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Megadeth, Ministry top off raucous Metalfest.

Byline: Scott McLennan


The tenth edition of the New England Metal & Hardcore Festival was the center of the extreme-music universe. Held from Friday to Sunday at The Palladium in Worcester, Metalfest drew in titans of the heavy-metal genre such as Megadeth and Ministry, welcomed various travelers from abroad - including the entire crew of the Finnish-led Paganfest - and reiterated the potency of homegrown metal via a transcendent set by Massachusetts' own The Acacia Strain.

But true to its roots as a scene-celebrating event, no one band could overshadow the proceedings. Rather, the few thousand fans of extreme music who packed the Palladium each marathon day of the festival enjoyed a broad offering of music played in the key of brutal.

By not even pretending to be an event for mainstream tastes, Metalfest can deeply dig into its milieu and give bands such as Vital Remains, Kataklysm, Behemoth and Hate Eternal the sort of prominent play not usually enjoyed by underground bands. And the fest's 10-year-in-the-making clout likewise draws such esteemed figures within the underground as Dimmu Borgir, Meshuggah and In Flames, lining them up on back-to-back bills that would be unlikely in regular circumstances.

While Megadeth has enjoyed its share of mainstream success, the veteran thrash band still received a hero's welcome by a crowd that is often suspicious of anything that bears the patina of normal acceptance.

And Ministry, which is on its farewell tour, likewise fueled a frenzy with its set that was primarily drawn from the industrial-metal act's three most recent records. Ministry did not touch any of the classic, career-making tunes from its catalog until the encores to its 90-minute set. And even then, guest vocalist Burton C. Bell from Fear Factory handled vocal duties while Ministry main man Al Jourgensen played guitar. The cursory Ministry fan may have griped; the Metalfest Ministry fan went bonkers for hefty doses of current Ministry and the odd twist of having Bell sing such Jourgensen signatures as "N.W.O." and "Just One Fix."

The headliners on a given Metalfest night lure the ticket buyers, and to that end Megadeth, Ministry and Saturday's headliner Dimmu Borgir certainly attracted attendees and rightfully rewarded them. But the thrills during any given Metalfest come when least expected.

Saturday, the night went to The Acacia Strain, the band from Chicopee that has slowly built a name for itself over the course of several tours and festival appearances. But this Metalfest proved a turning point as The Acacia Strain honed what can be described as signature sound and delivered that patented black thrash with the sort of intensity that turns casual observers into diehard fans. Talk about intensity, guitarist Daniel Laskiewicz snapped the neck of his instrument mid-set just by the force of his playing.

Shadows Fall, another local product that enjoys a national following, notched its sixth Metalfest appearance on Saturday, stirring the crowd with a song that could be Metalfest's unofficial anthem: "Of One Blood."

And while the unholy pairing of Ministry and Sweden's prog-metal masters Meshuggah dominated Sunday's proceedings, the inclusion of Paganfest into Metalfest was certainly a highlight of the weekend.

Paganfest is a tour package featuring Finnish bands Ensiferum and Turisas, plus Faroe Island-dwellers Tyr, and Switzerland's Eluveitie. Each band wove a folksy spirit into its metallic sound. Turisas, whose members had painted faces and wore cloaks seemingly made from the pelts of various woodland creatures, may be the first Metalfest band to come bearing fiddle and accordion. And Ensiferum's kilt-wearing warriors expertly wove the cadences of pastoral ballads into its metal.

With approximately 67 bands and two stages involved in the festival, there were surprisingly few glitches. Only Overkill and Divine Heresy were prominent last-minute pull-outs (of which Metalfest always seems to have a couple). And the fest rippled with the shock from the news that WAAF-FM pulled the plug on Mike Hsu's tremendous heavy metal radio show "Harder, Faster." Metalfest organizers responded by presenting Hsu with the event's first "hall of fame" trophy, and the roar of approval should prompt WAAF to reconsider abandoning the audience for extreme music. Even if the station does not change its position, the honor to Hsu showed how metal fans take care of their own.

Scott McLennan can be reached at


CUTLINE: Guitarist Alexi "Wildchild" Laiho of the band Children of Bodom performed at Metalfest Friday athe The Palladium in Worcester.

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Title Annotation:LIVING
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Apr 29, 2008
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