Monday, May 18, 2015

Cryptopsy with Disgorge, Erimha, Soreption, The Convalescence, and Parasitic Extirpation [Ralph's, Worcester, 5/14/2015]

Having gotten turned back at the door for Saxon the night before, I was wary about going all the way out to Worcester for another ticketed event, but this bill was so fucking good that I couldn't, in good conscience, pass it up just out of pessimism.  I headed out as early as I figured I could swing, and ended up at Ralph's about half an hour before official doors, where I blagged my way in for a modest premium on top of the advance price; nothing ventured, nothing gained, indeed.

Inside, this was set up along the back wall:

I could feel my wallet sublimating just standing there.  With a large (indeed, larger then expected) number of touring bands, all of whom were at max merch selection (this was the first date of the tour), the impulse to get just damn everything needed a lot of active restraint to scale back to what my finances could survive.  Same as ever.

Fortunately, in a world of ever-escalating beer prices, at Ralph's, Yosh will still twist you open a Gansett bottle for two-fifty, also same as ever.  Non-band-preempting drink in hand, I tried to stay out of the way for a bit as Blue shuffled Parasitic's merch from one side of the front to the other, out of the way of both the touring bands and the audience, before the band went on, earlier than expected because the tour had expanded.

Parasitic Extirpation [6/7]
I hadn't seen Parasitic since last year, which is not so bad considering that it's gotten to be multiple years between seeing good local bands lately.  That was before Putrid Crown actually came out; on this gig, they basically read the record straight down, but closed covering "Maze of Torment" as well as the Carcass tune that's on the disc.  I've seen better sets from them, but this was a pretty damn good one to be sure, despite the short and early slot, and laid down a marker for the touring portion of the bill.

Opening barrage.

Blue ripping on a sponsored axe; the guitarists in this band are some of the most particular and knowledgable gear heads in New England, so it was a little weird to see them wielding identical 7-strings, at least until you crack open the current EP and see that they're officially endorsing the maker.

The Convalescence [5/7]
This band satisfied the minimal standards of technical competence and execution to go on a national tour.  Unfortunately for them on this gig, that national tour was not this national tour, where thoroughly interior death metal dudes are coming out to see Disgorge and Soreption and check whether Cryptopsy's gotten over the brainfart from the middle of the last decade and started being awesome again.  Behemoth-lite black-death changed up with brutal hardcore, this Toledo outfit was about the dead-worst fit for this tour imaginable -- and I saw Seax opening for Engorged and Sapremia in this building a couple years ago, so I have plenty of imagination for weird fits.  The music was not bad as such, but the reaction -- yellow-shirted one-man moshpit aside -- was extremely tepid and got slacker the longer they continued going with their set.  Metalfest was three weeks ago and like half a mile away; doing deathcore in corpsepaint in smaller spaces in New England is seldom going to get a positive reaction.

The Convalescence, before the paint came off; Ralph's is kind of hot normally, and standing on light-up boxes on top of that probably did not help them melting over the course of the set.

To a certain extent, I felt bad about not buying any of their stuff, since they do have to get to their next stop and nobody else here was going to buy anything off them.  However, no bands tour because they have to; The Convalescence thought this tour was a good idea when they took it, and a couple dates of not getting paid because there is next to zero audience overlap between them and the headliners is a powerful inducement to check how good ideas actually are in the future.  Also, they were selling branded hotsauce from their merch desk, and fuck that, seriously.

Soreption setting up.

Soreption [6.5/7]
I had not seen or heard Soreption before; all I had going in were vague intimations of awesomeness, and the nagging suspicion that I knew Frederik from somewhere.  I still haven't been able to place the second bit (probably a merch desk or infield bar somewhere in Europe, the dude is pretty distinctive-looking and Party.San gets in everyone from everywhere), but the first was blown up and completely burned down.  Absurdly locked-in and run through with exactly the kind of early-'90s jazz influences that I moan about not hearing around any more, this was an excellent performance of excellent music, barely marred at all -- and at that, mostly by a complete mic drop-out for almost an entire song that was really out of the band's control.  This gig ran the full range of brutal death metal varieties from Disgorge's direct if constrained slams to this ceaseless technicality, but those who would be smashing dudes in half in two more sets were equally as dialed in and thrashing out for Soreption.  Excellent band, excellent set; it hurts to get old and not learn about bands like this for a while, but when you do end up getting into them, that wasted time starts to matter less.

Ripping up the crowd.

Erimha [5.5/7]
This showed that the little things still matter, and that fitting exactly into a predefined range on a tour is neither necessary nor sufficient for getting a good reaction.  Despite looking like third-wave crust hoboes, and following on a bill where The Convalescence had gotten golf-clapped for everything short of announcing that they were going to stop, Erimha delivered a solid outing of melodic but not completely trend black metal to a decently good reaction from the crowd.  There's definitely some room for improvement here, both in execution and in the diversification and development of their sound, but there are decent foundations here -- and enough Dissection twinges floating in from the edges of the Dimmu Borgir to give the hope that that promise is going to be delivered on.

Erimha jamming themselves to acceptance.

On full hobo power, but probably still not going to get any shine from brooklynvegan.

Disgorge [6.5/7]
Due to a problem with the DIs for what looked like was probably the drum triggers, Disgorge got a later than expected start; because of this, and because this tour was trying to pack six bands into what was initially booked as a five-band slotting, they got cut off a little earlier than they expected to.  That was not real cool, but the whole time that they were actually, like, playing was another thing entirely.  Because I don't go out to shows that much any more, I can't accurately comment on how violent the pit was relative to the normal run of death metal shows here, but it was pretty damn violent among those that I can remember, at least; without gimmicks, but with so many slams being dished out that no gimmicks were necessary.  Abstractly, I'd've liked to get the full-length, full-content set that Disgorge prepared for this tour and were planning to play here, but the Disgorge that we did get was pretty fucking good, and they were able to squeeze one song's worth of encore in before the need to set up for Cryptopsy cut them off for real.

Angel roars for violence.

In this break I picked up my Disgorge merch and let Mark bark me into the new Composted record, which is finally out and goddamn hilarious.  Hopefully, I'll see them out here with Deceased before heading off to the east, but from the last year, I've learned how futile it is to commit to going to shows in advance.

No peeking while Cryptopsy sets up.

Cryptopsy [6/7]
Things had been pretty full all the way through, but with the headliners finally up, it got ridiculous, and I shifted way, way, the hell to the back.  I was unsure what to expect, but Flo has done most of a(nother) complete bandectomy relative to the wack 2008 incident that -- in fairness combined with Kataklysm's contemporaneous if less egregious sellout -- soured a lot of people on Cryptopsy, and the resulting lineup both held up the older material to nearly classic standard and made a strong argument for a return to form with the new stuff.  The ...Suffering material is not going to catch Whisper Supremacy or None So Vile in the public imagination, but it's still pretty good, cool for us here at this gig to get, effectively, its public premiere, and definitely a hell of a lot better than anyone was expecting from new Cryptopsy seven years ago.

Matt gets the crowd going, or at least the front of the crowd.

With a full work day coming, I nabbed the most recent record Cryptopsy had available on their merch desk as soon as the band finished, then beat feet the hell out down to the Pike.  Coming back wasn't too bad, and as can be seen, I got this turned around relatively quickly thanks to a relatively quiet on-call stand.  There are shows on the calendar in the near future, but this is a tight time of year for me, and I've got another on-call in another two weeks that's probably going to block out Aborted, which is going to suck.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Kamelot with Dragonforce [Worcester Palladium, 5/1/2015]

Through a nefarious combination of work/on-call, study commitment, and slowly but surely turning into this dude, I had not really been to a show in a while, though not quite as long as it looks on here -- I was at Onslaught in November and Dark Tranquillity back in January, but both of those got boxed out as a result of delays around a writeup of Argentina/Uruguay that ended up not getting posted because I didn't do anything especially adventurous in the week I was there.  I do go to shows now and again, or at least try to, and I'm not completely retired yet; this show though, in all honesty, does have kind of a refamiliarization-tutorial feel about it.

After slinging my work stuff in the trunk and heading straight out on the Pike, I got in (modulo the usual weekend traffic) right about doors, to boggle at a line-up that ran all the way down the block and around the club the next street over from the Centrum.  These are kind of mass bands, and this gig was booked into the much larger downstairs, and on a Friday at that, but despite this it's still weird to come in from the outside (or up from the underground, whichever), and see how popular this kind of music remains.  Yes, there were a lot of kids there, but the Palladium doesn't do concessions pricing; someone, at least, put up thirty bucks a head, minimum, to get them through the door.

Popular as it was, though, this wasn't a sellout, and I was easily able to buy in at the window and get through security with a minimum of hassle as the line of prepaids inched along the far side of the building.  Once inside, I nabbed a beer with ease and went down a couple levels to wait out the lack of local openers.  I can see the argument that most of the audience would not have been interested, and cynically must note that this tour was popular enough to reliably meet guarantees and other operating costs without resorting to p2p bullshit, but $30 and go up on day-of is a pretty big ticket, and there was easily enough latency for a single 30-minute set without disturbing either set times or prep times for the touring bands.

Dragonforce [6.5/7]
They acknowledged, midway through the set, that this building was the site of their first US gig (Metalfest 2006), and while it's certainly possible (and, indeed, wicked easy) to look at how little they've changed since then, it's also valid to acknowledge what has changed.  Though the crowd here skewed younger, there were fewer prop weapons than you'd get on an average "pagan metal" gig these days, and also the persistent sense that these are all metal fans -- yes, young, green, and power-metal-liking metal fans, but metal fans nonetheless.  The emos and posers who were into Dragonforce ironically ten years ago are no longer into Dragonforce ironically, and they're no longer prominent enough to profit from current waves of unserious pisstakers: against all indications from their early days, Dragonforce has become a for-serious actual metal band, playing metal for metal fans.  Yes, it is frequently silly metal, and they're obviously having fun with it and not afraid to take the piss out of themselves, but it's done with professionalism and at a high execution level.  There's not a whole lot of difference between Dragonforce on record in 2000 and in 2014, but Dragonforce playing live in 2015 is a hell of a lot more able to actually execute that material live than they were in, say, 2005, with a vocalist who can hit all his marks live and roadies who can keep Sam's guitars in tune for more than a song at a time.  This was a fun set from a talented bunch of guys, and if you had to laugh at a couple points, at least you weren't wincing.

In the break I put down for the new record and some gear for overseas use, then got my order misheard at the bar and ended up with a much better Gansett at a negligible premium:

The basic pisslager from this brewery is pricing in at six bucks for a pint can here now, which is verging on outright robbery when they have the seasonals/collabs in stock for six-and-six-bits in the same size.  Probably the best kept secret in New England beer is "Narragansett specials are actually worth the money you pay for them"; normal Gansett lager remains a perfectly functional Saufenbier, but at this long since the brewery revived and started putting out excellent limited variations, you've got to suspect that people are deliberately not informing others about it in order to hog more for themselves.

Kamelot [6/7]
I've seen this band a couple times in the past, but never been terribly impressed or convinced; this was a better performance and a bigger set than any of those, but it still doesn't really turn the corner for me.  I feel this way about Dream Theater and to a sightly lesser extent Symphony X as well; self-consciously progressive bands in this vein for whatever reason just don't hit the right notes, despite my well-documented insatiable appetite for any kind of brain-bent noise that comes with a blastbeat and gurgling vocals.  This was a well-done and enjoyable, high-production values performance; those who came for Kamelot definitely got their money's worth, and those who were still in the building because hell, they paid already, why not got another set of proggy power metal that truthfully didn't lose a whole lot to the openers in the process of staying completely serious all the way through.

After a single encore, the lights went up on schedule (sure, it's a weekend night, but that doesn't change the audience's transportation-access options any...), and with a modest push I was able to get back home shortly after midnight.  Work and other stuff will make the next six weeks a little complicated, but I should be able to skim the time for Saxon, if not Cryptopsy as well, before I have to go back on call again.