Ever since my initial visit to Worcester, MA back in 2002 I have been trying to make it back for the annual New England Metal and Hardcore Fest. Things finally lined up this year and I must say this was even better than the last time! The fest was extended to 3 days for the first time, providing an opportunity to see even more bands. This years line-up was fantastic! Overall, the fest was very well organized and the only thing I can say negative about the event was that it was a pain in the ass trying to get into the second stage on Saturday and Sunday, which steered me away from seeing some of the bands I had planned on watching. There were some issues with times since a few bands didnt show up but theres not really much you can do about that one.
Before I get going, I must first apologize for the pictures. I somehow managed to forget my own camera and had to go out Saturday and buy a disposable! Therefore, the shittiness is mostly due to that factor. I shot more pictures, and believe it or not, the ones posted are the best of the bunch. I figure the easiest way to do this is to just go through, band by band, and leave a comment or two. Lets get it started!
I made it into Worcester at about 3 oclock and got checked in to my hotel. Hung out for a little bit and walked up to the Palladium about 4ish. There honestly werent too many bands I was interested in watching Friday so I took the opportunity to check out all the vendors before all the cds I was planning on grabbing were gone. Also snagged all the free stuff everyone was giving away (what can I say, Im cheap). Over the course of the weekend I ended up scoring over 10 promo compilations and countless posters and stickers, woohoo! But on to the main course, the music! The first band I was actually paying attention to was Premonitions of War. Im only vaguely familiar with their recent output but they put on a good performance. One of those bands that mix metalcore with death and grind pretty well. Next up was one of the weekends definite highlights: All That Remains. Ive gotta say, if they dont explode in the near future, there is no justice in this world! They put on a wicked show and I really wish they had a set that was longer than 30 minutes. They could have played for the rest of the night and I wouldnt have minded in the least. There was so much energy and they just sounded perfect. They stuck to songs from This Darkened Heart, with Focus Shall Not Fail and the title track being definite highlights. It was hard enough to follow what Id claim as the 2nd best performance of the weekend, but Throwdown bores me to begin with. Nothing personal, and they were energetic but old school hardcore is just not my thing. Next up was As I Lay Dying, who dont seem to ever stop touring! This has got to be at least the 4th time Ive seen them within a year! At least they played 2 new songs, which sounded much better than their heavily generic past offerings. They peaked my interest enough that Ill definitely check out their upcoming disc.
Now it was time for the first headliners, the recently reunited Obituary! If it had been about 10 years ago, I probably would have been right in my glory, as they used to be one of my faves back then. For what its worth, it was actually pretty cool to see them up on stage performing their trademark plodding death metal but they had no stage presence. Of course, this could be credited to not being around for many, many years now but I was surprised at how bored I was. They did have a few highlights though, playing Cause of Death, Chopped in Half, and Kill For Me. The last band of the night for me was Unearth. They provided a good set, which was more entertaining since I hadnt seen them live since The Oncoming Storm was released last year. They played a nice variety of songs with Zombie Autopilot, This Lying World, and The Charm being some of the stand-out songs. I headed back to the hotel after that, since seeing Hatebreed once last summer was enough for me. Overall All That Remains was my pick of the day; if you have the opportunity to see these guys live DO NOT PASS IT UP!
I arrived right around 12 on Saturday so that I wouldnt miss The Agony Scene. I caught the last 2 songs of Stemm, which was better than I thought it would be. Standard metalcore but well played nonetheless. The Agony Scene was up next on the second stage and I pushed my way up front to get a closer view. For only 20 minutes they did a bang up job. They played the two best songs off their upcoming cd, The Darkest Red (Scapegoat and Scars of Your Disease), and 3 from the self-titled. Like I had guessed, their material is very well suited to the live act and they were the first band to get my neck going in full speed. Scapegoat is a fantastic song, and live it was even better. I have a feeling that The Agony Scene is going to be going places in the near future. I rushed downstairs to catch Still Remains, who apparently didnt show (or ended up playing early, Im not quite sure) and ended up watching Glass Casket instead. It was pretty uneventful, as were the next two bands I saw, namely Twelve Tribes (they need to lose the hip hop influences) and Reflux (zzzz). This brings us to A Life Once Lost, who turned out to be one of the better surprises of the weekend. I enjoyed their last cd but for some reason I wasnt expecting much live and was in the front to prepare for Trivium. However, A Life Once Lost came across very strongly live with their Meshuggah-esque metalcore delivering breakdown after breakdown of headbanging fun. Because of Still Remains absence, I was forced to choose between Trivium and It Dies Today and I wisely chose Trivium. Now I had known these guys were young, but wow, seeing them in person only solidified this. Not that it was a bad thing, because they put on a hell of a show! They were very tight and vocalist Matt shows quite a bit of stage presence for such a young man. Gunshot to the Head of Trepidation was the highlight here, and like I wrote in my review of Ascendancy, the heys were cheesy on disc, but very cool in the live setting. This is one band that deserves all the credit that they are getting right now, and their live act only solidified the amount of praise I have been throwing at them. I really wanted to catch The Red Chord so I could see what the hype is all about, but I needed to head out for food and this was my only opportunity.
I made sure that I got back for Caliban up on the second stage, who turned out to be a real treat. Great stage presence and for a 20 minute set, they played a decent variety of both new and old. The breakdowns were quite prominent and they really got the crowded second stage moving! Next up was Darkest Hour, who I have wanted to catch live for a long time now. It was worth the wait, and their live act is certainly much better than on cd! They played a new song as well, which seemed really cool. They also got the second stage moving, probably more than any of the other bands I saw on that stage Saturday. Immediately after their set, I went back to the main stage and caught Sonata Articas last song. As much as I joke and gripe about power metal, they sounded good. Next up was Strapping Young Lad. I had never experienced SYL live, so this was a real treat. Devin was a maniac on stage and was entertainment in himself! They played Oh My Fucking God, All Hail the New Flesh, and Shitstorm among others. Watching Gene Hoglan was interesting as well as he seemed so relaxed as he was banging on the drums. It was almost like we was saying, this is too easy! I may not have given Alien a 5 star review, but live SYL was amazing! Another definite highlight of the festival. I am kicking myself for not being able to get to their headlining set a few weeks back. How Terror was able play after SYL is beyond me. Another half-hour of boring hardcore, though many others seemed to enjoy it. But what was up with dedicating practically every song to either Jamey Jasta or Hatebreed? Come on guys, find another person to thank! God Forbid followed next and played a set full of Gone Forever songs and one new one. I was slightly disappointed in the new song, as it seemed kinda mellow. However, they still managed to put on their usual strong performance.
As I watched a group put together Flos massive drum set, I began to get really psyched for Cryptopsys set. Reunited with Lord Worm, the band played their classic None So Vile album from start to finish, as well as Back to the Worms! It was amazing, and definitely the highlight of Saturday! I hadnt listened to it in a while, but it appears Lord Worm has not lost a step since he left the band. He was a pretty strange guy put also entertaining, he even brought out the worms and ate them on stage! Everything else was incredibly precise and tight as well, None So Vile may have sounded better that night than on cd. Watching Flos drumming was quite a trip as well. Wow! Being able to watch him and Gene Hoglan on the same night was just too good to be true! Bleeding Through was next up to the plate and provided another energetic set. Having seen their dvd, I knew what to expect and they certainly delivered. They even dropped a few new songs that fit rather well with the mostly This is Love, This is Murderous set-list. Revenge I Seek, Murder By Numbers, and Rise were definite highlights and created a ton of motion in the pit. My last band of the night was Chimaira. They played a good set, but didnt really compete with the last two bands in my opinion. A few old songs were played plus the usual Impossibility of Reason tracks. What peaked my interest though was the new song, Nothing Remains. If the rest of the next cd sounds like that, Chimaira have a monster on their hands! Danzig and Doyle were headlining but I had no interest in watching them so I headed back to crash for the night.
All good things must come to an end, and I dare say Sunday made the strongest impression of all. Things started off with The Red Death who played a strong set of Scandinavian-influenced death metal with hints of hardcore. There werent many people inside yet but they were energetic and impressed me enough to pick up their cd later in the day. Demiricous was next on the bill and played some old school death metal that was pretty uneventful, but two big dudes were moshing into eachother for most of their set while everyone else stood still. Actually they were more interesting than the band! At 1 oclock, the Decibel table had Dark Tranquillity for a meet/greet session so I was able to briefly say hello to the band, which was very cool. They are incredibly down-to-earth people. While I was waiting, I heard Internal Bleeding but was quite unimpressed. I caught bits of Noctuary, who I had all but forgotten about since hearing one of their cds years ago. They were interesting though and made me dig out their cd the other day, cool deathened US black metal. By this point in the weekend, Noctuary also provided a much needed break from the seemingly constant bombardment of metalcore. Cannae came on afterwards, as Extol wasnt able to make it. I was very surprised by Cannae! They had a very energetic and downright heavy set. I seemed to have etched them in my mind as metalcore since its been a while since I listened to them but they seemed more death metal than anything when I heard them live. No matter the label, I will definitely be revisiting the Horror cd and checking out their upcoming disc as well. After that, I ran back upstairs to catch Mnemic, who turned out to be the best band I saw on the second stage for the entire weekend. You could tell they were very psyched to be playing and you could feel the energy and passion flowing through them. The crowd was really into the music and 20 minutes was just not enough! The bassist was even playing on top of peoples heads! Deathbox and Room 2.12 were awesome though with the short set, all the songs rocked. I really hope they get back to the States soon for a longer set! I headed back down to the main stage and went to the Decibel booth once again to meet with another long-time favorite band, Hypocrisy. During this time, Behemoth was on stage blasting away like there was no tomorrow. Decked out in corpsepaint, they flawlessly played some kick ass death metal that was intense as hell. I wish I could have been closer, but meeting w/Hypocrisy ranked higher on my to do list. I quickly ran out to the car after that, not knowing that 3 Inches of Blood had finally shown up so I didnt need to rush back so I wouldnt miss The Black Dahlia Murder.
When I got back, 3 Inches of Blood were finishing up their set which, was actually fairly entertaining considering the injection of power metal into their music. After that, Between the Buried & Me played an uneventful set which led into The Black Dahlia Murder. Ive been meaning to catch these guys for almost 2 years now so it was a treat to finally witness them on stage. As I imagined, they play a fantastic live act and the songs lend themselves well to this arena. Among the songs they played were Apex (yes!!), Closed Casket Requiem, and a new song from Miasma. The new song didnt sound much different than the rest, so thats a good thing in my books. Next up was on the fantastic finale was Hypocrisy! Ive tried to catch them for the past 3 years live but something always seemed to come up and foil me every time until now. They played an amazing set, with about half of the songs being from the old, old days. They did God is a Lie, Pleasure of Molestation, and Inferior Devotees as well as live staple Roswell 47, Eraser, and Turn the Page. The best song was undoubtedly Adjusting the Sun, a very underrated piece from The Final Chapter. I was so happy to finally catch these guys live. It definitely made my day! Dark Tranquillity was next and proved to be the best act of the entire 3 day fest. DT is another band I havent been able to catch yet and they were phenomenal! Like Mnemic, you could just feel the vibe in the air when they were on-stage. Their enthusiasm was very addictive and the music just oozed with passion. The set list was pretty Character-centric but that was certainly not a bad thing. They played The Treason Wall, Lost to Apathy, Through Smudged Lenses, The New Build, The Wonders At Your Feet, Monochromatic Strains, Punish My Heaven, My Negation, and Final Resistance. Punish My Heaven and The Wonders At Your Feet really got the crowd into it (though arguably they were really into the entire set). At the end of their set, half the band came right up to the gates and went one end to the other shaking everyones hand, which was very cool of them. Their set was probably one of the best live performances Ive seen, bar none, playing them up there with Nevermore and In Flames when I saw them in 2002. DT needs to get back over here for a headlining tour! Concluding my very metal weekend was another of my favorite bands, the mighty Soilwork! They have definitely increased their stage presence since the last time I saw them in 2003 (though admittedly DT certainly upstaged them here). Bjorn is becoming a better front man every time I see them. The sound was great too, as I could actually hear the majority of the clean vocals for once! For the 45 minutes they were given, the Soilers did a good job of providing a variety of material. They played Stabbing the Drama, Bastard Chain, One With the Flies, The Chainheart Machine, Overload, Nerve, Blind Eye Halo, Rejection Role, and Follow the Hollow. I was bummed they didnt play Needlefeast and Room #99 but it was great to hear The Chainheart Machine once again and Blind Eye Halo (anybody wanna hear a ballad?) certainly provided another quality headbanging opportunity. One highlight was watching Peter Wichers play guitar while practically laying on the ground during Follow the Hollow and Ola rocking out like always. I would have loved to stay for Nile but I had a 3 hour plus drive home and had to work the next day, so I left on a high note after Soilwork concluded.
Yet another quality weekend in Worcester and hopefully Ill be able to make it again next year!