NEMHC Fest Now

Apr 22

Cooler than Coachella

Met these folks at Luciano’s sandwich shop next to Palladium. They’re from Australia. They were trying to decide whether to come to Metalfest or Coachella. They are happy to be here. So are we, especially when they offered us chips, and we got to tell them they were french fries.

WWJD @ MCMB

MyChildren, MyBride

While evil rules @moshfest, the event doesn’t discriminate. After all, there’s a lot of Christian metal out there, with As I Lay Dying and Norma Jean blending right into fabric.

MyChildren, MyBride wraps its faith in a dark, Gothic cloak and give JC some serious bass.

Found it

Texas in July

Every Metlafest coughs up a band that become my “new favorite.” Usually not a big band, just a band that catches my attention and becomes part of the rotation, hence my Pissing Razors and Wolf CDs

This year, I’m stocking up on Texas in July. Great, old-school underpinnings and explosive energy.

Singer Alex Good bellowed that he’s been waiting a long time to play this festival. I guess I have too.

Core values

Volumes

Betraying the Martyrs on second stage

Upon a Burning Body

Recon

Day 3 @moshfest is already in overdrive. The show is sold out and already pretty well swarmed. Nothing like a rainy day to spur early arrivals.

With metalcore architects Killswitch Engage at the top of the bill, the rest of the show seems to be full of  a lot of “-core” bands _ mathcore, gothcore, etc Any band straying from the heavy lineage running from Black Sabbath to Pantera gets a “core” tag.

But it’s the norm now for metal and hardcore fusions to occur (think this fest is called what it is for no good reason?),  and it works. L.A.s Volumes had its core spanning smooth grooves to jackhammer, screaming breakdowns.

On a Burning Body reined in its core to heavy riffs and hardcore breakdowns (and gets points for a core take on AC/DC’s “Long Way to the Top”)

Betraying the Martyrs played a pretty straightforward brand of old-school metal, though hardcore’s frenetic energy influenced the sound and performance.

And the Recon reunion was straight up, knock-you down hardcore.

[video]

Offstage

Some shots of the fans and vendors @moshfest. Big buzz building last two days for the return of singer Jesse Leach to Killswitch Engage happening tonight.

KsE with Leach leveled Metalfest around the time of its debut “Alive or Just Breathing.” Then Leach left the band in 2002, and Howard Jones stepped in as the band rose from the underground and into the Grammy-sphere.

It’ll be interesting see how Leach balances the material Jones originated, though it’ll also be great to hear KsE dig back into “Breathing.”

Apr 21

Remains of the night

All That Remains

All That Remains didn’t become one of metal’s biggest bands overnight. The whole thing started way back at first Metalfest when singer Phil Labonte and guitarist Oli Herbert had this band playing mid-day on the small stage.

Massholes from Springfield, All That Remains has gone through numerous lineups and played nine more times at Metalfest before headlining last night’s show. And this time the throng moshing in front was as busy singing along as bashing each other about.

That’s because All That Remains figured out how to work melodic choruses into its maelstrom. Herbert still shreds with abandon, Labonte is brutal, and the band is as heavy as bricks. But ATR can also squeeze in something like “Forever in Your Hands,” a tune with legit hooks.  But before you can yell “Sell out,” the band swings into something skull crushing like “Dead Wrong.”

Here’s to making from the trenches to the top.

Don’t fear the keytar

DragonForce

DragonForce compels you to take up arms! Fight the good fight! Vanquish the damned! Or at least have a bunch of beers and cheer on some mighty fine guitar pyrotechnics.

The U.K. band made ts U.S. debut at Metalfest in 2006 and came back this year to launch its new tour. New singer Marc Hudson took a few songs to get used to, but by the time the band hit the mountain peaks of “Through the Fire and Flames,” he seemed a suitable successor to ZP Theart.

Besides, whoever the the DragonForce singer is plays a supporting role to guitarists Herman Li and Sam Totman. As good a guitar tandem as you can find in metal, Li and Totman toss in plenty of theatrics to their patented high-tech shred.

And just to make the hammer a bit heavier, keyboard player Vadim Pruzhanov entered some of the guitar frays armed with a keytar. Most metal bands beat up keytar players; here it worked just fine. But Slayer, don’t get any ideas.

Back to the old school

Overkill

Is there a more metal song title than “Fuck You”? The punk band Subhumans originated the song and Overkill metal-ized it in 1987, serving it up nicely once more for its closing number @moshfest.

Going strong now since 1980, Overkill is proudly unwavering old-school thrash. New stuff such as “Electric Rattlensake” revels in all the guitar wank and demon-waking screaming you could hope for.

Singer Bobby Blitz saved his best sneer for “Rotten to the Core,” beginning the song by taunting the crowd with “I can smell you, but I can’t hear you.”

He got an earful by song’s end.

Nothing succeeds like excess

Unearth

Protest the Hero

Bane

As Day 2 cruises into the homestretch, the word that keeps coming to mind is “epic.” The number of bands, the number of days, the number of shattered ear drums…all epic.

The bands that do best here are the ones that tap that sense of the epic, and it’s not the same for any two bands.

Unearth seized the epic with songs that had cinematic sweep whipped up nicely by the soaring guitar work and Trevor Phipps’ crowd-rallying abilities.

Protest the Hero went big with a sound that grew psychedelic and more sprawling from song to song. How’d these clean-cut Canadians gets so twisted?

Bane closed the second stage with a big dose of hardcore brotherhood. In word and deed, Bane broke down the walls between band and fan. It’s not the way the rock-star-fan relationship is supposed to be. Epic.