Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Hexis with Plebeian Grandstand [Spotlight, Beverly, 8/16/2014]

Despite the strain and liver commitments of the fitba season kickoff, I managed to get out of the bar and sobered up in time to drive on back up to my old home town for what promised to be a fairly odd show.  With what appeared to be plenty of time, I stowed my car in one of the many practically-free lots ($0.25/hour, not enforced after 5 pm) between Cabot and Rantoul Streets, then hiked over to get some good, fairly-cheap Indian food at Anmol before going the last block up to the bar.  This was only a little after five, the initially-declared doors, but the bands had been pushed earlier (to avoid conflicts with the Black Light Body Paint Experience party kicking off at 7) and I missed Reproacher and the very start of Plebeian Grandstand coming inside.

Plebeian Grandstand [5/7]
What I did see of Plebeian, though, was a strong vindication of the decision to come up for the gig.  There's a lot of different ways you can do third-wave black metal, but the way that they do it is unadorned, direct, and kvlt, picking up a lot more from Leviathan and Striborg than the likes of Alcest.  They had some electronics out of a sample box, and more than a few hardcore touches around the grimy edges of their sound, but this is a legit black metal band, and a pretty good one at that.

Plebeian Grandstand raging under Christmas lights.

In the break I got a Shiner, talked with some old friends, including on the topic "it is so damn weird to see touring bands in this bar", and did a first-run merch grab that included making sure I got something out of Reproacher, at least, before settling back for Hexis.

Hexis [5/7]
Direct, intense, and violent, Hexis pounded out a straight-ahead set of relentless blackened hardcore that turned the flip side of what Plebeian Grandstand were doing.  This was necessarily a little less diverse, but still excellent in quality, and in a region that's produced Morne and Trap Them, it's kind of a shame that they weren't able to get in front of a larger audience at the likes of Anchors Up or the Democracy Center.  Those who were there, though, got a kickass set, and one that still got out with the sun up.

After nabbing one CD and a pin -- they were sold out of the other they brought across, so I'll probably have to dig it up on bandcamp or something -- I headed out to meet up with my youngest brother and find something else to do, it still being damn early.  This, hopefully, will become less irregular in the future: the somewhat over-the-top local boosterism in the intro aside, Spotlight (which used to be the Overtime the last time I saw metal bands there) is not a bad place for a show, and Beverly is not a bad town to see gigs in.  While the room setup is weird and they don't clear enough tables out to get to a decent capacity, the Spotlight is about as big as Roggie's (off the list, probably, due to legal problems) or O'Brien's pre-renovation and definitely viable for DIY touring or local shows in that capacity.  As regards transit, Beverly has better rail access than any other town on the northern 128 belt (the Depot gets every train on both the Newburyport and Rockport lines) and better highway access than any other town on the commuter rail (62 drops you right in downtown, and there are all those practically-free lots).  It's not better than Anchors Up or Sammy's Patio -- both larger rooms with a larger built-in local audience -- but depending on your access method it may be easier to get to, and it's realistically better than the likes of Champions or random metal-detected nightclubs in Saugus as far as second-tier venues between Boston and the NH border go.  Spotlight is making a decent fist of it as a music venue mostly on the back of cover bands and college-town dynamics (there is an art school downtown, and a preppy SLAC for academically-disadvantaged children of financially-gifted parents out on the fringes), but it's not impossible that they might get decent shows on a semi-regular basis going forward.

Friday, August 15, 2014

King Parrot with Abolishment of Flesh and Parasitic Extirpation [Ralph's, Worcester, 8/14/2014]

The lack of coordination between "appealing Metal Thursday shows" and "weeks I'm not on call" over the last year has left me still not 100 percent sure of how to Ralph's from my current apartment, so for this one I got a little later of a start out than I'd've liked to, but it was clean sailing until the point where MassDOT decided for whatever reason to effectively close the Pike westbound.  This added a little delay, but it was only like a mile and a half from the last neckdown to the 290 exit, and I got up to Ralph's about in normal time.  It turned out, though, that this was actually with ample time to spare, because Beyond Creation hadn't gotten down from Canada yet, and this show was going to go on with only three bands.  There was still some time before Parasitic went on, so I finished my beer, and tried, at least for the time being, to refrain from BUY ALL OF THE DEATH METAL!  This would mostly end up happening anyway, but I already have far too many shirts, and need to be better about not buying stuff that's going to immediately head for the discard pile.

Jim goes all-digital on kicks.  Since bass drums are among the more cumbersome things a band has to lug around, it makes sense to go smaller (since there's really nothing you're going to be able to do about guitar/bass cabs, the other big offenders), and in a slammy technical context like this where you're going to be using a lot of triggers anyway, it makes even more sense to skip the head damage and just play the trigger out into the PA when you hit it.

Parasitic Extirpation [6.5/7]
On this avalanching sample, Parasitic is completely back -- and likely has been there for a while, given that I haven't seen this band since goddamn forever, shortly after they swapped out 3/5 members.  The pretaste we got of their coming EP (slated for sometime this fall) shows the band taking another determined step forward, but the Casketless material filling the bulk of the set was similarly delivered, continuing to pile technicality on relentless technicality, and tuned up and arranged to hit even harder than it does on record.  All in all, an excellent set from an excellent band, and hopefully more to come.

Parasitic ripping it up.

With only three bands and a not-super-delayed start, the set changes were quick, aided by partial backlining between Abolishment and King Parrot, and so soon enough the music was going again.

Abolishment of Flesh [6/7]
I hadn't seen this band before, but had been kind of peripherally aware of them, cobilled on western fests/shows with bands from this region that I follow more closely.  This was an impressive New England debut; pounding, fairly technical death metal with fewer slams than might be anticipated in these days of Devourment/Insidious Decrepancy-style TXDM, and more of the brutal melodics and riff structures that you'd get from the likes of Immolation or older Hypocrisy.  There wasn't as much floor motion as they'd probably have liked, without the familiarity factor of Parasitic or the total insanity that King Parrot would release, but this was still a good, strong set, and it still got a good, strong reception from the audience.

Abolishment as they kick it off.

A little clearer, as Ramon's standing still for the moment to do some vocals.

Reid and some two-handed tapping; between him and Damon, there was a lot of good technical four-string bassplaying going on over the first two bands, which, for bass nerds in the audience, may almost have made up for the lack of Forest Lapointe.

In the second and last break, I got a last beer -- Gansetts are not exactly trippels, and King Parrot was going to play a long set -- and did nearly all of my merch, which ended up less than desired as Parasitic had run out of "Icon of Torment" shirts in sizes larger than Medium, and while I'm not quite as large as I've been in the recent past, getting down to a Medium is probably not going to happen, like, ever.  Still, I secured a patch, the King Parrot full-length, and NEARLY ALL OF THE DEATH METAL that Abolishment had along; a good haul that did not leave me completely broke even as it armored up my pockets for the pit to come.

Youngy stares off at the first row as King Parrot sets up.

King Parrot [7/7]
There is high intensity, and then there is King Parrot level.  You expect (or ought to) after Blood Duster and The Berzeker (alums of both of whom have been in this band at various points), that Australian grindcore is going to be completely rammed to 11 all the time, but such expectations aren't always delivered, nor delivered to the level that has several members of Demoralizer simultaneously crowdsurfing in a sub-100-capacity venue.  This set delivered not only mile-a-minute devastation and high-quality sleaze weirdness, but also the first wall of death I've participated in at Ralph's and probably the most stagediving this venue has ever seen for a single show since, um, it is a bar and not a regular host to youthcrew shows that will have a lot of stagediving in a room this small.  It was hell of fun, and nobody got a hospitalization-level injury from a close encounter with one of the steel support poles, making this an unambiguous success.  The touring part of this bill is hooking up with Origin (and, hopefully, Beyond Creation) for a run of a couple weeks that may turn out better, generally, than this gig, but this was a fucking amazing set to tie off a class night any way you slice it.

King Parrot set this shit off.

After the lights went on and King Parrot started breaking down their shit, I went back and grabbed one of their shirts -- if you think there's a better catchphrase than "I'm not here to fuck spiders, mate", guess what, you're wrong -- and then headed out, an easy ride with minimal construction that got me home in time to get rested enough that I could bust this out without delay.  The weekend is going to be mostly fitba, with the Prem kickoff consuming most of the mornings, but there's also a bizarre-ass matinee black metal show in my home town that I'd like to get up to: bands from France, Denmark, and Wyoming in a bar that my high school friends' cover bands play like three nights a week.  We'll see if I can get up for that -- and if it ends up happening, and if it is not absolutely the weirdest thing to occur in said building.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Summer Slaughter 2014 - Dying Fetus with The Faceless, Thy Art Is Murder, Goatwhore, Origin, Decrepit Birth, Within the Ruins, Fallujah, Boreworm and Reborn Divided [Worcester Palladium, 8/9/2014]

Since for once I wasn't on call for a major tour, I bit down on the high door price and the large number of bands I wasn't particularly interested in and headed out for this one; it's no Party.San, and missing Benediction was probably the biggest price I paid for the China thing, but there were still a lot of quality bands on this bill, and it's not like there was much else going on.  Despite the usual midday tie-up on the pike, I got over about half an hour after doors, got in and through, and did some merch and got a beer while waiting for the bands to start.

Reborn Divided [3.5/7]
I could have waited a little longer.  These guys opened up the downstairs with a preschool-level set of My First Deathcore, about five songs with two compositional ideas at one (pointlessly slow) tempo.  This is not the worst band I've seen in this room, and the score improved a little when the drummer showed in the last song that yes, he was capable of playing a blastbeat, but it was pretty fucking bad -- like "a bad version of ten-year-old Acacia Strain B-sides" bad.  I tried for most of their set to find something else redeeming, or that would indicate that there was some potential for improvement, but...just...nothing.  No key changes.  No tempo changes outside of a couple ten-second blast sections.  No special technical competence from the instrumentalists, and no particularly appealing breakdowns: you don't need to do either or both, especially in deathcore, but if you can't solo, you better have some good breakdowns, and vice versa.  Nothing.  Whether due to excessive self-satisfaction or simple lack of ability, this band is probably at their ceiling and can be safely disregarded until such time as they can find professionals to say nice things about them.

Feeling fairly confirmed about what kind of things can be expected to happen when I go to larger tours, I went back, grabbed another beer, and got down in time for the next band up.  I could probably have tried harder to see the upstairs as well, but there wasn't, like, a fairly obvious running order posted anywhere -- one sheet with times on it taped in a forest of posters next to each of the staircases from the lobby to the downstairs, that's it -- and I wasn't really looking out for any of the local openers.  The good ones, I'll see at some point on a local show; the less good ones, I won't waste time and the chance of missing Decrepit Birth on.

Boreworm [5/7]
The other Battle-for-Summer-Slaughter winner on the bill (Reborn Divided placed between first and third at the first round of regionals in Trenton back in February, which is a hell of a thing to have to put in your press kit, and an additional reminder that the "wisdom of crowds" depends pretty heavily on the composition of those crowds), Boreworm won the final to go from southeast Michigan to the whole national tour, and to their credit held their end up with a pretty good set of brutal death metal flavored with post-metal bits.  Though the next time they come around, they're more likely to be at Ralph's, they commanded the large stage well and gave the audience a good time; you can ask more from openers, but not realistically expect much more.

Fallujah [6/7]
I had low to no expectations of this band, based on mostly national press and the fact that most of the bands who play Summer Slaughter, I tend not to like too much.  They completely blew those expectations away with a solid, crushing set of quality brutal death metal leavened with space-influenced tech breaks; more Obscura than Decrepit Birth, but Decrepit Birth was kind of already playing this show also, and Obscura wasn't -- and in any case, more quality death metal never goes amiss.  If you're also an old crank who tends to give new bands a miss for no real reason, this tour -- loaded with old known-good bands -- is an excellent opportunity to remind yourself that newer music does not necessarily suck, and that some of this stuff is pretty damn good.

Afterwards, I tried to buy their new record off the merch stand, but rather than pay for vinyl to get snapped in half during the coming Decrepit Birth/Origin rail stand, I ended up with the old one, which I didn't have yet either.  Retail is still a thing occasionally, right?  I can just go to a store and get physical music, right?  Maybe not; only about three bands had records on their merch tables, a clear sign that digital delivery is dominating physical music generally and CD format in particular straight out of existence.  Whether bought on Itunes or boosted on bittorrent, the assumption is that the audience here is pulling the music out of the ether, and lugging physical copes around is wasted van space that can't be used for shirts, which people are going to buy.

Within the FlamesRuins [5/7]
As an old North Shore head, it is good to see that Gothenchusetts is still a thing.  It is less good to see that it is this silly of a thing, loaded with decade-old tropes and rounded out with electro shadings that make it seem like this band should be opening the Crossfaith tour in a couple months, but I'm not really the audience for this band.  People who are still in the age bracket that I was in when Life In Vain was the greatest thing to ever happen to a VFW will find these guys less silly, less cheesy, and a whole lot more fun to get in the pit for, which is kind of the point of this music.  This is not old-dude-in-armored-jacket music, but it is an enjoyable way to pass the time between heavier bands.

A last beer, and I hit the front; Decrepit Birth into Origin was kind of mostly why I came out for this, and if I can't do two sets' worth of rail stand, I should really stop going to shows altogether.

Decrepit Birth setting up.

Decrepit Birth [6.5/7]
You can pick points with this set.  The only one that matters is that it was on a super-package tour, and thus had to stop at some point.  When Decrepit Birth is on like this, there is not ever really enough Decrepit Birth, only varying degrees of "not enough"; this was "not enough", true, but it was a good, long deep toke of "not enough", technical, melodic, floor-churning, brutal, and mind-expanding in the way that the best death metal is.  With the short set time as a constraint, the band kept the pedal down all the way through, and the results were pretty fucking impressive, holding the entire hall rapt straight on to the end.  Excellent.

Bill roaring away; the clouds of smoky haze are exactly what you think they are.  There were technically some other pictures, but they came out even less than these did.

Origin [7/7]
As they've been in the past, Origin set off an explosion of brutal, hyperblasting death metal that made no compromises and barely stopped over the full runtime.  With the larger stage and larger floor, there was also enough room for Jason to bust out a couple of the old Skinless Stupid Mosh Tricks; they needed more time for actual music, so there was no Tsunami or Zombie Wall, but Jason remains the one guy who can plausibly get people to do a silent Wall of Death, and Origin one of the few bands where this is a better idea than trying to go on the music.  As expected, the floor was a sea of violence for most of the set, contested only by the even less inhibited violence coming out of the PA.  Surgical precision, devastating results: death metal does not really get much better.

At this point I was done for a while -- until Dying Fetus and the decision whether or not to stick for Morbid Angel -- so I got some food and moved back a ways to see the next couple bands.

Goatwhore [5/7]
Exactly as expected, Goatwhore continues to be as they have been since they succeeded Krisiun as the default opening band on every show: attempting, with intermediate success, to follow up "...Black Sun Cult".  They played this song second, but might as well have played it in every other slot as well, since it is quite literally all they have, a conclusion that grows more and more obvious with every passing year.  It's a good song.  Copying it on every other song has gotten them to be an acceptable 1349 ersatz.  But there's still nothing in this set to indicate this band is ever going to do anything different, or ever get any better than "good enough".

I got another beer, and since the lower hall was getting fuller, changed sides before the next band.

Thy Art Is Murder [5.5/7]
For a poing-by-numbers deathcore band, these guys were all right, and kept a pretty good sense of humor through the set.  Their music's well-executed, but not really memorable, the point of it being mostly to have something going on audially so dudes can jump up and down in time.  There are better bands from Australia, but not many that are both better and so perfectly pitched to this tour's expected audience.

One last beer -- it was becoming clearer that I probably wasn't going to stick around for Morbid Angel, and I needed to dry out a little -- and it was back down, getting a decent place that I could also keep for Dying Fetus.

The Faceless [5.5/7]
This was a pretty good outing from a band that I habitually ignore; good, but not disruptively so to the degree that I'd actually develop an interest.  Their take on death metal is well-worked and usually interesting, but a lot of their more melodic or prog parts are a lot better in conception than in execution -- especially the ones that call for clean vocals from the guitarist, who either is really not capable of doing them at all, or needs to invest in a working in-ear monitor ASAP, rather than soldier on with one that's obviously broken.  They're still a good time overall, though, and still continuing to develop and do different things while keeping a good baseline of brutality, so I'm going to continue to make sure to see them when they're inevitably on another festival/tour that I'm going to see other bands at.

Dying Fetus [6.5/7]
This is probably not the best set I've seen from Dying Fetus; that honor will probably end up going to the gig a couple years back with Carcass, but it was pretty damn close.  Ceaselessly explosive and exactly on point for a good, full, set that could easily have gone on like half an hour longer without any complaints, they pounded the crowd into small pieces and kept on hitting.  For those who, like me, were going to end up bailing rather than sticking around to see how much Illuderp material Morbid Angel was going to try to get away with, this was an excellent headlining set from an excellent band.  For those who were going to stick around and hope that the headliners were going to pretend that the twenty years since Domination didn't actually happen, this was a hell of a mark for them to come up to.

After Dying Fetus, as alluded to, I headed up and out, accompanied by more people than I was really expecting.  I don't think it's the wheels coming off for Morbid Angel, not really, but this was a pretty good tour from about 1600 to 2100, dudes were exhausted, the kids who came for the metalcore had a curfew, the diehards all saw Morbid in Boston back in November under better circumstances, and their last album is a steaming turd.  I've seen enough Morbid Angel festival sets, and don't really need more, until such time as they get their shit together and put out something new and non-horrible.  Missing them in November sucked, but they weren't going to play that set on this date anyway.

Owing to the relatively early start (seriously, it was like 10, on a Saturday night in the summer -- the hell, Palladium), I got back in good order, did not get too soused watching the Community Shield on Sunday, and turned this thing around in decent time.  Next up should be King Parrot and some death metal bands in Worcester; the surprise that they're back from Australia is overshadowed by the relief that they're appearing with appropriate touring partners, rather than whatever nominally-metal bands their tour agency could scrounge up.

It was because of this show that I didn't go out to RPM Fest; there were several bands on that bill that I was interested to see, and the festival experience is always a good thing to support.  From the latest iterations in the thread of ceaseless screaming drama, it looks like the fest went ok: neither such a failure that the trolls could claim victory, nor such a success that they would be shut up and left to slink off with their tails between their legs.  Regardless, the success or failure of a festival isn't decided on the internet the week after, but by the organizers in the month or so to come, when they decide if they do a second.  At a minimum, they fulfilled the requirements I mentioned a couple years back, and depending on which pictures from which angle and what time you trust, may have gotten up to the 200 headcount point that previous examples in Germany have established as a baseline for something that's not going to immediately collapse in on itself.  However, they did a bunch of stuff wrong that made it difficult to support going in, and eventually made me decide against going out.

The first was bad scheduling around the fest.  When you announce a festival two months in advance, you should maybe make sure that is not booked against the one date of the big summer tour in the area.  Putting Saturday night against Summer Slaughter was just stupid, and unnecessarily locked out, um, everyone in New England who was interested in seeing Dying Fetus or Morbid Angel.  This is kind of a large slice of the metalheads who you'd want to show up for a DIY festival on its first run out, and this fest could have gotten them back easily by booking just two weeks later, which would conflict with neither Summer Slaughter nor Pray For Death.

The second was the scheduling internal to the fest.  If you look at any other multi-day camp-in festival, anywhere else in the world, you will never see bands going this late into a Sunday, the reason being that it is a lot easier to take off, or take off a couple hours earlier, on Friday than it is to take off Monday.  Sunday morning is for pack-up, Sunday afternoon for travel back to wherever the hell you came from.  It'd've been a lot more friendly for people outside the immediate catchment area -- western Massachusetts is not well served by highways, and most of the population centers are at a pretty fair distance -- to open the gates at 5 PM Friday, with bands starting at 7 or so, and either push later on Friday and Saturday or just cut some of the fat from the schedule.

The third is the unnecessarily bloated schedule.  There ended up being 32 bands on this thing, and many of them were (by investigation in advance) pretty bad.  You do not need the best bands in the world on your fest -- seriously, check the Party.San bills for the first five years, and see if you can avoid the conclusion "this is all late-90s unlistenable garbage" -- but you do need to avoid the impression, prominent here, that the music is going to be a dump truck's worth of suck.  This bill could easily have been trimmed back to 15 or 20 bands without trimming the audience, giving more of them better sets and eliminating the need to play all Sunday to fit them all in.

Provided that they do a second, and that it's not booked against stuff that will take precedence -- even with China, it was a close-run thing to not spend this past weekend in Schlotheim -- it's likely that I'll be out for it, despite the road miles involved, to take in the experience for myself.  But seriously, smarter scheduling and a more selective filter on who plays will make that decision a lot easier for others who might be on the fence about the camp-in idea.