Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Maiden Mansfield

Iron Maiden opening night in North Carolina- John McMurtie photo

Even when sticking to a script that’s nearly 25 years old, Iron Maiden is relevant. The band returned to the Comcast Center in Mansfield on June 26 and played with a level of energy and degree of execution that set the bar for what a metal show should be.

The set list is roughly a recreation of the “Maiden England” video, which was drawn from Iron Maiden’s 1988 tour behind the “Seventh Son of a Seventh Son” album. But in tweaking the show for 2012, Maiden added choice cuts from “Powerslave,” dumped some of the songs from “Maiden England,” and jumped up to material from 1992's “Fear of the Dark.”

Basically the band created a perfect song list to bring the old-timers back to a happy place, let next-gen Maiden fans revel in a bit of history_ when bands knew how to put on a show, dammit_ and to maximize the group’s three-guitar lineup that took shape a decade after the original go-round with these tunes.

Alice Cooper opened with a typically action-packed 45-minute set. There wasn't really enough time for Alice to fully do his thing, but from his opening onslaught of “Black Widow” onward, Cooper looked and sounded fierce. His band now features guitar ace Orianthi whose solo in “Hey Stoopid” gave reason to stick around for that bit of  "modern" Cooper. The old classics still ruled overall, particularly when Cooper tapped “No More Mr. Nice Guy”_ performed with python coiling Alice’s neck and head_ and closed with a “School’s Out” that folded in Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall, Part 2.”
Oracle Eddie lording over stage in Mansfield

Iron Maiden’s sprawling stage design resurrected the frozen tundra look of the 1988 tour, and the band commenced with a stretch from “Maiden England” including “Moonchild,” “Can I Play With Madness,” and “The Prisoner.” That last song was a nice revival, but each tune was a thorough blow-out in its own right, setting a frantic pace that the band would sustain over the course of two hours.

Singer Bruce Dickinson didn’t stop for a moment, bounding from side to side and back and forth, scaling risers and ramps as he unleashed his howl (definitely more of a nuanced howler than straight-up singer, no?). Guitarists Adrian Smith, Dave Murray, and Janick Gers deployed multiple solos in any given song so even the “short” songs sounded big, and already big tunes such as “Phantom of the Opera” and “Seventh Son of a Seventh Son” were epic.

Adrian Smith, Mansfield

Bassist Steve Harris and drummer Nicko McBrain likewise did not hold down conventional roles. McBrain swings as much as he pounds, giving Iron Maiden more rhythmic flair than its peers. And Harris, like Dickinson, is tireless in running speedy riffs that keep even the loftiest tunes tied to down-and-dirty metal.

Dips back to the classic first album still retained the scrappy, thrash side to the band, while the mid-80s material unfolded with progressive flourish. This tour is a nice showcase of how this band both grew on its on and shaped metal overall, basically granting license for metal bands to think big in terms of style and substance. In Maiden's case, that has resulted in a catalog of anthemic songs revolving around themes of good vs evil.

Along with ample lights, flames, and explosions, the concert was overstuffed with countless visual displays of the band’s monstrous mascot, Eddie. Highlights included a “General Custer” Eddie that walked out during “Run to the Hills” and a mystical oracle Eddie  that arose during “Seventh Son.”

Sure Iron Maiden is the one crisscrossing North America at the moment, but at the Comcast Center it definitely felt more like being among metal’s faithful making a pilgrimage and coming out of it with faith restored.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Dancing with Widow Sunday

Widow Sunday
Calling their new EP “Dance Metal” started out as an in-joke among the members of Widow Sunday.

“We were laughing about  the ‘over-genrefication’ of music. There are a million different kinds of ‘core’ bands. And then people say Venom started black metal and that Pantera started power metal. So we’ll start our own genre- dance metal,” is how Widow Sunday singer Jake Falconer explains it.

More seriously, Widow Sunday is forging a more cohesive sound compared to the one offered on the 2010 full-length “In These Rusted Veins.” The more prominent electronic-music tweaks and rumbling grooves definitely share some musical DNA with dance music, though Falconer’s rasp and the waves of guitar shred keep Widow Sunday firmly in the metal camp.

The band previews its renewed direction on the three-song “Dance Metal” EP released this week by Rat Pack Records. “Dance Metal” is available via iTunes and Amazon. Widow Sunday also performs Saturday, June 30 at The Palladium in Worcester. Behold Oblivion, Freya, Give Zombies the Vote, and Hope Before the Fall are also on the bill which gets under way at 6 p.m.

The show also marks the last for guitarist Adam Cutler, who leaves the band to pursue his art career. Falconer says the group is sad to see him go but understands his decision and Widow Sunday will spend the summer looking for Cutler’s replacement.

While “In These Rusted Veins” won acclaim for Widow Sunday, Falconer says he felt the album was too fragmented.

“‘Rusted Veins’ had a mix-tape feel. It was like, ‘Here’s the grind song. Here’s the epic song.’ And so on,” Falconer says. “We wanted to come up with a specific sound.”

And that is easier said than done with this group, as its members like a wide variety of music, from hard-core to electronica.

But Falconer, guitarist Sean Duffy, drummer Darin Moyen, bassist Patrick Flaherty agreed on a couple of points.

“We wanted metal songs with an electronics element. Some bands  push the electronics too heavily and the metal ends up in the back seat,” Falconer says.

Second, no keyboards. The band instead relies on programmed soundscapes and effects triggered by Duffy and Moyen.

The other thing you notice about the music is that the songs are defiant but not necessarily dark.

“I never came from a tortured past, so I’m not going to sing about how bad I had it,” Falconer says.

Instead, Widow Sunday offers up such lines as “This is my life/I will not fail” or crafts a tune like “The Wave” that simply makes you want to swing from the rafters (or hop in the pit).

Duffy and Moyen are already stockpiling song ideas for the full-length Widow Sunday is eyeing next.

“We have a ton of ideas to sift through,” Falconer says. “We need to put it all together in a way that can best establish what we do as a band.”

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Wide 'Awakening'

A Wanted Awakening
  Screwing up its debut recording was one of the best things A Wanted Awakening did.
“That EP was a failed project,” says AWA guitarist John Tree of the band’s “From the Ruins” release. “We got preoccupied with thinking about what we thought people wanted to hear, and we ended up putting out a crappy product.”

The band learned a lesson about staying true to itself and the results can be heard on “Catharsis,” the new A Wanted Awakening full-length. The album is frenetic, generating its creative tension by blurring boundaries between death-core and prog-rock.
Tree points to “Flameborn,” a song the band released on the “Rebirth” download last year and included on the new album, as the beginning AWA’s fresh direction. The song is wild stylistic romp that challenges the players to stay on track as they move from spastic heaves to an acoustic-guitar interlude and back into an electric blowout.

The Lowell-based 5-piece obviously attacked this project with a bit of grand design in mind. “Final Ascent” is an epic song split in half, the first part opening the album as “Exile” and second half of the song closing the disc  as “Exodus.” While not a concept album per se, "Catharsis" has many songs about outcasts. Off of that thread, the band wildly swings. There are breakdowns, solos, death vocals, and melodic anthems all swirling in the mix.

A Wanted Awakening has two big release shows for “Catharsis.” First is a hometown gig Sunday, June 24 at The Brewery Exchange, 201 Cabot St., Lowell. The all-ages show starts at 5 p.m. and includes Manifest, Pathogenic, Behold Oblivion, The Summoned, Anchorlines, Hetfield & Hetfield, Still Silent, and My Missing Half.
Then on Friday, June 29, A Wanted Awakening plays at Mill Street Brews, 18 Mill St., Southbridge. The all-ages show gets going at 6 p.m. and features The River Neva, Still Silent, Heal the Destroyer, After Ail, Flood of Arcadia, Drama Queen for 600, and We Ate the Survivors.

A Wanted Awakening took shape in Albany, NY, around 2008. About a year later, sensing that metal was more of a fringe element in the music scene around the New York capital, the band members headed to Lowell.
“The scene around Boston and New England in general was just so much stronger. And it just so happened that our bass player got an acceptance letter in hand from UMass Lowell to study sound design,” Tree says.
Bassist Jason York recorded, produced, and mixed “Catharsis,” and captured a band thinking broadly. Singer Rick Hardy, guitarist Derek St. Martin, drummer Andre Bedard, Tree, and York stretch out on “Catharsis,” with the opening lacerating howls eventually falling back into clean melodies before those too lapse into dark, raspy tirades.
“On some songs we started to go too far out into the ether and had to bring it back to the ground, but for the most part we didn’t check ourselves too often as we went along,” Tree says.
As dynamically rich as “Catharsis” is, the band was careful to make sure that it could reproduce on stage what it created in the studio, even when it means deploying a few samples along the way.
“Nothing is more disappointing than hearing a record you love and then seeing the band live and it sucks,” Tree says.
While sometimes having a hard-to-peg sound makes it difficult for a band to find its audience, Tree says he is confident that the metal scene is pretty open-minded right now and that experimental bands have as good a shot as any to be heard.
“I’d rather have our own sound than have people say we sound like someone else,” is how Tree put it.
“Catharsis” will be available at the band’s show and online at  Follow the band on Twitter  @AWA_Band.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Heavy updates

Here are some upcoming events;

A Wanted Awakening releases its debut full length “Catharsis” this month and celebrates with shows June 24 at The Brewery in Lowell and June 29 at Mill Street Brews in Southbridge. Both shows are all-ages. Check back here later this week for an interview with the band. Here's a taste of the new stuff:

Widow Sunday releases its new EP “Dance Metal” on June 26 and celebrates June 30 at The Palladium in Worcester with Behold Oblivion, Freya, Anzikythera, Lunglust, and Your Pain is Endearing. Widow Sunday’s new single “The Wave” is available for free download now at

Metal Thursday at Ralph’s Diner in Worcester features Machinage, Sonic Pulse, Endless Decay, and Red Blade June 21; Protean Collective, Dreaded Silence, and The Fateful Hour June 28; Seax, Borrowed Time, Ancient Power,  and Invoker on July 5; Dark Passenger, Faces of Bayon, Obsidian Tongue, and Barren Oak July 19; and Mausoleum, Engorge, Blessed Offal, and Untomb on July 26.
The Metal Thursday team is also presenting Black Pyramid, Hessian, KYOTY, and Warm on Saturday, June 30 at Ralph's.

The Born of Fire series presents Fresh Kill, Deathamphetamine, and Jack Burton VS David Lo Pan at O’Brien’s in Allston on July 12.

The Scream It Like You Mean It Tour brings Attack Attack, Acacia Strain, We Came as Romans, Woe is Me, Oceano, Abandon All Ships, The Chariot, Like Moths to a Flame, In Fear and Faith, For All Those Sleeping, Close to Home, Volumes. Secrets, Hands Like Houses, Glass Cloud, and At the Skyline to The Palladium on July 7. Music begins at 2:40 p.m.

Break Thru Music is staging Headbang for the Highway July 14 at The Palladium. Bands are competing for a shot to perform at the Mayhem Festival alongside Slipknot, Slayer,  Motorthead and others, Aug. 3 at the Comcast Center in Mansfield. Duking it out will be Mercy Told, Hanging by a Thread, Last Velour, Post-Existence, Dead Death, We Stand in Awe, Still Silent, Patient 0, Nemecide, The Flooding, Epik Center, Drama Queen for 600, Kerrigan, Junt, Kyridion, and End of Elan. Battling begins at 2 p.m.

The Shockwave Tour with Fear Factory, Voivod, Cattle Decapitation, Misery Index, Revocation, Havok, Dirge Within, Last Chance to Reason., VILDHJA, Forged in Flames, and second-stage offerings of  Post-Existence, The River Neva, Scourge, and Straight Jacket Sunday is at The Palladium on July 25.

Out at the summer sheds, Iron Maiden and Alice Cooper team at the Comcast Center in Mansfield  on June 26. At the Bank of America Pavilion in Boston, Tenacious D plays there July 2 then Dream Theater and Crimson Projekct take over  July 16.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Check your Pulse

Speed is the solution to most any problem a metal band runs into. Don’t want to sound like Black Sabbath? Play faster. Got to get out of break down? Play faster.

In the case of Sonic Pulse, the band wanted to be funny but not get written off as a joke.

“The point behind the music is to  play as fast as humanly possible so you can’t deny the musicality of what’s going on,” says singer Dan Hammer of Skull Hammer who formed Sonic Pulse with guitarist Dave Carlino of Razormaze.

The other point Sonic Pulse set out to make has more to do with beer, weed, and debauchery, or as Hammer says “mixing power metal with party thrash.”

The obvious reference points here are Municipal Waste and DragonForce, and Sonic Pulse stitches those influences together quite nicely on its debut album “Lager Than Life.”

Hammer says he and Carlino worked on the “Lager Than Life” record over the last two years, releasing it June 1 and subsequently assembling a band to bring this mayhem on the road.

“It was funny. We thought there’d be a lot of interest. Our drummer was really into it, but there were a lot of people unamused. Maybe guitarists didn’t want to match wits with Dave,” Hammer says.

In the end, Sonic Pulse built itself with Hammer on vocals, Carlino and Mick Meyer on guitars, Matt C. Axe (also from Skull Hammer) on bass, and Joe Bollettiero on drums. Sonic Pulse plays Thursday June 22 at Ralph's Diner, 148 Grove St., Worcester. The bill also includes Machinage from Brazil, Endless Decay, and Red Blade.

Hammer saw DragonForce when the British power-metal band toured with Ozzfest in 2006.

“People didn’t really get it. They stood there with their arms crossed and watched the band play its three songs and leave,” Hammer recalls.

But among more discerning head bangers, DragonForce did re-ignite a taste for fast, intricately played metal anthems.

“There’s now more acceptance for a new wave of thrash. If you’re into metal, you know about DragonForce,” Hammer says.

But Sonic Pulse drives this epic sound straight into the gutter. The 7-song disc is a sprawl of booze, bongs, and zombies _ and to not pledge allegiance to fast ’n’ amped metal is to be cast out of Sonic Pulse’s world.

The whole thing started as a riff and lyrical idea.

“That one breakdown riff you hear in the song ‘Sonic Pulse’ just came to me, then the idea of a ‘sonic pulse.’ I knew then that was the name of the band, and the direction to head in,” Hammer says.

“Queen of Beers” and “Eye of the Beerholder” revel in the band’s lust for lust, while “Beyond the Black Hole” shows Sonic Pulse in touch with its inner space-fantasy geek.

“Dave and I had been talking about doing something,” Hammer says. “This wasn’t the specific idea. It just happened this way.”

All in all, not a bad way to go.

“Lager Than Life” is available through iTunes and other digital services as well as on Sonic Pulse’s Bandcamp page,

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Engorged back for benefit...and maybe beyond

What began as a two-off reunion last year is shaping up to be something a bit more long-lasting for the band Engorged.

“Within the last few weeks we started writing a new song, and it’s almost finished. That will be our first new songs since ’94,” reports guitarist Matt Smith.

Smith, singer Jesse DiGioia, guitarist Erik Thurston, drummer Steve Provost, and bass player Keith Mallet reunite as Engorged once again Saturday, June 16, for a show at The Raven in Worcester. The concert is a benefit for Stop the Bleeding, a grassroots organization that raises funds for services that aid the homeless, such as shelters, food pantries and soup kitchens.

Stop the Bleeding’s Metal Fest 4 at the Raven, 258 Pleasant St., Worcester, begins at 6 p.m. with The Quantum Mechanic. The line up then proceeds with Wrenchneck, Carnivora, Betrayed by Prophecy, Sorrowseed, Engorged, and Obsidian Tongue. Admission is $10, and all proceeds go to the Lighthouse Mission in Worcester.

Chris Schramm founded Stop the Bleeding seven years ago and has produced more than 30 benefit shows. A musician himself, Schramm uses a variety of bands for his events, covering rock, pop, and reggae. More info on the organization can be found online at

For his latest metal escapade, Schramm turned to a band whose two-show reunion last year left the local metal scene wanting more.

Engorged formed in 1992, right when death metal was coming into its own as a genre, and the band was among the first in Central Mass to put a local spin on the sound.

“We were lucky enough to catch the wave of death metal in its infancy, especially when Florida really exploded in 1990/1991. We were already in other bands at the time, but it was through that wave of death metal that we found our niche and found each other. It was actually a Suffocation/Dismember show somewhere back in 1992, if I remember correctly, that our paths crossed, and we were jamming together within a couple weeks,” DiGioia says.

The original lineup also included guitarist John Russell. The band was active until 1995, though only recorded a four-song demo, leaving behind little of its legacy.

Perhaps being so purely focused could only last so long. Smith departed in 1994 to explore other musical avenues_ metal and non-metal alike_ before wending his way back into heavy music first with Warhorse and now Faces of Bayon. DiGioia started the black metal band Blood Stone Sacrifice. Thurston, Mallet, and Provost are in Fires of Old.

But the sort of focus Engorged demands can also be inspiring.

“I started Faces of Bayon in the fall of 2008 and headed into a doom direction. When the call came to do Engorged again, I had to start shredding, and I found it was exactly what I needed to do. It really motivated me and challenged me,” Smith says.

DiGioia says the reunited Engorged is sticking to its original format of old-school death, even as the genre itself has blossomed with the work of a new generation of bands committed to the style.

“We follow the format from the early days of death metal. Very stripped down. Fast. Brutal. With pummeling, short breakdowns that really get things going. We like to get our point across like a fist to the face. I believe our longest song is about four minutes. It's a very pure and intense form of music. We prefer not to water it down, and we don't have a particular formula. If we feel it in our guts, and it gets us excited, then we use it,” DiGioia says.

The approach not only fired up the band, but fans responded too. Last fall’s performances at Bobfest in Allston and at Ralph’s in Worcester drew responses that DiGioa describes as overwhelming.

Smith says it was also fun to enter a scene that looks reborn with young bands.

“I thought it might be kind of cool to show the kids how it’s done,” he says, but more seriously adds, “I was really blown away when we saw how revered the band was when it came back. What we’re doing now is what we did in ’93 and ’94. When you’re in the middle of something, you have no real perspective on the impact it has.”

And now not only is there fan interest in seeing Engorged stay together, but the band members themselves think there is reason to carry on.

“When we’re together, it’s what it was like at the beginning,” Smith says. “Within the first hour of getting together to just hang out, you felt the same energy we had when we were first together.”

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

More "Death"

All right, you asked for more Death Fest pictures, so here they are. All photos by Sam McLennan, taken June 10 at The Palladium in Worcester.
Destroy the Legacy


Under a Serpent Sun

The Atlas Collapse

Vattnet Viskar


Fit for an Autopsy

Fit for an Autopsy


Mr. Barnes

Monday, June 11, 2012

Living it up at Death Fest

Chris Barnes of Six Feet Under

Worcester Death Fest 2012 brought together both the architects and the acolytes of death metal for a 10-hour marathon of fat-necked basses, skinny-necked guitars,  double-bass drums, shredded vocals and gore June 10 at The Palladium.


Matt Desmond, above, and Mykel Raymond of Conforza

While not the sort of blowout that occurs at the annual New England Metal and Hardcore Festival, Death Fest was impressive on many levels. First, it was pure in design. Nothin’ but death _ though it did shed a light on the degrees of death. Second, it had Six Feet Under, Suffocation, and Dying Fetus under one roof _ SFU (and original Cannibal Corpse) singer Chris Barnes, Dying Fetus’ John Gallagher, and Suffocation’s Frank Mullen and Terrance Hobbs set up a lot of death-metal’s design back in the late ’80s and early ’90s and still push the boundaries of the genre. And lastly it spoke volumes about the region’s extreme music scene that more than 20 bands from Massachusetts and neighboring New England states could flesh out this bill into a real festival, and by “real” meaning the under-card acts were solid, well-honed bands, not desperate kids looking for a gig.

Like the NEMHF, Death Fest used both stages in The Palladium. Necronomichrist played a stand-out set in the smaller, upstairs room. With sinister keyboard fills punctuating its sound, the band brought some progressive edge to its death attack. Necronomichrist nicely balanced epic sweep and scrappy head banging.
Under a Serpent Sun also had a prog flourish to its extreme sound, thanks largely to Dylan Helm’s guitar solos. The Atlas Collapse let the groove carry its sound and worked the crowd with the passion and fury of a hardcore band. Pathogenic closed the second stage with a blast of aggressive grind that moved with a relentless chug.

The Atlas Collapse


Under a Serpent Sun

 A bunch of the regional bands also played on the main stage before the touring acts took over. Conforza was a local that looked ready to hop on a tour bus any minute. The band was both intricate and furious, with singer Mykel Raymond roaming the stage like a lunatic and bassist Matt Desmond plucking neck-snapping riffs as the rest of the band set up dynamic shifts and turns.
New Hampshire-reared Vattnet Viskar and New Jersey’s Fit for an Autopsy were two up-and-coming bands showcased on the main stage. Vattnet Viskar layered ambient drones and tones across its the tightly coiled heavier parts of the songs. Fit for an Autopsy went more for explosive, raw energy.
Dave Davidson fired up Revocation’s set with his typically fierce guitar work. Revocation twisted up speedy thrash and technically challenging arrangements in a manner that set its extreme sound apart from the heavy dirge of other bands on the bill. Davidson and crew had fun with the genre’s wretched excess, especially when describing “Conjuring the Cataclysm” as a song about hot chick demons doing pleasantly filthy things.



Dying Fetus

Dying Fetus
Dying Fetus has never been known for its humor and the band kept it that way through a set of sheer brutality. The trio reached back for vintage death cuts such as “Kill Your Mother, Rape Your Dog,” mixing them in with songs from the album “Reign Supreme,” due out June 19.
Frank Mullen of Suffocation

Derek Boyer of Suffocation

Terrance Hobbs of Suffocation
 Suffocation followed, and while not as darkly brooding as the bands it played in between (the severely dark and heavily brooding Six Feet Under closed the fest), it still offered plenty of menace amid Mullen’s friendly, crazed banter.  “Abomination Reborn” took Suffocation into death’s horror camp, but for the most part the band used music to punch its way out of life’s crippling hypocrisies.

All of the above, Six Feet Under doing its thing
In the case of Six Feet Under, this band stakes death metal’s claim as music for outsiders who have no interest in being on the inside. If singer Barnes has a slogan, it’s probably “Stay the fuck away.”  At this now for 25 years, Barnes can still get to the guttural grunts and groans without losing the sharp edge of his disturbing lyrics. Wearing a “Face Eater” T in honor of recent headlines out of Florida, Barnes was scary and scabby, but compelling nonetheless as he unfurled  blood-stained numbers from Six Feet Under’s latest, “Undead” and reached back for Cannibal Corpse classics “Stripped, Raped, and Strangled” and “Hammer Smashed Face.”

All photos by Sam McLennan

Friday, June 8, 2012

Heavy on-sales

Tickets are on sale today, June 8, for Hatebreed's return to The Palladium in Worcester on Sept. 14. Whitechapel, All Shall Perish, and Deez Nuts join Hatebreed (pictured) on the bill. Tix are $20.

And Morbid Angel is coming to The Palladium on Sept. 29. Dark Funeral, Grave, and VadimVon are also playing. Tickets go on sale June 22 and are $25.

Tickets for both shows are available at

Thursday, June 7, 2012

"Seconds" coming

“Sloppy Seconds”
(Comatose Music)

In the hammer-smashed world of death and gore, Sexcrement is carving out a nice little niche for itself with songs full of  carnal depravity and dark humor. Maybe the body count isn’t excessive on the band’s sophomore album “Sloppy Seconds,” but songs about drinking piss in hopes of catching a second-hand meth buzz are no less disturbing than ones about human butchery.

Singer Adam Mason’s bearish growl casts a pall over lyrical nuance, but song titles such as “Heard it Through the Rape Vine,” “Chemical Handcuffs” and “Assisted Living Lap Dance” get across the point.

Drummer Devon Hunt, guitarist Evan Duplessis, and bassist Blue Spinazola supply the songs with a bedrock groove. From there, it’s a matter of shifting tempos and creating contrasts to keep the 8-song disc chugging along. Duplessis uncorks some nice squealing leads and creates fluttering breakdowns that balance brutality with melody. The rhythm section too breaks from the norm with occasional light-touch, jazzy cymbal fills or funky bass lines for a bar or two.

Sexcrement, a staple in the Boston extreme scene, is playing Sunday, June 10, at The Palladium in Worcester as part of Worcester Death Fest. Six Feet Under, Suffocation, Dying Fetus, and Revocation are on the upper part of the bill, and the day get going at 1 p.m. with about two dozen bands in all playing.

Comatose Music released “Sloppy Seconds” and the band has an appropriately disturbing video out for “Trucker Bombed,” the song inspired by tales of drug addicts scouring highways for discarded piss bottles.

Sound clips of boozy dialogue pop up between songs, enhancing this portrait of wretched excess.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Revocation domination

It shouldn’t be such a surprise that Revocation runs its metal all over the place. After all, this is a band that was as comfortable playing basement punk-rock shows in Allston as it was being part of the metal bills at O’Brien’s and Great Scott while coming up the ranks in Boston.
“I love the scene in Boston. Extreme bands and punk bands played together a lot,” says Dave Davidson, singer and guitarist for Revocation.
Since releasing “Chaos of Forms,” its second album for Relapse Records, Revocation has been on a roll leading up to its current tour with Six Feet Under and Dying Fetus. After that, Revocation is on a month-long trek with the Shockwave Fest headlined by Fear Factory.
The Six Feet Under tour hits the Palladium in Worcester on Sunday, June 10, as part of the daylong Worcester Death Fest. The show begins at 1 p.m. and features a slew of regional bands alongside Vattnet Viskar, Fit for an Autopsy, Revocation, Dying Fetus, Suffocation, and Six Feet Under.
Shock Wave is also at The Palladium, and happens July 25. That bill has Revocation playing with Fear Factory, Voivod, Cattle Decapitation, Misery Index, Havok, Dirge Within, Last Chance to Reason, and others.
“Our band is very diverse in terms of style. There are obvious elements of death and thrash, but we fit well playing with different kinds of bands,” Davidson says.
The band’s Relapse debut “Existence is Futile” showcased raw prowess, with Revocation layering technical gleam over death gloom while driving at a breakneck thrash speed.
But rather than replicate the effort that drew the band a mountain of praise, Revocation pushed itself on “Chaos of Forms.”  While the middle of the album holds to the band’s core values with the tunes “No Funeral,” "Fractal Entity” and "Chaos of Forms,” elsewhere the band stretches out. “Dissolution Ritual” slips a Latin groove into the middle of the song. And nobody could have predicted that Revocation would bring in horns and a Hammond organ, but that’s exactly what the band does on “The Watchers” _ and pulls it off.
“On each record we definitely want to sound like Revocation, but we also want to do something a little different,” Davidson says. “I think we keep common threads in our work, like using extreme vocals and making solo sections a big part of the songs.”
Adding second guitarist Dan Gargiulo to the lineup in 2010 beefed up the live show, says Davidson.
“Dan plays contrasting solos and brings a lot of layers and textures to the sound,” he says.

Davidson started the band with drummer Phil Dubois-Coyne and bassist Anthony Buda. Originally they went by Cryptic Warning, but changed names in 2006 once they firmed up a musical direction.

“When we were 17-year-olds, we saw Random Acts of Violence and knew that if we wanted to be in this scene we had to step up our game,” says Davidson. “That was definitely one of the bands out of Boston that was a big influence on us. We always said, ‘If we could just be as good as that band.’” 

Monday, June 4, 2012

The contamination begins

Yes, Abnormality is brutal, and it takes less than two second for the band’s new album “Contaminating the Hive Mind” to deliver a full-on sonic beat down. And to those who simply want to let the machine-gunning drums, wiry guitars and chopped up howl of vocal melodies knock them down, “Contaminating the Hive Mind” works like a charm.
But this record has more to offer than its pure physical aggression. Lyrically, the band puts up defiant criticism of political and social systems that breed apathy (and ultimately misery). Abnormality can also weave a pretty good future-shock yarn, as heard on “Monarch Omega,” a song the band shot a video for.

“Lyrically, I think we come at it a little differently than other bands,” says Abnormality guitarist Jeremy Henry. “We’re all political and have opinions. How can that not influence your music? I love death metal, but some of the gore gets overplayed.”
But don’t worry death fans, Abnormality has you covered, too, with the cannibalism gross-out of “Taste of Despair.”
Henry and fellow guitarist Ben Durgin recently weighed in on “Contaminating the Hive Mind,” which Sevared Records released June 1. Abnormality plays a CD-release show Thursday, June 7, at Ralph’s Diner in Worcester. Naegleria, Soul Remnants and Soul Annihilation are also on that Metal Thursday bill, which gets under way at 9 p.m..
 And then Abnormality embarks on a month-long coast-to-coast tour.
In 2005, a bunch of expats from other bands pulled together in Marlboro to form Abnormality. Singer Mallika Sundaramurthy , drummer Jay Blaisdell, and guitarist Henry are part of the original lineup. Bassist Josh Staples came on board in 2009, and Durgin joined the following year after the band shook out some differences of opinion about musical direction.

Sundaramurthy is a rarity in the extreme-music ranks, a woman who can summon a subsonic low-end growl while still meticulously controlling a staccato lyrical flow. Her vocal style and drummer Blaisdell’s propulsive work give Abnormality a strong foundation atop which the guitar and bass parts can maneuver with a degree of nuance that isn’t strictly tied to one orthodoxy.
“We weren’t trying to steer this in one direction,” Henry says. “The way we work definitely causes arguments and fighting, but in the long run it works out.”
And even when Abnormality thought it had some of the new songs worked out, the final results were surprisingly different once the band recorded the material.
“A lot of the songs took on their own life,” Henry says. “The songs evolve during the recording process.”
Durgin says he saw his job as serving the song, adding leads that were not so much what a metal head would expect, but what the song could bring as fresh meat to the metal feast.
“My biggest focus with my leads was to serve the song, while still pushing my technical limits,” Durgin writes in an email. “I'd like to think I accomplished that mission, especially with the ‘Schismatic’ solo. I love how it came out, but that thing is a pain in my ass. Well, more my left hand, I don't play guitar with my ass anymore.”
(And yeah, they don’t let the evil overtake their personalities, either).
While the technical chops are apparent, less obvious ingredient that gives Abnormality an edge, Henry says, is its songwriting. The sheer force of the music can cloud some of the details, which is true of any extreme music. But bands that have that level of detail_ be it Cannibal Corpse or Dillinger Escape Plan_ tend to be the ones that stick around.

“The writing is what gives us cohesion. You can’t be a bunch of solo-session players and expect a record or band to sound good,” Henry says. “We don’t want to be just brutal, or just technical, and it’s the writing that helps us find that balance.”
In addition to being sold at shows, “Contaminating the Hive Mind” can be ordered through the Sevared Records website,, and is available on iTunes and other digital services.