My full review:
The Christmas season for New England metalheads is upon us! The 15th annual New England Metal and Hardcore Festival continued the tradition of excellence and provided me with another joyous day full of heavy music at the infamous Palladium in Worcester, Massachusetts.
My friend and I arrived at The Palladium around 1. Upon our arrival, we caught the last song of Los Angeles folk metal act Hellsot. I didn't catch enough of their set to get a solid opinion on them, but they sounded pretty decent. Another folk metal act Trollfest was the first band I actually caught. Their music was definitely interesting with heavy use of the accordion, banjo and saxophone, but the vocals didn't really click with me. If you like folk metal, these guys are definitely a good time, but they just weren't entirely my bag due to the vocals.
I went and grabbed some merch and got something to eat over the next 45 minutes so the next band I was able to catch was Fit for an Autopsy. This was my second time seeing them and while they're not anything too special, they most definitely good at what they do. They make breakdown-heavy deathcore that is bolstered by strong vocals from Nate Johnson and a clear influence from old-school brutal death metal acts like Suffocation and Dying Fetus. They have a solid stage presence and they were able to get some pretty big pits going even though it was very early in the day. Bonus points for them calling out Asking Alexandria as "the only shitty metal band". Good set and they set a nice tone for the rest of the day.
Glass Cloud hit the the stage next. This was my first time seeing them and I enjoyed their debut record The Royal Thousand so I was naturally pretty excited to check out their set. Their set was in-line with my expectations with a good, energetic set from them. Vocalist Jerry Roush sounded pretty damn good and did his studio vocals justice in a live setting. He also had some weird and hilarious stage moves like doing barrel rolls during the instrumental sections and a plethora of bizarre hand gestures when he was singing. The only thing that bothered me was the tone of the guitar. Josh Travis is a great guitarist, but his pedals and amps sounded flat and out-of-tune for the entire duration of the set. Definitely an enjoyable show from Glass Cloud and I wouldn't mind seeing them again in the future.
I headed upstairs after Glass Cloud finished up at 3:15 hoping that the upstairs stage was running ahead of schedule so I could catch Reflections before The Contortionist went on at 4. Unfortunately that was not the case, City in the Sea was playing their last song when I got upstairs and they sounded pretty decent. I decided to stick around hoping that Reflections would be on after them, but instead it was hometown act Years Since the Storm. I was not particularly impressed with their set. They played an odd combination of death/metal/hardcore with some progressive elements. It was kind of a jumbled mess overall and aside from a few cool riffs here and there and a drummer with some solid chops, I didn't find much to like about Years Since the Storm.
I went back downstairs to catch The Contortionist and out of the four times I've seen them, this was the best. No disrespect to recently departed vocalist Jonathan Carpenter, but fill-in vocalist Mike Lassard of Last Chance to Reason just did a better job with the songs. His clean vocals in particular are better than Carpenter's making slower tracks like "Holomovement" especially impressive in a live setting. In addition to being a stronger vocalist than Carpenter, Lassard is a more lively stage presence giving the band a more energetic and immense vibe than the previous three times I'd seen them with Carpenter at the helm. I'm hoping The Contortionist can find someone as good as Lassard to be their new permanent vocalist. The band was spot-on musically as always and hearing them finally play "Vessel" live was badass. Another excellent set from The Contortionist and I wish them luck in their search for a new vocalist.
Within the Ruins hit the stage next and god damn I did not except them to be this good. It's hard to believe this is the same band that opened Summer Slaughter 2011 with a decent albeit unremarkable performance. This go-round could not be any more different, they absolutely killed it. Their set was full of infectious energy, huge pits and the band was just having a whole lot of fun on stage. The biggest improvement from was the vocals of Tim Goregen , which I've never been the biggest fan of, but he was great yesterday. It's also awesome to watch their guitarist Joe Cochi play live. He hits all the crazy guitar acrobatics with the same precision as on record and it's just a thrill to watch. Within the Ruins was without a doubt the pleasant surprise of the day and I can only hope their live show maintains its quality the next time I see them.
After the Burial was up next and they completely destroyed. These guys impressed the hell out of me at Warped Tour last summer and managed to impress even more with their performance yesterday. I don't know what it is exactly, but their music just hits really hard in a live setting. My favorite song by them, "Berzerker", was particularly mind-blowing and somehow managed to be even more impressive than the flawless studio version. Even songs like "Your Troubles Will Cease and Fortune Smiles Upon You" which I don't love on record, were amazing live. Their vocalist Anthony Notarmaso is just an absolute beast with a dynamic stage presence that sets them apart from a lot of other bands in the genre while the band is amongst the tightest I've ever seen musically. They also played a new song entitled "Wolf Amongst Ravens" which is better than a majority of In Dreams and sees the Meshuggah-esque grooves of Rareform making a glorious return into their music. I talked to Anthony after the show (extremely nice guy by the way, very appreciative of his fans and genuinely cares what you have to say) and he said the record is about 75% done and they just have to track drums on the last two tracks and all of the vocals and that it should be out sometime in the fall. If "Wolf Amongst Ravens" is any indicator, we should be looking at one of the finest records of 2013. Another amazing set from After the Burial and I will try my hardest to catch them whenever they play in Massachusetts.
Another Sumerian Records act, Born of Osiris, was up next. Well not quite up to par with the previous time I saw them at Metal Fest in 2011, they we're definitely better than they were at Warped Tour last summer. Ronnie Canizaro was a lot more energetic and sounded a lot sharper vocally than the last time I saw them and the setlist was better by a pretty decent margin. Save for the "Rosecrance/Empires Erased" opener, the rest of the set was strictly songs from The Discovery, which was completely awesome since that is easily my favorite Born of Osiris record. I was stoked to finally hear "Two Worlds of Design" and "A Solution" live and "Recreate" and "Ascension" were just as good as the previous times I'd seen them. Born of Osiris is always a good time live and I'm excited to see them for a fourth time at Mayhem Fest in July.
After Born of Osiris, I was stuck in a conundrum between watching a few songs of Ensiferum on the main stage or head upstairs early to make sure I could get a spot for Terror (Two years ago, they stopped letting people in for Terror's set because it was dangerously overcrowded.) Despite the fact that I am fan of Ensiferum and wanted to check out their set, I decided to be safe and go upstairs and not chance missing Terror. Unfortunately, this decision lead me to seeing Alpha & Omega. These dudes might be the most mediocre hardcore band I've ever heard. They didn't really have much energy and all of their songs lacked the punch that's needed for hardcore to work. Alpha & Omega was just kind of there and their set was wholly forgettable.
It was finally time for Terror to hit the stage. Terror has been amongst my favorite hardcore bands for years and I was so stoked to finally get to see them live, thankfully their stage show delivered. Scott Vogel is an absolute madman on stage running around like a crazy person and just putting everything he has into the performance. Their performance had all the energy and passion that it does on record. There was just one problem with their set: the crowd was shockingly tame. For all the energy Terror was giving off, the crowd didn't even come close to reciprocating it. Vogel's pleas for the crowd to pick it up and move closer to the stage went largely unmet. Of course pits we're still occurring, but they were relatively small and absolutely not big enough for a band like Terror that demands high levels of crowd intensity. Terror definitely put on a great performance, it was just missing the crazy crowd reception that are needed for hardcore shows to thrive.
After Terror wrapped up the upstairs stage for the day, it was time to head back downstairs where Katatonia had just started their set. I've never been into Katatonia and their performance did nothing to sway my opinion. They are undeniably talented band (quite a few songs had some pretty sick solos in them and their vocalist has a pretty good voice), I just find their music to be stagnant and it's simply just not my bag. The crowd definitely disagreed with me big time as they got an excellent reception. I appreciated the musicianship Katatonia has to offer, but their music does nothing for me.
The night came to an end for me with the band I was most excited to see on the day: the mighty Dillinger Escape Plan. Every time you see a Dillinger Escape Plan show you don't what the fuck you're going to get into and this was absolutely the craziest out of the four times I've seen them. Dillinger came barreling onto the stage with "Prancer" from their upcoming record One of Us Is the Killer and just destroyed the stage for fifty minutes nonstop only stopping for about a minute in the middle of the set Ben Weinman to thank the crowd and Greg Puiciato to yell the title of the other new song they played (I couldn't make out what he said to be honest.) Puciato and Weinman did multiple stage dives (there is a rail downstairs, but that didn't stop them) and other various crazy things such as Puiciato performing an entire song on someone's head and ending the set by throwing a couple of Billy Rymer's cymbals around the stage. The crowd was every bit as crazy as Dillinger feeding off the band's insane energy with large pits and crowd surfers galore, it was a truly glorious sight to behold. No one creates chaos in a live setting like the Dillinger Escape Plan and you don't want to look away for a second when they are on the stage. These guys are the epitome of live chaos and remain one of the most elite live acts in all of metal. I am looking forward to see these guys raise hell yet again on Summer Slaughter in August. Dillinger capped off another amazing Metal Fest for me and I'm looking forward to what organizer Scott Lee puts together for the 16th incarnation of the New England Metal and Hardcore Festival in 2014.
Fit for an Autopsy 7.5/10
Glass Cloud 7.5/10
Years Since the Storm 4/10
The Contortionist 8.5/10
Within the Ruins 8.5/10
After the Burial 9/10
Born of Osiris 8/10
Alpha & Omega 5/10
The Dillinger Escape Plan 9.5/10