I’m not going to start this write-up and pretend like I have a solution for grief or that I’ve made peace with the fact that Trevor Strnad of The Black Dahlia Murder is no longer with us. As of this writing, it’s been nearly a week since his passing and frankly, I’m still trying to process that. Telling myself that it can’t be true since I’ve seen Strnad and his bandmates have seemingly all the fun onstage at least seven times.
In time I’ll accept what has occurred. But let’s take a look back.
Decibel Magazine has announced its 2022 Philadelphia edition of their popular Decibel Magazine Metal & Beer Fest: Philly. Taking place June 10th – and 11th, 2022,— the world’s loudest, two-day craft beer event has booked a killer bunch of bands for the event Cannibal Corpse, Candlemass, Wolves In The Throne Room, The Red Chord, Voivod, Full of Hell, Soul Glo, All Else Failed, Derkéta, Craven Idol, Sanguisugabogg, The Silver, and Deathevokation. For exclusive performances WITTR will perform all of Two Hunters, Nuclear Assault will perform all of Game Over, and the reunited Red Chord will perform all of their classic Clients album. All tickets are on sale Friday, February 4 at 10 a.m. EST.
I assume it’s easy to look back at the aughts and be dismissive of the entire decade particularly from the perspective of metal or punk fan. Nu-Metal was slowly being phased out as any goodwill from the previous decade had eroded and acts like Simple Plan and Good Charlotte made everyone realize that maybe the idea of Pop-Punk was a mistake. But those who kept their ear close to the ground knew better than to become jaded. Hard rock was alive and well and young bands were doing very exciting things. Young bands like Between the Buried and Me with their seminal Alaska (Victory Records 2005/Craft Recordings 2020).
Ghost Cult was honored to chat with musician and artist Jacob Bannon of Converge, Wear Your Wounds, and his new band Umbra Vitae. That group just released their debut album, Shadow of Life, (read our review here), a brutal, OSDM flavored album created by Jacob and a group of master musicians and friends such as Mike McKenzie (The Red Chord, WYW) and Sean Martin (Twitching Tongues, ex Hatebreed, WYW) Greg Weeks (The Red Chord, Labor Hex) and Jon Rice (Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats, Job For A Cowboy). In a frank discussion with our editor Keefy, Jacob discussed the impact coronavirus has had on the music world and more specifically his bands and his label Deathwish Inc., what are the Death Metal inspirations of the group, how Umbra Vitae came together, how this is a full band and not side-project, the poem that inspired the band name and the entire album, an update on new Converge and WYW music, and much more. Jacob is working to stay focused and creative during the pandemic to keep his bands and Deathwish Inc. alive in all of this and if you can, please support his music, art activities at these links.
Converge is one of the lucky Hardcore/Punk bands that has seen notable success over the years. Though they have flirted with the metal genre on some of their albums like The Poacher Diaries(Relapse Records) and You Fail Me (Epitaph Records), frontman Jason Bannon has been itching to make something heavier. This veteran vocalist loves his celebrated children Converge and Wear Your Wounds, but is now really exposing his heart for ferocity with his new Death Metal project, Umbra Vitae. Along with some other experienced and eager members, Bannon has just released the band’s debut LP, Shadows of Life on his own label, Deathwish Inc.
New Death Metal supergroup Umbra Vitae brings together guitarists Sean Martin (Twitching Tongues, Ex-Hatebreed) and Mike Mckenzie (The Red Chord, Stomach Earth), bassist Greg Weeks (The Red Chord) and drummer Jon Rice (Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats, Ex-Job For A Cowboy). The name comes from a poem by Georg Heym, first published in 1912. Umbra Vitae’s debut album, Shadow Of Life, will be released on May 1 via Bannon’s own Deathwish Inc. label. Check out the first single, ‘Return To Zero’!
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.
Day 3 of The New England Metal And Hardcore Fest drew to a close with a lot of diehards in attendance, but a little less of the fanfare of the previous two days. When you go to a music festival or any show really, typically you are familiar with the bands that you go to see. But just like tape trading was back in the 80s, and downloading a decade ago, a music festival is a great place for music discovery, checking out new bands, and getting outside your comfort zone for fun. A lot of this happened today.
By day three of anything, a comic-convention or a destination music festival, people are spun out a little from the last few days of action. Industry folks, (most of) the photographers and the vendors were a lot more relaxed on day 3 with the lighter crowd. I chatted with Matt Bachand (Shadows Fall/Act of Defiance) about his new venture, Manshark Entertainment. It was cool catching up with him and other people from the scene I usually see at these things. At the same time you have to give it to the staff of a venue that has seen an endless stream of people come in and go out in a weekend, metal fans from all walks, and still have them keep their shit together, and do a great job. I gotta give it up to the staff of the Palladium for the work they put in keeping everything moving and everyone safe.
Exalt, by Meg Loyal Photography
Sunday is traditionally the “hardcore” day at NEMHCF and the the early bands brought that vibe. There were some killer early performances on Sunday from the likes of the more hardcore bands such as Oath, Living Laser, and Ghost X Ship, the nu-metal stylee-o of Gift Giver, and the phenomenal performance of Lorna Shore. They had their own crew of fans repping New Jersey in the house and I even saw some WSOU shirts on a few people that got me open! Also of note was a killer showing from New York’s Brick By Brick, now fronted by Ray Mazzola (Full Blown Chaos), for a sick set of ignorant (in the best way possible) hardcore and metal. Their set truly was a moshfest!
Brick By Brick, by Meg Loyal Photography
Later in the day following excellent performances from Sworn In, Vanna, The Color Morale and Cruel Hand on the small stage, Motionless in White took the stage as the final band of the weekend. Putting on a show that an amazing visual spectacle, stellar goth rock showmanship, the band owned the night. Their fans, many I met whom waited all day and checked out all of the bands before them, fell rewarded by a captivating show. The fans sang every word, jumped up and down when Chris Motionless said to jump, and generally yelled fuck you at all the appropriate moments, two middle fingers to the sky. It was a fitting close to a fun weekend. See ya next year Metalfest!
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.
Shattered Sun, by Meg Loyal Photography
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 GaryHolt (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.
Nails, by Meg Loyal Photography
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, by Meg Loyal Photography
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, by Meg Loyal Photography
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.