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, 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.”

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

This'll do, Fog Wizard

Fog Wizard’s new “Anything Metal Will Do” may be just five-songs long, but that’s enough time for this band to run a course from murder to monsters to some more murder and a few points in between. It all raw and rough, but pretty unchained as singer Captain Motherfucker navigates punk, doom, and death elements crammed into E.P.

“Lobo” gets things going on an impressively gruesome note as the band rips through a tale of abuse met with ax-wielding vengeance. Evil McDeathington pops the cork with a bit of bass bashing before drummer Gott der Kettensagen keeps a steady death-march beat over which Darth Drewcifer666 deploys a variety of guitar squeals and screeches. Capt. Motherfucker narrates the story of our psycho Lobo (last spotted in New Hampshire), and sets up a lunatic pace that the rest of the band works around for the remainder of the project.

“Metal Warriors” is more or less ode to Motorhead, with the thrash ’n’ punk approach carried over to “Fear the Kraken,” a bit of monster metal that would sound at home in a Dethklok set.

But before anyone thinks Fog Wizard is just shitting around, the band cranks out the brutal punked-up “Meat is Murder,” a song that says "screw" to preaching and just gets down to the nitty gritty of the shit and blood of slaughterhouse livin’.

 “Gone” closes out the disc with a blast of doom, though in this case der Kettensagen gets all schizophrenic on the kit while the bass and guitar lock down the groove.

Fog Wizard’s CD-release show for “Anything Metal Will Do” happens Monday, Nov. 26, at the Middle East in Cambridge. Sunken Ships, Earthstomper, Descend Upon The Sane, and Black Trip are also on the bill. The show is 18+ and doors open at 7 p.m.

This marks the inaugural show of Metal Monday, a monthly showcase of local and regional metal bands that LT Live is booking into the Middle East. Seren and Boarcorpse will be on the Dec. 10 Metal Monday bill.  

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Get in the "Gutter" with Hivesmasher

Hivesmasher’s “Gutter Choir” is the sound of crazy pushed to the point where songs could fall apart with the slightest nudge from an extra drum beat, scream, or guitar note.

“That’s a line we live on,” says Hivesmasher drummer Tim Brault. “Some songs teeter on the edge of losing it. Early Slayer is like that. It’s like they were trying to cram so much into a song so fast that it sounds like it’s about to break.”

“Gutter Choir” is the latest from the Mass grindcore troupe comprised of singer Aaron Heinold, guitarists Tyler Kingsland and Julius Hayden, keyboard player Dan Bolton, bass player Ali Ghorashi, and Brault. Black Market Activities released the tunes on vinyl LP and downloads, which  are available on Bandcamp and usual outlets. is also carrying the vinyl.

After a few lineup changes, Hivesmasher drops the hammer in a big way with this album that veers from minute-and-a-half blow outs to longer beat downs, like the five-minute “Damage (P)inc.” The songs titles alone are entertaining _ “Vomitouch,” “Can of Awesometism,” “The Shit Waltz.”

But this ain’t novelty metal. Heinold brings the hell down on every song, with a mix of punk economy and disciplined spazzed-out thrash guitar riffs backing his vocal assaults. There's not much concern for orthodoxy, as you find singer Jake Burns from death-prog outfit Pathogenic joining in on the particularly scabby “Used Food.”

Pathogenic and Hivesmasher aren’t exactly tapping the same veins, but this collaboration works, basically because both bands put musicality ahead of genre.

“We won’t like a band just because it’s a grindcore band or dislike a band just because it is not a grindcore band,” says Brault.

And besides, the dudes in Hivesmasher and Pathogenic are buds going way back. Other guests on the record include Guy Kozowyk from The Red Chord, Nate Johnson from Fit for an Autopsy, and Eric Taranto from Dysentery.

Even though Hivesmasher crams a shitload of ideas into “Gutter Choir” (spacey keyboards- check. bile-spewing cover of Foo Fighters’ “Everlong”- check), this record is oozing its goods rather than serving them up all hermetically sealed.

“I have pretty strong opinions about producing a metal album,” says Brault who co-produced this disc. “A lot of metal records_ and heavy music in general_ is missing the energy that people are supposed to like about it.”

Hivesmasher went for a “record it live” approach, and got in shape by playing a lot of shows before heading into the studio. It paid off, and now comes time to get back out on stage.

Hivesmasher is performing Wednesday, Nov. 21, at The Palladium in Worcester, MA, with headliners Gaza plus Code Orange Kids, Full of Hell, Great American Ghost, The Navidson Record, and Monoliths. The show starts at 6:30 p.m.

Hivesmasher then has its eye on a Dec. 20 show at Great Scott in Allston, MA, followed by a January tour into Canada.

“What better time to head to Canada than middle of winter, right?,” Brault posits.

Ah, but your music already gave you away as anything but conventional. Looking forward to a Black Wednesday before Thanksgiving

Monday, November 12, 2012

Megadeth relaunches "Countdown"

Even though Megadeth has been touring steadily since the release of “Thirteen” last November, it was easy to see why band founder and leader Dave Mustaine didn’t want to pass up a chance to make the rounds one more time with a full airing of “Countdown to Extinction” to commemorate that album’s 20th anniversary. Not only is “Countdown” Megadeth’s most commercially successful album to date, but also_ and more importantly_ it is as resonant today as when it came out.

Mustaine caught shit during the election season for comments made about the validity of Rick Santorum and the historical accuracy of 9/11 accounts. Sunday, Nov. 11, during Megadeth’s show at The Palladium in Worcester, Mustaine wasn’t going to be muzzled, blasting Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for not yet testifying before Congress about the attacks on the U.S. embassy in Libya.

Being an agitator is nothing new for Mustaine, “Countdown to Extinction” being a prime case in point. He’s an equal-opportunity ranter, who points out dire desperate deeds and other bullshit wherever he finds them. You still hear that loudly on “Countdown,” especially on the title track, “Symphony of Destruction” and “Foreclosure of a Dream."

Beyond its relevance, “Countdown to Extinction” is simply a solid album from start to finish. The well-known songs come early, but that closing shot of “Captive Honour” and “Ashes in Your Mouth” is as powerful as anything you'll find in the Megadeth catalog.
Broderick, Drover, Mustaine, Ellefson...Megadeth 2012

The current lineup of Megadeth with guitarist Chris Broderick, drummer Shawn Drover, and founding members Mustaine and bassist Dave Ellefson did the “Countdown” songs proud. Broderick_ who has been in the band for four years_ teams well with Mustaine in trading licks and building towering thrash harmonies. A lot goes on in the “Countdown” songs, from political and social commentary to odes about skydiving and cyborgs. The music is as rangy as the themes. Megadeth 2012 nailed it in proper celebratory style, meaning they played the songs like they still enjoyed them, not like they were fulfilling a tour-poster promise.

Before Megadeth got to “Countdown,” it offered up a mix of old and new material, starting with “Trust.” The intricacy of the production blew away the band’s Gigantour show from January. Mind searing vids and lights accompanied most numbers, which helped those occasional rough patches when Mumblin’ Mustaine’s vocals just sunk into the sound mix.

Longtime favorite “Hangar 18” showed up early, followed by “She-Wolf,’ a song that Megadeth keeps firm in the set list and actually holds its own as a fierce live number. The smoky “A Tout le Monde” gave way to two solid new songs, “Public Enemy #1” (whose monkey video offers the best chimp action-film footage since Lance Link) and “Whose Life (is it Anyway?)” before “Countdown” kicked off.

The non-“Countdown” sequence aptly set the stage, as the band sounded tight but not overly prepped or too stiff to let the solos and jams feel a little spontaneous.

After “Countdown,” Megadeth sealed the concert as a great one with explosive versions of “Peace Sells,” which brought out mascot Vic Rattlehead to stalk the stage for a bit, and “Holy Wars…Punishment Due,” final reminders that the old fights are still dominating today’s news. Keep talking, Mustaine.

Kyng opened with a grungy bit of three-piece hard rock. The band offered a decent stew of stoner, thrash and doom.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Kali Ma's voiceless howl

Why should jazz guys and jam bands get all the instrumental glory? Kali Ma is fixing that. The Connecticut quartet is pure metal, and recently captured its prog-meets-thrash ferocity on a self-titled CD/DVD package.

Whether your framework for instrumental metal is Meshuggah’s too-brief “Obsidian” or Metallica’s classic “Call of Ktulu,” Kali Ma pushes at those boundaries with songs that are brutal and vivid.

Without needing to make room for a singer, guitarists Roy Moore and Todd Whitlock are untamed, turning their progressive leads and riff structures a little grimy and dirty. One of the best things about Kali Ma’s instro approach is that the band doesn’t treat its metal as precious.

Bassist Jay Madore and drummer Shawn Cavanaugh keep things dynamic as the guitarists bear down. The rhythm section navigates a course that keeps the music is a state of tension between heavily down-tuned chug and purely melodic thrash.

Aside from “Death March,” the tunes performed live for the CD and DVD are simply numbered compositions_ not jams, but precisely arranged tunes that coalesce around sonic themes. “XIV” is mournful; “XVIIII” veers into a spacey interlude; and “XVIII” is pure ode to thrash.

“Death March” is featured all over the new package, becoming something of the band’s signature anthem. It opens the series of live tracks recorded at the Daniel Street Club. It is also part of the studio recordings making up the second part of the CD. And the band worked with Edwin Escobar to create a long-form video for the song that unspools on the DVD like a vintage slasher flick – again no words, just music and visuals.

The concert footage on the DVD is likewise well shot and brings the viewer right on stage to get a glimpse of these guys at work, not to mention their effect on a metal audience. Definitely not the norm for a metal show, but why be normal?

The Kali Ma CD/DVD package is available online through the band’s Facebook page and you can catch Kali Ma live on these upcoming dates:

Nov. 16 at Bleachers in Bristol, CT; Nov. 21 at Dewey's Pub in Seymour, CT (This is a benefit show to help raise money for Hurricane Sandy victims); Nov. 24 at Cherry Street Station in Wallingford, CT; Dec. 1 at The Cave RVP Studios in West Haven, CT; and Dec.14 with Diecast at Dewey's Pub in Seymour, CT.

Monday, November 5, 2012

And a cartoon will kick your ass

What is more metal than a zombified King Tut monster that melts humans with a flame that shoots from his cock? Only maybe the zombie chick who melts Tut with the double-barrel flames she shoots from her boobs.

And that's how the "Metalocalypse: Dethklok" show started Sunday, Nov. 4 at the Palladium in Worcester, MA.

Dethklok is headbanging humor at its best because creator (and Berklee grad) Brendon Small is part of the tribe. He can brutally satirize metal fans and metal music the same way you can brutalize your brother; anybody outside the family making the joke is an asshole.

Guitar ace (and Zappa band alum) Mike Keneally, bassist Bryan Beller, and drummer Gene Hoglan join guitarist and singer Small to give the animated Dethklok its live sound, but even with those guys on stage there's no looking away from the accompanying animated vids, each a mini-epic (yes, there is such a thing) that devolves into people (or sea cretures) getting dismembered and/or torched.

It was all good fun through Dethklok's greatest hits ("Dethsupport," "Murmaider," "Thunderhorse" etc.) capped off by Small going "Sybil" and addressing the crowd in the voices of Dethklok's  Nathan Explosion, Pickles, and Skwigsgaar Skwigelf, discussing how Dethklok was going to kick our women and fuck our dogs.

They got close enough.
 Machine Head, All That Remains, and Black Dahlia Murder are the flesh and blood support on this tour.

Machine Head is at the top of its game and its extended workout on a version of "Halo" dedicated to Suicide Silence singer Mitch Lucker, who died Nov. 1 from injuries sustained in a motorcycle crash, was the peak musical moment of the whole night.

Machine Head also relayed the news that Disney has once again banned the group from performing at its properties, earning Mickey a dedication of "Aesthetics of Hate."

All That Remains aired a couple of new songs from "A War You Cannot Win," which is out Tuesday, Nov. 6, though singer Phil Labonte had a hit-or-miss vocal delivery throughout the set.

Black Dahlia Murder is still the death band with a smirk.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

All That Remains brings all out "War"

All That Remains will deploy “A War You Cannot Win” on Tuesday, Nov. 6, a likely non-coincidental Election Day missive.

Throughout “A War You Cannot Win,” singer Phil Labonte sounds pissed off about both encroachments on his freedom and the general public's apathy toward those infringements.  “Take back your freedom,” he rasps on “Sing for Liberty”; “I won’t follow commands. I won’t meet your demands,” he declares on the title track.

But “A War You Cannot Win” is not just a political album. In a quickly paced 40-minute record, All That Remains touches on personal relationships, philosophical musings, and broadly stated rants and chants. And there are plenty of stylistic leaps to meet the variety of topics.

If anything, Springfield-bred All That Remains has developed into metal’s mutt that can kick the ass of purebreds.  Labonte handles the death growls and crooned clean vocals, typically bringing them together in tunes. Lead guitar player Oli Herbert provides the glue holding together a batch of songs that runs from the commercially slick hard rock of “What If I Was Nothing” (which sounds like it fell off of a Staind record) to the bile-splattered thrash of “You Can’t Fill My Shadow.”

Herbert and Labonte are the quintet’s remaining original members. Neither the guitarist nor the singer performs like he is satisfied taking All That Remains down one particular road, so they manage to lead All That Remaions all over the place and still hold together the group's identity. The band’s original metalcore blueprint was way too sparse for Herbert’s guitar style, which takes in the grandeur of power metal and explosiveness of modern metal. Likewise, Labonte is too charismatic to just hunker down in a metal bunker mentality and be on constant attack mode.
Drummer Jason Costa, singer Phil Labonte, guitarist Oli Herbert, bassist Jeanne Sagan, and guitarist Mike Martin

It’s good hearing a band take risks, and here it’s clear that All That Remains can alienate the metal fans with songs that are too clean and smooth as well as shove away the more mainstream rock fans with songs that evolve into spastic displays of jarring vocals and punishing rhythm work.  Some may argue that “A War You Cannot Win” bows to commercial tastes, but if that were the case it would not nearly be as diverse as it is. Rather, this is a band ignoring expectations, and doesn’t topple for it.

There’s little chance that every song will appeal to every listener_ I can do without the “don’t worry baby, it’ll be all right” shit_ but All That Remains doesn’t linger on any one point for very long, and at the very least you can appreciate the raw talent at work in the band.

All That Remains will be playing Sunday, Nov. 4 at the Palladium in Worcester, MA. Metalocalypse’s Dethklok headlines and Machine Head is also on the bill. Show time is 7 P.M.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Blue Oyster Cult prime at 40

Blue Oyster Cult performing acoustic version of "In Thee"

Blue Oyster Cult kicked off a run of 40th anniversary dates Thursday, Oct. 25, at Showcase Live in Foxboro with a two-hour show that underscored the band's ongoing vitality with welcome song revivals and a couple of freshly worked up acoustic numbers.

The night began on a questionable note when the band shut down pre-approved photogs just before show time, raising questions about the group’s condition (and hence leading to us using the same sort of iPhone pics everyone else was taking versus quality shots).

Blue Oyster Cult opened with its standard starter “The Red and the Black” but showed no signs of rust or hesitancy. New bassist Kasim Sulton fit right in, and Richie Castellano gave the keys a rest to play guitar alongside Eric Bloom and Buck Dharma. The triple-guitar attack carried into “The Golden Age of Leather”
Eric Bloom and Jules Radino

Dharma fleshed out the tunes with long, lyrical solos and took his best vocal turn of the night on “Burnin’ for You.” Bloom took back the microphone for “Cities on Flame with Rock and Roll,” though Dharma stepped into the spotlight on that song with a feedback-fuzzed solo.

Bloom moved to the keyboards and Castellano to guitar for a segment where the audience got to choose between “Shooting Shark” and “Harvest Moon,” with the former getting the nod. Then Bloom waved the band off of the set list to see what would happen during a run through “The Vigil”; pleased with the results, Bloom said, “See what happens when you practice.”

At that point the band was not only well-rehearsed but also red hot and tore though the WWII tale “M.E. 262.” B.O.C. swerved into longer, spacier grooves with “Then Came the Last Days of May,” a showpiece for Dharma, though Castellano earned a standing ovation after delivering the first of the song’s epic guitar solos (and, yeah, Buck got the people on their feet too).

Bloom made the bad decision to talk up the New York Giants while standing in Patriots Place, then joked that he’d lighten the mood by turning the discussion over to a debate on Romney versus Obama. All was forgiven when he simply took up the mic and delivered the twisted horror rock of “Lips in the Hills."

The band then moved into the standard closing sequence of “Godzilla” and “(Don’t Fear) the Reaper.” “Godzilla” still has a bass feature medley which has been adapted for Sulton, highlighting his resume with musical snippets of Joan Jett’s “I Love Rock ‘n’  Roll,” Todd Rundgren’s “Bang the Drum All Day,” “and Meat Loaf’s “Paradise by the Dashboard Lights.” After crafting a solo of his own, Sulton passed the baton to drummer Jules Radino whose solo nicely set up the closing “Godzilla” jam. Then things quieted to a Dharma interlude that built into the familiar strains of “Reaper,” which the band dedicated to Bill Graham, who died in a helicopter crash on Oct. 25, 1991.

For its encore, B.O.C. gave the crowd a sample of an upcoming acoustic show it has planned ahead of two NYC dates. First it was a revival of “In Thee,” Allen Lanier’s lonesome ballad, stripped here to its essentials. The band then added full drums and keys to “Astronomy” though Bloom and Dharma stayed on acoustic guitars and drafted a moody, slow-burn version of the song.

While “Astronomy” was the night’s boldest performance, BOC seemed to want to go out on a louder kick, so the band turned over the microphone to Castellano and let him lead the charge through a raucous “Hot Rails to Hell.”

At 40, Blue Oyster Cult is still quite capable of moving through its myriad musical mutations without sounding like it is simply going through the motions.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

From Atlantis cracks the "core" problem

From Atlantis (Sam Shapiro photo)

When a band is on a roll, best to let it do its thing. From Atlantis (which is from Providence, actually) released its debut full-length “Pedestals” in August but is already lining up a new record for the beginning of next year.

Not that there’s anything wrong with “Pedestals”; in fact, it’s a solid tear through the hardcore ‘n’ hooks sound, upending( here at least) the idea that the “-core” sound was played out. From Atlantis airs enough dynamic shifts and punches strong keyboard parts into the knotted sound to make “Pedestals” a raucous 30-minute, 10-song ride.

“We’re always listening to what we did or didn’t do with a song, and we’re eager to try things that we didn’t do and see what we’re capable of,” says From Atlantis singer Alex Mola about the push to keep pumping out tunes. “We all like different kinds of music and we work on how to incorporate it all.”

“Pedestals” for instance has traces of everything from death growls to melodic punk riffs. But it’s arranged more into a jackpot than junk heap, so even a purist of any one style may get tempted to check out the band’s mixed bag approach.

From Atlantis is part of the diverse Scream Fest concert happening Friday, Oct. 26, at the Eagles Club, 71 City Hall Ave., Gardner, MA, The show starts at 5 p.m. and also features WrenchNeck, Atlas, Elementalist, A Fury Divine, The Lost and Never Found, Marching On, and Life on Standby.

A simmering aggression holds together “Pedestal” as it courses through its stylistic turns. It’s all about mindset over material.

“I’m not a size that I’m going to get into fights, so I let it out with words,” Mola says. “In fact we’re all small dudes filled with rage. That’s why we come up with angry stuff.”

From Atlantis has been touring pretty steadily since the release of “Pedestals,” and that road work is feeding the demos now under way.

“We’ve seen how some things work better live and some work better on the record,” he says. “We want to find that balance of how to put both together.”

That should keep the band busy through a planned January or February release for new tunes. Then we’ll see where that leads.

Out and about, Halloween inspires some great shows this week, chief among them a two-night heavy metal “costume” event at Ralph’s Diner, 148 Grove St., Worcester, MA. The concept is simple: bands common to Ralph’s Metal Thursday schedule will be dressing as various heavy metal heroes, musically at least. On Friday, Oct. 26, Ancient Power will perform Spinal Tap songs; Rare Breed does Black Sabbath tunes; members of Seax and Gas Attack cover Black Flag; a crew from Ralph’s will take on Andrew W.K; and Rozamov conjures Electric Wizard. The following night, Oct. 27, Abnormality has a surprise to spring first; Panzerbastard, Nachzehrer, and Truman Highway knock out Corrosion of Conformity and Down tunes; Boarcorpse, Composted, and Useful Idiot cover Life of Agony; members of Soul Remnants, Sexcrement, Composted , Darkwor and Sacromancy deliver Six Feet Under; members of Deathamphetamine, Nachzehrer, and Vaettir play Gwar; and a team comprised of members of Faces of Bayon, Black Pyramid, Blood of the Gods, Engorged, and Blood Stone Sacrifice perform the music of Samhain. Both shows begin at 7:30 p.m.

-16-, Tombs, Morne, Livver, and The Process are at the Middle East, 472 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA starting at 8 p.m. on Thursday, Oct 25

Devil’s Feedback, Hope Before the Fall, Solanum, The Curse of Humanity, The River Neva, and Mechanical Process are at The Ruins at The Colosseum, 180 Pine St., Providence, R.I. on Friday, Oct. 26. Show time is 7:30 p.m.

The Deadites deliver their 16th annual Halloween show Saturday, Oct. 27,  at The Lucky Dog Music Hall, 89 Green St,. Worcester, MA.