've lost rigor in score distributions, or pull punches talking about local bands.  The real reason that scores have converged as they have, and that I don't savage bands too often, is that lately I just don't see a lot of bands that I don't like.  There is little that separates Nemecide or Conforza from the national acts in their respective styles that you would see at, for example, the NEMHF -- it's just that I don't go to the NEMHF any more, in large part to avoid seeing seven hours of bands that I mostly don't care for and would be pasting 3s and 4s on, with accompanying commentary pretty much exactly in line with the above.  Some fans may take comfort in that assertion; for the rest, oh wow, an old jerk in an armored kutte doesn't like deathcore.  Shock horror.  Send me hate mail, I'll publish it.

Vattnet Viskar [6/7]
I moved up again for this band, if only to catch them as at the time of signing, since it had been a while.  What I got was worth it, an intense and driven set of third-wave black metal that shed a lot of its alleged hipster aspects, following Fell Voices more closely than Wolves In The Throne Room.  (Observant TWBM elitists/completists will notice that this merely ameliorates, rather than straight-up eliminates, the nebulous accusations of hipsterism.)  Though their history is fairly short, and their antecedents deemed by some as "politically unreliable", it's difficult to see on this set how Vattnet have not earned their 'promotion'; they were fully able to carry both the large stage and the overwhelmingly death-metal crowd, with enough poise and violence to be able to take this sound on the road, and avoid the drop for longer than the couple months the band are estimating it at right now.  There are going to still be a few dead-enders who begrudge them the nod, and probably a couple more who'll assert that on material alone, another band from the area (Obsidian Tongue, say) should have been the one to carry the third-wave banner out of the Boston area, but if Vattnet can continue to hit these marks (and kick Liturgy in the goolies at any opportunity), most people will be fine with them getting the exposure.

Vattnet peel the layers back.  (Also: footwear doesn't show up, but uniformly met with the censors' approval.)

Fit For An Autopsy [5/7]
The last of the localish bands up, Fit For An Autopsy dumped out an earthshaking set of competently-tuned deathcore that ultimately came out with a lot more hitting power than originality.  Despite this, it was a decent time, as this music usually is at this high a level of delivery -- and Nate had probably the best-tuned banter of the night, even with Frank Mullen's gems later.  In every opportunity to talk to the crowd, he continually barked up the next three bands: Revo, Fetus, and Suffocation alone, with never a mention, for the whole run of the set, of Six Feet Under.  I regularly ignore Six Feet Under as well, and would end up going home on the night without seeing them, but it was still humorous to get this attitude from someone on the bill, on the stage, where he'd have to deal with the wrath of publicists and tour managers.

Revocation [6/7]
Though there may have been a tour or two that I missed, this was at least the first time I'd seen Revocation on the big stage at the Palladium, and they handled it well -- more accurately, they flat killed it, despite no Anthony (whether a tendonitis flare-up, or other non-band-life issues) and not really enough time.  Most of the set was off Chaos of Forms (entirely appropriate, as it's the latest that they have out), but there was a fair amount of older stuff as well, including opening with "Re-Animaniac", which just goes to show what the hell I know.  They've done better on smaller stages, but this kicked a lot of ass, and when they come back next month, they'll likely be more in command of the larger stage.

Revocation slashing into "Dismantle The Dictator".

It's worth mentioning that while the sound downstairs was really not that bad for most of the bands, it took a definite step up for Revocation and the bands following them, either because they got a real sound check on arriving at the venue in the morning, or because the touring bands brought their own sound guy, who was less of a boots-on-the-head] than the normal Palladium knob-twirlers.  I was watching the bands, not the soundboard, so I can't tell for certain, but the improvement was marginal enough to suggest the former rather than the latter.

Dying Fetus [6/7]
Though I moved off the floor and back up onto the terraces for Dying Fetus, the effect carried all the way back.  This was another and brutal strong set, but a little more weighted towards the band's older material than I've seen from them before, likely synching up with the re-releases of older material that I indulged in at the merch stand.  It was pretty decent runtime-wise, but still felt a little short; maybe due to closing out with "Kill Your Mother, Rape Your Dog", or maybe they went back to that classic grindblast pisstake due to runtime constraints.  Either way, this set was relentlessly impressive, and to a certain degree could have kept going for another hour and still left the audience wanting more.

Suffocation [7/7]
Suffocation were technically another "name local" along the lines of Vattnet or FFAA, but the set that they delivered was fully headliner-worthy (Note: Suffo-Fetus-Revo-FFAA, not a totally terrible tour package, either artistically or as a commercial proposition).  Despite the lineup changes (no Mike, boo to the wasted energy executing his parts), Suffocation delivered a monster set of ceaseless slams with ceaseless professionalism.  We got a couple tunes off the forthcoming album (due to start recording in August to drop next year, iirc) in with a good mix of newer and older stuff -- with a definite concentration on Effigy..., which the band, at least per Frank, appears to have accepted as their definitive record -- and uniformly first-rate banter from Frank, who kept it focused as well as funny, and got to the punchline of his Miami-bath-salts-zombie joke before any of the Celtics fans in the crowd bounced any empty containers off his skull.  Most Suffocation sets, as the sample space of the last eight years indicates, do not turn out quite this good, but when they do, they are fucking killer.

Suffocation only finished up at 10 PM, but at this point I'd been thrashing out for 9 hours, including that frantic four hours back and forth, back and forth, at the start, and was worn down to a bare nub of permanently-dissatisfied kutte-wearing elitist.  I considered things over, and decided to take a pass on Six Feet Under in favor of not dying on the way home or sleeping through my alarm Monday morning.  Both of those turned out to be close calls -- don't listen to Woods of Ypres if you're concerned about falling asleep behind the wheel -- but ultimately I got back, unpacked the four shirts and eight CDs -- two Sexcrement, one Totality, one Dying Fetus, one The Summoned, and three, from Abacinate and Hammer Fight plus a Scion (spit) sampler that I'd gotten Relapse-grab-bagged while picking up a Revocation shirt -- and plowed through the work week largely unaffected.  Of course, the recuperation time and the time needed to actually write this up put in some delays, but you do what you can.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Abnormality with Naegleria, Soul Remnants, and Soul Annihilation [Ralph's, Worcester, 6/7/2012]

It was a short cycle time to come off the Tuesday gig and head out for another midweek show, but this night had the choice of two release shows.  The bill here was a little more compelling, overall, than Sonic Pulse's shindig at O'Brien's, and not only was this probably my one chance to see Abnormality before going overseas (since they were dragging out to LVDF over the next two weeks, and long tours generally have a negative effect on frequency of local shows immediately afterwards), it also didn't involve the characteristic hike.  I screwed up and left my gear at home when I went to work, but managed to get things sorted in time to buzz north, grab my rig and a bite to eat, then head south and west, arriving with a couple minutes to spare and grab a beer before the bands started up.

Soul Annihilation [5/7]
I hadn't seen this band yet, and the name resemblance to Soul Remnants, also on this bill, had caused a few raised eyebrows going in.  They were pretty good, though, putting out a decent set of functional, competently-delivered black-death metal somewhere between Belphegor and Sacramentum, but of course like all my analogies, this one runs out of steam on a lack of explicit touch points to either band.  There is definitely room for further development, to make some of the riffs stick more, but Soul Annihilation is still a fairly young band (Kunjan turned 21 on this gig), and if they continue to stick around, there's no reason that they wouldn't be able to make that step up.

Sean is 3/6 in black metal's T1.  This reference would drop me down the bottomless abyss of nerdery if I wasn't in the depths already.

Soul Remnants [6/7]
This was, to some degree, the set that Soul Remnants has been getting around to delivering for the last six months.  Whether it was the occasion or just the natural development of playing with and writing and recording a new record with the members who weren't in Chopwork, this performance really took what they've been doing lately to that next level, showing off their reinvention of NWOSDM from first principles.  The idea of blending melodics and themes from hardcore and grind into first-wave Swedish death inheriting from Carcass has been done before (most prominently, 20 years ago in Gothenburg), but the way that Soul Remnants is doing it, not so much; over the whole course of this tight, diverse set, there was very little that explicitly echoed other bands.  That new record is definitely going to be one to look out for, especially as it's still not done yet, and the band has shown pretty consistent improvement throughout the process.

Tom swirls his leads together on a vintage neon Ibanez.

It was probably in here that I did most of my merch; two CDs from Abnormality (the shirt came later) and a CD and a bunch of stickers from Naegleria for export.  I was going to try and take some stuff off Abnormality as well, but you don't do that to a band just about to hit the road; as much good as I think I can do passing out stuff overseas, more good is done when people see a band, get into a band, and take free stickers home to paste on their friends' stuff.  Once that's worked itself out over the 6000 or so total road miles between here and Vegas, I'll see what I'm able to do with what little may be left.

Naegleria [5.5/7]
As before, Naegleria continues to be all about slams.  Said slams remain huge, though still not quite at the level of Dysentery or Composted, even if Joel's shirt choices and some of the less serious lyrical topics seem to have the band with one eye on the latter's throne.  Even without that consideration, this was an intense and highly enjoyable set of pounding death metal, and the assembled crowd definitely started to get into it, even if the amount of movement wasn't quite up to what the band would've liked to see.

When as big as Joel you are, rock a pink unicorn shirt at metal shows you can also.

Abnormality [6.5/7]

Ogle bait.  Not Malika, you fucking perverts, Ben's Kramer 7x36. :drool:

Abnormality had a few tech issues on this one, and in a few spots let the intensity fall between songs, but in some ways this is a natural consequence of playing this kind of music, with all the demands it puts on musicians mentally and both them and their gear physically.  The other side of this is that the band certainly got that intensity punched back up in a hurry when they hit into the next song, and the material on offer was flat stunning.  Most of this set was pulled from ...Hive Mind, and on track after track, the band slayed with the same tightness, precision and ceaseless violence live as they do on disc.  On the road over the next weeks, they'll either tighten this up for foreign audiences, who will get hit even harder, or they won't, and scene heads across the Route 66 stripe will just have to be satisfied with being floored by a performance merely as good as this rather awesome offering.  The floor got extremely turbulent and stayed that way throughout most of the set, but most of the violence, even so, was pouring down out of the cabs.

Eventually, Abnormality had to close up and hit the road, and I headed out in the other direction, making a decently smooth ride before getting jammed up in a pea-soup fog going through Danvers.  Somehow, I didn't run into anything, and I was able to cycle up relatively quick for work the next day...and then the Euros and "WDF" on the weekend to push this writeup further out.

Horna with Kommandant, Bog of the Infidel, Nachzehrer, and Sarcomancy [Great Scott, Allston, 6/5/2012]

Great Scott has been far from a favorite -- or even frequent -- venue of mine in the past six years, mostly due to being, well, far from places where you can park without a permit.  For this one, I had to get down, and so on the weekend I scouted out the area while breaking in my new boots, talking the FNG at work through his first on-call shift, and postponing the usual round of football, Irish brekkie, and liver damage.  It came ultimately to nothing -- except to the notion that it is not really all that much further (about a quarter-mile each way) than O'Brien's, which I hike to all the goddamned time.  It was accordingly time to buck up and use my damn feets for a change, and despite starting out late and getting jammed up in traffic, I made the two miles or so in 40 minutes and change, and STILL managed to roll up before doors.  No problems.

"Doors", of course, turned out to be a nebulous concept, further gummed up by the venue's split-out of ID check and entry fee into two stations, which backed up the line a little bit.  There was not a whole ton of time to spare, but I managed to get both a pint and four records' worth of touring support into my rig before Sarcomancy started up.

Sarcomancy [5/7]
It had been a while since I'd seen Sarcomancy, but despite the lineup change, the band has continued on in the same vein as previously; an Immortal emulator with, on this particular outing, unfortunately mortal guitar equipment.  They got three songs, which were pretty well-delivered as long as the guitar signal wasn't dropping out, which did substantial damage to what should have been a cool closer.  The current iteration of Sarcomancy should continue to follow on and develop in the same vein as before -- provided they can work out any ground faults in their cable supply.

The venue was really filling in here, and I went forward kind of out of necessity -- but not so far forward as to stand in front of the little dude who was up front as well.  Any kind of deliberate favoritism would be patronizing, of course, but it takes a real dick to stand 6'3" and deliberately stand in front of someone who's barely clearing 3'6".

Nachzehrer [5.5/7]
While they were able to bring Eric back for the last high-profile show they were on, such was not the case here, and so the audience got a good strong sample of Nachzehrer working over what looks to be a full-time transition to only one guitar.  This was kind of a new sound, but one that's still consonant with their recordings, and the quality Great Scott PA and mix allowed all three 'outfield' musicians to pick up more of the weight in carrying the songs forward.  The older stuff lacks a little without the second guitar, but the newer stuff sounds just as good in this alignment, and as the band continues on, more good stuff can surely be expected.

Nachzehrer blasting away, with Alex not looking so much like he's dying up there as usual.

On the night, I also picked up a short stack of Nachzehrer promos to export, which the MBTA Plod did not take off Mike when he got detained.  The RFM is out and about, just watch out where you pull your bulletbelts out of your gear when you're out and about.

Bog of the Infidel [6/7]
I'd also not seen Bog in a while, but they made up for time with a classic set of full-featured, fully-developed second-wave black metal that at this point has thoroughly separated itself from its Norwegian antecedents.  The excellent venue sound only helped in this regard, but the quality of the music is such, at this point, that this set would probably have gotten the same great audience response if it had been played in the dingiest basement, or with the Palladium's most wrong-headed knob twists.  Vattnet and certain trend-streams notwithstanding, it's difficult to see how Bog isn't the next black metal band from eastern New England to make it out to the next level -- and if they aren't, they damn well ought to be.

Bog of the Infidel prepare to unleash satanisms.

It was a while waiting for Kommandant to set up/get strapped into their gas masks, etc, and if I recall correctly I filled in the time happening to discuss the festival climate overseas and do a bit of Party.San boosterism.  The RFM remains out there, and the trip inches closer to planned -- despite the extra expense of having to fly out of goddamned Frankfurt, it's probably less expensive than having to plod all the way back to Berlin from rural Bavaria.  We'll see.

Kommandant [5.5/7]
I hadn't heard Kommandant before, and wasn't sure what to expect, especially after the band came out in costumes reminiscent of Impaled at an early-'90s industrial/fetish rave.  What they brought was a confounding collision between high-level concept gimmickry and stripped-down, ceaselessly-blasting black metal violence.  Relative to their recorded stuff, at least as far as I picked up here, this set came off as less developed and more monotonically violent, but that didn't resolve the visual/musical inconsistency, and the costumes mostly just left the impression that the band badly wants to get on the Bundesverfassungsschutzamt's index unjustly, but without taking the risk of writing anything faintly political.  Their use of forward auxillary percussion was pretty cool, though, even though on a personal level, if you're going to bring out additional drummers on just snares or toms, especially in a band that's putting this much emphasis on visual production, you need to have them in marching harnesses and give the guys playing them something to swing around.  All in all, a cool set, but not one that really required or justified a lot of the visual stuff that went into it.

Kommandant, fully equipped with gasmasks, front-stage percussion, and decent lighting.

Horna [6/7]
Finally, Horna stepped up in front of the packed house, and delivered a relentless and top-class performance.  I was wedged in at the back to a certain degree, so for me there was no obvious piss involved -- just raw, classically Finnish black metal full of tart folkic melodies and steaming, acrid violence.  (Er, ok.  Not exactly sure where that was going.)  Reminiscent of Finntroll circal 1998, before the humppaa gimmick started to overwhelm their sound, this was true, violent, uncompromising black art, worth the wait between tours and the nebulous NSBM vapors that swirled around this gig in advance of it (but never, fortunately, actively condensed).  It was over all too quickly, though; not on any shortage of music, but just the perception that Horna had stopped playing at some point after they started was problematic enough.  Killer from first to last.

Horna, daubed up in sepulchral paint of uncertain composition.

At the end there was a bit of a punch-up, and then there was a 15-minute wait to use the head (Horna didn't have a green room, so they used the men's room to change, which naturally leads to them pissing themselves on stage.  IT'S IN THE FISHBOWL, BERT!), but one way or another I got out, did the nearly hour-long hike back, and managed to get in to work on Wednesday without dying on either commute.  Density of shows, though, mean this is super late...and the two writeups following it, only marginally less so.

Friday, June 01, 2012

Summoning Hate with Untombed, Scalpel, Soul Remnants, and Forced Asphyxiation [O'Brien's, Allston, 5/18/2012]

Again I had the day off, and misread the start times on this Covan benefit, which led to me getting in about an hour ahead of the start, which I spent leaning against the outside wall, trying to shed heat.  It worked only intermediately well, and I was glad to be able to get in and at least get a beer waiting for the bands to start.  O'Brien's is seldom cool inside, but with most of the crowd not in yet, it wasn't in full sauna form.

Forced Asphyxiation [5.5/7]
For those keeping score, perhaps in anticipation of the CL final the next day, this one finished Weed 3:2 Other Stuff ("Weed" is still obviously the home team for this band, trolololol).  For those more interested in how the band was actually playing than on counting the prevalence of lyrical subjects, this was another strong, sharply-finished set in line with how they've been playing lately: strong, brutal, non-slamming death metal that on this exposure came off as highly reminiscent of 1992-vintage Hypocrisy.  This gig, both the bands that played and those that didn't (Parasitic were initially on, but had to cancel, and Malika despite organizing it didn't book her main band), shows that Forced aren't quite at the apex of NEDM yet, but the development and raw power manifested in this performance are carrying them in that direction.  Straight killer.

Forced inflicting some "Blunt Forced Trauma" on the audience.

Soul Remnants [5.5/7]
This set saw some progression from Soul Remnants as well, which was somewhat unexpected; their new stuff, from the record that they're currently working on, remains significantly inspired by At The Gates as per their older material, but weaves in a few new twists as well.  The band is still in the process of setting themselves apart both from their influences and from other bands drawing on those springs, but the separation is definitely coming, and that new record, when they finish it, is definitely going to be one to watch out for.  Here, they acquitted themselves well despite being both the most melodic of the five bands and the farthest, influence-composition-wise, from Decapitated on offer, getting the now-swollen crowd around and moving down front.

Mitch roaring away.

Scalplel [5/7]
This gig was intentionally booked to bring together as many strands of NEDM as possible, and if this is New England, there has to be a slam representative.  Scalpel filled the role admirably, and with a fair degree of originality, working slam content through more traditional death metal structures.  Their brand of slam isn't the most fully-developed yet, but this is a really young band, and if they can continue to develop this style further, they're going to be one to look out for.

Scalpel flat smashes it.

Untombed [6/7]
Two important lineup notes from this: first, Untombed has changed members again, and is now even closer to having all members having once played in Summoning Hate.  Second, it may look on first glance like they've gone away from that "goal" by changing vocalists, as Dave, in a job-related shock horror move, has cut off his famous dreads.  Take a moment of silence if you like, we're not going anywhere.


The hair amputation fortunately didn't affect the music at all; Untombed have done better sets than this, but this one was cleanly balanced despite pulling in a variety of directions, slamming and grooving by turns, for a total effect probably as strong as I've seen from the band since they went to two full-time vocalists.  "Bloodstained World" was an especially violent standout here, but this whole set was damn impressive, even following on what had been a pretty damn impressive gig to this point.

The lighting is so bad that the only thing you can see in this alleged picture of Untombed is the reflection off Dave's cueball.

Summoning Hate [6/7]
Having traveled through most of the available styles of New England death metal, Summoning Hate brought things back around to where they started, closing out the night with a long, strong set of traditional brutality flavored with more and better-presented melodics than I can recall hearing from the band in a while.  As with Untombed, this wasn't quite an all-time high, but it was a killer set that put a fitting capstone on a killer gig, to what was still at that point a packed house.

Milo introduces "Infierno de Dante".

At the end, though, Summoning Hate finished up, and I picked up a shirt off Untombed -- if you see a design from this band that you like, get it bought, their production runs appear to be wicked small, and they will run out of your size -- as well as some stickers for export, and incidentally another copy of their demo, before heading back across the bridges.  As the night before, the extract from there was pretty simple, and despite the hole I'd ended up putting in my foot, I was in decent shape for the Morne show the next night.  Then the CL final went to extra time, and then to penalties, and I got back home too late and too blasted to drive in.  After that, work and family commitments delayed this writeup and caused me to miss Negura Bunget and then Sexcrement; there's some bookkeeping coming, and then hopefully I can get back out to some damned shows.

Black Trip with Ravage and Iron Will [Ralph's, Worcester, 5/17/2012]

Being on a vacation burn -- not going anywhere except "not to work" -- I got the chance to start a little later out to this, but between one thing and another, mostly the longer trip and less dense traffic, got in about the usual, with the bands starting later as there were only three on the bill.  You'd think, especially on a CD release, that fewer bands would still imply a normal start, and then the releasing band doing a longer set to play most of the new record down and/or get their friends to sit in for covers and other shenanigans.  This turned out not to be the case, partly because Black Trip was only putting out a 3-song EP, and partly because it took a while for all the members of Iron Will to actually get down to the venue.  It basically balanced out, though, as all of the bands got at least adequate sets when they finally started playing.

Iron Will [4.5/7]
I'm not sure if they've tweaked the lineup since last time (I would go with 'yes', since the potentially-new bassist is also the new bassist in Ravage, who I'm not sure I've seen twice in a row with the same bass player since 2003; if the Firicano brothers found a reliable bassist who digs power metal, it stands to reason they'd try to get him into this band as well), but Iron Will has taken a step forward in the intervening.  Some of this is just general tightness, but more of it is Tony improving his elocution; the dude sounds a lot more pro now, and a lot less like a guy from the block in Revere, which helps with bringing in an epic feeling to some of their more expansive stuff.  However, the songwriting is still pretty much where it was: second-run and consistent across songs to the point where it gets samey and hard to separate.  Iron Will brought it technically, and their cover of Witchfinder General's "Friends of Hell" was well-done as well as well-received, but their material continues to be that of a second-rank local trad-metal band: another reminder of just how fucking hard it is to even get up to average.

Iron Will driving on.

The set breaks on this night were pretty short, partially a function of the later start and partly due to Iron Will and Ravage backlining, which basically eliminated the need to change mic positions, let alone move gear around.  It was still enough, though, to pick up another beer and nab a short stack of Sonic Pulse promo cards to take over.

Ravage [5.5/7]
As is pretty much usual for Ravage, this was another good solid set, with yet another new rhythm section.  Dan and Rich held it down well, and this may have been the motivation for doing a fair amount of old stuff, as well as their Metal-Blade-era material -- even going so far as to resurrect "Wyvern", which not only pleased the old fans, but also neatly cut out my usual avenue of being "Play Old Shit!" Guy.  This in some ways was more solid of a set than I've seen from Ravage since they signed to Metal Blade, so hopefully the lineup sticks, and the label gives them another shot that doesn't involve their van simultaneously disintegrating.

Al gets out from behind the kit as Nick rips it up on "The Shredder".

On the subject of bands getting unexpectedly signed to major labels, congrats to Vattnet Viskar on getting picked up by Century Media -- and on getting their formerly in-joke-ridden metal-archives page fixed.  Like Pilgrim, this may end up being too much too soon, but the band does have the chops for it, and if they can kick merely Liturgy to fuck, it'll be a uniform upgrade.

Ben ripping it.

Black Trip [6/7]
After the last time here, I was quite skeptical about how Black Trip was going to do headlining this one.  Fortunately, though, they've used the intervening time well, and they put together a well-finished, well-rounded set that didn't overrun the set time or overdrive the sound system, both areas where they've had issues in the past.  This one, like the three-song EP they put out at this gig, was a little more power-metal-influenced than they've been in the past, but their former death metal crunch is still there and still firms up the sound.  Black Trip is not quite where they want to be yet, but they're moving in that direction, and the full-length that is scheduled to follow on from the current record, if they continue to improve, will get them a lot closer.

Avengers Assemble?

As on prior gigs with multiple north-of-Boston bands, this one saw another song added to the library of Manowar covers I've seen live, as Black Trip brought up Al and Tony from the openers to guest on "Thor (The Power Head)".  The crowd got into it, as did I -- if I want to hear "Guyana" or "Mountains" off that record, I'd have to have my own band, which is a long way of saying "not going to happen".

In time, though, Black Trip wrapped up, I dropped a couple bucks in the box of CDs while grouting out the record (free, at least on this gig, so there's no excuse not to pick it up), and I hit the road back, getting back in fine condition with minimal caffeine interference.  Not having to work in the mornings gets you that -- and then coming back to work with a vengeance makes stuff like this terminally late.