Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Sick Livver

Livver’s “Fuck You Pay Me" doesn’t waste time. Sixteen minutes. Ten songs. One big “Holy shit.”

These Boston dudes crash together grind, hardcore and a bit of prog for songs that blow up like epics before screeching to a halt in under two minutes. The longest song is a cover of Hammerhead’s “Tuffskins,” a bit of shit-luck reality.

Not that fantasy provides much relief here. “Black Winds’ and “Her Ghost” have a dreary, Gothic feel that oozes gloom. Elsewhere, there are songs about burning, drowning, and freezing; basically everybody dies a horrible death on this record.

But singer Bruce Bettis, guitarist Robin Goodhue, drummer Morgan Berns, and bass player Aarne Victorine sound like they are having a blast bringing down this mayhem. Bettis latches onto a pretty steady howl while his band mates shake up shit from militant hardcore marches to trippy sonic juxtapositions. It’s all pure metal but laced with some mindbending ingredients.

"Fuck You Pay Me" is available online at http://livver.bandcamp.com/. Livver is playing Wednesday, Jan. 23, with Hivesmasher and Lunglust at Dusk, 301 Harris Ave., Providence, R.I. Show time is 9 p.m.

Friday, December 28, 2012

The Year in Loud

So looking back on 2012, the New England metal scene did not disappoint. Festivals, club shows, series, and CDs gave head bangers plenty of ways to spend their hard-earned plastic. It was good to see metal slide deeper into brutality while upping the technical game too. Some bands sharpened the traditional sounds, and a few stood out with sick, twisted humor. Much to love, but when the mushroom cloud settled, these are the 11 slabs of N.E. metal that stood out.

“Contaminating the Hive Mind” by Abnormality- Death with brains. 

“Gutter Choir” by Hivesmasher  - Grind your mind.

“Death is the Only Mortal” by The Acacia Strain- Scorched-earth metal.

“Fire From the Sky” by Shadows Fall – Why aren’t these guys headlining stadiums?

“Oh Shit” by Dick Move – No bullshit metal-flavored hard core.


“Solipsist Dream” by Pathogenic – Prog-death with a soul.

“Sloppy Seconds” by Sexcrement – Groove-death with totally evil soul.

“Born of the Bomb” by Lich King – Goddam motherfuckin’ thrash, baby.

“Temple” by Thy Will be Done – And this is the sound of a band hitting its stride.

“Second Grave” by Second Grave- Smells like stoner metal.

“Chemistry of Holocaust” by The River Neva- Melody and brutality sandwich

Monday, December 17, 2012

Acaro arrives

Acaro playing earlier this month in Dallas (James Villa photo)

The coast-to-coast trek by Killswitch Engage and Shadows Fall has to be one of the all-time great Masshole campaigns.

Shads and KsE helped kick start a metal revival both home and abroad in the late 1990s. Both bands fired up the underground and likewise made their marks on the mainstream with Grammy nominations and invites to play Ozzfest and the like. Both band are still going strong, as Shadows Fall this year released  “Fire From the Sky” (review here http://newenglandmetal.blogspot.com/2012/05/dark-shadows.html), while Killswitch returned to its roots by reinstalling Jesse Leach as its singer. This tour features Killswitch performing “Alive or Just Breathing”_ its breakthrough album made in 2002 with Leach, though he departed the band not long after its release_ even while new material has already surfaced since Leach rejoined  KsE in April at the New England Metal and Hardcore festival.

The Shads/KsE show brings the bands back to their original stomping grounds with a show Wednesday, Dec. 19, at Pearl Street night club in Northampton, MA, which, like other stops on the tour, is the kind of venue where the fans get up close.

For Acaro_ the third member of this Made-in-Massachusetts metal package_ these are some of the biggest shows it has played to date and marks the first time it has been part of a national tour. Guitarist Felipe Roa says things couldn’t be going any better.

“There hasn’t been a bad show for any of the three bands. We play small clubs usually, so while these are small shows for them, these are big for us, and we’ve been getting huge feedback from the audiences. And it’s great seeing how the crowds get right up there to Shadows Fall and Killswitch. Those guys can get right in and crowd surf if they what to,” Roa says.

Acaro is ready for this kind of attention. The band’s independently made full-length “The Disease of Fear” was picked up by Goomba Records for international release in October.  Acaro formed in 2008 with has some pretty familiar faces. Roa played in Chilean metal band Angor. Singer Chris Harrell was in Burn in Silence. Guitarist Chris Robinson played in Infinite Descent. Bassist Kevin Smith was in Bigfoot. And drummer Jay Fitzgerald was a member of Overcast alongside Shadows Fall singer Brian Fair and Killswitch Engage bassist Mike D’Antonio.

“Chris (Harrell) is friends with Jesse, and Jay has the Overcast connection, but those guys really believed in our music. That’s why they wanted us on this tour,” Roa says.

And Acaro is making music that qualifies as the next missive from Mass that’s going to blow open the national metal scene. The guitar work is crisp and anthemic, the rhythms relentless in a hard-core way, and the vocals come wrapped in a diverse mix of dread murmuring and death growls. The tunes on “The Disease of Fear” are tight-knit compositions, all dark and foreboding but peppered with memorable riffs and melodic hooks.

Even though Acaro put out the record locally in 2011, Roa says the band isn’t tiring of presenting the material, acknowledging that especially on a national tour these songs are “new” to every audience. This is a band clearly willing to put in its time, with Roa  saying when not on tour Acaro rehearses three times per week, playing “The Disease of Fear” from top to bottom _ twice.

“Before the tour we sat down and put together a set that we thought would have the best impact. So far it’s going over pretty well,” Roa says. “The key point to our live show is that we just throw it down.”

Roa says Acaro has felt the love in such unexpected metal outposts as Gallup, N.M., and Salt Lake City, UT. Even the California Metal Fest_ which was stacked with screamo bands_ gave Acaro a good response

“It was a lot of young kids and bands like Asking Alexandria. But a lot of people still checked us out even though we were old and stinky,” Roa says.

The only weirdness Roa had to speak of actually occurred on the day we caught up with him. The band was in Columbus, OH, scheduled to play in the venue where Dimebag Darrell was shot in 2004.

“It’s heavy shit,” Roa says. “We love him so much. It feels awkward. I’m just trying to stay away from the venue until the show.”

No such shit should be in the air Wednesday, Dec. 19, when this Masshole Extravaganza hits Pearl Street nightclub, 10 Pearl Street, Northampton Once Beloved is also on the bill and gets the concert going at 7:30 p.m. The tour then heads up to Maine on Thursday Dec. 20, for a show at the State Theater, 609 Congress St., Portland, ME.

Acaro will be back in Boston on Feb. 2 playing at Church with The Empire Shall Fall (Jesse Leach’s other project), the River Neva and bunch of other decent heavy bands.

“We’re going to write and release more material soon. We just need to decide how we want to put it out. We’re glad we did a CD last time even though people said nobody buys CDs any more,” Roa says. “We’ve sold more than 300 on this tour, so I think some people still do want CDs.”

Especially ones as good as “The Disease of Fear.”

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Pretty hot December

Jonny Davy of Job for a Cowboy at Palladioum earlier this year (Sam McLennan photo)

Man, there really is no rest for the wicked. Usually this time of year there are piddling shows and, at best, opportunities for up-and-comers to make an impression.

But this year it’s almost worth cancelling the holidays to make room for more bands to work, since nobody seems all the interested in kicking back. The big catch this week is Job for a Cowboy’s return to the Palladium in Worcester, MA.  JFAC, who came through the city with the Summer Slaughter tour, this time headlines the upstairs room on Saturday, Dec. 15, and brings along Cephalic Carnage. The show starts at 4:30 p.m. and includes Legion, Conforza, Sexcrement, The Summoned, Carnivora, and Your Pain is Enduring.

Marc Rizzo, guitarist from Soulfly and Cavalera Conspiracy, brings his solo band to Club X, 681 Valley St., Providence R.I., on Friday, Dec. 14. The show also features Fear Reprisal, Black Mass (who, as video above demonstrates, just kicked ass as a last-minute addition to a recent Metal Thursday bill at Ralph’s in Worcester), The Curse of Humanity, Necris, and Needlework.  Show time is 7:30 p.m.

Speaking of  Metal Thursday, not only will there be a regularly scheduled event this week but also a show on Saturday, Dec. 15 marking booker Chris’s birthday. The Dec. 13 show has Xenosis, Ramius, Scalpel, and Plague for the Cure. The birthday bash brings in Shroud of Bereavement, Sonic Pulse, Replacire, and Seren. Both shows get going around 9 ish and happen at Ralph’s Diner, 148 Grove St., Worcester, MA.

Within Ruins and Fit for an Autopsy team at 6 p.m. Friday, Dec. 15,  at the Webster Theater, 31 Webster St., Hartford, CT. Diecast, Dead by Wednesday, Rosalia, Flood of Arcadia, and Tides of Time are at The Elevens, 140 Pleasant St., Northampton, MA, for a 7 p.m. outing.

And sure it has bounced around a couple of venues, but Merry Rockfest is set to go Friday, Dec. 14, at the Franco-American Club, 592 South St., Athol. The music starts at 4:30 p.m. and the all-ages event features a shitload of bands including Run for Your Guns, Scare Don’t Fear, Shot Heard Around the World, Lydia Ayer, and others. Remember, don’t truck to Gardener for this one.

All this to get you to the end of the world, and there’s plenty after it as well.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Sonata Arctica's power play

Even as metal mutates, it never totally lets go of the past, which means there will always be room for Sonata Arctica and bands like it playing a melodic, dramatic strain of power metal rooted in the glory days of the 1970s.

Not that Sonata Arctica sounded dated when it brought its current tour in support of “Stones Grow Her Name” to the Palladium in Worcester, MA, on Friday, Dec. 7. Quite the opposite, actually, as the show proved that with decent material and musicianship on the level that Sonata Arctica works at, this strain of metal didn’t die when the Scorpions went limp.

Melodic death troupe Arsis is part of the Sonata tour and brutal thrash band Black Trip from Boston opened the show which played out to a few hundred head bangers.

Sonata Arctica leaned heavily on new material, turning “Shitload of Money” “Losing My Insanity” and “I Have a Right” into highlights of the show.

The opening “Only the Broken Hearts” likewise came from “Stones Grow Her Name” and made for a thunderous start. Singer Tony Kakko moved with equal ease through the harder (“The Gun”) and moodier (“Last Amazing Grays”) elements of the band’s songbook.

Guitarist Elias Viljanen and keyboard player Henrik Klingenberg supplied the necessary grandeur and sweep_ both in solos and through the ensemble playing_  to sell the epic.

Sonata Arctica covered a lot of ground during its 90-minute show, with the Finns revealing humor and heart in their work.

Arsis, on the other hand, went straight in for a bashing. The band plays with a punk-like abandon, but “The Face of My Innocence" showed how Arsis could stretch out with a precise, focused delivery too. Definitely root out “Leper’s Caress,” the band’s new free EP from which singer James Malone rasped “Carve My Cross” during Arsis’ too-brief set.

Black Trip played a relentless show, chugging through 20 minutes of material before taking a break to introduce its namesake song. Singer and guitarist Gennaro Ammendola provided dark, brooding counter point to guitarist Ben Levin’s frenetic playing. Drummer Jeff Hale triggered the seamless transitions amid crazed, shattered rhythm patterns he created with bassist Trevor McCabe.  Black Trip’s tunes split the difference of what the touring bands offered, as the local outfit’s sound was harsh and confrontational like Arsis’ tunes but lyrically looked outward like Sonata Arctica’s material.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Tripping along The River Neva

Forget verse-chorus-verse. Toss out the “here’s where we play a breakdown” formula. Don’t go looking for a big guitar solo. Just let The River Neva wash over you; actually the listen won’t be quite so gentle.

The River Neva has its own take on the prog-death dynamic that is rejuvenating the metal scene at the moment. In the case of this Worcester, MA, quintet, the music has melody, which gives you something to hang onto as a song barrels forward, but nothing on the band’s EP “Chemistry of Holocaust” sounds predictable or otherwise provides familiar safe haven.

Catching up with singer Trey Holton and bass player Jake O’Connor_ vets of the Central Mass metal scene_ both say they have never really been part of a project like The River Neva.

“This band is pushing me vocally and I know it’s pushing the other guys as well,” Holton says.  O’Connor concurs, saying some of the complex bass lines he comes up with now would have had him tossed out of a few of the bands he used to play with.

The boundary-busting begins with guitarist Grizz Gagnon who is the band’s main songwriter. Credited by his band mates with having a taste for music by Periphery and Veil of Maya, Gagnon cooked up songs that are both brutal and adventurous.

“There’s a smartness factor,” says O’Connor. “This is not the band if you just want to hear chug-chug-chug.”

Instead you get “Corpse in Blistered Feet,” a song with a perfect death metal title and vibe yet mixes in some clean vocals and a lurching tempo that creates coiled tension.

The River Neva teamed with producer Rob Gil (whose credits include albums by Hatebreed and Unearth) to make “Chemistry of Holocaust” and that’s when the band honed its sound.

“He fooled around with our sound in the studio and then we started writing and rewriting in the studio,” Holton says. "Every time I went into the studio before, everything was all set down in advance.”

But there’s no denying the success of the approach used here. Holton points to “Burn the Note to Jesus,” the most sinister track on the EP, and says how Gil totally reworked the vocal lines because he heard an anthem waiting to get sprung.
The River Neva

Guitarist Chris Abbott and drummer Eric Zarazinski round out The River Neva lineup. The band headlines a Toys for Tots benefit happening Sunday Dec. 9 at Tammany Club, 43 Pleasant St., Worcester, MA. The all-ages show starts at 2 p.m. and also features Fuel of War, Tester, Mucklers Circle, Burns From Within, the Circadian Rhythm, Blackheart Epidemic, Faces of the Fallen, and John Monstro. Admission is $10 or $5 with a toy to donate. The River Neva goes on around 8:15.

The River Neva also has shows on Feb. 2 at Church, 69 Kilmarnock St., Boston, MA, and Feb. 8 at Silk City, 99 Main St., Florence, MA.

Holton says the band is tossing a couple of new songs into its upcoming live shows but for the most part is sitting on the rest of the new material getting prepped with Gil for a full-length release due out next year After all, things tend to change as the process moves along.

Other holiday happenings for metal fans include the Christmas Chaos Show happening Dec. 15 at Elks Lodge, 81 Roxbury St., Keene, NH. The show starts at 4 p.m. and features My Missing Half, Eyes Set West, Help Me Kill My Ex, No More Lies, Side Effects may Include, and Monarch.

Then on Dec. 27, it’s Black Christmas at the Palladium, 261 Main St., Worcester, MA, with Conforza, Pathogenic, Murdoc, and a World Without. Show time is 6 p.m. and the show is in the upstairs room.

 And buy all means if you're out tonight, Dec. 6, stop into Ralph's Diner in Worcester, MA, for Metal Thursday. Abnormality tops the bill.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Hotblack will take you back


If you think the past 20 years of rock_ fuck it, music in general_ have been a big suck, then Hotblack is the band for you.

Formed in 2004, the quartet sticks to a restricted diet of old-school punk and hardcore, melodic metal, and groove that never slows to stoner speeds. Guitarist Todd Cuff says the whole idea of hotel-room smashing, whiskey guzzling, cash bathing hedonism is the inspiration behind Hotblack, but you’d be hard pressed to find anything quite so indulgent in the music itself.

Instead, Cuff, singer and guitarist Airworlf, bassist Dan Egan, and drummer Josh Puza knock out two-minute tunes full of snot and piss, and they don’t care what you think about their Camaro-stealing ways.

Even though these guys are coming from different backgrounds_ Egan, for instance, was in Western Mass death-metal stalwarts Exhumed_ they find common ground that’s both familiar and their own. You start to think the band is heading off into a Motorhead direction and it suddenly swerves into something more punk. When things get Ramones-y, count on metal to come barreling in. None of it is jarring (at least in a bad way). Actually, it swings.

“I could toss up a black metal tune and Airwolf would make it swing. That’s just the way he is,” Cuff says.
Dan Egan on bass and Airwolf on guitar (Return to the Pit photo)

Hotblack, whose flat-out slash 'n' burn set at this year's Rock and Shock fest in Worcester reportedly put a kink in  Jerry Only's devil lock,  has a pair of shows coming up. The first is Saturday, Dec. 1, at the Elevens, 140 Pleasant St., Northampton. That bill also has Palace in Thunderland (featuring ex-Black Pyramid members), and Planetoid. Then on Dec. 15, Hotblack teams with Humanoid at No Problemo, 813 Purchase St., New Bedford.

And maybe in time for Christmas the band will haul out remaining copies of “Rock n Roll Will Destroy Your Life,” the CD released in 2008, disappeared for a few years, and returned in limited quantities in the fall.

“Maybe we’ll just release it every October like a seasonal beer,” says Cuff. Any new stuff is likely going to simply go up online since in the guitarist’s estimation there is no music business to speak of.

And he doesn’t know which is worse: no more gold-plated tour jets or a world where bands flog their gigs on Facebook.

“I hate to whore on Facebook. It’s the least rock ’n’ roll thing imaginable,” Cuff says “Can you imagine Jimmy Page using Facebook to announce a gig? Ozzy would have never used Facebook. He’d just announce a gig five minutes before it happened and that’s fine.”