FESTIVAL REVIEW: New England Metal And Hardcore Festival 2023 Live at The Worcester Palladium


Day 1:

At five o’clock in the evening, on Friday, September 15th, masses of music fanatics flooded the streets of Worcester, Massachusetts. What for you ask? The first day of the highly anticipated return of the New England Metal and Hardcore Festival. Held at the Palladium Outdoors & created by Scott Lee and Mass Concerts, this two day event housed local food, brews, various vendors, three stages and over thirty incredible acts! 

As I arrived in Worcester that Friday evening, I began to spot festival patrons making their way towards the Palladium from blocks away. People sporting tour shirts, hats, patches, and homemade “battle vests” displaying a variety of familiar metal act’s logos. Mostly every turn that I made, supplied me with another energizing view of music fans, migrating boisterously up and down sidewalks. The paid parking lots were overflowing as linear crowds were being filed into the lot that is the Palladium Outdoors. 

Once within the festival’s domain, my senses were suddenly overwhelmed with diverse scents, sights, and sounds. In the upper level of the lot, I saw vendors promoting local music, food trucks, providing my nose with the aroma of everything from brick oven Pizza, to tacos, to BBQ. I overheard joyous voices of friends greeting one another, various cheers and shouts filled with absolute thrill, and the resounding sound of instruments being tested over the PA system. I made my way through the center of the lot, where the two stages were (Metal Blade Records stage and Nuclear Blast Records stage) and noticed the crowd was already piling up at the barricade of the main stage. Beyond the stages, at the bottom of the lot there were even more food trucks, beverage tents, band merchandise, and of course the outdoor lavatories. Totally necessary. Thank you for that NEMHF. Each beverage tent and food truck had water available which was a fantastic idea, staying hydrated while sweating, walking, and possible partaking a few adult beverages is of the utmost importance at an outdoor fest.

Before we get to the performances of the first day, let’s talk about the addition of the NEMHF museum inside of the Palladium. Located downstairs near the main stage, the museum celebrated 20 years of metal fest. It featured, photos taken by Jeremey Saffer which chronicled the legacy of the fest, plus a selection of a limited edition screen print collaboration between Mike D. (of Killswitch Engage) and Saffer. While perusing all of the artistic delights that the museum had to offer, I noticed that the featured artists had mystery boxes and other art pieces available as well. As if that museum was not already cool enough, Jeremy and Mike were there in the flesh signing their screen prints on both days. 

And now, for the moment you’ve all been waiting for….The Performances! On Friday night four fantastic bands invaded the Metal Blade Records stage. All hailing from Australia; Make Them Suffer, Northlane, The Amity Affliction, and Parkway Drive kicked off NEMHF with a fevered intensity! These gifted groups gave us New Englanders an unforgettable taste of how Aussies do metal. 

The stand out performance of the night? Parkway Drive. Their stage presence, was incredible. Each drum beat, note, lighting change, bass drop, and pyro trigger was accentuated by a physical gesture. It was as though the band members were living out the messages of their songs right before our eyes. Parkway Drive’s vocalist Winston McCall is such a pro performer. He morphed with the fog which shooting into the sky, cut through intense beams of stage lighting, stood tall, confident, and almost intimidatingly while pyrotechnics were set ablaze. He made his presence known even from the rear of the crowd. After seeing Parkway Drive live in Worcester, Mass for myself…it’s safe to say that this front man knows a thing or two about entertaining a crowd. The entire band absolutely owned the stage and captivated the audience. Their performance was larger than life. It engulfed the attendees as though they were outnumbered. The crowd roared in response to the music booming overhead, and penetrated the crowd. Fists were pounding into the air in unison, bodies by the dozen were tumbling towards the barricade over the crowd. I could feel the heat from the pyrotechnics even from the back of the crowd. The missile-like flares illuminated the faces below the stage. The spectacular blazes seemed to magnify the band members. The sheer amount of energy put into their performance was palpable. From start to finish, this band had us hook, line, and sinker. Parkway Drive’s set list included: “Glitch,” “Prey,” “Idols and Anchors,” “Carrion,” “The Void,” “Soul Bleach” (off of their 2022 album Darker Still), “Dedicated” (dedicated to the openers), “Sleepwalker,” “Karma,” “Darker Still,” “Bottom Feeder,” and “Chronos.” The band even performed an encore which included a masterful drum solo, and two more tracks: “Crushed” and “Wild Eyes.” Throughout the entire performance, Parkway’s drummer, Ben Gordon and his kit were set up in an industrial looking metal cage. It was a pretty eye-catching look. But, during the band’s encore he annihilated a solo and that metal cage in which his kit was set began to rotate. The man was upside down at certain points. Chef’s kiss to that visual. Tommy Lee would have been proud. 


Day 2:

Day two of New England Metal And Hardcore Festival began much earlier than the previous day, at twelve o’clock in the afternoon. The lengthy day was definitely necessary since there were twenty seven bands on the bill, set to play one three different stages. In addition to the Metal Blade Records and the Nuclear Blast Records stages, the Palladium had a third stage inside, on the upper level of the venue, the Century Media stage. Yes, it was a busy and eventful day for staff, media, and attendees. There was a threat of possible in-climate weather from hurricane Lee. Saturday turned out to be a fantastic day! Mostly sunny skies, mid 70s temperatures, and not a drop of rain to be had! We really lucked out! The second day of NEMHF was a day marked by impressive crowd engagement. All of the musicians were one hundred percent on their game, but I must admit that I was super entertained to observe the crowd. Every set had a fairly consistent stream of crowd surfers cruising from the center of the crowd to the front of the stages outside, and the Century media stage inside was a perpetual mosh pit. Seeing spectators react like that proved just how exhilarated these people were by the performances. It speaks volumes to the caliber of the artists, and the quality of this festival. The security guards on duty definitely deserve a huge shout out. They had their work cut out for them. I watched them protect audience members from getting hurt by guiding hundreds of people off of the top of the crowds, over the barricades, and back onto their feet. These people really kept the lot of us in one piece. 


The second day of NEMHF was filled with so many bands rotating amongst the three stages. Highlights of the day were Fuming Mouth, Hazing Over, Swollen Teeth, Undeath And Vein Fm. E Town Concrete and Terror. Terror absolutely crushed it. The frontman of Terror, Scott Vogel got the crowd riled with one statement. “Security are our friends, but the barricade is our enemy. Let’s put security to work.” Besides the sheer magnitude of crowd participation that was drawn out, a stand out moment was the lead singer throwing the mic to a crowd surfer, said surfer used the mic and pitched it back into the vocalists grasp without a hiccup. Seeing the parking lot erupt into a chaotic frenzy will forever live my memory. 

It was an emotional return to NEMHCF of The Black Dahlia Murder! With the tragic passing of Trevor Strnad in 2022 guitarist Brian Eschbach has taken over on vocals duties. The amount of crowd surfers during the bands 45 minute set were too numerous to count. Black Dahlia ripped into their set with the pummeling title track of their last album Verminous. Guitarist Brandon Ellis simply attacked the fretboard of his crackle painted Jackson Kelly with delirious ferocity. Bassist Max Levelle and drummer Alan Cassidy were locked in a serious grove that couldn’t be stopped. the bands set list consisted of fan favorites like “Statutory Ape,” “Kings of the Nightworld” and “Deathmask Divine.” It’s amazing to see The Black Dahlia Murder continue bringing metal to the masses. 

Hatebreed, who are celebrating the 20 year anniversary of “Rise of Brutality” rolled into Worcester in support of the festival, a place they have headlined many times. Hatebreed’s set was crammed with 17 songs and the action didn’t let up. Fueled by frontman Jamie Jasta’s epic stage presence. The Connecticut natives and favorites of the New England metal fans made sure the packed audience had a killer time. With songs like “Doomsayer”, “I Will be Heard” and “Live For This” the crowd was not disappointed. Guitarists Wayne Lozinak and Flordia Frank Novinec laid down punishing grooves that complimented the rhythm section of Chris Beetle and Matt Byrne. They have perfected the art of hardcore. 

Shadows Fall graced the stage once again at a Metal Fest, and boy oh boy was that a sight to see! These guys made an immediate impression. The vocals were off the chart, the musicianship was nothing short of magnificent, and I found myself absolutely fascinated by this performance. I really could not look away. I had tunnel vision to the sensational performance on the the Metal Blade records stage. Brian Fair climbed the barricade and began to serenade the audience with “Destroyer of Senses” during the beginning of their set. He then proceeded to do a front flip into the crowd and resurfaced in the center of the crowd, where he continued his performance amongst the great quantities of humans in the crowd. This physical interaction with viewers was a keen reminder that performers and patrons are more similar than we may believe. Without one, the other withers. We feed one another and we need each other. There was such a love and respect coming from the band to the audience and vice versa. The crowd was all in! From the child on his father’s shoulders to the woman being set down over the barricade by security. There were less phones above heads and more ears and eyes open to the experience before them. The band emoted untamed passion through put their entire set, which was comprised of: “Thoughts Without Words,” “Enlightened by the Cold,” “Destroyer of Senses,” “My Demise,” “Of One Blood,” “King of Nothing,” “Fleshold,” “Fire From the Sky,” “The Power of I and I,” and “The Light that Blinds.” There was a moment that stood out in the middle of their set when the stage lights illuminated every palm with outstretched fingers, clenched fists, and metal horns, and it became apparent how admired this band is here in New England. Shadows Fall are having a resurgence as of late. After taking some time away to focus on their personal lives, they have been popping up in various states for performances, getting their fans revved up, and breathing new life into their music. As the crowd blatantly made clear, their presence has been greatly missed by the metal world. I appreciate that I was able to see them as much as I did before their hiatus. If they are playing anywhere near you, don’t sleep on grabbing tickets to see them because they are that almost too good live.

The one and only, Lamb of God closed out the second day with an epic performance! During an hour plus set, the band were firing on all musical cylinders. The set started with “Memento Mori” and an explosion of pyrotechnics. The dual attack from guitarists Mark Morton and Willie Adler seemed to pummel the audience with non-stop riffs. The set list was packed with classic Lamb of God songs from their career spanning nearly three decades! “Walk with Me Through Hell,” “Ruin,” “Redneck” and “Omens” were among some of the songs that were in the set list. Just a few minutes into their set, it was astonishingly clear that this is exactly what we all came to see. LAMB OF FUCKING GOD!!! No time has passed since we had first listened to their music, or seen their last show. They are everlastingly themselves. The group you met during their debut album. Vocalist D. Randall Blythe the roamed the stage like a an ominous storm cutting through a clear night. He had the crowd hanging on his every lyric and feverishly singing every verse along with him. The energy brought forth by LOG was truly electrifying! Their performance was akin to an unwavering strength, battering the audience into whatever it was that they thought they were a part of. And then, in an instant…second you felt alienated by the intenseness of the jarring sounds and sights emanating from the stage, Lamb of God would cradle you in their sound and make you feel like we were all one and the same. The audience was a part of them and vice versa. There was no end and no beginning. We were all there, at this moment together. Randy displayed a variety of emotional and physical visuals during his performance. He would go from cool and collected while drifting from stage right stage left and swinging his mic by the cable, to seemingly irate with bulging veins in his head and neck. As I watched these legends unnerve the most and enlighten such a vast variety of patrons, I began to understand the true gravity of the talents before us all. They are the exemplification of what it looks and sounds like when you have truly mastered your craft. It was evident how this band has earned the respect and adoration of so many fans. The enraptured crowd swirled and swayed in giant mosh pits that seemed to move like a human tornados. There was hardly a still body within that audience, unless they were held captive against other bodies, or pushed up to the barricade. Audience members began crowd surfing even before they hit the stage in anticipation of their performance. I’m sure you could imagine how intense these crowd surfing was when the headliners actually stepped on stage….the exhilarated crow cruisers became a flood of never ending currents. Gladly being bumped and grabbed all to show their excitement to be witnessed an act of such a magnificent caliber. The band’s lighting and production enhance this once in a lifetime experience with colorful strobes, smoke and perfectly timed “explosions”. But, that’s not all! As if this performance was not outstanding enough, drummer Art Cruz displayed his poignant percussive style with an invigorating solo. 

This was very special since it seems he does not perform drum solos very often. New England metal and hardcore fans will forever be grateful to them for being a part of NEMHF. While talking with fans in the crowd I learned that there were children in attendance with  their parents for the first time, teens who were finally seeing LOG for their first time, and many, many veteran fans returning again after numerous satisfying LOG experiences and their tour cycle is winding down with a few shows left this year that include the debut Headbanger’s Boat cruise and a few few shows in Mexico later this year. Lamb of God gave everything they had and left everything on the stage, making this a very rare and memorable experience for all who were fortunate enough to be in attendance.


In short, the return of New England Metal & Hardcore Festival was a tremendous success and a blast to attend. Taking into account the enormous amount of entertainment provided along with the convince of having everything you need from parking, to the availability of food, and beverages, the money spent on a ticket purchase to this event is money well spent. After all is said and done, I think what all of New England metal hardcore fans are wondering is if we will get another fest next year?!