On Saturday, November 8th, Hel Toro hosted their CD release show at the Middle East Upstairs. The New Harmless is Hel Toro’s third LP, and it marks a deviation from their typical hardcore sound. Where their older recordings were primarily aggressive hardcore with few melodies, The New Harmless marks a departure from strictly hardcore to a flirtation with guitar parts marked by indie-riffs.
I arrived at the show on a night of rather dismal weather, but the wetness did not deter an impressive turnout. People littered the sidewalk in front of the Middle East in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Cigarette smoke was plenty as people chatted anxiously awaiting the upcoming performances.
As I made my way inside, the sound of a heavily distorted guitar and a battered drum set filled my soon to be deafened eardrums. Fat History Month is a band that would be most readily described as a two-piece experimental noise band. The band took an different approach by not playing on the stage, but instead they set up in front of the stage, on the ground with the rest of the crowd. The vocals were a bit mottled, so it was hard to fully appreciate the performance; however, it was a good warm up to a hardcore show.
Next was Daniel Striped Tiger, a band that seemed to have a small cult following, or some really dedicated friends. As they took the stage, I could not help but notice a number of excited (and somewhat intoxicated) shouts coming from a small group directly in front of the stage. The band looked somewhat flustered and I was interested to see how that appearance would translate into the usually aggressive behavior of the stereotypical hardcore band.
As soon as the music began, I could tell the band had transformed from a timid caterpillar into a rabid pitbull. Their fingers skinned the necks of the guitars, sliding up and down the guitar in aggressive power chords. The most entertaining part of the show was a failed attempt to start a pit.
One of the rather eager fans (complete with flat-brimmer and obscenely large plugs) tried very unsuccessfully to start up the quintessential hardcore pit, but with only one other member in the brotherhood of mosh, the movement failed miserably. I am not opposed to getting involved in the pit, but at the moment I had my camera in my hands and I was not willing to risk damaging that over-priced piece of plastic.
[caption id=”attachment_1107” align=”alignleft” width=”400” caption=”Hel Toro”][/caption]Next was the headlining act: Hel Toro. I had heard Hel Toro’s music before and I had heard some pretty impressive reviews of their shows from friends, but I never had the fortune of being present at a live show until that night.
The three members of Hel Toro—Rick Maguire and brothers Dave and Aaron Silverstein—casually walked onto the stage and began to set up. If they possessed any hint of excitement, they didn’t show it as they plugged in their amps and set up the drums; it seemed like it was just another practice session.
After a couple minutes of setting up, they were ready.
It took about one second before the crowd exploded. That guy who had previously failed in starting a pit must have been in heaven, because the center of the crowd turned into a circle of wildly intersecting paths with people flailing their arms and crashing bodies resembled the fight for the last Wii on Black Friday.
Although it was so loud, somehow the sound was very clear. I can attribute this to the impressive acoustics of the Middle East Upstairs—something that I cannot say for its subterranean sister. The band powered through a mix of songs, some being straightforward hardcore, and others more experimental/indie/hardcore. The energy in the crowd continued at high levels and when Hel Toro finally finished their set—which was highlighted by drummer Aaron Silverstein knocking over his hi-hats, snare and ride cymbal—the crowd instantly took to a “one more song” chant.
The band had already departed from the stage, but soon returned and commented that, “[it was] going to be kind of anti-climactic after Aaron already kicked his drums over.”
[caption id=”attachment_1103” align=”alignleft” width=”400” caption=”Hel Toro Drums”][/caption]Regardless of the fallen drums, they plugged in for one more song, and the crowd continued their aggressive waltz as if there had been no pause. I guess they were trying to get in their last kicks.
The show ended around 1:30 and everyone made their way out, but not after massive congratulations to the members of the band, who graciously wandered through the crowd, thanking their audience for their attendance.
I’d like to think that my review was thorough enough for a reader unfamiliar with the band that is Hel Toro. Unfortunately, I know that you can dress any car up to look like the motor vehicle of the century, but the real way to experience it is to test-drive it. Give Hel Toro a test drive in the metaphorical sense, and check out their latest album, The New Harmless.
Listen to “Bad Vision” from Hel Toro’s Gimmick:
[audio: 05 Bad Vision.mp3]