Thursday, May 31, 2012

Time to hit the playground

Escape to Everything drummer Mike Scapiccio says maintaining consistency has been his band’s biggest struggle since forming in 2004.

“We have four albums and gone through four different guitar players along the way,” Scapiccio says.

But the band’s new record, “Devil’s Playground,” sheds light on how Escape to Everything handles this problem: it simply dives into diversity. “Devil’s Playground” isn’t a bunch of songs sounding different from one to the next; rather, the different influences and contrasts bubble up within individual tunes themselves. “Dead Behind the Eyes,” for example, has a doom-y melody floating across the beginning of the song that gives way to a quaking, crazed thrash attack.

Escape to Everything celebrates the release of “Devil’s Playground” with a show Saturday, June 2 at The Palladium in Worcester. The show is happening in the upstairs room and begins at 6 p.m. Till We Die, Silent Season, Death Rattle, and Devil’s Feedback are also on the bill.

Scapiccio says that each member of the band brings a different emphasis into the mix. Guitarist Ronnie DiScicio likes the brutal elements of Lamb of God, while singer Mike Nota is a fan of dynamic contrasts found in Soulfly’s music. Scapiccio says he likes the leaner sound of Sevendust and its timekeeper Morgan Rose.

“We all like different kinds of rock and we try and get that in there,” Scapiccio says.

Bassist Steve LaGrassa and former 21st December guitarist Al Capone, who is the newest recruit, round out the lineup.

Based in Boston, Escape to Everything toured nationally with Bobaflex and headlined its own East Coast jaunt.

Experience shows on “Devil’s Playground,” with punchier songs opening the record then yielding to darker, heavier stuff, all without sounding erratic.

Among the highlights, “Final Goodbye” sounds like a twisted psychological thriller.  “Not Followed” blurs sparse dreariness with caustic blurts, creating a jarring closing number. Earlier, on “Built to Fall,” the bands plays around with similar contrasts but cooks up something that sound more defiant than despairing.

Scapiccio says Escape to Everything handpicked the openers for Saturday’s show, banking on each band to bring a little something different to the concert.

“Silent Season is in a league of their own and we’ve been dying to do a show with them,” he says. “Devil’s Feedback has some screaming in it. Death Rattle are good friends. And Till We Die we’ve known for a long time and know how good they are live.”

“Devil’s Playground” is available on iTunes as well as other digital-music services. Physical copies will be available at the show.


Tuesday, May 29, 2012

New Abnormality video

Here's a taste of Abnormality's "Contaminating the Hive Mind." The band has a CD release show June 7 at Ralph's Diner in Worcester.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Thundering arrival

Negura Bunget’s road to the U.S. has been long and twisted. Formed as a duo more than 15 years ago in Romania, Negura Bunget has forged some powerful albums and earned its place among Europe’s elite black-metal bands. But Negura Bunget has not made it across the Atlantic. Until now.

Fresh off its appearance at the Maryland Deathfest, Negura Bunget brought its Transylvanian Legacy Tour with Eclipse Eternal and Din Brad to Ralph’s Chadwick Square Dinger in Worcester on May 27. This was also one of four shows on the tour to include Haethen.

The current 6-piece version of Negura Bunget is vastly revamped from the lineup that originally cooked up this band’s intriguing blend of brutality and beauty. But the legacy of albums such as 2006's “Om" is intact; in concert, Negura Bunget traveled to sonic extremes and aptly pulled together disparate musical elements into a cohesive bludgeoning.

 Drummer Negru is the sole founding member of the troupe, but through its ranks, up to singer Chakravartin (who joined earlier this year and made a joke about being 10 years old when the band formed), Negura Bunget displayed both discipline and connection to the material. The band carved out intricate arrangements, finding delicate ways to cut through the darker passages. At one point folkloric pipes and primitive percussion were as galvanizing as the epic guitar solos that give the band its progressive edge.

The hour-long set peaked with “Hora Soarelui,” as the band protected an anthemic melody amid booming dynamics.

Negura Bunget’s keyboard player Inia Dinia and drummer Negru aired a softer side of the ensemble with their duo Din Brad, which played a short opening set steeped in sound scapes and folk-based melodies.

Eclipse Eternal was also taking part in a first foray into the States. Hailing from Toronto, Eclipse Eternal hemmed closer to the darker edges off black metal, earning its corpse paint with such brutal fare as “Writing with a Razor Upon the Blue Lines.”

As punishing as the band could get, Eclipse Eternal also took off into headier displays such as “Summoning the Negative” and “The Dragon Has Come to Blot Out the Stars.” Like Negura Bunget, Eclipse Eternal uses dramatic keyboard parts to broaden the sound without sacrificing any of the heaviness.

Haethen, a progressive black-metal band from New Jersey, opened the night. Scrappier than the international visitors on the bill, Haethen nonetheless reveled in the dynamics shifts of the sort that would ultimately become more pronounced as the night went on.

Friday, May 25, 2012

International holiday

So over the course of this quintessentially American holiday weekend, there are a mess of metal bands from all over the globe converging in Worcester on Sunday. Go figure.

Italy's Rhapsody of Fire (formerly just Rhapsody, and Thundercross before that) delivers a dose of symphonic metal at The Palladium. Australia's purveyors of prog-metal Voyager is on tour with Rhapsody of Fire. The show starts at 6:30 p.m.  with homegrown talent Aversed, Forevers' Fallen Grace, and In Harm's Way.

At Ralph's Diner, the amazing Negura Bunget (in video) from Romania headlines with support from fellow countrymen Din Brad, and Canadian death troupe Eclipse Eternal. Don't sleep on this one. Negura Bunget offers an engrossing blend of seething black-metal fury tempered with melodic detours. Transylvanian folklore binds the package nicely. Haethen was recently added to the show, which gets under way at 9 p.m.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

More heavy dates

Metal 101 is at the Lucky Dog Music Hall in Worcester on June 2. Tribute to '80s metal that bills itself as running from Anthrax to Yngwie. Doors at 8:30 p.m. Acquaintances of Disaster and The Mondays are also on the bill.

Horna (in video), Kommandant, Bog of the Infidel, Nachzehrer, and Sacromancy are at Great Scott in Allston June 5. Show time is 8:30 p.m.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Black Trip springs new E.P.

Black Trip covers a lot of ground with the three songs it just released as the “Heart of the Dream” EP. The disc opens with a string quartet and closes with a short, fierce jab of vintage-sounding metal. In between, the band puts its own stamp on progressive and power arrangements, and Gennaro Ammendola’s dark, submerged vocals even bring in a flourish of death and grind.

“Voice of Truth” and the title track showcase Black Trip’s smart arrangements (the biggest giveaway that this quartet was founded at Berklee College of Music). Drummer Jeff Hale sounds relentless on the song “Heart of the Dream,” providing a common thread as the rest of the band darts in and out of elements you’d find in thrash and power-metal tunes. The strings that open the tune resurface midway through as a nice counterpoint to Ben Levin’s guitar leads.

“Voice of Truth” likewise has a tiered arrangement, but this time, the rhythm section conjures a more dramatic sweep, and the band transitions from the prog-thrash of the opener to a more classic style of headbanging.

“Wings of Steel” is the shortest of the three songs and the one that shows Black Trip unafraid to just go for the jugular with a burst of guitar riffs and aggressive attitude.

For info on ordering “Heart of the Dream,” check out

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Metal benefit show

Stop the Bleeding Metalfest 4 is on tap for Saturday June 16 at The Raven, 258 Pleasant St., Worcester. Engorged (shown above), Sorrowseed, Betrayed by Prophecy, Carnivora, and Wrenchneck are on the bill so far and more bands are being added.

Stop the Bleeding is dedicated to raising funds for various organizations tackling social issues at the community level. This event will fork over ALL proceeds to the Lighthouse food pantry and kitchen in Worcester. Tickets are $10 and can be purchased in advance online at

Doors open at 3 p.m., and all ages will be admitted before 8 p.m. After 8, it's a 21+ affair.

Monday, May 21, 2012

When Meshuggah came to town

In naming its new album “Koloss” you have to wonder if Meshuggah was thinking autobiographically as this band has never sounded bigger or wielded as much influence.
            Playing May 19 at The Palladium in Worcester, Meshuggah leaned heavily into “Koloss” and its predecessor “obZen.’ On those records_ and in its live show- the Swedish prog-metal troupe carved a signature sound from the lower end of the sonic spectrum, a place where many metal bands get crushed into a dull pulp.
            But guitarists Fredrik Thordendal and Martin Hagstrom successfully harness the thunder generated by their eight-string, down-tuned guitars. Thorendal built soaring leads and galloping riffs even as the band’s overall tone is dark and rumbling.
            Meshuggah’s precisely honed dynamic shifts and stark contrasts give its unrelenting darkness a broad reach. In response, Meshuggah is selling out many of its U.S. dates and “Koloss’ is the band’s highest-charting album to date in Billboard magazine.
For the so-called “Ophidian Trek,” Meshuggah keeps the stage fairly darkened, sporadically piercing the shroud with searing lights mounted on towers flanking the band. Banners depicting the folkloric-goth “Koloss” album art completed the demonic air of the band’s work space.
            Singer Jens Kidman by and large went for texture over clarity, most often looking like he was simply riding the massive swell of music. His smart, chiseled lyrics are better served by the band’s studio albums, but he compensates for that with a menacing stage presence that aptly gets the message across. Kidman at his best doesn’t so much sing live, but rather shakes the words out of his skull as his body spasmodically jerks to the rhythms counted off by drummer Tomass Haake.
             Meshuggah bore down quickly with “Demiurge,” letting the song’s churning dynamics slowly unfold with a controlled patience. “Pravus” picked up the tempo and let Meshuggah revel in a bit of good ol’ groove-based head banging.
            “Glints Collide” was full of jagged contrasts, while “The Hurt That Finds You First” conjured full-on panic.
            Over the course of 90 minutes, Meshuggah brought more nuance into its monolithic sound than many bands are able to achieve in an entire career, hitting a near perfect balance between core identity and sense of adventure.
            Meshuggah crafted a “Catch Thirty Three” suite out of “Mind’s Mirrors,” “In Death-Is Life,” and “In Death-Is Death” which almost put some drag into the show as it slowly worked from droning intro to pummeling conclusion.
            Meshuggah reined in the sprawl for the concert’s home stretch that featured furious renditions of “Bleed” and “I am Colossus.”
            For its encore, Meshuggah reached into the back catalog for “Future Breed Machine,” and kept the song’s leaner underpinnings intact. Meshuggah had enough left in its tank for one last mind-scrambling shot, delivered in the form of “Dancers to a Discordant System.”
            Baroness and Decapitated opened for Meshuggah. While Baroness’ lava-like flow and Decapitated’s lacerating death metal may seem at odds, the contrasting sounds actually fit well under the broader umbrella Meshuggah brought as a headliner.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Heavy dates

Some dates to keep in mind.

Thursday, May 17
Metal Thursday ay Ralph's Diner in Worcester features Black Trip (CD release), Ravage, and Iron Will  9 p.m.

Friday, May 18  
Kittie is at Tammany Hall in Worcester 6 p.m.

Saturday, May 19
Meshuggah (pictured), Baroness, and Decapitated play at The Palladium in Worcester 7:30 p.m.

Kittie is at the Middle East in Cambridge 7 p.m.

Friday, May 25 
Stryper at Showcase Live in Foxboro 8 p.m.

Sunday, May 27
Rhapsody of Fire, Voyager, Aversed, Forever's Fallen Grace, and In Harm's Way are at The Palladium 6:30 p.m.

Negura Bunget, Eclipse Eternal, Din Brad at Ralph's Diner in Worcester 9 p.m. 

Thursday, May 31
Metal Thursday at Ralph's Diner in Worcester with Roadhorse, Thrillhouse, De Omega, and Rozamov 9 p.m.

Saturday, June 2
Escape to Everything, Omnia, Silent Season, Till We Die at The Palladium in Worcester 6:30 p.m.

Thursday, June 7
Heavy Metal Thursday at Ralph's Diner in Worcester with Abnormality, Naegleria, Soul Remnants, and Soul Annihilation 9 p.m.

Saturday June 9 Narcissus Heavy Metal Wednesdays Reunion with Flesh, Fortune, In the Pink, Jealous Dogs, Love Pollution, Mass, Blue Tiger, Steel Assassin, and Sweet Cheater at Showcase Live in Foxboro 7:30 p.m.

Sunday June 10
Worcester Death Fest with Six Feet Under, Suffocation, Dying Fetus, Revocation, Fit for an Autopsy, Vattnett Viskar The Atlas Collapse, Blood of the Gods, Conflagration, Conforza, Destroy the Legacy, Dysentery, Excrecor , Eyes of the Dead, Hivesmasher, Necronomichrist, Nemecide, Pathogenic, Scaphism, Sexcrement, Sinners, Sirens of Poveglia, The Summoned, Totality, Under a Serpent Sun, and Untombed at The Palladium in Worcester 1 p.m.

Unearth, Within the Ruins, This is Hell, Strike Hard, Burning Beneath, Run For Your Guns at Waterfront Tavern in Holyoke 7 p.m.

Saturday, June 16
Marillion and Sun Domingo at The Paradise in Boston 9 p.m.

Thursday, June 21
Metal Thursday at Ralph's Diner in Worcester with Machinage, Sonic Pulse, Endless Decay, and Red Blade 9 p.m.

Volbeat, Hellyeah, and Iced Earth at House of Blues in Boston 8 p.m.

Saturday, June 26
Iron Maiden and Alice Cooper at Comcast Center in Mansfield 7:30 p.m.

Thursday, June 28
Cinderella and Mass at Showcase Live in Foxboro 7:30 p.m.

Drop a line for any additions, changes, etc.....


Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Dark Shadows

It’s hard to say which is more impressive on “Fire From the Sky,” the new album from Shadows Fall; is it the sheer number of metal shadings the band pulls into its sound or the masterful precision Shadows Fall employs in stitching together this multifaceted masterpiece?

“Fire From the Sky,” released May 15 on Razor & Tie, is relentless through 41 minutes as the band taps a vein of darkness to draw out bits of melodic hard-core and chunks of old-school head banging to add to its solid foundation of modern thrash.

Adam Dutkiewicz from Killswitch Engage produced “Fire From the Sky,” and this fellow Masshole  knew how to get the best out of his comrades. Each song is layered and knotted with dynamic shifts and turns that create an overall huge sound. So even when idling, the tunes are ferocious. And when guitarist Jon Donais kicks in a rocketing solo, or bassist Paul Romanko conjures a pealing funeral bell, such accents are that much more pronounced against the hulking sonic background.

Singer Brian Fair is the ringleader here, swinging from thrash-y rasp to death growl to sinister big-rock invocations _ sometimes all within a single track. Whenever the singer seemingly hits a plateau, another element of the band_ be it a swelling vocal chorus, brutal rhythmic breakdown, or searing guitar work_ flares up, prompting Fair to make a stylistic leap.

Writing wise, Shadows Fall keeps it dark and angry. “The Unknown” and “The Wasteland” serve as  towering bookends opening and closing the album respectively. Both are bleak and caustic, with the difference being how “The Unknown” is an inward lament and “The Wasteland” tallies destruction on the outside.

“Divide and Conquer” and “Blind Faith” have a political edge to them, the former happy to foment dissent and latter offering caution to those unwilling to question their leaders. The band responded to recent opiate-related deaths in the metal world with the Sabbath-y “Nothing Remains” and militant stomp of “Walk the Edge.”

“Fire From the Sky” is simply more world-class metal from Springfield’s under-sung demon sons.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Original Meliah Rage singer Mike Munro resurfaces on this definitely different take of "Heaven and Hell" posted to commemorate the second anniversary of Ronnie James Dio's May 16, 2010, passing. I've never really been a fan of de-fanged metal (does anybody listen to Metallica's "S&M" more than once?), but have to admit that there's something compelling going on here. Pianist Micah Sheveloff cooked up this arrangement for his forthcoming album "Exhibitionist." Munro was the voice of  Meliah Rage  when the band burst out of Boston in the late '80s with an Epic Records contract in hand after only eight live shows and few demo recordings. Munro split from the band but rejoined comeback efforts in 2008 and 2010. Munro's replacement Paul Souza is back in the Meliah Rage saddle.

Here's Munro with Meliah Rage at the band's peak doing "The Witching."

Welcome home

Hey, so what the hell is this? Basically, like the title says a blog about heavy music happenings in Massachusetts. Some may know that I've been writing about music since I got into journalism back in the Dark Ages. I made music my main beat at the The Worcester T&G between 1993 and 2008, and carry on now as a music correspondent for the Boston Globe among my freelance gigs.

Heavy music thrives in Mass, and I learned that firsthand covering a shitload of shows at The Palladium in Worcester and meeting lots of great bands bringing metal into smaller clubs. The coverage metal gets doesn't really reflect just how vibrant or deep the scene is. That photo above is from the Killswitch Engage set at this year's New England Metal and Hardcore Festival. It was an epic show, as original singer Jesse Leach rejoined the band, and it was musically more intense and relevant than anything you'll hear Aerosmith do this year. I need, you need, we all need a place to talk that kind of shit up.

So, here it is. Feel free to weigh in here or drop a line to