The Palladium, Worcester MA
This year marked the fifteenth anniversary of the famed New England Metal and Hardcore Festival. The festival is held annually at the Palladium in Worcester Massachusetts. Back in 1999 it started out rather small with only fifteen bands on one day. This year founder Scott Lee and the rest of the crew went all out with over fifty bands for a whole weekend.
The Festival was split into two areas; downstairs was occupied by the metalheads while the upstairs belonged to the hardcore crowd. The funny thing about this was that the bands I witnessed upstairs often sounded similar. While this was not a bad thing, it was different from the different strains of metal being blasted down below my feet. The crowds themselves even appeared to respond to the music in different ways. For instance, the people upstairs either stayed in one spot or did some of their best karate type moves in a pit close to the front. Downstairs there were people up against the rail headbanging with some jumping around. The real mosh pits would come later in the evening.
The big names started to play around quarter of four. Relative newcomers HOLY GRAIL took the stage at this time. In my review of Ride the Void back in January I gave them an A for creating an album that’s nearly flawless from beginning to end. The live performances of those songs certainly didn’t disappoint either.
BLACK BREATH came on next. The audience seemed to enjoy the set since it was obviously the kind of music they had come for. However, they did not seem as excited as they had been for HOLY GRAIL. The band was best described as having elements of thrash and death metal.
The first thing that those who have never seen SHADOWS FALL before notice is lead singer BRIAN FAIR’s lengthy dreadlocks. With a style like that concertgoers knew they were going to get a lively performance. Out of all the bands that had played, their set made the most use of lights.
A point of excitement for most was when thrashers MUNICIPAL WASTE took the stage. With a sense of humor like front man TONY FORESTA’s, who wouldn’t have a good time? To add to the fun of their set, it all ended with a shower of confetti. They were the only band of the night that could get away with it.
The most honored bands of the night started with an act that many argue should be part of the Big Four: EXODUS. Aside from having KIRK HAMMETT having been a member at the band’s beginning, they are also one of the bigger thrash bands to have come out of California. One reason why they may not be a part of the Big Four is that they don’t sound too similar to the bands that do make up the group. It may also be because they’ve had some major complications in their history. Despite it all, fans were calling out for them while the stage was being set up. During their set tables and seats were shaking like an earthquake was taking place. Song choices such as “War is My Shepard” seemed appropriate given how everyone felt about the Boston manhunt occurring that day. They played with constant energy and had a blackout at the end for a strong effect.
As they said it themselves, EVERY TIME I DIE was there to provide the pure hardcore portion of the evening. They didn’t seem to generate as much excitement as EXODUS which made it tough for them to follow the act. Fortunately the audience’s energy gained as the set progressed. The players didn’t let the audience’s lack of initial enthusiasm affect them. In fact they were almost constantly jumping and headbanging in sync. Their act finished with them getting the audience to join them in a good old “U.S.A.” chant. Although I wasn’t familiar with them I appreciated their song choices and titles such as “Underwater Bimbos from Outer Space.”
There was a bit of wait for HATEBREED to come on but fans still had their energy. Attendees knew things were getting serious when a personal banner was used for their set. Although HATEBREED is considered hardcore by many I heard enough metal in them that qualifies them as walking the line between the two genres. They were certainly harder than most of the other bands that played that day. Right from the start the crowd was jumping. It was impressive to see the band manage to fit twenty songs including “In Ashes They Shall Reap”, “Destroy Everything”, and “Everyone Bleeds Now” into their hour long set.
When the banner for ANTHRAX’s Among The Living was revealed the crowd instantly became excited. As promised, the band would play through the entire album but not each track consecutively. This year the album is celebrating its 26th anniversary. Some of the well known tracks from it are “Among the Living”, “Caught in a Mosh”, “I Am the Law”, “Efilnikufesin (N.F.L.)”, “A Skeleton in the Closet”, and “Indians”. All these songs are reasons why many claim that it is the best ANTHRAX album. It is also considered their breakthrough and is currently certified gold. “I Am the Law” is notably based off the character Judge Dredd just as the man from “Among the Living” is based off of the main villain from Stephen King’s The Stand. “Indians” and “Caught in a Mosh” have always been audiences favorites to get their mosh on and who can argue with them? It seemed like the show was almost too big to be playing a venue the size of the Palladium.
ANTHRAX fans know that big news was made fairly recently when longtime lead guitarist ROB CAGGIANO left to join VOLBEAT. For this appearance JON DONAIS of SHADOWS FALL filled in. Besides that, ANTHRAX didn’t play any differently than before. front man JOEY BELLADONNA still jumps around the stage like he’s in his 20s. Songs that were not from Among The Living included “March of the S.O.D”, “T.N.T.”, “Madhouse”, “Got the Time”, “I’m the Man”, and “Antisocial”. It was fairly surprising for them to do the STORM TROOPERS OF DEATH cover but a real treat for anyone who’s a fan of the band. “T.N.T” was a recent AC/DC cover from their newest album Anthems and a lot of fun. It would’ve been nearly impossible for them to leave without playing the others.
One of the highlights of the set had nothing to do with music but more of why the community of music is so great. An audience member had thrown a Red Sox hat at guitarist SCOTT IAN. He then asked the audience if they knew how hard it was for him to put it on considering he’s from New York. He did anyway and stated that it wasn’t about being a fan of a certain team but coming together in a time like this. All agreed and the band played on.
By Melissa Campbell