Norway is empty and the vikings are here. Nervous Condition, Hivesmasher, and Eluveitie

Distort Til Deaf Gig 63: Nervous Condition, Cauldron, & Stagger @ Trouble Ahead

I’m feeling lazy so I’ll sum up the Nervous Condition show in three sentences, one for each band.

Stagger: Shortest set I’ve ever seen, call it Doomviolence.

Cauldron: Slayer on coke, not to be confused with the Trad Metal revival band from Canada.

Nervous Condition: Shovey womyn-fronted hardcore.

Gutter Choir CD Release (that foiled the end of the world) @ The Great Scott

First I shall start off by saying that Gutter Choir is an absolutely fantastic release by the boys in ‘Smasher. They’ve truly outdone themselves with this record. Despite the production being a tad bit too clean (particularly the less filthy version of “Vomitouch”), it’s explosively technical, yet not afraid to get its claws steeped in gore. Though it does clean up after itself fine. But I’m not here to review the album, as I missed that chance when 2013 rolled around and it would just be silly now. If you like The Red Chord, Discordance Axis, and/or Pig Destroyer (ideally all three), and you haven’t checked these guys yet, you’re fuckin’ up.

Opening this feast was Astronomer, a heavy Hardcore band leaning a bit on spacey post-rock influences that add some much desired atmosphere. If you’re into shit like Northless or Nights Like These’s second album, Sunlight At Secondhand, give ’em a listen-see.

Next up was Vattnet Viskar, whose name and aesthetic scream Norway, but really they’re from Namshaw.

To say Vattnet Viskar are atmospheric would be quite underwhelming. It’s certainly “walk in the woods, but beware of wolves” music, with effects to create the feeling of a wide, oceanic expanse that is at once beautiful to witness, and yet frighteningly reductive of the human ego. It’s a wall of noise (quite possibly one of the louder bands I’ve seen), but moving away from the stage was not an option. Roaring vocals from the abyss, ethereal yet at once material guitars, and gracefully handled drumming all came together to make something quite sublime in nature. It also helps that they’re really down to earth, humble guys, no pretense. For fans of Wolves In The Throne Room (obv.) and those who wish that Alcest had more balls.

After VV were Family, who I must admit I wasn’t a big fan of musically, if not mainly because songs that could have been quick bursts of Mastodon-y rock’n’roll inflected Heavy Metal were drawn out to 5-6 minute territories, and began to grate a bit on the senses. They were energetic, I’ll give ’em that, but condensation is needed.

At last, the coup de gras and world-savers extraordinaire, Hivesmasher, pissing off bees since 2007.

Since their debut album “Ascension Into Dismal Stages”, Hivesmasher’s been a decently large force in the New England Metal/Hardcore scene. I’ve probably seen them around 9 or 10 times, which just goes to show how much work they’ve put into getting themselves out there as a band. Since they’ve been playing setlists comprised largely of songs from Gutter Choir in the years leading up to its release, I say it’s about damn time. Tracks like “Vulture Assassin”, “En Route To Meatland”, and “Send Me To Satan” (sans the half hour of ambient noodling and “Everlong” cover) needed to be heard on record, along with some other sluggers like “Bye Bye Baby” and “Can Of Awesometism”.

Signing with Black Market Activities was certainly a good move, as was attending this here grand opening to proving 2012 nuts wrong. Damn near went deaf, I say, but I already sold my soul to rock’n’roll and may as well also give them my ears.

Eluveitie & Wintersun @ The Royale

I haven’t seen that many dorks in forever. I really haven’t. Go to a Folk Metal show and count guys that look like fauns, it’ll really knock you out. I mean, damn. Lots of ugly mugs.

Opening this heathen’s playground was Germany’s Varg, a pronouncedly anti-racist band, though I suspect this is only because a certain mister Vikerness shares a first name with them. They’re also anti-pedophile child fuckers, which is cool too.

While they may be like Turisas in that they all look like Darth Maul cosplayers with a Nordic touch, they’re a different beast musically. They are “brutal”, you see. They play an accessible form of Black Metal tinged with some Death Metal, no accordions to be found here. Of course, to further this warlike aesthetic, they askled the crowd where the viking warriors are, because “dorks and nerds” would have gotten a slightly weaker turnout of enthusiasm. It wasn’t bad, but it could have used a bit more chunky heaviness, because in order to claim Viking status, you must be rapists, but only of grown-ups.

Up next was Wintersun, in a very TIMEly fashion. Hah. I kill myself.

Always Jari’s more serious outing, since I consider Ensiferum more goofy Viking Metal songs to get drunk and bop people with inflatable Medieval weapons to, Wintersun’s a band that you either enjoy or take a nap to. Boasting long songs that blend Folk, Death, Black, and Power Metal that are mini epics in and of themselves, postponing an album’s release for 6 years, and going on their first ever U.S. tour is the ideal crucible for some excitement among the longhaired and nerdy.

Of course, you’d be quite let down if you had been wanking for years about a full dose of Time, only to find that it’s just one of two installments. Dirty Finns, always finding ways to fuck you over. It’s the same deal as Norther hiring a  new frontman just to die. Can’t win with the Finns.

So anyway, Wintersun’s set was fantastic, verging on bombastic. The band played new stuff that was massive, and oldies but goodies that have been bouncing around for nearly a decade, totalling up to less than 10 songs in all. It seemed so short at the time, since they’re well-crafted enough that you’re not checking your watch and considering buying a gun.

Eluveitie headlined this show, which was an unforseen complication on everyone’s part.

Eluveitie have made a career of sounding like middle-era In Flames  swapped out techno/electronic fiddling in favour of real fiddling, a hurdy gurdy, several flutes, and female voices. While certainly not an intrinsically bad idea (I do enjoy them and had a blast when they played in Worcester a couple years ago), it does have an expiration date, and I smell something sour. On this tour they played Helvetios in full, which explains why many of the songs sounded just like this.

A few songs in I found myself praying for “Inis Mona” or “Of Fire, Wind, & Wisdom”. Anything to break the growing monotony that was setting in as a terminal disease of endless flute solos and Gothenburg riffing. It shouldn’t be an endurance round of “how many songs can we stomach that have the exact same jumpdafuckup riff”, but an actual musical journey, which is one that our Celtic friends have forsaken in place of some fancy shades. The real highlight was when members of Varg sans war paint came onstage, dived a few times, and had a few beers. I see they got more enjoyment out of goofing around than I did idly standing and realizing that Eluveitie has been doing the exact same thing since the demo days.

I suppose it can be blamed on the fact that I’m not as big into Folk Metal as I once was, which was not a great deal back then either. But the days are over where I would sperg out to Korpiklaani or get pumped about possibly seeing Tyr. It’s a greasy horror show of bad teeth and bad hair. Maybe one day I can enjoy it again, but that will require getting smashed, so 6 more months until I dance ’round a campfire to Svartsot!

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Maryland Deathfest X – Over The Hills Came The Bottles Of A Thousand Drunks: Sunday

On this most final of days, a mixture of emotions welled up in my dying heart: I was at once sad to see it all end so quickly, yet at the same time I wanted nothing more than to be back home on a normal eating schedule.I missed out on Backslider due to group dawdling, but I caught wind of their set not being particularly great anyhow, so I probably didn’t miss much. In addition to them putting on a mediocre performance, apparently the promoters of MDF didn’t realize that Backslider’s entire discography adds up to just about 10 minutes, and still gave them a half hour with which to roughly hew the faces from the attendees. Coke Bust, being none the wiser to the schedule and how important it is to adhere to it, started a bit early, so it’s good I showed up early.

The ideal drummer outfit includes short-shorts.

Coke Bust aren’t exactly a Grindcore band, but their intensity, song lengths, and love of the blast might have some fooled. They’re Straight-Edge and quite proud of it, so don’t let that be a turn-off, since they’re probably one of the best Hardcore bands I’ve discovered in recent times. The set probably only lasted about 8 minutes, but anyone who knew how to dance did so accordingly, because time is money for a band who pride themselves on keeping it short and sweet, giving any band after them time to dick around during set-up. I greatly enjoyed every second of it, with this DC outing pumping out some of their sweetest tunes, including No Authority, Deathbed, Degradation, and Another Fucking Problem. I am a satisfied customer.

Up next were Australian grinders, Agents of Abhorrence, who have drawn comparisons to the legendary Discordance Axis, and you’ll see why if you give both a listen.

It was loud, dirty, and at times surprisingly harmonic, which is the kind of brain-bending stuff I like in my Grindcore. Not to say the old way isn’t great too, but a little experimentation is always great, and not just for your sex life. I’m sure these guys don’t hit up the US very often, since Australian bands who aren’t Parkway Drive have a hard time getting big, much less the support for tours, so for anyone who missed this half-hour of power, shame.

Still dealing with blows of exhaustion after going all-out for Coke Bust, I basically sat through Cough and Rwake‘s sets, taking in the Sludgy mayhem both unleashed in a row. Note to all: When exhausted, keep in mind that this kind of music will counteract any rest you try to get if you’re sitting too close to where it’s being played. After the latter finished, I dragged myself into the sunlight to catch Church Of Misery, Japan’s bluesiest serial-killer obsessed Doom outfit.

Someone please photoshop a Head & Shoulders logo over this

You would never believe the amount of Hardcore dancing that went down during this set. It was damn ridiculous that any went down at all, to be honest. Blame it on spillover from fans of the two opening bands of the day, I suppose. The dickery of the crowd did little to diminish the quality of the music blasting from the stage, luckily, with pounding grooves and early 70s psychedelia colliding with Hideki’s schizophrenic delivery, ranging from Rock’n’Roll howls to hellish growls and pained screams.

The band didn’t miss a beat the entire time, despite looking stoned out of their minds, but for a band of their type, it must come with the territory.

Keeping in line with the Sludge/Stoner/Doom theme of the Sabbath day was YOB, who are in my personal running for one of the heaviest bands out there.

The dancing weirdo trend must have caught on for YOB, since some people were picking up some dropped change during some of the sludgier parts of the three songs YOB played. Successfully enjoying their ethereal brand of Stoner Doom (some call it “stoom”) involved a little meat dodging, but no matter. YOB played two tracks off the new release Atma, which seems to be even larger and more crushing than previous effort The Great Cessation, which I thought impossible. They seem to be actively trying to one-up themselves with each release, and that’s the mark of dedicated musicians. Also, it is indeed pronounced like “Yawb”.

YOB’s sound can only be described as celestial bodies waging war by colliding into one another, so if that sounds like your thing, do it up. The final song they played was The Mental Tyrant from The Great Cessation. Not one of my favorites from that album, as I would have preferred The Lie That Is Sin or the title track, but it’s YOB, so it promised to be epic regardless. Seeing only three songs seemed much too short, so I hope to catch them headlining a tour soon.

Right after YOB’s last note I fought my way outside and towards the stage where Suffocation was already in the process of laying waste to the crowd.

The Slap-Chop is a go-go

This set was quite special amongst the 3 other times I’ve had the pleasure of catching them (two of which were in their home state of New York), in that they played a set consisting mostly of old songs and stuff they either don’t play often or haven’t played in over ten years. The whole set was a trip back in time, with the most recent tracks being Cataclysmic Purification from Blood Oath and Abomination Reborn from the 2005 s/t. They even played a couple tracks off Despise The Sun, which was a real wowser.

Another difference between this set and all the others is that long-time drummer Mike Smith has stepped down (again) to make room for Dave Culross of Despise The Sun fame, which probably explains the heavy leaning towards the old, and two tracks from a release he kinda helped create. Guy seems to be growing his hair back, and looks weird as hell. I was almost getting used to him being bald, but the curly moptop deal he’s currently sporting makes him unrecognizable to say the least.

Happy late birthday to the broccoli head.

Frank’s banter was classy as usual, with talk of him wishing he could be in the army just to kill people, and how the sun’s a bastard and screwed him over, it’s the story of everyman. The crowd was violent and I think I witnessed a few injuries, and a man walking around with a bleeding eye was swinging wildly at anyone he came in contact with. Great success was had. Saint Vitus followed on the opposite stage, and so did a cloud of magic smoke.

Never look a wild Wino in the eyes.

Saint Vitus have been delivering some of the fuzziest, bombed out, bluesy Doom this side of the Atlantic for just a decade less than the masters Black Sabbath, which is still a damn long time, and considering that Saint Vitus is officially making a return like a slow, stoned phoenix from resin laced ashes, they’ve proven their tenure shall be grander and more enduring. Weinrich and co. playing back-to-back with Electric Wizard is a scientific formula made to get people goddamn high, and nothing more, but good music was involved, so the crowd willingly fell for it.

My only gripes with this set were that Wino’s voice wasn’t as powerful as it is on record (possibly due to lack of ridiculous reverb) and this is my own fault, but I didn’t recognize a great deal of the songs. Though I was hoping dearly that they’d either play Zombie Hunger or their self titled song, I still enjoyed the slow, brooding heaviness that is 34 years of smoky doom come back from the grave. Weinrich proved to be an able frontman even after all these years, surprisingly encouraging the moshers during their set, and saying “Fuck the pigs”. A man after my own heart.

Not one to stand all the way in the back during Electric Wizard‘s set, I made my way down to the other stage during the last few songs, and I learned that pot doesn’t always mellow people out.

The true stoner witch

To say that Electric Wizard don’t play the US often is to say that not all homeless people are in a dire situation. Due to a combination of legal issues and hating the weed over here, they seldom make the flight to the land of baseball and saturated fats. It just makes it all the more urgent that one be willing to make the journey to see them if they feel generous enough to blaspheme our shores.

The mark of a phenomenal performance is the intensity of the crowd, and there was no shortage of passionate movement. Even before the band officially began, it was already a roiling mass of flesh and po t. Allow me to describe the scene: countless plumes of smoke, frenzied eyes, ravenous inhalation of intoxicating fumes, humans taking flight, mentally and physically, all at once, it was a raging no-sided war and a joyous dance, a tribute to mother nature and her greatest green gift. The ultimate aftermath; a desert plain of broken plastic and misshapen aluminum, lakes of spilled alcohol and mounds of ash. A lost shoe as well.

I needed a good sit-down afterward, so I was almost praying they wouldn’t encore, and got lucky. God exists after all, but must be angry at Bethlehem for stealing the name of a holy land and playing something called “Dark Metal”, which to me comes across as some weird kind of Black Metal that hints at Gothic, Symphonic, and Doom elements. After that was Mortuary Drape, who I’ll check out later, decent Death Metal. Can’t you tell I’m just about done posting? I can, so fuck off. Until I have the strength to review a project named Amish Noise, goodnight.