Friday, October 24, 2008

Botch - '061502'

A crucial band for any metal or hardcore lover, either as a musician or as a fan, Tacoma, Washington’s Botch was only able to release two full-lengths (plus a gajillion or so seven inches) in their near-decade run. Mathcore at its weirdly finest, Botch’s style, both intricate and powerful in equal measures, has proven hugely influential on modern hardcore since the band’s demise in 2002. But as good as Botch-inspired acts may be (then again, maybe not), nothing beats the original. Hydra Head Records is well aware of this, and has begun releasing a series of Botch delicacies. First came the rarities compilation, Unifying Themes Redux. Now, four-and-a-half years after its original recording comes 061502, a DVD/CD combo of the band’s final show at the Showbox in Seattle, Washington.

Opening the set is an audience member crying, “I’m a freak!,” followed by Botch rocking the hell out of “Saint Matthew Returns to the Womb,” from We Are the Romans. Although live recordings often offer a degraded version of a performance, the sound on 061502 holds up pretty well. Dave Knudson’s guitar shrilly slices through the mix while drummer Tim Latona pounds mercilessly. Though his voice is occasionally lost in the recording, vocalist Dave Verellen still dominates the audience, both those in attendance and watching at home. “C. Thomas Howell as the “Soul Man”” and “John Woo” are just as face meltingly brilliant in those regards. Later in the set comes the best version of B-52’s “Rock Lobster” ever.

While songs like “Japam” and “Thank God for the Worker Bees” clearly delight the crowd, the best part of the show is the sense of humor and camaraderie displayed by the four band mates with the crowd. Though small in the overall sense, it’s great to see how human these musical pioneers were/are. Verellen openly asks for hecklers while observing his own fatness. Bassist Brian Cook encourages a mix of solidarity and chaos from the crowd, saying, “Respect everyone around you… but just go ape shit.” All in attendance respectfully do so.

Some of the spontaneity of the live show is lost when playing back the recording of it. The thrill of surprise is gone when the set list is neatly printed on 061502’s packaging, along with the encore of “Man the Ramparts.” It’s kind of like watching Citizen Kane after hearing about “Rosebud,” Star Wars after Vader revealed he’s Luke’s father or The Matrix even though the sequels ruin the story. But just as fans of those films still watch anyway, the same holds true for this Botch live set. The extra features, though minimal, still lend the DVD a great deal of value.

Botch fans will love the commentary for the show. Self-deprecation rules the band’s analysis of their own finale, ripping into their abuse of strobe lights and drum fills. They even start a drinking game for each time someone in the band messes up. Everyone in the group is pretty freaking drunk by the end, by the way. The sarcasm also gets turned on just about every other band ever, from the gross imitators (“Hey, I really like this Norma Jean song”) to the fairly unrelated (“…and here come the claps… We started it, Green Day. Fuck you. We invented clapping.”).

Also included is the music video for “Saint Matthews Returns to the Womb.” The video’s oddly chromatic tinting of live footage is a nice enough addition. Finishing off the DVD is a bonus live show of five songs, recorded in Bellingham, Washington. The quality for these songs isn’t nearly as good, as it’s pretty hard to make out anything other than drums most of the time. But it’s still a cool lil add-on, allowing Botch fans to basically see a home video of their favorite band in action.

Overall, 061502 is a solid Botch release, honoring the band’s legacy while adding a little bit more on. Buy it for the video, keep it for the commentary.

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