Hard to remember which came first, the idea of the weekend getaway with The Patient Mrs. or the idea to drive up to Boston and see Gozu, Infernal Overdrive and the Darryl Shepard-fronted incarnation of Black Pyramid play at Radio in Somerville. The place, reportedly new, looked it, with good lighting and hardwood floors, a brick wall behind the door and Palm beer — who were sponsoring the night somehow, some way (I wish they’d sponsor my life, or at very least this site) — on tap and ready to go. So was I.
Because, you see, the three-beer rule was even more out the window than it had been at Windhand a couple nights earlier. After a quick stop at Armageddon Shop (same store as in Providence, but different locale), I’d begun a long process down downing draught Chimay Blanc, and, well, it’s made by monks. That should pretty much say it all. By the time I walked into Radio following some food and further imbibing at Redbones BBQ with the internet’s own Arzgarth, I was well on my way to a few things, and drunk was one of them.
Fortunately I conducted myself with the usual amount of class and social finesse (ha) and set to work almost immediately on arrival trying to snap some pictures of Lunglust, who were already on stage when I got there. A double-guitar fivesome with standalone vocals, they were an easy pick for being a Boston band — the way Jeff Sykes cups his mic is as much a tradition in New England as hating the Yankees, never mind their two-words-put-together moniker — but their heavy, semi-hardcore approach was tempered with an awareness of doomed groove, and with as much rock as the rest of the night promised, they brought diversity to a bill long on riffs but not necessarily fueled by aggression.
Heavy is heavy, and they were most certainly that. A decent break to change over the gear on stage helped make the transition less awkward for Infernal Overdrive, whose showtime charm is only getting more prevalent the more comfortable they get with their material. It was the CD release show for Last Rays of the Dying Sun (review here), and the band seemed to be in good spirits, whether it was guitarist/vocalist Marc Schleicher raising his rock and roll preacher’s arm up before they even got going or his brother, bassist Keith Schleicher, trying to give me his Shiner Beer t-shirt after I made fun of him for wearing it all the time when I posted their video.
Schleicher kept his shirt — a favorite shirt is hard to find; I couldn’t take it — and showed off his new Captain America-logo bass as Infernal Overdrive got going. The room was ready for the party they brought, but though the times they foster are invariably good, they’ve grown immensely since their demo, and each successive show proves it further. Lead guitarist Rich Miele, who might have been the only dude in the room with a tie, tore through leads as well as he classed up the joint amid a squelch of beardos (the official beardo grouping classification as of right now), grounding the overall chicanery left to the capable hands of drummer Mike Bennett, who made sure that nobody got out of line.
No easy task when Marc‘s put his guitar down for a little off-stage stoner rock softshoe, but Bennett‘s a pro by now and the solo in “Electric Street Cred” was short compared to other times I’ve seen it. Some of Infernal Overdrive‘s best stuff — “The Edge,” “I-95″ and so on — was that which brought Keith and Miele in on backing vocals, and that bodes well for their next outing, but that was far from my mind when they closed out with “Duel.” Just right for the occasion, it might win the hard battle for catchiest track on Last Days of the Dying Sun, and was involved in another fight, this one with Black Pyramid‘s “Mercy’s Bane” for being most stuck in my head after the show.
And really, it was the whole bill that made me make the trip, but Black Pyramid had an added element of intrigue thanks to it being among the first of their shows to feature new guitarist/vocalist Darryl Shepard. The ex-Hackman and Milligram guitarist — who also put out the album Dronolith from his one-man drone project Blackwolfgoat through The Maple Forum last year and has vinyl of the same album on the way courtesy of Bilocation Records — has been in all my dealings with him and is by all other accounts I’ve heard an exceptionally good guy. Being a fan of his and a fan of the band’s work since the days leading up to the release of their self-titled MeteorCity debut in 2009, four hours in the car seemed a small price to pay, even if I’d be catching them at London Desertfest in April as well.
They did not — seemingly could not — disappoint. The familiar components of be-chapeaued bassist Gein and drummer Clay Neely (interview here) seemed at ease and right at home with Shepard on guitar, and the air was more of excitement than of tension, both on their part and the crowd’s. Older material sounded fresh and from “Mercy’s Bane,” which led off their set to “No Life King,” which closed it, the trio excelled. Shepard came in as a replacement for Andy Beresky, who left after the recording of Black Pyramid‘s recently-released II, and more than filled the shoes vacated. His adaptations of Beresky‘s solos were spot on, and of all the songs they played (the set list is after the jump), the one that sounded the best was “Aphelion,” the first of hopefully many to come from the Shepard/Gein/Neely lineup.
That’s probably to be expected, that the players playing would sound most fluid on the song they wrote, but the cut, which comes from a Transubstans Records split 7″ with Swedish doomers Odyssey, also fit well with Black Pyramid‘s older material, and Shepard‘s vocals were neither trying to match Beresky‘s idiosyncratic phrasing nor purposefully be different. It was a natural shift taking place, and one I was glad to be there to see. Heads banged, claws were thrown, and when they were done, it was like we’d all come through something together and survived. Maybe that was the beer. Whatever. Doom above all.
Ultimately, it was Gozu‘s night. Boston natives, they’d helmed a plundering of Radio the evening before with Motherboar and Livver, among others, and remembering the current of melody at work along with their heavy riffs and upbeat pacing that played out at the Small Stone showcase in Philly back in September of last year, especially in the vocals of guitarist Marc Gaffney, I was excited to hear them on their home turf. Propelled by drummer Barry Spillberg‘s near-frenetic pacing and thickened by Paul Dallaire‘s bass, Gaffney and Doug Sherman‘s guitars were given proper treatment and respect in the mix and the material from their 2011 debut, Locust Season, sounded tight and crisp and engaging.
For a finishing move, they picked Locust Season highlight “Meth Cowboy,” and it was a great way to round out the night, Sherman adding backing vocals to Gaffney‘s even as the riffing toward the end gave new meaning to “post-hardcore.” That record seemed to be well regarded, but I get the feeling Gozu will have more to say stylistically next time around, and I look forward to it. Dallaire adds a lot of character to the lineup, and Sherman and Gaffney work well together and with Spillberg‘s drumming. They’re a better band than people know.
Was it a cab at the end of the night? Yeah, it was. One of several in which I heard processed electronic pop soap operas playing out “mixed live,” as though such a thing could exist on commercial broadcast media. By “mixed live,” I’ll assume you meant “pressed play.” Next to what I’d just seen those four bands lay down, which was created live, there was no comparison… not that I’d have been sober enough to make one anyway.
Because it was Boston after all, someone leaned out of their car to call me “faggitt” as I and The Patient Mrs. walked back to the hotel from making a 7-Eleven stop — not the first time that evening I’d heard the word used; two dudebros at the bar before the show were throwing out hatespeech with the blissful abandon of ignorance even as they groped each other at a level that I’d probably be uncomfortable if it was my wife doing it to me in a public setting — and someone in an Escalade as well seemed to want to start a fight. Sweet, sweet regionalism.
Little did any of the bastards know my victory had already been earned well before they came along to flare their jackets and pretend to pose a challenge. Some nights you win outright.
Extra pics after the jump.
GozuBlack Pyramid, Boston, Gozu, Infernal Overdrive, Lunglust