I have to admit that I got schooled a bit at the NEHMHF. It was really great to see so many different genres and styles represented. From the 80’s hardcore scene to Folk Metal there was plenty to do and see in Worcester Mass. this year. The only sub genre of heavy music that I felt was missing was black metal. There really wasn’t any representation of black metal (except for maybe Opeth) which personally I really would have enjoyed to see especially because it seemed that pretty much all the other major sub-genres were represented in some form or fashion. I will gloss over the highlights of the weekend but before I do let me just say that the New England Heavy Metal and Hardcore Festival was a fucking blast and I think everyone who stayed for the whole three days were treated graciously by some very talented classic hardcore pioneers.
Day-1) Day one was crazy to say the least just getting oriented with the all the action going on. Upstairs was the smaller stage where more of the hardcore bands played throughout the weekend. One of the best parts of this set up was that for a large portion of the day if you weren’t really into one band you could just go to the other stage and check out the band playing there, or if a band finished their set you didn’t have to wait for the next one to set up you could just go over to the opposite stage and check out some more heavy music. There were plenty of merch tables around selling the usual wares, T’s, hoodies, wristbands, but there was also a lots of cool stuff from labels and different companies associated with the heavy music culture that offered everything to skateboards to hard to find albums. (My friend found a sweet Early Graves CD that I really should have picked up as well)
OK so the first day ended with a lot of energy. Admittedly I did miss Munipal Waste’s set but there was just so much going on it was hard to see everything. One of the earlier draws was Holy Grail, a speedy power metal band with some intricate guitar work. The people I went with commented that Holy Grail had improved a lot since the last time they saw them. Black Breath was on of my personal highlights of the weekend. Every Time I Die started off the end of the night and served as a prelude to the headliners coming up and they were good, admittedly not one of my faves but the crowd got into them and the chicks dig them. Then it was on to EXODUS and if you haven’t heard of them stop reading this immediately and go check them out the “Toxic Waltz” is one of there classics. EXODUS was great, high energy the band was really on. (Not that they ever really are off) The crowd surfing was on overdrive and the crowd was going nuts. However some crowd surfers are above the recommended size and you know who you are yet you insist anyway. I think that a Too Fat to Fly clause should be enforced at all shows. Anyway EXODUS raised the energy bar tenfold.
Up next was Hatebreed. I know they can be a divisive band in the metal and hardcore community, personally it took me a while but once I gave them a chance I really enjoyed what I heard and have been a fan for a long time now. Hatebreed really brought the brutality in spades. One of there best performances I have ever seen them put on, they started with one my favorite songs called “You’re Never Alone.” It was kind of interesting that for the rest of the weekend you would occasionally overhear someone saying something along the lines of “yeah I am not really a Hatebreed fan but that show was awesome!”
The last band to play on day one was Anthrax, again another band if you have never listened to stop, go listen now!, this will be hear when you get back. Anthrax was on the bill to play the entire “Among the Living” album, (A great place to start if you are new to Anthrax) and they did play most of the album I think they left out “A.D.I./ The Horror of it All.” Anthrax played a few covers including an AC/DC cover of “TNT” teasing “Back in Black” at the end of it, which admittedly I would have liked to have seen. Scott Ian was his usual talkative self which I honestly find gives Anthrax a lot of its personality but I definitely heard someone near the front row yell at Scott for talking to long and to “shut up and play a fucking song!” Anthrax is one of those bands I think can be taken for granted a little bit, especially in the sensory overload setting of the New England Metal and Hardcore Festival but then when it finally comes to see Anthrax with the back drops with there logos and Joey Belladonna takes the stage with the rest of the band and they all start to play its like a smack in the face, “Oh yeah ANTHRAX is playing!!! alright!” They are one of those bands that just seem larger than life when you see them.
Day-2) Was a lot of fun because it was heavy with folk metal bands. I saw a guy playing the lute in a heavy metal band which is just an truly cool thing to see. Part of the charm of folk metal for me is that its very up beat for the most part and I find it makes me want to be in a great viking beer hall full of maidens singing songs of old while all stand and slam there mighty steins together. One of the early stand outs for me was Trollfest, a Norwegian folk metal band. They were unique and just a lot of fun to listen to. The lead singer was wearing a bumble bee suit and antennae. They had me saying ” beware the Brumblebassen” the rest of the weekend. Something to be noted is that the entire weekend everyone was really nice to each other, bands and concert goers alike, I saw very little hostile violence towards anyone the entire weekend.
The moshing during the folk metal bands is one of the most polite I have ever seen. People were moshing in rhythm and singing together instead of slamming into each other, as much. That’s not to say that these pits weren’t high intensity by any means just a different style than the traditional slamming into each other most in the states are familiar with. Other highlights of the day included Battlecross, self described as “Blue Collar Thrash Metal” from Canton, Michigan (One of my personal favorites of the whole weekend), and Goatwhore a death metal band from New Orleans. Ensiferum, Heidevolk, and Helsott were other folk metal bands that were fun to see. Tyr was really good and definitely worth checking out. The atmosphere that the folk metal bands cultivates is really cool. People dress as vikings wearing traditional garb, furs, giant boots, belts and war paint right out of Braveheart. I actually heard a guy complaining that they took his viking helmet with the big horns on it and his authentic animal viking war horn.
Katatonia put on a good show, they have good stage presence. Then it was on to sort of the odd man out on this day Dillinger Escape Plan. Now admittedly I have never been a huge Dillinger fan but I know a lot of people who are. It definitely seemed a strange juxtaposition to place Dillinger in between Katatonia and the headliner Opeth who are both more melodic metal bands. If your not familiar with Dillinger I think it is safe to say they can be an acquired taste. To an outsider listening in its very high energy for the most part and the beats can be really sporadic at times which can be off putting for some who prefer more traditional styles of metal. This is how I will describe there set. Very high energy. The people in the pit were going nuts. The front man puts on a hell of a show……I have no idea what happened. Was it good? Bad? I can’t really tell you. What I can tell you is that I was there and it happened. What it means exactly I couldn’t really tell you. I felt kind of like Willem in Mallrats trying to decipher a magic eye poster, everyone else could see the sailboat but I just saw a lot of bright colors and heard a lot of loud sounds. What I will say though about Dillinger Escape Plan however is that they brought the energy in spades and towards the end of the second day of a three day weekend of non-stop metal I think high energy is what everybody needed to keep going.
The second day headliner was Opeth and they are band I honestly knew about but never really heard anything by them and didn’t quite know what to expect. In my head I was honestly thinking sort of like a rock and roll cross-over type band. From what I saw at the show I would have to say that Opeth is a very talented band. They did everything from an acoustic version of a death metal song to actual death metal, complete with a healthy death metal scream. Actually I was impressed at how heavy Opeth actually got during some of their songs. I felt that the set that Opeth played was way too heavy on the acoustic and slower melodic stuff for a headliner at the NEMHCF. Like I said before it was the end of the day and it felt like the acoustic melodic stuff was lulling a lot of people to sleep, myself included. I am pretty sure that they played something like three acoustic songs in a row and Opeth songs are at least seven minutes long a piece. A reliable source told me that Opeth had basically played there exact set from their headlining tour which I think was slightly inappropriate for the festival. The stuff they played was sort of for the hardcore Opeth fan who wants to see all the facets the bands catalog has to offer. At NEMHCF I feel like most people want one thing and one thing only, to have there faces melted off with high energy performances. By no means is it my intention to bad mouth Opeth as they proved to be a very talented band and I enjoyed a lot of there songs. I just think that Opeth could have catered to the audience a little bit and given the crowd less acoustic and more heavy everything else. From what I am told there is plenty in Opeth’s catalog to accomplish this feat. To summarize Opeth good band, New England Metal and Hardcore Festival set could have used a little tweaking.
Day-3) Admittedly I didn’t know very many of the bands that played on Sunday. I knew Suicidal Tendencies and I wanted to stay just to hear “Institutionalized.” One of the booths I really enjoyed at the festival was the Rock and Shock booth which was basically a booth selling cool horror movie stuff and promoting the Rock and Shock show that is held in Worcester, MA sometime in October. Basically a horror convention with some metal bands which sounds like a great time year round to me.
Of the earlier bands I thought the hardcore band Warhound had a great stage presence and a lot of attitude. Dark Sermon a metal band from Tampa, FL put on an entertaining show. The lead singer could easily make you believe that he was actually insane as in certain parts of songs he wouldn’t sing into his microphone at all and just screamed verses at the crowd. It was pretty fucking crazy and a lot of fun to watch. They are a solid band with catchy riffs I would like to see how they evolve. Texas in July sticks out in my mind mostly because they all wore big black rain gear and it looked really hot and uncomfortable to be wearing while trying to perform. I remember Brick by Brick putting on a good show. The rest is sort of a blur until Job for a Cowboy came on. Job for a Cowboy played a pretty good set. Miss May I had a pretty solid following but you could see the overall crowd thinning out by this time of the day.
Then finally came the old-school hardcore trifecta. Starting off with D.R.I.(Dirty Rotten Imbeciles) They were a lot more melodic than expected. Great songs a lot of fun. It was cool to see the loyal fans come out, who have probably been going to shows for all three of the final bands for over thirty years, and watching them sing along to all the songs. Up next was Sick of it All and they were just awesome. The lead singer came out and told the crowd to expect Black Sabbath heavy style riffs not speed metal. The energy was impressive to say the least. Considering Sick of it All formed in the mid 80’s I have seen bands half their age struggle to keep the intensity they did. The lead guitarist was making me tired just watching him run around the stage. During the Sick of it All set the lead singer set up a wall of death claiming that it had started with hardcore and then metal culture took it for there own. What was great about this particular wall of death was that some guy showed up dressed in a black and white jumpsuit like an old-timey prisoner and the lead singer of Sick of it All pointed him out and said “hey look its the guy from the get out of jail free card” and the guy in the jumpsuit proudly walked out into the middle of the pit to show off I guess and as soon as the fake prisoner walked out there the lead singer of Sick of it All gave the signal for the wall of death to begin and closed it with that prisoner right in the middle. Sick of it All were a great show.
For the grand finale was Suicidal Tendencies and again I really didn’t know what to expect. I own there first album which was recorded back in 1981 and the lead singer is an angry teenager on it. Suicidal Tendencies was fucking awesome! I was so glad that I waited to the end to see them. The drummer was unbelievable. A friend compared him to Gene Hoglan. The band was just so much more diverse than I ever imagined and the songs and the atmosphere that S.T. creates is so much fun to lose yourself in. The lead singer was a really positive guy and he had some cool morality stories leading into a few of his songs. He said something along the lines of “through out your life you will meet people with there hand out, some you try to help and they will try to pull you down but others just need help getting back on their feet and when you help them they will always remember what you did for them and hopefully pay it forward.” For the last song Suicidal Tendencies invited everyone to come up on stage until the band was lost in a sea of fans and everyone joined in singing. It really was the perfect end to such an epic weekend. Seeing D.R.I., Sick of it All, and Suicidal Tendencies was a real treat to someone who really respects the history of music and it was really cool to see them kicking ass after all these years.
In conclusion the New England Metal and Hardcore festival is a must at least once for anyone into heavy music. I found the weekend educational actually, seeing all those bands for the whole weekend gave me a better understanding of the different sub-genres within metal and hardcore music. I also gained a better appreciation for the specific nuances that go into each sub-genre and I also saw a lot of cool bands I didn’t know very well and now I desperately have to improve my music library. Sometimes it can be easy to feel alienated as a fan of heavy metal and hardcore music and it really is nice to go to a place where your favorite style of music isn’t just accepted but celebrated. Consider the New England Metal and Hardcore festival a sort of Ellis Island for the uninitiated, a great place to be welcomed to the world that is heavy metal and hardcore music but ultimately only the tip of the iceberg.