During the Weekender’s conversation with four bands involved in the first-ever NEPA Metal Meltdown at Diane’s Deli in Pittston for last week’s cover story on the event, the word “camaraderie” came up quite often. Those who attended the hard rocking music festival on May 16 and 17 know exactly why that is.
The general vibe was like a gathering of old friends, and for many, it was, as the local metal scene seems more united than ever. But those 18 and over were allowed to attend this event, broadening the audience a bit more and allowing listeners old and new to check out the impressive lineup, which did not disappoint.
First up was Corners of Sanctuary, a Philadelphia-based group that was founded in 2011 but would fit right in with classic heavy metal acts like Dio, Judas Priest, and Iron Maiden. Vocalist Frankie Cross stunned the crowd with his powerful, pitch-perfect voice, and catchy songs like “I Will Have My Revenge” had the eager crowd fist-pumping along by the second verse. They finished up just after 9 p.m., allowing Assayer, another Philly band, to take the stage next, introducing thrash metal to the mix with the riffs to back it up. The dizzying “Delirium” was a highlight with its extensive solos, and the whole set screamed old school death metal.
The mass of headbangers almost instantly transformed into a circle pit when Threatpoint stepped up, whipping everyone into a frenzy in no time when singer Chris James called out, “Let’s do it, boys!” The sing-along lyrics of tunes like “Dead Man Walking,” “Never Say Die,” and “Shades of Hate” allowed the Scranton groove metal group to bring people together like only a mosh pit can, led by a tall gentleman wearing black and white corpse paint dubbed the “Mayor of Metal.” Threatpoint easily knew how to “Pave the Way” for the rest of the evening.
Inadvertently, the Weekender’s aforementioned cover story led to members of Beyond Fallen, Cause of Affliction, Praise the Sinner, and Threatpoint to get together after the interview to briefly rehearse a surprise supergroup performance of Metallica’s “Creeping Death,” though its flawless execution would have many assuming it was planned from the start. Seeing each musician grinning ear to ear as they ripped through this classic track from “Ride the Lightning” solidified the unity present in the air.
While they both participated in this spontaneous musical outburst, vocalist Joe Karavis and guitarist Steve Jasuilewicz of Wilkes-Barre’s Beyond Fallen would have much to live up to after that performance, but the Metal Meltdown organizers kept the positive energy going with impressive shredding on songs like “Mask of Deception” and the twisted headbanging fun of “Caligula.” Karavis owned the mic and the room, ending with “Concrete Lucifer” and an evil laugh befitting such a title.
Scranton’s Slapjaw changed things up with a lively hardcore set that opened the floor with swinging fists and raw energy. The line between the “stage” (all bands played at the floor level) and the crowd was gone within seconds as frontman Dave Itterly walked barefoot through the crowd, summoning a circle pit that swirled around him. Not to be outdone in the participation department, Jerry Kamora was held upside down by fans as he played guitar.
“The night is not over!” vocalist Gary Edrington told those left as Cause of Affliction took the stage at the end of the night, refusing to begin until everyone moved up closer. As he swung a metal bat, denting a battle-worn keg to the pulse of the drums, the Wilkes-Barre quartet woke the stragglers up and got them moving, and songs like “Skidmarks” and “Sweet Farewell” gave them something to sing along to all the way home.
Saturday night featured performances from Earthmouth, Praise the Sinner, Meatplow, Prosody, and Ominous, and the Weekender caught the night’s final acts, Psychoprism and Without a Martyr. Psychoprism’s Jess Rittgers acted as both vocalist and storyteller, his classic-sounding voice equal parts Geoff Tate, Ronnie James Dio, and King Diamond, changing sometimes mid-verse. The keyboard-driven tunes, enhanced by incredibly intricate guitar solos, brought attendees back to decades past, while Without a Martyr, featuring the festival’s youngest members, represented the next generation of metalheads. The Scranton rockers, dressed in black shirts and white ties, received nods and fists of approval from moshers, bringing two days of independent metal mayhem to a close.
With amazing sound that allowed each musician to shine, an accommodating venue that fully embraces the unified scene, a hungry audience that ate up every act, and a diverse lineup that showed everything the area has to offer, it’s no wonder why NEPA Metal Meltdown ended up being such a success for everyone involved. Discussions for next year have already begun, but this year will certainly resonate until then.