The Inaugural New Jersey
November 15th and 16th.
Convention Hall, Asbury Park, NJ, USA.
Review by MetalGeorge
Pics by MetalGeorge and Maureen McQueeney
Friday, Day 1.
Within the months preceding this year's debut festivities, there was
quite the buzz surrounding how this first foray into the usual Jack
Koshick-sponsored fest territory would go for New England Metal/Hardcore
Fest promoters Jon Peters and Scott Lee. Being a Koshick supporter myself,
I wasn't too enthused by the lackluster lineup or lack of pay-to-play acts
for this New Jersey venture. It seemed that the entire fest was built
around tour packages that were hitting the States anyways, organizing them
just as such so that they would all hit the same venue at once. This to
me, doesn't take as much effort as do the usual Metalfest gigs that offer
the attendee once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to witness bands they would
otherwise never see. In previous years at the Milwaukee and New Jersey
Koshick-Fests, you might be lucky enough to catch a band like Naglfar,
Saxon, Lullacry, Anathema, or The Gathering. This time around, fans had
only Germany's Dew-Scented to look forward to, as far as one-time-only
That said, this was certainly not a festival for the "kvlt"
undergrounders. The bands one would see here are the exact same you would
see at any other Peters/Lee concert. The same old--same old lineup of
tired metalcore and overhyped metal acts you can see anywhere else for a
lot less money. I'm sorry, charging fans 75 bucks for a two day pass is
just highway robbery, folks. As much as I'd like to hope otherwise, I fear
that love of money, not metal, might be the deciding factor here. The
entire affair seems to cater to the "too cool for school" flavor
of the weak rather than those who have consistently turned out year after
year for their dose of metalfest fun. For sure, this catered to a "nu"
type of metal fan.
So does this mean that the entire weekend was a total waste of time?
Well, not quite. I decided to take all of this in stride, and just try to
have the best time I could, which is the way I always approach these types
of events. After all, despite all of the above being true, a lot of
Metalfest is what one makes of it, and I was determined to have a good
time. After all, we need the new generation of metalheads to keep the
scene alive and going strong, and I must admit, it is cool seeing so many
people show up for an event like this, especially new kids coming up into
Of course, getting up way too early on Friday morning, and preparing
for the 6 hour drive to Jersey wasn't too much fun until I had a good 3
cups of coffee in me. After that, it was in the car and on the road, on
time for a change, my head filled with wondrous visions of the Metal Mall
and all of the usual shopping and hanging out I was about to do for the
next 3 days. Myself, my girlfriend Kelly, and 3 of our friends met up with
our second carload in CT, and made the drive without any major incidents
(apart from being forced to listen to showtunes the entire way
up, but that's a whole 'nother story...).
Upon our arrival, we all went our separate ways, myself and a few
others opting to hit the fest early for maximum shopping time. I noticed
there were already a number of people milling about, a decent mix of
metalhead and "prettier" hardcore-type folk. Once I got inside,
I noticed that the set-up was a little different this time around. The
merch area, usually held in the giant main room, was moved upstairs, with
only headliner merchandise and the Second Stage holding up court here.
Also, the Theater area, usually the Third Stage, was closed off. Only on
Saturday was a small, unadvertised makeshift Third Stage erected upstairs
for the demo bands to play. Pretty shitty, if you ask me. I quickly made
my way upstairs and hit up the Metal Mall to pick up some merchandise, and
to hook up with my metalfriends, many of whom I only get to see at these
types of events. Fun (and lots of shopping) was had by all.
The first band I actually got to check out was an act called Sinai
Beach. They rocked out some moshariffic Hatebreed-esque hardcore with a
slight old school feel to it. Most definitely sledgehammer heavy and
Lickgoldensky also started up promising by delivering a Carcass intro
of "Buried Dreams", before launching into a song of their own.
Unfortunately, their own material wasn't nearly as successful: just your
typical moshy metalcore. Naturally, I made my exit.
Novembers Doom is a band that has seemed to play every fest, yet I
always seem to miss them. This time I managed to at least catch a couple
songs. While I can't say I'm totally sold on them, they definitely stand
out as fresh air amidst the samey-sounding nature of many others bands at
the fest. The band is certainly talented, and prescribe to the Euro-Doom
sound of forefathers such as Paradise Lost and My Dying Bride.
Unfortunately, I think the tempo could afford to be picked up just a tiny
bit. The guitars just aren't doing anything interesting or emotional
enough to keep one's interest amidst all the gothic atmosphere. Novembers
Doom are good, just not quite there yet.
The Black Dahlia Murder was next, and I have to say it was the best set
I've seen them play yet. In between bites of my 3 dollar pretzel and sips
of my 3 dollar coke (another wallet-shrinking side effect of metalfest), I
watch the Metal Blade newbies rock out song after song of
Gothenburg-inspired metal, spliced with hardcore breaks. The new line up
is an improvement over the makeshift one I saw them with on the
Evergrey/Arch Enemy tour, and their stage presence definitely reflected
this comfort. Sure, The Black Dahlia Murder isn't original in the
slightest, but on this night they were pretty damn good.
Around this time I was dealt an unsavory bit of news from my
companions. Namely, our hotel reservations were in a state of limbo, and
needed to be sorted out. While I stayed in attendance at the fest, this
caused many whom I drove up with the miss a good chunk of Friday
afternoon's schedule. I have to say this was a damn shame, because the
next couple hours were for sure the highlights of the Fest for me,
Why, you ask? Well,
Hypocrisy was about to go on, for starters.
Unfortunately, this leads me to another bit of griping. Mainly, the set
times for the bands. The way this Fest was scheduled, many of the bands
only had 20 minute sets. Only the headliners and co-headliners had
anything more than this. Now this poses a problem when you take into
account that a band with as much of a history and catalog that Hypocrisy
has gets the same amount of time as the first band of the day. Does that
make any sense whatsoever? I didn't think so. The way I figure it, the
longer the schedule runs, the longer bands that follow should get to play,
especially a band like Hypocrisy.
I digress, however, as Hypocrisy for sure made the best out of their
abbreviated set. The Swedish old-schoolers killed the crowd; opening with
"Fractured Millenium" from their self-titled release, before
dipping a bit into their back catalog with moldy oldie "Pleasure of
Molestation". A tune from the much-maligned "Catch 22"
release was also aired, namely "Destroyed". Luckily, that
album's material seems much better suited to the live environment, and fit
in quite nicely amidst the band's classic material. Speaking of classic,
there was no other way to close off their all too brief set then by
ripping out the most classic Hypocrisy anthem of all, "Roswell
47", and sure enough, that was exactly what they did. A fitting end
for what proved to be the first mandatory set of the evening.
Speaking of mandatory, the next act hitting up the main stage was by
far the most anticipated for me. That act, of course, could be none other
than the mighty Children of Bodom. Judging by the brisk sales of their
longsleeves and hooded sweatshirts, I wasn't the only was that was
breathless in anticipation for the Finnish Metal wunderkids; the crowd
piling in against the barricade, waiting for their heroes to take the
They didn't keep us waiting long, as the band ran on stage with grand
energetic flourish and ripped into "Needled 24/7", the opening
track of their newest and best release, the massive "Hatecrew
Deathroll". Frontman Alexi "Wildchild" Laino was a whirling
dervish of intensity, with the rest of 'da Crew each following his lead
with equal intensity and aplomb. Keyboardist extraordinaire Janne Wirman
was a maniac behind the ivories as the band ripped into the infectious
"Hate Me" off of their previous longplayer "Follow the
Reaper", before launching back into "Hatecrew" territory
with a blistering rendition of "Chokehold".
From there on, the band simply had the audience in the palms of their
hands as "Silent Night, Bodom Night" was delivered from their
genre-defining "Hatebreeder" opus, followed by the crushingly
heavy "Every Time I Die". Finally, the band was forced to take
their leave of the still ravenous crowd, but left them in fine fashion
with another classic from the "Hatebreeder" album, the crushing
"Downfall". Though I could have heard them play all night, my
Bodom thirst was momentarily satiated, if only due to the fact that I knew
I was going to see them back home on tour in a couple weeks,. By far the
best set of the weekend, Children of Bodom were absolutely breathtaking.
Nevermore (who were due to play an early set at 6:15) taking
the stage, I managed to poke my head into the adjoining room to catch a
bit of Symphony X while I was waiting for the band to set up. Not being
much of an X fan in the slightest, I was looking forward to a hearty
guffaw at their expense. To the contrary, however, I was surprised to hear
the band sounding pretty tight...heavy even! Guitarist Michael Romeo
managed to rock out with some intense lead work, leaving me with a much
better impression of the band than I previously had. Maybe it was the
sheer monotony of the hardcore buffonery, but I have to say that Symphony
X weren't that bad at all, and put on a pretty good show. Sure, I could
have picked a hundred or so Power/Progressive Metal bands I would have
rather seen, but I have to give credit where credit is due.
On the other side of the coin, I also have to say that I'm a bit
under-whelmed by the whole Nevermore experience these days. I have seen the band on more than a number of occasions,
and to be fair, they were on tonight for sure. It's just that the band's
latest material sounds too overblown and seems to over-hyped for my taste.
Material from the band's classic back catalog sounds great, including a
massive rendition of "Dead Heart in a Dead World" standout
"The River Dragon Has Come". Even the title track from the
newest record sounds powerful in the live setting.
Up next was Norwegian Black Metal megastars Dimmu Borgir. The band takes
the stage, and sounds as powerful as they do on any other night. The band
pulled off a tight and did an efficient job of pleasing their devoted fanbase. While I admit that I
raised my fist when classics like "Spellbound(By the Devil)" and
"Mourning Palace" were played, that was really just about it for
me. Dimmu Borgir are good at what they do, but just not my thing any more.
felt Morbid Angel to be a little overrated anyways, but the fact that people
still care enough to stand there and watch a band go through the motions
like this just seems like a waste of time to me. Given the fact that I
think these guys have never really topped their "Altars of
Madness" release, it was simply a chore to sit through song
after boring, droning song of cliched vocal lines and annoying guitar
acrobatics. I'd have to say the only thing I hate more than watching
Morbid Angel, was having to sit through their countless clone bands all
weekend trying to rip off a style not worth playing in the first place.
I hate to continue this negative theme, but I have to say most of what
I said in the above paragraph also applies to the next abomination I
witnessed, Devin Townsend's Strapping Young Lad. Everything, except the
fact that Morbid Angel at least USED to be worth a shit. Sure, his voice is a powerful one, and he's managed
to write a decent song or two in his life ("Storm",
"Christine", "SYL", "Detox", "Oh My
Fucking God"), but to me he's pretty much just "the guy who
produced those decent Soilwork and Lamb of God records".
As a whole, his entire presence and demeanor just annoy the shit out of
me, posturing with this overblown sense of played-up aggression and bad
jokes. SYL as a band just comes across as a giant wall of putrid noise,
riding the "E Chord" to an absurdly ludicrous degree. Hell, they
ride the "E" more than even Manowar!! The only difference is,
Manowar does it right, while this band just comes across as a poor man's
Fear Factory with a few bells and whistles thrown haphazardly into the
mix. The Jersey crowd eats it up, of course, responding in kind with a
positive ovation for His Baldness. I just don't get it, don't want to, and
At least I knew that at 10 pm, the mediocrity would finally end, as it
was finally time for my hometown heroes, Beyond the Embrace to take the
stage! Scoring this primo spot, the six piece melodic metal heroes took
full advantage of it and grabbed the rabid crowd early on with an
extremely intense re-working of an old tune entitled "...Of Every
Strain". Though most in attendance probably assumed it was a new
song, I don't think they minded, as the crowd quickly erupted in a
Beyond the Embrace proceeded to capitalize, and delivered a short, but
pummeling set of mostly new tunes. Reactions were excited and favorable,
as the triple guitar threat of Jeff Saude, Oscar Gouveia, and Alex Botehlo
bled and sweat melodic yet menacing riffs from their fretboards. Vocalist
Shawn Gallagher seemed more possessed than I'd ever seen him, as he
prowled the stage, impressing just as much with his vast, emotional clean
vocals as he did with his lion-esque roar. The man simply cannot be
Sure, I may seem a bit biased, but I speak the truth. Beyond the
Embrace are one of the best bands going today, and deserve every bit of
success that comes their way. If the new tunes they rocked out on this
night are any indication of where their next album (tentatively titled
"The Insect Song") is going, it's only a matter of time before
the stratosphere becomes too limiting for them. Trust me and get on the
bandwagon now, before you become the last on your block to discover this
jewel in the rough that is Beyond the Embrace.
Around this time, fatigue had began it's slow creep inside my bones,
and I was getting a bit tired. I decided to find a spot up in the
bleechers, and took in the sights of metalfest. I noticed, surprisingly
enough, that there really wasn't as much moshing/violence as I'd seen in
previous years. People were actually getting along with each other, which
I thought was a really cool thing, and a breath of fresh air for once!
This revelation, of course, all went down the tubes, as Superjoint
Ritual took the stage, and Phil Anselmo proceeded to demand the crowd to
beat the living shit out of each other. Of course, due no doubt to the
sheer amount of poking, prodding, and instigating that was going on, the
crowd responded in shockingly violent fashion. I mean, this was pure and
unadulterated violence personified.
Of course, all this violence does no good if the music itself doesn't
provide an adequate enough soundtrack, right? Well, luckily Superjoint
didn't disappoint on this night. My exposure to them had actually been
very limited prior to this night, and I really wasn't sure what to expect.
Well, what I received was a testosterone fueled shock to the senses; a veritable
kick in the testes.
To eleborate. imagine listening to something that made you want to climb
the Empire State Building and start swatting down planes from the sky.
These are the King Kong sized balls that Superjoint Ritual have. They play
Heavy Metal with no class, and I liked it. Actually, you can add no
frills, no prisoners, and no mercy to that list as well. Phil, as drunk
and high as ever, was still an unbelievably intense frontman/showman, and
had the crowd in the palm of his hand. I can't even believe I'm about to say this, but Superjoint Ritual made
me a believer.
After that, the day was pretty much over for me. As it turned out, many
in the crowd agreed with my sentiments, as many decided to opt for the
doors rather than staying to see Elvis...er, I mean Danzig. However, being
that I was curious, I decided to stay
and catch the set. Besides, a lot of my friends were actually excited to
see him, so I decided to forgo sleep a little while
longer and stick it out. His new material does not touch the "classics"
which to me are just aren't the same without Eerie Von and John
Christ rockin' the strings.
Finally, that time of the night had arrived, however. The point in the
set where the song that everyone was there to hear finally made itself
known. That familiar chord progression rang out, and everyone in the
dangerously emptied room began to sing along to "Mother". Yeah,
me included. It has to be said that while Danzig can still belt them out
when the song absolutely requires it, if a opportunity presents itself
where he CAN cheat, he will. This was shown a little bit during the ending
chorus of "Mother" and the encore of "Am I Demon", but
not enough to weaken too much of the songs' charm. Besides, if I was a
singer like Danzig, I'd probably be pooped at set's end too. Boy, am I
glad that I'm just a bass player!!
With that, it was time to retire back to the hotel for a little
rabblerousing, and some much needed rest for the day ahead of me. My crew
and I made the convenient 5 minute or so walk to our hotel and prepared
ourselves for Day 2. There was much more metal to be had!!