New England Metalfest - 2005 Day Two
Metal Festival
Live Concert
Reviewed by Jay

Where to begin, where to begin? This seventh installment of the New England Metal (and hardcore) festival (NEMF) had one of the greatest lineups I’ve been witness to at any US metal fest. I took the time out of my study schedule to drive up to Worcester, MA for the fest. Read my review of the 2003 festival for a description of the Palladium venue. The festival was expanded to a three day ordeal this year. I couldn’t make friday but there was only one band I was interested in seeing anyway. 90% of the days lineup was hard and metalcore which didn’t interest me in the least.

As I left my parking spot, I realized I was parked next to Strapping Young Lad’s bus as the band began to disembark just as I did. I had their new CD in my car and should have grabbed it as to get it signed. When entered the venue on Saturday, I met up with Waynis and his friends Chris and “Jack Black.” We introduced ourselves and went to the main stage where I ran into some friends from the scene. Also at the time I was introduced to the sounds of Twelve Tribes who really didn’t do much for me. The next band however provided a fine kick-off to this year’s fest. Reflux is a great band that combines elements of technical metal with a math-rock sensibility. While the vocals were slightly hardcore twinged, the talent and passion they put into their music overcame that. Their blistering 20 minute set would be a great way to start the festivities off.

I wanted to go up to the second stage next and check out the scene there but security prevented me. This would become a running theme of the weekend. Palladium security had been nothing but great all the previous years however this year something changed. After some incidents, there was a tight control over movement around the venue. The steroid-juiced meatheads on power trips were running the show. It’s no wonder that some of them got assaulted by fans before the weekend was over. I did make it upstairs and checked out the merch section which was magnificent. In contrast to previous festivals, the prices were nice and low on saturday already and only dropped further on sunday. The labels were all too kind to give out free stuff. I got to meet some awesome reps from Century Media/Nuclear Blast, Relapse and The End records. At this point, I started negotiating an interview with Sonata Arctica.

After working the room for a little, it was time for Trivium on the main stage. I’ve followed this band from their first demo and was eager to finally catch them live. They didn’t disappoint. The sound was great and they put on a good show. Some older tracks got passed over in favor of the songs from the new album but I can’t blame them since they also were victims of the 20 minute setlist. After the set, I got to talk to their new bass player Paolo for a short while. I left the main stage when the horrific sounds of The Red Chord filled the hall. There is scant less in the world that I can tolerate than the noise that spewed forth from this band. If they disappear, I wouldn’t mind.

I kind of hung around for the next few hours waiting for bands I wanted to see. During this time, I talked with tour managers for bands I hoped to interview as well as label reps, friends and readers. People I knew kept coming up to me all day as I wandered around the venue. The funniest was when someone came up to me in the bathroom as I was shaking hands with the man. One awesome person I ran into was Brian Slagel, the founder of Metal Blade records. I thanked him for all the work he has done to promote metal in this country. He was running around the place all weekend and I no doubt ran into him again at the bar or the sound booth or somewhere.

In order to get a good vantage point for Sonata Arctica, I made my way to the front just as Icepick was coming on. They feature Jamey Jasta and Sean Martin from Hatebreed as well as Lord Ezac from Crown of Thornz. Not my thing but hey, they were out there trying. I can’t bring myself to criticize Jasta like most metal fans do. He is one man who truly cares about the scene. He gets out there and supports everyone. From the largest headliners to the smallest band down the street trying to make it. It doesn’t matter if you’re hardcore, metal or somewhere in between to him. It’s noble to see someone so in it for the music. He even sported a King Diamond shirt on stage.

Then came one of the highlights of the weekend for me. Sonata Arctica. They came out and did not let up for 30 minutes straight. A combination of songs old and new was on display. Tony Kakko sounds fantastic live. He hits his notes and replicates the album perfectly. Jani and Henrik also bust out fantastic jams live. The new album was predominantly focused on but we got some old favorites like “Black Sheep” and “8th Commandment.” They closed with “Don’t Say a Word” which is such a fantastic song. The chorus is infectious and bouncy. Everyone in the front was jumping up and down to that song. Rumor has it that they have a headlining tour coming up later this year as well. I can’t wait for that.

From power to psychosis as Strapping Young Lad was up next. I had seen the band disembarking from their tour bus earlier in the day since my car was parked right next to it. Their new disc is killer and they played a few tunes off of it to the chagrin of the crowd. I think they should have been moved up in the lineup since they have so much energy live and Devin Townsend is a powerful stage presence. He feigns insanity on stage and repeatedly insults the crowd which can be construed as part of their appeal. Musically, they were super tight. Hoglan, the drum god and Byron Stroud, the mammoth bassist provide infernal beats to compliment Townsend’s chaotic guitar noises and vocals. All-in-all, another stellar performance from these masters.

At this point, I left the main stage to visit the Century Media table to meet and interview Tony from Sonata Arctica. After some trouble with security getting to the upstairs section, I managed to get in and catch some of second stage headliners Blood Has Been Shed. This is the other band of Killswitch Engage vocalist Howard Jones. A metal-tinged hardcore band, they sound pretty tight on stage and the crowd certainly digged what they had going. I missed Most Precious Blood who was on before them (sorry Rachel!). Sonata shows up and I get some quick comments from Tony before taking some pictures with them and my friends as well as some of the insane dudes from the forums here (you know who you are).

After all the commotion with Sonata, I headed back to the mainstage and saw the second half of God Forbid’s set. They have vastly improved live since I saw them last summer. While I thought they were slipshod at best previously, they proved me wrong with a sharp and in synch performance. Their music still hasn’t won me over but they can certainly whip the pit into a frenzy. “Gone Forever” did kick some ass though and I was definetly partial to the great drum sound they had going.

Retiring to the bar, I chatted with some other metal press people from various zines, websites and other publications for a little bit before running into some of the guys from Buffalo, NY based death metal band Fireborn. You may remember I picked up their full length at the 2003 NEMF. In discussion, they had a new direction which is more melodeath oriented. I can’t wait to hear what that will sound like. Going back to the main stage, I checked out Cryptopsy and was I in for a surprise. They played the None So Vile album in its entirety! Lord Worm is their vocalist. No one else even comes close. Touring guitarist Dan Mongrain shreds something fierce and has the coolest hair in metal. It looks like a tornado whipping across the stage when he headbangs. Flo Mournier. What else can I say about arguably the fastest and most aggressive drummer in metal today. To see him perform was an experience. He blasts so fast, my ears can barely keep up. I briefly met Lord Worm and Dan Mongrain after their set and they were totally cool.

Right as Chimaira was about to go on, an announcement was made on the PA that photography would not be allowed during Danzig’s set. Permit me a brief tangent. What kind of little candy-ass son of a bitch do you think you are, Danzig? You haven’t had a hit record since the early 90’s. No one cares about you or your current music. They come to hear you play “Mother” and THAT’S IT. Didn’t you notice how you commanded an audience of around 100 people at the 2003 NJMF despite your headlining status? Everyone cleared out when your sorry ass came on. You’re dramatic shenanegans need to end and soon. You totally deserved getting your ass beaten down by that dude from the North Side Kings. Either hang it up or do a Misfits reunion. Stop being a little bitch. After this announcement, I left since I was not a Chimaira fan and would not support “Mr. Shorty” Danzig after that nonsense. Personally, I don't understand why Cryptopsy and SYL didn't headline.

Day one was a blast. I met lots of cool people. The metal rocked and my neck was sore from the abuse it took. As I made my way to southern New Hampshire (where I would spend the night), I reflected on the awesomeness of the day and how tomorrow would kick even more ass.

Stay tuned to MetalReviews next week for the thrilling conclusion (and pictures) of Day Three!

Killing Songs :
Jay quoted
Other albums by New England Metalfest that we have reviewed:
New England Metalfest - Day Three - April 30, 2006, The Worcester Palladium, Worcester, MA reviewed by Kayla and quoted
New England Metalfest - Day Two - April 29th, 2006, The Worcester Palladium, Worcester, MA reviewed by Kayla and quoted
New England Metalfest - Day One - April 28th, 2006, The Worcester Palladium, Worcester, MA reviewed by Kayla and quoted
New England Metalfest - 2003 Day Two reviewed by Jay and quoted
New England Metalfest - 2003 Day One reviewed by Jay and quoted
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