Metal Underground.com Sponsors Diecast's Headlining Tour; Band Kicks Things Off In Home State Of Massachusetts
Time waits for no man. When I purchased a copy of Diecast’s bruising 2001 LP “Day Of Reckoning” – at the now-defunct Circuit City, of all places! – I couldn’t have imagined that in ten years’ time, I’d be relying on the Boston-based band for a sweet nostalgia fix. That savored rush arrived on Friday, April 27th, at Mill Street Brews in Southbridge, Massachusetts.
Nestled in a renovated 19th-century textile mill building and stripped of ostentatious frills, the venue boasts no fewer than three separate barrooms, each with its own stage, and a vast expanse of floor area. Tonight’s show took place in the second floor Showcase Club and, by all appearances, was a veritable “who’s who” of regional metal talent. Nearly ten bands were jammed onto the bill, cranking out condensed sets that wrapped nearly as quickly as they’d begun. Time being a bitch, I sacrificed watching most of these sets (including Western Mass favorite WrenchNeck) in favor of some needed relaxation and chitchat in the adjacent barroom.
The single opener I did not miss was Worcester’s The River Neva, a five-piece to watch out for. Promoting the stellar five-track debut EP “Chemistry Of Holocaust,” the band performed an airtight, intricate, and dark balance of progressive metal and original Massachusetts metalcore – the real deal, the Swedish-influenced harmonic riffing of early All That Remains without a gauged earlobe in sight.
The evening was already well behind schedule, and by the time Diecast took over the stage after a hastened set change, midnight had come and gone. As if that mattered to the small – but dangerously liquored up – crowd, which included more than a few personal friends of the band. The sprawling, communal Massachusetts metal scene is an endless revolving door of artists and fans – with little distinction between the two – that maintains momentum through a continuous cycle of support. Half the people in the crowd at a given gig are in bands of their own, which may be playing the same club the following weekend, with members of tonight’s band in attendance. With that dynamic firmly entrenched in the culture, Diecast’s show resembled a crowd of friends drinking at a bar, some of whom took turns picking up instruments and occupying the vacant stage.
Not to knock the band’s overall conduct or the care they poured into their performance, of course. Unsigned though they may currently be, Diecast exhibited the same level of professionalism commensurate with their time on Century Media Records, through whom they last released “Internal Revolution” (reviewed here) in 2006. This album, which saw the band adopt the melodic metalcore blueprint of fellow Massholes Killswitch Engage to moving (but underrated) effect, provided the bulk of their set. Their prior Century Media release “Tearing Down Your Blue Skies,”  a stylistic bridge between the raw, hardcore days of yore and the refined, traditional melodies of “Internal,” was also heavily represented.
What the crowd lacked in size, it made up for in the kind of psychotic, booze-soaked energy that once cracked skulls and busted lips on a regular basis in the Boston hardcore scene. Calls to “open up the floor” were wholly unnecessary, for as always, a vanguard of hardcore-dancing instigators dutifully bounced and cartwheeled around like pinballs, relegating the rest of us to the margins. This made it difficult to comfortably watch the band without constantly checking our backs to avoid being taken out by a flying human body, but it’s hard to complain about people enjoying the band in their own way.
It should be noted that as Diecast’s sound has evolved, so too has its lineup. Like Britain’s Napalm Death, their remaining founding members number precisely zero. Excluding fill-in second guitarist Jack Cain (of area deathcore act Desiccation), the relative newcomers are drummer Dennis Pavia and bassist Eddie Barton. While lead guitarist and songwriter Jon Kita is Diecast’s longest-running member, the figurehead of the band’s evolution is undoubtedly the classically trained vocalist Paul Stoddard. A permanent member since 2003, Paul defiantly challenged the limitations of hardcore shouting on “Blue Skies” with his clean croons, which expanded into a fully rounded metal repertoire on “Internal.” Tonight, the imposing frontman delivered the whole package with constant intensity, whether in the relatively laid-back “Sacrifice” or the Hatebreed-styled “Singled Out” – the lone performance off “Day Of Reckoning,” the last recording fronted by former throat-rending member Colin Schleifer.
The razor-sharp set, owing both to stellar venue acoustics and precise performances, came to a temporary halt when Jon broke a guitar string. “Technical difficulties,” those dreaded two words, ensued when he plugged in his backup and got silence. As Jon busied himself with some valiant DIY troubleshooting, Paul ribbed his efforts while bantering with the rest of us: “So, whaddya wanna talk about?” When someone thrust his “horns hand” further forward than upward, Paul jokingly compared the gesture to a Nazi salute. “If you wanted to talk about politics, why didn’t you say so?”
Fill-in guitarist Jack Cain pitched in with the opening riff to Pantera’s “Cowboys From Hell.” The rhythm section followed suit, and the ecstatic reaction to the impromptu jam soured when Paul abruptly cut it short before the first verse. “Keep playing!” yelled a revved up, drunken fan at the front of the stage. “NO!” Bellowed a grinning Paul directly into his face. “That’s why I’ve got the mic – I GET to be a dick.” He eloquently added, “I’m an enormous, hairy penis.” Thankfully, Jon was able to fix his equipment glitch before Paul elaborated further.
For me, the highlight of Diecast’s set was a brand new song titled “Falling.” Seemingly a fresh amalgam of all that’s come before, it resembled a logical step forward from “Internal Revolution,” retaining the carefully crafted melody of that album while rediscovering the brutality of earlier material – with a little thrash tossed in for good measure. “Falling” was a jolting reminder that while Diecast certainly deliver a dose of nostalgia to fans my age, they are by no means finished or dead. To draw a Bay Area Thrash comparison, they could very well be the Death Angel of original Massachusetts metalcore – the overlooked and underrated band that all but disappeared while its fellow pioneers attained glorious heights, that was kept alive in the minds and hearts of a core loyal fan base, and was ultimately recharged and refreshed with a new lease on life. Only time will tell if their upcoming album – set to be recorded this August – will propel them to the echelons of their peers, but for now, a live Diecast performance is a stubborn statement unto itself. Contrary to the title of the evening’s singalong finale, these guys won’t “Fade Away” easily.
To get the insiders' perspective on Diecast and learn more of their current happenings and future plans, check out my post-gig interview with Jon, Paul, and Eddie here.
Remaining tour dates are as follow:
5/3 – Jacksonville, FL @ Brewsters Pit
5/4 – Cocoa Beach, FL @ 321 Local
5/5 – St. Petersburg, FL @ The Local
5/6 – Lake Worth, FL @ Speakeasy Lounge
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