Wednesday, October 31, 2012

All That Remains brings all out "War"

All That Remains will deploy “A War You Cannot Win” on Tuesday, Nov. 6, a likely non-coincidental Election Day missive.

Throughout “A War You Cannot Win,” singer Phil Labonte sounds pissed off about both encroachments on his freedom and the general public's apathy toward those infringements.  “Take back your freedom,” he rasps on “Sing for Liberty”; “I won’t follow commands. I won’t meet your demands,” he declares on the title track.

But “A War You Cannot Win” is not just a political album. In a quickly paced 40-minute record, All That Remains touches on personal relationships, philosophical musings, and broadly stated rants and chants. And there are plenty of stylistic leaps to meet the variety of topics.

If anything, Springfield-bred All That Remains has developed into metal’s mutt that can kick the ass of purebreds.  Labonte handles the death growls and crooned clean vocals, typically bringing them together in tunes. Lead guitar player Oli Herbert provides the glue holding together a batch of songs that runs from the commercially slick hard rock of “What If I Was Nothing” (which sounds like it fell off of a Staind record) to the bile-splattered thrash of “You Can’t Fill My Shadow.”

Herbert and Labonte are the quintet’s remaining original members. Neither the guitarist nor the singer performs like he is satisfied taking All That Remains down one particular road, so they manage to lead All That Remaions all over the place and still hold together the group's identity. The band’s original metalcore blueprint was way too sparse for Herbert’s guitar style, which takes in the grandeur of power metal and explosiveness of modern metal. Likewise, Labonte is too charismatic to just hunker down in a metal bunker mentality and be on constant attack mode.
Drummer Jason Costa, singer Phil Labonte, guitarist Oli Herbert, bassist Jeanne Sagan, and guitarist Mike Martin

It’s good hearing a band take risks, and here it’s clear that All That Remains can alienate the metal fans with songs that are too clean and smooth as well as shove away the more mainstream rock fans with songs that evolve into spastic displays of jarring vocals and punishing rhythm work.  Some may argue that “A War You Cannot Win” bows to commercial tastes, but if that were the case it would not nearly be as diverse as it is. Rather, this is a band ignoring expectations, and doesn’t topple for it.

There’s little chance that every song will appeal to every listener_ I can do without the “don’t worry baby, it’ll be all right” shit_ but All That Remains doesn’t linger on any one point for very long, and at the very least you can appreciate the raw talent at work in the band.

All That Remains will be playing Sunday, Nov. 4 at the Palladium in Worcester, MA. Metalocalypse’s Dethklok headlines and Machine Head is also on the bill. Show time is 7 P.M.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Blue Oyster Cult prime at 40

Blue Oyster Cult performing acoustic version of "In Thee"

Blue Oyster Cult kicked off a run of 40th anniversary dates Thursday, Oct. 25, at Showcase Live in Foxboro with a two-hour show that underscored the band's ongoing vitality with welcome song revivals and a couple of freshly worked up acoustic numbers.

The night began on a questionable note when the band shut down pre-approved photogs just before show time, raising questions about the group’s condition (and hence leading to us using the same sort of iPhone pics everyone else was taking versus quality shots).

Blue Oyster Cult opened with its standard starter “The Red and the Black” but showed no signs of rust or hesitancy. New bassist Kasim Sulton fit right in, and Richie Castellano gave the keys a rest to play guitar alongside Eric Bloom and Buck Dharma. The triple-guitar attack carried into “The Golden Age of Leather”
Eric Bloom and Jules Radino

Dharma fleshed out the tunes with long, lyrical solos and took his best vocal turn of the night on “Burnin’ for You.” Bloom took back the microphone for “Cities on Flame with Rock and Roll,” though Dharma stepped into the spotlight on that song with a feedback-fuzzed solo.

Bloom moved to the keyboards and Castellano to guitar for a segment where the audience got to choose between “Shooting Shark” and “Harvest Moon,” with the former getting the nod. Then Bloom waved the band off of the set list to see what would happen during a run through “The Vigil”; pleased with the results, Bloom said, “See what happens when you practice.”

At that point the band was not only well-rehearsed but also red hot and tore though the WWII tale “M.E. 262.” B.O.C. swerved into longer, spacier grooves with “Then Came the Last Days of May,” a showpiece for Dharma, though Castellano earned a standing ovation after delivering the first of the song’s epic guitar solos (and, yeah, Buck got the people on their feet too).

Bloom made the bad decision to talk up the New York Giants while standing in Patriots Place, then joked that he’d lighten the mood by turning the discussion over to a debate on Romney versus Obama. All was forgiven when he simply took up the mic and delivered the twisted horror rock of “Lips in the Hills."

The band then moved into the standard closing sequence of “Godzilla” and “(Don’t Fear) the Reaper.” “Godzilla” still has a bass feature medley which has been adapted for Sulton, highlighting his resume with musical snippets of Joan Jett’s “I Love Rock ‘n’  Roll,” Todd Rundgren’s “Bang the Drum All Day,” “and Meat Loaf’s “Paradise by the Dashboard Lights.” After crafting a solo of his own, Sulton passed the baton to drummer Jules Radino whose solo nicely set up the closing “Godzilla” jam. Then things quieted to a Dharma interlude that built into the familiar strains of “Reaper,” which the band dedicated to Bill Graham, who died in a helicopter crash on Oct. 25, 1991.

For its encore, B.O.C. gave the crowd a sample of an upcoming acoustic show it has planned ahead of two NYC dates. First it was a revival of “In Thee,” Allen Lanier’s lonesome ballad, stripped here to its essentials. The band then added full drums and keys to “Astronomy” though Bloom and Dharma stayed on acoustic guitars and drafted a moody, slow-burn version of the song.

While “Astronomy” was the night’s boldest performance, BOC seemed to want to go out on a louder kick, so the band turned over the microphone to Castellano and let him lead the charge through a raucous “Hot Rails to Hell.”

At 40, Blue Oyster Cult is still quite capable of moving through its myriad musical mutations without sounding like it is simply going through the motions.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

From Atlantis cracks the "core" problem

From Atlantis (Sam Shapiro photo)

When a band is on a roll, best to let it do its thing. From Atlantis (which is from Providence, actually) released its debut full-length “Pedestals” in August but is already lining up a new record for the beginning of next year.

Not that there’s anything wrong with “Pedestals”; in fact, it’s a solid tear through the hardcore ‘n’ hooks sound, upending( here at least) the idea that the “-core” sound was played out. From Atlantis airs enough dynamic shifts and punches strong keyboard parts into the knotted sound to make “Pedestals” a raucous 30-minute, 10-song ride.

“We’re always listening to what we did or didn’t do with a song, and we’re eager to try things that we didn’t do and see what we’re capable of,” says From Atlantis singer Alex Mola about the push to keep pumping out tunes. “We all like different kinds of music and we work on how to incorporate it all.”

“Pedestals” for instance has traces of everything from death growls to melodic punk riffs. But it’s arranged more into a jackpot than junk heap, so even a purist of any one style may get tempted to check out the band’s mixed bag approach.

From Atlantis is part of the diverse Scream Fest concert happening Friday, Oct. 26, at the Eagles Club, 71 City Hall Ave., Gardner, MA, The show starts at 5 p.m. and also features WrenchNeck, Atlas, Elementalist, A Fury Divine, The Lost and Never Found, Marching On, and Life on Standby.

A simmering aggression holds together “Pedestal” as it courses through its stylistic turns. It’s all about mindset over material.

“I’m not a size that I’m going to get into fights, so I let it out with words,” Mola says. “In fact we’re all small dudes filled with rage. That’s why we come up with angry stuff.”

From Atlantis has been touring pretty steadily since the release of “Pedestals,” and that road work is feeding the demos now under way.

“We’ve seen how some things work better live and some work better on the record,” he says. “We want to find that balance of how to put both together.”

That should keep the band busy through a planned January or February release for new tunes. Then we’ll see where that leads.

Out and about, Halloween inspires some great shows this week, chief among them a two-night heavy metal “costume” event at Ralph’s Diner, 148 Grove St., Worcester, MA. The concept is simple: bands common to Ralph’s Metal Thursday schedule will be dressing as various heavy metal heroes, musically at least. On Friday, Oct. 26, Ancient Power will perform Spinal Tap songs; Rare Breed does Black Sabbath tunes; members of Seax and Gas Attack cover Black Flag; a crew from Ralph’s will take on Andrew W.K; and Rozamov conjures Electric Wizard. The following night, Oct. 27, Abnormality has a surprise to spring first; Panzerbastard, Nachzehrer, and Truman Highway knock out Corrosion of Conformity and Down tunes; Boarcorpse, Composted, and Useful Idiot cover Life of Agony; members of Soul Remnants, Sexcrement, Composted , Darkwor and Sacromancy deliver Six Feet Under; members of Deathamphetamine, Nachzehrer, and Vaettir play Gwar; and a team comprised of members of Faces of Bayon, Black Pyramid, Blood of the Gods, Engorged, and Blood Stone Sacrifice perform the music of Samhain. Both shows begin at 7:30 p.m.

-16-, Tombs, Morne, Livver, and The Process are at the Middle East, 472 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA starting at 8 p.m. on Thursday, Oct 25

Devil’s Feedback, Hope Before the Fall, Solanum, The Curse of Humanity, The River Neva, and Mechanical Process are at The Ruins at The Colosseum, 180 Pine St., Providence, R.I. on Friday, Oct. 26. Show time is 7:30 p.m.

The Deadites deliver their 16th annual Halloween show Saturday, Oct. 27,  at The Lucky Dog Music Hall, 89 Green St,. Worcester, MA.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Reaping 40 years of Blue Oyster Cult

The first Blue Oyster Cult record came out 40 years ago. Holy shit. New York weirdos of the highest order, B.O.C. connected with metal fans by being dark and twisted more than by being outright heavy on every tune. B.O.C.s “Black and Blue” tour with the first Dio-era Black Sabbath lineup remains a high-water mark of 20th century civilization.

B.O.C. is still at it today with original members Eric Bloom and Buck Dharma on guitars and vocals, plus longtime members Jules Radino on drums and Richie Castellano on keys, and recent addition Kasim Sulton (of Utopia and Meat Loaf fame) on bass. B.O.C. plays Thursday, Oct. 25, at Showcase Live in Foxboro, MA, a few days ahead of a big 40th anniversary concerts in NYC on Oct. 28 and 30. On Nov. 6, Columbia Records drops a 16-disc box set of B.O.C.’s albums for the label plus a couple of discs of live tracks from the vaults.

In honor of B.O.C.’s 40th anniversary here’s a list in no particular order (but for “Astronomy” being the greatest of all B.O.C. songs) of the 40 best Blue Oyster Cult songs that are not “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper” or “Godzilla”:

1) “Astronomy” - Like acid and oil on a madman’s face
2) “The Red and the Black”- Hornswoop me bungo pony on dogsled on ice
3) “Transmaniacon M.C.”- Pure nectar of antipathy
4) “See You in Black” - I’d make you feel like your husband’s dead
5) “Career of Evil” - I’ll be your surgeon, I’d like to pick your brain
6) “E.T.I.” - Three men in black said, “Don’t report this”
7) “Black Blade” - I just want to be a lover, not a red-eyed screaming ghoul
8) “Then Came the Last Days of May”- They say the West is nice this time of year
9) “R.U. Ready to Rock” - I only live to be born again
10) “The Vigil”- I have got a camera and an airtight alibi
11) “Old Gods Return”- Now is the time that water begins to burn
12) “Subhuman”- So ladies, fish, and gentlemen, here’s my angled dream
13) “Hot Rails to Hell”- The heat from below can burn your eyes out
14) “Flaming Telepaths”- Yes, I know the secrets of the iron and mind
15) “Lips in the Hills”- I’ve been stiffed by serpent’s soundless cries
16) “Buck’s Boogie”- It’s Buck. It boogies
17) “Burnin’ for You”- Time to play B-sides
18) “Golden Age of Leather”- Four and ninety studded horsemen closed the knot of honor
19) “Before the Kiss, a Redcap”- Their tongues extend, then retract
20) “Workshop of the Telescope”- Yes, I know a thing or two
21) “The Marshall Plan”- I ain’t playing no surf music, I’m gonna play some heavy music
22) “Death Valley Nights”- Snow is cold, but so is rain
23) “In Thee”- Aeroplanes make strangers of us all
24) “Harvest Moon”- I sense the darkness clearer
25) “Joan Crawford”- Their eyes have turned the color of frozen meat
26) “The Revenge of Vera Gemini”- You’re boned like a saint with the consciousness of a snake
27) “7 Screaming Diz-Busters”- Bury me behind the rose so they’ll not rile my grave
28) “Dominance and Submission”- In Times Square now people do the polka
29) “Perfect Water”- To drop my eyes like a bride and ride
30) “The Great Sun Jester”- I’m the joker of the universe, I’m what it’s all about
31) “Goin’ through the Motions”- For there’s no one to blame, just to pay
32) “Cities on Flame with Rock and Roll”- My ears will melt and then my eyes
33) “O.D.’d on Life Itself”- Life loves force, but force loves life
34) “This Ain’t the Summer of Love”- Things ain’t what they’re supposed to be
35) “Veteran of the Psychic Wars”- Wounds are all I’m made of
36) “I Am the One You Warned Me Of”- Just call me Desdinova
37) “M.E. 262”- They hung there dependent from the sky like some heavy metal fruit
38) “Take Me Away”- Release myself from earthly care
39) “Harvester of Eyes”- I’m the eyeman of TV with my ocular TB
40) “She’s as Beautiful as a Foot”- Don’t put your tongue on the bloody tooth mark place

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

A Fury Divine finds its place

A Fury Divine is a good example of a band that figures out how to take a lot of different musical styles and pull in one direction. The band is heavy and melodic. Shaded by hardcore and hard rock. Brutal but not dark.

“We’re usually either the heaviest band on the bill or the lightest,” says A Fury Divine singer Jesse Hunter.

On Oct. 26, you can decide where A Fury Divine fits in as it shares the stage with From Atlantis, Paris, Elementalist, WrenchNeck, Atlas, The Lost and Never Found, and Marching On at the Eagles Club, 71 City Hall Ave., Gardner, MA. The show starts at 5 p.m.

Formed in Connecticut little over two years ago, A Fury Divine went through a few configurations before landing on its current line up of Tom Benedict and Mike Stella on guitars,Tyler Young on drums, Venessa DuPuis on synths, and Hunter.

While the band works up a debut recording, three songs are already up on A Fury Divine’s Facebook page, and they’re all pretty good bait. “Keep Calm” underscores the friction the band generates to good effect (hearing someone scream “I keep calm” like a lunatic definitely knocks you off balance). “Forget the Past” conjures Coheed & Cambria-like cinematic sweep. “We Never” is a roiling brew of chants, doom riffs, and hardcore breaks.

Hunter, who is A Fury Divine’s  most recent recruit, says everyone in the band brings his and her own influences into the mix which is why there is such a broad sound.

“Not one of us is cut from the same mold as the other musicians,” the singer says. “I  think there’s definitely some mutual ground we all draw inspiration from as well as each of us having our own ground.”

The addition of keys gives A Fury Divine a distinct accent without forcing the band wholly into a prog-metal direction. The other noticeable trait is how A Fury Divine gets heavy but not too dark.

“That’s just not us,” Hunter says. “We like the heavy stuff, but we’re fun-loving guys.”

After a pretty solid take-off two years ago, the band hit some turbulence as places to play around Connecticut dried up. The band started gigging more in Mass, and even though it lost a battle of the bands to WrenchNeck, the two groups became friendly and started helping each other find and promote gigs.

“We’re happy to grab shows in Mass,” drummer Young says.  “The scene is strong there.”

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Horror and doom in the air

Pustulus Maximus

Behold Pustulus Maximus, the new guitar player in Gwar. Pustulus takes the spot of Flattus Maximus, now a part of the greater cosmic puff. Gwar headlines Saturday night’s Rock and Shock concert at The Palladium, 261 Main St., Worcester, MA.

The heavier Rock and Shock shows are Friday, Oct. 12, and Saturday the 13th. On Friday, Saturday and Sunday at the DCU Center in Worcester, MA, there will be horror films and special guests (Kiss drummer and recent memoir writer Peter Criss among them) celebrating all that is freaky and ghoulish. Details are here,

Friday at the Palladium, R&S features the Misfits, Shadows Fall, God Forbid, Vision of Disorder, Hot Black, Mongrel, Freya, This is Hell, Kissing Candice, Dead by Wednesday, The Atlas Collapse, Vultures, and Absence of the Sun.
Thy Will Be Done
On Saturday, joining Gwar are DevilDriver, Legacy of Disorder, Thy Will Be Done, Cancer Bats, Unfortunate, Goddamn Zombie, Shatter the Sky, Conforza, and Pathogenic. Both nights kick off at 5:30 p.m. Awesome local presence this year, with a special nod to Providence, R.I.’s Thy Will Be Done, whose Zeuss-produced “Temple” E.P. is freakin’ phenomenal.

Besides R&S, there a few more shows of note. On Oct. 11, Metal Thursday presents Prime Evil, Midnite Hellion, Iron Will, and Oath of Insanity at Ralph’s Diner, 148 Grove St., Worcester, MA.

Ralph’s Diner also has a dose of doom on Saturday, Oct. 13 with Blacksoul Seraphim, Faces of Bayon, Sorrowseed, and Dead Languages.

The “Hello Motherfucker” lineup of Milligram reunites Saturday at Great Scott, 1222 Commonwealth Ave., Allston, MA. Blacktail, Lunglust, and Whitey are also playing. Jonah Jenkins leads the “This is Class War” lineup of Milligram back to Great Scott on Oct. 20

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

New name, same game

 So to avoid confusion with the existing Mass Metal magazine, I changed this blog to N.E. Metal and in doing so hope to broaden the reach of stories and reviews. To help with the flow of info, I also started this Facebook community page

Suggestions for reviews and previews are always welcome.


Pathogenic's freaky "Dream"

So if you’re interested in what madness sounds like, just check out  Pathogenic’s new E.P., “The Solipsist Dream.”

The Lowell, MA, quintet combines death-metal brutality, especially via Jake Burns’s vocals, and prog-metal experimentation for a sound that is as captivating as it is jarring. The band keeps a dark, heavy base intact across the five songs on “The Solipsist Dream,” and then builds contrasts against it. In “Tempest,” the dynamic shifts pop up like unexpected visitors _ a keyboard riff here, a guitar stutter there. In “A Piece of Hell,” the whole arrangement of the song expands and contracts, going from steady grooves to spastic jams to conjure a sense of shifting ground.

While the sonic terrain keeps changing, the thematic dread is consistent. These five songs are a mental breakdown on tape. It’s all a to-and-fro of lashing out and getting beaten back. There’s an anger in the opening “Albatross’ that transforms across the songs into a melancholy acknowledgement (the message here seems to be we’re all kinda screwed) in the epic title track that closes the E.P.

“The Solipsist Dream” is thick with ideas, and to its credit Pathogenic gives them all room to breathe without losing the tension of this coiled sound.

“The Solipsist Dream” will be available Oct. 12 online via Pathogenic’s Facebook page and at

Pathogenic has a CD-release show Friday, Oct. 12, at the Dirty Douglas in Lowell, MA. It’s an 8 p.m. show with The Summoned, Conforza, Panic Candy, and Everything.

The band is also playing Saturday, Oct. 13, as part of the Rock and Shock festival bill at The Palladium, 261 Main St., Worcester, MA. Gwar is the headliner that night.

Pathogenic is also part of Live Free of Get Hurt fest happening Oct. 20 at The Junkyard, 522 Amherst St., Nashua, N.H. The show starts at 3 p.m. and also features Internal Bleeding, Fit For an Autopsy, Conforza, Teeth, Swarm of Eyes, and others.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

The Acacia Strain rises in "Death"

The Acacia Strain has sharpened and honed its sound to a point where the group is as much a mindset as it is band. The Acacia Strain's live shows are cathartic, and its new album “Death is the Only Mortal” flows like a never-ending nightmare. The songs are dark, bloody, and grim, yet once you plug in, there’s no turning back simply because they are so well crafted. Singer Vincent Bennett warns on “Brain Death” about letting him get into your head, and he’s not shitting around.

Bennett, guitarist Daniel “DL” Laskeiwitz, drummer Kevin Boutot, and bassist Jack Strong methodically move through the 10 tracks, making incremental tweaks to the crushing riffs and stark bleakness of their sonic surroundings. The record opens with a murder confession that almost seems comforting as the end note is a mournful realization that “life is the slowest way to die.”

In between is bloody mayhem and a quickly mounting body count, with Bennett lording over the misery with a crackling nihilism and misanthropy. But lurking behind the menace is a pain that shows itself in flashes, especially as the record moves along from straight-ahead brutality to more nuanced tunes such as “Victims of the Cave” and “Chamber of Nautilis.”
The Acacia Strain
Each song on “Death is the Only Mortal” fits into a larger picture, and that is testament to the excellent job DL did on his first outing producing a whole project for the band. Some songs_ “Doomblade,” “Go to Sleep”_ underscore Acacia Strain’s unrelenting death-core heaviness. Others_ “Time and Death and God,” “The Mouth of the River,” “House of Abandon”_ reveal just how limber this band can be without compromising the basics of its sound.

While lots of bands are using a prog attack to find fresh ideas in death metal, The Acacia Strain is getting the job done by simply cutting closer to the core.

The Acacia Strain celebrates the release of “Death is the Only Mortal” with a show Saturday, Oct. 6, at The Palladium, 261 Main St., Worcester. Cruel Hand, I Declare War, Fit For An Autopsy, No Bragging Rights, Rude Awakening, and Dysentery are also on the bill and show time is 6 p.m.

“Death is the Only Mortal” will be in stores Tuesday, Oct. 9