New England Metal & Hardcore Festival Day 2, Live at The Palladium, Worcester MA

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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.

 inquisition (2 of 2)

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 behemoth (10 of 10)

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.

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Behemoth Set List:

Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel
Ora Pro Nobis Lucifer

Conquer All

As Above

So Below

Slaves Shall Serve

Christians to the Lions

The Satanist

Ov Fire and the Void

Furor Divinus

Alas, Lord Is Upon Me

At the Left Hand ov God

Chant for Ezkaton 2000

Encore:

O Father O Satan O Sun!

 

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WORDS: KEITH CHACHKES

PHOTOS: MEG LOYAL PHOTOGRAPHY

 

 

 

New England Metal & Hardcore Festival Day 1: The Palladium, Worcester MA

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It’s that time of year once again, New England Metalfest graced our state as the Northeast’s best bang for your buck metal experienced, matched by none. I was particularly excited because for me personally, having lived in Massachusetts for almost a decade and being a fan and attendee of the fest even before that, this is the real hallmark of the spring concert season for us. Now in its 16th year, it is an institution here to stay, and led by co-founder/scene Svengali Scott Lee of Massconcerts, it’s always a good time. The venue was packed with all kinds of different bands on two stages, cool vendors and band merch, and tons of fun people from the business, and our scene to mingle with. A special shout out to my friends Liz and Dave from Earsplit PR, who handled all the press these past few years, and as always do a bang up job. Extra props go to Meg Loyal who handled photography for Ghost Cult the entire weekend, freeing up yours truly to focus on coverage.

At times the fest has flirted with getting as big as four days including a pre-fest party, but this year we got down to a much more sensible, shorter kickoff night, followed by two long days. Since festivals like this are more like a marathon than a sprint in terms of staying fresh, this was a lot more manageable.

 

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We got to the Palladium a little bit after doors opened and after getting our credentials handled, we made it down to the main stage in time to catch the last few songs from local boys Death Rattle. Playing a modern metal/power groove style akin to Lamb of God, early Sepultura, or Pantera, the early crowd was certainly digging them, especially when they closed with Pantera’s ‘A New Level’. Afterward, I hit up the upstairs, smaller stage for a while. Early in the fest I tend to run around between the two stages more and so on Thursday I tried to see as many bands as I could. Catching Cop Problem and Enabler back to back. For the initiated, Cop Problem hail from Philly a.k.a. Killadelphia. They are not here to party, as much as they are here to kick your brain in with passionate, intelligent crust punk for the discerning fan. Front woman Deb is about as accomplished a screamer as anyone on either stage this weekend, and the band may take themselves seriously, but they are fun live. Enabler is one of my favorite crusty bands of the last few years too. Easily at home with hardcore crowds as they are black vest wearing kids who d-beat-off at a mere mention of them. Legit and well deserved hype aside, Enabler crushes and their new album Flies (Compound Records) is an early year favorite of mine. It was over all too quick. Ugh.

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After catching a bit of Scars of Tomorrow, and filling up on a heavenly fig and cheese pannini’s that I ate all weekend and an double espresso (I shit you not) next door at the little cafe next to the venue I am now in love with, I headed back in to check out Oceano. Having just seen them at the same venue a few months earlier, you know what this band brings to the table live. There are better bands doing death core and at their best, tech death inspired music, it really is just beatdown core at its heart. However, led by front man Adam Warren, they bring the chaos live and always put on a great show. Their new album Contagion (Earache) has been overlooked this year. Next up was Darkest Hour, who is just beginning another album cycle with new music to be released soon. DH is always killer live and they seemed to have their own crowd in the house. I have seen them many times over the years and they never disappoint me.

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I caught the first half of the set for Bleeding Through and they were pretty damn amazing. The band is on a farewell tour of the east coast, before heading into retirement later in the year, and they left everything on that stage. There was a weird energy in the venue the entire set, and basically everyone losing their minds. Brandan Schiapatti brought his legendary A-game live. I will miss these guys a lot. They stole the show on this first day of the fest. I made it back to the side stage to see some of the evildoers in Rivers of Nihil last few songs. They were the first true death metal band of the weekend and accordingly, there was a nice crowd in to see them. They are just straight out brutal and technical with zero cheese factor. I wonder how big they will be in 3-5 years. Not caring much about the main stage for the rest of the day, I chilled out and saw Wilson and Broken Hope to close out the upstairs stage. Wilson was one of the most fun bands of the weekend. Their weird blend of proto-metal, thrash, doom, psychedelia and other stuff was spot on. I looked around the room and saw them minting new fans by the second. It was a reminder that from the underground comes tomorrow’s headliners, no doubt. Broken Hope followed after a bit of a long change over to their own gear from the standard back line. It was worth the wait because the death metal fans hung around and were rewarded. The band just slayed with their classic, second-wave death metal material and new songs off of Omen of Disease (Century Media). It was all made worth it by seeing Jeremy Wagner and Chuck Wepfer. It was like going to class at shred university. I felt bad for all the kids watching Emmure, who didn’t know any better, but should have.

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Finally the first day was coming to a close and locals All That Remains readied to take the stage. They are a band I championed to people in the early days, and have seen many times on this very stage. However, the last third of their career, while seeing them scale the heights of popularity, I feel like their musical quality has taken a big hit. I’m happy for their success, but I long for the days of This Darkened Heart and even The Fall of Ideals. I just feel the catchier rock based songs the make now have no balls anymore. They always put on lively show, and you can’t deny they are entertaining, and despite the presence of fan favorites ‘Six’ and ‘This Darkened Heart’ in the set tonight, it was a pretty weak showing. I was even surprised the band didn’t pull out anything special for the metal fest crowd, owing to the bands local roots and many times playing the fest, but they didn’t. It was an anti-climactic end to a good day of fun and music. I headed home to sleep.

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Words: KEITH CHACHKES

Photos: MEG LOYAL PHOTOGRAPHY