4/20: NEMHF Pre-Party at The Webster Underground
Face Your Maker
Brick by Brick
The Last Ten Seconds of Life
I definitely think it’s safe to say that every year, New England Metal/Hardcore Fest is a staple of New England's heavy music scene. This year, The Webster Theater in Hartford announced a “pre-party” for the festival the day before, making it the first time the festival has seen Hartford at all, as it usually takes place in Worcester. Announced back in December, the line-up went over well with fans as it was non-stop heavy jams in The Webster Underground, not the main theater. It was announced the local support would be from the boys in Boundaries to kick off the night the right way, brutal and violent. Jokes about mouth guards and boxing gloves went around in reference to how much pitting and crowd killing was expected following the awesome lineup. Before we knew it, 4/20 was upon us and the NEMHF Pre-Party was here.
Shows, particularly metal shows, never do well on a weeknight which was a frightening thing to think about since the pre-party fell on a Thursday evening. However, upon my arrival a mere half hour early, I was surprised to see what was already the usual attendance for a weeknight show waiting outside the venue to be let in. I grabbed my ticket from Boundaries drummer Kevin Stevens and waited for the show to kick off. I cannot fathom how quickly the venue filled up. By Varials I was almost certain that the show had sold out. I sat and waited for the two other nerds that you guys know to show up, Alex and Brian, and watched Boundaries set up, kicking it off with their new track “Reign of Pain.” You could almost immediately see the crowd was ready to get warmed up for the rest of the night by the amount of people already moving around the pit. I think it’s safe to say that after all the bullshit Boundaries were put through on their most recent tour with their van, they still poured their heart and souls into that set and it was fucking astonishing seeing them set up for the touring acts.
I’m going to be frank and just state that I personally am not a fan of Cryptodira’s music. They have a cool sound for the most part but they definitely did not belong on this bill, and that’s being polite. They sounded like they did a decent job from where I stood outside by the Boundaries merch table for the set, and I had seen them open for Beartooth last May and The Dillinger Escape Plan in November and honestly just didn’t have a great impression. Not really my style.
Face Your Maker was up next. I had listened to their song “Abolished” from an old EP when the show was announced but that was about it. The band had brought along Austin Archey (drummer of Lorna Shore) to take photos for them for part of this tour, which was pretty cool as well. This was the first deathcore band of the night and that was made very clear by the constant slamming vocals and riffs. They had the crowd intrigued, including Brian. They absolutely destroyed, the pits were crazy, the songs were tight and their stage presence was off the hook, especially when they brought Mike Jacques (PRY vocalist) and Archey out to do the breakdown vocals of “Abolished,” an earthquake of sheer violence. I’ll be fair and say I had absolutely no clue who Brick by Brick were and didn’t even remember seeing them on the bill until the day before, but they came to party and that was obvious. Even though there was some really drunk dude in the crowd ruining the show for everyone, they made the best of their time and had a really sweet sound.
After they ended, I knew things were about to get ultra-violent in that room and the pit was going to be fucking massive. Varials was up next, and they bring the heavies. There’s just something about straight beatdown hardcore that incites complete and utter destruction, and Varials was going to make sure that happened by playing fan favorites like “No Idols” and “Common Enemies” while the entire room was a complete war zone. Varials probably takes my place as my favorite set of the night. Don’t sleep on them if you have been. They’re absolutely fantastic. Left Behind came on afterwards and I had never heard anything besides the song “Snakes” from their record Seeing Hell because it had Bryan Garris (Knocked Loose) on the track, but I was well aware that people love them and that they go hard. They proved all the rumors true: the dudes take absolutely no shit and tear venues apart, and even got the Varials vocalist to move around with the rest of the crowd for their set, which was pretty cool to witness. If there was one thing I learned from Left Behind’s set, it’s that I should no longer sleep on them and that was advice I’m now taking.
We were hitting the end of the night now, and we had one of Brian, Alex and I’s favorite bands up next, Connecticut’s very own Currents. Surprisingly, they were one of the tamest sets of the night. Cryptodira took the cake as the band with the least crowd participation, but they aren’t really mosh music. They performed as well as ever, which is no surprise as I’ve never seen a bad set from them, and it’s super cool that they’re adding “Victimized” from the first EP to their setlists now. Brian Wille absolutely crushes that track. Catch them at every opportunity possible, especially with Miss May I and Kublai Khan this spring/summer. They’re going to make waves in the worldwide metal scene soon with their new record coming out this year.
We were hitting the headliners next/ I was starting to feel the fatigue, so unfortunately, I took a seat and watched the absolute destruction of Kublai Khan’s set from a distance. Those guys take names every single time they perform, crushing the opposition with the perfect mix of heavy and groovy which makes them gods in the hardcore scene, at least in my opinion. It was super cool hearing them play “Life for a Life,” although I’d kill to see them perform that with the Bury Your Dead vocalist live at some point. For some reason, half the crowd disappeared before The Last Ten Seconds of Life performed, which was lame, but ultimately made the experience more intimate. They played two or three tracks off The Violent Sound, but absolutely killed it with “The Box!”, “North of Corpus,” and “Ballad of the Butcher” off of Soulless Hymns. That album is a masterpiece of downtempo deathcore, and I’ll fight anyone who thinks otherwise. It's crazy to see how much new vocalist John Roberts slays those tracks and does his own thing on the new songs as well. All in all, the NEMHF Pre-Party was a success, and I hope we get to see shows of this caliber more regularly from now on.
- Dakota G.
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