The Year In Review: The Good, The Bad, And The Unseen of 2013

Damn that rhyme’s dope. Wasn’t even planned ahead of time, either; just naturally came from the flow of universal energy and my own innate cunning. My head’s going to get bigger unless someone tells me I suck.

So, as you may have guessed, this is one of those year-end lists. Only mine will be better than everyone else’s, so don’t read theirs; they probably saw something boring like Wing. Who wants to see a random elderly Chinese woman sing when you can spinkick people? I’m not going to fact-check this, so if you saw Wing instead of a cool show, go screw. Here are the lists now.

Top 10 Shows In No Particular Order, Because I’m Aiming To Be More Positive

1. Boris @ Brighton Music Hall

Need I say more than Flood? I mean, damn. ¾ of an album/song I thought I’d never get to see performed in my lifetime due to Boris having altogether too much material to get to it all at their convenience. The only thing that could’ve made the whole thing better was if they got 3 more hours to just play everything I wanted to hear. Serious. Too bad I was poor, so I couldn’t make the show the night before. Maybe I should be a whore.

I’ll have to see Boris at least 3 more times to have a well-rounded setlist experience, but I can cross off ‘Huge’ and ‘Flood’, at the very least.

2. Infest/Crudos @ ChiTown Futbol

Seeing as I went to the center of the damn continent to view this spectacle, it only makes sense that my expectations were high and would be met without question. Thanks, skydad, AKA god or whatever you call it. It was everything I had hoped, and a burrito on top. Yum. I was especially pleased to hear that singer Joe Denunzio’s vocals have gone full retard; from the strained shouts of their legendary original recordings like No Man’s Slave that would come to be influential to Powerviolence and Hardcore, to the constipated vomiting of Spazz and Lack Of Interest fame. Glorious. Crudos killed it as well; I’ve never seen that many brown kids stagedive or just generally be at a punk show. It was something inspirational.

3. Nails @ Great Scott

Nails are without a doubt one of the angriest sounding bands out there. If you’re not hip to it, get on my level immediately, because the mosh will not care where you are. On a bus, at your desk, in a nursing home, it doesn’t matter. You will be seized by a violent want to hurl heavy objects around when you hear the opening breakdown of “Wide Open Wound” after a ‘get-psyched’ exhale gives the weak an extra second to duck for cover. Early Graves also performed admirably, though the crowd didn’t entirely know what to make of their brand of hardcore, which, while moshable, is kind of like fancy beer; you can get drunk on it, but it’s not necessarily made for that kind of use.

I don’t even want to know what the pit during SoCal’s sludge/doom/beatdown bruisers Xibalba must’ve looked like, though. I’m not THAT crazy. Probably never will be. But hey, they sounded good, so golf claps for calmly listening and avoiding injury like a lil’ bitch.

4. Wintersun @ The Sinclair

I’ll be honest, this show made the list only because I finally got to see Arsis. And they played “The Face Of My Innocence”, unf. Though don’t get me wrong, Fleshgod and Wintersun also rule(d), but my main focus was the Virginian metallions and all of their melodic, sorrowful splendour. I would have dug FgA’s set more if they had included some of those  but real goodies (insofar as they may be called such for a newer band), and hey, Wintersun was Wintersun, so you can’t talk shit.

5. Weekend Nachos/Spine @ The Democracy Center

You just KNEW this was coming. Did you? I don’t care, whatever. But dude, this show was off the hook and a half. If you either didn’t show up on time before it sold out or just didn’t come, fuck you in the neck. Naw jk, it probably wasn’t your fault. But you still missed a heck of a performance from all the bands involved. Even Curmudgeon got a pit, and that like, never happens, man. Old friends don’t mean shit, indeed.

6. Suffer On Acid/Demoralizer/Ira graves @ PT-109 (R.I.C.)

This was what I believe to be the final show at PT-109, or at least for the time being. You know how Allston works; cops come in and ruin everything, and like a nasty wound, with with the application of some care and a generous amount of time, everything goes back to normal. Sadly, Allston’s coming under so much fire lately that it’s become harder and harder to just have a good time there, but at least they went out with a bang, and in the smallest room possible to get a pit in despite the obvious limitations. Pass the blunt, and a beer, and we’ll say farewell to a piece of Boston DIY history. For now.

7. Deafheaven @ T.T. The Bear’s.

Oh no, I guess I’m a hipster. In a strange loop of irony, you are one too, so it evens out. No matter how hard you try to not become one of them, you will be to someone, hence you’re a hipster because someone said so. Fuck all that noise, just like what you like, or something preachy along those lines. I happen to enjoy Deafheaven, and thus happened to enjoy their performance (which was balls-out intense, surprise). The heat and smother of summer rather than the bite of winter is the ideal climate companion for this particular brand of Black Metal. Or as someone in a YouTube comment said, maybe it should be called “Gold Metal”, for its use of scintillating major chord harmonies, limned with poetry in sound. But only hipsters make up terms like that. ATTN: Liturgy, ahem. And just like that, I’m straddling a bandwagon. It’s easy; try it.

It’d be easier to count how many people’s year-end lists DON’T have Sunbather on them. I’d say about 12.

8. Parasitic Extirpation @ O’Brien’s

I’ll put it out there right now; O’Briens is one of the shittiest official venues in Boston, as far as how it’s built at least. They get fine bands playing from time to time, like any venue that you’d be willing to be caught dead in, but the pillar almost directly in front of the stage and the dim-lit bar atmosphere complete with drab grey walls are a few factors that make the place a tad unwelcoming to a lover of aesthetic like I, and it really cramps my style. Call me Oscar Wilde, but that place is in dire need of beautification. But I didn’t start this post to complain about venues, so moving on.

This show was a throwback for me, in a way. Only a few years ago, death metal was what I was obsessed with, particularly a few local acts, including Composted, Dysentery, Sexcrement, Scaphism, et al. Over time, my interests drifted, and the bands likewise have been playing less or just at times/places too inconvenient for me to revisit them. This night in particular, I got 68 oz. of Steel Reserve in me, and was in the right mindset to enjoy some pulverizing slams, expugnisive and geometrically unsound yet artistically valid riffs, and burped/growled/slurped/puked/screeched/gurgled monstrosities of vocals that we call “singing” without blinking. It was nice. I felt 18 again. Only drunk.

Fields Of Elysium were the true treat, having come all the way from New Mexico, presumably to not be in New Mexico for a while, and to also show Boston how to do headfuck technical death metal right; with pizzazz, and a shot of jazz.

9. Ramming Speed/In Defence @ Cambridge Elk’s Lodge

The circle was alive, and the pit was it. How anyone could hear In Defence’s charmingly humorous yet sophisticatedly crafted take on a thrash/punk hybrid and disagree with the sheer kickassery is a concept beyond me. Maybe I’m pigheaded and opinionated to an unhealthy level by saying this, but if you don’t like In Defence, something’s wrong with you, boy/girl. This being Ramming Speed’s last show as a Boston-based band, it was only proper to send them off by drinking some beer and causing some ruckus in rotary formation at high speeds. All while dressed to kill (cops).

10. Between The Buried And Me @ The Palladium

Why? Because Between the Buried And Me played Parallax II in its entirety, of course.

Honourable Mention: Trap Them, Melt-Banana, Wormed, Ultra//Negative’s “last show”, Dropdead (both times), Ceremony, Coke Bust, and Kromosom

3 Shows I Did Not Have a Posi Fun Time At, And Why           

1. Maryland Deathfest @ Former Sonar Compound

I should’ve been elated beyond belief that entire weekend just to be existing in Baltimore while “America’s Biggest Metal Party” went down and turned the city into a giant occurrence of ‘Heavy Metal Parking Lot’, only with more crusties and less safety. In the course of that weekend, I managed to somehow miss Pig Destroyer due to falling into a kush/beer coma. Among the other things I fell into: a brief but soul-crushing depression; something illegal, white and powdery nose-first; and the arms of a security guard, who hustled me out and took away my wristband for being underage drunk. Yay for beer! No worries, I only missed Ihsahn, The Melvins, Down, etc. No big deal, right? *cue sobs* I justify the ticket price as having paid for the experience, even if I didn’t get to see half the bands, so good enough.

The bands I did manage to see/hear, I did enjoy as best as I could post-mental meltdown, but before that point most things were hunky dory. Aside from getting my life threatened by a blue-shirted middle-aged man, sitting and conversing for some hours with the infamous (but nice) parking lot oogles, and just being in a funk —literal and figurative, as I did not shower for 5 days— the whole weekend due to my expectations being shattered at seemingly every turn, I did win 3 bucks in a game of C-Lo, have some interesting conversations with my fellow showgoers and friendly people, and successfully avoid sobriety. Fuck this gay Earth; I need better luck, and a better brain.

If I taste another drop of National Bohemian, I’ll doubtless have an unfavourable autoimmune/psychologically induced reaction and immediately begin tearing up and wailing incoherently about my failures. Here’s to hoping next year won’t mark the third time in a row I’m sad when I should be moshing.

2. Backslider @ The Democracy Center

You ever get really excited about an upcoming hardcore show, think shit’s gonna be bouncing nonstop like the Hadron Collider only with black-shirted kids, and then find out you basically just saw a mini indoor Woodstock sans drugs? That’s how I felt about this show. You can’t step to anything, nerds.

3. Gay Kiss @ Trouble Ahead (R.I.C. also)

What better way to ring in the new year than to dump on a show that happened on New Years… this year/last? I only bring this up because like the Backslider show, I feel like I was part of an oil-painting of a hardcore show happening in front of a bunch of bored people rather than actually at an event that people were stoked for. Even Ancient Filth couldn’t get people moving, and that’s just wrong. Perhaps that was just not the night to have a show, but still, could we get just a little more energy in this town? Ye gods, I saw more movement at Shonen Knife than both of these shows combined. Hang your heads, Boston standstill punx. Go to a Sox game if you don’t want to enjoy yourself. These guys were a grand in debt, so I bought a shirt from them for five bucks. Coming all the way from New Mexico to be stared at; I felt bad.

Shows I Didn’t Go To For Stupid Reasons And Am Sad About

Six Feet Under/Cattle Decapitation because I didn’t feel like spending money even though I had it.

Suffocation for the same reason.

Dir en grey because I wasn’t feelin’ it.

Cult of Luna because I’m a lazy fuck, and now I shall pay for it because they’re going on hiatus or something.

There are probably others, but let’s not dwell on how I managed to bollocks up life. I already think about that every day. The nightmare continues.

So there you have it, a recap of how my year went, or at least what I remembered of it. How was yours? Oh, and (un)happy New Year. Here’s to 2014, and praying that the streak of bands making good music goes on forever, because good music is… good. Night. Depending on your timezone or whenever you happen to read this. I don’t care, fuck it.

Better Late Than Before I Die. A review of Reluctant Mortem

Some context to establish why this is (sort of?) a big deal to me: I suck. I have sucked for a long time. But in the words of Richard Pryor (R.I.P.): “I really am fuckin’ trying, okay?”.

Back in March of this year, I recieved an inbox from Matt, the drummer of Reluctant Mortem, who will be brutally dissected with my scalpel of linguistic proficiency once I shut up and finish my story. So, he came across my writing somehow, I suppose, and thought, “Hey, this guy seems like he’d be willing to write up my band, and hopefully give us a favourable review even though we only have one song”. I, being a gentleman, told him I’d wait til they had more material out so I could more fully see what they sounded like, and just so I wasn’t writing a dissertation on a single song, which I could do, but it’d be a task, for sure.

A few months pass, and, as promised, Reluctant Mortem summons up three more full length, and eyes turn to me expectantly for my opinion. I take a listen, but being slave to other obligations (read: shows I had to review but didn’t get off my ass and review), I had to keep putting it off and putting it off, ad nauseum. To add to the confusion was the fact that I have done this kind of thing before with no problems, I was in a double bind: Do I say “fuck the schedule and how I normally do things, time to take control and get my responsibles out the way so I can play unfettered”? Nope, I just continue on the same way I did before, insanely expecting a change despite my inflexibility.

So here I stand (or sit), finally about to strike a critical blow to my procrastination. Reluctant Mortem, merry Christmas, and happy new year. I’m finally becoming human.

Long Island, NY, the birthplace of the legendary Suffocation, is a more metal place than one would expect. Famous not only for its iced tea, but one of the founding fathers of brutal death metal? It must be a truly soul-shattering place to inspire such sounds. Reluctant Mortem walks a different, more melodic path, however, taking influence from  modern bands like The Black Dahlia Murder with galloping Gothenburg leads and drums pounding —and occasionally blasting— steadily along through tried and tested song structures that are familiar and weatherworn, but not yet broken, if handled skillfully. They’re not too metalcore, either, so elitists, lower your swords.

“Dying Days”, after a tastefully gloomy piano intro, turns into a safely written melodeath number, with a thrash-inflected circlepit part that wants for nothing but a touch that is uniquely Reluctant Mortem and not simply the sum of years of listening to what we call Melodic Death Metal today. To highlight this, take a gander at their slower track “Embrace Your Sins”, and note how similar the opening notes are to the ending notes of”Songs For The Damned” by All Shall Perish. Don’t get me wrong, they play the songs with that heart that you can’t buy at a store, but without building on their own unique songwriting, how much longer may they keep this up? The world is overpopulated with bands under the Melodic Death Metal tag, and many are destined to either fall by the wayside unsung or be lauded without deserving it. Backwards worlds require backwards folks.

Despite my proclamations of doom and gloom in a world that’s booming with bands that are all starting to sound like a composite of what they jam between jams, Reluctant Mortem’s future looks bright. With 663 likes on Fuckbook, they’re certainly doing something right, and even though number of likes is in no way indicative of quality, an up-and-coming death metal band not yet on Metal Archives spreading their message mainly through word of HTML getting such a number must mean that enough of their own core personality as a band is shining through the layers of used riffs.

Highlights: The drumming, and the self-titled track

Lows: Vocals could be stronger, and an abundance of ‘heard-it-before typical melodeath riffs.

Verdict: I like it,and keep up the good work.

All I’ll say are these last few words of wisdom, and Reluctant Mortem may leave the nest of my negligence: dig deeper, and don’t settle for dimestore melodeath riffs. Y’all can do better than that. Keep your heads banging and your noses clean, etc.

Megadeth Are Pretentious Assholes. Read all about that and Ramming Speed’s last show as a Boston band.

So, I saw Fear Factory opening for Megadeth while total trashed and it was pretty fun, not gonna lie. If not only for the peoplewatching, and learning that for some reason Nonpoint is still a band in the year 2013.  Nu-Metal lives… somehow.

There’s not much I can say except that I wish Fear Factory’s setlist were better (only “Edgecrusher” and “Replica” managed to ring pleasantly familiar), and that Dave Mustaine is still a twat. Bringing up the Marathon bombing for Lemmy knows what reason, AND having the nerve to show Garth’s dunderheaded request to some bitchin’ babe for Megadeth on the same screen that MegaDave loomed transluscently on with the help of what I assume is a handsomely compensated production staff. At least the music was decent enough, though come to think of it, “Sweating Bullets” is campy in that off-Broadway sense, and must have been scientifically designed to get stuck in my head. Fuck you, MegaDouche. I’m smarter than your family.

So on to sadder news: Ramming Speed have left the building like Elvis. Only the “building” in this case is Massachusetts, and they’re not dead, just moving their homebase to Virginia. So sorry if for a quarter second you thought they blew up; they should be touring through here and make awful “homecoming show” jokes sooner than we’ll realise they left.

What better way to say goodbye to one of Boston’s most beloved thrash outfits than a big silly show? This shindig featured local talents in Meth Valley, Disaster StrikesOpposition Rising (now with more new songs that sound like their old ones), and Terminal Crisis, with Yautja bringing their brand of technical grind up here from Nashville to be pronounced incorrectly. Luckily with the taco suckers In Defence in the building, all intellectual matters were irrelevant. I would post a picture of Ben Crew’s costume, which was like if Rob Halford (a.k.a. God) and Martin Sorrendeguy came up with a way to simultaneously look like you came to enslave the Christian Right Patriarchs and also look damn fine.  “Legacy of Brutality” indeed. So here’s the new video for their song “Curbside Dentistry”.

Aw fuck it, here’s a picture anyway. Stolen from I Author My Own Disaster.

Between rants about how all the money the U.S. wastes on terrestrial wars instead of spaceships, laser blasters and  lightsabers, how there actually is a (leather-clad, bald, and bespectacled) god, and some other stuff that only matters to weird people, the Defence busted out most of their recent outing, Party Lines and Politics, and are the prime example of why metal and punk are and should be united in their stand against pizza, politicians, unjust societally constructed phobias of all kinds, and any police not named Sting, Andy Summers, or Stuart Copeland.

Despite the success of the festivities —discounting the near non-existence of a pit during their set, blame it on the sadness— I’m sad to see Ramming Speed go, but fuck them anyway, that’s just more party that we have to catch up on so that it’s like they’re still here in our hearts or something fluffy like that. It’s been unreal.