I’ve been toying with the metal thing of late, albeit a zone of the genre that is not AT ALL represented in this piece (if you want to know wherein my loyalty lies, check out Grave Upheaval, Swamp Witch, Sut-Hex, Prosanctus Inferi, and/or Ash Borer). But hey, a festival organized by Phil Anselmo will always get consideration from me, especially if its lineup includes The Melvins and Repulsion (though Crowbar cancelled). And so a mantra was created as the date approached: HOUSECORE, HORRORFEST, HORRORCORE, HOUSEFEST, COREHOUSE, FESTHORROR, HOUSEC-diofajp ldkap slASODdfkla jpsdfpjas dfjasp dfjspjJFASOdSATAN!!!!!!!
And on and on. And if you think this intro is confusing and scattered, you should have tried sitting in my boots in various venues the weekend before Halloween in Austin, Texas. It was perhaps a festival meant to break those involved (me and a photog who flew in from Portland, OR), yet if the devil thinks he’s going to knock my cock off the fest axis, he’s going to have to do better than that (in fact, Fun Fun Fun Fest is coming up this weekend and I didn’t cancel).
Still, tribulations abounded:
- Photog had a delayed flight. Then, they lost his luggage, then found his luggage; then, even as he watched his luggage being carted away, was not allowed to retrieve his luggage.
- While trying to find his luggage, photog’s flight left, so he was delayed again, not arriving until after midnight Thursday, the first day of the festival. Whoops.
- At the airport in San Antonio, my PIECE of FUCK-SHIT iPhone took me to the SECURITY ENTRANCE, where no one ever goes. I should have suspected something was amiss when I pulled onto a 20 mph road in the middle of nowhere on the way to an international airport, but C’MON Google!
- Once I finally did pick up said photog, I had to inform him that Texas, the highest-alcoholic-per-capita state in the nation, doesn’t sell beer after midnight. And so he had to spend the first night of his trip sober. Whoops.
- We missed grind legends Repulsion for no good reason.
- On one occasion, I got into a disagreement with a cab driver (Who kept saying, “You mean the Dirty Dog over on Rio Grande”? NO, NOT THAT ONE, YOU ASS), and my photog that was so intense I had to tell my longtime friend to, ahem, “Shut your goddamn fuckhole for a second and let me talk to this motherfucker.” Then I showed the driver the (desired) address on my phone, which he disagreed with, at which point my companion finally came to my side of the fence and demanded the driver stop and let us out. The driver then cordially charged us $16 for a mile’s work.
I know, that doesn’t sound too bad, does it? But combine that opening stanza with two days of constant traffic, low money flow, and a trip that had been misplanned in the first place (the Horrorfest schedule was put up so late the photog booked his flight in a random manner, which caused us to miss Pig Destroyer and Phil Anselmo & The Illegals, two of our main targets, and several important films including Susperia), and you’ve got a hottt, heaping helping of stress soup (not as good as ass soup).
Another general problem was my conflicting feelings going in. You see, over the last half-decade I’ve slipped back into Metal mode somewhat, knowing full well how wonderfully awesome and ridiculously awful the mindspace can be. And attending Horrorfest reinforced many of the inklings that caused me to turn my back on metal in the first place without providing the inspiration to tamp them down. But I’ll get into that a bit more later. At this point, all I feel I can do is jump head-first into a bucket-of-guts band/movie roundup, in order of appearance, and let the chips (of brain) fall where they may.
Warbeast: I despise the recorded material I’ve heard from Warbeast, and if there’s a band with more (old) dude-sweat goin’ on out there I don’t wanna know about it. I mean the guitarist on the right looked like a gay Thor wannabe (albeit one that could kick Gumshoe’s sprightly ass). But much like Brutal Truth and a lot of the other more mature dragon-slayers out there, Warbizzle, once the music started, made you forget how grizzled they were by using the music to get young again. Not a single original idea to be found, just better-than-average execution and the dedication it takes to triple-stuff the crust of metal for decades without ever trying, even once, to sing a melody.
Goblin: This was embarrassing because I KNOW Goblin carry importance of some sort, and this was their first trip to the U.S.; it sucks to have to throw a baby wipe over their recently found fire. However, they didn’t give me a choice on this one. If you come out sportin’ that prog-by-numbers shit that forced me to abandon O-Rod-Lop years ago you’re going to get singed by the Gumshoe cattleprod, plain and simple. It’s just cheesy, with double-bass drum rhythms straight out of a Dream Theater cracker-jam and synths not too far removed from those paint-by-numberse GarageBand “compositions” people always want to show me (“Say that’s pretty good, dad!”). Only one tune managed to live up to the soundtrack-based hype Goblin rode to our shores, so maybe I just saw the wrong performance (they also were slated to accompany a screening of Susperia). Between this and Silver Apples I’m all gray-bearded out for 2013.
Whitechapel: Knew nothing of this band coming in, and emerged from the pummeling feeling pretty sure I had gotten to know them as well as I’ll ever need to. Whitechapel ride a blistering three-guitar attack like a steed into your worst nightmare’s anus, leaving a bloody, fecal-splattered mess behind that stinks almost as bad as the tragedy of being impaled by a rusty swordsman’s steel. The new generation of super-charged death-metal acts hit so goddamn hard you wonder what’s next, as chainsawing the head of a pig couldn’t approach the extremity of music triple-thick and dressed to torture and kill. Won’t be checking out their album(s?) anytime soon; that said, in concert don’t be afraid to church it up with these guys some time.
Down: There are people in my life, mostly former bandmates of mine, who think I wouldn’t be caught dead attending a performance by Down. Truth is, however, I’ve always held a soft spot for this Pantera side project-turned-metal-monolith. I just hold true to my ideals, i.e. that the second down album, the one with the heavy Southern undertones, sucked Southern-fried goat balls. But that’s not important right now. What you need to know is HOW FUCKIN’ HEAVY WAS THIS SHIT? And my answer is simple: Yes, it was heavy, kind sir. Playing old non-hits like “Hail the Leaf,” “Stone the Crow” (one of the only examples of twang-metal that actually works, ever), and “Bury Me in Smoke,” the quartet, now minus founding member/Crowbar dude Kirk Windstein, achieved a workmanlike bong-choke crunch that, while not anything like seeing Pantera in 1992, didn’t seem to be running on inertia nor relying on the crowd’s doubtless nostalgia. It’s not music you need to think much about, and in no way is that depressing (that is, unless you try to stretch the theme for longer than 45 minutes). Solid silver.
Necronomica: I almost forgot to tell you about this cute little short film about two metal dudes trying to make headway in their local scene by dint of the most extreme means possible. Necronomica is sort of predictable and butt-metal-y, but it’s also a lot of fun, cracking wise on the ridiculousness of playing in a band for the privilege of “free bat wings” (apparently a form of buffalo wings) at the venue alone. I won’t spoil the end for you, but be ready to imbibe the brains of a dead goat.
Slow Southern Steel: This is where I started chafing under the weight of the often-misguided confidence of metal. Slow Southern Steel has to be the most ham-handed music documentary of all time, self-congratulatory from the beginning and about as incisive as a beer belly peering out from the bottom end of a soiled wife-beater. I never liked Southern Metal as a rule, and Southern Steel drove my prejudices home like a sword to the heart with rote testimonials from low-tier bands (though the inclusions of Buzz*oven and Torche soften the blow, a tad) and self-centered views of the U.S. music scene that seemed to imply the small touring circuit is different in the South than it is anywhere else. At one point I started to get pulled in a bit. Hank III played a cool little down-South ditty and the earnestness of a lot of the testimony is hard not to cozy up to. But the confederate flags draped all around confirmed what I’d suspected: In a lot of ways, they’re cheapening metal for the rest of us. And the thing is, I’m not against the display of the confederate flag because it’s politically repugnant or ignorant, though it is most certainly both of these things. I’m against the display of the confederate flag, in this specific case, because it’s so fucking white trashy and yokel-y and completely un-rock & roll. Comparing the genesis of Southern Metal to the development of the blues and jazz is another iffy move. Puke in your hat, Southern men…
Pieces: I thought I would be seeing a million low-budg movies like Pieces over the weekend, but this was it by force of the maelstrom of bad luck that accompanied us. It’s basically a low-rent slasher flick, infused with gross-out humor (though nothing as sick as, say, Bad Taste or Toxic Avenger) and the general feeling the actors were in on the joke. I’m not a film reviewer so just wiki-pee this puppy so I don’t have to keep pretending to know what I’m talking about…
Goatwhore: Man as slutty as the goat for which they were named must be, I feel like the real whore for never having checked out this veteran act before. Alright alright, I don’t think they’re that great, but it’s a pretty good line, no? Yeah, it is. And there’s nothing at all wrong with G-whore, save that they have no personality of their own. Every song is different, normally a good sign; the rub lies in the fact that each entry in their song canon feels lifted from someone else’s. Nothing is distinct, no trick of the metal trade sacred. With all the fascinating acts active in the genre, there’s no reason to waste time on the Goatwhores of the world.
The Melvins: The buzz-riff baristas of Melvins always come to play. In this case, drummer Dale Crover even seemed to have lost about 100 pounds since the last time I’d seen him (in the configuration of the group that featured the two dudes from Big Business). As always, they didn’t play a single song I actually-actually wanted to hear (not even “The Bit” from Stag), always a problem when the band you lust after has been around for decades, and as always, it didn’t bother me. I’m not sure why they have to play “Night Goat” every time I see them, either. But who fuckin’ knows? Buzz Osbourne was wearing a cape crossed with a kimono, for the love of Sabbath. I guess I’m at a loss for words when it comes to The Melvins these days. They’re like air, or drugs, or food, or shelter: They provide what we need so dutifully we tend to take them for granted.