New Jersey Metalfest - 2003 Day Two
Metal Festival
Live Concerts

Release year: 2003
Reviewed by Jay

The distinctive ring of a Nokia cell phone woke us up at 9:30 the next morning. This was a good thing since our 10AM wakeup call never came! After breakfasting, showering, plugging up our toilet, and removing the evidence of the previous nights’ debauchery we went to check out and put stuff in the car. I looked at my unused photo pass and vowed to get batteries for my camera today (something I forgot again, dammit!). While leaving the hotel I saw the lead guitarist and vocalist for Mortician beating up his girlfriend in the elevator. As we went in, she ran out after him, kicking him in the back, as the elevator doors closed, we heard another bang and CDs spilling out of the massive box of CDs he was holding. C’mon people, let’s try and act like a brotherhood.

Day Two started out with a visit to the merch area, which was only partially set up since the doors had just opened, on time I might add. We decided to check back later and went to the second stage to see Byzantine. They were good but being noon and that we were incredibly tired I don’t remember much more than the singer was bald and he also sang for another band later in the day. We left briefly to talk a walk on the beautiful beach and saw some band taking promo pictures on some rocks out in the water. After marveling at the horror of Asbury Park, we popped inside in time to see Scarlet on the main stage. They were terrible. Screaming, poorly mixed sound, cheap riffs, name it, it was wrong. We wanted to see Crematorium on the second stage but we missed them. We had listened to their limited edition 1000 copy EP the night before and wanted to put a face to the disc.

Around this time, we discovered the third stage. This stage was not in use on the first day but on the second day local New Jersey bands were playing there. We first came up and saw a band with members who couldn’t have been older than 13! They were called Unawakened and were nice enough to give me a three track. For 13 year olds, these guys were totally metal and rocked hard! They got the crowd into it and everything. We were all quite impressed. Their demo puts those of many signed artists to shame. Beyond the Flesh was supposed to play this stage too but we showed up at the time they told us and missed them because the schedule was all wacky. It’s too bad because they gave me a free full length and were all around awesome guys. Look for a review of their demo soon. Pizza was in store next so we left to acquire sustenance and drive around downtown Asbury Park.

We made sure to make it back in time for Nora who was a runner up for the Worst of Show award from NEMF. Their set included some new songs which sounded like old songs. They did have a large crowd of their hometown faithful though. Still, the barking of the singer and the crappy riffs annoyed us even though their single “Nobody Takes Pictures… (of the Drummer)” has some mildly entertaining value. Back to the merch area and it was going in full force. Erik Rutan of Hate Eternal was around the Earache booth (which took four hours to show up I might add). Also new was the Trustkill Records booth. The woman at the Nuclear Blast merch booth was nice enough to show us the Dimmu Borgir Journal and Military box, which while cool aren’t worth the prices they’re charging for them. We emptied our wallets at this point and took our purchases back to the car before it was time for more music.

We caught the last two seconds of Bleeding Through while we waited for Mastodon to come on the main stage. They have improved since NEMF, moving to the main stage and playing lots of new songs. They are way over due for a new album and the material sounds promising if you’re into southern metalcore. They do seem to elevate their sound above the slew of the other metalcore bands present. Entering back to the second stage it was Flesh Grind’s turn at it. Very stripped down gore-styled metal. The singer kept pacing back and forth growling over and over. Not too much variation. This was also the beginning of the blast beat assault that would carry on until the night. We caught bits and pieces of Unearth’s set but they had an absolutely massive crowd, the biggest to that point. Hardcore isn’t really my thing and this was no exception.

We were waiting for Hate Eternal who were up next. Hate Eternal does have promise but they seem to be content being just another Florida death metal band and not really expanding their sound much. Rutan is a whiz on guitar and vocals but they just don’t have enough to hold my interest. The guys from Suffocation were in the audience for their set. It is during their brutal set that I noticed that the Day Two crowd seemed much more unresponsive than Day One did. We stayed put for Moonspell was up next. We eagerly anticipated them since The Antidote is such and awesome album with some killing songs. They did not disappoint. Ribiero was completely overpowering as a front man. His vocals are spot on and his stage presence is colossal. They are truly and underrated band that shone brightly and powerfully in their slot. A longer set would have greatly benefited them however. They were Morgan’s favorite band of the weekend. Setlist: Alma Mater/Vampiria Medley, The Southern Deathstyle, Opium, and Full Moon Madness.

After missing Morbid Angel, there would be nothing that would make us miss Deicide. After listening to Krisiun on the second stage for a few minutes and being under-impressed, we went to the main stage and waited for Deicide. After seeing them I can safely say that Glenn Benton has lost his mind. 20 years of metal, Satan and constant substance abuse will probably do that to you. The sound was sharp as hell though and they put on a monster performance. We left and went to the second stage to catch a little of Diabolic. I ran into Rachel Rosen of Most Precious Blood here. We had a long conversation about what we’re doing since we used to work together at the same job. Most Precious Blood seems to be blowing up and she was extremely excited. She also said to look out for a weird photo shoot with her and the female keyboardist of Unearth in an upcoming metal mag. There were cancellations on the second stage today and Most Precious Blood was on opposite Type O Negative so we missed their set.

The cancellations enabled us to see Mortician on the second stage however. I must mention that on Day Two, both stages ran either ahead or exactly on schedule until the very end. It seemed as though some bands got shortened sets because of this but it made moving between stages much easier. After all the buildup behind Mortician (see Day One review), we had to see them and man did they suck. It was the most boring, shitty death metal I have heard. The growls seemed to have no rhyme or reason. They were ever present and annoying as fuck. I couldn’t believe my ears and the feeling seemed mutual among most people as evidenced by the mass exoduses of people after each song. They left to see Suffocation. I wasn’t too impressed by them at NEMF and this was no different. It’s old school New York death metal and if that’s your thing, enjoy. They did play a few songs from their upcoming album.

Around this time, we ran into Bill Zebub. For those who don’t know, he’s a New Jersey based filmmaker who makes incredibly low budget B-movies about metalheads. They’re basically an excuse to curse, use racial slurs and show naked Jersey girls. He gave us free copies of his latest DVD and we were super appreciative. The most anticipated band of the festival for us, and I won’t lie, was Nile. None of us are fans of Nile but we wanted to see them live. Once their set started, we were spellbound. Nile surprisingly put on one hell of a show. They’re tight and aside from some technical problems with the set like their digital sampler crashing (which left them without the cool sound effect during “The Howling of the Jinn.”). The triple vocal attack and the bombastic drumming were enough to convert us. Even if you don’t like their music, you will like them live. Partial Setlist: Sarcophagus, Howling of the Jinn and Black Seeds of Vengeance.

Type O Negative was up next and their stupid stage props extended the change over by 20 minutes. I bring this up because within the first 2 minutes of their set, Josh Silver kicked the prop down and they took it off the stage. Johnny Kelly and Kenny Hickey had been wandering around the venue all day and it was their turn to shine. Pete Steele looked like Chong from the Cheech and Chong movies. He had his hair tied back with a headband, sunglasses and a beard. He looked nothing like that when I saw them a little over a month ago. They have a new stage and costumes. It’s setup like a prison yard and all four of them are in orange jumpsuits. Their set was cut short since they delayed their entrance but that is nothing compared to their delayed entrance at the normal shows. Despite this, they did draw arguably the biggest crowd of the night. During their set, Strapping Young Lad drummer Gene Hoglan fell asleep in the seats right behind us and after the set, the security people woke him up to make sure he was ok. Pete Steele had some good one-liners like “We’re Type O Negative. We’re your punishment for showing up early to see Cradle of Filth.” Overall, it was a catalog heavy set with “I Don’t Wanna Be Me” as the only new song. This song was played at a super-fast tempo so they could squeeze in another song. It was a good performance, but they are capable of more. Setlist: In Praise of Bacchus, Unsuccessfully Coping With the Natural Beauty of Infidelity (I Know You’re Fucking Someone Else), Black #1, I Don’t Wanna Be Me, Christian Woman.

The headliner Cradle of Filth was up next. Their stage was minimalistic but that didn’t prevent their killer stage show. During their show, two people posing as gargoyles milled around the stage at one point. Later on, an acrobat came out riding on the back of someone in a latex suit on stilts. She grabbed a line lowered from the ceiling and twirled around, doing all sorts of acrobatics there. Later in the show, she came out again and did the same with a much thicker rope, even spinning her self around at a feverish pace this time. Keegan and Morgan didn’t mind the sound but I thought it was atrocious. I could barley hear the guitars and the vocals of Sara Jezebel Diva were almost completely lost. Both guitarists from Nile were in attendance for this. They did pour lots of energy into the show and I commend them but they were much, much better when I saw them over the summer. Partial Setlist: Promise of Fever, A Gothic Romance, Cruelty Brought Thee Orchids, Her Ghost in the Fog, Vempire, Malice Through the Looking Glass, From the Cradle to Enslave.

We were tired, hungry and totally psyched after this set. So naturally we drove back home listening to samplers and demos. A few comments on the festival. First of all, there were entirely too many young kids and I mean kids in the 8-14 age range here. This is what is going to do metal in, not nu metal but these kids polluting and diluting it. Maybe if they grow up true to the metal we have hope. A big thanks to MTV2 for seeing to it that there are a million 14 year old Cradle of Filth and Hatebreed fans out there now. There were too many people with stupid facial piercings too. Lots of people had multiple lip piercings and I don’t get it. I have several myself but none in my face or any other odd place. They look stupid people. Please stop this. The festival program wasn’t nearly as extensive or useful as the NEMF was one. The schedule printed in the book was altered before the first band even went on and they had to put a revised schedule insert into each booklet.

As with the last festival, it’s awards time.

Best Act
Jay: Children of Bodom
Keegan: Dimmu Borgir
Runner Up: Moonspell

Worst Act: Mortician
Runners Up: Superjoint Ritual, Scarlet

Biggest Surprise: Nile

Biggest Disappointment
Jay: Cradle of Filth
Keegan: The Black Dahlia Murder

The freebies weren’t as plentiful as NEMF was so the categories will be slightly different because there just weren’t nearly as many promos and magazines.

Best Sampler: The End Records (It inspired a purchase of Madder Mortem already.)

Worst Sampler: Victory Records (Crap piled on top of crap.)

Worst Demo from a signed band: Tie between Dope and Between the Buried and Me

Best demo from an unsigned band: Beyond the FleshWhat the Mind Perceives

Worst demo from an unsigned band: Destroyed By Anger - Offsetting the Balance (Unimaginably bad. I cannot stress this enough.)
Runner Up: KalopsiaSource of My Evil (NJ’s Death Metal War Machine (sic) doesn’t impress at all.)

Best Merch booth: Emetic Records (A very good selection with a maximum price of $10 per disc!)
Runner Up: Century Media/Nuclear Blast

Worst Merch booth: Earache Records (They didn’t bother to show up until four hours after doors opened. No sampler, only had label artists, high prices.)

Best Magazine: Transcending the Mundane

Worst Magazine: Revolver (I don’t want a magazine written for someone with ADD.)

Most Effort: Relapse Records (For the second time, they take the award for most effort by a label. Good merch, free bags, cool magazine, main sponsor of the event)

Least Effort: Earache Records (They're second win as well. Earache hasn’t learned anything since NEMF. I can see why bands don’t like them. They didn’t even bother to put out a sampler or even a magazine and their merch was way overpriced compared to other vendors.)

Coolest Free Thing: Bill Zebub’s Dirtbags DVD

Other cool free things: Uranium posters and cup holders, Official NJMF Posters, lots and lots of stickers, Victory Records bags.

All in all, it was a wonderful experience and all three of us would be hard pressed to find reasons not to come next year. If there is a next year that is. Both days seemed chronically undersold and I hope MassConcerts made enough money to support the festival and keep it going. Six months until the next NEMF, see you there!

Killing Songs :
Jay quoted
Keegan quoted
Other albums by New Jersey Metalfest that we have reviewed:
New Jersey Metalfest - 2003 Day One reviewed by Jay and quoted
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