The fifteenth annual The New England Metal and Hardcore Festival came along at just the right time this year. Concerts are often a needed respite from whatever is ailing your life at the moment. Even though fans had come for the event from all over the world, Boston and the entire state of Massachusetts had been having a rough week. Earlier in the week, the Boston Marathon bombings occurred at the hands of some piss poor excuses for terrorists. The night before the show the city of Boston was in lock down as the manhunt tightened. All the roads were closed in or out of some parts of the state, but the show was never in doubt. Although I was stressed out and we got a very late start on the road, we made it and it wasn’t a total loss on the day. My trusty spies at the show told me early bands such as Code Orange Kids, Vygr, Holy Grail and Black Breath were all apparently terrific, even though I missed them. Ugh.
Lucky for me, at least I caught some of Shadows Fall’s brief set. The Friday portion of the fest included the lineup from The Metal Alliance Tour and those bands were really stacked talent-wise. The seemed really on their game in front of the home town crowd. They played a short but heavy set with songs like ‘Destroyer of Senses’ and ‘The Power of I and I’. Brian Fair made a great jab at himself announcing the impending birth of his daughter; and saying the tip jar/beer fund was now being re-named the diaper fund! Municipal Waste followed and the crowd seemed even more pumped for them to play, seeing as they have toured this area regularly for years. They blasted through their neo-thrash hits very quickly, but it was a fun set with tons of constant surfers, divers and mosh maniacs. Exodus was the next course in the thrash metal meal of the day and they crushed it, hard. They played a great set with some of their recent killer tunes and a lot of classics. Gary Holt was in all of his glory, just shredding his ass off and smiling as always. There are few people in metal who have as much fun performing as he does, and he is my favorite artist to photograph too. The circle pits for tunes like ‘Fabulous Disaster’, ‘Toxic Waltz’ and the wall of death for ‘Strike of the Beast’ provided some of the best pit action all weekend.
The problem with a festival is you just can’t see every band possible when trying to shoot bands at one stage, see other bands on the other stage, coordinate interviews, talk to scene folks, PR reps and get your drink on too. I wound up missing Trap Them (boo!) and Every Time I Die, although the latter was no big whoop to me. I enjoy the band live, but had just seen them recently and their fans for the most part looked miserable all day during the other bands. Next came Hatebreed on the main stage and they put on quite a show. Even if they are not your thing musically, there is no denying Jamey Jasta and crew have a ton of feel good/aggro energy to share. Being from the state right next door, all Hatebreed shows in this venue feel like a hometown crowd, and they killed it. The entire floor was jumping and screaming the words to the many catchy choruses the band is known for. Of course, as it was the entire weekend, the photo pit was a total clusterfuck, but we worked out a nice system by this point in the night.
Finally, it was time for Anthrax to take over. On this night they played the entire Among The Living album. They actually used their original backdrop from the 1980s and it was so old and thin, you could see the brick wall behind the stage. Still, there was something cool about this and better than anything ‘new and vintage’ used instead. After the intro music, Scott Ian jammed the familiar intro chords to ‘Among the Living’ and the crowd cheered. The band sounded sick and it was great to see and hear Charlie Benante behind the kit, as he had been missing some shows lately with an injury issue. Joey Belladonna has not only returned to form as the Anthrax front man, but is actually the star of the show now, which may not have been the case back in the day. His range was insane and he seemed to get stronger as the night wore on. The band blasted through the first batch of songs from Among… really wowing the crowd with the rarely heard live ‘A Skeleton In The Closet’. Then the band did something else cool, which was to break up the album into parts with other songs in between. I haven’t really heard another band do this with a set list yet, and I thought it was a refreshing change. After a fast run through of ‘March of the S.O.D.’ the band played their lone song of the night from Worship Music ; ‘In The End’. Following that up was a fun take on T.N.T. From the recent release, Anthems. The crowd seemed to love it and Joey was killer. Filling in on lead guitar and performing double duty for the fest and the tour was Jon Donais of Shadows Fall. He nailed that solo and all the lead work all night long. After Madhouse, with another ridiculously high wailing scream from Joey, the band returned to more old-school cuts like the massive hit ‘Indians’ and the underrated ‘One World’. They skipped ‘A.D.I./ Horror of it All’ (perhaps due to the festival times), but made up for it with Charlie’s drum solo, which then led into ‘I’m the Man’. It was the first time I’d heard this gem in a long time and it was pretty cool. So basically, the set list was Among The Living and a bunch of covers. I was totally fine with that. Great to see the band performing so strong, and changing things up a bit more now than before.
New England Hardcore And Metal Festival XV Day One
The Palladium, Worcester MA
April 19 – 21, 2013
Photos and text: Keith Chachkes