Monday, September 22, 2014
Crowbar with Revocation, Havok, Fit For An Autopsy, Armed for the Apocalypse and My Missing Half [Worcester Palladium, 9/16/2014]
Somehow, the rolling disaster ongoing at work over the past two weeks mostly resolved itself, or at least the part I was working on, in time to head out early to Worcester for this one. Despite a lot of blandishments about lane closures, I managed to get out in decent order and get in shortly after nominal doors to an empty venue; this would be a lot easier if they'd foregone the local opener for a bill that was already five bands deep, but the subtleties of venue operation are not within the areas of my expertise. This didn't matter, of course, to normal people who were going to skip the local openers anyway, but I continue to show up early by nature, and I might as well give new bands a fair shake while I'm there.
My Missing Half [4/7]
"Fair shakes", though, must coexist with "high standards", given that there is a lot of good local music in this area, and by those standards, this set shook out to about replacement level. It wasn't really bad per se, and they had problems with the mix like basically every band would on the night, from nearly everywhere on the floor, but the overwhelming indication is that this band is already at their ceiling, and that ceiling is "passionately mediocre". There's definitely an audience for rehashed NWOSDM with reheated aspirational post-rock breaks, but the supply of that music is still at saturation levels, and these guys are not close to being or developing into a best-of-breed at it. This was indicated by the sparse crowd's lukewarm reaction to them, not just my old-guy grumping, but this is, perversely, probably a good thing: if you take a bath on tickets, as one suspects this band did, you will do it exactly once when you figure out the "exposure" con, and refocus on improving to the point where promoters pay you to play shows, rather than the other way around.
My Missing Half in a room half-full.
In this break, you can jam out to Thin Lizzy's "Waiting For An Alibi" while waiting for A4A to start, because this is a thing that happened at the gig as well.
Armed For Apocalypse [5.5/7]
From the band's name, initial press, and merch designs, I was more than a little skeptical about what we were going to get from them. Fortunately, this surface stuff was all predictable side effects of coming out of Cali; the guitarist's Reproacher shirt was a much better contraindication. Of all the openers, they were probably the most consistent with the headliners, laying out a gravelling fusion of doom and grind that didn't get nearly the floor response that it ought've. Blame the first couple pit ninjas for scaring people, blame the thrash-revival kids here for Havok for not getting into anything without a polka beat, blame yourself and your old beat-up knees for not getting stuck in and doing something about it yourself. Many of the people who would be especially into this music are not likely to have been at a Palladium show on a Tuesday, though; hopefully these guys will come back, in a smaller room closer to the coast (whether Boston or Providence) and give that audience a shot as well.
Armed For Apocalypse, committed to crushing.
In this break I picked up another beer, and also the A4A record; it's not quite as good as their live stuff, but it's smaller than and not as noisomely-designed as their shirts, and a good pick to support a good band for a good set.
Fit For An Autopsy [5/7]
They've changed singers for a more Crowbar-consistent model (not just more massive, dude also has a huge black fleur-de-lis on the inside of his arm) since the last time I saw them in this building, but this is about all that's changed: FFAA remains in their groove of grooving brootal slam khed death metal, and almost quite as Jersey as it is possible to be. This remains good, moshable, slamming music, entirely within itself and not pretending or aspiring to anything different. I tend to like more challenging death metal, especially in its more brutal forms, but there's nothing wrong with half an hour of this stuff to get the pit swirling.
Fit For An Autopsy pump up the slams.
Running low on cash, I decided to get the last bit of my merch done before I completely drank up the rest of my wallet, and headed up to nab a Revocation shirt and what turned out to be a preorder card for Deathless: the actual album isn't out for another month, but for the low price of $10 and a burner email address to throw in Metal Blade's marketing DB, you can get it shipped straight to your door. This is a kind of leveled-up version of what Hessian (and probably others) were DIYing since a while back, and it's still cool in the corporate form, with the main part of the album art fitting pretty well into the oblong form factor.
This in turn led to the stupid gonfallon moment of the night, as the Havok guys happened to strike this immortal intro while checking/tuning up, and exactly on cue, Phil (out for "2 tours" with a busted arm), Revocation's merch guy, and I all simultaneously yelled "THERE GOES THA NEIGHBAHOOOD!" to the surprise and confusion of the younger fans ahead of me in line, most of whom probably had not had an obsessive steeping in the many varieties of '90s thrash. A gonfallon is not really a real association, but social signifiers are still social signifiers: in this case, that older metalheads are fucking weird. BODY BODY COUNT BODY MOTHAFUCKIN COUNT.
Though the audience trolled them a little less than the last time I saw them up here, Havok's output was mostly the same: high-quality but still pretty predictable thrash revival that colors within the lines drawn for them by the Big 4. Good music remains good, and they got probably the second strongest floor response, but the 'revival' aspect of the music is the most problematic part of thrash revival: too many bands restrict themselves too rigorously, and end up doing something barely distinguishable from Nuclear Assault cosplay, playing originals barely separable from covers. Havok is one of the better band still operating in this style, and this was a good set, but they still haven't broken completely free of the revival tropes.
Havok get the room thrashing.
If the kids in Lich King shirts continue to dig them, though, there's no reason why Havok should have to change to suit the whims of some old kuttentraeger. And it's not like the personally more interesting, more developed, more diverse thrash of the 1990s was going to go unrepresented here, vice...
Ok, that is not fair. In real terms, Brent and Dan are full members of the band, and for real this was 3/4 of Revocation, 1/4 emergency patch for yet another bite from the injury bug, and a good, solid set of mostly-new material (we got two or three off Deathless, the material selection being driven partly by the coming release, partly because the live drummer can't be expected to know "Chainsaw Sacrifice Ritual" because people who saw these guys in VFWs a decade ago are yelling for it) that nearly won the battle with the mixing board. Revocation have done better sets, and will do better with this lineup on other dates; it's just that weight of memory that has old campaigners looking at this and seeing Dave Davidson doing Joe Satriani. This is now, though, not then, and this is Revocation as they actually are -- and surprise, the band is still a top-class death-thrash metal outfit that remains inspired by the stuff we were getting from the likes of Demolition Hammer and Coroner at the turn of the 1990s, but not so thoroughly attached to revivalism as to limit themselves off from other influences. We don't get as much live Revocation around Boston as we used to, but more surely than the other touring bands, they'll be back sooner rather than later, and still turning out cool, brutal, continually-evolving music.
Revocation melting faces off.
While they weren't actually, per their hype earlier in the night, the heaviest band ever (and not just due to reductions in average member mass, though this is also a good thing for people interested in another 25 years of Crowbar), there was no need for them to be, boiling and churning out a thick set of absolutely hypnotizing sludge metal to an almost fully packed room. I've not, historically, been really into Crowbar, but this was an excellent set even for me, and of course much more for the more committed fans, even if crowdsurfers were occasionally washing over them even down at the back end of the bar. With 25 years of history to get through, the band kept it pretty tight, clicking on for a good hour or so and keeping the latency between the end of that set and the start of the obligatory encore to a minimum. Quality, front to back.
Kirk and Matt, bringing the pain.
When the lights went on for real, I beat feet and managed to get back home in pretty good order, despite more than a few lane closures on various highways; that's a Tuesday for you. Unfortunately, work turned into a full-on shitshow for the rest of the week, which is why this is so late. Next gig, if I don't end up going out to see Prong, probably isn't until the middle of next month, and that's dependent on an on-call schedule that isn't set in stone yet. If it's not one thing, it's another.