Milwaukee, Eat Your Heart Out... Again
CoC covers the March Metal Meltdown
by: Adam Wasylyk
It's time for another Chronicles of Chaos roadtrip! Scribes Adrian, Alain, Paul, Jody, Alex (who mysteriously no one would see during the event) and myself, along with former alumni Steve and Drew, made the trip to the first annual New Jersey March Metal Meltdown. It would be said about Asbury Park, the area where the festival took place, that "If the world were constipated, they'd stick the enema right here!". An apt description if I'd ever heard one.

Allow me to paint a picture for you. The venue consisted of three stages: the main stage, the side stage and the last, the smallest of the three, the Relapse sponsored stage. What a relief to find there were no stairs to climb, which I'm sure veteran Milwaukee attendees truly appreciated. The Relapse stage sat closest to the Atlantic Ocean (the building was on the NJ boardwalk), allowing cold winds to enter the room and freeze the soul (as if the music wasn't enough). The side stage allowed bands to play, and would later house a wrestling ring where mostly amateurs came in to battle it out. I must admit, yelling "YOU FUCKING PUSSIES!!!" is more therapeutic than I thought it'd be. Anyhow, the main stage consisted of a huge pit area and a bleacher area which many in attendance (including yours truly) took advantage of. A better venue couldn't have been chosen for this type of event.

Considering that there were over 100 scheduled to play, I would discover that it was impossible to even check out half of the bands playing. Picking and choosing carefully, here are some of the bands I was able to check out.

Relapse's Benumb were just finishing up as we had arrived late on day one of the two day event. Sounding as powerful as they did at last Summer's Milwaukee Metal Fest, their brand of grindcore didn't go unnoticed with onlookers, who applauded appropriately when they finished up.

Is this what they call "hardcore" these days? Sounds like plain metal to me. Straight edgers Earth Crisis showcased their wares to an appreciative crowd, whom you could easily pick out (meaning anyone without a Cradle of Filth or Dimmu Borgir shirt). Their (lack of?) musical quality isn't the lingering afterthought from this set, but rather the dreadful cover of Black Sabbath's "War Pigs". I'll be the first to admit that I'm not a fan, but even I -know- when a Black Sabbath cover is butchered. If the vocalist wasn't embarrassed after their performance, the rest of the crowd sure were. Yikes!

Incantation, one of my favourite death metal bands, played a competent yet unexciting set with new vocalist in tow. Displaying vox that suit the band well, I must admit I miss the great vocals of Daniel Corchado on Incantation's last CD, the mighty _Diabolical Conquest_. Good for what it was, but I expected more from this great band.

I'll admit that I'm not a fan of power/traditional metal, but I found myself getting into the 30 someodd minute set of Iced Earth. Receiving a healthy response from the 2/3 capacity Convention Hall, it was something that I wouldn't listen to at home, but it was pleasant in a live setting.

Amorphis were one of the big reasons why I decided to attend; I'm just so unhappy that they didn't live up to expectations. Having missed them on their _Tales From the Thousand Lakes_ tour with Entombed way back when, it was most likely more punishing to see them at this stage, at a time where I feel their progression has gotten slightly out of hand. Some of the blame for this set should go towards the sound people, who needed about three songs to get the sound exactly right. However, the band must be faulted as well. The opening track was off their new release _Tuonela_, a song the crowd couldn't appreciate because of the level of unfamiliarity with the recent release of the new album. Tomi's growls just didn't cut it on this night, "Black Winter Day" suffering because of this along with inappropriately played keyboards almost making the track unrecognizable. "Better Unborn" and "Against Widows" were performed more tightly, but still, something was missing. A disappointment.

Having seen them play Milwaukee last Summer and not being too amazed, Hypocrisy had another chance to impress, but they didn't do too well. Guitarist/vocalist Peter Tagtgren at the beginning of the set announced that their second guitarist had food poisoning and therefore couldn't play. As their set went on, you couldn't help but hear the hole vacant, where a second guitar could have thickened their sound and given them more power. On top of that, they didn't perform "Roswell 47", which the crowd were obviously listening out for. And when Peter broke out into the American national anthem on his guitar... well, you'd be in hysterics if you could have seen my face.

Dimmu Borgir closed out the night, in classic fashion. Their first show in North America, it wasn't difficult to read the anticipation on the faces of many in the crowd. Suffering the same sound problems as many before them, Dimmu were able to overcome them and turn in a powerful set of Norwegian black metal. Playing material off their impressive new release _Spiritual Black Dimensions_ ("Reptile" being the definite standout, sans clean vocals due to sound fuckups) and of course a couple of tracks off the highly acclaimed _Enthrone Darkness Triumphant_ ("Mourning Palace", "In Death's Embrace") were well received as well. Superior drumming and great keyboards (especially during the tail end of the set) made this a set most won't soon forget.

After almost no recovery time, day two was upon us. Holding the majority of bands, it was make or break for the 4000 or so metalheads in attendance. Sarcophagus would be the first band on the second day that would make an impression. An impressive fusion of death and black metal with a hint of retro, Sarcophagus dealt out some pretty fast material with a lot of catchy hooks. Mad props goes out to the drummer, whose expert drumming made an enjoyable set even moreso. Despite the small amount of time on stage, they were quite impressive, to say the least.

The set of Fallen Christ had me confused. Did I like this? Did I want to hear any more? The keyboardist, dressed in a military-like vest with some sort of pitch shifter on his voice, gave a somewhat memorable performance with an unusual vocal style. The music was competent yet unable to rise anyone in the crowd.

A pleasant surprise was the amazing performance of Osmose's Vital Remains. They truly kicked ass on this night, highlighted by the track "Battle Ground" on their _Forever Underground_ LP, a song that I had really dug up to recently but didn't actually know this band was responsible for it! Another set that was cut too short, however Vital Remains used every second on stage to make a solid impression, and they did just that.

Candiria's mosh pit almost caused certain death for this writer; the band's fusion of hardcore and metal produced one of the largest pits of the festival. Great stage presence accompanied by their trademark start/stop and jazz breaks really made this a break from some of the monotonous death metal that was playing nearby. Great stuff.

Enslaved took to the blackened main stage with arms crossed and guitars set on kill. Taking a page from the book of Dimmu Borgir, drummer Dirge Repp (of Gehenna fame) had a tremendous impact on how Enslaved would perform on this night. Known for not having keyboards on stage, this really hurt them while playing the track "Slaget I Skogen Bortenfor", which is really meant to have a keyboard accompaniment. The new stuff off _Blodhemn_ sounded great live; I can't wait to have another opportunity to check these guys out.

Divine Empire pretty much played the exact set they performed in Toronto only a week earlier. Cool duelling vocals separate the band from the pack, along with great material like the blastbeat supremacy of "Out for Blood" or the unbridled insanity of "Silent Carnage". For a three piece, these guys can sure dish it out.

The dark horse of the festival must belong to the sound terrorists known as Today Is the Day. Vocalist/guitarist Reverend Steve Austin was truly a man possessed, so convincing it appeared he was mentally breaking down right before us. I won't even try to label the music these guys play; all I can say is that it's noisy, loud and, very much like a gory accident, you can't help but stare and allow it to fuck with your head.

Bloodstorm are a band I just can't get into. This being the third time seeing them live, I keep giving them a chance to grow on me but they fail each time out. Mediocre black metal from the touring bassist of Absu, I just don't get what they're doing. One of the many bands one can say are a product of their influences.

Canada's Cryptopsy showed them Yankees how real death metal is played! Tracks like "Defenestration", "White Worms", "Born Headless" and "Slit Your Guts" devastated the crowd, despite the poor sound on the Relapse stage at that moment in time. Vocalist Mike DiSalvo roamed the stage like a madman, delivering a great vocal performance on this night. Lord Worm would have been proud.

The last band I was able to check out was Poland's Vader, who turned out one of the best performances of the festival. Playing with twice the intensity they had in Toronto just a week prior, material like "Sothis", "Silent Empires", "Black to the Blind", "Carnal" and many others sounded just plain amazing in a live situation. A highly underrated band, it was great to have them back over here in North America.

We decided to skip out on Napalm Death and Sepultura to get an early start back to the hotel so beer could be drunk in maximum quantities and some herb could be passed around until oblivion would eventually take over. It was a great experience, to be able to check out a lot of great bands and meet a lot of cool people. Canadian content was high, with bands like Cryptopsy, Anvil, Solus, Human Disorder, Gorguts and others turning in good sets. Despite some flaws (incompetent sound engineers, lousy food, etc.), I was glad I was able to check out the show. A legacy has been forged.

(article submitted 15/6/1999)

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