Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Summer games for headbangers

Screw London. The real games are happening in Northampton, Florence, and Turners Falls. Those are the sites of the semi-final and final rounds of the 2012 Metalympics.

A field of 32 unsigned, regionally based metal bands has been winnowed to eight, and two bands from each night of semi-finals will advance to the four-way finals happening Sept 29 at Shea Theater, 71 Avenue A, Turners Falls.

Graham Russin from GARDAR Entertainment launched Metalympics three years ago, creating a showcase in Western Mass for metal bands. The competition’s original home in Greenfield, Easy Street, changed hands, so Russin has bounced around this year and locked down a new network of clubs supportive of the games.

Metalympics features a two-pronged voting method that determines how bands advance. In the early goings, a panel of judges chooses one winner and a popular vote from the audience chooses another band to advance. There are no judges for the final round, with audience-cast ballots responsible for the ultimate outcome. And believe me, Russin has concocted a system that would require way too much effort to allow shenanigans into Metalympics.

The logic behind Metalympics’ method is pretty sound. Good bands can still advance with judges’ help, but true competitors must eventually build a real following if they hope to win the whole thing

The first round of semi-finals is happening Saturday, Aug. 4 at The Elevens, 140 Pleasant St.,  Northampton. Asystole, Left Hand Backwards, Heal the Destroyer, and Seven Minute Stagger are featured that night.

The second semis happen Aug. 17 at Silk City, 99 Main St.,  Florence. She Walks Without Legs, A Wanted Awakening, Spoken Like a True Hero, and Zombie Fighter duke it out that night.

Whatever money is collected from the $3 door admission to each event goes toward the final prizes. The top winner gets half of the pot, and the three other bands split the remaining spoils.

While it’s cool that Western Massacre got bragging rights last year, and Dead Man’s Dossier (D.M.D.), captured the top spot in 2010, it’s far more interesting to consider the way Metalympics showcases dozens of bands, strengthens the local heavy scene and creates new connections among the metal herd.

Metalympics Facebook home is here www.facebook.com/pages/Metalympics/218170382563

Other heavy notes: Krakatoa, Vaporizer, Crypter, and Seren are at Ralph’s Diner, 148 Grove St., Worcester, for this week’s Metal Thursday event.

On Friday, Aug. 3 Mayhem rolls into the Comcast Center in Mansfield. The action starts at 1:30p.m.,  and the festival features Slipknot, Slayer,  Motorhead, Anthrax, The Devil Wears Prada, As I Lay Dying, Asking Alexandria, Whitechapel, and High on Fire.

Randy Blythe’s continued, bizarre incarceration in Prague has forced Lamb of God to pull the plug on its upcoming U.S. tour with Dethklok_ including an Aug. 30 concert in Lowell_ while the singer’s legal fate gets sorted out. Gojra, who was set to tour with LoG, is heading out on its own and will play in The Palladium’s upstairs room on Aug. 13.

Bane and Terror are in the Palladium’s club room on Tuesday, Aug. 7.

And tickets go on sale 10 a.m. Friday, Aug. 3  for Coheed and Cambria’s Sept. 28 date in the Palladium. The Deer Hunter and Three are also on the bill. Tix are $27.50 through tickets.com.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Digging Cape's 'Grave'

On Cape Cod, shit comes and goes. Busy in the summer, dead in the winter, and a few diehards hang on to see it all.

Same principle applies to metal on the Cape.

“A lot of bands come and go, but I’ve been playing in a lot of bands and hanging out with a lot of bands and there is a existing scene,” says Chris Crobar, guitarist and singer in Led to the Grave and honcho at Wastedge Booking.

And that scene will be on display Friday, July 27, at Chatham Village Hall, when Led to the Grave, Livver, Drysocket, Aborted Decency, and Twitch Angry take to the stage starting at 7 p.m. It’s one of just a couple of hometown shows for Led to the Grave now that drummer Jeff Moody is in Baltimore.

Crobar is musically cross wired with punk and metal; you see it in his Wastedge bookings and you hear it in Led to the Grave. Across the band’s recent spate of studio EPs and its live recording from Ralph’s Diner in Worcester, Led to the Grave brings together a hardcore ferocity with thrash-metal chops. It ain’t metalcore as you know it, but instead a fresh mash up of these styles that pair well.

“We try not to limit ourselves with a particular sound,” Crobar says. “We like punk, we like death metal. We like all kinds of stuff and our music is it all thrown together.”

“Sent to Burn,” the band’s E,P. from 2010 ( ledtothegrave.bandcamp.com/album/sent-to-burn), is a high-water mark for what Led to the Grave can do. The songs are a collision of dry drums, wiry guitar parts and scorched vocals. Songs stretch out to metal proportions, but the vibe is a focused hardcore beat down.

Led to the Grave has made five tours along the East Coast, but will likely slow down the road trips in favor of recordings its next full-length.

“I don’t like to rush things in the studio. I want to tighten up the sound and try to stay consistent with the releases,” Crobar says.

Good to see someone shaking the Cape on a steady basis.

The Chatham Village Hall is at 2567 Main St., Chatham.

Other shows on the radar this week include Hammers of Misfortune bringing prog metal from San Francisco to TT the Bear’s, 10 Brookline St., Cambridge, on Wednesday, July 25. Gates of Slumber, Eerie, and The Under are also on the bill.

Boarcorpse, Das Muerte, and Rozamov are at O’Brien’s, 3 Harvard Ave., Allston, on Thursday, July 26, as part of the Born of Fire series.

Metal Thursday at Ralph’s Diner, 148 Grove St., Worcester, has Mausoleum from Pennsylvania and Engorge from New Jersey joining Blessed Offal and Untombed on Thursday, July 26.  

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Dark Passenger debut

By sheer coincidence, the first time I listened to Dark Passenger’s debut E.P, it was just past dusk one evening and I was walking through an unlit, wooded park. A breeze shook shadowy brush and bats_ no shit, bats_ darted overhead. The menacing tunes that earbuds pumped into my skull supplied the perfect soundtrack. “Bring on the zombies,” I thought.

Dark Passenger is a doom-laden, touch o’death project featuring guitarist and singer Dan Robinson and drummer Kevin Royer from Shroud of Bereavement, guitarist and singer Brian Kelley from Hell’s Infinite 6 and Valasyrka, and bassist Dave Starratt. The band hails from the Haverhill/Amesbury area.

Dark Passenger has a CD-release show on tap Thursday, July 19, at Ralph’s Diner, 148 Grove St., Worcester. The Metal Thursday bill also features Faces of Bayon, Obsidian Tongue, and Barren Oak. First band goes on at 9 p.m.

“Serpents of Time” opens Dark Passenger’s self-titled disc and sets both the pace and mood for the subsequent 30 minutes. The 8-minute track builds off of a slow grind, with Royer’s drumming holding down a steady funeral march. Robinson mainly puts out a dirgy, mournful vocal track, punctuated every so often by a “clean” refrain. The encroaching dread loosens at the finale for a burst of guitar shred, a biot of tension-and-release that pops up in spots throughout the disc.

“Lurker of the Brine” adds an acoustic guitar intro, and the song has more of an epic, dark fantasy narrative.

“The Door and the Dreamless Haunt" is the most straightforward song, clocking in at a tightly wound five minutes. A sinister message about death freeing the soul begins the nightmare scenario of being in a torturous stage between life and death. The tempos pick up, the grooves are more limber, but Dark Passenger still keeps the song moving to doom dynamics.

The disc ends with the epic “Sentences of Servitude,” a smoldering 10 minutes of encroaching dread that swings from personal torment to broader decay occurring all around.

Dark Passenger forgoes proggy twists and turns instead carrying listeners across the long haul with steely, mesmerizing craft wedged between Type O Negative and Opeth. It’s a slow-burn brutality that serves the tunes well rather than worrying about conforming to a certain pattern.

The Dark Passenger E.P. is a promising harbinger for the band’s full-length album in the works.

In other news, Fate Worse Than Death, Murdoc, Western Massacre, Confrontation, and Escapeway are at The Palladium, 261 main St., Worcester, at 6:30 p.m. Friday, July 20.

Boarcorpse, Das Muerte, and Rozamov are at O’Brien’s, 3 Harvard Ave., Allston, on Thursday, July 26.

Also on the 26th,  Mausoleum, Engorged, Blessed Offal, and Untombed are at Ralph’s in Worcester.

And Cape Cod gets brutal on Friday, July 27, when Led to the Grave, Livver, Drysocket, and Aborted Decency are at Chatham Village Hall, 2567 Main St., Chatham. Show time is 7 p.m.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Deathamphetamine detours

Deathamphetamine is so deep into the grind and grime that Queen is the last band you’d ever think to draw in comparison.

But that’s who Deathamphetamine front man Scott Beckett singled out during a recent interview, talking about how the band now works a decade into its career in the progressive metal underground.
“It sounds like I’m nerding out on Queen, but all those guys had their own songs that they brought into the band. It fit into something bigger, but each guy had the whole idea for a song,” says Beckett. And that’s how he and bassist Marcus Frattura work it now in Deathamphetamine, each writing all of the parts for the other members, and banking on drummer Cristian Gazmuri to re-imagine whatever is handed to him as something even better.
Deathamphetamine plays Thursday, July 12, at O’Brien’s, 3 Harvard Ave. Allston. Presented by Born of Fire, the show also features Fresh Kill in the headlining slot and Jack Burton vs. David Lo Pan opening. Show time is 8 p.m.  
In March, Deathamphetamine released “The Lost Album,” a bunch of angry tirades about dehumanizing drudgery and the drag of realizing that much of what you see around you is total bullshit.
The tunes are relentless, progressive-minded collisions of thrash and hardcore, each overstuffed with lyrics that range from politics to sci-fi. 
To shake up things a bit, Beckett, Gazmuri, Frattura and bassist John Booly recently cooked up Dick Move, a scabby hardcore outfit that frees up Beckett to just sing and jump around while Frattura moves to the guitar spot.
“We played a bunch of Poison Idea covers one Halloween and it seemed cool to go off and just play music like that,” Beckett says.

Dick Move wrote and recorded a 12-song album in less than three month (you can't see it, but there's a link above this paragraph to the tunes). It proved to be a kick in the ass for Beckett who is back to drawing up a new Deathamphetamine record. Three years passed between “The Lost Album” and its predecessor, and he hopes that kind of span doesn’t occur again.
Deathamphetamine is also fired up to bring in a second guitar player and stretch out a bit, like The Crown, one of Deathamphetamine’s influences when it first got together in Amherst.
“When we started, we wanted to merge genres, and bands like Dillinger Escape Plan were starting to come up.  It was cool how they would break into this weird jazz part in the middle of a metal song, but that’s not exactly what we wanted to do,” Beckett says.
Through trial and error and lineup changes, Deathamphetamine honed its sound, especially after moving to Boston in 2007 and sharpening its grind, punk, and death elements into an aggressive, knotty thrall of its own.
Beckett admits that Deathamphetamine’s experimental nature has made it hard for a fan base to wrap around the group’s ever-changing work. During a stint with Frattura playing in the doom metal band Blessed Offal, Beckett saw how people tended to react better when given a clear stylistic direction.
But that isn’t stopping him from jamming on some older songs that didn’t make the cut for “The Lost Album” and re-routing Deathamphetamine again.
Hey, even Queen could go from “Bohemian Rhapsody” to “Another One Bites the Dust,” right?

In other news, The Shock Wave Tour is canceled, meaning no Fear Factory and company at The Palladium on July 25. Get ticket refunds at point of purchase.
Fires of Old, Excrecor, Draekon, and Autolatry play Thursday, July 12 at Ralph’s Diner, 148 Grove St., Worcester.
Break Thru Music is staging Headbang for the Highway Saturday, 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.
Dream Theater is at Bank of America Pavilion in Boston on July 16.
Tickets go on sale 10 a.m. Saturday for the Manowar “Lords of Steel” tour stop at The Palladium in Worcester on Nov. 23. Tickets available online via tickets.com or by calling (800) 477-6849.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Southern Lord road show

Southern Lord Records has a knack for sussing out heavy music that his brutal and mind blowing at the same time. The label has a killer package tour on the road this summer featuring Black Breath, Martyrdod and various other bands as it moves from city to city. Southern Lord founder Greg Anderson put together this tour, and it nicely lays out the breadth of label’s offerings

The Secret, Enabler, and Burning Love are also on the bill Thursday, July 5 when the Southern Lord tour hauls ass into Radio in Somerville. Show time is 7 p.m.

Black Breath is out in support of its second disc “Sentenced to Life.” The crusty Seattle crew dumps gallons of bile in the half hour it takes to get through the 10 tracks. Against the low-end boom, Black Breath cranks out plenty of guitar thrash that all in all keeps “Sentenced to Life” chugging along pretty good. Here they are playing "Home of the Grave."

Sweden’s Martydod this year released “Paranoia.” Lots of good proggy flash amid the death bellows.

The Secret, from Italy, can go from two-minute stun gun blasts to moaning goth. Looking forward to the band’s follow up to “Solve et Coagula.”

Burning Love out of Ontario has the fresh punks-meets-muscle offering “Rotten Thing to Say.” And Milwaukee’s Enabler is deploying its latest hardcore beat down  “All Hail the Void” along the tour.

Monday, July 2, 2012

High on Seax


   As the members of Seax were prepping for a road trip to perform at a festival in Ohio last week, a few of the members took some time to talk about their new release “High on Metal.”

Just as bassist Matt C. Axe started to explaining how everyone in the band digs “old-school” metal in addition to whatever else he likes, singer Carmine Blades chimed in to interrupt: “Metal is not old-school; it’s timeless.”
And that’s the feel of Seax’s “High on Metal.” Even though the band is blazing through a set of twin-guitar speed and thrash, you don’t feel like you’re listening to an Overkill cover band. Crackling energy and unrepentant attitude drive the disc, with the whole thing barreling along like a thrill ride that  might fly off the track at any second.
Seax is part of a wave of melodic metal coursing through the Mass clubs right now, as Skull Hammer, Lich King, Ravage, and the like make the rounds.
“It’s an incestuous scene. A lot of us play in each other’s bands,” says Axe (who works with Skull Hammer and Sonic Pulse). “We all play shows together, and there definitely feels like there is a resurgence of this kind of metal. But more importantly we’re all buddies and go to each other’s shows. It feels like a scene, like the Bay Area when all those thrash bands were friends.”
The scene comes to Ralph’s Diner, 148 Grove St., Worcester, on Thursday, July 5, as Seax releases “High on Metal” at this week’s Metal Thursday showcase.  Borrowed Time, Ancient Power, and Invoker are also on the bill. Show time is 9 p.m.
Former Zircon guitarist Hel formed Seax in 2010, and after few lineup changes the band now also include Mick Mayer on guitar, Dino Gustavo on drums, Blades, and Axe.

“High on Metal” is unbridled celebration of metal as mythology, way of life, philosophy and simply kick-ass music. It's over-the-top by design.
“What I like about this band is that everyone is into the showmanship. If you’re not going to go ballistic on stage, no one is going to care,” Mayer says. “People like to see a band go crazy. And with this band it goes beyond the stage. The first time I met these guys we just hung out and it was a shit show.”
Musically, Seax employs the tried-and-true twin-guitar dust up. Hel and Mayer switch between harmonized parts and dueling solos that never fall below the pace of a quick gallop. Blades rides across the top of the guitars with his banshee wails and lyrical sneers.

The songs are all variations of a battle cry in a war to make the world just that much more metal to the core. But as lofty as Seax gets, the whole thing has a scrappy, street-level scuzz to it.

“I’m into thrash and old punk, so that just naturally filters in,” Axe says. “Our goal was just to be fast, heavy, and loud.”

Done, done, and done.

“High on Metal” will be available at the show Thursday and then via iTunes, Amazon and the band’s page at www.facebook.com/seaxmetal