An attacked guitar fades in with a straight Rock n’ Roll riff before spacious strings reverberate around the listeners’ skulls. They give way into the abyss as an almighty Sludge riff threatens to swallow the world whole. ‘This Is Fine’ centres on this aforementioned riff and grinds in a cyclical manner around one’s speakers eviscerating the local surroundings. ‘This Is Fine’ is an understatement: as an opener to an EP, it is borderline excellent. Billy Myers III’s shouted vocals have the force necessary to level council flats, and come across as blissfully effortless to listen to. Continue reading
The Black Dahlia Murder have been the picture of consistency when it comes to modern extreme metal. Ever since planting their flag firmly on Death Metal in an era when so many contemporaries cashed in on the Metalcore and Deathcore frenzies, Dahlia can always be expected to provide strong content. So, after years of successful albums and touring, it’s natural to expect this Michigan outfit to take it easy, but boy is that wrong. New album Nightbringers (Metal Blade) is the type of work you get from angry young men with something to prove. Continue reading
Full disclosure: I’ve been a Death Angel fan since Frolic Through the Park (Restless/Enigma) in 1988. I remember my sister and I blasting ‘Bored’ and singing along. It’s been a sort of anthem for us ever since. Twenty-eight years later, Death Angel is still killing it onstage and on cassette. Do they still make those? No? OK. Then you must go forth and purchase on CD The Evil Divide (Nuclear Blast). The Evil Divide is classic Death Angel done to perfection.
The album opens with ‘The Moth’. It sets the tone for massive amounts of head banging to come. ‘Cause for Alarm’ has the most blistering guitar work of all time. Ted Aguilar is just gobsmackingly amazing on guitar. We should make #musiciancrushmonday a thing and Ted can be our first guitar crush! ‘Lost’ kicks us right in the feels with the lyrics. “Can anybody save me now? Exposed I stand alone…I close my eyes and let it go with one final breath of shame.” Mark Osegueda’s voice is like buttuh! Buttuh! I tellz ya! He rips into your soul and sings it to shreds.
‘It Can’t Be This’ opens with the most groovilicious bass line from Damien Sisson is wicked. The entire song has this funk groove that makes the hips move. It has faint shades of the guitar tone in Slayer’s ‘Dead Skin Mask’. It may be written in the same key. ‘Breakaway’ provides some excellent circle pit action. Well, it would if circle pits were still a thing that is done. I can’t wait to hear these songs live!
Every tune on The Evil Divide is jaw-dropping. Then you whoop! with excitement and commence to thrashing about the room. Musically, it’s tight. The precision in which Mark, Ted, Damian, Rob Cavestany, and Will Carroll execute their respective instruments shows consistency and diligence. The quality of production allows each note to coalesce and form an album that ingrains itself into your psyche and stays with you all day and night. The Evil Divide is a whole body experience: mind, soul, body. Every part of you is intimately engaged.
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Day two at Metalfest is usually more like a marathon than a sprint. It’s about going hard or going home, but also taking care of yourself too. You gotta stay hydrated when you’re hot and sweaty, take a breather from time to time, and not eat like crap the entire weekend. I made sure to fill up on some terrific energy boosting organic juice at the Paris of the 80’s Cafe next to The Palladium. Because juicing is metal!
Saturday is also where I spent a little more time with the upstairs bands. While the main-stage has more of the metal bands that I favor, the upstairs is for real warriors. Hardcore is still loveless to the mainstream. Nobody plays this style of music for riches and fame. So there will be violence in the pit, there will be glorious pile-ons, sweaty hands grabbing the mic, and there will be shout-a-long choruses. Catching acts such as No Zodiac, Disgrace, Gods Hate, and the mighty Wisdom In Chains, you can see the past meet the future of music, and the fans who care deeply about these bands.
The first main-stage band I caught on Saturday was Texas-bred Shattered Sun. While they are opening the Dark Roots of Thrash II tour for tonight’s final acts, at Metalfest they hit the stage at about 2:30 PM. They whipped the early crowd into a frenzy with their modern take on neo-thrash. As I was jamming out, I look over to my left and there was Gary Holt (Exodus/Slayer) giving his seal of approval, banging his head.
The main-stage was so good this year, it was hard to peel away for some grub. Worcester (or Woostah if you are local wildlife) certainly has some decent food options, including the stellar Kenmore Diner within walking distance to the venue. I’d love to see some food trucks participate in future years, considering how many awesome ones we have locally.
After catching parts of good sets from Thy Will Be Done and The Agonist, it was time for some more death metal. We haven’t had much classic death bands of late here, so it was cool to see Incantation and Vital Remains on the bill. While the later band is immensely popular here, Incantation ruled supreme. Lots of people were seeing this great band for the first time today and they slayed.
The most talked about band before metalfest the last two years has been Nails. Their set last year may never be topped for intensity. Moving down to the main-stage, the entire floor did not devolve into a violent pit of epic proportions as I predicted. However, there was one large circle pit in the middle and some rough stuff up front, but for the most part people were able to enjoy the band and not die, which was good. Nails crushed it hard. That new album cannot come fast enough for me.
Nuclear Assault may be going into retirement, but not before hitting the road and ripping us a new one. They sounded fresh as ever, especially John Connolly’s chirping high screams. I’m looking forward to their new EP in June.
Exodus is another band that has gone through some changes. With a recent album, Blood In Blood Out (Nuclear Blast) and a returning Steve “Zetro” Souza on vocals, the band sounded tight. I was happy with the set list, which included some of their more recent stuff, and of course classics like ‘Toxic Waltz’ and ‘Strike of the Beast’. Props to security for handling all the crowdsurfers and moshers without the usual nonsense I see at other venues.
Testament closed things out in style with a stage set right out of Iron Maiden’s playbook. And why not? Testament is one of those legacy (pun intended) thrash acts. They had a huge production with creative lights, billows of smoke, and the crazy bursting strobe lights that were a little overpowering frankly. Although they had a slightly over-loud sound mix, the band was incredible as they played only their first two albums, plus ‘Practice What You Preach’. With all of their talents, Testament is like The Avengers, and they are thrash metal’s mightiest heroes.
WORDS BY KEITH CHACHKES