Not wanting to miss a thing, I woke up bright and early to go on a hunt for food then head to the Edison Lot. Roaming the streets, I went to a restaurant called Big Apple Tree café, which offered deliciously cheap food and some of the best fries I’ve ever had. After gorging myself, I sped over to get myself a decent spot for South Carolina OSDM revivalists Horrendous, who opened their set with their rager “The Stranger” and were one of my personal highlights of the weekend. After them came some actual old school death metal courtesy of Sweden’s Centinex and Chicago natives Novembers Doom. Alien death metallers Wormed came out after the finished and went straight in, with their technical yet brutal riffing and robotic voices throwing the crowd into a frenzy. Their set consisted mostly of material from their new album, Krighsu, but they did play some older tunes like ‘Nucleon’ as well, which really god the crowd going.
When they finished, I went to buy myself a delicious sno-ball from the snowcone truck set up in Edison, which was a refreshing way to fuel up considering how hot it was outside on the concrete. I then sauntered over to the Soundstage while on the hunt for some fine dinner, which I found at downtown spot Chicken Rico, right across the street from the Soundstage. A fat burrito and fries for $8? Sign me up! After eating, I went inside to the venue, which essentially became my second home for the 4 days, and The Afternoon Gentlemen were getting ready to start. Having seen these guys just days earlier opening for Weekend Nachos, I was excited to see them again, and their set at MDF was even better, albeit less crazy of a crowd. Ohio grinders Hemdale went on after them, and their grimy style of deathgrind got the crowd moving hard, and their preachings between songs of “Fuck The Internet” being echoed throughout the rest of the night.
German fastcore juggernauts Yacopsae kept the party going, with circle pits and stage dives abound. Unfortunately, this was where things went a little over the top, and I ended up trapped at the bottom of a 20-man pile up, ending up with a pretty gnarly foot injury. However, I wasn’t gonna let that stop me, so I got out, put some ice on it for about 30 minutes, then hopped right back into the fray for both Magrudergrind (who brought out Joe Denunzio from Infest to do guest vocals at the end) and Finnish HM-2 maniacs Rotten Sound, with their buzzsaw guitars and relentless blasting making the venue into a warzone. When they finished, the adrenaline began to wear off, and I’d become a hobbling flamingo all around the streets. Due to my injuries, I opted to head over to Rams Head and see Angelcorpse since they had seats, and while many were ecstatic to see them, I was only really familiar with them by name. They tore into their set with aggressive solos and nonstop in-your-face death metal, and they were only a three-piece, which caught me off guard considering how intense their sound was. They brought night 2 to a close, and I limped and skipped the way back, getting myself ready for day 3.
Waking up and seeing that my foot was multiple shades of purple and yellow should have been more alarming for me, but I decided it wasn’t gonna keep me from enjoying myself, so I iced it then went back for round 3 of shenanigans. Kicking off day 3 were Australia’s Hellbringer, whose fresh mix of black metal and thrash was a good way to wake up the crowd! After them came Sweden’s own Demonical, who I caught much of, but the Pad That I bought from one of the vendors unfortunately did not agree all too well with me, and I fled over to the Soundstage for some relief. After, I ended up hanging around for a little while and caught Whoresnation from France and Priapus from North Carolina, two bands from two different areas, both providing their own 1-2 punch of grind to the face.
Once they were done, I decided to head back to the Edison Lot and ee what was going on and find friends. Luckily I made it just in time to see California thrash legends Hirax take the stage and deliver a blisteringly fast set in equally as hot weather. The thrash didn’t stop there, with Arizona’s Atrophy coming out and delivering their own style of thrash metal. I personally wasn’t into their set, so I decided to head over to HeadBangin Hot Dogs and got myself a Vegan hot dog to help curb the hunger pangs along with a strawberry lemonade from the Asian food stand to cool off from the heat. I eventually went back to the Soundstage and caught the last bit of Severed Head of State, featuring Todd Burdette of Tragedy/His Hero Is Gone fame, while waiting to the reason I came back, Despise You, to come on stage. The powerviolence OG’s came out to a rabid crowd, and their fast, angry, unrelenting style of hardcore brought everyone to go insane from the first note until the very end.
The insanity didn’t stop there, with General Surgery coming out and busting out the chainsaw sounds with their HM-2 tinged deathgrind while dressed up and coated in fake blood. As soon as they stopped, I ran to Rams Head to catch Vancouver’s Auroch, who shares members with fellow contemporaries Mitochondrion, and sonically it is very easy to see, with the overwhelming, dark guitar tone and nonstop blasting, but slightly thrashier than them. I then went back to the Soundstage to catch the crazy Spaniards Haemorrhage, who were all decked out in doctor’s outfits and scrubs except for the lead singer, who was coated in fake blood running around with a plastic bloody leg. From there, things just went to the next level, with Infest just going absolutely bonkers. Even though they started about 20 minutes later than planned, they just went right into things and did not stop at all, with trash cans and people going flying. I unfortunately had to leave before it ended to catch the second half of Grave Miasma’s set, whose doomier approach to recently growing trend of cavernous death metal was much welcome, and incredibly heavy, with the band having a very dominating stage presence, playing with little lighting and letting the music speak for itself.
When they finished, the stage crew then began to set up for Dragged Into Sunlight. I had heard a lot about their live performances, and I was a big fan of their music, but nothing could have prepared me for what I was to witness. 5 minutes of feedback and noise, with the solitary lighting coming from strobes behind the drummer, the dimmest red stage lights possible, and the candlelight from the animal skull candlestand at the front of the stage. Then, the samples start, the first notes of ‘To Hieron’ begin, and they kick in to what may well have been the heaviest thing that I have ever witnessed. I felt like I was slowly being driven into a state of insanity watching them, with the vitriolic screaming of the vocalist, the lack of lighting, how loud and abrasive they were, and the lack of acknowledgment of the crowd, playing almost entirely with their backs turned. Besides the one drunk guy trying to bombard to the front who eventually got carried out by a multitude of people for his behavior and the pit going on, everyone else was just entrenched into the performance going on in front of us. Near the end, the lights were cut, so the only source was the strobe going off behind the drummer. Their set was easily the highlight of the fest, and may very well have been the best set I’ve seen from a band. Craft went on after them, and while they were good sonically, they didn’t really have much of a stage presence, which really dampened their performance, and after Dragged Into Sunlight, as far as my brain and ears were concerned, we were done for the day.
WORDS BY JASON MEJIA