» New England Deathfest 2009  
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~ Reviewed by JuuKun

Last year, 2008, a festival was born in Providence, Rhode Island - the New England Deathfest, which would be held at both Club Hell and the bar Jerky's, which is directly above it. I almost attended the inaugural edition of the fest, with a legion of both local and relatively unknown (to this reviewer, at least) Death Metal bands on the roster, paired with headliners in Dying Fetus and Skinless, but decided at the last moment to change my mind. This year, I very nearly did the same thing - after having checked the lineup fairly often to see who was being announced, I had just about given up. None of the bands on the lineup interested me, save for Neuraxis, though I probably wouldn't have gone for them. And that would have been it, until, a few weeks before the show, I checked the most recent flier, and found (to my ecstatic delight) that Quo Vadis had been confirmed for their first ever New England appearance.

Saturday - August 29

Band: Polterchrist
Place: Club Hell
Time: 17:35-18:05

My evening began with the Pennsylvanian Death Metal quartet Polterchrist. Though I had heard the name somewhere before (on a flier, I believe), I had never thought to check them out. Without a single preconception about the band, I was free to see what they had to offer.

I was completely underwhelmed. While by no means a bad band, it goes without saying that there are far better Death Metal artists out there. What makes it worse is that I cannot even pinpoint what it was about the music that I didn't like. It was very average-sounding, at the very least, though far more bearable than a good deal of what passes for music these days.

4 chalices of 10

(sorry, no setlist)

Band: Bloodsoaked
Place: Jerky's
Time: 18:15-18:45

Next up, I moved up the stairs with the crowd to check out Bloodsoaked - the first of two one-man band's that I would watch (a third played). Having no prior knowledge of North Carolina's Peter Hasslebrack, I was caught off-guard when he took to the stage by himself and announced himself as Bloodsoaked.

I've never seen a one-man band play live before, so it was a new experience, and I can't say I prefer it over a full band. One man can only do so much - even if the programmed drums were awesome (which I can't say they were), it just looks so awkward seeing one man in the middle of the empty stage that I personally couldn't get adjusted to it. Perhaps done with the right lighting and atmosphere it would be a different story - but one man playing what people have called "Brutal" Death Metal (which I've never really been a fan of in the first place) with daylight shining through the windows behind him in downtown Providence did nothing to get me into the music.

4 chalices of 10

(sorry, no setlist)

Band: Sexcrement
Place: Club Hell
Time: 18:55-19:25

If I didn't enjoy Bloodsoaked or Polterchrist, this band quickly made up for it. A very easy second favorite band of the day, these four guys from Massachusetts got on stage and delivered a set that, to be quite honest, I couldn't forget even if I wanted to. Words cannot even begin to describe it, but I'll try my hardest.

The band was ushered on stage by a blonde transvestite, clad in leather and sipping beer (which rarely stayed in his/her mouth, more often being spit into the crowd). At first, I found myself asking what the hell I had gotten myself into deciding to watch this band, but as the transvestite changed the course of topic from how long it took to tie his/her boots ("I don't know, why don't you ask you f***ing brother, sweetie") to a whore he/she had seen on the corner previously who was "making fifty dollars a blow - oh, here she is now."

Sexcrement vocalist Adam Mason took the stage in a long white dress and a large, frizzy red wig (contrasting wildly with his full brown beard). Joined at last by their vocalist, the band wasted absolutely no time in kicking straight into their first song, the transvestite moving over to the side of the stage to dance for the remainder of the set.

Compared to the rather bland stage presences of Polterchrist and Bloodsoaked, this band was above and beyond them performance-wise - it also makes me glad to say that they were just as higher ranked musically. Whereas both of the prior bands bored me, the music here was good enough that the show still would have been awesome without the gimmick. To-the-point Death Metal with some very nice grooves thrown in tastefully, they got most of the crowd's attention and had almost everyone moving only a song or two into the set.

8,5 chalices of 10

(sorry, no setlist)

Band: Revocation
Place: Club Hell
Time: 20:15-20:45

Deciding to skip Malignancy to walk back to my car briefly to grab my wallet and breathe a little after an exhilarating set from Sexcrement, I returned in time for Massachusetts' own Death/Thrash act Revocation. This Boston trio combines their technical prowess with pure Death/Thrash brutality to form a lasting impression.

Perhaps still a little too preoccupied, having not yet wrapped my head around what I had seen in the set prior, I was not able to enjoy the music to its fullest. While it could whole-heartedly be argued that they deserve a better grade, for what I heard was indeed very good, my head was in other places and I could not quite get into what I was hearing.

7 chalices of 10

(sorry, no setlist)

Band: Insidious Decrepancy
Place: Jerky's
Time: 20:55-21:30

Another one-man Brutal Death Metal band, this time from Texas. As with Bloodsoaked earlier in the day, it seemed very odd to see the one man up there and I could not really get into what to me sounded very average. Though, as I have stated, Brutal Death Metal is not really my cup of tea, so I can't really say much other than that he had the absolute BEST facial expressions of the day.

3 chalices of 10

(sorry, no setlist)

Band: Neuraxis
Place: Jerky's
Time: 22:35-23:20

Formed in 1994, this Canadian Melodic Death Metal force was the headliner of the night for many people in the crowd. With five studio albums to represent in 45 minutes, they had a daunting task ahead of them trying to please everyone. Though, whether it was a song off of 1997's Imagery album or 2008's The Thin Line Between, the crowd welcomed it equally. They erupted like no other crowd of the day, with a huge mosh pit taking up most of the floor, save for a line of headbangers directly infront of the stage. I found myself covered in atleast three different men's beers by the end of their set.

In the 45 minutes allotted for them, they took the stage by storm and destroyed what was left standing. Song after song of Melodeath, delivered expertly by these surprisingly lesser-known Canadians.

7,5 chalices of 10

(sorry, no setlist)

Band: Quo Vadis
Place: Jerky's
Time: 23:45-01:00

Finally, after what had felt like a very long night, it was time for the band I had bought my ticket for. Canada's Quo Vadis formed in 1993, and after 3 studio albums, a DVD, and a live album, have only just managed to cross the United States border earlier this year. In June, they made their first appearances ever in the U.S., playing a handful of dates along the east coast, and it was not long after their return that they announced two more dates - in August, they would play Rochester, NY and they would headline one day of the 2nd incarnation of the New England Deathfest.

When the pounding intro to Silence Calls the Storm began, I was the only person standing in front of the stage, everyone else having retreated to the back after Neuraxis - through the first few songs of the set, vocalist Trevor Birnie would ask those in the back to come up front, joking that he was lonely, but the front of the stage never really filled up (nor did many of those up front get very active - guitarist Bart Frydrychowicz at one point noted that he saw a head move from one side of the floor to the other, and thought that a mosh had finally started, only to find the guy had been going to the bar).

With the crowd's involvement (or lack thereof) put aside, the performance was absolutely awesome and the band rocked. The setlist and their performance made it COMPLETELY worth the wait, and damn to hell anyone who stood in the back with their arms crossed. Personally, I can't understand how anyone could have stood back and just ignored that, but I suppose someone in the crowd thought the same of me and Insidious Decrepancy.

9 chalices of 10

Setlist: (may be slightly inaccurate)

Silence Calls The Storm
Absolution (Element Of The Ensemble Part II)
Break The Cycle
In Contempt
Fate's Descent
On The Shores Of Ithaka
Tunnel Effect (Element Of The Ensemble Part IV)
Dead Man's Diary
Point Of No Return: Mute Requiem
Legions Of the Betrayed

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