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New England Metal and Hardcore Festival Review

by Billy Gamble

In some circles the New England Metal and Hardcore Festival is bigger than Ozzfest, Sounds of the Underground Tour, and the Vans Warped Tour combined. For the past 9 years the Worchester Palladium has been supplying the masses with this annual festival and few leave unsatisfied. This year also marks the 25th anniversary of Metal Blade records, one of the most prestigious metal labels to date bringing such bands as Slayer, Cannibal Corpse, GWAR, etc. Metal Blade typically provides much of the festival's best acts, and this year was no exception.

The first day I arrive at the show late. I've missed All Shall Perish, Faceless, and Despised Icon. When I arrive I navigate my way through the ocean of black shirts and cigarettes to find the door. I note that the majority of these festival-goers are there by themselves. I've always noticed that metalheads are the friendliest people to get a conversation with and talking about metal is easy for fishing new friendships out of even the gnarliest-looking guys or girls. I also learn upon my arrival that up-and-coming Black Dahlia Murder clones, Abigail Williams, will not be appearing due to a break up situation. It is a downer but I can't let such a travesty ruin the rest of the next 48 Hours.

Since the festival's start in 1998 metal/hardcore greats such as Lamb of God, Hatebreed, King Diamond, Obituary, Between the Buried and Me, Daughters, Six Feet Under, and many other notables have appeared. This year the line-up consists of various festival veterans such as Cannibal Corpse, Unearth, Dimmu Borgir, Behemoth, the Black Dahlia Murder, Bury Your Dead, the Red Chord, and a buffet of forthcoming moderately unheard of bands such as The_Network, Architect, Gaza, and Forever in Terror. After briefly hearing many of these bands I went in with high expectations for the event.

When I walked in Skeleton Witch was finishing up their set. Something that the average festival goer will constantly keep reminding himself that he is attending the metal event of the year giving the show a positive aura. Every detail makes the event that much more amazing. Behind the stage there is a banner advertising the event's logo and sponsors. I recall Skeleton's Witch's sound was a combination of groovy stoner metal ala the Obsessed with 80's Bay Area Thrash.

After that I scurried up to the Second stage to catch Death Before Dishonor's set. The majority of the crowd packed into the Palladium's crowded upstairs stage space was a bit stagnant but the majority of the kids in the pit were full of life and obviously loosing their minds seeing one of Boston's top hardcore talents. They were one of the only bands that, once done playing, the crowd would continue to chant their favorite songs that were left off of the short set list. All non-headlining bands were only allowed to perform 4-7 songs due to time constraints.

The merch table probably had the longest line that I'd ever seen for any merch table in the history of merch tables. Shirts, hoodies, accessories, and CDs were flying out of bins and boxes. This is probably the only time that I've ever had to wait 20 some minutes to buy a shirt or 2. I witnessed kids spend from ten bucks to a somewhere around two hundred on merchandise.

Then when you'd get into the crowd band paraphernalia was floating left and right. I was in a sea of black shirts, baggie camouflage shorts, and of course a variety of leather and metal.

Around 3:35 when All Shall Perish rolled on the stage a string of bands began playing incredible sets. One after another, feeding off of that New England Metalfest Magic the crowd had been producing all morning. All Shall Perish, Kataklysm, Walls of Jericho, Devildriver, Bury Your Dead, Behemoth, and Dimmu Borgir had fantastic shows.

Bury Your Dead's vocalist Mat Bruso is to leave the band after the current tour and that was his last show in the Palladium. Bury Your Dead surprised the crowd and brought out Bruso three-quarters of the way through the set using the band's newly recruited vocalist.

Halfway through Behemoth the exhaustion set in. It was 1 in the morning by the time I'd gotten to my car and realized that I had to wake up at about 8:30 to do the same exhausting thing again. When I woke up my ears were ringing, my head was killing me, and my throat was shot.

Day 2 of Metalfest was sponsored by Metal Blade records. The walls of the Palladium were covered in the same grey "Metal Blade" Hardcore Festival. Out of the lineup twenty-nine of the thirty one bands are signed to Metal Blade including Cannibal Corpse, the Black Dahlia Murder, Job for a Cowboy, Unearth, etc.

The first band I saw play were the Architect. When they started their sound was a bit flat and bland. Then the music got interesting and the drummer got a little too excited. He threw his chair into the crowd and some disgruntled concert goer tossed the item back in the band's direction. The Architect's vocalist's face was introduced to the flying object and a rather large gash was then carved into his forehead.

A big problem with the festival is the schedule. Bands are constantly getting moved. Bands are being added and taken off. Times are being switched constantly. The question "Who is this" is constantly being asked. I missed The_Network and kept looking for bands that in the end never showed up.

The second stage's headliners were great with Gaza, Psyopus, and of course Animosity. The crowd was moving, jumping on and off stage, breaking a sweat in a moderately haggard rock club setting. To give you an idea of how close you could get; the stage came up to the lower part of my kneecap and I would constantly feel the occasional bead of sweat dripping off of guitar players and vocalists.

The main stage was even better. I was a bit disappointed by Job for a Cowboy, and I didn't feel they provided too much energy live. For the next band, Lizzy Borden, I decided to rest in the balcony when I noticed that exhaustion was beginning to get the best of me. I'd been working off of 5 hours of sleep, running around for the past two days, sweating and screaming. Fortunately Red Chord, the Black Dahlia Murder's, Cannibal Corpse, and Unearth's lively and intense set woke me up and gave me a second wind. Cannibal Corpse featured the Black Dahlia Murder's Trevor Strnad on guest vocals towards the end of the set. But it was hard to hear a difference in the mix.

The last part of the night after all the raffles and scheduled bands had come-and-gone, Metalfest had one last surprise for its crowd goers. A one-time special-guest jam featuring members of As I Lay Dying, The Red Chord, Unearth, Demiricous, Goatwhore, and God Dethroned. It was a good idea but after hearing a couple covers and some softer metal the exhaustion got the better of me and I left.

The 9th Annual New England Metal and Hardcore Festival was simply incredible. Next year it's going to be a nice round, even number for the anniversary which will hopefully end up being even better. I'd just hate to be the guy who has to book the bands that are to follow up this year's event.

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