Thursday, November 07, 2013
Due to a bunch of mostly-unrelated stuff, I wasn't able to get out the night before to see Dying Fetus/Exhumed/Devourment/a bunch of less notable touring bands/Dysentery among like 900 locals, so it was a definite point of emphasis to make it out to this one; not only as the tentpole big show in a weekend of more big shows than I could actually afford to do all of, but also because it was fucking Kreator and I kind of have a complex. I got out of work about on time, but the highway was jammed as usual for a Friday with the sun dying right in everyone's eyes, and I didn't actually get up to the venue till about 10 minutes past doors. Of course, this wasn't ever going to have been right-in in the first place; a short line for tickets and then a longer one, wrapping back around to the diverted upstairs entrance, to actually get frisked and processed in. I ended up in a little past 7, got a beer, and went down to the next deck but the last from the floor.
I had not heard of this band previously, and their unsearchably generic name fit in well with their over-long and absolutely undifferentiated set of 'AAF-core. There were flashes of nostalgia at times, as you'd expect from a band fusing the likes of mid-'90s Corrosion of Conformity with Shinedown or not-yet-completely-wussified Staind, but just because something reminds you of what you were listening to on the radio when you were young and didn't know any better doesn't make it necessarily good, or even interesting. Massachusetts has a habit of producing bands like this, as well as the kinds that I normally report on, and they have the chops and sound to make it farther in the mainstream if that happens for them. That said, this region also produces a lot of bands that would make better openers for a thrash metal package: Crypter and/or Phantom Glue would have killed it to this crowd in this slot, but Crypter is propping up the Kataklysm show in two weeks and Phantom Glue have more savvy than to let the venue promoters here run game on them. So we put up with Rope wearing out their welcome over a set that ran about three songs longer than it needed to, and waited for the touring bands.
Rope, at a safe distance.
In this break I got another beer, considered going forward, and figured out how to turn off the flash on my phone, so that later, I could be less obnoxious taking nine million pictures of Kreator that didn't come out.
I should have known this was going to be a great night when Warbringer came out and hit it dead on. This was probably the best set I've seen from this band, which truth told is not saying a whole lot, but for the material they have to work with, this was a class performance. The IV material is a distinct step up from the stuff they've been shoveling since the first album, and the old songs were also blasted out with critical fire and energy that got the floor going like mad. Maybe if I were ten years younger, and had heard War Without End at eighteen, not knowing Kreator, rather than at 28, after seeing their examples live in Germany and a decade after first spinning Out of the Dark..., I'd react differently to this band, but I really suspect that the shortfall in the writing department would dominate. Someday, Slayer and Kreator and Exodus and Destruction are going to hang it up, and Warbringer will be left as the living exemplar of thrash metal -- and until and unless they go back to not only their influences, but the bands that influenced them, and level up their songwriting a little more, something is going to be permanently lost. So what if they're still young? Mille was still in high school when Endless Pain came out, and had to seriously get a note from Noise Records to get out of class and go to Berlin for recording.
Warbringer opening up.
Honestly, this was a good performance, and Warbringer is getting to the level where they ought to be able to play at least the upstairs as a headliner on their own. However, the bands to come made the divide between 'thrash' and 'thrash revival' really, really obvious.
The Phantom Antichrist banner, because I know that once Kreator starts playing, you're not going to be able to see this for shit.
This is what the best set Kreator has played in this building looked like:
From Flood Into Fire
Pleasure to Kill
Hordes of Chaos
Riot of Violence
Enemy of God
(solo - Sami)
United In Hate
Flag of Hate
Modern material cheek by jowl with ancient classics, blasted out at a hundred miles an hour through their typical fan-camera-hostile "rolling barrage" stageshow: smoke, unpredictably shifting spotlights, and strobes triggered off the bass drum. You have to be here to experience it; there is no way that those of us who were there can bring it out to you with stuff that will get through the door inspection.
As might be expected from a fourteen-song set with no obvious weak points, this was fucking incredible. I've seen Kreator a lot over the past eight years, and obviously been into them even longer, and thus have some standing to describe this as the best set I've seen from them on this continent, and coming pretty close to what I've seen from the band in Germany. The selection shows that despite other people pigeonholing them into the '80s and their first three records, Kreator in 2013 is still an alive working band, and Mille is as confident in the stuff he's put out since 2001 as that which came out before 1990. Sure, I'd abstractly have liked to get more stuff off Coma of Souls, "Bomb Threat" instead of "Phobia" for the '90s track, and maybe a few off Extreme Aggression, but here is the kicker: you cannot assume, playing four-figure capacity halls, that everyone in the audience is a longtime veteran who has heard all of your catalog and wants you to play wicked deep cuts, or you will soon end up playing in converted Pizza Huts again. Those who were at their first Kreator gig got an excellent view of Kreator as they are, as they choose to represent their catalog in the light of their current releases, as well as the excellent set that us old guys got, and perhaps they too will end up hooked for good.
The rolling barrage opens up on "Phantom Antichrist".
Mille with blasting spots behind him.
The rest of the stage actually visible.
Speesy and some dude putting up the horns.
Mille, side-stage solo.
While they didn't hit quite the heights that Kreator did, or cover nearly as much of their catalog, Overkill still smashed out an excellent set of thrashing metal in excellent fidelity, and if the crowd didn't move as much, it was mostly because the floor was packed a lot fuller. Bobby made multiple references to the health issues he had after their last gig here, but was in fine fettle, and if he spent most of his non-singing time offstage, presumably huffing oxygenated steam or something, he spent the time on-stage hitting his marks absolutely, which is not something that can be said about a lot of other air-raid singers his age. Music this intense is a young man's game, by and large, but Overkill are still able to play fast, scream high, and hit hard with the best of them, entering their sixth decade of age and fourth decade as a working band. This was a killer set, and if it closed up before midnight and didn't include more recent stuff (like, say, "Old School", which people were actually yelling for), it still didn't exactly go gently into that good night.
Thrash hard, strobe out.
A little more stable view of Overkill.
It did, eventually, close up, though, and after the lights went up rather than opening on a second encore, I beat feet for the exits and headed back. My weekend was otherwise occupied, so I didn't make it out to Death Angel and Revocation, but absent something major I should be able to get out to Morbid Angel, presuming I can still nab a ticket.