First up was Worcester's Sarcomancy, playing a quick three-song set of Immortalesque black metal. This band was no frills: just three dudes in jeans and t-shirts playing fast, somewhat by the books songs, but doing it well.
Next, Boston's Nachzehrer played the best set of the evening. Ripping through their songs, the black-thrash four piece was loud, intense, technically impressive, violent, and completely devoid of theatrics. No corpse paint, no candles for ambiance, no props, just a band whipping through their set with precision, sans bullshit. I really hope these guys start doing more shows, and with a split release due out soon, I think they will.
Providence-based Bog of the Infidel came on third for an intense set that oscillated between fast and mid-tempo blackened doom, at moments sounding epic and massive. Unlike the preceding bands, Bog had a few trappings of black metal silliness: synchronized windmilling, leather arm bands and towards the end of their set, the singer, a hirsute, hulk of a guy, picked up a cow skull and thrust it at the audience. They were a bit goofy, but I like that sometimes.
After a lengthy 45-minute setup and soundcheck, Kommandant took the stage wearing gas masks and matching, pseudo-military outfits. The singer looked like The Mouth of Sauron from Lord of the Rings, wearing a hood that covered everything but his mouth. I balked immediately at the band's gimmickry.
Theatrical to the point of absurdity, Kommandant's grandiosity and histrionics were laughable, especially given Great Scott's size. The singer, perched atop his podium (yep, he brought a podium), flailed about while the band stood almost motionless behind him, chugging their way through middling blackened death metal riffs, while the mechanized sounding drums blurred into a general din. I was bored and counting the minutes until their set ended. The crowd seemed to like them though, so maybe I'm the asshole.
Five bands is too many for any show, so by the time Horna took the stage I was worn-out and everyone else was seemingly drunk. Horna remains fairly obscure, and I knew very little about them prior to their set. I was expecting a one-dimensional band playing the same tremolo riffs and blast beats that came out of Norway in 1993. But, for a band that cut their teeth in the prime of the second wave of black metal, Horna was surprisingly expansive, seamlessly incorporating standard black metal with thrash and black 'n' roll. The crowd was as excited as any I've been in. The circle pit only stopped between songs, I had a beer thrown on me and one guy even tried crowd surfing, with dismal results.
Visually, Horna represented the perfect level of black metal aesthetic: everyone was covered in corpse paint and the singer, wearing a black, hooded robe, waved a pentagram medallion at the crowd for the entirety of the set. Goofy? Yes, but not laughable or absurd as Kommandant was. Best of all, I could tell that these guys loved being on stage and were having a great time. They ended the night to a sea of horns and chants for “one more song.”
Photo Credit: Robert Dornenburg