Facedown Fest 2011 – Night 1

FACEDOWN FEST 2011, Night 1, The Glasshouse, Pomona, CA, April 8, 2011

Rain was predicted to dampen the first night of Facedown Fest by various weather reports throughout the week. And while ominous clouds were to move in and draw some concern, only a few sprinkles were to be seen. Not that any sort of bad weather would keep the kids away from the annual two day hardcore and metal fest put on by the folks at Facedown Records. A spiritual Christian based label who recently celebrated a decade of service – there were signs of revival all over the Glasshouse. Not your traditional church your grandparents would attend – places of worship rarely have metal bands performing devastating breakdowns or fevered mosh pits in the heat of the action. It’s a new generation of praise and worship, and over the course of 2 night, 18 bands would be featured. In the past, Facedown would introduce to the world such name bands as Comeback Kid, Sinai Beach, Impending Doom, and Sleeping Giant. Night One headliners War Of Ages has also gained a good deal of success and acclaim, performing a much coveted slot opening for As I Lay Dying and Underoath on last summer’s edition of Cool Tour. Over the course of these two evenings, there would be many highlights as well as introductions to newer bands we’re sure to hear a lot more of in future days. On now, on the big event…

The house was packed to the rafters, even at the 5:00 when Messengers from Dallas, Texas kicked off the Facedown Fest 2011 with an all out vengeance. Performing songs from their Strike First Records debut entitled Anthems, their dynamic amalgamation of thrash metal and hardcore really sent the room spinning. Especially effective was lead vocalist Chad Paramore, who spewed out the lyrics with a strong sense of conviction. One of the best songs Pale Rose may have been short and to the point, but its catchy refrains really won over the early arrivers. My Beliefs was another top track of sheer empowerment that really stood out in a big and glorious way. Other tracks that were a thrill to the senses included Creation, Weight, and Judge. Messengers also unleashed a killer cover of It’s The Limit by the legendary Cro-Mags! While Messengers may have found themselves in the opening slot this year, there is a little doubt they’ll be headlining the fest one day with sets this dynamic!

Saving Grace took to the stage next, with a winning set that surely gained them a good deal of new fans. On tour here in the States all the way from New Zealand, the band released the mighty Unbreakable on Strike First Records in January of 2010.  Heavy as all out hell, Saving Grace mesmerized the crowd with their ultra intensive brand of spiritual hardcore. In addition to their older songs, the band delivered a brand new cut from a forthcoming Now The War Has Two Sides split they did with One Choice for Seventh Dagger Records entitled Declaration. On this song, vocalist Nicholas Tautuhi sang the triumphant lines “I am drug free!” with the participation of their affable merch guy and the super enthusiastic. It was great to see Saving Grace finally make their way to the Southland – here’s hoping they are able to do more touring here in this part of the world.

A highly admirable aspect of Facedown Records is their willingness to sign bands that a hardcore kid normally wouldn’t have the opportunity to experience. One such entity is Hope For The Dying, a progressive metal band that transfixed the Glasshouse audience with their set of dark, yet highly technical reveries. The band presenting songs from their forthcoming Facedown release Dissimulation, winning over the crowd with the dazzling atmospherics and out of this world musicianship. Shades of Iron Maiden, Fates Warning, and even Opeth abound, and yet Hope For The Dying is definitely their brand of wondrous innovation. Judging by what was heard during their set, Dissimulation is sure to win over even the most jaded of music critic. Top songs in the set included Transcend and Our Fallen Comrades. The gifted Hope For The Dying membership consists of Josh Ditto on lead vocals and keys, James Houseman on guitar, Jack Daniels on guitar, and Brendan Hengle on drums.

Based out of the Twin Cites in the often chilly Minnesota, Your Memorial made their way to the not so sunny Southland and definitely presented why they are one of the most promising new acts on the Facedown label. Performing a super intensive set of hardcore influence metal, many selections from their well-received Atonement were unleashed upon the Pomona crowd. Currently thrashing around the country on the Young & Wreckless Tour, Your Memorial has developed into an unbeatable musical force to be reckoned with. In addition to all of the terrific songs from Atonement, the band also performed the dynamic Turn It All Around from the independent release Seasons. The messages found within the Your Memorial lyrics were crucial and reverberated through a crowd that was singing along to each and every word. Crushing to the core, expect this band to really take off into the big leagues within the year.

At the last Facedown Fest in 2009, it was My Epic from Charlotte, North Carolina that pretty much stole the show. Their brand of indie alternative is a true wonder indeed, and the band has progressed to include some heavier elements into their dream-like musical reveries. Their latest Facedown/Dreamt Music release Yet has been vastly underrated, but the crowd at the Fest certainly appreciated the fine musicianship and impassioned sonnets of worship that My Epic had to offer. At times, there were two drummers performing onstage, making for magical moments of heart stopping intensity. One could close their eyes and soar with the grand melodies and sweeping vocalizations found in the live My Epic presentation. The collective of Jeremiah Austin (bass), Jesse Stone (drums, background vocals), Aaron Stone (vocals, guitar) were joined onstage by screamer and second drummer Zach, who added a whole new level of intensity to the already mesmerizing aural experience. Kudos to Jason and Facedown Records for taking a risk on such a wonderful band as well as the Glasshouse audience for opening their hearts and minds to this thoroughly artistic group. A definitive highlight yet again from a band who is clearly respected by fans of all styles of music.

Also traveling the country on the Young & Wreckless Tour was Onward To Olympas, one of Facedown’s rapidly rising talents. Performing songs from their thunderous The War Within Us magnum opus, the band slammed the metal back into supersonic gear and really sent the pit reeling. Unsuitable Patterns was a definite crowd pleaser that has the audience singing along rapturously. The March was a slower song that really transfixed the crowd, showing a vastly different side of the Onward To Olympas musical repertoire. And from the softer song to the heaviest, as From The Mouth was launched with the deadly impact of a two-ton truck. Her Best Words Were Goodbye from their previous album The World Is Not My Home was also revisited in a wildly thrashing manner. The Onwards To Olympas lineup consists of Kramer Lowe on vocals, Andy Simmons on guitar and vocals, Andrew Higginbotham on guitar, Justin Allman on bass, and Nick Helvey in drums. A truly exciting band destined to become a genre favorite.

Hands from Fargo, North Dakota may have taken a hiatus from touring, but the band’s grand return to Facedown Fest was absolutely stunning to behold. The dynamics to be found within their creative compositions are nothing short of staggering. Quiet lingering passages could branch out into sweeping interludes of epic heaviness, all within the remarkable confines of a song. Kicking off the set with Hurricanes from their remarkable Creator endeavor, the sounds emanating from the Glasshouse stage were that of sheer and utter perfection. Water was another standout song about the glorious discovery and reaffirmation of one’s faith. After the band announced that they would indeed be recording a new album for release on Facedown sometime this summer, they concluding their set with the shoegazing sounds of the mighty Revelation. Here is hoping the band hits the road more often so all can experience Hand’s vastly rewarding opuses.

There is nothing more overpowering than A Plea For Purging concert. The band has unleashed one innovative album after another, with The Marriage Of Heaven And Hell being their latest arsenal of sonic devastation. Based out of Nashville, TN but always on the road, the sounds emitting from the Facedown Fest stage were dark and heavy and filled with a Southern style sludge. Watching their charismatic lead vocalist Amos Andrew “Andy” Atkins bellowing the lyrics “Your god is dead. Your hands are soaked in blood,” from the compelling You Weep is an absolutely mind blowing, as well as a thought provoking experience. A Plea For Purging challenge pent up musical and lyrical conventions, coming up with some rather ferocious Christian metaphors within their extreme lyrical content. Another track which had the crowd jumping around and taking notice was the phenomenal Malevolence from their Depravity release. Atkins also exuded a quirky sense of humor demonstrating that perhaps an appearance on Saturday Night Live just may be in order for him and his APFP comrades. Truthfully, how many Christian metalcore front men do you know could be effective stand up comedians as well? Think about it!

And then it was time for War Of Ages, who put the pedal to the metal and unleashed a thoroughly tight set to close out the first night of Facedown Fest. Based out of the thriving Erie, PA music scene, the band has pretty much called the road their home – and judging by the tremendous performance from all of the membership, there is absolutely no stopping this metallic war machine. Fans of Gothenburg bands such as Soilwork and early In Flames will be beyond excited to find out that the States has a band as exhilarating as War Of Ages.  Songs such as Through The Flames, Strength Within, and Failure set the mosh pit into a brutal sense of overdrive. Hard work and perseverance has paid off big time for the band, which includes Leroy Hamp on vocals, Branon Bernatowicz on guitar, Steve Brown on guitar, T.J. Alford on bass and vocals, and Alex Hamp on drums. A staggering conclusion to a night of unforgettable bands from various genres all sharing their art and spiritual beliefs to the world at large. And we still had a second glorious night of Facedown Fest to come…

(Review and Photos by Kenneth Morton)

Messengers on Facebook
Saving Grace on Facebook
Hope For The Dying on Facebook
Your Memorial on Facebook
My Epic on Facebook
Onward To Olympas on Facebook
Hands on Facebook
A Plea For Purging on Facebook
War Of Ages on Facebook
Facedown Records Official Home Page

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