Boston is well known for a bar where everybody knows your name. Worcester has a bar where not everyone knows you, but everyone knows if you are there, you probably love metal. Except one guy in a suit and tie, there with his date. I think they showed up by accident. Anycase, Metal Thursdays’ at Ralph’s Rock Diner is a local institution as an semi-intimate place to catch a show, and one I have partaken in too few times, living closer to Boston proper myself. Still, it was worth the trek out there to see a ton of cool friends (and some of the Ghost Cult crew such as Wren Leader and Hillarie Jason) to see Chicago’s Immortal Bird and some other killer bands as such a cool place.
Grue opened up the night with their evil sounding, mystery laden black metal set. Setting the mood just right, with a two-man affair, monks cloaks, and eerie sounds. From the start they barely spoke to the crowd, and just bludgeoned all in attendance with their songs; that’s how you do it right, folks! Precise beats dropped and blasts fell and shifted with interesting, uncomfortable tempo changes. The articulate rasp of the vocalist could rot the hearts of the kvltist of man, or woman. The guitars went back and forth from melodious and really catchy, to a sickening crust. Their songs were varied and their writing was much more mature than I expected, making me beam. Absolutely terrific, I became an instant fan. This is clearly a band on the rise in USBM circles, and I need to catch up on their new album Casualty of the Psychic Wars (Eternal Death Records), like yesterday.
Cryostasium was next and they are an interesting prospect, at first. They have a lot of releases out under this moniker, have been around over 15 years. Their combination of Neurosis sludge, avant-garde noise, and post-metal, post-hardcore heaviness is usually right up my alley. Unfortunately, even pulling in all of those influences together, requires a certain mastery these guys seem to lack. They were a little all over the place stylistically, and as a result some of the songs went from experimental to nonsensical quickly. Still, I liked where they fit in on this bill and I gave them every chance to win me over. Then at the end of the set the front man ragged out his band mates on the mic for continuing to play, after he thought the set should have ended. A total non-pro move. No excuses, just lameness. I was glad they were done at this point.
Immortal Bird went on third on this bill and the crowd was sufficiently amped. Front woman Rae Amitay (Thrawsunblat) attended nearby Berklee College of Music, so this show had a homecoming vibe of sorts. As the band began playing, I spied Rae off-stage, psyching herself up for what was to come, and readying for battle. When she finally jumped on the mic, the gruesome voice that sprang from her came from a truly primal place. Playing their harrowing songs full of equal parts blacked doom-grind and terror-inspiring death metal, the band pummeled away at their short, tight set. The songs came off of their excellent new EP Akrasia (Closed Casket Recordings), and the set had no filler, no jokes, and no covers. None were needed as it was straight to business. Rae prowled the stage, at times in-between vocal lines, looking pensive and calm; later giving way to more anguished expressions, and screams. She has a very clear growling voice and shows off cool technique for the lowest lows; never rushing herself or running out of air. The band was killer, highlighted by the crushing style of touring drummer Garry Naples (November’s Doom) in place of Rae herself, who played drums on the album. Bassist John Picillo’s killer tone and deft lines held it down, while touring guitarist Ryan Bruchert of Trials filled in admirably as well. Whether it was rabid riffs of ‘Ashen Scabland’ or the gruff bombast of ‘The Pseudoscientist’, this band slays live. Wren Leader even dubbed them blackened tech death, which I think is appropriate.As the outro of the latter track heard Naples bash away with abandon on some of the best power grooves I’ve heard in an age or two, I couldn’t come away more impressed.
Obsidian Tongue has almost become a black metal institution in these parts. Their brand of painstakingly crafted psychedelic influenced black metal has seen them become a fixture in the local scene and has garnered them fans in the underground USBM scene far and wide. Not only did they open for Agalloch when they played here, John Haughm made a guest appearance on their last album! That shows the kind of talent these guys have and why they deserve your respect. It’s takes a Sherpa-like patience to absorb their music, but that is also its reward. Guitarist/vocalist Brendan James Hayter and drummer Greg Murphy have a flair for the dramatic, but they can be heavy as hell too. Like a mosaic, their songs come together a piece at a time, creating a whole, only understood when its all over. Triumphant is another word I would use for this bands music too, as all kinds of feelings come to in the course of a set. ‘Into The Heart of Night’ is still my favorite song by the band, with its many changes and twists. Folk, black metal, thrash, doom, and even some slight power metal influences can be heard in about 10 minutes time. The thing is, with the long, complex structures, the songs somehow stay fresh and never feel over-wrought. At times vocally Hayter will remind you of Heri Joenson of Týr or his former band mate, the late David Gold from Woods of Ypres with his dynamic baritone voice contrasting his shrieks and howls. Murphy is an unbelievable drummer, who matches Hayter musically and emotionally with his drums. Their hour long set closed out the long night of metal in style.
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Words: Keith (Keefy) Chachkes