I pull up to the parking lot of the Palladium in Worcester, Massachusetts. It’s been two years and a couple of months since the last time I was at one of these things. One 40 ounce of malt liquor is disposed of while sitting in a warm car as ice and rain pounds away on the roof. Must make my way inside and show no weakness. My body has been in a state of mosh retirement for too long and there’s no telling how I’ll fare in a sea of savage longhairs.
Despite the longtime absence, the Palladium still greets me with its usual essence of beer, cigarettes and body odor. It’s nice to be welcomed home. The sounds early in the evening range from the novel to the veteran. First was Salem, Massachusetts’ own Carnivora who made the most of their exposure by treating the crowd to a quick yet powerful set of thrashy riffs and crushing grooves. Next up was Sworn Enemy who despite various lineup and record label changes still practice a charged form of Metallic Hardcore.
Another Palladium mainstay in Within The Ruins takes the stage and wastes no time in jumping to crowd pleasers like ‘Gods Amongst Men’ and ‘Calling Card.’ Those Westfield boys are always great value, but it will always remain strange having to listen to sampled guitar bits before the live band jumps fully in. Before the longtime mosh pit institution known as Darkest Hour takes over, I wisely make it to the bar for my first dose of a shot of Jamieson and a Miller Lite chaser. And while they’re not New Englanders, Darkest Hour’s blend of Melodic Death Metal and hardcore is always appreciated. The night’s theme seems to be not fucking around as in no time these DC natives are ripping into numbers like ‘Convalescence’ and the absolute banger that is ‘The Sadist Nation.’ Then something I’ve never seen at a show occurred when a young fan proposed to his girlfriend onstage right before ‘With a Thousand Words to Say but One.’ Fortunately, the young lady said yes, and all in attendance rejoiced.
The horde of nearly 3,000 in attendance then became a bit more unsteady as they knew Shadows Fall was inching closer, but before that there was still another appetizer in the form of Unearth. Seeing as they chose to open the proceedings with ‘The Great Dividers’ Unearth clearly got the memo. While it was Shadows Fall’s night, it felt like a homecoming for Unearth as well as the crowd chanted along to newer numbers like ‘Incinerate’ just the same as set staples like ‘Giles.’ Hearing ‘Zombie Autopilot’ and ‘This Lying World’ took me back to high school and an era free of responsibilities and worrying about new variants at the gates.
But the time finally arrived for what we’ve all congregated for. After about seven years it was time for Shadows Fall to remind everyone why they were one of the pillars of the New Wave of American Heavy Metal scene alongside Killswitch Engage, Lamb of God and Mastodon. And they did not disappoint. The room was electric as the band drew heavily on bangers from their three certified classics: Of One Blood, The Art of Balance and The War Within. Who can complain when ‘Fleshold’ is followed immediately by ‘Stepping Outside the Circle?’ The most shocking aspect is how in the pocket and tight everyone was. Yes, I know several rehearsals were in order, but everyone’s collective cool onstage told the story of a band that never even thought about a hiatus. By the time Brian Fair and company were wrapping things up with ‘What Drives the Weak’ and ‘The Power of I and I’ it was dizzying to realize that an hour and a half had come and gone.
In a perfect world the success of this reunion would signal a proper nationwide Shadows Fall tour. While unlikely, what a time it was to be alive in Worcester, Mass. And if you’re still in mosh retirement, I suggest catching a show as soon as you can. Get some of that energy out before Omicron or the threat of another variant shuts the world down again.
WORDS BY HANS LOPEZ
PHOTOS BY EVIL ROBB PHOTOGRAPHY