Wednesday, August 22, 2012

2012: The Final ChapTour - hails and farewells

The summer '12 "tour" (in quotes since it should be also read "go to Party.San, then fart around in Bavaria") has finished successfully, and documentation of such should be up in the coming weeks to month.  In the meantime, thanks are due to the following people, bands and other institutions, in little particular or rational order, who contributed to that success:

Thanks go out to Raüberbande Ostmark (Dennis, Müller, Tjorven (sorry for fucking up your name again), Renate, Haasi, Mischa, Knut, Sven, Gregor, and other folks), Terror Blade and crew (Michael, Sara, Jens, Maite, Bernd, etc), Death Agony and crew (Oliver, Laurent, Pistou, et al), Sam the Ozzie Weegie (where the fuck is your contact info?), Mario and Riccardo for Violent Sun, Max from Rekwi-Fest and anyone else involved with the G.U.C. zine and/or the Metalest Für Krebskranke Kinder, Alex for the third year running, Andi and anyone else we played keg football with, Mehkong Thailand spirits (and anyone else who played along and drank it not listed here), Nice To Eat You Records, Messrs. Brutz and Brakel, as in 2010 the entire island of Ireland (just to be sure, and since this year also includes a couple Narn'ians), Omer again (and I remain not Scots), the cute Army brat from Ft. Hood via Bremen who hooked us up with Gambrinus (and crew), 29er Pils, the Cornish jam smugglers, shots of Nordhausen, the smooth stylings of Helge Schneider, Roax Films and Media, everyone who took CDs/tapes/stickers/promocards/buttons, the KTDF dudes for setting a good example, Hector and Carmen for having a better memory than I do, Red Dwarf and Woods of Ypres for instant freeze-dried life wisdom, Wilhelm Brandenburg - your survival charcuterie, the ever-helpful Deutsche Bahn staff for cardinal direction assistance in Meiningen, the gas station in Sülzfeld, Edeka E-Center Böhland in Mellrichstadt, the Hangover Nürnberg dudes and the old guy with the real-steel gladius on the train to Schweinfurt, Mercure Schweinfurt Maininsel for going well above and beyond the call of duty, Taklamakan (Munich) in particular and Uighur food in general, Gebrechlichkeit, anyone else who gave me stuff who isn't already noted, massively to all the bands who gave me stuff to take over -- whether consciously or not -- and last but not least to anyone I should have thanked but forgot, or who I should have named but was too drunk to remember.

Also, sincerest apologies to anyone who might have been expecting to see me at Summer Breeze, but I got injured too badly on the border hike to regenerate in time.  It may be for years (Russia next year will make festivals difficult), and it may be forever, but we'll meet again one day.

Total disappreesh goes out to Auerbachskeller Leipzig for tablecloths and ripoffs, "Grenzmuseum Eußenhausen" ("sketchy truck turnout Eußenhausen", more like), the bridge down to the Maininsel in Schweinfurt, the unholy intersection of the Bavarian state and the Roman Catholic Church, the Frankfurt U-bahn tariff schedule, and most of all "Hoch Achim" for the 90+-degree weather that made the last week melty and borderline unlivable.

Friday, August 03, 2012

Mares of Thrace with Pilgrim and Primitive Weapons [O'Brien's, Allston, 7/31/2012]

The countdown to the summer tour was now down to less than a week, so though I'd screwed up in the morning and not brought my kutte in to work, and though it was drizzling, which in the city ended up getting closer to a downpour, I still went in to see three bands of low familiarity and nontrivial auras of hipsterism.  I said I'd be in, and so I was, despite a late start and a steadily building rain on the hike over  The bar was suspiciously full -- unattended shows are a downer, sure, but too many people and you start wondering if you're still kvlt enough -- but still enough room on the floor to find something to lean against and drink, waiting waiting waiting for the bands to start....which, utterly disconnected from the published 8pm doors, predictably happened around 9:30.  I got in at 9:15, so I'm not really complaining, but at this point it's not even PRST, it's getting to be deliberate exploitation of people who aren't at every show and know how these things work.

Primitive Weapons [4.5/7]
I was initially stunned when this band started up.  Not because they were so good, or so brutal, and not solely because they were so different from the rest of the bill, but mostly because I never expected to hear a band like this again, especially one from Brooklyn.  I couldn't place it to an exact best-comparable, but this style of chaotic hardcore was so common in eastern New England in the early part of last decade that you couldn't throw a rock at a NEMHF in that time period without it bouncing off five local bands who, to a closest approximation, sounded exactly like this.  They had some additional turns at the end, but for a total effect that felt like a spare pallet of MAHXC getting backed over some spare Pelican riffs.  They drew polite applause from the crowd, but not much more, probably because they brought way more energy than this very doom metal crowd was looking for -- or even prepared to deal with -- and maybe to a small degree because the people who would have been more into them were trying to figure out if they'd somehow gone through a slipgate back to 2003.  This will play better in other territories, but it was decent enough here as well.

While Primitive Weapons was packing up, I saw this crate and had to take the picture.

TROLOLOLOLOLOLOL.  This actually refers to God Fires Man, but you can't take this acronym out in Boston and expect people not to point and laugh at it.

Pilgrim [6/7]
I'd not actually seen Pilgrim since they got signed -- or, actually, at all since that first time, but this is largely immaterial.  They've improved since then, but still haven't completely broken free of the oppressive gravity of Planet Sabbath.  More speed may help them attain escape velocity, as the standout spot in this set was the fast part in "Quest", but that works largely against the band's bread and butter, ceaselessly low and glacial with "the Wizard"'s clear tenor floating over the top.  This still works, of course, and Pilgrim did lay down a set here worthy of a band on a cadet branch of a major label, but their ceiling is still higher, and they definitely have the potential to continue to improve from here.

Devotions to Astaroth.

Mares of Thrace [6.5/7]
It's not often that you get a band out of Canada here, let alone one from the wilds of Calgary (well, wilds as our parochial area goes -- it's certainly no Iqaluit), nevermind one at that with two female members and a unique grind-flavored take on doom metal.  Mares fused the doom lows that we got from Pilgrim with vastly more energy and variety, coming off in some ways like a rebalanced JBvDLP, using a similar but more deeply worked Earth vocabulary to kickass effect.  Image is of course secondary to music, but those put off by the band's borderline-twee press packs will be happy to learn that Thérèse is, true to her other projects, significantly more metal in person, and Rae, in addition to holding down the kit perfectly on short notice, has excellent taste in shirts, probably due to the momentary Woods connection.  Much better than might have been anticipated going in, and definitely a band to look out for in the future.

Scott under the spot; make your own jokes about the invisibility of dudes touring with mostly-female bands, or just bass players in general.

After Mares closed up, I picked up discs from Primitive Weapons and Pilgrim, then hung around a while waiting for the sea of admirers around the Canadians to subside so I could buy some goddamned stuff.  This turned out to be a shirt and two CDs at a price point that didn't leave me broke after paying my tailor bills the next day, and after that a hike through more solid rain back to the car pickup.  Good show, but the last for a while; there was a nice Metal Thursday this week and Slayer at the Mayhem tour on Friday, but there's too much to be done to get ready.  Not days so much as hours left now.

Obsidian Tongue with Neldorath, Vulkodlak, and Grue [O'Brien's, Allston, 7/28/2012]

Most of this Saturday was spent driving around various places picking up extra equipment for the coming tour; the weather was bright and clear as you'll get in a New England summer.  This done and a couple hours spent puttering around the house and cooking the remaining contents of the fridge, I didn't notice that by the time I needed to head in to Boston for the show, a torrential rain had blown up.  This made driving a little slower, but the roads on this route were at least large, wide, and well-maintained, which made it a little easier than the historical parallel....which actually isn't much of a parallel because this rain, while difficult, was not snorkel-bad.  Indeed, it had lightened up substantially by the time I got in to the city, stowed the car, and started in on the hiking portion.  The rain on the hike over kept things a little cooler, and also provided a decent dose of "also training"; I'd done hot weather with the pack strapped up, but in Germany in August, you're as likely to get torrential rain, so it was good to get some practice on wet roads.  Not all that much, though, because the distance to O'B's remains about as short as ever, and I still ended up one of the earlier patrons in the building.

Grue [5/7]
This was the first time that I'd seen Grue in person (well, on stage); this is a new two-man third-wave black metal combo from Dave of Summoning Hate/Untombed fame and Morgan from Unholy Goatfucker, and both that newness and the members' strong experience showed off here.  The execution was top-notch, but the songs, at least at this point, had a lot of the structural deficits that Obsidian Tongue had at first, which appears to be a kind of necessary teething process as guys accustomed to writing for what we usually think of as "full bands" get used to the restricted instrumentation.  The riffs in that material, though, in spite of the underfinished or occasionally disjointed way they stack together, holds out the promise that when those issues are resolved, Grue has a fighting chance of catching up to the headliners here.  Balanced neatly between violence and melancholy and subtly loaded with undertones and harmonics reminiscent of early Borknagar and turn-of-the-century Enslaved, Grue's music has a lot of the sublime about it, and while they're cool to listen to right now, there's the potential to be extremely impressive once these guys finish deciding how they need to arrange their writing for maximum effect.

A Grue in the light?  That's unpossible!

Set breaks at this gig consisted of three things happening in any order.  1) Get new beer.  2) Go outside to cool down.  3) Dave comes by and promises that he has Grue tapes for export.  I did eventually get said tapes at the end of the night, and wasn't planning on leaving without them, but Dave of course had other stuff to do and other people to hang with over the course of the night rather than making up export packs.

Vulkodlak [5.5/7]
After seeing the parade of dudes in NYDM vests going in and out carrying gear, it was a little surprising to see this band line up and start playing as only a two-piece.  Member absences are no rare thing in the underground, even when it comes to underground touring, but this turns out to be most of Vulkodlak, and despite being down to just drums and guitar (this was kind of a theme for the night) they managed to mostly carry off the material.  Their spiky death-tinged black metal wasn't the most diversified or original in the whole world, but they generated a good performance with what they had, pulled up in closing by a fast, violent, cover of Sodom's "Blasphemer".  Pretty good stuff; hopefully, they'll be back, and in greater numbers.

Vulkodlak committing "Rites of the Equinox".

I apologize to anyone (mostly Mike Kleptocracy, maybe also the Rev) who I provided with false information on this band.  This is not the same band as the Vukodlak who put out Darkest Autumn ten years ago, despite the practically identical spelling of an extremely uncommon word and the fact that they were touring with another NYDM band from Pennsylvania.  That other L is significant, and they are legit 100% from Alabama.  Support real hinterlands extreme metal (see also), not gimmick rednecks.

Neldoreth [4/7]
Neldoreth continued on with the two-member theme, albeit not nearly as effectively as any of the other bands, and without a drummer (points may be related).  With live members consisting of a vocalist, a (second) guitarist, and a hell of a lot of playback, they put up an oddly-sourced set of unexceptional blackened death metal that was at times difficult to watch (playback guitars are ok, but the live guitar should lead the playback rather than fill in behind it, always always always) and due to the volumes needed for the band to hear their drums out of the PA, occasionally impossible to listen to.  Their set basically read their Invert Christ CD straight down (if in different order), and though it improved a little at the end, the only way this band is going to make any significant improvement is to get more non-digitized members in.

All of Neldoreth.  Seriously.  The first draft note on this set read "bring your whole band", but this is as much of Neldoreth as there ever is in one building at the same time.

Obsidian Tongue [6/7]
The evolution continues; another Obsidian Tongue set close on the heels of this one ten days ago, but with a fairly substantial reshuffle of the (four-song) setlist, taking a different side on Volume I.  At this point, it's barely worth noting when this band does something excellent, but they continue to get better and better on each successive date.  If, as this show seems to indicate, restricted instrumentation/membership is going to be a coming thing in third-wave black metal/black metal generally, Obsidian Tongue are clearly at the forefront of it, and we around Boston somehow continue be able to see them do their alchemy on a $7 ticket.  Brendan's (joking) comments on "fuck you bassplayers fest" ((jokingly) disappreeshed by actual and frustrated bassists alike) aside, this set was essentially one long, uniform, high that only offended by eventually drawing to a close.

As implied, this one did finally finish, at which point I got Neldoreth's record (at 25 minutes, and less than 20 of original music, not such a great deal for $12, but bands that have the guts to tour still need the support) and picked up tapes from both Grue and Kleptocracy, then headed out across the bridges again, the rain completely gone.  Another one down.  Another day closer to the tour.