Heart of Steel: Concert Review

"The Odyssey..."
The Inaugural New Jersey
Metal/Hardcore Festival

November 15th and 16th. 
Convention Hall, Asbury Park, NJ, USA. 

Review by MetalGeorge
Pics by MetalGeorge and Maureen McQueeney


Day Two began with me groggily rolling out of bed, catching a quick shower, and heading back over to the venue. I had plans to meet my buddy Mark, who was doing me the service of hooking me up with a Cradle of Filth interview, but actually ended up playing tag with him until a couple of hours later, where the chat actually took place. In the interim, I managed to catch a couple of bands, most particularly Jersey's own Beyond the Flesh. They had the dubious dignity of playing on the hastily thrown together "Third Stage", which was pretty much a tucked away corner of the venue cleared off. Reserved for demo-level bands looking for a break, I don't even think there was a PA. I thought this was truly a shame, and wished that these fests gave as much of a chance to unsigned talent as much as the Koshick fests do.

At any rate, The Flesh tore shit up, and served as the first mandatory band of the day for me (due to the fact that I had unfortunately missed the killer Oakland act Watch Them Die eariler...bummer). Hell, Beyond the Flesh put on one of the best sets of the weekend period. While it was truly a shame that they were delegated to this "Reject Stage", The Flesh played like they were headling Madison Square Garden. Combining the best aspects of modern Carcass, Cannibal Corpse, and The Haunted, Beyond The Flesh rip you a new one with their own unique brand of melodic death/thrash intensity.

The band put their best foot forward and opened with the soon to be classics "Bitter Defeat" (off their "Spawned From Flesh and Bone" demo), and "Rise Above the Weak", a track off their freshly self-released and majorly mandatory lp "What the Mind Perceives". Within seconds, hair started to fly, and heads began to bang, as the crowd lapped up every bullet-dodging riff and head spinning time signature. The band's triple vocal attack was in fine form as well, as was the musicianship, which was stop on a dime tight.

For sure a must for all those into the more melodic strains of death/thrash metal, yet who also appreciate fist clenching brutality and technical ability, Beyond the Flesh are one of the best unsigned acts going right now. It would be criminal for these guys not to be huge, but I'm not worried. I have confidence that these fine Jersey lads will be picked up by someone soon, but in the meantime I highly suggest that you make yourselves acquainted with them now, so you can brag to all your friends! Make a note: BEYOND THE FLESH.

In between my wanderings, I also managed to catch hometown boys made good, The Red Chord. Due to the fact that it was my friend Adam's (bass) last gig with the band, I made it a point to make sure I didn't miss them. I'm glad I didn't, because the band tore shit up. Tight as a Mormon on Sunday, The Red Chord brought the mosh with brutal, vicious breakdowns and chaotic riffing. Vocalist Guy's animalistic stage presence and menacing growl served as the perfect mouth for war, proving to all that the hype behind this band is for real. Their set, just like the speed of their time signatures, was over all too quickly. If you were one of the lucky ones to catch it, I'm pretty positive that, like me, you were suitably impressed. In fact, more than one person came up to me while I was scribbling down notes and asked me, "who's this?" "The Red Chord", I replied, glad to see that New England extremity was gaining even more momentum...does my heart good.

I'll tell you what DIDN'T make me feel good, and that was the sheer boredom of Hate Eternal's set. Terrible, cliché American Death, just like everyone else does it. Blast beats and boredom was the order of the day here, plus they had shit sound to boot. Boooooo.

Moonspell was ok. Never really a big fan, having only been into their "Wolfheart" album, but I'll admit that I enjoyed it when they played "Opium" off of their "Irreligious" lp, as well. At least they broke up all the boring death metal monotony, so I'll thank them for that!

Speaking of Death Metal, Misery Index, who have actually managed to impress and prove me wrong quite a bit with their devilishly fresh new album, "Retaliate", were tight as hell. While not still not one of my favorite styles to listen to, I can tell and admit when a band is performing it really well, and 'Da Index certainly came through in spades on this night. Brutal blasts laid into crusty hardcore riffs in the blink of an eye, with even a lil' bit of melodicism poking it's head out here and there. Misery Index is a band that is going places, doing new things, and doing them well. A band that might actually deserve the praise their getting, for once. Good stuff.

Ah...Diabolic...one of my favorite Death Metal verbal punching bags might actually have a little fight left in 'em after all! The band has done the service of losing their sloppy drummer, thus redeeming themselves a little bit on the live front. Live they were a whirling dervish of fast and "brootal" music, speedy solos and all. I'm sure drum aficionados were happy checking them out, but I must admit the novelty of Diabolic not being passable rather than horrible wore thin quick, and I was begging for the door in no time. Bottom line is that Diabolic still suck, but they're getting better.

...and that was when I realized I had nowhere to go. I had two of my least favorite bands trapping me. Of course, I'm talking about the "mighty" Suffocation, and the "legendary" Mortician. To be blunt, and not to waste as much space I am not a fan of Suffocation or Mortician so I made my way to the vendor area to shoot the shit and escape.

One of the acts I was particularly excited to see (and one of the very few acts you wouldn't see at a usual Lee/Peters festival) was Germany's Dew-Scented. Sure, the name is kind of odd, but the band were simply thrash-tastic! Even though their set was heavy on new material from their somewhat less than stellar "Impact" release, that didn't detract from the overall intensity. It especially didn't detract from my joy that for once I wasn't watching a been-there done-that "grrrrroooooo...." American Death-Grind circus. Closing with "Acts of Rage" (the most impressive of their new songs), Dew-Scented commanded the stage from first note to last. Everything I had hoped for.

Victory Records recording artists Between the Buried and Me impressed me with their recent release, and I was surprised to see how well they pulled off their insane brand of tech--jazz--metal-core live. With their off-timed melodics and harmonics, you could call 'em "The Darkane Escape Plan". That is, if you're a dork like me who needs to come up with silly catch phrases for everything...yeah.

On the flipside, Type O Negative was not very impressive. I mean, the shtick is just getting kind of old now. This band peaked in 1994, and have been pretty much going through the motions since then, if you ask me. While the old classics still rocked pretty hard, I just drifted off into dreamland whenever any new material was aired. I glad that I finally saw them, but I was just expecting a lot more than what I received. Ah well, nothing lasts forever, I guess. Coming out to the "COPS" theme was kinda cool, though...

NYC's Most Precious Blood (ex Indecision) wasn't too trying on the ears. Your standard straight edge mosh-o hardcore was what you got, though it didn't keep me watching them for very long. So-so at best.


Finally, it was headliner time. Having seen the mighty Cradle of Filth many times on tour, I knew what to expect. An extravagant, elaborate stage show, with the massive tunes to back it up. Sure enough, that was exactly what I got, with Dani Filth and crew tearing up the stage like looters at a riot. Opener "Babylon AD" was the only new cut aired off their marvelous debut for Sony, "Damnation and a Day"; a fact of which I was surprised, and actually a bit disappointed at, to be honest. I was hoping to hear more.

Instead, the band opted to go for an almost "greatest hits" type of set, airing classic tunes like "Cruelty Brought Thee Orchids", "The Forest Whispers My Name", "From the Cradle to Enslave", and a massive "Gothic Romance (Red Roses For the Devils Whore)". Rocking out amidst creepy animated gargoyle creatures / crew members (who didn't actually move until two songs in, scaring the bejeezus out of everyone--like me--who thought they were props!), and varied assorted stilt-walkers and dancers, Cradle of Filth showed why they truly are the best in the biz, and the best at what they do.

Cradle have taken their Black Metal heritage and simply elaborated upon it and progressed naturally over time. Like a fine wine, Cradle have aged perfectly, and have finally hit the big time while remaining true to themselves and their music. It does my heart good to hear the same Cradle I did on "Principle of Evil Made Flesh" as I do on "Damnation", and I'm sure their fans (of which there were many in attendance) appreciate it as well.

Though there was no encore, I don't think that anyone was too disappointed in the fact that we were finally going to get some rest and recoup from the weekend's festivities. I also don't think anyone leaving this first New Jersey Metal/Hardcore Fest could say they didn't have a good time either, including myself. Sure, it could have been better, but you could say that about everything if you wanted to. The bottom line is that, with both these festivals and the Koshick fests, us metalheads are the real winners. It would be a shame for one to try and put the other out of business. I truly hope that everyone involved keeps their eyes on what's important here, and that's love of METAL, not money.

Metal fans are not worried about which fest they are going to. We worry about there BEING a fest to go to. Give us a weekend where we can catch a bunch of bands, hang out with our friends, and have a good time, and we're there. I think most fans out there agree with me when I say there is no such thing as "too many" metalfests. There's room for everyone out there, but there's NO room for some elite "inner circle" who will only let you into their "cool clique" if you have enough scene points to offer. So, with that being said, let's just support the scene, and each other.

So, signing off the way we lowly writers always do...I'll see ya at next year's Metalfest roundup! Up the Irons!!