Sunday, May 10, 2015

Concert Review - Shell Fest 2015 - Vitality, Aether Realm, Condemn the Infected, Frostclad - 5/9/15 at Nyumburu Cultural Center, University of MD, College Park, MD

So, this is my first review in months! I have actually been to a few shows in the meantime, but didn't review them for various reasons. Alestorm, Swashbuckle and Sekengard on January 29, but that was the night before my family's dog was to be put down, so I was in no mood to enjoy the show, much less review it. Sekengard and Isenmor the following Monday, February 2, which I started to review but never finished writing; I was still kind of out of it. And then later in February, I saw my girlfriend's band, but I can't review them if I wish to be taken seriously. I'm still trying to live down the review I wrote before she and I started dating, heh.

And then somehow a few months went by without me going to any concerts at all. Oh, I was supposed to see Kamelot and DragonForce on April 27, and wanted to see Apocalyptica on April 29, but I couldn't get away for either one. And then the Baltimore Uprising happened and that Kamelot show was canceled/ rescheduled anyway. I'm going to see them when they come around again in the fall. And I was going to go to Empire's Last Show Ever featuring A Sound of Thunder, Yesterday's Saints and Iris Divine (and some headlining band I'd never heard of) but again, couldn't get away.

So it'd been about two months since I'd even been to a concert. May was originally shaping up to be crazy with concerts, but Empire's closing wiped out several of those, and prioritizing my life removed a few others, so now the only things remaining on my calendar are NIGHTWISH, MARYLAND DEATHFEST and a folk metal show. Yes, those things are supposed to be shouted. No, I don't give a fuck if you hate me for liking COB Nightwish - they're the band that got me started on metal.

So anyway - to ease myself back into the metal life and the metal writing, a fun and free show at the University of Maryland - the UMD Metal Club's annual Shell Fest, this year featuring Vitality, Aether Realm, Condemn the Infected and Frostclad. Aether Realm is one my of favorite "local" bands - as a band from a few states away who hasn't quite hit it big yet. They're folky melodeath, or melodeath style folk/Viking metal, or something, in the vein of Ensiferum, with tones of Amon Amarth and Children of Bodom at times too. They were supposed to play at the Finntroll show at Empire in November 2013 but couldn't make it; before that, the last time (and also the first time, I think?) that I saw them was opening for Turisas that spring. So it'd been a while and more than anything else about this show, I was looking forward to seeing them again. I also recalled liking Vitality, so I figured at least half the show should be good.

Unfortunately, everything took way too long on Saturday, including finding the visitor parking on the UMD campus, and so my friend B. and I got there well after the first band, the UM Metal Club's black metal band Frostclad, finished playing. In fact, the second band, Condemn the Infected, was already playing when we got there. As soon as we stumbled upon the well-hidden Nyumburu Cultural Center, our discovery was confirmed by the sound blasting out the open doors. I immediately bumped into my buddy M and spent the rest of Condemn the Infected's set standing around in the lobby chatting with him. I had meant to watch at least a little of their set, but catching up with a friend I hadn't seen in a long time was more fun. (Sorry, folks, it seems I'm getting old and lazy..)

Speaking of people I hadn't seen in a while, Vincent of Aether Realm actually recognized me and said hi. When they were getting ready to play is when M. and B. and I finally abandoned our barricade of the water fountain and went into the room where the bands were playing. It was like a large, high-ceilinged classroom, with a hard tiled floor and a low stage at the far end. There were about forty people on the floor for the two bands I watched, loosely filling the front half of the room, a nice turnout for a hard-to-find venue on a night when two other local shows were happening. The sound was actually pretty good, too; no complaints there.

After numerous false starts/ sound checks, and jokes about being done and leaving the stage, Aether Realm finally got started. The first two songs  ("The Magician" and "One Chosen By The Gods") sounded all right, but I thought they really hit their stride with their third song, "Swamp Witch," and the fourth song, their new single "The Chariot," sounded exceedingly good and tight. Epic riffs warred with tremolo black metal guitars, and the vocals reminded at times of Alestorm and at times of Alexi Laiho. They like to joke around and act silly saying things like, "This a song," but once they actually start playing you can tell they take the music seriously, at least. Surprisingly they only played five songs, when it had seemed like Condemn the Infected played for an hour. It was fun though - there was a strong pit, ten to fifteen people, for almost every song, as well as some headbanging lines that stretched almost across the whole floor.

Last band of the night was Vitality from Frederick, MD. I had seen them a year and a half ago at Cafe 611 opening for Arkona. Perhaps the sound there was poor, for this time they were much more brutal and less melodic than I remembered. There were more battering drums and hammering guitars than I recalled, and the vocals were that sort of low roar that sounds almost wordless, it's so incomprehensible. They did have some groovy parts, which were fun. Also, I kept getting distracted by how closely their guitarist Chris resembles by friend S. Chris is taller with longer hair and able to play guitar, but his face, facial hair and hair type are so much like S, and the expressions he makes while playing guitar are spot on like S's expressions (when not playing guitar), that I couldn't help giggling whenever I saw his face (which wasn't often as there was usually a curtain of hair in front of it). I talked to him after their set (and up close, sporting a man bun and with a distinct voice, he's not so reminiscent of S) and it turns out he actually knows S! Go figure, haha.

Being that it was a college campus, the show was over around 10:30, but we hung out till about 11, chatting and pestering Aether Realm about merch. Between meeting up with friends, seeing the long-lost Aether Realm, and hanging out in a chill metal atmosphere, it was a really fun night.