The Fourth of July week meant a couple of important modifiers for this going in. First, customers on vacation or shutdown meant that there wasn't a lot to be done hanging around at work, while people still on vacation locally meant that the roads were going to be empty. Second, the masses of people moving around earlier and later in the week meant that the frequent roadworks were mostly inactive, at least on the way out. This should have meant a lot more time-killing than I ended up doing, but for the third factor: I didn't know if the Summer Nationals were this weekend or the weekend before, which greatly affects how long it takes to get through Worcester. As it turned out, I got in early but not that early, and saw a few hot rods parked on Lincoln, and more than a few people setting up chairs to watch the cruisers, but no significant traffic tieups. On actually getting in to Ralph's, I found out that this was exceptionally fortunate, because another band had been added at the last minute, and Demon Bitch were going to be going on right at 9:00.
Demon Bitch [4.5/7]
Since I hadn't been paying obsessive attention to the lineup dynamics going in (or, really, any at all), I was surprised to see these guys on the program and more surprised, after a couple songs, to find out they were touring, as the levels of material and execution weren't quite at the level you typically associate with touring bands at this level of promotion. They came off as a somewhat cut-down Ravage, a sound that probably plays better elsewhere in the country than around here, where we generally get to see the real thing a couple times a year. (J.P. of Borrowed Time later referred to their sound as a mix of Mercyful Fate and Dissection, but I, probably due to being an unambiguous Dissection superfan, didn't really hear that at all.) They built slowly as the set went on, and got the crowd rocking with a solid cover of Priest's "Tyrant", but this is a band whose best days are still ahead of them -- and in that dimension, they definitely have the youth and quite likely the chops to get there.
Demon Bitch set the edge to start things off.
In this break, I picked up Demon Bitch's demo, along with Borrowed Time's current omnibus record (same distro table for both bands) and, almost as much to reduce the change-making burden as because I'd been looking for it forever, Primordial's Dark Romanticism as reissued by notorious bootlegging jerks Karmageddon. I did not, though, go full bootleg and pay the $5 for a CD-R of the Wakefield "Metal For Muthas" show where Steve sang on a couple songs because Paul
I hadn't seen this band before, but early indications are that those in the Boston area will be seeing a good deal more of them going forward. The sound that they put forward, a blend of early Metallica with Iron Maiden elements, didn't stick out a lot, but their guitar leads did -- and more importantly, so did their composition. It's not every day you come across a band with this level of compositional ability, especially one that seems to be relatively new, and if they can keep it up while writing more distinctive material and continuing to leverage superior lead guitar, they're definitely going to be one to watch for the future.
Invoker thrashing out. Ashish is highlighted so that randoms on the internet get the same sense of WOW MUST PAY ATTENTION that people seeing them live did.
The room was really filling up in here, and I was barely able to get back from the bar to somewhere reasonably stage-adjacent. Some of this was Ancient Power coming from Worcester up next, but a lot of it was a very strong turnout for a bunch of fairly niche and retro bands. While the New England scene is pretty broad, most people's interests are less so: modulo a few diehards who tend to go to every show, the audience here was largely disjunct from both the crowd that shows up for death metal at Metal Thursday and the people whose only live contact with this kind of music is paying $75 to see Manowar. There really are just that many of us.
Ancient Power [5/7]
As noted, this was the high-water mark for the crowd, based largely on the band's local adherents, but they made their case to the rest of the crowd as well, smashing out a strong, solid set that put a grimy punk spin on the classic structures of old-school metal -- and also saw the most ballsy (literally as well as figuratively) clothing choices of the night. Piston's wrestling leotard commanded nearly as much attention as the music, but ultimately the music is what it comes down to, and this was a pretty strong set on that front as well.
Ancient Power before the jacket came off and shit got real.
It was probably in here that I picked up Seax's record, which is pretty much their live set stored on plastic for those who haven't seen them yet, and got comped a free button that I will have difficulty wearing overseas. Sunwheels: not neutral symbols in Europe. Obviously, the band isn't using it that way, but it's still a little weird. Maybe right next to my die siffer pin....
Borrowed Time [6/7]
Carmine had been talking these guys up since well before this show was actually scheduled, and they definitely delivered, impressing not only with their material but the execution of it. The margins are not huge, but this was quite likely the best set of the night, working a sound that inherited substantially from Manilla Road, but also touched on Italian never-weres Danger Zone for additional credibility. Their recorded stuff is a little closer to Manilla Road than this was, which is encouraging for the future; we already have a Mark the Shark, even if he doesn't play out a whole lot, and Borrowed Time is good enough that I may need to actually order the next evolution of their stuff from High Roller rather than waiting to vulture it up from Armageddon Shop.
Borrowed Time sailing the seas of fate.
It was in here that, having nothing to do because I had to stop drinking, I browsed casually through Borrowed Time's vinyl distro box, fully expecting to find nothing of note. I found Last Scream of the Missing Neighbors, and promptly had a hyperventilating nerdgasm. Somehow I managed to purchase it without stabbing anyone, for what turned out to be just about my last $5, which I turned out to be glad not to have spent a few bands back. As cool as that Maiden bootleg doubtless is, this record is just fucking epochal, and I got it for about 10% of what I was willing to pay, even used. Seriously listen to this.
The development from Seax's last headlining slot to this one is significant, and not just in adding Mick to the lineup. This one was more consistent than there, if less high energy and spandex-related novelty (yes, Carmine had on his headliner pants again, but people are used to it now, and anyway Ancient Power definitely stole their thunder on the "hilariously revealing clothing" thing), and the crowd definitely got metal thrashin' mad, which they didn't for Invoker actually playing thrash, or for Ancient Power with more punk fans in the building. They had a few less than smooth parts, including starting off on a song without realizing that Mick hadn't learned it yet, but in the main kept it rolling at a high level. It's difficult to say exactly where the ceiling is, in terms of exposure and longevity, is for a band that is so explicitly and committedly revivalist, but Seax is going to keep keeping on, and keep getting their fans "High on Metal", until they happen to hit that wall. As noted way back, maybe Wacken won't come calling, but they've already managed to get a toe in the door at Warriors of Metal, and modulo label horsetrading the likes of Headbangers and Keep It True are not a giant step up from that.
Bonded by blood: Seax call up J.P. (Borrowed Time) and Angus (Hessian, not appearing on this bill) to guest on the Holocaust classic "Heavy Metal Mania", which most people in the audience (or at least your humble correspondent) probably recognized better from Gamma Ray covering it on Alive '95 and some extras from the Land of the Free sessions. Doesn't matter, still killed it.
In the end, though, it was time to split, dead broke, and then I went on call for the week following and was actually handling tickets all weekend. Hence this is late, but the restriction is lifted as of now -- and the four-show sprint to the end, before I hit the road, begins tonight with Fresh Kill.