Of the more-than-several local shows I’ve been to since moving to New England now more than a year ago, this one had probably the strongest front-to-back bill. It was Elder‘s return gig to US soil. They and Rozamov and Summoner would head south the next day to appear Brooklyn’s Uninvited festival, and partnered with Worcester four-piece SET, it was night at the Middle East‘s upstairs room that highlighted some of the best Boston’s next-gen has to offer. Phrases like “all killer, no filler” were invented for evenings such as these.
To put a personal spin on it, I’ll say as well that it was a cap for me for my first year of living here. 13 months ago, I attended Elder‘s farewell at the Great Scott prior to their going on hiatus (Rozamov played that as well). I had lived in the area for barely two weeks, it was my first show in town as a resident. I was confused and uncomfortable in more than just that I’m-out-of-the-house kind of way. I’m not sure I’d have found the Middle East without the Maps on my phone, but at least when I got to Cambridge, I knew what to expect and where I might find parking. A work in progress, yes, but little things make a difference.
SET opened, and went on a couple minutes after 8:30, kicking off in raucous form. I wasn’t the only one who knew to show up early — upstairs at the Middle East isn’t a huge room, but it’s big enough that if you weren’t going to draw, it would look empty — and SET pulled a decent crowd. It was my third time seeing them behind shows at the Dragon’s Den (review here) and the Stoned Goat fest in Worcester (review here) and I was pleased to be more familiar with songs like “Valley of the Stone” and “Wolves behind the Sheep,” the balance of thrash and heavy rock within which threw down a heavy gauntlet for the other three bands to pick up. If they played it, I didn’t catch “Sacred Moon Cult,” the closer from their spring 2013 Valley of the Stone outing, but seeming to decide to do so off the cuff, they finished out with a convincing take on Pentagram‘s classic “Forever My Queen,” giving double-guitar thrust to the rawness of the original’s riffing.
In addition to being a strong bill, it was also fairly diverse within a heavy scope. That became apparent as Summoner, who played next, made ready to take the stage with both a sound and a character far disparate from that of SET, trading out that’s band’s harsher edge and grittier presence for smoother, more progressive heaviness. What the two bands had in common was a clear thread of tonal heft — Rozamov and Elder followed suit in that regard as well — but Summoner‘s influences, more in the Mastodon/Baroness vein, were spaced out wide enough from the preceding act that they were immediately distinguished. This was also the first I’d seen them since the release of their second album, 2013’s Atlantian, on Magnetic Eye Records, and while I knew from prior experience they delivered live, it was interesting to see them do so as a more mature, established outfit than they were late in 2012 when I caught them in New York.
They pummeled and stomped and dug themselves into their material neatly, clearly enjoying the process as well, guitarists AJ Peters and Joe Richner tilting their heads back across various leads and riffs while vocalist/bassist Chris Johnson kept a consistent, sincere smile across his face no matter how hard he also happened to be slamming the song at the time, and behind, drummer Scott Smith propelled their neo-metallic stomp. Much of what they played came from their 2012 debut, Phoenix, but “Horns of War” represented Atlantian well and “The Interloper” and “Winged Hessians” seemed to rouse no complaints from the increasingly full room there to watch them. When Rozamov went on, the trio would be a turn back toward darker, rawer vibes, but a propensity for big tones remained firm. I stood in front of bassist Tom Corino and could just about have swam through the density oozing out of the speaker cabinet.
It was a bit much, apparently, since part-way through the Rozamov set the bass cut out, leaving drummer Will Hendrix and guitarist/vocalist Matt Iacovelli to fill the time while the problem was discovered, analyzed and ultimately remedied. Blown tube. It didn’t take long, but Rozamov‘s dark, thickened-thrash had built a good head of steam by then and they essentially had to put their momentum back together from scratch. To their credit, they did. By the end of their set, which was a little longer than SET or Summoner‘s had been, it was easy to forget there had been an interruption at all. Much of their material seemed newer than 2013’s Of Gods and Flesh EP, and I’m not sure what they might have in the works, but I think the only Boston band I’ve seen more in the last year is Gozu, and I’ve yet to emerge from a Rozamov set less than impressed.
And Elder. Well, Elder are world-class at this point. They hadn’t played in the States since that farewell show last August, but they did a run of European gigs and their third album is reportedly in the can headed for a 2015 release. One might expect a band in their circumstance to be a little rusty — guitarist/vocalist Nick DiSalvo, bassist Jack Donovan and drummer Matt Couto all live in different states as well — but there wasn’t anything I could’ve asked from Elder‘s set it didn’t deliver, including a glimpse at their new stuff. The song “Compendium” from the new record was the only new one aired, the rest of what they played drawn from 2012’s stellar Spires Burn/Release EP (review here) and 2011’s Dead Roots Stirring (review here), but it offered a sense of progression nonetheless, a forward motion in its central riff acting as a kind of launch point from which the trio boomeranged, pushing as far as they could before snapping back to the initial movement in the manner that has become as much a part of their style as Donovan‘s head-spinning bass fills or Couto‘s unmitigated swing.
To that, I’ll just note that, including this show, I’ve seen Couto play drums in three different bands/iterations in the last month — with Kind in Worcester, with Darryl Shepard‘s Blackwolfgoat in Allston, and here — and while those were a formative act and a sit-in jam, I think it’s still worth pointing out that with Elder, it was a different level of performance entirely. Locked in with Donovan and DiSalvo, he seemed decidedly in his element, and that goes for the other two members of Elder as well, the three of them air-tight on the expansive “Release” and Dead Roots Stirring‘s “Knot,” which rounded out the album and this set alike. It seemed we might get an encore, but I think venue curfew was a factor — it was getting on midnight, and it’s not like it was a Tuesday or anything — and the house lights came up in the universal sign of get-the-hell-out. I’d wanted to pick up a copy of Elder‘s Live at Roadburn, since I hear one or two of my photos is included, but it was packed over there and I had writing to do, so I split into the fall air to start the not-inconsiderable hike back to my car and home.
More pics after the jump. Thanks for reading.