Saturday, May 26, 2007

Suburban Voice blog #39

… a nice long blog here, making up for the three week gap. Let’s get to it…


This is a not-so-clever way of tying together reviews of three recent shows I attended. Actually, there was full nudity at one and partial nudity at another. I remember years ago, when interviewing MDC, Dave Dictor referred to Woodstock and how it was about “everyone get their ya-yas out, taking their shirt off, let’s go ball in the woods.” There weren’t any woods, not any ballin’ but shirts came off at all three.

The show with In Defence happened in a basement in Allston and they played with Disaster Strikes and Rabia. There was one other band who opened up but I didn’t catch their name and their punk tunes were on the mediocre side. Rabia are a ferocious punk band from NYC who brought it with energy and aggression the whole set. In Defence were up next. They’re setting up their gear and I’m waiting for their vocalist Ben Crew to appear. Oh man did he appear. Ben wasn’t wearing one stitch of clothing. Completely nekkid. And he didn’t just stand around, either. He charged around the room like a maniac. Good ripping hardcore mainly at a fast clip although the mid-tempo “Boom Box Crew,” a newer song with thrashy bursts, got a nice circle pit going. Somewhere along the way, Ben cut his foot on some glass or a can and had to be fixed up by a nice woman who knew first aid. By then, he’d finally put something on. I can do all the describing I want but here’s a picture to show what you missed:

I hadn’t seen Disaster Strikes for a few years and they made a power-packed showing. I don’t think their recordings capture the live thing at all. Jeff’s also an in-your-face frontman but he did keep most of his clothes on. Actually, I think he shed his shirt by set's end.

Next, from the basement to the arena for Heaven and Hell, Megadeth and Machine Head at the Tsongas Arena up in Lowell. I don’t think I’ve been to a show of this sort since the Ozzfest in 1999 and that was with the Ozzy-fronted version of Sabbath. Heaven and Hell are the Ronnie James Dio version, with Dio joined by Geezer Butler, Tony Iommi and Vinny Appice. They have to use that name because Sharon Osbourne owns the rights to the Sabbath name.

In any case, I knew we were at the right place because of the sight of long-haired metal dudes, some young, a lot of ‘em old and let’s say quite a few of the guys were on the paunchy side and their vintage Sab shirts didn’t always fit them too well. Actually, it was a mixed audience that included plenty of old-timers. It didn’t seem particularly rowdy compared to the arena shows I used to attend in the 80s and 90s. The security check wasn’t quite as bad as at clubs like Axis, although people weren’t even allowed to bring in lighters. I mean, what about holding up lighters during the ballads? Isn’t there any respect for rock ‘n roll tradition anymore? Sure, you can hold up your cellphone but it’s just not the same. At least a few managed to get certain things past security and we’ll get to that.

Machine Head opened the show before a fairly small audience. The sound was absolutely abysmal—it did improve later in the show. Some of the guys have Bay Area thrash roots with the band Vio-lence and that shows up a little bit in their sound although it’s kind of subsumed by nu-metal and rhythmic impulses. The band have been around 15 years at this point, through various permutations and the musical hodgepodge is semi-successful, better when the older influences drive the songs. One interesting item of note is that Robb Flynn dedicated a song to Dimebag Darrell, stating that a right wing blog had called him talentless and his death was “good riddance.” I was expecting him to turn it around and criticize the recently-departed Jerry Falwell’s life as a hate-filled preacher being worthy of the same kind of scorn. I suppose I was asking for too much there.

Around this time, a very foul-smelling, rather large gentleman (probably in the neighborhood of 300 lbs), accompanied by his wife/girlfriend/significant other showed up and sat down a few seats away. It wasn’t far enough. Shortly after, he sparked up a joint and very generously offered us a hit, which I politely declined. Nice of him to offer, though. He and the lady kept getting up and coming back. Whatever they were doing, he must have been pretty stoned because. later in the evening, the guy had shed his shirt. Ellen tapped me on the shoulder and told me to look behind me and that’s an image I may not be able to shake off for awhile.

Megadeth were up next and rocked pretty well. They played the “hits” including “Hangar 18,” “Holy Wars," "Wake Up Dead” and, of course, “Peace Sells,” along with a lot of songs I wasn’t as familiar with, probably due to the fact my Megadeth collection ends with 1990’s “Rust In Peace.” I guess it’s an all-new lineup. In any case, hair was flying all over the place and Mustaine looked to be in good shape and their 40 minute set was entertaining. Total metal.

Then it was time for Sabbath, er Heaven, er... fuck it… Sabbath. Ronnie James Dio is 64 years old, may not be able to hit the high notes quite as much as he used to but there is little diminishment in his pipes or energy level. This was showmanship, complete with lighting effects, some explosions, the silly, obligatory drum solo and a too-long version of “Heaven and Hell.” Still, these guys have style. I’ve always like Tony Iommi’s stage presence. He doesn’t do the big rock showman moves—no windmills, no crashing down on the strings, just blasting out the powerchords and leads with class and panache. On the other hand, Dio does every clichéd rock move in the book—pointing the fingers, showing the devil sign, twirling the mike stand when he picks it up. And I’m a sucker for it. Naturally, the set came from their three albums together, plus a couple of new ones that lumbered along with crushing riffage. Not even the sight of the obese, shirtless guy could ruin the night. In fact, it probably made it more memorable, for better or worse.

Finally, a few nights later, it was back to the sweaty, stifling Cambridge Elks for a 7 band show—of which I caught four of ‘em. So hot that people were taking off their shirts here, as well. It's a trend! As for the bands, Strong Intention seem to have veered towards more of a straight-forward thrash style, albeit not completely abandoning the grind elements. Probably the best I’ve seen them play. Phobia were next and their drummer is unbelievable. One local drummer was looking on in complete awe by this guy’s lightning-quick technique and he made it look easy. Tight and grinding, with plenty of audience interaction. Speaking of interaction and craziness for that matter, it was non-stop for Toxic Narcotic’s first local show in over a year. From the moment they started playing, the audience went nuts and it didn’t let up for their whole set. It seems as though TN were the band most people were there to see, because the place cleared out significantly after they played.


As for ENT, their two vocalists weren’t able to get through immigration by the time the show happened, so it was just the four musicians and one of the guitarists doing the vocals. It was adequately raging but they only played 15-20 minutes and one could argue we were watching an ENT covers band. Oh well.


BLÜDWÜLF-Cryptic Revelations (Charged, CD)
Do I have the umlauts correctly positioned? That should indicate that you’re about to encounter something metallic and that’s the case with this Rochester, NY band on their first album. Lord Reverend Jimmi Sinn (or James, if you want to be less formal) has a lower-register snarl, along with the occasional demonic tonsil expulsion. There’s a pronounced NWOBHM influence and it’s often fused to speedier impulses and they also rock out on occasion (“Hell Razor”). The presentation is cartoonish over the top and probably more than slightly tongue in cheek. A whole lot of fun you can pump your fist to. (PO Box 3118, Jersey City, NJ 07303-3118,

BURIAL-Hungry Wolves (HG Fact, CD)
Not a new Burial release but a CD anthology of their two 7”s, a comp track and a pair of unreleased songs recorded at the same time as their album “Never Give Up… Never Give In.” A German band but these guys have a punishing Japanese hardcore influence. Whatever you want to call it, Burial bring it with a non-stop charge of battering-ram drumming (including a tiny bit of cowbell on the title track), blazing guitars and harsh vocals. They do slow it down a tad for “The Incurable Fever” and it’s a first class fist-pumper. The rest will get the heart, legs and other body parts pumping, as well. (

CHARGE-Who’s In Control?! (Reaper, CD)
The first song is called “Souled Out Souls” and Charge, a four piece from New Jersey, play what I guess could be called soul core. That’s not really meant as a compliment. In the early 90s, they would have been playing on a show with 24-7 Spyz or whatever incarnation of the Bad Brains were around at the time—and if it was the Chuck Mosley lineup, you’re fortunate you didn’t see it. Hard rock with a groove/rhythmic element and played with precision. Just not that interesting. (PO Box 2935, Liverpool, NY 13089,

CLOROX GIRLS-J’aime Les Filles (BYO, CD)
The skinny ties have been broken out, the Clorox Girls are back. Well, one long-time Girl, that is. Guitarist/vocalist Justin Maurer is the sole original member but the emphasis remains power-pop/punk. While there are some good songs here, more than enough to get by, the burn and buzz from the first two albums is somewhat absent.. Make that largely absent. The songs are still sprightly and catchy but the guitars aren’t nearly as loud and that’s what’s needed. They’ve always been a better live band anyway, so perhaps these songs will translate better but this album is something of a letdown. (PO Box 67609, LA, CA 90067,

CONQUEST FOR DEATH-Front Row Tickets To Armageddon (Wajlemac, CD)
CFD have added a second guitarist since their first EP and it beefs up their sound. Perhaps I missed it before, but I hear some Bay Area thrash crossover on occasion, especially for “Night Crew” and the tight track, complete with gang vocals. Various tempos, all of it executed with precision and power and each instrument stands out—rumbling bass-lines, searing, wank-free guitar leads and solid drumming holding it all together. There’s certainly a reverence for older hardcore but it’s just part of the equation, not the whole deal. I can even get past the semi-pretentiousness of some of the titles—I mean, “Within The Whitewashed Walls Of The Sepulchral City”? I suppose it spurns thought while the songs are bashing your brains in. Extra credit for the more straightforward sentiments “Circle Pits, Not Prayer Circles.” (PO Box 8039, Emeryville, CA 94662,

GERIATRIC UNIT-Nuclear Accidents EP (Plastic Bomb, 12”)
First, there’s the name of the band and, on the insert, it says “Old-Fast-Loud,” so I don’t have to make any jokes myself. They did the work for me. There are people from Heresy in this band and they’re doing what they know best—making a hard ‘n fast thrash ruckus. Vocalist Gords has the appropriate rage in his voice and “Waste-Line” is a declaration: “OK, we’re old but still here… we’re still angry like you/pissed forever, running through.” This speaks volumes to yours truly and it sure ain’t a pose. Trust me on that one. These guys have the aches ‘n pains, the insomnia, the depression and this is an explosive, effective way to express all of it. (

MOUTH SEWN SHUT-Doomed Future Today (Rodent Popsicle, CD)
Another cheery missive from Mouth Sewn Shut who, in case you forgot, include Bill and Will from Toxic Narcotic. More reggae this time, albeit raw and rocked-up. Little dub, no horns, not even a cute little ska beat. Meanwhile, the faster, hardcore songs aren’t that different from TN and the album starts with the explosive “When Is It Going To End.” The commonality between both bands, of course, is the fatalistic world view. I hope that the powers-that-be don’t read the lyrics to “Ass Ass In 8” (say it fast) with its exhortation “Pull the trigger before it’s too late.” I like the sentiments of “We’re All Immigrants,” which states the truthful fact that the only ones who aren’t illegal immigrants are the Native Americans and takes a shot at the xenophobes who love to toss around terms like “illegal alien” and want to build electrified fences along the border, etc. I’ll admit I’m more enamored with the non-reggae songs but this is hard-hitter. (PO Box 1143, Allston, MA 02134,

Not really country but these two guys do dish out some 50s inspired rootsy rock ‘n roll and, after all, rock ‘n roll was the bastard offspring of country and rhythm. Just guitar and drums and Patrick’s emotional vocals. Emotional in a bad-ass way, not some pimple-faced pining. There are some flat-out rockers here—“Sittin’ At Club 21” and “Don’t Blame Me,” with some nifty whistling but there’s murder on the mind—it’s the old you ain’t mine/you ain’t livin’ theme. This’ll get your rump shakin’ nicely. (PO Box 12301, Portland, OR 97212,

RUIDO-s/t (Know, LP)
Ruido’s early material, from the late ‘90s. Raw thrash, with Gen’s low-register growls, joined by a second vocalist and they definitely drew on Extreme Noise Terror and the like. A bug up their ass about religion with “Church and State,” “Hate You God” and their cover of the Fartz’ “Bible Stories.” Their cover of 7 Seconds’ “Fuck Your America” is well executed, as well. There are a couple of noisy, annoying transitions and spotty sound at times but most of this is good ‘n throttling. (PO Box 90579, Long Beach, CA 90809,

SEVERED HEAD OF STATE-Power Hazard EP (Havoc, 12”)
An improvement over their last album, the uneven “Anathema Device.” This 8 song EP seems a little more focused and the production is punchier, for want of a better term. The opening drumbeat provides a brief thought that they’re going to break into a cover of Priest’s “Hell Bent For Leather,” but then the Scandi-core speedroar comes in. A familiar sound but they do it very well. The melodic intro for “A Sacrament Of The Sick” is a cool touch, as well. With the lyrics, along with the lamentations about the endless cycle of war’s destructiveness and the hopelessness of any resolution, there are also a couple of songs dealing with mortality. SHOS’ vocalist Jack Control was stabbed nearly to death in early ’06 and “Deaths Marionnette” and “Adversity” seem to be about that. “Deaths Marionette” states “Flirting with death... death laughs/Begging for death… death just laughs.” It sounds as though he’s laughing back at death with “Adversity” That song starts with the exhortation “They have already written my eulogy though I am still standing and I still breathe/No fear inside and no end in sight/ I am not even close to that endless night,” concluding “The shadow of death follows me and I don’t give a fuck.” The latter comes across as an exclamation of triumph. That’s enough analysis. A powerful musical and lyrical statement. (PO Box 8585, Minneapolis, MN 55408,

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