Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Second Grave is now open

Second Grave, l-r Chris Drzal, Dave Gein, Krista Van Guilder, and Chuck Ferreira

Second Grave is a pretty killer second act for a quartet of vets from the stoner, doom and psych metal trenches. Second Grave makes its live debut Thursday, Aug. 30, at Ralph’s Diner, 148 Grove St., Worcester, as part of the Metal Thursday series. Faces of Bayon and two more bands to be announced are also playing.

Second Grave features ex-Warhorse singer Krista Van Guilder, ex Nodscene drummer Chuck Ferreira, ex-Suckapunch guitarist Chris Drzal, and current Black Pyramid bassist Dave Gein. 

Second Grave comes out swinging with a debut E.P. that is simply huge and ominous. The chiming instrumental intro “Through the Red Door” sets up the slow-burning “Covet.”  The tune digs a dark groove for a few minutes before Van Guilder’s vocals soar out of the abyss. It’s a dynamic that works across the board.

But the band doesn’t use its contrasting doom tunes and clarion vocals as an easy formula. The songs bounce from the condemning “Covet” to the fantasy nightmare of “Mountains of Madness.” And while most of the songs hit that 8-minute doom/psych pre-epic standard, Second Grave isn’t afraid to toss out a compact, hard rocking gem such as “Soul Extinction.”

“We’re all in our mid-30s and we’ve all been around the block with this style of music. We’re at a point where we want to experiment,” Ferreira says.

Ferreira contacted Van Guilder early last year about starting a project. With Drzal and another bassist, things progressed slowly until Gein joined in September, providing a shot in the arm and additional sonic surface to explore.

“We like to say we’re doom-tinged, or doom-laden. But once Dave joined, we had a guy from Black Pyramid and that whole influence,” Ferreira says of the distinctly trippy vibes worked into Second Grave.

Van Guilder handles all of the lyrics and says the writing knows no boundaries.

“The music comes first, and I’m a guitar player so I think about fitting words to music,” she says. “The subjects just start with what I see around me. I see what’s happening or is in the news and look for a story to tell, a way to spin it.”

When Warhorse was roaring back around ’96 it was typically the odd band on the bill.

“There wasn’t much of a doom scene. A lot of people didn’t seem to get it or didn’t appreciate it,” Van Guilder says. “Last year I went to a Metal Thursday at Ralph’s and it was packed. And it was pretty much all doom. It’s a funny turn of events. I think this band is coming out at the right time.”

And it’s a nicely calculated arrival. The E.P. is a fantastic calling card, recorded with Black Pyramid’s Clay Neely producing.

Ferreira says Second Grave will keep working on new material and building the fan base as it ramps up to a full-length recording.

“I think it will be an interesting year,” he says.

And it’s off to a pretty good start.

To check out the tunes, follow this link to the Second grave's Bandcamp page http://secondgrave.bandcamp.com/album/second-grave

Out and about, Kataklysm headlines Wednesday, Aug. 29 at The Palladium, 261 Main St., Worcester. Show time is 7 p.m. with Fleshgod Apocalypse, Vital Remains, The Flooding, and In Harm’s Way also playing.

Widow Sunday bids adieu with a farewell show Thursday, Aug. 30, at Great Scott, 1222 Commonwealth Ave., Allston. Pathogenic, Murdoc, and Your Pain Is Endearing are also on the bill.

 Lich King, Zombie Fighter, Flood of Arcadia, Trendemic, and Elementalist play Friday, Aug. 31, at Black Moon Music Lounge, 37 State St. Belchertown. The 18+ show starts at 8 p.m. A Wanted Awakening was originally on the bill but bowed out this week for medical reasons. Get well soon, fellas.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

A midsummer's bullshit post

Lazy, summer daze here at Mass Metal, so just going to chat up a few shows then get back to the beach.
Thursday, Aug. 23, is the night to find a load of the good stuff. Out by Boston, Fog Wizard, Faces of Bayon, Mucklers Circle, and Dyslexic Fudgicle are at Radio in Somerville, while in Worcester (of course) Metal Thursday holds court at Ralph’s Diner with Elder, Nocuous, Dead Languages, and Rozamov.
A Fury Divine
There’s a monster Saturday night, Aug. 25, in Turners Falls at the Shea Theater where an all-ages metal throw down begins at 5 p.m. A Fury Divine, Our Darkest Day, Your Pain is Endearing, Mechanical Process, This Coming End, Stowik Seizure, The Lost & Never Found, and Matt & Kim’s Rock Shop get it done.
Kataklysm brings a blast of Canadian tech death to The Palladium in Worcester on Wednesday, Aug. 29. Fleshgod Apocalypse, Vital Remains, The Flooding, and In Harm’s way are also performing, and the show starts at 7 p.m.

Finally got my hands on The Summoned’s “If Only Minds Could Paint Pictures” after the band’s fierce set at Summer Slaughter.  With its long wending arrangements, “If Only…” is great disc to bliss out to. And that’s the game plan now.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Slaughter rehashed

George "Corpsegrinder" Fisher at work (Sam McLennan photo)
 As to be expected, Summer Slaughter went to extremes at the Palladium in Worcester on Aug. 10, and did so more ways than one.

The outright hammer smash of headliners Cannibal Corpse is metal at its most extreme, a head-down onslaught of gore and riffs. After Friday’s razor sharp turn through old and new material, Cannibal Corpse earned a spot alongside Slayer and Motorhead on my “Never Fail” list. Definitely not a band for everyone, but Cannibal Corpse sets the standard for death metal, meaning it’s all raw, nasty shit. Even when he’s trying to be nice, George “Corpsegrinder” Fisher sounds like he’s bullying you.
Cannibal Corpse headbanging (Sam McLennan photos)

Job For A Cowboy burrowed into death metal’s new school, tossing some hardcore breakdowns into the grind. JFAC runs hot and cold, but definitely stokes some fresh ideas for stripped down death metal, and for a tour showcasing extreme metal, death is the easiest way to go.

Job For A Cowboy (Sam McLennan photos)
But Summer Slaughter rolled the dice with experimental bands. Between the Buried and Me, The Faceless and Veil of Maya lifted extreme metal to some pretty high-minded musical outposts. BTBAM especially had its Pink Floyd on, unfurling long intricate pieces of music punctuated with bursts of spastic aggression. The band’s set was equal parts beautiful and brutal.

The Faceless found its progressive edge in Michael Keene’s technical, theatrical guitar work. Hypnotic solos played against thundering double-bass drum assaults to create moments of dynamic tension-and-release within the long, winding tunes. And songs from the new “Autotheism” album were macabre and suggested the band is still pushing at boundaries.

Between the Buried and Me (Sam McLennan photos)
Veil of Maya likewise relied on sharp sonic contrasts, but pulled in the songs for more coiled tension. The band’s ace was a slow-burning groove developed over a few songs that sucked the crowd into a tribal stomp.
The Faceless (Sam McLennan photo)

Veil of Maya (Sam McLennan photos
Only Periphery seemed a tentative in its mash-up of prog and metal. The playing was solid, but the band lacked a clear direction and made it easy to drift. Which I did, up to the second stage The Palladium set up for Summer Slaughter.

Periphery (Sam McLenna photos)

Nemecide (Sam McLennan photo)

Conforza (Sam McLennan photo)

The Summoned (Sam McLennan photos)

A bunch of regional bands kept the action going in the theater’s upstairs room, with The Summoned, Conforza, and Nemecide smoking through their respective 20-minute sets. The homegrown bands mirrored what Slaughter was trying to get across in general _ basically playing to see how far aggression can go without losing its edge. Heavy music right now seems as interested in messing with your head as it does inspiring you to mosh.

Friday, August 10, 2012

SOAD, Deftones sound inspired

Serj Tankian in the light (Sam McLennan photo)

Daron Malakian sets the stage (Sam McLennan photo)
Handicapping the System of a Down/Deftones show before it hit the Comcast Center Aug. 9, I pretty much was banking on Deftones to bring a bit more edge and System to be pleasing in a “those were the days” sort of way.

I don’t mind being wrong (at least in this case). System of a Down pummeled.

The band maneuvered through its tunes’ intricacies with an energy and execution that was nothing short of mind blowing. Having distanced itself from the mainstream rock scene, SOAD isn’t selling a record or having to think about people in the audience there for the latest hit. So the 23-song, no-encore  set list just flowed through deep cuts (“Suggestions,” “Forest”) and ran right up to the tune that started it all, “Sugar,” which SOAD had sidestepped for a while almost afraid that it’s twitchy, theatrical delivery would cast the band as gimmicky. 
Serj Tankian (Sam McLennan photo)

Singer Serj Tankian, guitarist Daron Malakian, bassist Shavo Odadjian, and drummer John Dolmayan smashed together metal’s high-minded complexity with hardcore’s sinewy ferocity. Sure there were solos and dynamite guitar work by Malakian, but the troupe barreled through the material, clustering songs for fast, surgical strikes before taking the occasional break to come up for air.

The opening sequence “Prison Song” and “B.Y.O.B.” railed against two depressing scenarios_ jail and the military_ for those removed from privilege and power. The ideas still resonate, and made clear that the band’s social and political messages are as sadly relevant today as they were when first aired more than a decade ago.

But SOAD always puts a sarcastic, sardonic groove into its rants, mashing up Middle Eastern rhythms with Iommi-esque guitar flair for an end result that is pointed but not dour.
Shavo Odadjian (Sam McLennan photo)
Daron Malakian (Sam McLennan photo)

SOAD made nice diversions into “Holy Mountains” and “Psycho” amid the anticipated “Aerials,” “Chop Suey” and concert gem “Cigarao.” For inspired sequencing, there was no beating the dynamic shifts created when the spectral “Lonely Day” slammed into the fury of “Bounce” or by the one-two punch of “Suite-Pee” and “War?” off of the first album.
Chino Moreno (Sam McLennan photo)

Stephen Carpenter (Sam McLennan photo)

Deftones opened with a spot-on set that signaled good things to come in October when the band releases its next album. The one new song in the show featured singer Chino Moreno strumming a guitar while lead guitarist Stephen Carpenter warped a bluesy riff into a metallic groove.

Moreno was full of energy, injecting explosive bursts into the material as the tunes crashed around him.
Sergio Vega (Sam McLennan photo)
Chino Moreno (Sam McLennan photo)

Deftones picked through its catalog for a new-school opening of “Rocket Skates” and “Diamond Eyes” and drove to an old-school ending of “Root” and “7 Words.”

Both bands sounded resurgent, even as they played songs that reshaped heavy music many years ago. But the skill and delivery in both cases have clearly evolved, making these days as interesting as the good ol’ days for Deftones and System of a Down.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

So, is it metal?

Lemmy joins Slash at House of Blues, Boston Aug. 2 Who has the better hat?

Before Slash took the stage Thursday, Aug. 2, at the House of Blues in Boston, my brother asked if I'd post a review of the show here. "Nope, not metal," I told him.

Then Lemmy Kilmister strolled on for a song, "Dr. Alibi" from Slash's guest-laden 2010 self-titled release (and would it have killed them to toss in a Motorhead song or maybe a "Cat Scratch Fever" cover?)

And here we are. Lemmy just brings the metal. Before he barked out his lines_ looking twitchy without a bass or cigarette in hand_ Slash and his Conspirators with singer Myles Kennedy were playing hard rock, not metal.

You get to the metal two ways- attitude or sound (or both). On Friday, Aug. 10 Summer Slaughter comes to The Palladium in Worcester, and that tour is metal as fuck, with Cannibal Corpse, Between the Buried and Me, The Faceless, Job for a Cowboy, Periphery, Goatwhore, Exhumed, and Cereberal Bore. In Worcester, there's also a locally curated second stage with A Wanted Awakening, Art of the Enemy, As Tyrants Fall, The Atlas Collapse, Conforza, Destroy the Legacy, Dysentery, Formless, Pathogenic, The Summoned, and Nemecide. This is heavy through and through, with screamers, brutal aggression, and a blatant disregard for anything pretty you can put into music.

Lemmy and Motorhead aren't as heavy, but their music thrashes, and the tunes all basically boil down to a variation of "Fuck You," "Fuck Off" or "I'm Fucked." Can you say that about "Sweet Child O' Mine"?

The Slash-alog (Guns, Velevet Revolver, solo) doesn't suck, but it ain't metal. There's too much melodic, pop-hunting going on, for one thing. And I have seen drunken assholes cause a ruckus at Slash-athons, but never a real pit; know what I mean?

There may be a line between metal and hard rock, but it's a divide you can easily cross. Case in point: night after Slash show, bro and I went to Toadies/Helmet co-bill at the Paradise in Boston (which began funnily enough with two dumbass girls wondering why their tickets to the next night's Moufy show weren't scanning at the door).

Helmet gets into metal turf. Page Hamilton plays gnarly, knotted guitar parts, and an edgy anger is behind every tune. Toadies are edgy and twisted, too. But the music veers off in other directions Helmet doesn't venture into, especially slow-boil psychedelic alt-rock. Together, though it was a great bill.

System of a Down and Deftones are another pair in town, playing Comcast Center in Mansfield on Thursday, Aug. 9. I'd put both into the metal camp even with their respective forays into Hitsville. SOAD's catchiness masks  a brooding discontent that's pure metal, and Deftones music is just plain crazy. Crazy is metal.