Nursing a wicked bangover from the first night, I was already in scramble mode when I got to the venue for day two. We got there in time to hear the last strains of Carnivora, a top local death metal prospect. These guys definitely deserve your attention. Next up on the main stage was Black Crown Initiate, who are on their stint on the Metal Alliance Tour, opening for Behemoth. It’s too bad the festival environment had them playing this early because they are amazing. Their blend of Meshuggah tech riffs and Opeth-ian prog is going to take them very, very far. Taking a short break to run around and do some other Ghost Cult business, the next band I saw was Reflections. They were slightly better stage presence-wise than the flat showing I saw earlier this year, but their music still puts me to sleep.
The shame of alternating stages is the overlap of certain bands. While I really wanted to see Warhound, Lifeless, and especially Born Low upstairs, they were playing opposite better bands on the main stage. Inquisition was highly anticipated by the crowd that had filled up considerably by now. It was almost a nighttime atmosphere for the show as Dagon and Incubus took the stage in a cloud of red lights and smoke. People were literally losing their shit, and it was a great thing to see a lot of people I chatted with seeing this band for the first time. A lot of people donned the corpse paint in tribute to this band and others we saw on this day, which was pretty funny in an un-ironic way. Their best song and my personal favorite song they played was ‘Command of the Black Crown’. A true mix of true kvlt black metal influences, modern sensibility and sonics. For a change of pace, the maulers in Fit For An Autopsy took the main stage next and slayed. Immediately noticeable is the change over from former front man Nate Johnson to the new guy Greg Wilburn (The Devastated). Greg is a beast of vocalist and has far better stage presence than Johnson, giving this already good band a real shot in the arm. They are a fan favorite at the Palladium so the pit was very active for them. I Declare War had to follow them and it was an embarrassment by comparison to FFAO.
Staying in the big room for 1349, I don’t think fans were prepared for the mind-blowing performance we were about to see. It’s always the bands that don’t tour a lot that surprise you at these things. Positively evil and putting forth a great set, 1349 were one of the standouts of the weekend. Not to be out done in the showmanship, Goatwhore does what they usually do when they come to town, audio live carnage. Rev. Ben Falgoust might prefer the intimacy of the smaller stage, such as when they played the fest last year on the upstairs stage, with all the people raging in his face, but they belong on the more worthy platform. They flat out owned the main stage. Playing their hits like “Alchemy of the Black Sun Cult” and ‘Apocalyptic Havoc’ as well as a new song, that, also crushed; they ruled all. It’s gonna be a good summer when that new album drops from Metal Blade.
With more running around to do and needing to get a primo spot to see Slapshot close the main stage, I only caught a glimpse of Within The Ruins, Carnifex, and Thy Art is Murder each, with the latter getting the best response from the crowd. With the fest in full swing- it was cool to see some of the metal band people just hanging out at fest, even if they were not playing. Among those I ran into: Dave Davidson and the Revocation guys, Tony from Vital Remains, Adam from Mongrel, and Jayson Keyser of Origin. I also chatted with actor Brian O’Halloran of Clerks fame who was participating in the Rock And Shock Festival sponsored signings along with horror writer Joe “Zombie Bukkake” Knepper. Brian told me he loves to people watch at metal shows, much more than the bands.
As we were grinding toward the end of the second day I steadied myself for the last few hours with some communal drinking at the bar, which I rarely do at shows anymore. After catching the last half of an excellent set by Cruel Hand, it was time for Slapshot. Slapshot put on a show that put bands half their age to shame. It’s not just about the classic tracks that gets everyone excited, it’s the true spirit of hardcore they embody. There were some pit dancers having fun, and surely some violence going down, but none of the nonsense that pervades the scene at times. No gang BS, even though I suppose there were those types around. From my vantage point in the balcony, keeping my old ass safe and sound, I watched one of my buddies, Anderson Moura, right up at the front, just going nuts the entire time. The Slapshot set was a thing of beauty to behold.
Finally done with the second stage I cooled my heels a bit and chilled out as I watched The Acacia Strain and Whitechapel as the penultimate acts of the day. Their respective fans went bonkers. I have seen each band, together and co-headline this venue cause total chaos with the whole floor as a non-stop violent pit of death. Both bands have their respective fans who love each bands take on meat and potatoes death core. The Acacia Strain is literally from “down the block” as Vincent Bennett likes to say, just a few towns over. They often feel like a headliner, even when they are not last on the bill. Whitechapel on the strength of their brand new album, Our Endless War (Metal Blade) played their “hits” and a few new cuts. With a bigger set and staging than ever before, they are definitely trying to step up into a bigger realm. They are knocking on the door of something really big, so I hope more than just casual fans pick up on it.
Finally it was time for the most anticipated band of the weekend to play. Behemoth had already made a grand return to this venue a few years ago, but this was a lot different. On the strength of The Satanist (Metal Blade), the band has never been more popular. Although some fans gripe about the bands new-found “it band” status, the quality of The Satanist attests to the fact that they are are not going any softer. They seem to be a band everyone likes universally, sort of a modern Slayer, without the drama. This can be further proved by the impressive performance they put down.
And what a show it was! Behemoth always had a flair for the dramatic, be it their make-up, masks or cool lighting, but they have reached a new zenith of quality now. They have achieved the perfect blend of theatricality and their black metal influenced -death metal (however commercially acceptable). Their set list was an impeccable blend of old-school classics and new material. Each song was acted out, as much as it was performed, with calculated introductions and interludes. Nergal spoke little to the crowd, other than some pleasantries, and it added to the drama and mood. This was a ground breaking, avant-garde inspired moment for this band, and this genre as a whole. Nothing will ever be the same again. Every band will have to be compared against what Behemoth is doing now and it won’t be fair. They were already a great band, but now they are all-time greats.
Behemoth Set List:
Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel
Ora Pro Nobis Lucifer
Slaves Shall Serve
Christians to the Lions
Ov Fire and the Void
Alas, Lord Is Upon Me
At the Left Hand ov God
Chant for Ezkaton 2000
O Father O Satan O Sun!
WORDS: KEITH CHACHKES