So I finished smashing out Tuesday's writeup, grabbed some grub and watched Seguin pull one back against the Islanders, then hit the road out to Worcester, arriving a little after nominal start, which made for relatively less time standing around answering questions about where the hell I'd been since, basically, the runup to festivals last year. The Wicked dude had his table out again, but mindful of my shrunken wallet and the need to support touring bands, I held back on actively browsing for stuff, and after picking up Axe Ripper's record, Crypter's drummer finally got in and set up, so the bands were able to get going.
It's been a fairly long time since I last saw Crypter, and the band has further solidified their sound in the interim. They remain a pretty doctrinaire thrash-revival act, but the black and early-death touches in their sound continue to be more smoothly integrated, and their material continues to get more practiced. Right now, to continue the old-thrash theme, the band is pretty much where Testament was in about 1985: solid, their best material still unwritten, unsigned, and mostly underage. They killed it despite the short set here, as usual, and it's going to continue to be cool to watch them develop, which will hopefully include a full-length or another demo, which the band will be able to sell once more of the remaining 80% of the members won't immediately get kicked out of 21+ shows when they're done playing.
Crypter rip it up.
Despite the earlier slot (they were originally slotted to close, but moved back to showcase the bands from further away), Carmine had on his headliner pants for this one, and more importantly Seax dropped a headliner-quality set into the shorter time they were allowed. Since the last time, they've replaced both their drummer and the second guitar, but without really missing a beat. The crowd was probably the thickest for them, but maybe not quite thick enough to support Carmine's crowdsurfing efforts -- which fortunately ended with his feet first to hit the floor. Most of the set, as expected, was pulled from their current record, but we also got a preview of the next one in "Drink, Fuck, and Die"; if this blasting shoutalong anthem is generally indicative of their new material, that new record (timeline "later this year", so nothing definite yet) is going to be a straight-up killer -- maybe too much to expect, but Seax now is faster, crazier, and heavier than when they started, on the same exact material, and it's been a pretty consistent progression. People can disagree about how seriously to take a spandex-denim-and-leather throwback speed metal band in the year 2013, but you can't argue that the band isn't taking their craft seriously -- or that they don't turn in a seriously killer live show in any opportunity they get.
Seax go metal thrashin' mad.
Eli gets a two-shot with Hell as compensation for blowing his head out. Technical difficulties were kind of a theme of the night. As noted, Crypter's drummer got stuck in traffic or something, Eli blew his head out in Seax's second song, Kyle from Axe Ripper broke a string midway through their set, and as will be seen below, Hessian had a bass drum failure somehow. People covered around -- Seax finished the night with the second guitar through Angus' head, and Hessian in turn picked up Axe Ripper's bass drum -- and notably, none of the bands seemed fazed or adversely affected by all the stuff breaking. Pro dudes are pro.
Somewhere around here, I picked up the new Hessian shirt and a really, really, killer patch; standards of manufacture on these things, as noted previously, are going nowhere but up. The problem remains where to put it, but this one is large and commanding enough to take over one of the lower panels on my current warm-weather vest...presuming of course I have any time at all to get through the sewing backlog any time soon.
Axe Ripper [5.5/7]
The locals had left Axe Ripper with a pretty high mark on their first East Coast tour, but the band stepped up and executed to it, pounding down a thick, kickass set of thrashing metal that showed off its roots in both hardcore and southeast Michigan -- Angus called out Kyle's incredible tone during Hessian's set, but it's not just great, it's incredibly specific to the rock/blues heritage of the west end of Lake Erie -- while keeping the revivalist aspects of their sound to a minimum. Too many thrash-revival bands decide to just pick up specific thrash strands from the early- to mid-'80s and repeat them, but in their execution of modern crossover, Axe Ripper isn't even repeating Cryptic Slaughter, much less the more ploughed-over Bay Area sounds that we generally get from West Coast bands. The set kind of ran down a little at the end, as the band ran low on separably different material, but the energy stayed relentless throughout, despite the diminished and usually stationary crowd. This was a good performance, but you couldn't help thinking, in the audience, that this band would have flat killed it if they'd been able to play a little closer to Boston, and/or to a punkier crowd...which would probably have been on offer here if Ancient Power was on the bill. Regardless, this was a fine set, and hopefully they'll come back and get that next opportunity to play to some people more willing to brew things up.
Axe Ripper smash the crowd.
In here, since I wasn't drinking any more, I browsed the Wicked distro table to kill time, and ended up having to buy Running Wild's latest record. I wasn't intending to actually spend money on stuff, but new Running Wild is kind of an obligation, and from the song titles and packaging, it looks like Rolf's restarted the band in the line of Gamma Ray rather than Blackbeard, maybe because he's crazy (at least as of 2005, the dude was one of the few monarchists left in Germany willing to go on record in favor of it as a political system) and maybe due to cultural pirate fatigue in the wake of Johnny Depp making the genre viable again. We'll see how this goes.
The place that Seax is trying to get to, and may be on the verge of reaching with that new material, Hessian has already arrived onto, and they're in the process -- or at least should be -- of consolidating to get to the next level. I have seen this band, it turns out, a lot less frequently than I thought, but the improvement that was incremental before was pretty dramatic here. Building off the Old, Wild, and Free stuff but mostly focusing on new material, some of which won't be out till Bachelor of Black Arts drops (seriously, stuff like "Funeral Disco" is why people listen to heavy metal), Hessian completely slaughtered it with a classic sound that remains vital and fresh even while clearly calling back to the NWOBHM and mid-'70s southern rock all over the damn place. Yes, lights, and yes, smoke machine, but they actually work in this context, and if you care about that stuff while a band this good is playing, there's something wrong with you. The intention was to close out with "Witch Road" (and give Axe Ripper their bass drum back, so they could head out to the highway), but audience demand got them another song out of the soundboard before the lights went up and Anton Maiden came on to get us to clear out for real. This was about as good a set as anyone should realistically expect at the DIY level; though working out of Maine does kind of deal the band a rough hand as far as touring and exposure, they've definitely got the chops to take this show on the road and/or break out with wider distribution. I'll only be surprised if the new record doesn't come with a tour; it falls to people outside New England to be disappointed.
Hessian invade in smoke and fire.
Swapping out bass drums; I'm not sure what happened here, and this is the first time in seven years of fairly intensive showgoing that I can recall a major piece of drum hardware getting swapped out midset.
Salli takes the lead vocal for "Cloven Lady".
With the possibility of more Hessian pretty definitely foreclosed on, I beat feet to avoid hearing more butchery of "The Number of the Beast", and despite having to tank up on caffeine supplies midway, got home in good order with a moderate amount of rain, and was able to cycle quickly and get this out on time. I have a lot of crap to attend to Saturday through Monday, but should be able to get that tied up in time to see Nocuous before my next on-call stand starts, just in time for NEMHCF. Oh noes, whatever will I do, being forced to miss this consistently good, smoothly operated, and perpetually relevant festival for work.
Addendum: since I tend to only ever see localish DIY metal bands, rather than folks from other territories or other genres, other bands have probably rolled out stuff like this before, but it doesn't mean that the below thing from Hessian isn't the smartest thing I've seen from a kinda-touring band lately:
This is how Hessian's doing their album teaser sampler, rather than grinding out dozens of two-song CD-Rs. The advantage is simple and obvious: less van weight cutting into gas mileage, less investment if it gets lost or stolen, and you can reload your merch bucket on the road for the price of a tiny thumbdrive and some cardstock at Kinko's. The disadvantage is that, at least for full releases, folks who pick up a release this way don't have something with the album art on it in their pocket. That's it -- and the bandcamp package that people will download off this can have the art packed in at as high a resolution as the band desires. There may be a philosophical argument about technology getting in everywhere and changing the experience, but this is dumb.
CDs are digital technology. Hell, vinyl is technology, albeit with a different toolset and its own advantages and drawbacks. The second we get to listen to music without the band having to be there playing it live for us, technology is getting in and changing our experience of the music. Distro via QR codes on cardstock is a good thing, because it leverages an environment that already exists, and is on its way to being completely pervasive -- in addition to cash like normal, I saw the distro table at this show process a couple credit card payments by normal smartphone -- and makes things easier and more cost-effective for bands. If the margins on distro go up, prices can go down while bands make more: we get more music per unit dollar, and the bands get more net money per sale, allowing them to do less day-job overtime and more jamming. The lack of the immediate visual is the only downside in this -- and it's not like you can't put the QR code on the back of a nice 5x7 full-color promo card if you want to go the extra mile.