L.A. label celebrates 25th at Metalfest in Worcester.
COLUMN: SCOTT MCLENNAN
WORCESTER - When was the last time you heard someone say Worcester has it all over Los Angeles?
Worcester at least has L.A. beat in the minds of metal heads, and that comment came during the second day of the New England Metal & Hardcore Festival, held Friday and Saturday at the Palladium.
Brian Slagel, founder of Metal Blade Records, was receiving a guitar signed by artists from the record label he launched 25 years ago - and fostered into one of heavy metal's premier imprints - when a rep from ESP guitars drew the L.A.-Worcester comparison. More telling than the words was the fact that Slagel and the Metal Blade crew opted to celebrate its 25th anniversary in Worcester rather than back home in Los Angeles, where the label was born and is still based.
The second day of Metalfest was given over to Metal Blade, with a couple of dozen bands from the roster filling up Saturday's festival schedule. In testament to the depth and breadth of Metal Blade's catalog, the festival retained its typically broad scope of showcasing various subgenres of metal and hard-core rock, using bands from that one stable.
While the Metal Blade anniversary had the big buzz leading up to the festival, the opening day dazzled in its own right, presenting black metal titans Dimmu Borgir from Norway and Behemoth from Poland as the cappers to a day of music that began early and ran late.
The festival completed its ninth year on a high note, with better attendance than the previous year and a head full of steam heading into its own 10th anniversary. Festival organizer Scott Lee noted that the scene Metalfest celebrates is full of "fresh blood."
A clutch of young bands backed Lee's statement, none more forcefully than Job for a Cowboy, an Arizona band fusing technically intricate musicianship with brutal musical breakdowns. JFAC set down a defining show of the sort Metalfest is famous for, with the band joining such company as Lamb of God, Opeth and DragonForce, each a band that Metalfest caught in pivotal breakthrough moments in their respective careers.
Red Chord, one of many Massachusetts bands currently crafting heavy metal's cutting edge, played some new material and indicated its forthcoming album will be as adventurous as its break-out effort, "Clients."
Unearth, another Mass.-bred band that has risen to the upper echelons of metaldom, brought down the house Saturday with a cathartic set that preceded a jam session among Metal Blade all-stars. Unearth singer Trevor Phipps was likewise a highlight of the night-ending jam session, which brought together players from various Metal Blade bands - including a surprise appearance by members of As I Lay Dying - to cover songs by Metallica, Thin Lizzy, Slayer and King Diamond.
The festival has long bridged the sometimes opposing ends of the extreme-music spectrum. For the fans of hard core, Bury Your Dead delivered a knockout set as it featured new singer Michael Crafter, then brought out Worcester's Mat Bruso, who sang for the band during its career ascent over the last two years and last year decided to hang up his rock 'n' roll spurs, for an explosive finale.
The festival's second stage, in the Palladium's upper room, also had more of a hard-core bent, with tightly packed crowds seething to 100 Demons, Death Before Dishonor, Gaza, Psyopus and 20 others.
Veterans of the extreme-music scene muscled in to the action as well. Cannibal Corpse, a brand name in musical brutality, returned to Metalfest in all its gory glory, igniting maniacal mosh pits in front of the stage with such death-metal staples as "Hammer Smashed Face."
Lizzy Borden also came back onto the metal radar with a theatrical set of operatic thrash that featured the band's namesake singer going through murderous re-enactments, culminating with him smearing fake blood across the fans pressed closest to the stage.
Though extreme, the musical scene Metalfest celebrates is not narrow. On Friday, for example, the action moved from 3 Inches of Blood, which features a unique twin-vocals sound, to Walls of Jericho, one of the few fest acts fronted by a woman, to DevilDriver, the scuz-metal outfit growing ever closer to its inspirational source, Pantera.
For those who love the loud, Worcester on Metalfest weekend certainly had more flashy guitar solos, bellowed demonic vocals and pummeling double-bass drum bashing than Los Angeles or, for that matter, any other spot on the map.
Scott McLennan can be reached at email@example.com.
CUTLINE: (1) Bury Your Dead's hard-core set matched the scene's frantic action. (2) The mosh pit during a set by Bury Your Dead at the Palladium's Metalfest
PHOTOG: T&G Staff Photos/JIM COLLINS
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|Publication:||Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)|
|Date:||Apr 30, 2007|
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