By Bruce Sullivan

monstersThe Monsters of Annihilation Tour crashed into Worcester’s historic The Palladium like a four headed creature from a Japanese horror movie, and rock fans couldn’t be happier. The tour, featuring high powered anthem rockers Papa Roach, Skillet, Trapt, and My Darkest Days, delivered four legitimately hot rock bands in their prime for less than 30 bucks.

As My Darkest Days took the stage, a sea of fohawks, skinny jeans, tinted hair, and pushup bras greeted these hungry Canadian rockers. Led by the blond and charismatic Matt Walst on lead vocals and guitars, and mohawked Sal Costa on lead guitar, the band wasted no time in kick starting the night with a heavy dose of melodic power rock. Hands-down the early favorites for best hair of the night, My Darkest Days earned their wings with a high flying set of hook heavy, guitar driven rock songs complete with soaring harmonies. Walst asks, “Are you ready for rock n roll tonight?!!” And all of Worcester answered, “YEAH!!” Highlights pulled from their self-titled debut included “Come Undone” and hit single “Porn Star Dancer.”

More fans crowded onto the general admission The Palladium floor in anticipation of Trapt, and when they hit the stage, it sounded like a shotgun blast as they launched into “Stand Up.” Dressed in black, vocalist Chris Taylor Brown was perpetual motion as he stalked The Palladium stage and commanded, “Let’s get this s**t started.” The rocker “Sound Off” from the new album No Apologies began, and a mosh pit the size of a black hole opened up and threatened to swallow the crowd. Shirtless frat-boys and schoolyard bullies tangle with aging punks as the band provided the fuel. Brown’s vocals soared on tracks like “Whose Going Home with You Tonight,” “Stranger in the Mirror,” and “Contagious,” which he dedicated to his wife on their one year anniversary. Lead guitarist Robb Torres, toting a Black Les Paul Standard, shone throughout with economical leads and driving power chords. Bassist Peter Charell and drummer Aaron Montgomery conspired to create an atomic rhythm section capable of waking the dead. Trapt closed with their #1 hit “Headstrong,” an adrenaline shot that sent the Worcester crowd into orbit.

A wash of blue light and screams of expectation announced co-headlining Christian rockers Skillet, who enjoy a larger stage set-up, multilevel stage risers, high-powered smoke machines, and a giant light- reflecting backdrop of their latest hit album Awake. Lead singer John Cooper belted out, “I need a hero,” and The Palladium crowd sang along with every roaring syllable. Lead guitarist Ben Kasica impressed on “Whispers in the Dark,” with one handed solos and aggressive fretwork. Drummer Jen Ledger shone on vocals as she and Cooper traded lines in a call and response technique. John’s wife Korey Cooper showed her versatility by jumping from rhythm guitar to keyboards and back. While most heavy rockers celebrate negativity, Skillet delivers messages of hope. “We’re in a war for our souls,” announced Cooper before beginning “This is the Last Night,” a song about the tragedy of teen suicide. Skillet’s “Monster” is the exclamation point to their incredible set.

Papa Roach hit the stage with “Kick in the Teeth,” an appropriate title for the full frontal assault that the delirious crowd endures. Large LED panels and strobe towers complimented Papa Roach’s violent, hard hitting rock n roll. Lead singer Jacoby Shaddix reminded the ecstatic The Palladium crowd what a rock star is all about ~ a mix of sex, charisma, talent, and a little danger mixed with spiky black hair, eye liner, and tattoos. Shaddix is a ball of energy as he lives on top of his stage monitors. “I want to see everyone jumping; this is a rock show!” shouted Shaddix to the worshiping horde, as guitarist Jerry Horton starts in on “Lifeline.” Delirious teens surfed towards the stage, only to be intercepted by the waiting security guards, who catch them and send them back to do it again. “Hollywood Whore” had nearly every female in The Palladium singing and dancing on invisible stripper poles. Shaddix belts out, “I tear my heart open…” as the band launches into the hit “Scars” and every hand was in the air. Other highlights include “Getting Away with Murder,” “Forever,” and the anthemic “Last Resort.” Shaddix cries, “Let’s finish strong,” before ending with “Angels and Insects” and one final stage dive into the pit, a fitting climax to Worcester’s amazing night of rock.