Monday, October 28, 2013

SLAM SHOW REVIEW: 10/27 - Wormed, Condemned, Infernal Revulsion, Cognitive, Parasitic Extirpation

Welcome back to Slam-Minded, kids! I know many have been waiting for a return from us here for many months, so when I heard that this insanely brutal lineup was to make a stop through Cambridge, MA, where I would just so happen to be the night before for a beer-related event, I knew it was destiny that I'd attend, headbang and eventually write up my thoughts. So, here goes... be easy on me, I'm a tad rusty at writing about things that don't begin with 'b' and end with 'r'.

I brought along my buddy Chris, who is rather new to slam and interested in learning more about it, who brought his girlfriend along. Also in attendance was another good friend who left somewhat early during the show in order to get reasonable sleep for the start of his work-week (wimp). Anyway, although Chris is very willing to delve further into slam, his girlfriend was previously unaware of our lovely genre, but I think the show might have been a good conversion for her. The venue was the Cambridge Elks Lodge on Bishop Allen Drive, and we thought it was supposed to open at 5, but it turned out the doors were at 6, and, indeed, when we arrived at 5:05, the bands hadn't even shown up to load in yet. So in true time-wasting fashion, we hit up one of the best local bars (Lord Hobo, of course) in the area and returned to the scene, where a massive crowd of dudes in black shirts was pouring in to the shoddy basement. Oh yeah, awesome setting for a slam event! Extremely ratty and run-down looking, this Elks Lodge has clearly seen better days, but these seedy environs would soon prove themselves worthy of a true beatdown.

Parasitic Extirpation was first up, and I was surprised to see Mallika of Abnormality grab the mic and begin to do her check along with the other members. Didn't know she was doing vocals for them these days but, then again, I don't really pay as much attention as I used to, admittedly. The band only played about 20 minutes (5 or so songs), but they were surprisingly good. I remember I had some criticism about their Knee Deep in Disease EP from way back in the day (2008, for the S-M OGs among you all), but overall, I didn't find the release bad, and tonight they were in rare form with big, pit-opening slams, Mallika tearing through the crowd while vocalizing all manner of ugliness and perversion, and fantastic drumming. The biggest letdown for this band were the absolutely stupid, pointless wanky solos that pervaded every single song with pretentious bullshit shredding. I hate crap like this; one second I'm listening to a great slam, then all the power is just sucked out and wasted on a song-dividing solo that doesn't improve the music in any meaningful way. Definitely looked like he was just playing them cuz they felt "cool", not because they were actually supportive of the songs. Also, the vocal mixing was poor, and could have been tweaked to make Mallika much louder, as she was fairly quiet and, though she looked powerful doing her thing, not much of that power was sonically conveyed. Then again, when I've seen Abnormality before, it's been almost the same kind of deal, so I don't know. Regardless, pretty great slams when they were happening, very varied and interesting drum-work, solid playing in spite of distracting solos, and very heavy, brutal sound. They got me moving several times, so that's cool, as I feel like I'm pretty slam-jaded in some ways.

Cognitive is a band I've never heard of, although they are apparently tech-death and from NJ. Seems like they'd be the odd ones out on this bill, right? Not really, as it happens. They slammed quite a bit, playing some fast, blasty songs with lots of satisfying time changes. Vocally excellent with a commanding and heavy riff presence (despite not having a bassist), this band was fairly good at making brutal music, though not entirely unique or well-thought-out, as a lot of tech-death can happen to be. One thing that was amusing and a bit distracting with them, though, was that both guitarists would at times just kind of randomly seize about and make bizarre movements that seemed very forced and goofy, not matching the precision and exacting nature of the music. Their newest music seemed a lot more slammy, which was cool, but jarred a bit with some of the more spastic stuff they jammed out earlier in the set. Bonus points for interesting lead-work; almost every song had some kind of cool lead that basically involved heavily-effected single note picking, similar to In-Quest, particularly on their album Epileptic. I just realized there's an amusing link between that album's title and the members of the band spazzing about, but I digress. Not bad, but the best was yet to come.

Condemned... this band and I have an interesting past, one that happens to have begun with quarrel, though it led to eventual contentment. As one of those curmudgeonly people who found Desecrate the Vile to be an intensely tiring, one-dimensional release of boring slam-and-blast blur, I recall approaching Realms of the Ungodly with trepidation, both because the art and change in aesthetic direction seemed really cool and I was worried about them screwing it up, and because longer songs in the same style brought on a bit of a bitter taste. Luckily, they switched up their playing style a little bit, injecting some great atmosphere, and a lot of these aspects came together just great live. Angel's vocals were powerful and brutal, though a bit less gurgly/goofy than on albums, which was a disappointment. Forrest was blasting away intensely for the majority of the set, as they tackled most of the songs on Realms... (somehow leaving out "Submerged unto Phlegethon", which was just lame and unfortunate in my opinion... maybe something to do with the fact that another Phlegethon was there; Wormed's vocalist!), with a few from Desecrate... for good measure. Those were fine in the flesh, which I was satisfied with; I had a distinct feeling they would be, as their blurry and straightforward style works a lot better when you're not picking everything apart like with an album review. One of the best things about Condemned is that their slams are very unpredictable and often switch halfway through to a blasting section or similar change-up that can convincingly bewilder many troglodytic spinkickers in the pit, as was observed somewhat often during the entirety of their set. The slightly manipulative nature of their music worked very well in this basement-like atmosphere, and they had really great, heavy sound that filled the whole room. Angel was funny with his overwhelmed, end-of-tour banter between songs (my favorite moments included calling Infernal Revulsion "Infernal Convulsion", laughing and correcting himself, as well as when he couldn't read his own writing on the setlist attached to one of the cabinets and announced the wrong song before catching himself and commenting on it hurriedly), and you could tell he was just trying to bang songs out without much delay. It worked well with the hurried, semi-sloppy way the songs can appear to be constructed, especially apparent when Forrest's kick rolls or gravity blasts would go on just slightly too long or not long enough. Pretty killer set here, though I wish I had been closer for it.

For Infernal Revulsion, I got my wish and moved up closer with Chris; so close, in fact, that if I headbanged any further forward, I would've hit one of the guitarist's headstocks! It was great to be so close to some live Japanese slam, and they really killed it with varied barking/gurgling/yelling vocal approaches, super low-tuned bass (that the dude played like an upright double bass with finger-picking; killer!) and some inventive riffs wrapped around a huge menagerie of beatdown-slams and catchy groove sections. They were absolutely fantastic live; some real slam-worship was going on here and there, and the band was super into it themselves; their lead singer just about cued every impending breakdown or switch-up with some full-body movement; intense! I have always been fond of Infernal Revulsion's way of writing slightly predatory slams; the way they leave notes hanging and how they get you into a big groove only to switch it up with a new rhythm or way of coupling the base notes are very effective ways to keep the crowd going and keep the pit full. I, of course, stay away from the pit because I'm a tiny person (for the record, if you were at the show, I was the short dude with the High & Mighty Beer Co. shirt on; cheers!), but I glanced behind me in between bouts of rhythmic headbanging to find many people stomping to the rhythm, so it must've been appropriately effective, anyway. Alright, now to the big thumbs-down about this set; the motherfucking kick drum. Dear god, why? I know Devastate Under Hallucination featured this too, but it was just wickedly overbearing in a live venue; extremely treble-y and clicky and louder than every other drum on the guy's kit... which was lame because he was a totally showboating, crazy performer and could clearly play well; he spun his sticks at just about every opportunity and engaged with the crowd during the last few songs in a very "80's hair metal" kind of way with the beckoning for applause and whatnot; amusing and a good change from the lack of personality many death metal drummers exhibit. I was glad to have been right up front for these guys; they were quite a bit of fun and their kind of singularly-focused groovy slam with heavy, charging rhythms was the perfect setup to the headliners of the night...

WORMED. Now, if you know me, you know I am an utter devotee of Planisphaerium, an album that changed how I think about metal when I first heard it, one that I know most of the lyrics and vocal phrasings of by heart and one that means quite a bit to me. When I first heard Exodromos, therefore, I was skeptical and a bit disappointed by the change. I know that the Quasineutrality EP represented a fairly significant change for them, but it still had the certain unabashed heaviness and animalistic, extraterrestrial nature of Wormed at their core. Thus, you can see why I may have been a bit disappointed with the new album. Actually, I'll come right out and say that I don't like it very much at all. The change in drummer has hurt them big time, Phlegz' vocals have been extremely neutered I feel, and the music got a lot more sterile and generically "technical" (disjointed is a better, more fitting word) without much reason behind it. Many of the heavy slam riffs from Planisphaerium were replaced by scratchier riffs with vague chugging, and the drumming lacks the intensity of the debut, instead focusing on clinical blasts with a peppering of cool sections, here and there remarkable but never consistently impressive. Anyway, enough about that, how were they live? In a word, disappointing... and it took me some reflection to admit that to myself just now. I didn't want to think it was under-par, but it just was; from the unbearably poorly-mixed vocals (great variation, cool tone obviously, but way too over-loud, and with some goofiness that was a bit out-of-place) to the utter lack of snare drum presence (when all I can hear are your cymbals in slam, there's certainly a problem) to the lack of heaviness coming out of Guillemoth's bass, this was a mixing disaster. All that and Phlegethon's vocal mic cut out several times. I appreciated the intermissions; static and noisy waves played between each song, announcing the title of the next-to-be-played track, but honestly, this time could've been used to tweak the sound so it was, y'know, good. Anyway, they didn't have an overall bad set; highlights included "Geodesic Dome", "Tunnel of Ions" (even though the vocal phrasing was poor), "Ylem" (including an EVEN SLOWER version of that breakdown) and "Tautochrone" (one of the only songs I really dig off the new album), but the taste in my mouth was a bit bitter, I must admit. I'm sure it was impressive to many people, and Wormed are definitely a band to follow due to their unique nature and willingness to experiment with a rather-apparently-stale genre, but I'm not a huge fan of their current direction, and this show was an awkward let-down in weird ways unlike what I expected.

oh yeah I got Condemned's setlist too, fuck yeah
So, how was the show? I haven't been to a nearly-purely-slam show in a good several years (maybe my own damn fault, but whatever), but it was damn good fun, and got me stomping and reconsidering how often I write for this blog... so that's a positive. Almost every band had negatives and slightly-disappointing aspects that drew my attention away here and there, but that's life. Slam is, in a sense, very similar to life in that way. Therefore, I implore all readers of S-M to keep slamming... we will be there for and with you, possibly with somewhat lacking frequency, but always in our brutal, putrid hearts.  Cheers!