Last year’s March Metal Meltdown will go down in history as being one of the all-time great Metalfests. I read someone describe it as being “cold, dark, and brutal... The way metal should be.” They were exactly right. Last year’s venue, at the old run-down Convention Hall in Asbury Park, had no heating and very little lighting. Last March was a particularly chilly March, and with no heating the temperature was probably around 40 degrees in the place. I didn’t care though. Last year’s show had so many great bands it was worth a little frostbite to go see them. Cryptopsy, Vader, Gorguts, Raven, Blitzkrieg, Exhumed, Napalm Death, Iced Earth, Hypocrisy, the list goes on. So what was different about this year’s show?
This year’s fest was no longer in the slums of Asbury Park, it was moved to the south-Jersey town of Pennsauken (a mere stone’s throw from Philly). Pennsauken is not that nice of a town either, but still safer than Asbury Park. The South Jersey Expo Center also had heating and AC, but of course this March was so warm they didn’t really need it. Last year there was no parking; the Expo Center in Pennsauken had parking-a-plenty (at $3 a car). This year’s show added a fourth stage, although the Expo center wasn’t really any bigger than the Asbury Park Convention Hall. So with all these great improvements, how did this year’s show compare to the last? Honestly, this year’s show was a disappointment. It wasn’t really a bad concert, but they need to get some better bands together and probably cut out one of the stages.
I arrived at the place around 2 o’clock on Friday. The show didn’t start until 4, but I thought I should get there early for a parking space. There was still plenty of parking so I was ok, but I actually got there before the guy that collects the money, so I got to park for free! I went inside and asked for my press credentials. They kinda stiffed me; all I got was a sticker saying I was allowed into the pressroom. I had no backstage, no on-stage, and no photo pit! Also, according to the girl at the desk it said I was part of The Syndicate, which is some little newspaper that does music reports for college radio stations. I was happy to even get in, so I decided not to question her. I put the goofy sticker on my T-shirt and hung around for a couple hours until the show began.
One of the first bands I saw was called Bad Luck 13 Riot Extravaganza. Man were they awful. They were all dressed in Halloween costumes. The singer was wearing a goat’s head and the guitarist was dressed like a butcher with a rubber mask on. I snapped a few pictures and left. Five minutes later I went back in there and the room was filled with smoke. Apparently they lit a table on fire and someone jumped on it and injured themselves. The fire marshal came and shut the room down, which contained not only the Meltdown Stage (where they were playing) but also the Relapse Stage, separated from each other by a black curtain (yes, a black curtain). The room was shut down for hours and after that there was a large police presence at the event.
The loss of those two stages wasn’t that big of a deal, because the stage with all the quality bands was the Nightfall Stage. The Nightfall Stage got all the brutal death metal bands, the Meltdown and Relapse Stage got all the mediocre bands, and the www.KNAC.com stage got all the shitty bands and one or two good ones at the end of the night. I pretty much stayed at the Nightfall Stage for both days. When the fire marshal came the concert stopped everywhere for a couple hours, then it started up again around 6 o’clock. By then it was time for me to attend the first press conference!
The first press conference was about the Christian metal band Stryper’s plans for a new world tour. I took plenty of pictures, but they are so stupid I won’t even include them here. The press conference was a joke. The next press conference wasn’t a publicity stunt, so I’ll go into the details.
Eric Rutan from Hate Eternal, some guy from Incantation, Dick from Impaled Nazarene, Dan from SOD, and Mazzadurus from Blood Storm attended the conference. SOD’s plans for another US tour begged the question why they advertised that the March Metal Meltdown would be their last appearance. Of course someone asked, and Dan responded that it was “bullshit publicity.” Most of the questions dealt with how they felt the Metalfests were managed and what comparisons they’d make between the US and European Metalfests. The general consensus was that this year’s show was planned much better than last year’s, but they aren’t happy with the “white trash bullshit” like wrestling and porn stars. Mazzadurus from Blood Storm commented that “whores and wrestling damage the credibility of Metalfest.” They also complained about how much the sound always sucks at American Metalfests, but then again the sound sucks at European fests too. Dick of Impaled Nazarene said that the Metalfest was “chaos” and there was “not enough beer!” The first press conference yielded many insightful comments from the musicians.
After the press conference I ran into this practically naked girl in the hallway and snapped her picture (seen right). The bald, middle-aged guy she was with gave me his business card. Apparently he’s a priest with the church of Satan. I thanked them for the picture and went over to the Nightfall Stage to catch The Chasm. They really impressed me with their unique brand of melodic black metal. They are one of the few black metal bands I can tolerate. The singer kept yelling at the crowd “Come on you fucking posers!!” After seeing their show I had to buy the CD. After The Chasm came the mighty Incantation, who’s last album Diabolical Conquest blew me away. Certain bands are hard to judge when the sound is really bad, but Incantation still played a brutal set. I’m definitely picking up their next album, The Infernal Storm, which should be out in a month or two.
Then came Blood Storm. I was never impressed with the quality of their music, but their live shows are pretty cool. They wear all this wicked body armor covered in blood and put on white corpse paint. They’re fun to look at, but I don’t think I’d buy the CD. Next was Impaled Nazarene, and they just blew me away! I nominate them as one of the top 5 most brutal bands at the show. Their set was pure anger and aggression. When the next band Vital Remains came on, they sounded pretty sorry compared to Impaled Nazarene so I started wondering around the place looking for another brutal act. I came upon Internal Bleeding at the Relapse Stage. I only caught the tail end of their act, but it sounded pretty heavy. After that I went back to the Nightfall Stage to catch the end of Vital Remains and see the last big act of the night, Sweden’s Sentenced.
I’ve never listened to Sentenced but they seem to play a lighter brand of death metal. Lots of melody, cleaner vocals, etc. I think this was their first US appearance too, but unfortunately they were cut off after about three songs. I’m not 100% sure about this, but my guess is that the police ordered them to stop the concert at 2am. Everyone was pissed off, so we all left and hoped that day two would be better.
Day two began at 11am, and I didn’t get there until 11:30 or so. Still plenty of parking, but I had to pay this time. I went in, got my stinkin’ sticker, and went to see Impaled. They ruled. Extremely brutal, disgusting grind metal from California. The cover art of their CD is a picture of someone’s intestines being flushed down a toilet. Their drummer, Raul Varela, is a cool guy too. He does the wholesale orders at Necropolis, and I’ve talked to him over the phone a few times. His favorite expression is “Cool man!” The next band, Lividity, is pretty brutal but they are more like a novelty metal band, kind of like Anal Blast. Every song is about sex. Their new album is called The Age of Clitoral Decay.
After Lividity came on I started to get bored. Things didn’t pick up until Pessimist came on at around 7pm. Although Anal Blast’s set at 3:40 was decent. They’re always a fun band to watch, and they ended with everyone’s favorite song “Tampon Teabag.” The singer is always drunk off his ass, too. He threw a bottle of vodka into the audience. Last year’s Anal Blast set was a little better though, because they had a naked chick on stage.
Pessimist came on at 7, and they were more brutal than I ever remembered. The drumming was so much faster, but I like the old singer better. I found out later that the faster drumming was due to a new drummer! Looks like Pessimist made some changes for the better. After Pessimist I walked over to see a few other stages. I saw the naked drummer in the band Spite and got a nice picture of that. I also checked out a few of the power metal bands playing on the Meltdown Stage, but even though I like some of those bands (for instance Jacob’s Dream) they weren’t very exciting to watch live.
I also attended the next press conference, which featured a few more death metal bands. Not much exciting news came from it, except that the guy from Immortal complained that you’re not allowed to walk around drunk at American Metalfests. Sharlee from Witchery also said that attendance at European fests is really high, around 20-70,000 people! I guesstimate the attendance at this show to be under 4,000.
After the press conference there were seven awesome bands I had to catch: Mortician, Angelcorpse, Hate Eternal, Immolation, Witchery, Testament, and Immortal (seen right). Mortician has the reputation of being the most brutal band on the planet. The light-speed computerized drums and the vomit-inducing vocals are to blame for that. They were pretty good live, although I suppose having a human drummer slows them down a bit. Angelcorpse was also extremely brutal and very fast, but they’re also not very original. One of my friends described them as Morbid Angel clones. Hate Eternal came on next and kicked some serious ass!
I met Erik Rutan (singer/writer seen right) the day before and he was the nicest guy. He doesn’t care about money or fame, he said he just wants to play death metal. I asked him what happened to their other guitarist, Doug Cerrito (ex-Suffocation). He said Doug found a “real job” making good money. It’s interesting how one’s opinions can change after actually meeting the musicians in these bands. I like Hate Eternal much more now that I know what kind of guy Erik Rutan is. Sometimes musicians are real dicks and that can completely turn people off to their music.
Next came Immolation. They were brutal as always, but does every single song have to be about the hypocrisy of Christianity and how great Satan is? After Immolation came one of the best live bands I’ve ever seen, Witchery. As good as their albums are, this band is ten times better live. They play with so much energy, and you can tell they love playing. They said at the press conference they might be touring the US this summer. If they do, don’t miss it! After Witchery’s set I ran over to the other room to catch the last few Testament songs. They played most of the usual stuff. “Over the Wall,” “Legions of the Dead,” “True Believer,” etc. They’re still a very good band to see live though, especially with bass-god Steve DiGiorgio and Sadus drummer Jon Allen.
After Testament I ran again over to the Nightfall Stage to catch Immortal’s first US appearance. They are Swedish black metal, but they do it well. They have a very ‘metallic’ sound, unlike other black metal bands where all you can hear is the keyboard and double bass. The singer also doesn’t sound like a pissed off elf, and that’s always a plus for me. Unfortunately it was nearing 2am and they got yanked too. Thankfully they did a small US tour and I got to see them again in Philly.
Overall the March Metal Meltdown II was an excellent show, but it didn’t compare to last year’s show as there were a lot of really awful bands. I think they should make it three stages, lose the porn stars and wrestling, and get better bands together. The venue change was a nice move though, especially since it’s a half-hour away from my house. Hopefully the Milwaukee show this July will get some better bands.