New England Hardcore And Metal Festival 2005 Live Report
Band Photo: As I Lay Dying (?)
It’s that time of year again- birds are chirping, trees are blossoming, the city’s Crowne Plaza Hotel is bombarded with numerous metal parties. And, of course, the local businesses in Worcester, MA hand out flyers that read “Dear metalheads (!!!), if you’re wondering where to get drunk tonight, come to our pub”.
It’s the New England Metal Fest weekend, which was held on April 22-24 and welcomed fans from all corners of the US, Canada, Puerto Rico and even UK. Probably the biggest and best festival on this side of the Atlantic. At least this year’s. I was giddy with excitement about this event since January and I lived to share my observations and opinions.
This day was a feast for the hardcore fans with Unearth and Hatebreed in the spotlight. I got in when KYLESA were setting the stage. The venue was still half empty but regardless these southerners played with such enthusiasm that you would think there were a thousand people present. They displayed a very frivolous and unique mixture of styles ranging from punk through hardcore to thrash.
THE ESOTERIC just released their latest album and the set comprised mainly of the new material. I particularly enjoyed the track with the doomy and groovy guitars. The vocalist was sporting a Depeche Mode t- shirt… which is fine by me. He thanked the fans for coming out (especially the ones who drove for hours) and supporting the scene. By the time their set ended, the venue was almost full.
After that I had to hunt down the members of the above- mentioned bands for interviews which took me the better part of two hours. When I came back, Premonitions Of War were just getting off stage.
Make no mistake- the natives do love their local bands. As soon as ALL THAT REMAINS opened up their set, the crowd surfers went into high gear. There’s nothing like seeing kids float on the hands and heads of other kids, striving towards the microphone for a moment in the sun. They were defying all forces of nature, even the guards’ grasping hands. “For Salvation” was dedicated to Scott Lee- the guy who organizes the festival every year. He enjoyed a very special ‘Thank you’ prompted by the singer and echoed by everyone in the crowd. Their last song went down to Phil’s mom, who was sitting at the corner of the stage. Talk about family support.
During the THROWDOWN’s set I was wondering if one of the sound guys woke up one morning and found out that the speakers actually go to 11. My heart rhythm was subjugated to the bass guitar. So were my teeth- rattling in my mouth against my will.
Anyway, the singer of Throwdown was sending out positive messages by saying it was all about coming together, all about unity. It was one of those heart- warming moments when he was joined on stage by Phil from ATR and Tim from AILD for “Unite”. He also spent the better part of the set in the audience. The kids responded by jumping on top of each other, especially on “To Live Is To Sacrifice”.
Coming from me it may sound like a heresy (do bear in mind that hardcore and all its sub- genres do nothing for me, particularly the live acts) but I tremendously enjoyed AS I LAY DYING. Probably the best stage presence in hardcore I’ve ever seen. Their movements around the stage seemed almost choreographed. Constant headbanging in unison, didn’t spare any of their neck muscles. Singularly impressive coming from a metalcore band. Judging by the crowd’s response you would assume they were headlining. “Forever” was dedicated to all the fans and they all sang along as if it was an anthem.
After they finished I felt the urge to go backstage and compliment the band on their performance. Chatted with Tim for a second, very cool and humble guy.
Next we heard old school death metal courtesy of revived veterans OBITUARY. At first they didn’t receive the deserved warm welcome but that was somewhat explained by the fact they were the only metal band for the day. However, the ice was broken by the second song and the crowd intensified their efforts. The setlist covered the span of their discography, featuring classic tracks like Slowly We Rot, Chopped In Half, Internal Bleeding, Threatening Skies, Solid State. One thing’s for sure- they still bring massive, vise- like intensity of sound.
After their set I decided to head home because I was cold and hungry and if I was to make it through the following 2 days of nonstop metal I would need my rest. I can guess with fair confidence that during Hatebreed’s set the kids tore the place apart.
I arrived at the venue in the mid afternoon. Despite the pouring rain outside it seemed like it was gonna be another heavily- populated day. Inside, BURY YOUR DEAD were unleashing fury on stage. The singer was constantly on the barriers singing with the audience. During their set the place was a sea of aggression and angry faces.
Meanwhile, I tried to squeeze into the second stage room where the fans of FULL BLOWN CHAOS were up for an early afternoon moshpit. They also went nuts for IT DIES TODAY and WALLS OF JERICHO. By the way, during all 3 days the second stage was extremely packed and that’s the main reason I couldn’t take any pictures there.
Back on the main stage, ICE PICK were about to begin. History has shown that nothing good spawns of the rap & metal marriage (except for Clawfinger who I used to enjoy back in the days). I was very unimpressed by Jamey Jasta and his wigger- acting wingman. They played only 3 songs, one of which was from the Hatebreed catalog. The audience wasn’t excited either and if it wasn’t for the institution that Jamey is, this venture would’ve been booed off stage.
Around 5 pm it was time for the Scandinavian invasion. The front rows got dense with people who exclusively came to see SONATA ARCTICA. This was Sonata’s first American tour and it seems it won’t be the last. Their performance was so full of energy. Positive energy. They didn’t have to jump around to get the crowd moving and left them screaming for more. The only bummer was they only had time for 5 songs, all of which were singalongs: Misplaced, Blinded No More, 8th Commandment, Black Sheep and Don’t Say A Word.
After the Finnish power metal explosion it was time to shift longitude with STRAPPING YOUNG LAD. One thing you can be sure of- Devin is an amazingly funny guy. Along with his receding hairline, which he now wears in dreadlocks, he displayed some risqué sense of humor in his remarks between songs. The band sodomized the audience with an intense assault of industrial thrash noise with tracks like Imperial, Shitstorm, Velvet Kevorkian, All Hail The New Flesh and Detox.
And just when I thought the pounding of the speakers couldn’t get any more punishing, we got back on hardcore track with CA’s TERROR. The vocalist spent a good amount of time in the audience or on stage speaking humbly and at some length about them not being rockstars and paying praise to Hatebreed. On “Better Off Without You” the crowd was instructed to “get up there and die”, which did not thrill the bouncers.
I missed God Forbid because I was running around looking for the guys from Sonata for an interview which turned out to be quite lengthy. Fortunately, I did manage to get back in time for the next band.
Magnificent is the only word that comes to mind when describing CRYPTOPSY live. This band took it to another level. They were such a sight for sore metalhead’s eyes- imagine 4 guys with the most gorgeous long hair headbang through the entire set. One of the guitarists and the bassist were doing the windmill all the time and take it from a veteran headbanger- it hurts like a bitch for a week after that. They gave everything they had which led to an unbelievably invigorating performance. Just watching them made you ecstatic and was a source of ultimate joy for the true metalhead. And all this was backed up by razor- like riffs and torrid solos.
Prodigal vocalist Lord Worm dedicated a song to Dimebag and was addressing the crowd with rhetorical questions like “do you like it when we play fast?” I’m running short of adjectives here trying to describe their set but I hope you get the general idea.
It was a little after 9 when BLEEDING THROUGH took the stage to deliver everything you could expect from them- a brutal and uncompromising set. They treated the fans to some new songs from their upcoming album The Truth, along with crowd’s favorite “Number Seven With A Bullet”. Brandon and Scott are both sporting new hairdos which are reminiscent of Hitler and Cruella Deville respectively. And Marta seems much more confident on the keys now than she was at the Ozzfest.
They handed the baton to CHIMAIRA- another band of the metalcore crew I had no particular interest in so I decided to hang out at the merch area for a meet & greet. In the same line, worth mentioning is the vastly improved vending zone this year with an abundance in variety of discounted cds and all other stuff.
It took DANZIG 40 min to set the stage, which is an awful long time after a weary day. There was an announcement before they began that absolutely no pictures are to be taken and anyone who didn’t comply would be kicked out. Apparently Mr. Doyle doesn’t like his photo taken. Vanity, or even superstition according to sources. Although time and gravity have left an imprint on Doyle’s physique, his stage presence was captivating and the diehard fans were having a blast. Frankly, I was never into this band so I left halfway through their set.
Things were off to a bad start for me. I was hurrying to get to The Palladium on time for BEHEMOTH only to find out a band before them had cancelled and they got pushed up. This fact put me into my Raging Bull mood. I snuck backstage to look for the band. When Orion told me which songs they played, I was gonna tear my hair out. Nergal said they’ll be back in November with Morbid Angel. This is quite soothing but still… I fuckin’ missed them that day. I also heard NOCTUARY played superbly.
Another band I did want to see was CEPHALIC CARNAGE, who were headlining the second stage. They played assorted songs from the last 3 cds and mutilated the masses with bone- crushing grindcore.
Parallelly, THE BLACK DAHLIA MURDER were scorching the main stage. That was the first time I’d seen them and I wasn’t disappointed. Actually I was quite pleased with the crossover death metal frenzy they offered. Their set was a nice warm-up for the Swedish hordes that followed.
Sweet Jesus with a hard on when legendary HYPOCRISY hit the stage. They opened up with the all-time-favorite Roswell 47 and continued to charge headlong into a furious set of old and new songs, running through Pleasure Of Molestation, Buried, Turn The Page, Inferior Devoties, God Is A lie and Eraser. Melodic death metal at its best, with a perfect balance between mastery and passion. Peter & Co. were a huge force on stage and got the crowd going as one and headbanging vehemently. An amazing show, which is always to be expected from this band.
On my way to the venue I was cranking up “Hypocrisy Destroys Wacken” and was secretly hoping they would play Apocalypse or Killing Art. They didn’t but I was still grinning with fiendish pleasure and satisfaction through the entirety of the set.
With the Swedish flag still hoisted, the kindred spirits from DARK TRANQUILLITY took the stage. The setlist was a pretty cool mix of past and present hits like Lost To Apathy, Through Smudged Lenses, Punish My Heaven, Monochromatic Stains and My Negation. Mikael is probably the most engaging and facially expressive frontman in the scene. He was all smiles and constantly interacting with the fans. You wouldn’t wanna be around when Martin is headbanging though. I have the sneaking suspicion if you get hit by one of his menacing dreadlocks, you’d end up with a severe concussion.
Anyway, the front row was all fired up and engaged in a neck- crushing vortex during the closing track “Final Resistance”.
I was disappointed with the next band on the bill, SOILWORK. I remember they started with Stabbing The Drama, but their performance lacked identity. It’s not like they weren’t trying but it felt uninspired. Sorry guys.
Egyptian worshippers NILE broke the Swedish hegemony and injected the fans with a lethal dose of death metal. They whetted the crowd’s appetite with tracks from the upcoming album “Annihilation Of The Wicked”, but also quenched their thirst for older stuff. Karl was joined on stage by Nergal for one of the songs and then again by Nergal & band’s friends for another. The new bass player did not rest his neck for a second. And how often do you get to see a drummer headbanging while keeping merciless rhythms. The fans spontaneously started chanting “Nile” shortly after the end of the set but no encore was granted.
KING DIAMOND set a new record for stage prep- one hour. Long after the elaborate adornment of the stage was completed, no glimpse of the King was to be sighted. We all were left staring at the baby’s coffin lying in the middle, with the withered roses on top and the pronged metal fence in front of the stage ( which by the way presented a challenge for the photographers). When King finally appeared, he launched an enjoyable theatrical performance with a metal twist- Abigail was taken out of the casket and unremorsefully assaulted with a knife.
I heard he’d been having problems with his voice prior to that night and indeed the mic for the first song was mysteriously muffled, but it picked up after that. King was aided by a female’s backing vocals, who wasn’t present on stage but whose silhouette was discernable in the background. In a nutshell- it was a visually and sonically- rewarding performance with a cult- like response from the crowd.
So there it was- a memorable weekend of metal festivities. The 7th annual NE metal fest will definitely go down in history as one of the most successful so far. I’m sure most of the people and bands share my sentiments.
Many thanks to the organizers, the sponsors, all the bands and of course all the fans. See you again next year, metal brethren.
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