As the earth shook and the ground parted, so did the gates to another world open, spewing forth demons of the Blackest of the Black. Bands, fans, vendors and the occasional celebrity descended upon Oak Canyon Park—a quaint little camping spot nestled in the hills of Silverado, California—for the Blackest of the Black Festival. This gathering of the depraved and debauched was the brainchild of none other than Jersey native and trailblazer of horror punk and doom-goth-metal, Glenn Danzig. Opening day of the festival coincided with the release of Danzig’s new album, Black Laden Crown (Nuclear Blast Records), his follow-up to 2015’s Skeletons.
Things kicked off with a full frontal assault by Los Angeles-based industrial metal-smiths, 3TEETH, with frontman Alexis Mincolla looking like a demented cross between Geraldo Rivera and Freddie Mercury. Butcher Babies, an LA heavy metal band boasting a rare, dual frontwoman setup, graced stage two with their siren calls and babydoll dresses. Suicide Silence screamed forth, showing that Riverside, California is no slacker when it comes to producing hardcore metal bands. The fans showed their love by letting middle fingers fly high as Eddie Hermida belted out the song “Fuck Everything”. Later, the crowd willingly obliged as Hermida demanded a wall of death be erected. The wall was great, just great. It was an amazing wall, the best wall we’ve ever seen. I mean, the wall was huge. Absolutely amazing.
Those who wished to take a break from having their ear holes slaughtered by musical shrapnel being launched from instruments of mass destruction could instead have their eyeballs raped with images of the Castle Danzig freakshow. Sword swallowers, fire breathers, gimps, whips, electrocution, body mutilation, and suspension artists were displayed in all their freaky glory. Even Dave Navarro got his hooks in and took part in the fun. Danzig was also having an album signing for those who wished to acquire a copy for themselves, the line for which was longer than the wait for the album itself to be released.
Black metal San Franciscans, Deafheaven, continued the havoc and ear-splitting music, despite being plagued with microphone problems—an unfortunate reoccurrence throughout the two-day festival. Hailing from across the pond, longtime British hardcore hellions, Discharge, showed that old is definitely not decrepit, as they seemed to summon the old school hardcore punk gods. Punk-metal fusion connoisseurs, Corrosion of Conformity, brought their crunchy guitars and growling vocals—once Pepper Keenan’s mic issues were resolved after the first song, that is.
As the light faded and the temperature dropped, black hoodies emblazoned with various bands’ logos and artwork were donned—proud flags of fealty to musical royalty. Old school skate-punk kings, Suicidal Tendencies, closed out the night with singer “Cyco” Mike Muir harnessing a mythical dragon-like energy, flying from stage left to stage right in a single fiery breath. Despite continued sound problems and having to constantly switch microphones, the band amped up the raging sea of bodies that were in various states of moshing, headbanging, and grooving. They even invited fifteen or so ladies on stage to mosh to the song ‘I Saw Your Mommy.’
Canadian groove-metal artists, Ritual, awakened the kraken on day two and raised the dead, disallowing groggy concertgoers to amble too far from the stage. Masked marauders of thrash, Ghoul, followed suit, taking over the stage with their theatrics, antics, and fake-blood-fueled tomfoolery. Norwegian-bred Combichrist added some electro-flair to the festivities with a water-drenched, sideways-facing drum kit and peppy energy that demanded at the very least some vigorous head nodding.
Santa Barbara added their cards to the deck in the form of heavy metal hooligans DevilDriver, who boomed and thumped and shook the surrounding hills and no doubt scared away all the cute little furry creatures that scurried about. Black metal Swedes, Marduk, slathered on their war face paint and commenced the attack on the moshing patrons. Eponymously named band Venom Inc.—a new metal outfit consisting of former members from late 70’s English band, Venom—made Her Majesty proud by screaming and wailing at the unruly Americans.
The bloodletting coursed through the night as Orange County metalcore kamikazes Atreyu slashed the ears of whoever dared listen, slaughtering their hits as the crowd sang along, seemingly knowing every bloody word. Japanese band VAMPS rocked so hard a man passed out in front of us, earning the attention of the local sheriffs and EMTs and received a free trip to the medical tent. Industrial metal minions, Ministry, had their turn at the mayhem, and believe us, they did not disappoint. Al Jourgensen thrashed his dreads around like bullwhips, cowing and entrancing the unruly crowd into submission.
All the great bands during the two days of cacophonous caterwauling culminated in that one momentous occasion: when the dark lord himself appeared amidst a bank of fog and light and ominous vibrations. Danzig showed that he still ruled his realm of blackness, wiping away any feudal attempt at regicidal takeover as he projected his booming and unmistakable voice across the gloomy valley. Had it not been for security, we’re sure some type of sacrifice would’ve been attempted in a vain attempt to please His Un-holiness.
The two-day festival was a sight to behold and we’re glad we didn’t miss it. In fact, we would sign a deal with the devil and gladly sell our measly souls to experience such a malevolent and wishfully wicked show, should ever the number of the beast be summoned again. Sleep well, little ones, and beware the Blackest of the Black.
WORDS BY JUSTIN RHOADS
PHOTOS BY MEG LOYAL PHOTOGRAPHY