Saturday, September 29, 2012

Coheed and Cambria blasts off

Guitarist Claudio Sanchez faces off with Josh Eppard (Sam McLennan photo)
C&C's Claudio Sanchez (Sam McLennan photo)

The Amory Wars may be over for Coheed and Cambria but the band hasn’t lost its fight. Headlining The Palladium in Worcester on Sept. 28, Coheed and Cambria touched on songs from across the four main Amory records and its prequel, plus showcased three songs from the forthcoming “Afterman” project.

Few bands fare so much better on their own versus in an opening or festival slot than Coheed and Cambria does. Because the band’s songs are fictional narratives with cleverly interwoven broader themes, it’s best to let them unfurl slowly. Not gingerly, but slowly to fully appreciate their cinematic sweep. The band coursed through 15 songs over an hour and a half, starting with “No World for Tomorrow.”
Tavis Stever (Sam McLennan photo)
Zach Cooper (Sam McLennan photo)

An engaging pace was set from the opening with guitarists Claudio Sanchez and Tavis Stever firing off knotty, frenetic bursts one moment, commanding chant-alongs and clap-alongs the next, and occasionally turning the mic toward the audience, which inevitably could sing any line it was asked to deliver _ not just the catchy choruses (which aren’t a staple of too may C&C songs anyway).

Drummer Josh Eppard is back in the fold and teamed perfectly with new bassist Zach Cooper as the rhythm duo navigated C&C’s brash dynamics shifts.

Singer and chief writer Sanchez pulled apart the Amory narrative without wrecking any of its clout, instead finding the power within each tune, be it the icy effect of “Everything Evil” or battle cry fervor of “In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth:3.”

C&C aired “The Afterman,” “Sentry the Defiant,” and “Key Entity Extraction I: Domino the Destitute.” In each case, the band found a fresh avenue for its progressive art-rock. “Key Entity,” played as the first encore, had the most epic feel of the three, and Sanchez has muscled up “Sentry” from its original acoustic version he posted online in February.

Sanchez (Sam McLennan photo)

One of the main set’s more interesting passages came during side-by-side readings of “The Suffering” and “Mother Superior,” with the bounce of the former and introspective mood of the latter becoming more resonant when paired.

The show’s measured control went out the window during the encore run, reminding that as heady as C&C can get it is still a rock band. Sanchez just went nutty during “The Final Cut,” using the arms and torso of a mannequin to stroke his white double-neck Gibson for a squall of tones that sounded as perverse as he looked making them.
Joey Eppard of 3 (Sam McLennan photo)
Billy Riker of 3 (Sam McLennan photo)

The Dear Hunter and 3 opened. In a bit of backwards programming, the more progressive 3 kicked off the night. Fronted by Joey Eppard_ Josh’ brother_ 3 tipped toward its heavier material; even the acoustic “Bramfatura” turned into a string-busting tour de force.
Casey Crescenzo leads The Dear Hunter (Sam McLennan photo)

The Dear Hunter’s nuanced pop certainly reflected an element of C&C’s sound, but energy wise was a dip in between 3 and Coheed. Still, with its three-guitar lineup, The Dear Hunter built captivating arrangements, such as the hypnotic finale spun from “The Collapse of the Great Tide Cliffs.”

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Lich King ready to drop its "Bomb"

Western Mass thrash titans Lich King release "Born of the Bomb" this week. It's the band's fourth album since forming in 2007 to carry that torch lit by Slayer, Exodus, and the like. While Lich King awaited arrival of its CDs for Friday's release show at Silk City Music in Florence, singer Tom Martin took a few questions from Mass Metal 
So what's the story behind the new record? Were there a bunch of songs waiting to be recorded or was it something thought out in advance?

Nahh, we just wrote songs until we had enough to put on an album. We don't have any old stuff on this one, except for the beginning of Lich King 4 (Born of the Bomb). I wrote that opening about six or seven years ago. Holy crap, that's a long time. Nothing about our stuff gets planned out all that much. I think of it as I go.

Was old-school thrash always something you guys liked or were you into other kinds of metal before heading off in this direction?

Always. For a long time I just thought I was "metal" and tried lots of metal bands and (found) them distasteful. Eventually I realized that old thrash is just my thing, and once I acknowledged that, it bloomed before me. I like a few other kinds of metal in varying degrees. The other guys in the band are much less picky than I am. I'm into thrash, crossover, power and traditional pretty exclusively. Rob (Pellegri, guitars), Joe (Nickerson, guitars) and Brian (Westbrook, drums)  are into proggy tech-death stuff as well as everything else, and Dave (Hughes, bass) is into grind and death weirdness. Dave's got the most experience and taste in thrash so I look to him to back me up when arguments come up about the direction a song is heading in. A frequent complaint I have that the tech-death dudes laugh at is, "We can't use that; it sounds too modern." Then I run to Dave and say, "Dave, they're picking on me, tell them I'm right or I'll throw another hissyfit."

Would you pick the same bands to be the Big Four? If not, who would you pick?
Well, [if] it's based on success and you can't argue with the success of those bands. If it were based on what I think deserves the slot I would boot out Megadeth and bring in Exodus. On second thought, I think I'd nudge Anthrax back to Exodus status. On frequent relistens Slayer and Metallica hold up but I'm finding Anthrax to be extremely overrated. Some great riffs and hooks holding up a frail latticework of meh. 

How healthy is the thrash scene at home?

Not at all. We have like no local following. No one's interested in thrash metal out here. In Western Massachusetts it's all about deathcore, hardcore, metalcore. Dudes with ear gauges, baseball caps and camouflage cargo shorts. Pantera stomp-riffs and interchangeable song titles about how very tough one is. That's fine I guess, but it makes me cringe when a pit breaks out and you see that punchy kicky karate crap. I complained about it once to a co-worker who said he was into metal. He said, "Oh, you don't like moshing?" So many comebacks flooded my mouth at that point that I choked on my own words. We have a great venue out here that draws great people, but I don't know how many of them are genuinely interested in thrash or if they just like coming out for shows and being awesome people. 

In general, I'm hearing more new records getting back to an old-school guitar-driven sound with less  "-core" influence. What do you think helps set apart the new Lich King record?

We're keeping things traditionally thrash, again, still. But we're evolving somewhat. The songwriting's getting really mature. I don't mean in subject matter, but we are really figuring out the science of how to build a song. In the process, we're figuring out what else we can do and it's working out really well. We've got a full number of fast-assed mosh standards, but we've also got two songs over seven minutes and a lot of departure sounds in here where we sound like us, but we're taking unexpected paths. 

What's coming up for fall/winter shows for you guys? Where can the metal faithful get the record besides shows?

We actually don't have anything scheduled right now aside from the album release show on the 28th. Rob's having a baby soon and we're kinda keeping the schedule clear in honor of that. We'll probably book a few things for December and onward, but for right now, there's nothing on the books. 
Besides shows we're selling our stuff here: and here: We're doing this all ourselves so we don't have any distribution at present. People aren't going to walk into any stores and find our stuff anytime soon, but I hope word of mouth gets so good that people search us out anyway. 

Lich King's CD-release show also features Condition Critical, Smash Potater, Sonic Pulse, and Zombie Fighter. The show starts at 9 p.m. on Friday, Sept.  28, at Silk City Music, 99 Main St., Florence.

Out and about this week, Forced Asphyxiation, Engorged, Mortifica, and Scalpel take over Metal Thursday at Ralph's Diner, 148 Grove St., Worcester, on Sept. 27.

Coheed and Cambria headlines Friday, Sept. 28, at The Palladium, 261 Main St., Worcester. Deerhunter and Three are also on the bill, and show time is 7:30 p.m

The Metalympics finals are at 8 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 29, at The Shea Theater, 71  Avenue A, Turners Falls. Asystole, Heal the Destroyer, Spoken Like a True Hero,  and Zombie Fighter will be competing for cash and prizes. Audience voting matters, so if you have a horse in this race, get to the Shea. Western Massacre, last year's winners, will also play a night-ending set.

A couple of other Palladium concerts of note are Nonpoint and Taproot in the upstairs room at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday the 29th,  and Morbid Angel with Dark Funeral, Grave, VadimVon, and Vital Remains on Sunday in the big room.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

New stuff from WrenchNeck and Caricature


 For a band that taps so many influences, WrenchNeck put together an amazingly cohesive and engaging full-length debut album. The self-titled CD drops this week, drawing some deserved notice for this Greenfield sextet that can swerve through old-school power grooves and rugged, down-tuned turf with equal ease, often in the same song.

Each of the 10 tracks on “WrecnhNeck” sounds like a mini-opera with duel vocal parts divided between gravelly howls and cleaner tones, tiered guitar arrangements, and drumming that swings from hard rock to blast beats. The tunes hold together so well because it sounds like the band is acting in service to a particular song, and not just trying to show off. The apocalypse-summoning “2012,” for instance, begins on a modern, metalcore note but works its way through the dark, churning themes toward an appropriately Sabbath-y midsection before blasting off again.

Even when the band seems to be heading down a predictable path, it can make an attention-grabbing sharp turn. “Quitter," for example, begins as a pretty straightforward rant backed by metalcore muscle, but then the guitars just drive the song in a whole other crazy direction that sparks the tune anew.

WrenchNeck also writes with imagination. The band taps into grim pain on “Demolition” and “FML (Found My Life).” Then there are dark overlord songs such as “2012” and “Coalesence.” And of course a few fuck-you tunes, with “Quitter” and “The Game” fitting into that category.

WrenchNeck has a CD-release show happening Saturday, Sept. 22, at the Greenfield Teen Center, Sanderson Road, Greenfield. The concert starts at 5 p.m. and features Stairwell Sea, The River Neva, and A Fury Divine, in addition to WrechNeck.

The CD will also be available at Sonic Creations in Greenfield, and online via iTunes and

 “The Birth By Sleep EP”

“Divine Unrest” is the final track on Caricature’s 5-song EP and hopefully the road map for this band’s forthcoming full-length. The wending 8-minute “Divine” patiently unfolds, fusing its sonics into one enveloping package of mind-tweaking and bone-rattling dynamics.

Elsewhere, the band formed by Binary Code guitarist Joseph Spiller is solid but more prone to letting the seams show on this multifaceted prog-metal outing. Caricature stretches from clean, pop melodies to jagged hardcore screams, linking the disparate poles with washes of spacey keyboards and jabbing rhythm guitar riffs.  

There is no lack of ideas here. “Monuments,” for instance, has a brutal vocal atop a jazzy keyboard that part for a flashy guitar solo. This stuff is busy and will benefit from the sort of center felt in “Divine Unrest.”

The push-and-pull within the songs keeps things interesting, even as the band seeks a more solid footing for its hydra-head sound. 

“The Birth by Sleep EP” is available for download at

Sunday, September 16, 2012

A decade of "Perseverance"

Jamey Jasta in the crowd (Sam McLennan photo)

Jasta (Sam McLennan photo)

Jasta (Sam McLennan photo)

Jasta and Chris Beattie (Sam McLennan photo)

Wayne Lozinak and Franck Novinec (Sam McLennan photo)

Hatebreed’s “Perseverance” is a landmark album, not just for the band, but for heavy music in general. It’s no exaggeration to say it belongs on the shelf next to “Reign in Blood,” “Master of Puppets,” “Rust in Peace,” “New American Gospel,” and the like. In the case of “Perseverance,” Hatebreed brought together metal and hardcore not for the first time in heavy-music history, but in perhaps their finest balance. The band seems to be operating on intuition, maximizing punk’s economy with metal’s brutal sense of melody in a package that is angry, defiant and triumphant all it once. “Perseverance” gives Hatebreed a “Get Out of Jail Card” forever. The band could find God, collaborate with Bieber, film and ad for Romney and still navigate its way back to Ozzfest using “Perseverance” as its compass (or more likely to the New England Metal and Hardcore festival, which Hatbreed pretty much declared from the stage that it was headlining in 2013).

So, yeah, “Perseverance” is a big fucking deal. On Friday, Sept. 14, Hatebreed played “Perseverance” from start to finish at The Palladium in Worcester as part of its “Ten Years of Perseverance Tour.” Whitechapel, All Shall Perish, and homegrown band Shatter the Sky were also on the bill.

The best part about Hatebreed’s romp through “Perseverance” wasn’t that the performance was note perfect (though it pretty much was, right down to the closing outro that sets up subsequent “Rise of Brutality” album) but that it was an emotionally perfect performance. Singer Jamey Jasta seemed no less passionate belting out “I Will Be Heard” or at all removed from the dread “Below The Bottom” or  too age-softened for “Smash Your Enemies.”

The live read-through proved how well “Perseverance” stands the test of time. Guitarists Wayne Lozinak, who was originally in the band but departed before “Perseverance” only to return in 2009, and Frank Novinec, who also came on board post-“Perseverance,” ably plugged into this set, especially Lozinak who burned up the lead Kerry King originally laid down on “Final Prayer.”  Bassist Chris Beattie, who has been in Hatebreed all along with Jasta,  and drummer Matt Byrne, who came in before “Perseverance’ are architects of the militant/tribal chugs and blasts that stirred endless circle pits and ongoing dance floor convulsions. Jasta tossing up devil horns as he rallied circle pits was as fitting an image for the metal-punk fusion as anything else that transpired during the set.

After completing “Perseverance,” Hatebreed did not let up on the urgency of what it had going on. “Everyone Bleeds Now” from Hatebreed’s most recent record showed that the band is writing songs that are still vibrant and menacing; no formula here. It was also good to hear the band reach back to its first album for “Before Dishonor,” when Hatebreed sounded like it was onto something but still raw.
Whitechapel's Phil Bozeman prepared for takeoff (Sam McLennan photo)
Whitechapel's Alex Wade (Sam McLennan photo)

Whitechapel's Gabe Crisp (Sam McLennan photo)
Whitechapel was deadly precise in its technical attack, weaving spaced out interludes into the otherwise brutal assault. At times singer Phil Bozeman was overpowered by what was going on around him. He did cut through for a fierce “Section 8,” one of the band’s new songs and clear sign that it is a force driving tech-death at the moment.

Mike Tiner makes the difference in All Shall Perish (Sam McLennan photo)
Hernan Hermida and Tiner of All Shall Perish (Sam McLennan photo)

All Shall Perish is a groove-driven metal monster. Bassist Mike Tiner is the secret weapon giving All Shall Perish a means of busting away from the underground metal pack. A set-ending “Wage Slaves’ shot out like grimy anthem.
Shatter the Sky's Brendan Coughlin on guitar and Alex Fopiano on bass Sam McLennan photo)
Jonh DeCoster makes his point during Shatter the Sky's set (Sam McLennan photo)

Shatter the Sky hopped on this show after Deez Nuts canceled, and this troupe from Weymouth made the most of the opportunity. Influenced by metalcore, but not dated by it, Shatter the Sky loosened up the dynamics to inject progressive guitar arrangements and some purely heavier strains of metal. “Wrath and Ruin” and “This is Revolution” turned into gale force storms, serving notice that these guys are worth coming back for on Oct. 13 when Shatter the Sky plays at the Rock and Shock  convention.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Pathogenic busts out this fall

Singer Jake Burns and bassist Dan Leahy (Sam McLennan photo)
Pathogenic and Conforza are bands that kicked my ass not once but twice this summer at a couple of the festivals at The Palladium in Worcester. So without reservation it’s easy to recommend the Rock Fest September Throw Down happening Friday, Sept. 14 at the Elks Lodge, 97 New Athol Road in Orange.

In addition to featuring Pathogenic and Conforza (who will be touring the East Coast together this fall), Rock Fest has Torment the Dreamer, Zombie Fighter, Mummified Circuitry, The Lost and Never Found, Storytellers, and Chosen to Rot. Show time is 5 p.m.

Pathogenic is readying for the Oct. 12 release of “The Solipsist Dream,” the follow-up to “Cyclopean Imagery.”

Like “Cyclopean,” “The Solipsist Dream” follows a story arc, which bassist Dan Leahy didn’t want to reveal too much about during a recent conversation.

“It deals with inner demons,” he says.

The biggest difference this time out is that singer Jake Burns is on his own as Pathogenic shed its two-vocal format.  And Burns is a screamer, so whatever melody comes out of this prog-tech crew is going to be the responsibility of guitarists Chris Gardino and Justin Licht, while Leahy and drummer Anthony Simone hold down the rhythm section.
Chris Gardino (Sam McLennan photo)

A lot of bands have been experimenting with a death-prog fusion and this Lowell quintet definitely cooks up a version that is distinct. Live, Pathogenic is more about the explosive power of the tunes and creates a decent managed chaos that lets Burns, well, burn and the guitarists take off on tangents. On its recorded material, the band lets the music unfold at a more measured pace.

Leahy says it wasn’t an easy process to figure out.

“We’re definitely trying to keep a balance between the technical and riffy guitar based stuff, but also have a groove and heaviness. There are parts that punch you in the face and parts that are very melodic. We just try and make it flow like an organic idea,” he says.

After the two-vocalist format proved awkward, Pathogenic handed the reins to Burns and told him to just move around more on stage and get more into the performance aspect of the show, which he did, but also with as bit of a learning curve involved.

“He took a dinger, but it was OK. He’s totally into it. It doesn’t matter if there are 5 or 500 people. We’re always going to give it the same energy on stage,” says Leahy.

Other big shows this week include Hatebreed with Whitechapel, All Shall Perish, and Deez Nuts on Friday Sept. 14, at The Palladium, 261 Main St., Worcester. Show starts at 7:30 p.m.

Acaro, The River Neva, Swarming Eyes, and Necronomichrist are at Silk City Music, 99 Main St., Florence, on Friday Sept. 14. Show is at 9 p.m.

Metal Thursday at Ralph’s Diner, 148 Grove St., Worcester, has Bog of the Infidel, Haxen, Haethen, and Barren Oak Sept. 13. Show is at 9 p.m.

U.K. punk-metal vets Coitus plays Monday, Sept. 17,  at the Cambridge Elks, 55 Bishop Allen Drive, Cambridge. Fast Death, White Line Fever, and Negligence are also on the bill, and show starts at 8 p.m.

On Friday, Sept. 14, tickets go on sale at 10 a.m. for Acacia Strain’s Oct. 6 CD-release show, Dethklok with All That Remains and Machine Head on Nov. 4, and Megadeth's 20th anniversary celebration of  “Countdown to Extinction” on Nov. 11, all at The Palladium in Worcester. Tix available through