Hatebreed/Obituary/Madball/Prong - Live in Grand Rapids (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

Hatebreed / Obituary / Madball / Prong

Live in Grand Rapids (2019)

live show

I always figured that Hatebreed and Jamey Jasta were going to be the ones that brought hardcore to the mainstream. Alas, they’ve been at it it for 25 years, and we’re still not hearing HC on commercials for import cars and light beer. Maybe I was wrong about what Hatebreed was meant to accomplish. Maybe their true destiny was to peacefully unite all factions of heavy music. Based on their recent tours, you could certainly make that argument. I caught the recent leg of their 25th anniversary tour at the Intersection in downtown Grand Rapids on Friday, May 10th. It included Hatebreed, of course, plus a legendary Florida death metal band, a legendary NYHC band, a legendary thrash band, plus an opener that I wasn’t really familiar with.

The set times were posted on the FB event page, so I decided to try to get there in time to catch a few minutes of opener Skeletal Remains. I took it as a bad omen that the highway exit I wanted to get off of was backed up, but I got off at the next exit and managed to find a pretty decent free spot on the street. (It turns out that some country “artist” named Jason Aldean was playing a sold out show at the nearby arena.) I showed up in time to hear about 15 minutes of Skeletal Remains’ 30 minute set. They describe themselves as old school death metal, but it didn’t do much for me. I used some of that time to peruse the merch and grab a PBR.

Prong was the first band I was really interested in seeing, and they went on bright and early at 7:15. I like or love the first few Prong albums, and hadn’t seen them play live in years. Mainman Tommy Victor has spent much of his time in recent years playing guitar in Danzig, so Prong often seems to get put on the back burner. I must say, Victor looked and sounded great. He ran around the stage like a much younger man. His heavy New York accent was front and center when he challenged the crowd to get louder and rage harder during their very entertaining set.

The band was touring to celebrate the 25th anniversary of their most commercially successful album, Cleansing. Four of the set’s seven songs came from that record. They opened with a minor hit, “Unconditional”, from the underrated Prove You Wrong (1991). Next was “Lost and Found” from the excellent Beg to Differ (1990). “Cut-Rate” was the first Cleansing song, and it was followed by the fairly new “Ultimate Authority”. A three song mini set from Cleansing wrapped up Prong’s 35 minutes. “Broken Peace” and its chugging riff got our heads bobbing, but “Whose Fist is this Anyway?” and especially “Snap Your Fingers, Snap your Neck” drove the crowd into a violent frenzy. I always thought those songs drew the wrong people to shows, but the songs are still pretty great.

Madball was up next and seemed to be on a mission. I saw them for the first time in 1996, and have been a fan ever since. They are truly one of the most important torchbearers of New York hardcore. Madball frontman Freddy Cricien is the younger half brother of Agnostic Front singer Roger Miret, and grew up in the NYHC scene. He still sprints back and forth across the stage while the band churns out breakneck riffs behind him. He preaches unity between punks, metalheads and hardcore kids. He sings songs about family, friendship, defiance and the scene. These topics might seem trite in lesser hands, but Madball’s passion and intensity make the message ring true. It was an another excellent 40 minute set.

Influential death metal act Obituary was second to last. I had only seen them once previously, a year or two ago with Exodus. Just like last time, they took the stage to Pat Travers’ classic “Snortin’ Whiskey”. I’m not a big death metal fan, but Obituary is great. They’ve been together for more than 30 years, and their most recent LP is among the best of their storied career. Interestingly, they didn’t have a bass player. Honestly, we didn’t really miss it. (I wonder if they used a pedal to duplicate and lower the rhythm guitar frequency.) The chugging extremely overdriven guitars and louder than normal double bass drums filled the void. By the time they ended their 40 minutes with “Slowly We Rot”, the title track from their debut album, I’m pretty sure everyone in attendance was an Obituary convert.

The stars of the show, the ones who had made all this possible, took the stage a little after 10. By then most of us had already been there for hours, but you could still feel the energy in the building rise. Hatebreed is a well oiled touring machine at this point, and Jasta is an engaging frontman. Early songs from Perseverance and Satisfaction is the Death of Desire drew a big crowd response. About a half hour in, I could feel my energy start to lag. I had been on my feet for quite a while, after a long work week. When my friend said he'd had enough, I followed him out the door, hoping to beat the traffic from the big country show.

So yes, I left early. Sue me. I'm old and tired. I’ve seen Hatebreed a number of times, and I never really did get into anything beyond their first couple of albums. I should have skipped the opener. After 40, it’s all about pacing yourself. Truth be told, Hatebreed closed out a solid night of entertainment that also happened to be a good bang for the buck. At various points over the last couple of years their tours have included Agnostic Front, Code Orange, Cro-Mags, Crowbar, Dying Fetus, Power Trip, Terror and many more. Hardcore bands are always preaching unity, but Hatebreed actually put their money where their mouth is. If Hatebreed keeps putting together such impressive lineups, I’ll keep going to their shows.

Confessions of a merch whore: I was fairly impressed by the variety of stuff and prices at this show. There were a ton of T-shirts, and most were $20. (I didn't buy any. I need another T-shirt like a hole in the head.) I picked up a Prong patch for my overloaded vest, and a Madball/Wisdom In Chains split 7”.