Where to begin with this sordid tale of sadness, drunken debauchery, tears and fear? Ye gods, I don’t even know if a particular portion would even be safe to publish, but in the name of faux journalists everywhere, I must report the meager yet revealing details of the extracirricular activities, including my own spiritual and mental degradation over the course of a most rock’n’roll weekend where more booze entered my body than any other substance, including (but not limited to) food and weed.
So, after a brutal 9 hour drive through capricious weather (thanks, Zeus) with only the radio and a Tenacious D CD to anoint our battered souls and posting up at the wondrous Sheraton in order to stage our siege on the unsilent streets of the ‘More, we re-acquainted ourselves with the hilly and alien climes, as we had been here before (myself being deployed a second time), no stranger to its seething underbelly of prostitution, drugs, and all-around degeneracy. If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. And join ’em we did, but more on that later.
Thursday: All is calm
We arrived at the former Sonar compound at around the time when Pallbearer‘s brand of glacial riffage cascaded from the tent. Having two fingers of Jose Cuervo, the stuff of dead rats and 40% alcohol, I was quite mushy upstairs. Added to this was the miasma of not only the vaporised sweat of thousands in the balmy air of the urban wastescape that surrounded, but also a faint hint of weed smoke, as doom metal and toking go hand in hand. Hell, if they’d played a cover of the Black Sabbath classic “Sweet Leaf”, they’d have gotten my full approval. They sound like last year’s riff-bearers in YOB, though not quite as compelling. Sadly we had just missed the Philippine’s leaders in the war against all that is holy in Deiphago, but they’ll hopefully be back around soon, since they’re among the few War Metal/”Bestial” Black Metal bands I don’t despise like coconut flavouring.
Little cause for despair still yet to be had as Abigail, the Japanese kings of sleaze, took the stage with their hateful Engrish spewings relating to sluts, violence kill and destruction, and wizardry. Such a race specimen they are, seeing as they keep an air of secrecy around themselves and stick to mainly large festivals or underground shows that have little to no promotion. To witness “Attack With Spell” and “Hail Yakuza” live was quite phenomenal, I tell you what.
Next up were the true ‘war metal’ masters in Cobalt, whose stage presence is equally rare due to their singer, Phil, being a member of the U.S. Armed Forces. Semper fidelis, ist krieg. I stayed in the back and watched the band perform their ritualistic machinations with all the prowess deserved, since we paid quite a bit to see them, ya hear? I’m not too familiar with their music but it was well-executed American Black Metal that boasts more of a punch than their contemporaries in Wolves In The Throne Room or deafheaven, who go for the atmospheric and spiritual approach rather than a Comanche armed with an axe running amok in the woods on hallucinogens.
And the coup de gras of the night, the British death metal legends in Bolt Thrower, who, while they have every right to consider themselves a monolithic name in the genre, shouldn’t have to take over a half hour to set up. Their sound can hardly be so nuanced. But anyhow, their cannonading style of old school riffage, bellowed echo-chamber growls, and groovy sensibilities laid all spectators to waste. The pit was warlike, and we can expect no less from the godfathers of the concept of ‘war metal’ in the most literal sense. Of course, they brought out the standard heavy artillery; “Warmaster”, “Cenotaph”, “The IVth Crusade”, “Mercenary”, etc. Oldies but goodies to get elbowed in the face to. No casualties to report, but regardless, they came to do damage, and it was done most effectively.
Following this night of revelry musically, what better way to celebrate than with excess beer? I think I puked on this night, but time became such a blur that it could have been Friday. After some magick brownies and a chicken salad sandwich, I was understandably sleepy. This blackout brought to you by National Bohemian Beer, the PBR of Maryland, but not even good. Yet I probably had at least 30 cans in total over the course of 4 days. I hate myself.
Friday: Send the storm
Friday is a day that will live in partial infamy in my mind, for it was the start of the downturn in my mental state to come. After being so fucked up I couldn’t be roused back to the land of the living through all normal means like shouting my Earthly name, I passed out and missed Pig Destroyer. As fate would cruelly besmirch me, I awoke at the exact time the setlist said they would end.
So I ran (read: walked somewhat quicker than usual) to the Sonar in hopes that I would catch Michigan’s Repulsion, the O.G.’s of the grindcore sound. Hell, I intended to get my money’s worth somehow, and it wouldn’t be by tricking myself into thinking that my chipping in 30 bucks was paying for all my drunk foolishness. So, caught Repulsion, yippee-ki-yay, and it was just as good as you could imagine; sloppy, fetid riffs, rhythmic barks, blast upon blast and skank sections that make you want to knee yourself in the face. Revel in filth.
Not to be out-brutalled, the year-younger British grinders in Carcass took the stage to blaspheme with a more medical bent, showing us that forensic pathology is one of the most metal careers one can pursue. Toilet gurgles, chainsaw riffs, blast’n’groove percussion, all coming together with a melodic sensibility that made their sound accessible to those who were initially afraid of the extremeness of grindcore and death metal. While the setlist was lacking in songs that I personally wanted to hear most, including “Inpropagation” and “Arbeit Macht Fleisch”, but hey, who’s complaining when you get to see two of the main pushers and dealers of the grindcore sound from the mid-80s back to back?
Ending on a soft note were post-hard rockers Pelican. While their instrumental melodic steaze was appealing, it seemed to leave an oddly non-visceral flavour in all attendees’ mouths for their drunken walk home. And commence more orgiastic alcoholic celebration. It was at this point that my mind truly fell from its wagon, and it involved a prostitute, her friend, a CIA-type, and some white stuff. Said white stuff makes you think anything’s possible, but it’s not. One heartbreak later, and I drink my way into Saturday, gaining no sleep along the slippery stinging path of Lethe.
Saturday: What happened?
I’ll tell you what happened; I drank beer that was left in the sun and drained the last of any available bottle and can in the hotel room I stayed in while I lamented my own folly as a human being, and I do believe I went to Hooters with my group on Friday, recieved leftovers, and witnessed a member of my war party come down with a sickness that I blame on either undercooked meat or the extreme spiciness of their own brand of hot sauce. Trust me, it’s nowhere near as weak as one would assume.
On Saturday, I’m sad to say I saw no bands. Ihsahn would not serenade my tortured heart. The Melvins‘ crushing stoner-punk grooves wouldn’t flatten my skull until I could feel naught but a will to celebrate. The suicidal funerary procession of Loss‘ paeans to moroseness would not calm my own burgeoning depression. As a matter of fact, I was kicked out for being underage drunx as fux punx, and had to be dragged away from the premises before the police became involved. Thanks, Phil Anselmo, for getting the security to be even more authoritarian than before. And for their information, I wasn’t drinking at the venue. Fools! I was already wasted!
So after going back to the hotel and passing out alongside my fellow warrior crippled by Hooters seizures, only to awaken and drown my sorrows further, I essentially spent the night interred in the confines of the building, seeking out any alcohol or otherwise intoxicating substance, as well as friendly faces I could find to keep the misery at bay. Tales of strip-club visitations and laid-getting abound. This may have been the night I coined the term “sleep-beefs”, but again, a blur. With some success, I allowed myself to believe that perchance, the security would show a human side on the morrow. So with that, I slept, albeit fitfully.
I awoke with rare courage. Despite my still rumbling malaise as an aftershock of not one, but two rejections, I felt confident that I could find some way to enjoy the day. After all, I hadn’t showered the whole weekend and hey, maybe kickin’ it with the parking lot crusties wasn’t too bad, right? I mean, they seem to enjoy it.
Well, despite what I originally intended via the power of will, I was denied entry. I’d have to essentially bribe the security, which I had naught the funds to do. The good news, however, is that despite not having access to the activity inside, I could still watch and listen to the bands on the outside stages. The not-so-romantic French Glorior Belli‘s brand of blackened blasphemy still reached my ears fine, as did the goofy thrash of Sachred Reich, and the black-thrash meeting ground of Midnight.
Being subject to boredom at the hands of the far too slow Pagan Altar, I wandered around the nearby areas to seek my fortune. I found some crusties sitting near the parking lot fence, and one of them challenged me to a game of C-Lo as Manilla Road gave us a gambling soundtrack. I was pleased to hear “Necropolis” while I won $3 as he continually rolled the dice and lamented his losses. Not bad for a novice; I didn’t even have to touch the dice more than twice. I hung with them for a while, outwalked a creepy middle-aged man while he mumbled what I believe were homophobic insults as he shuffled lamely at 2 ft/min., and having successfully avoided confrontation, got to catch part of Pentagram (yawns were stifled, sorry) and Sleep as they played most of their seminal album Holy Mountain, in addition to Sonic Titan and an abbreviated version of the hour-long stoner epic “Dopesmoker”. Pretty good, pretty fuzzy.
And for the final treat of the night, as Carpathian Forest ran into Visa issues (thanks, America), Venom‘s brand of evil yet campy speed metal meets the proto-black metal rasps and lyricism that would inspire the genre to come, were our farewell for the night. I must say, though I’m not a huge fan of Venom on record, live they have a heavier, punchier sound that would actually get me to go in the pit for their anthemic “Black Metal” and surprisingly menacing “Warhead”, were I in a position to do so. Instead, I watched some parking lot football, and even saw someone spray-paint one of the poles of the overpass while I played lookout. Hopefully it’s still there if I decide to go next year.
Following another all-night rager of alkies and white stuff, I got yet another sleepless night for my efforts, and the ride home was even more painful than the ride down, if not mainly because of my mental condition, being unwashed, and just being generally burnt out on life and its finer distractions (read: booze and drugs). Here’s to next year, if I 1) survive to that point and 2) even want to drag myself all the way back just to be met with more of my own failures. But hey, live and learn, right? At least this time I was single. That can be seen as a plus, in context.