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Review: There’s nothing quite like Metalfest


I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again ~ there is really nothing quite like the New England Metal & Hardcore Fest. It has grown to be one of the biggest (if not taking the crown) metal music festivals in the country, right here in Worcester.

We’re not talking some rinky-dink show (not that I have a problem with those) where a few bands get together to play a few songs each for a few hours. No.  We’re talking three days of face-melting metal played by close to 80 different metal and hardcore bands, some of which you may not have heard before and many which you have. Two stages are alive and shaking with the vibration of the amps and the walls rumble with energy. Bands that are making a name for themselves in Metalopolis and bands that have been around since the hardcore dark ages grace us with their presence for a true experience that really can’t be compared with much else.

Day One


Julius Seizure and Death Rattle kicked off the night on their respective stages, setting the pace for the festival with a blast ofadrenaline-pumping sound. Julius Seizure, which gained immediate popularity with its debut album, Beware the Ides of March, and its 2013 release, Trials, promised to be a force to be reckoned with in the scene. I was really impressed with Gideon’s performance, but I have to say that Oceano really blew me away with a virtually flawless set and engaging show that pulled me right in. Though I admit I initially found it difficult to concentrate when a shirtless Brandan from Bleeding Through took the stage, I was snapped right back into the moment as I realized that this would be my last opportunity to see them live and that I’d better stop drooling and enjoy every second of it, which I certainly did. These hardcore mainstays completely tore it up, getting the crowd the rowdiest I saw it all night.  Emmure continued the momentum with songs off its new Eternal Enemies album and headliners (and Massachusetts natives) All That Remains closed out the show, inspiring one last circle pit before the Palladium closed for the night.


Day Two

Ispent much of my day running up and down the stairs because there were several bands on both stages I really wanted to see.  Though everyone really did a phenomenal job, those playing upstairs that took the musical cake for me were Born Low, a relatively new band that I think could really be going places, and Slapshot, which busted loose with some high energy in a packed room. Upstairs, I Declare War caught my attention right away, and 1349 ~ though I have never really listened to them before ~ really made me an instant fan and spurred me to stream them later that night. Goatwhore and Within the Ruins have always been two of my personal Metalfest favorites, and they made me a happy metal chick (as always). Carnifex did a great job, too.  I couldn’t see Thy Art is Murder because I was waiting in line for Brian O’Halloran (famous for his role as Dante in the movie Clerks) to sign something for my fan-boyfriend, but the band sounded right on point from where I stood.  Unfortunately for me, I was not feeling great in general and took an early leave, however, friends that stuck around let me know (and rubbed it in my face a bit) that I missed some craziness ~ with The Acacia Strain doing their usual excellent performance, Whitechapel blasting out some worthy tunes and Behemoth spurring their fans to an anti-religion movement of Bible desecration in support of their new release.

Day Three


Historically, this has been my favorite Metalfest day, and this year was no exception. On the upstairs stage, I saw some pretty goodbands throughout the day, but was most anxious to see Lionheart, which didn’t disappoint me in the least.  The band’s straight-up, no-nonsense approach to hardcore and the members’ obvious love for their fans and performing was as great as ever. Nails also drove a lot of people into the smaller room for a more intimate performance before heading back down to the main stage. Battlecross graduated to the big stage this year and for good reason.  Last year, the band was one of my favorites, and this year was no different.  This is a band worth following; it has it all ~ the hype, the energy, the talent pool, and the happiest guitarist known to metal (Tony Asta). Revamp, aside from a gorgeous female lead vocalist, really surprised me with its ability to make a non-conventional sound work with the festival’s more hard-hitting companions.

Sabaton was easily one of my favorite performances of the night. Its unique style, its tailored stage presence and thematic presence made it impossible to stand still. Though the band is more present in Europe, it is certainly convincing the States with its latest album, Heroes.  The album tells musical stories about heroes from all parts of the world and all walks of life that have gone above the call of duty for the sake of what was right or honorable.  What’s more is that it doesn’t focus on any one side.

The band members told Pulse that they “decided to focus on the heroic events of the peoples’ lives and not on any bad things they did.” Though controversial to some, I think this shows a tolerance and willingness to see the individual decisions that soldiers have to make, regardless of who they may fight for. Heroes comes out this month.

Unearth kept the energy levels high and took the stage in the fashion it always does ~ like a tornado does to Kansas.  Crowd-pleasers to the core, band members feed off the audience and get more intense with every song in their set. Boston natives Sam Black Church, aka SBC, were one of the best performances of the entire festival, with a charismatic flair that makes me wonder if there is something supernatural going on.  Where many bands embrace the dark side of metal, SBC makes it fun.  You just can’t not like this band; it’s impossible.  A metal music phenomenon really, security guards couldn’t keep Jet from crowd-surfing.  Since the band doesn’t play very often, if you were unfortunate enough to miss this one, catch the next ~ you won’t regret it.

NEMHF14ENILE took the stage next and gave the crowd a moment to breathe, with its signature style and technically perfect instrumental.  I was able to speak with Karl Sanders a week before the show, and he credits the pure love of metal for the bands longevity, and it was clear in NILE’s performance that this is the case.  NILE has stood the test of time, not unlike the Mesopotamian/Egyptian themes it sings about.

I asked Sanders to tell me how he goes about choosing the specific subject from the thousands of years of history for any particular song. He said, “It may sound crazy, but I just wait for the universe to throw something at me. For instance, on our last album, there is a song called ‘The Natural Liberation of Fear through the Ritual Deception of Death,’ and it came about because when I opened the Book of the Dead to read, it opened to this specific page, and it inspired me to write a song.”

NILE is currently working on new music, and Sanders said it goes in a different direction. “Tthe last album was very based on technicality and musicianship. That record was almost surgically clean. This one may go in a more savage direction, letting emotional content and brutality dictate the course.”

Iced Earth closed out the festival with focus on songs from its new album, Plagues of Babylon. There were delicious guitar harmonies that filled the entire space, almost like an instrumental Gregorian chant, and it inspired an almost cult-like response from the crowd.  Successfully fusing together old style and new style metal, this band was the best choice to close the show.

Story and photos by Jennifer Russo

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