MindMaze, Iris Divine, Verscythe, Iron Will – July 30, 2015 – Ralph’s Diner – Worcester, MASaturday, 1st August 2015
When smaller bands wish to establish themselves away from home base, you can only hope to find like-minded acts willing to pool their resources, vacation-time, and passion into pulling this off smartly. Six months previous, Pennsylvania’s MindMaze performed in Massachusetts for the first time at this same venue – so it only seemed fitting that on a Metal Thursday night they would start a brief East Coast swing of dates with Virginia’s Iris Divine – and gain local support from Boston’s Iron Will plus New Bedford’s Verscythe.
Containing 3 members of Ravage (with only guitarist Eli Firicano playing the same instrument, as his brother Alec handles drums here while Nicholas Izzo takes on bass duties), the quartet Iron Will started the evening off with a hard hitting set of old school metal. Vocalist Tony Canillas is the type of guy that would go into battle for the cause – throwing all the requisite fists and head banging at all the right times. Elements of Motörhead, Raven, and Accept came up most when taking in their original songs, as well as reaching back into the NWOBHM archives for a Witchfinder General cover. Sometimes you just need that no frills, heads down metal, which goes down well with your favorite beverage of choice.
Verscythe have been one of my favorite melodic/power metal oriented acts in Massachusetts for quite a while. Performing a majority of songs from their debut album A Time Will Come like “Start the Revolution”, “Til the End of Time”, and the everlasting “Through the Souls”, the quintet did not let technical difficulties from guitarist J.S. Rull stop them from wowing the crowd – as opener “Land of Shells” caused him to short out his power mid-way through. The bright green guitars add spark visually, and vocalist Justin St. Pierre has incredible range, especially in those higher soaring eagle moments. Giving us a preview of a new record sometime in 2016, two new songs also received decent applause from the attendees.
Iris Divine from Virginia would be up next, and stunned the crowd right away through their opening instrumental sequence. Guitarist Navid Rashid, bassist Brian Dobbs, and drummer Kris Combs use technology in the right way, adding sound clips and keyboard sequences to enhance their modern progressive metal style. Imagine taking the best of Alice in Chains, Deftones and mixing up some Dream Theater, Opeth, or Rush-like progressiveness and that gives you an idea of the sound- plus Navid and Brian double up on vocals and provide a smooth, melodic framework. Technical difficulties aside (barely audible lead vocals from Navid for a couple of tracks), songs from their latest album Karma Sown gained respect from a crowd mostly unfamiliar to their sound – “The Everlasting Aware” and “A Suicide Awake” working best, as well as one of their newer songs “Catalyst” that should appear on the follow up.
MindMaze finished the evening off in grand style. Taking on this tour with 3 weeks of rehearsals, drummer Mark Bennett (from Beyond Eden) tackled the material as if it was his own. Switching between their two full length albums, songs like “Breaking the Chains”, “This Holy War”, “Consequence of Choice” and “Back from the Edge” showcase a melodic, power sound that has a lot of classic influences and progressive touches. Vocalist Sarah Teets handles the audience like a true professional, knowing when to encourage chants, sing-a-longs, or humor (favorite quote of the night: ‘every time I bring out the flute people think we are going to do a Jethro Tull cover’ after the conclusion of “Destiny Calls”). Near the end of the set they did pull out a cover, as their version of W.A.S.P.’s “Arena of Pleasure” sends chills through the room.
If anyone is looking for a guitar hero in the twenty-something generation to study, people need to start looking at guitarist Jeff Teets. His playing exudes class, passion, and feel – whether he is performing a lead break, a clean, understated passage, or using his rack of effects to the best ability possible. If metal is to survive worldwide, we do need future leaders to take charge and push high quality musicianship and proper songwriting- and I feel that this quartet has all the requisite ability to do so. Reward their efforts as they are making quite a mark with peers, fans, and fellow power/progressive musicians all over the globe.
Photo credit: Matt Smith