Arsis – Allegaeon – Exmortus – Scalpel: Live at The Brighton Music Hall, Allston MA

Arsis-Tour

Spearheading the events were practiced local (body) openers, Scalpel, who are honestly one of the few forever-local-band-syndrome Death Metal bands that I can enjoy seeing repeatedly. They’ve done the honours of opening ceremonies for Aborted, Morbid Angel, and Gorguts, just to name the recent ones that stick out. It’s nasty, brutal, primitive, and hairy, technically proficient when appropriate, and inciting brainless pit violence the next. By “brainless pit violence”, I kinda mean a few guys tossed each other around and bumped shoulders like so many rams, but clearly the music is working the way it should. For fans of Brutal Death Metal, as you may have guessed.

California’s Exmortus (not to be confused with Tampa old school death metal) embraces antiquity without shunning modernity. With influences equal parts scorching NWOBHM licks, Black Thrash barbarity, and classical sensibility to taste. A welcome contrast to Scalpel, awash in gore, Exmortus’ rousing, anthemic approach is the meeting ground between Holy Grail -represented by the bassist’s choice of shirt- and that bygone Baroque swagger of early Children of Bodom, sans keyboards, plus signature ESP models. Melodic, but not too much so, there were hints of power metal scattered throughout, but never in danger of erupting into an inflatable swordfight.

As much as I wish I could sing praise to Allegaeon for their brand of admittedly decent Melodic Tech-Death, I found this Colorado crew to be ultimately uninspired. Though vocalist Ezra does have an animated stage presence and the band is certainly competent, I’ve heard so many similar acts that I can scarcely feel as impressed as others seem to be. I think of Sylosis, who play a very similar style; Scar Symmetry, who have, in my mind, captured a distinctive take on the Melo-Death sound; and Dark Tranquillity, whom we may ‘blame’ for this strain of Gothenburg mysticism. Their breakdowns seem obligatory rather than energetic, and the solos, while thankfully, not long-winded, don’t seem constructed to the best of their ability. If this is their best, then it’s just not my cup of tea. Or maybe it’s a cup of tea I’ve had too many times.

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Technical Death Metal poets laureate in Virginia’s Arsis have once again given us a sermon in the obscure day to day sorrows of humanity. Their title pays homage to a poetry term running counter to thesis; it is the unaccented beat in a work of verse, and/or the unaccented part of a measure. Indeed, Arsis’ particular style meshes the ‘Elegant and Perverse’, a mournful take on death metal that incorporates both the twisted brutality and the flowing melody it is capable of, with equal portent.

Conducting the proceedings with a symphonic grandeur was of utmost importance, this year marking the 10th anniversary of the band’s landmark album, A Celebration of Guilt (Willowtip), an album whose corrupting influence has blackened many a heart with its majestic hooks, its malicious, sharp-edged sheen respected by both Technical and Melodic camps; opening, as expected, with out favourite love song, ‘The Face of My Innocence’, to exposing the folly of falsity in ‘The Sadistic Motives Behind Bereavement Letters’, and the chronicles of bestial nightmare itself through the venomously sweet ‘Wholly Night’. It was like a walk-through of essential Arsis, with ‘We Are The Nightmare’ and the abbreviated, but no less brilliant, version of ‘A Diamond For Disease’ making much appreciated appearances. Breaking the pattern of ‘Maddening Disdain’ (I tried), we were treated to an amusing cover of ‘Animal (Fuck Like A Beast)’ by W.A.S.P., which James Malone says they learned mainly to get laid. I suppose the fact that they play it now means either it works, or it has yet to. I’ll stick to their originals, myself, and would have preferred to hear ‘The Cold Resistance’ in its place, but a rare talent like Arsis deserves to succumb to their baser instincts between composing some of the more brilliant Death Metal this side of Keats. The video for ‘Forced To Rock’ will be all the evidence I need, I’m sure.

Arsis 2013

 

Arsis on Facebook

Allegaeon on Facebook

Exmortus on Facebook

Scalpel on Facebook

 

SEAN PIERRE-ANTOINE

King Buzzo – Mary Halvorson: Live At Brighton Music Hall, Allston MA

 

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There are few true iconoclasts in heavy music like King Buzzo. Of course, if you tell him that personally, he scoffs at the notion, perhaps even poo-pooing the weight of his impact in nearly thirty years of exciting fans, confounding critics and the like with his music. Obviously Buzz Osborne is known for his masterworks with the many incarnations of The Melvins (which he will at least acknowledge begins and ends with him). Arriving at the venue early to interview Buzz, he was mellow and cool as hell. Really humble to the last. Also at the venue early was Tim Bugbee, a concert photo and music journalist I look up to very much. It was cool talking shop, chatting with him and his wife all night. Check out Tim’s work.

 

Since I got done with the interview early I headed to grab some grub and a brew or three at my local BBQ spot in the neighborhood. By the time I got back in the venue, it was starting to fill up, although that would take some time. Despite The Melvins popularity and cred, its kind of hard to predict how full the crowd would be for a show like this on a weekday. Sauntering over to the merch table I spotted Brian Walsby selling merch and his own hand drawn wares. For those not in the know from graphic novels, Brian is author of Manchild, has done artwork for The Melvins and Corrosion of Conformity among others, played some drums in a few punk bands and has a cute daughter to take care of these days. Brian is a phenomenal artist, and has a unique POV story telling-style, and has done a fair share of music journalism via his work too. Please check him out and buy his stuff, it’s killer!

 

 

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Showtime was upon us and opener was Boston native Mary Halvorson. Her amazing solo-guitar performance brought out her own fans on this night, including one rabid kid at the front who was basking in her twangy glory. She played it cool, and played a set of interesting covers, mostly Jazz and Americana type track from what I could tell. Using the guitar not just as an instrument, but as an emotional foil for the source material, she is a master. Her between song, self-effacing banter was hysterical. I stood for most of the performance next to her mom, who was totally stoked and entranced as the rest of us were. If you love outside of the box thinking, and great guitar work in general, please do yourself a favor and check Mary out!

 

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After Buzz’s tour manager set up the stage (an incognito Dave from Unsane), Buzzo hit the stage casually with the lights up. Got himself together and ready to play and scanned the audience. Stepping in to his familiar stage walk, a gait akin to how a monster stalks his prey, Buzz started the jam the familiar first notes of ‘Boris”. The crowd immediately picked up on this, let out a whoop, and sang a long. There was even some rigorous headbanging, but no moshing tonight. Lots of bro smiles in the front and confuzzled looking girlfriends. Is Buzz unplugged girlfriend metal? I hope not. Meanwhile the man was up on stage doing his usual thing, just quieter. His playing immaculate, the acoustic holding nothing back as he roamed the stage between verses. I am a massive Alice Cooper fan and so is he, so it was no surprise that ‘The Ballad of Dwight Fry’ was next. He would later joke that we all better have known what that song was, and it seemed like people in the house tonight were fans, and had a clue. Alternating between some Melvins gems from across his career and his new solo album ‘This Machine Kills Artists’ (Ipecac), he constructed a killer set, full of twists and turns.

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About a third of the way through the set Buzz took a break to tell a story and he joked with the audience about which story to tell. When he settled on a “Mike Patton” story, he then had to decide which one to tell, since he apparently has many. What followed next was one of the funniest tales I’ve ever heard. I’d relay it here, but I could never do the delivery justice. You will need to see Buzz on tour and maybe you’ll hear it.

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Settling back into the music newer tracks like ‘Drunken Baby’ and The Melvins ‘Evil New War God’ meshed well, and in general it was just killer to hear this presentation of these songs. During another break, he made jokes about himself, touring, and imitated his wife picking on him pre-tour about the pretentiousness of doing a solo-acoustic tour. Classic. Ending the night with a spirited closing set of Melvins tunes, ‘We Are Doomed‘,

Hooch‘,Revolve‘, Buzz closed it out in rousing fashion. It was a really fun time and an interesting look into the mind of a genius, in a way we never have before.

 

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King Buzzo Set List:

Boris (Melvins cover)

Ballad of Dwight Fry (Alice Cooper cover)

Suicide In Progress (Melvins cover)

Dark Brown Teeth

Rough Democracy

Laid Back Walking

Story break #1

Drunken Baby

Evil New War God (Melvins cover)

The Vulgar Joke

How I Became Offensive

Story break #2

We Are Doomed (Melvins cover)

Hooch (Melvins cover)

Revolve (Melvins cover)

King Buzzo on Facebook

Mary Halvorson on Facebook

 

 

Agalloch – Jex Thoth – Obsidian Tongue: Live at Brighton Music Hall, Allston MA

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You knew it was going to be a killer night when for the first time I can recall for any show, the line to get in stretched around the block, over an hour before doors at this venue. Agalloch always draws a big crowd in the Boston area, what with our love of black metal and emo-style self-hatred overflowing at all times. All jokes aside, Agalloch on their first tour supporting the excellent new album The Serpent and The Sphere (Profound Lore) was a can’t miss proposition for this summer of metal shows so far. The venue was well sold out with people walking up for tickets turned away. I bumped into many of my friends in the scene and my photographer for the night, the exceptionally cool Hillarie Jason outside while I waited to get in. I wonder if selling out the House of Blues is next for this band, since every time they visit our city, the sell out yet another venue.

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Growing local legends Obsidian Tongue opened tonight, following a brief, but successful mid-west run opening for this tour. Front man Brendan James Hayter has long had a relationship to Agalloch, written songs with them, and in general is in a mutual admiration society with them. All good, but playing in front of basically a sold-out hometown crowd had advantages too. Brendan, flanked by powerhouse drummer Greg Murphy just blew everyone in attendance away with their all too brief set. As always, their gut-wrenching, perfectly executed traditional USBM, captivates and kills. In addition to playing a brand new song that was nothing shot of epic at almost 14 minutes long, John Haughm himself joined the band for a closing rendition of “A Nest of Ravens in the Throat of Time”, of which Brendan remarked they will likely “never play this again.” One of the cooler moments of the night was meeting Brendan’s beaming parents, clad in their O.T. Shirts. Parents- you’re doing it right!

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The BM-centric crowd was a little less forgiving the doom of Jex Thoth. For her part Jex was awesome, and in her own little world. She was nonplussed by the few mumbles in the room about them and their placement on this bill. Nevertheless her tight band blessed with her namesake blasted through a lengthy set of good songs. Caught up in the ritual, Jex wailed like the chanteuse that she is, connecting with the audience, but she was also on her own trip too. As my pal Mike Vargus commented later, she brought the sexiness to doom. Transformed by the process of the ritual, lost in the magic, she milked every bit of soul out of each note that escaped her throat. Her band was no afterthought either, they were present in the moment, right with her musically, especially guitarist Jason Hartman. Playing songs mostly from their 2013 album Blood Moon Rise (I Hate). At one point Jex jumped off the stage and into the crowd to get up close and personal with everyone. She sang, and danced and played with fire, burning some sage for effect. Maybe the beers and shots I had were fully kicking in by this time, but I was totally in her spell. She said little when their set was done, but they certainly made an impact.

 

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There was a pretty fast change-over for Agalloch to come on. The sold-out crowd held their collective breath together while the band made their way to the stage. Not one note had played, but you felt something electric in the air. Everyone felt it actually, you could just tell. From the swell of the intro music, the wave just hit the eager crowd and a cheer went out. The opening notes of ‘The Astral Dialogue’ and the rollicking beat meant there would be no slow burn build up to start the show tonight. Nope, tonight had is moments of dynamic intensity, but Agalloch was full of hustle and power much more than in the past when I’ve seen them. It was an instant reminder that American black metal is the real deal now, and a band like this is the reason. Haughm’s economical playing style looks almost too easy, and his bleak vocals just crush. He is always note perfect and flawless live. I was immediately surprised by how much knuckle-headed moshing there was, more so than any show in memory for black metal in Boston. Perhaps it is a swell of new fans, but I was turned off by it, as was Haughm who joked about it later on.

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The new ‘Vales Beyond Dimension’ was more typical fare I was used to for these Pacific Northwest giants. The fans seems to chill out for a minute and soak it all in. Always impressive, Aesop Dekker almost stole the show on this night with his tireless blasting behind the kit. I have seen him live many times with different acts, and this night was a performance we’d never seen from him before. Epic in scope, ‘Limbs’ was another killer early set highlight. Oh, so heartfelt and deep, I almost felt like a hippie for a second. Almost. John finally addressed the crowd, dissed the moshers, and generally welcomed all to the tour. Picking back up with ‘Ghosts of the Midwinter’s Fires’, we fell into the emotional abyss again. This is what Agalloch does best: toying with your soul and mind with their songs. There was a lot of singing along to this one, which made me smile. Other standout songs were the newer ‘Dark Matter Gods’, ‘Celestial Effigy’ and the mighty ‘Into the Painted Grey’.

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Coming back on for an encore, Haughm thanked the openers, made more jokes about moshers and then just melted the place down with the stirring ‘Falling Snow’ and Plataeu of The Ages’. We were all left speechless and happy. What a great night!

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Agalloch Set List:

Intro(Serpens Caput)

The Astral Dialogue

Vales Beyond Dimension

Limbs

Ghosts of the Midwinter Fires

Dark Matter Gods

The Melancholy Spirit

Celestial Effigy

…and the Great Cold Death of the Earth

Into the Painted Grey

Encore:

Falling Snow

Plateau of the Ages

 

Agalloch on Facebook

Jex Thoth on Facebook

Obsidian Tongue on Facebook

 

 

WORDS BY KEITH CHACHKES

PHOTOS BY HILLARIE JASON PHOTOGRAPHY

 

 

EyeHateGod – Ringworm – Enabler- Phantom Glue: Live at Brighton Music Hall, Allston

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Sludge. The very name almost exudes a summer feeling about it. Just as black metal is clearly the music for frozen months of the year, great sludge and doom sounds like the music of the season for sun and sweat. This was evident by tonight’s show in Allston Rock City where we punished our ears and mangled our vertebrae in the name of metal for EyeHateGod. The band is enjoying a resurgence with an excellent new self-titled release, their first in 14 years. EyeHateGod is a band that everyone mentions as an influence, but certainly this generation is behind on their lessons in depraved southern metal violence. They are not a pretty band of well-manicured fake rockstars: these guys were born to the streets of disrepair, they are as real as it gets, and raw to the bone musically and mentally.

 

After chilling with my dude Bill Richards of Metal Wani before the show, we made our way up the block to the venue. Opening up the night are local favorites Phantom Glue and what a perfect band to open. A blend of weed-soaked grooves and crushing beats, if you are not familiar with their last album A War of Light Cones, stop reading this, go to their Bandcamp and buy it right now! We’ll wait a few minutes for you to come back and read the rest of this review. Anyway as usual, they were loud, raucous and crusty! The swelling local crowd filled up the room during their set, and headbanged lustily. If there was a list of bands that are going to the next big thing out Boston, a city with tons of quality underground bands right now, Phantom Glue would surely top the list or come close depending on whom you chat with. This was a good start to a fun night.

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Enabler came on next, although it seemed like an eternity for them to hit the stage. I am used to seeing this band play small stages, and never with such a big professional set-up such as this. The first few minutes of the Enabler set, you almost felt like it was their own headline show they raged so much. On the strength of their new album La Fin Absolute Du Monde (Creator-Destructor/Earsplit Compound), this is a band on the rise. Jeff Lohber does unreal amounts of rocking out with his lanky frame shaking all over the stage. His economical guitar style enables him to touch all the bases from thrash, death beat to a punky-blackened crust and back again with ease. Bassist Amanda Daniels rocks it finger-style, at a time when many prefer the attack of a pick. Don’t let anyone tell you other-wise, plucking bassists are better than pickers, especially in metal. She is also backing up on vocals much more than I recall from their earlier tours. Not only did they play a killer set, they are awesome people to hang out with, as I did, chilling in the van with Jeff for an interview after the set, along with my pal Matt Darcy of Nefarious Realm.

 

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Every time Ringworm plays Boston, it’s a freaking bloodbath. The fact is they can’t help their history as one of the early leaders of metally-hardcore (I refuse to call them metalcore, people) from the Cleveland scene. There are fans that specifically come out to hear those old songs and bash people in the pit, and that’s fine with me. What Ringworm has actually done is matured into a veteran sludge act, capable of much more as a band than when they started out. Human Furnace is an approachable, mellow guy off-stage, but with a mic in his hand he is like a prize-fighter: out for blood. The pit had the most action it was going to have all night, but of course. Songs like ‘Amputee’, ‘Birth is Pain’, and ‘Dollar Whore’ are mandatory pain-inducing hymns for the modern age. The entire band seemed to be energized by the love for them in the room and played their asses off too.

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Earlier in the night I had seen Jimmy Bower outside of the club and and thanked him for my recent interview with him regarding Down. Back inside the tension was building to an unbearable level, although that could have been the beer and heat talking too. I had never seen this venue so filled up and body to body tight. There was a rare barricade tonight as well, as much for the band as it was there for the fans and you just knew what was coming. As the band hit the stage I again spied my man Bower, setting an entire six pack on his stack for drinking. I had to laugh! Mike IX Williams checked to see if the readiness was all, and then yowled into the microphone, “We’re EyeHateGod from New Orleans, Louisiana!” Just then an ear-drum wrecking wave of feedback came from the amps and just blew the top off this party. Even from my vantage point on the side of the stage it was perilously high volume. The impressive thing about the sound was it was loud without being too muddy, especially the guitars, which is a good thing. Mike dragged the mic stand around like a dead body while spitting his genius lyrics about pain, poverty, loneliness, and death at the crowd. If the band weren’t masters of all-mighty doom riffs, and were a coffee shop playing, acoustic jam band; I’d still come out to see Mike. He is one of the most compelling artists of the last 35 years, so whatever he is doing in your town, go see him whenever you can. True to form, it isn’t a Mike IX appearance in Boston without a “Where’s Seth? Is Seth here?” joke or two, in tribute to their late ally Seth Putnam (Anal Cunt).

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EyeHateGod plays with about as much musical telepathy as you would imaging a band around this long has. The interplay between the members on stage is not telegraphed, but there definitely seems to be a presence shared by them. Led by Bower, his playing dominates as he mans the corner of the stage, always jamming with a lot of passion. Aaron Hill, now filling the drum throne for the departed skin smasher Joey LaCaze, did a great job all night. He is definitely the perfect guy to carry on with. Meanwhile Brian Patton and Gary Mader just groove so perfectly together along with Bower, you have to take notice. Smashing through song after song, you wonder how these guys can stand the volume and the weight of the music. People all around me, losing their minds, to match the guys on stage doing the same. Newer songs like ‘Robitussin and Rejection’ fit in with classics like ‘Sisterfucker’, ‘Medicine Noose’, and ‘$30 Bag’ really well. By the end of the night Jimmy’s six pack was empty, the band looked drained, and everyone in attendance was spent. Thank you and goodnight!

 

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EyeHateGod Set List:

New Orleans Is the New Vietnam

Sisterfucker (Part I)

Sisterfucker (Part II)

Robitussin and Rejection

Medicine Noose

Agitation! Propaganda!

Methamphetamine

Parish Motel Sickness

Dixie Whiskey

$30 Bag

Kill Your Boss

 

EyeHateGod on Facebook

Ringworm on Facebook

Enabler on Facebook

Phantom Glue on Facebook

 

WORDS: KEITH (KEEFY) CHACHKES

PHOTOS: MEG LOYAL PHOTOGRAPHY

 

 

 

Tesseract – Intronaut – Cloudkicker – Aviations: Live at Brighton Music Hall, Allston MA

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Well another weekend and another show in Allston Rock City, as the denizens here have taken to calling it. Sure it has its share of faults like too many hipsters, huge rates, and a general nexus of drama that comes from being a hiccup from Boston and smack dab between two nicer neighborhoods. What Allston lacks in class, it has style up the rear end, and three of my favorite music venues within 7 blocks of each other. At Brighton Music Hall the band camp geek crowd of Boston was out to see some of prog/djent’s finest bands come to town.

 

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Local youngsters Aviations were first up tonight. I had heard a bit about them, but I wasn’t familiar with their music until now. They were really impressive, accomplished players doing their take on djent. They also had a huge crew of friends and fans there, as evident by how active they were singing along, moshing and in general, being hyped as if these guys were the headliners. It was infections because the rest of the crowd quickly caught on. As as band they are a lot of fun live, put on an energetic show and their singer Adam Benjamin even jumped into the pit to mosh a few times! They are opening up for Animals as Leaders soon, so big things are in store for them.

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A lot of folks in the house tonight were lured by the draw of Cloudkicker finally touring. Studio whiz Ben Sharp could finally strut his stuff, and with Intronaut as his backing band, it was going to be pretty exciting. They even had their own commemorative shirts that said Cloudtronaut… or was it IntroKicker? I can’t recall. Led by Sharp, the band cut through a string of flawless prog tunes such as ‘We’re Going In’, ‘You & Yours’, and ‘Dysphoria’. It was fairly amazeballs! Sharp’s guitar mastery is impeccable, as he pulled out a bevy of techniques. Techniques, mind you, not tricks. There is a difference. For their part, the Intronaut guys played great and helped bring these little masterpieces to life. Behind the band a video screen showed space satellite footage that added a little more juice to the scene. I for one hope this collaboration continues live, and perhaps even extending to the studio someday.

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Staying on stage with only a short break, Intronaut continues to remind me over and over why they are one of the preeminent heavy music bands of our time. At this point in their career they can go out on a lot of tours they want to take, or just tour by themselves if they want, but to hit the road on this kind of package says a lot about them. Tonight they were doing a shorter set, on top of double duty. Opening with ‘Killing Birds with Stones’ was great, and such a good indicator of where the band is headed. Each of the players in this band is stellar, but none more so than Danny Walker on the drums. The guy is a machine on the kit, but plays with a lot of passion too. The vocals of Sacha Dunable and Dave Timnick always get me right in the guts too. Tracks like ‘Venom’ and set closer ‘The Way Down’ just stay with you long after the final notes disappear. Typical of Boston area shows, some people left after Intronaut and didn’t stay to the end of the show, possibly because their girlfriends were bored or something.

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Tesseract took quite a while to go on, but everyone in the room was amped to see them. A rumor had gotten around the club before long that singer Ashe O’Hara was sick, and could not sing tonight. When the band hit the stage, there were still a lot of perplexed faces in the crowd as the band appeared to be down to a three-piece with no singer. The band played great and the crowd none the wiser enjoyed a few songs before Amos Williams addressed the crowd, confirming that doctors advised Ashe not to sing. However, the band planned to play their full set without him, apologized profusely over it. They ran through a mix of songs from their catalog, with the audience singing back at the singer-less band. It was actually awesome and a testament to the fan base of this band. From what I could tell, some people left early, disappointed. But those who stayed were rewarded for their patience, and the band played their asses off. It was one of the most mature and professional things I have seen in a long time, just how hard the band played and how humble they were the entire time. The situation was far from ideal, but isn’t that what live music is all about? Especially in a scene where everyone plays along to backing tracks and the like, it was great to see these guys were so unflappable. A special treat for the crowd was the closing number of the night ‘Concealing Fate: Part I Acceptance’ which was played to a lot of oohs and ahhs for those remaining in the room. Afterward the band went into the crowd for a long time, signing merch and taking pictures.

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TesseracT Set List:

Of Mind – Exile

Concealing Fate, Part 2: Deception

Concealing Fate, Part 3: The Impossible

April

Of Energy – Singularity

Of Mind – Nocturne
Encore:

Concealing Fate, Part 1: Acceptance

TesseracT on Facebook

Intronaut on Facebook

Cloudkicker on Facebook

Aviations on Facebook

 

Words: Keith (Keefy) Chachkes

Photos: Echoes In The Well