After what seemed to be endless asinine controversy in my hometown of Glens Falls over this two day event (in a nutshell, a few residents were given an overabundance of press exposure crying about how these bands have "evil lyrics" and bringing this event to Glens Falls would turn the city into chaos), July 17 finally came around. I was rather excited to see this event, as I only had to drive a mere ten minutes instead of the usual hour (Albany) or three hours (Worcester). Let alone the lack of driving time, the quality of the bands performing was pretty damned good! Slayer, Killswitch Engage, Shadows Fall, Suffocation...the list continued! Anyways, I'll try to stay on track and make with the review now...
Being one of the first 500 to buy tickets, I was able to get in at 2pm instead of 5pm and got to see 4 more bands down in Heritage Hall (as opposed to the main "arena" stage). So the first interesting thing that occurred was that at about 2:30ish. There are probably 30-40 people in the room, tops and who strolls in but Corey Taylor (Slipknot). I can't honestly say that I'm the biggest fan of Slipknot, but it was cool of him to come in and mingle with the small group of fans gathered at the time. Anyways, the first band up was The Risk Taken. They weren't the greatest but they didn't suck, playing a quick set of slightly metalized hardcore. Next up was The Autumn Offering, the main reason I bought tickets early. I had heard two tracks online and definitely wanted to check them out live. They play a sound quite similar to say, Unearth, but it was rather enjoyable live and they played by far the best set of the bunch on the 2nd stage. Very energetic and entertaining. Picked up their cd afterwards (review coming soon!). The next band was A Thousand Falling Skies and they'd be a hell of alot better if the vocalist never "sung" again! They honestly weren't a bad band, but the guy's singing was almost always off-key and annoying. Besides that factor, the music was actually pretty good. The last band, Full Blown Chaos bored me to tears. It was like watching an intensity-less Hatebreed. Granted, I'm definitely not a fan at all of old-school hardcore (which will probably be mentioned several times throughout this review) but I was just unimpressed with this band.
Coming up the stairs from Heritage Hall, I was able to view the immensity of this day. I had expected big numbers but I never imagined seeing 4000+ people in the Civic Center for a heavy metal concert (very cool)! After grabbing a quick bite of dinner ($2.50 for a hot dog, woohoo) I made my way down to the floor to catch the first band...Gizmatchi? Apparently they were the replacement for Superjoint Ritual's cancellation. I can't say that I've ever heard of them and it wouldn't really hurt my feelings if I never heard them again. It wasn't god-awful, but it wasn't very exciting either. God Forbid was next up, playing a fairly short but rather enjoyable set, mostly sticking to material from their new release Gone Forever. I've always stated that God Forbid puts on a good live show and this was no exception. This band is definitely going places in the near future. Shortly there after, Hatebreed took the stage. Now, anyone that knows me knows what I think about Hatebreed. However, in the live setting, they put on a great show. It was very intense and something almost charismatic about the band. Perhaps it was how they managed to create an incredibly massive pit (I'd say the biggest of the entire festival), or perhaps it was just that the music caters to the live setting. Either way, I was very impressed with their performance.
Finally, it was time for Slayer. With guilt in my heart, I'll admit in my almost 10 year experience in the metal world, I had never gotten a chance to see Slayer. Needless to say, expectations were high but they were very happily fulfilled. Slayer played an awesome set, including a lot of classics ("War Ensemble", "Seasons in the Abyss", "South of Heaven", etc), a few newer ones ("Payback", "God Hates Us All"), and if my memory serves me correctly, the entire Reign in Blood album! Slayer alone convinced me that my 60 dollar two day pass was completely worthwhile. However, the crowd's less energetic reaction told me that there were alot of people here only around to watch what was "in" at the moment, namely Slipknot and Hatebreed. The closing band of the night was none other than Slipknot. I was eager to hear them live, as I've heard they are rather entertaining. As far as I'm concerned, they were sort of entertaining to watch but they sounded for shit. That night I assumed it might have been from standing at the top of the arena instead of the floor, but I tested my theory the next day and no other band sounded that terrible. The guitars were so distorted that it was difficult for me, as someone who is only a passing familiarity to the band, to differentiate much from song to song. So I stayed for maybe 1/2 the set and decided it was time to hit the road.
Coming back to a Civic Center that was a little less crowded (which really pretty good considering about 3000 for a day with no real "big name" bands and that this is the first year of the fest), I got in just in time to catch With Honor. It wasn't anything special, but then again, we know my thoughts on hardcore. Himsa was next with their At The Gates-esque take on hardcore. I thought they were pretty average on disc, but they put on a good show live. Very good headbanging material and were fun to watch. Once again my "I hate hardcore" disclaimer goes up with Terror. Talk about old-school hardcore at its finest! At least I was amused by the lead singer's in-between-song chats about "struggle" and the hardcore ethic. For their part, they were rather energetic. Having just seen As I Lay Dying a few months back with KsE and In Flames, I knew what to expect there. It was good, but certainly nothing to write home about. This is another band that will be going places in the future, just by their extensive touring. I've seen Skinless on more occasions than I can count on my two hands but it was nice to see them on the "big stage". They put on a terrific show, as always, and you could tell they were pretty psyched to be playing the hometown crowd. The worst band of the festival award definitely goes to Converge. Despite my indifference to some of the hardcore bands playing, when it comes down to it, I at least respect them and what they do for the scene even if its not of my listening preference. On the other hand, Converge just fucking sucks. I hadn't heard much of the band on disc, and the live show certainly made me want to stay clear of them in the future. In brutal honesty, all I heard was noise...not music. End of story. However, the next band to grace the stage was Suffocation. This was my first time seeing these guys live, despite the fact they are still arguably my favorite of the death metal genre. I was completely floored by their live performance, with both their flawless technical playing and their sheer intensity. They needed a longer set! One of the biggest highlights of Day Two and I'm kicking myself really hard that I had to miss them a few months back due to my rediculous schedule of work and school.
With Agnostic Front and Sick of It All playing back-to-back, I saw this as the perfect opportunity to get some food and check out the merchandise since I wasn't too psyched about seeing either of them. Deicide were apparently delayed on the road and couldn't make it so the next band was Shadows Fall, the band that seems to get better each time I see them. They played two new songs ("The Power of I and I" and "Act of Contrition") which got me rather psyched for the upcoming cd. And they played "A Fire In Babylon" again, hell yeah! The band's live performance was even better than the last time I saw them at the Headbanger's Ball Tour last fall. Even though I just saw Killswitch Engage recently, I was more than happy to see them again. The band has such a stage presence that I can't think of too many bands that could compete with them. Adam was up to the usual antics and Howard seems to become a more impressive frontman with each time I see them. In all honesty, KsE should have headlined this day. Finally, headliner Soulfly took the stage and I watched a few songs and left. I've never really gotten into Soulfly and after Shadows Fall and KsE, I thought I'd rather leave on a more energetic note.
All in all, I'd say the event was top notch. Yeah, there were some bands I didn't personally care for but I still had a great time. I had a few doubts about whether the "arena experience" would be as good, since there isn't as much intimacy but I was very pleasantly surprised. The sound and lighting were great! Most bands were very audible but the sound was still thundering and you could feel the vibrations. One thing I didn't mention was the extremely quick set changes! I was thoroughly impressed with the organization that must have went into this, because I don't remember ever waiting longer than 20 minutes between bands! Everything was right on schedule and was a textbook example of how these big festivals should run. As a whole, everything ran smoothly. It would have been nice to have a little more room with the merch area, but even still there was more room here than at the Metalfest in Worcester. My only two points of frustration were the no re-entry policy and the slippery as hell Civic Center stairs! Can't do much about the stairs, but it would have been nice to be able to have gotten out once in a while, especially to get some decent food! Hopefully this event will be back next year (and years to come) since it seems to have been a great success for both metal and hardcore fans. With some minor tweaking, I truly feel that the Aggressive Music Festival could end up rivaling the New England Metalfest in the future.
Oh, and I hope all those against the concert are having fun eating their words right now!