Thirty hardcore and metal acts joined forces this past Saturday, March 19, 2011 to present fans with approximately twelve straight hours of head-banging goodness. Taking place at the Grove in Anaheim, a two-stage presentation of some of the most popular bands in the genre was met with raised fists and throaty growls, enticing fans to come from all over the state. It marks the fifth time that this annual festival has taken place: California Metalfest V.
Of course, with so many bands playing, there are always some who stand out, and some who get left in the dust. A chronological approach has been taken, highlighting events and bands as they occurred throughout the day (so if you don’t see your favorite band in this review, don’t whine, as it was probably the crowd’s reaction that has elicited no comment). Also, since there were almost always two bands playing at the same time in different areas, it was difficult to watch anyone’s entire set.
As the guest list was not readily available until almost an hour after the gates opened up, this author and his friendly photographer were unable to see the first four bands that played (one doesn’t know who to blame, the tour managers or The Grove itself, but come on, get your shit together, people).
Upon entry, Attila The Hun was on the side stage, successfully throwing out riffs and breakdowns that were as sharp as the singer’s overly large tapers. Compliments are given to the main guitarist, whose solos showed up most of the other hardcore bands playing that day.
Fonthill followed soon after, and unfortunately, their sub-par brand of hardcore simply couldn’t stand up to the rest of the day’s acts. It didn’t sound as if they had rehearsed; in the first song alone, four mess-ups were quite noticeable. A respectful nod to one of the two singers is gladly given, however.
A Sinful Attraction featured some clean vocals amongst the heavy shrieks, and while the musicianship wasn’t amazing, once these guys shove experience into their belts, they can certainly pave their own way in the hardcore/screamo genre.
Jahmbi (who will be playing with Fear Factory later this year) had one of the most original sounds of the day, accompanying their thumping drums and fast-paced guitars with off-the-wall Russian music and blaring accordions, courtesy of their keyboardist. If you’re into eclectic metal, check these guys out.
Abril featured a girl singer, who was definitely able to hang with the guys, even inviting fans to come and get drunk with her after their set. Her screams erased all sense of feminism; truly, she could’ve knocked over some of the male singers with just the power of her voice.
Short Fuse, a harmonic death metal band, was a nice jolt out of the hardcore music that had (up to that point) been dominating the festival. Their singer, complete with foot-long dreads, growled and screamed like a convulsing rabid beast, giving off a stage presence of pure violence. Their keyboardist had a very cool setup: his keys were attached to a large, metallic coil, which allowed him to swing it side to side and back and forth, allowing him maximum head-banging capacity.
Goliath had one of the larger followings of the side stage; as soon as their music started, a flurry of arms and legs returned a greeting. It got so intense that security guards were forced to kick out one fan, inciting rage from both the fans and the band itself. In the singer’s words, “If security starts fucking with you, kill them!”
As Blood Runs Black, whose newest album was released this past Tuesday, March 15, gave the audience a metalcore performance, playing their popular song (also a video) “My Fears Have Become Phobias,” as well as “Hester Prynne.” This song above all their others demanded crowd reaction, and much hair and many fists went flying.
After The Burial, who sounds like Meshuggah if they jumped off the LSD truck and added range to their vocals, put on a good performance as well. Both guitarists played eight-string, neon-colored guitars (green and orange, with one switching to blue halfway through) that any guitarist would cut someone for. Their time signatures are to be admired for their sheer complexity.
Born of Osiris (whose album The Discovery comes out March 22) played a rousing brand of deathcore coupled with eerie keyboards that seemed to fit the music just right. They were one of the more popular acts, with numerous people claiming that this was the main band they came for. If anything, they certainly had a ridiculous amount of energy and put on a great live show, even if one isn’t into the band regularly.
Winds of Plague decided to turn the show into a beach party, much to the delight of the audience. Beach balls, pool noodles, and inflatables were thrown into the crowd, often hitting fans, photographers, security guards, and the band members themselves. Johnny Plague came out in his usual deeply-growling fashion, his bulky shoulders covered temporarily by a Hawaiian shirt; meanwhile, the guitarists thrashed about beside palm trees the band had brought onstage (these were later tossed into the crowd as well). Two new songs (new album Against The World will be released on April 19), including “Refined In The Fire” graced the crowd’s ears, appealing to both hardcore and metal fans. Their combination of breakdowns and soloing, complete with epic-sounding keys make for a good listen by a large variety of fans. WoP seemed to have the best crowd reaction of the night, even beating out the two headliners that followed; the band had a ferocity and energy about them that was as contagious as a zombie’s bite, and the crowd definitely capitalized on this.
Suicide Silence, a band hailing from Orange County, showed that every band that plays in their hometown always gets the die-hard fans coming out. The high-pitched screams of Mitch Lucker destroyed eardrums while the blast beats led a war on the senses of listeners. Lucker also confessed to having been in the recording studio the day before (new album supposedly being released this summer), and the garnishment of a new song drew the crowd’s utmost approval. They ended their set with the extremely popular “No Pity For A Coward.” They also incited an immense Wall of Death, much to the consternation of security and pleasure of the audience.
As I Lay Dying was the headliner of the night, and a mighty roar greeted Tim Lambesis (also of Austrian Death Machine) as he strode upon the stage. They opened with their single “94 Hours,” and went on to play many other crowd favorites, including “Through Struggle” and “Forever.” Thick fog poured over the stage, and by the end of the set, one could hardly see the band. Their fourteen-song set ended the night on a sweaty yet joyous note.
The festival would have been great for any listener of the hardcore/metal genre, with highs and lows throughout the day; at times generic, at times original, it was worth the cheap ticket price for a nearly half-day of performances and all-around fun. If you didn’t get to check it out this year, try to go next year. Trust me. I would.
Photography by Ciera Leisenfelder for Grimy Goods
Words by Jeremy Bigelow for Grimy Goods