Though Hessfest won't hit the road this summer as originally planned, that really shouldn't matter all that much: The show promises to be loud enough to rattle foundations from here to Toledo anyway. Some big names, like Clutch, Soul Brains, and Poison the Well, have fallen by the wayside, but with the best band from last year's Hessfest -- New York's brilliant hardcore/jazz subvert Candiria -- making a return appearance, along with close to two dozen other knuckle-dusters, the fest is still the best value for the Hessian dollar, easily surpassing this year's toothless Warped Tour and the bloated Ozzfest.
With a bit more emphasis on hardcore this year, Hessfest 2002 will be headlined by melodic bruisers H2O. The band's sound is as sinewy as frontman Toby Morse, all circle-pit guitar and bellowed, gang-vocal choruses. Burnt by the Sun offers a more unorthodox take on hardcore, spiking the brute force of the genre with complex, polyrhythmic thrash. Likewise, Shai Hulud blends brawny hardcore and angular metal into bleeding-larynx screamo. The locals in Ringworm offer up a somewhat more traditional take on obdurate, old-school metal, with chug-a-lug guitars and a locomotive rhythm section. And there's plenty more, all for a ticket price that's the cost equivalent of about two beers at Ozzfest. Headbangers, drink it up.