NEMHC Fest Now

Apr 26

Heavy thoughts, part 2

Killswitch Engage headlining Sunday

Every Time I Die playing Sunday

Vanna playing Sunday

Overkill performing Saturday

Unearth playing Saturday

Protest the Hero playing Saturday

Bane wrecking the upstairs Saturday

Hung performing Saturday

Huntress playing Saturday

Volumes playing Sunday

Upon a Burning Body playing Sunday

Recon in the upstairs room Sunday

Texas in July playing Sunday

Attila playing Sunday

MyChildren, MyBride on Sunday

Chelsea Grin on Sunday

For Today playing Sunday

The never ending pit

OK, here’s a final dump of pictures and musings from @moshfest.

1) The return of singer Jesse Leach to Killswitch Engage could not have happened in a more perfect setting, nor could there have been a better conclusion to New England Metal and Hardcore Festival 14.

Each of the three days featured headlining bands that were once part of the Metalfest pack, playing mid-day sets, sometimes on the smaller upstairs stage. With Black Dahlia Murder, All That Remains, and KsE each topping the bill one night, Metalfest’s legacy could not be any more clear.

2) You can hate God, or love God, just don’t be Godsmack. There was nothing unsettling or off at Metalfest when on one night The Acacia Strain claimed there is no place for religion in extreme music and on another night Christian-core bands such as For Today and MyChildren, MyBride were singing ol’ JC’s praises from the stage.

Sincerity matters most, so any band that comes across as honest and performing in the moment generally gets a fair hearing at Metalfest. Even the more theatrical bands and commercially successful ones are expected to flip off the mainstream in some way. There’s a place for mainstream hard rock like the kind churned out by Godsmack and Staind, but that place is not Metalfest.

2.1) Yup, hardcore and metal pair well. It may have seemed strange  in 1999 to draw the festival boundaries around these two genres. Hardcore shared more with punk’s economy and metal has a history of going big. But both genres have solid underground scenes that look more similar than different. On the second stage Sunday, Betraying the Martyrs’ progressive, keyboard-laced set didn’t clash with Recon’s tightly coiled hardcore set that followed. In both cases, the room was packed.

3) Metalfest celebrates history and makes history. On Saturday, Overkill played songs that were essential metal before many in the crowd were even born.

That same day, the band Huntress, whose debut album isn’t even out yet, came across as one of metal’s next, great hopes. Steeped in twin-guitar tradition and fronted by theatrical and bold-voiced singer Jill Janus, Huntress is going to appeal to fans of old Judas Priest and kids who watch “Metalocalypse”

On Sunday, Texas in July delivered a knock-out punch of hardcore-tinged metal that also signaled great things to come from this young band out of Pennsylvania.

4) Metalfest loves mongrels. The power-metal bands such as DragonForce and Holy Grail have their boundaries pretty well set. And bands coming out of the death-metal camp like Nile have a certain way of doing things. But metal has embraced countless hybrids willing to channel aggression. The way Vanna or Atilla stitch together grooves, breakdowns, and guitar shred is exactly the kind of of creative energy that has kept metal self renewing.

5) Ain’t no fan like a Metalfest fan. Metal fans, like the music itself, tend to freak out people who don’t pay attention to this stuff. The piercings, ear gauges and tattoos go wayyyy past what mom and pop are used to seeing at Hot Topic in the mall. But here was a crowd that took care of itself across three days as hundreds hopped into the mosh pits and everyone withstood a steady onslaught of audio aggression.

I’ve covered a bunch of country music festivals as well as a bunch of heavy music festivals. Guess which type of event typically has a lot more drunken assholes? (Hint- It’s not Metalfest).

Apr 24

Heavy thoughts, part 1

The Acacia Strain, Friday night

Black Dahlia Murder headlining Friday

All That Remains headlining Saturday

DragonForce playing Saturday

God Forbid playing Saturday

OK, so @moshfest is over, and we’re sifting through notes and computer files compiled throughout New England Metal and Hardcore Festival 14 to try and figure out exactly what the hell it was that dropped the jaw, blew the mind, melted the face, etc.

Thing is, there is no simple answer. Eighty-five (or so) bands playing extreme, aggressive music across three days could have easily turned into a slog of ear-grating screaming and bowel-rattling double-bass-drum barrages. But Metalfest moved at an exhilarating pace up to a dramatic finale with singer Jesse Leach reuniting with Killswitch Engage. 

Metalfest had its vibe.

Any music festival_ blues, jazz, folk, polka, whatever_ that hopes to be any good has to be more than simply a bunch of bands sprinkled across a few stages. The best fests stoke experiences that go beyond the music, and NEMHF 14 did just that.

 The vibe at Metalfest this year sprung from its sense of place. The Worcester Palladium has been, and always will be, the home of Metalfest. And it is a home because a family lives there. On any given year, Metalfest will have a good representation of Massachusetts bands. And those Massachusetts bands figuratively grew up in The Palladium, either at early editions of Metalfest or at the all-ages shows in the theater’s smaller, upstairs stage.

And keep in mind, this isn’t Boston we’re talking about. The Acacia Strain’s Vincent Bennett pointed out in January when his band opened for Lamb of God at the Paradise that it was only his second or third time in 10 years he performed in Boston.

Boston supports hard rock, and some of the smaller clubs feature metal nights, but extreme music was never really embraced there even as it blossomed and expanded throughout the 1990s and on into today. Pantera’s Boston fans had to head west whenever they wanted to see that band.

When MassConcerts got a hold of The Palladium, John Peters and Scott Lee basically hung a “Metal Welcome Here” sign.

Also happening outside the Boston-proper music scene, a new breed of headbangers took hold in central and western Mass. Metalcore progenitors  Overcast splintered into Killswitch Engage and Shadows Fall. All That Remains took shape when Phil Labonte parted ways with Shadows Fall. Bane grew out of Converge. Unearth, The Acacia Strain and Vanna came in successive ways. 

When those bands became big enough to tour, they met other heavy acts rumbling around, and brought home their friends to play at the Palladium. God Forbid, for example, may be from New Jersey, but they are a “Palladium band.”

So this year especially when Masshole bands were heavily featured each of the three nights, the vibe took the shape of a family reunion. Papa Lee presided over the whole thing. Labonte jumped in on Unearth’s set. Brian Fair and Pete Cortese watched from a balcony as their old Overcast mate Mike D’Antonio throttled his bass through Killswitch’s set.

Fans and bands don’t just goto Metalfest; they belong at Metalfest. It’s their place.

More stuff to come

Apr 23

Recap in the works

Adam D of KsE

We’re sifting through 2,000+ images from @moshfest and will be doing a few recaps ASAP

[video]

Apr 22

Welcome return

Killswitch Engage

What a pay off @moshfest. The return of singer Jesse Leach to Killswitch Engage surpassed expectations. Sounding fierce and in control, Leach had the same intensity that made him such a standout during his original tenure with the band, yet now he seems to better harness it.

The band looked a little shell shocked by the rabid response from the sold-out house, but fired right back with a batch of songs that pushed down to create an oppressive air before letting loose a big cathartic release. Worked every time.

The band opened with “Numbered Days,” Self Revolution” and “Fixation on the Darkness,” the same sequence that launches the “Alive of Just Breathing”  album. Then KsE played “Rose of Sharyn” the breakout song it had with singer Howard Jones, Leach’s replacement in 2002. Leach sent it out to Jones, who left with unspecified personal issues, and the response was one of pure gratitude.

For such a heavy band, KsE leads with its heart, and that sincerity has carried  this band to a point where fans are there for every turn.

The sound of crazy

Every Time I Die

Every Time I  Die has always had an oddball charm, one that lets it get away with song titles like “Underwater Bimbos from outer Space.”

At its best, as it was @moshfest, ETID lurches back and forth between manic and menace. A little bit rock ‘n’ roll, a little bit certifiable. But no matter how the band came at it, ETID had killer chemistry that carried it through.

Hi, Neighbor, let’s mosh!

Yeah, a big can of Naragansett some how got in the pit @moshfest

Hit their stride

Vanna

Usually when bands change lineups as fast and as furiously as Vanna did, they end up on a fast track to Suckville.

But this Worcester-bred band did just the opposite. Down to just one member from the original 2004 lineup. Vanna has kinda rebuilt, kinda evolved into a monster band….Frankencore!

Huge riffs, soaring melodies, bruising breakdowns are all there in a controlled, jittery setting.

Vanna also had the best finale so far with the band soaring into the mosh pit, instruments in hand.

Better late than never

Emmure

By the time Emmure joined the bill @moshfest needed another act about as badly as Chelsea Grin needs another bass drum. But glad Metalfest made room, because these guys crushed  skulls with a finely tuned hardcore that brings in shades of nasty death metal. Defiant and entertaining all at once.

Free birds

Attila

Lot of serious, brooding dudes @moshfest today. Attila from Atlata had a bit more of a laid back attitude in its attack. Brutal and heavy as need be, it was good to get some slinky soul in the rage.