November 2, 2016 Rock and Shock Provides Metal Assault Worcester, MA 10-14-16
Horror and Metal have always shared a commonality of aggressive sounds and sometimes gory theatrics. That said, just in time for the Halloween season, the 13th annual Rock and Shock Horror Movie and Music Convention returned to Worcester, Massachusetts the weekend of October 14th through 16th. Launched to the sounds of screams and heavy-hitting guitars alike, the first evening’s concert featured a two stage Metal and Hardcore lineup of seventeen bands including Dope, Flaw, Huntress, Carach Angren, Demolition Hammer, Kataklysm, Sabaton, and Trivium. A diverse mix of young and veteran bands from a variety of Rock/Metal genres, it was a list guaranteed to keep fans at The Palladium on their feet and rocking all night long.
With the actual Horror convention portion of the weekend kicking off earlier in the day a block away at DCU Center, the doors at The Palladium opened around 3 PM to start the music. While many fans gathered for panels, autographs, and checking out vendors at DCU Center, a list of up-and-coming acts including Break Thru Winner, As Aphrodite Fell, Merithius, Black Trip, In The Red, and Inverter were showcased. Then, at around 5:30 PM, the main stage saw Huntress come out as one of the first national acts of the day.
Facing a cancer diagnosis and fighting with personal depression, Lead Vocalist Jill Janus has been through the fire. Going through a great deal, Janus battled through and, along with Lead Guitarist Blake Meahl, Bassist Eric Harris, Rhythm Guitarist Eli Santana, and Drummer Tyler Meahl, Huntress continue to tour in support of their 2015 album, Static. Amidst their run with Sabaton and Trivium, their stop in Worcester was met with excitement by fans as they kicked off with fury. Besides the Classical Opera training that Janus received, and her four octave range in that discipline, her screams over the thrashing guitar and hard-hitting drum kit seemed to fit like puzzle pieces as they played songs such as “Sorrow,” “Spell Eater,” and “I Want to Fuck You to Death.” A band with extensive lineup changes over their lifespan, Huntress seems to have found their most potent mixture of musicians yet, banging out high energy and entertaining renditions as they concluded their set with “Eight of Swords.” Setting the tone with Heavy Metal loudness, Janus and her cavalcade were on the top of their game.
Directly after, at around 6 PM, Carach Angren were ready to take the main stage. Back in the US in support of Kataklsym, featuring corpse paint and heavy orchestral arrangements, Carach Angren came out in grand theatrical style. Hailing from the Netherlands, Iron Jaws, as their name means in Tolkien’s Elvish, thrashed through their multi-lingual catalog, mostly their latest conceptual opus, 2015’s This Is No Fairytale. Offering tracks such as “There’s No Place Like Home,” “The Carriage Wheel Murder,” as well as “Killed and Served by the Devil,” over a strong and dark foundation of cello, violin, among other orchestra staples, Clemens “Ardek” Wijers and Carach Angren were by far the most interesting act of Rock and Shock. Matched with Black Metal guitar work and vocals delivered in a combination of languages, Vocalist/Guitarist Dennis “Seregor” Droomers was complemented by the powerful drumming of Ivo “Namtar” Wijers as the performance concluded with “Bloodstains on the Captain’s Log.” Marking their first return to the US since this past winter when they toured with Fleshgod Apocalypse and Abigail Williams, the crowd reacted the way the music expected, swells of cheers and bodies moved in the pit to the controlled chaos on stage. Exiting the pit, many were soaked to the bone with sweat, among other liquids, making for one hell of a set.
Meanwhile, over at the second stage, around the 6:30 PM, a rejuvenated Flaw was ready to go. Reunited with an almost entirely original cast consisting of Vocalist Chris Volz, Guitarist Jason Daunt, Bassist Ryan Jurhs, along with new Drummer Corey Sturgill, Flaw look poised to make a statement. Coming out of Louisville Kentucky, while many remember the band from the early days with such popular records as 2001’s Through the Eyes as well as 2004’s Endangered Species, the years to follow have been full of many twists and turns. Touring heavily in support of their 2016 comeback album, Divided We Fall, they joined Dope and Motograter for a killer fall tour. Happy to visit Rock and Shock, Flaw brought their Alternative Metal and Hardcore sounds as they dished out a set of new and old songs including “Amendment,” “Get Up Again,” “Live and Breathe,” and “Only the Strong.” Doing a great job of riling up an already excited crowd, they concluded with “Fed Up” and favorite “Payback” to a positive response. With a few shows scattered from now until the end of 2016, Flaw will be back on the road come February 2017.
Back at the main stage, at around 6:30 PM, newly reformed cult New York Thrash Metal band Demolition Hammer were ready to provide a level of violence and destruction just as their name suggests. Recently reunited after a twenty year plus active recording break, original members Vocalist/Bassist Steve Reynolds and Guitarist James Reilly, along with new Drummer Angel Cotte, prove that age has never trumped skill and intensity when it comes to Thrash Metal. First reuniting at St. Vitus in Brooklyn, New York on June 17th, Demolition Hammer hit a few festivals this summer. Showing their confidence has never wavered, even during their long hiatus, they blasted through a set that included “Skull Fracturing Nightmare,” “Neanderthal,” and “Infectious Hospital Waste” early on. Thoroughly enjoyed by the veteran Metalheads in the crowd and respected by the younger generation, they moved along into “Aborticide,” “Crippling Velocity,” before closing with “.44 Caliber Brain Surgery” as they punished in their heyday. The epidemic of Demolition Hammer has been reborn!
My Enemies & I
Heading back over to the second stage, Richmond, Virginia’s My Enemies & I were about to begin at around 7 PM. Featured in May of 2016’s CrypticRock “Developing Artist Showcase,” My Enemies & I are a Metalcore band with a deep and personal message. Consisting of Jeff Hills (vocals), Zack Jones (guitar), Guitar Brandon Sellitti (guitar), Ryan Ganster (drums), and Griffin Kentner (bass), the band spent the month of October on the road with Sworn In supporting their 2015 Fearless Records debut, Sick World. While The Metalcore scene is oversaturated, My Enemies & I stand out with their own unique sound. Delivering some catchy and memorable moments amongst their Hard Rock meets Metalcore concoction, they played such tracks as “Reborn,” “Fiends,” and “Toxic.” Do not let the Metalcore tag deter, My Enemies & I offer emotional guitar riffs, ruckus vocals, and overall in-your-face attitude that leads them ahead of the curve.
Racing downstairs to the main stage, dedicated Metalheads gathered around 7:15 PM for Kataklysm. Self-described as an “Northern Hyperblast” act, Kataklysm has been in the game for over twenty years now. Originally known for their fast, intentionally chaotic style, they have settled in over the years of recording and touring to deliver a very powerful and potent brand of Melodic Death Metal. Touring in support of their 2015 Juno award winning album, Of Ghosts and Gods, Vocalist Maurizio Iacono, Guitarist Jean-Francois Dagenais, Bassist Stephane Barbe, and Drummer Oli Beaudoin unleashed a formidable set. Peppering the crowd with new and old songs including “Breaching the Asylum,” “The Ambassador of Pain,” and “The Resurrected,” just to name a few, Kataklysm had everyone in a frenzy. With the crowd continuing to grow at the Worcester Palladium, each body added yet more heat and excitement to the mix as tracks like “Blood in Heaven” came before “Like Angels Weeping (The Dark).” By the end of their performance, the assembled attendees were ready for and enthusiastically awaiting the final four bands of the night.
Headlining the second stage, sometimes called the pre-show stage, is never an easy task. Concert goers there from the beginning can become worn out and those just arriving for main stage entertainment can be pre-occupied awaiting the headliners. That said, at around 7:30 PM, Sworn In handled the task with enthusiasm and zeal. Out of the state of Illinois, Sworn In has been established five years now, and, in that window of time, have two EPs and two studio albums, including their most recent, 2015’s The Lovers/The Devil. Out on a headlining run with support from My Enemies & I, Tyler Dennen (vocals), Chris George (drums), Eugene Kamlyuk (guitar), and Derek Bolman’s dark appearance fit right in with Rock and Shock.
Keeping the energy high amongst those in attendance and slowing the throngs of exiting attendees headed to the downstairs for the start of main stage acts, Sworn In played cuts such as “Hypocrisy,” “Mindless,” and “Weeping Willow.” Heavy, aggressive, and extremely loud, they ripped the room apart as they concluded with “Let Down” before fan-favorite “Snake Eyes.” A fitting transition from the smaller, more intimate second stage, to larger main stage, Sworn In delivered the goods and then some.
With the second stage now closed for the night, all that stood were three more bands over at the main stage. The first of the three were Chicago, Illinois’ own Dope. Ready to go on schedule, at around 8:15 PM, Dope are often considered highly underrated by those who know their music. Sometimes discounted by critics and the mainstream, the band has a very dedicated following affectionately called the Dope Army. Worn down from years of touring, Dope took a much needed break from it all a few years ago to recollect their lives. While they did continue to play shows on and off, it was not until most recently that the band came back in full force with the classic lineup led by Vocalist Edsel Dope, Bassist Acey Slade, Guitarist Virus, and Drummer Racci Shay. Touring on the Die Motherfucker Die Tour with Flaw and Motograter, Dope were only a few weeks away from their brand new album, Blood Money, Part 1,, and with all the excitement, they were ready to tear up Rock and Shock.
Heavily influenced by Metal demigods like Ministry, KISS, and Mötley Crüe, Dope did not disappoint, with a nearly twenty year catalog of fast-paced, head-splitting sounds at their disposal. Balancing the set out, they played new and old songs including “Violence,” “Bitch,” and “Survive.” Feeding off the crowd’s energy, Edsel and company were aggressive as ever as they played on with “Addiction,” their cover of Billy Idol’s “Rebel Yell,” before “Die, Boom, Bang, Burn, Fuck.” Now over in Russia for some shows, Dope are scheduled for a full-blown Blood Money tour come early 2017.
Shifting gears to a more Power Metal leaning, Sweden’s Sabaton was the main support for the evening, taking the stage just before 9:30 PM. Heavily influenced by their heritage as warriors and by the world’s battles and wars, Sabaton has been fighting their way to the top of the Heavy Metal food chain. Having plenty of stories to tell, they have been touring the world heavily over the past few years, and more over, have broken big in the North American market. Supporting bands such as Amon Amarth, Iced Earth, Nightwish, and now Trivium, their passion and drive is quite addictive. Recently releasing the album The Last Stand, Vocalist Joakim Brodén, Bassist Pär Sundström, Guitarist Chris Rörland, Guitarist Tommy Johansson, and new Drummer Hannes Van Dahl were ready to show Palladium what they are made of.
Veterans of the Metal scene since 1999, Sabaton has no shortage of ammunition for battle. In fact, every song was like a war, with the crowd defending against each other while throwing caution to the wind in enjoyment simultaneously. Blasting through songs such as “Ghost Division,” “Carolus Rex,” and “To Hell and Back,” Brodén showed stamina as well as showmanship as he enticed the crowd. At this point, many patrons had been inside the venue over six hours, but never seemed to run out of steam as Sabaton’s soundtrack provided a perfect backdrop to keep the adrenaline flowing as they wrapped up with “Night Witches” and “Primo Victoria.” Excitable, Sabaton provoked a crowd reaction that was quite impressive. With the North American run wrapped up, Sabaton will return for their first ever stateside Headlining tour in April of 2017.
In the end, one band remained, and it was modern Metal leaders Trivium. A little behind in schedule, the band were green lit to take the stage after the 10:30 PM hour. At this point, the crowd was overflowing with energy and enthusiasm. With over one million albums sold worldwide, only very few attendees were not at least familiar with Trivium’s achievements and catalog. Coming off their acclaimed seventh album, 2015’s Silence in the Snow, Trivium are showing the maturity and stability to rise to even greater heights in the future.
Led by Vocalist/Guitarist Matt Heafy, Guitarist Corey Beaulieu, Bassist Paolo Gregoletto, and Drummer Paul Wandtke, they walked out to a roar of cheers as they began with “Strife” before going into “A Gunshot to the Head of Trepidation,” and later, newer song “Rise Above the Tides.” A mix of soaring and crushing guitar riffs courtesy of Heafy and Beaulieu assaulted the crowd, who raised Metal horns and headbanged in response. Heafy’s vocal delivery was strong, mixing aggressive and more melodic singing, while they moved along with “Into the Mouth of Hell We March,” the heavy jugging of “Silence in the Snow” and rousing “Anthem (We Are the Fire).”
Interacting with the audience and encouraging them to get involved, Heafy did a fine job of keeping spirits high. As if that was needed at all, with the endless delivery of pure Heavy Metal, “Until the World Goes Cold” was followed with “Down From the Sky” and the emotional “Built to Fall.” Driven and potent until they end, Trivium ended the night with “Pull Harder on the Strings of Your Martyr” and “In Waves” to the tireless crowd. As Trivium finished, the experience began to feel like a fever dream, awoken only when the house lights ignited and throngs of Metalheads in dishevelment began to exit. Reacting loudly to each and every track, it is clear why Trivium is routinely recognized by peers and awarded praise for their contributions to Heavy Metal.
For every fan in a band t-shirt, there was their counterpart with an Evil Dead t-shirt, and that is why Rock and Shock is a one-of-a-kind experience. The best part is this was only night one, there was still two more days of Horror and music to be had.Photo credit: Edgar Troncoso
Reporting by: Chuck Reeves