I tend to feel spoiled living in Massachusetts. Why spoiled? Because it’s very easy for me to sit back, enjoy a Miller High Life, and put my elitist hat on when it comes to extreme music. Just look at our track record. The dirty water state has given us bands like SS Decontrol, Sam Black Church, Agoraphobic Nosebleed, Converge, Shadows Fall and The Red Chord. We’ve had it pretty good.
But unfortunately with such a strong pedigree comes the risk of complacency. It’s easy to rest on those laurels because we assume that the old guard we be there forever. All it takes is watching the latest deathcore clone or third-rate djent band posturing as progressive metal at the Palladium for me to realize that “The Bay State’s” reputation can be tarnished. We cannot soil our history with guitar backing tracks and shitty neck tattoos.
While it is always best to air on the side of caution, I dare say that the future of Massachusetts metal is safe and sound. We have young bands like Pathogenic, My Missing Half, The Summoned and George Orwell the Musical to fly the flag. Joining that vanguard of New England brutality is Carnivora with The Vision EP.
I was fortunate enough to have as guests on my radio show, Stress Factor, in 2013 when they were promoting their first LP, Eternal. The shred was strong on that début offering and I wasn’t the only one impressed as they embarked on a seamlessly never-ending string of regional shows and battles of the bands.
Less than two years later and with appearances on the 2014s Summer Slaughter Tour and Mayhem Festival, the gentlemen from Danvers have returned with an even sharper collection of songs. While everyone has stepped up their game, it’s the guitar tandem of Cody Michaud and Mike Meehan that take center stage on tracks like ‘A Vision in Red’ and ‘Razors & Rust.’ So much so that if given time to further develop they’ll be hanging with great Massachusetts guitar tag teams like Ken Susi and Buz McGrath of Unearth or Shadows Fall’s Matt Bachand (who manages Carnivora) and Jon Donais.
So no need to worry. I say that the future is ours.
Duncan Wilder Johnson (Bring The Knife, Thrashachusetts, solo artist), a fixture in the Massachusetts hardcore and metal scene, has provided an update on his long in the making documentary about the seminal Boston genre definers Sam Black Church. Entitled Leave Behind A Groove In The Earth: The Story of Sam Black Church, the film is due early next and sees some light at the end of the tunnel after eight long years and a successful crowd funding campaign. The activity surrounding the film has the band enjoying some time back in the limelight, with members promoting the documentary, and a dominating main stage performance at last year’s New England Metal And Hardcore Festival.
Jet from Sam Black Church At NEMHF16 last April. Photo by Meg Loyal Photography
The official update from Kickstarter:
I know everyone is itching to see this thing. No one more than myself wants to see it out there in the real world! There’s a lot of moving parts and my office is covered charts, emails, and post-it notes as I attempt to get this thing off the ground.
Making an independent film, as an almost completely solo effort, is tough to put it mildly. My lawyer and I are working our asses off over here, creating the best Sam Black Church film we can!
One of the main aspects of the film is to show a 20-year arc of heavy music, especially from the Northeast. With that, we’ve successfully licensed music by Tree, Stompbox, Overcast, Killswitch Engage, and we’re in the midst of working on Shadows Fall and Unearth. All of the later recordings of Sam Black Church have been cleared.
Everyone who contributed to the kickstarted campaign should have received merch, above and beyond the DVD itself by now. That means T-shirts, hoodies, posters and the like. The DVD is in process. After all this legal stuff, we’ll be doing the final cut, audio mix, and authoring it. Everyone who contributed to the campaign will receive a DVD. It’s doubtful that there will be a retail version of the DVD in stores because of structure of the music licensing. We’re still planning on a premier, submitting to and screening at various festivals, a number of independent screenings especially in the Northeast, and ultimately a streaming/downloadable version after the festivals and independent screenings.
So, what’s holding it up?
Well, mostly it’s people not getting back to me. People not returning phone calls for months, constantly having to hound people to sign legal documents so I can show their face in the film, and also the sheer amount of work that’s going into this thing. There’s a lot of photographs, fliers, live footage, and interviews and all of them have to be okayed. I NEED HELP WITH THIS (see below).
As I’m going through this legal process, I’ve realized a lot of the film has to change. This is caused by people not getting back to me or because we didn’t have enough money to pay for a certain license.
Therefore, I’m re-editing many sequences within the film.
We raised a little over $20K in the Kickstarter campaign and I can’t thank you enough for supporting this project. If you’d like to continue to support the film, you can purchase Prints, T-Shirts, posters in this store: https://thrashachusetts.bandcamp.com/merch We can always use a few extra bucks.
Will The band perform?
Well, that’s up to the band. I know they loved playing the last two shows at the House of Blues and The Palladium. I also know that they want to play when the movie drops, perhaps with some other old bands from their era, which would be rad!
We’re aiming for a March release. Originally I didn’t think it would take this long to negotiate with record labels, bands, lawyers, and everyone in between, but that’s the reality of it.
To cause a March release, I’ll need some help. It’s not glamorous stuff, but it has to happen. Basically it’s tracking people down who own various intellectual property (videos, photographs, and what not) and getting their permission to use it in the film. If they don’t agree, then we have to replace it in the editing with something we can use. If you’d like to help, we could really use it. Just send me an email. Thanks.
Instead of a lazy Sunday filled with a coma like-haze, Day 3 of the festival this year ended on Saturday, giving us a much needed shot in the arm. It was however, next to impossible to get up and back out to Worcester by 12:30 PM for the first band after much partying was had on Friday following Behemoth’s killer performance. Still, I got to the venue in time to catch some of the early hardcore and deathcore bands like Harms Way, Obey The Brave, and Sylar. Loyal to the Grave was the real standout of the early day on the main stage, but oddly enough, the crowd wasn’t feeling them. I was totally bummed out because Japan’s best export with their high energy hardcore show. They were so compelling however, that some of their friends and tour-mates on the second stage upstairs moved their sets around so LTTG could play a second set upstairs to a more eager audience. Too bad I only had to hear about it and I missed it. Great band.
After that I hung around the main stage for a while and checked out the sweaty doom rock of Kadavar. Totally out of place here at the metal fest as the only Sabbath worshiping band on the bill. The funny part is, they totally killed and there was a decent size crowd digging them. They talked little and jammed much. It was grand and they didn’t flinch in what could have been a weird spot for them. Next up on the main stage was Battlecross. Battlecross has played this area a bunch, but never the big stage downstairs at the palladium. The totally owned the day with their blistering performance. Look, they know they are not reinventing the wheel musically, but they play a balls out, thrash and groove style that pumps up the crowd. With new addition Shannon Lucas behind the kit, these guys are just a powerhouse and validate the “next Pantera” or “next Lamb of God” comparisons.
Next I had a real choice to make. Hang by the main stage and catch ReVamp and Sabaton or miss my chance to see Nails. It was a real pickle, but ultimately I felt I had no choice but to stake out my spot to see Nails. Fortunately for me the second stage was running behind schedule, from the a fore mentioned set shuffling. I watched All Out War and the violent pit dancers and was transported back to my home of NYC in the They put on a good show and warmed up the crowd for what Nails was about to bring.
I know Todd Jones was in Terror, has a lot of fans from that association and a lot of hardcore fans like Nails. Musically, to me, there is not a lot in common with Terror and Nails, besides being heavy. “Entombed-core” gets tossed around to describe what is basically black-metal influenced crust-punk. Well the room was packed and Nails destroyed the place with their fierce, short bursts of angry musical missives. Todd is kind of a twisted genius and he feeds off the energy of the crowd. I don’t really get the extreme acts of violence caused by people in the pit punching people randomly in the face and stage diving a bunch of times feet first into the faces of fans. It was terrifying. A few people got tossed out for working their way back into the crowd in hurting unsuspecting onlookers far back from the stage. I think ultimately these incidents bum me out and take a away from the music. Still, Nails destroyed the place and they were among the best acts of the weekend.
Back downstairs for the rest of the night… it was time for Unearth. Like The Acacia Strain and All That Remains, Unearth benefits greatly from being local heroes in this venue. A true Boston band that cut its teeth in that scene, their show was like a headline event. They played well and included a new song that was very cool sounding. As usual they were very active all over the stage, jumping around and having a blast. Matt DeVries (Fear Factory, ex-Chimaira, ex-Six Feet Under) filled in on bass. With the upcoming 10 year anniversary tour for The Oncoming Storm and a new album on the horizon due out from eOne this fall, things are looking bright for the band.
Sam Black Church was another highly anticipated name on this bill. With a resurgent interest in the band due to the upcoming documentary being made by Duncan Wilder Johnson and several high profile shows of late, SBC fans locally and elsewhere have been rejuvenated. They showed what real hardcore is all about: fun, unity, strength, and respect; the band was terrific. It was inspiring to see most of the people downstairs either singing along to every word with singer Jet Crandall. He was as great to see today, as he was many years ago when I first witnessed the band. No one had more fun than that guy all weekend. When you hear songs like ‘Captain of The World’ and ‘We Got The Youth’, you can’t help but smile. It was huge for them to be a part of metal fest this year. Huge.
Coming up to the last few bands of the night, it was time for Nile. Nile has owned the upstairs and the downstairs of this venue in the past and the death metal fans still in attendance were in for a treat. Nile is preparing a new album, but before they get off the road to finish it, they are still supporting At The Gate of Sethu (Nuclear Blast) which was excellent. Nile gives you their best every show and if you love technical death metal, it gets no better. It was cool to see drummers from other bands watching the legend that is George Kolias do his insane stick and pedal work during their set. They played a thorough headline set with tracks from every album, so there could be no complaints. Of course Nile begins and ends with Karl Sanders and Dallas Toller-Wade and their guitars and vocals. It was great to hear a lot of voices in the crowd pipe up for the Nile hits such as ‘Lashed To the Slave Stick’ and ‘Black Seeds of Vengeance’, since I worried their fans skipped out or left early. They didn’t.
Last and never least it was time to see Iced Earth with my pals Marrek and Andy, who caught the last IE show in this building with me. They literally came just for the final band of the weekend. That is the kind of dedication this band inspires. Iced Earth has been riding high and touring the world since Plagues of Babylon (Century Media) was released earlier this year. The band definitely seem like they were in high spirits, seeming a bit tipsy, especially singer Stu Block. It was after all, drummer Jon Dette’s (Slayer, Anthrax) birthday so perhaps they were celebrating. Drunk or not, they put on a fun and phenomenal show. A few years back when Stu joined the band he was capable and yeoman-like, if not a bit tentative live. Now he holds nothing back and puts on a dramatic, explosive show with his amazing vocal range. Of course as goes Jon Schaffer, so goes his band, so it was of note that Jon was all smiles tonight. The line up sounded tight and the set list was cherry. After the opening title track of their latest album, the burned through ‘Democide’ and the ever epic classic ‘Burning Times’. The best song of the night was the surprising ‘Cthulu’ and the final eponymous track. A great set and a fine way to close out the weekend of metal and hardcore hijinks. Thanks go to Meg Loyal Photography for kicking ass, Scott Lee and Massconcerts for throwing down, and Earsplit PR for all the love and support. And to metal fest… we will see you next year for #17!
Once again it is time for the New England Metal and Hardcore Festival. The sixteenth edition of the fest looks to be a great group of the finest death metal, black metal, hardcore, grindcore, crust punk, thrash (although less of it this year), metalcore, tech death, prog and power metal like few weekend long events in America can match. Held at the Worcester Palladium on two stages, it’s always a fun time and a great place to discover new bands and meet your heroes. Among the headline acts this year are Behemoth, Iced Earth, Nile, All That Remains, Goatwhore, Nails, Whitechapel, Bleeding Through, Darkest Hour, Broken Hope, Carnifex, Unearth, 1349, Inquisition, Sam Black Church, and many more. We caught up with the festival co-founder Scott Lee to discuss the 2014 incarnation of the fest.
We jumped into our conversation touching on the history of the fest and some of the surprising names on the bill:
“Sweet Sixteen! I think it’s pretty cool. I’m really excited about it! Thursday is going to be a regular door, so it’s going to feel like a regular show, just earlier doors. Doors are at five, so we just want to ease people into the madness! I’m really proud of this lineup with All That Remains, Emmure, the last east coast appearance of Bleeding Through, Gideon, Kublai Khan, and Oceano. Darkest Hour was just added. Broken Hope and Wilson were just added. It’s a bunch of cool bands. It’s kind of like you go out to drink: you have little base, and some snacks, and then you start chugging!”
“I just try to put on the best festival I can. I try to make the fans happy. I try to make everybody happy, but you can’t please everybody. The haters are gonna hate, but probably about 50% of the haters are still going to come. It’s going to be great.”
Scott took out the time to single out how proud he is to have Behemoth on this year’s lineup, as part of the inclusion of the Metal Alliance tour:
“Behemoth is one of the best bands in extreme heavy music today. They are on a huge comeback. He (Adam “Nergal” Darski) beat leukemia and that is hard as shit! Back in the early days of the earth they would build monuments to to a guy like that and I think somebody should today. That band is incredible, and they are great people too. They tried to take him out and he said “Fuck no! I gonna keep making music.” That band is sick! I think people are just jealous of him because he is trying to make something of himself. Back the guy, you know what I mean? Just because his lyrics or beliefs are of some nature, people are still human. He’s not hurting anyone. He is not committing murder, he’s not committing hate crimes. He’s making a name for himself and he’s repping Poland hard man, so back the motherfucker!”
All though a lot of spring tours in the US now plan their routing around Metalfest weekend, Scott makes sure to stay true to his roots and book the second stage, dominated by hardcore bands, first.
“I book that first. The second stage gets booked first and everything else comes into play afterwards. I look at other festivals like This Is Hardcore and other hardcore festivals and see what’s going on, and who is doing what. And by the way, did you see that This is Hardcore lineup? Oh my god! That is sick! I saw that and I hit up Joe Hardcore and sent a screen shot of the lineup and wrote “I quit!” (laughs) That is the best lineup I’ve ever seen in my life and I’ve been doing this for 22 years. But for our second stage we take the best of the best for hardcore, grindcore, that type of style. Nails, All Out War, Twitching Tongues, Ramallah, Reign Supreme, and you put them all on one show it’s gonna be sick! It’s gonna be a party.”
Having been long time supporters and attendees of the fest, we have seen the sponsors and partners list grow over time.
“Tama and Ibanez are our big sponsors. Tama is actually going to give away the back-line drum-set to a lucky fan that buys a ticket. You buy a ticket for the fest, your name goes into a raffle to win the drum-set that has been played by all of these bands. It’s like a $5000 drum-set You could go home with this on Saturday! All from Tama.”
Since Scott, and the company he works for, Mass Concerts books major acts, we asked his opinion of the recent Mayhem Festival lineup announcement.
“Mayhem fest is a different animal than we are. It’s a larger animal than we are. We are like a pitbull and they are like a fucking lion. That’s different. That’s the best analogy I can come up with. Looking at everything, their lineup has to put butts in the seats. That lineup has to get people out of the parking lot. Do I think that lineup sucks? No I don’t. I’m gonna to attend. You are not going to make everybody happy. Do I think it’s the strongest lineup ever? It’s a good lineup. I think it’s pretty cool personally. More people want to see death metal, and some people want to see Asking Alexandria, and some people want to see Killswitch Engage. You are not going to make everybody happy. But they are going to get thousands and thousands of people to go.”
The Fest also puts on a showcase at the annual South By Southwest (SXSW) music festival in Austin, TX as a way to bring up and coming bands to a great audience. The event this year was headlined by Veil of Maya and Comeback Kid. Scott gave us an account of the festival, including the harrowing car accident that happened: “I was literally four blocks away from that accident. And I was like “Fuck!” I have to say the Austin Police handled that awesomely, and the people of Austin, what I saw of them, were awesome. It was tragic and sad, but it doesn’t reflect on the festival. I hope it doesn’t leave a bad mark on the festival. I mean I live in Holyoke Massachusetts, and people do stupid shit here all the time. It’s just some fucking asshole who wants to be a rapper, go got in his car and killed people and hurt people. I hope it doesn’t put a black cloud over this. But the police did a great job. And the whole festival kept going strong. There were some memorial services and everything. As far as our showcase, it was there,m it was sold out and it was awesome. Dude, you know something? Where are you going to go where Lady Gaga gets pukes on someone, or gets puked on by someone? It was like a 12 foot burrito machine! It was great! awesome. House shows happen! I love house shows, they are great! I recommend everybody going to it.”