Southwest Terror Fest III: Live from Various Venues, Tuscon AZ

SWTF 2014

 

96 Hours at The Western Front

(Editor’s Note:) For the second year in a row Ghost Cult is pleased to bring you coverage of the premier doom, sludge, and avant-garde heavy music event on American soil west of the Mississippi river. Thanks to our friends at Violent Resonance, we have full coverage of the fest from the eyes, ears and lenses of these fine purveyors of heaviness. We seriously take little notice of the competition (other websites you cheat on us with) here at Ghost Cult, but if you love this great noise we call metal in its many forms, check out their sick in-depth interviews, and killer reviews. Thanks you guys! 

 

 

Part I:

A First Taste of Doom in the Desert

As dusk fell over Tucson, AZ on Thursday, October 16th, the third and thus far most prestigious iteration of the Southwest Terror Fest commenced with a whole new look and feel to it. Having moved further into the colorful warrens of the downtown area and expanded to two venues this year, The District Tavern and the historic Rialto Theatre, it felt as if this festival had achieved something admirable even before the first note of the first chord from the first band was played. Downtown Tucson possesses the kaleidoscopic atmosphere of many different types of art and culture mixing together in a melting pot that provides the sustenance of entertainment for people of every stripe, and for four days this month, the most widely imbibed audio brews were the twenty four various shades and vintages of the bands who brought the dark and heavy vibes of punk and metal to that scenery.

 

IMG_2095 Conquer Worm

Much like the precursor shock to a devastating quake, the fest kickoff show at The District Tavern packed enough of a wallop to send one sprawling around the room a bit, but not enough to blow the place apart. Local Tucsonans Conquer Worm began the night with their brand of minimalist doom and were followed by Twingiant, the Phoenix, AZ based purveyors of roaring galactic sludge. In between these sets of ear shattering heaviness came another new aspect of the festival this year: the guerrilla troubadour known as Amigo The Devil. Performing his first of several impromptu sets of what can best be described as acoustic “murder folk”; Amigo hopped up onto the bar with a banjo and serenaded the tightly packed crowd with some tongue in cheek tales of woe. This brought a nice new element to the event, by breaking up the usual cycle of one band playing, a set change, and another band playing.

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The final two bands of the kickoff show, Oryx and -(16)-, ended the first night of the fest on a pretty high note. Oryx, a two person psychedelic doom crew from New Mexico, brought a depth and intensity far out of proportion to the number of band members, and veteran sludge metal practitioners -(16)- riled the crowd up with an impressive set that showed they haven’t lost any steam after twenty-two years on the scene.

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The long, narrow dive bar shtick of The District brought the music up close and personal, and despite the cramped conditions at times, the environment and music transported the crowd to another place of pure enjoyment. Without looking out the front windows of the venue, someone could even imagine that this show was taking place in a tucked away alley of Manhattan or Chicago. The sound was fair to good considering the dimensions of the venue, but this was more than made up by the proximity of the stage to the crowd: neck to neck and about as personal as it can get.

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Overall, the first evening of the fest was satisfying and the mood of concert goers was one of anticipation for the upcoming days of the event. The sense of community and diversity among the attendees was fascinating as well. One could hear accents from all across the Unites States and the world. There were fans from Germany, Israel, and France right there in the desert town of Tucson, AZ. Build it and they will come, indeed.

 

PART II- Monday

 

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WORDS: RYAN CLARK

PHOTOS: VALERIE LITTLEJOHN

Powerviolence Potpourri- An Interview With Swampwolf

a3645240569_9In the final installment of our coverage of the Southwest Terror Fest 13, Ryan Clark interviews “Dirty Steve” Kaufman of Swampwolf. Swampwolf, if you didn’t know, plays a thrashy blend of slam and hardcorecore that will send you spin kicking into the pit. They played the fest supporting their new single Oh My Goddess and they are working on a new full-length to follow-up to 2012’s The Brilliance of a Feral Mind.

 

 

 

 

What are your thoughts on the heavy music scene in Arizona? If you could change one thing about it for the better, what would that be?

There’s lots of good hardcore and powerviolence going on right now. We need more community, a lot of times people won’t show up for the music if it is not a party. There needs to be more young people getting involved as well.

 

How would you describe your bands sound and what are your future plans?

We started out as powerviolence, but more metal crept in and here we are. We want to make another full length album and tour the Eastern and Southeastern US, at least as far east as Georgia. Right now, we’ve got six new songs out on cassette tape and they will be coming out on a self-titled LP as well.

 

Do you think events like Southwest Terror Fest are great opportunities to expose new people to the underground scene?

Yes, they are good opportunities if people support them and come to show that support. They are excellent networking opportunities for bands as well, we’ve gotten some shows from talking with other bands during the fest last year, so that is a big plus. Also, having more mainstream artists like Red Fang on the bill gets those not as familiar with the more underground part of the scene in the door and they might discover more that they like.

 

What is more important to you as a band, recording or performing live?

Records should sound good and be clean, but it is extremely important to be tight and bringing the show when you go out on tour, as long as people are having a good time you are doing what you need to do.

 

Swampwolf on Facebook

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Ryan Clark

Southwest Terror Fest 2013 Part II- Live At The Rock, Tuscon, AZ

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The Year of the Snake: Four Days of Noise, Doom, and Booze in the Old Pueblo Part II

 

Half over or half begun, the festival entered a truly marathon third day of music, with bands beginning as early as one pm and continuing all the way through to about midnight. This was the day many had been waiting for and as events would show, the most epic of the four. The very first performance of the day was a good indicator and extremely surprising. Destroy Her, hailing from Tucson, competently delivered alternative stoner sludge, but possessed a front man above and beyond the normal. Sounding like a mix of Geoff Tate and Bruce Dickinson, the vocals were stunning and elevated the decent music to a higher level. With twenty bands scheduled for one day, the festival kept chugging along efficiently and the crowd steadily grew larger as each hour passed. Highlights from the afternoon included Skulldron from New Mexico, a mix of stoner and doom that any fan of Down should take a listen to, as well as the hard to classify sounds of Sorxe who came down from Phoenix to boggle minds with complex dynamics. By eight pm the venue was packed and one of the most memorable performances of the entire four days happened when Subrosa got up to play the main stage. Creating sheer walls of sound with guitar, bass, drums, and two violinists, Subrosa mesmerized all who witnessed their set and held that audience captive within their hands. There was the power of music made manifest on stage, incredible to witness and unforgettable afterwards. One might almost feel sorry for any band who had to follow such an incredible performance, but truth be told, the final acts on the main stage lived up to the challenge and instead of mesmerizing the crowd, they rocked them instead. Helms Alee gave people a taste of the main headliner with their rockin’ songs, but by the end of their set, it was clear that everyone was ready for the mighty Red Fang to blow the roof off. This was certainly done with flying colors. Playing a mix of fan favorites and tracks from their newly released album, Red Fang utterly rocked a packed house with their tight jams, blazing solos, and cool rhythms. The energy level between the band and the crowd was incredible and the mosh pit was raging with cyclonic fury. When the final note was played, a very long day came full circle with the masses of drunk, stoned, and deafened festival goers looking visibly exhausted.

 

Dawn on the fourth and final day of Southwest Terror Fest was probably not something that many wanted to witness. Most likely quite a few people stayed up very late after the slam bang finish of the third day and saw the march of the sun upwards from beyond the horizon, dismissing the necessity Sorrower5of rest and determining to endure just one more day of excess. Weariness was the name of the game, being quite visible on the faces of all involved in the saga of a multiple day metal show. This final stretch of the festival was heavily slanted towards the punk, grindcore, and powerviolence genres, with another early afternoon start time. Notable moments of the day included the chimeric Swampwolf, a band that seamlessly blended thrash, black metal, and punk into a face shattering fist. ACxDC, Sorrower, Theories, and Sex Prisoner delivered chaotic, crusty noise that showed there was still some energy left on the final day of the event. Changing the pace up quite a bit, an acoustic artist by the name of Amigo The Devil performed serial killer and humor themed songs with voice and guitar, leaving the stage and playing among the crowd. As the final hours of the four day odyssey approached and the daylight faded, things began to wind down quite a bit until the final headliner, Early Graves, riled up a dedicated group of onlookers with their hardcore tinged death and roll. This was the last chance to dance and the moshers bled off their remaining energy throughout this final performance out of over sixty bands and four days. Collapse was no longer an option, but mandatory.

 

EarlyGraves5Thus four days of music came to an end. Many casualties were sustained, but victory was achieved. Whether it be punk, grindcore, thrash, death, post-metal, doom, stoner or plain old hard rock, Southwest Terror Fest showcased an amazing range of heavy music from the underground and the not so underground. The event illustrated that there are many good bands from west of the Mississippi that don’t come from California or the Northwest. Another of the most noticeable facts about this year’s show was the much larger representation of women within the bands, showing the growing acceptance and respect for women in this scene as musicians. This fest was efficiently run and the diverse crowd were united in enjoying and celebrating the music that they love, not because it is popular, but because it speaks to them and provides a universal catharsis or release from the daily grind of reality. Next year will arrive soon enough, hopefully the ringing ears and wounded livers will have healed in time for another weekend of terror in the desert.

 

Southwest Terror Fest on Facebook

 

Words: Ryan Clark

Photos: No Ceiling Photography/Violent Resistance

Southwest Terror Fest 2013- Live At The Rock, Tuscon, AZ, USA

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The Year of the Snake: Four Days of Noise, Doom, and Booze in the Old Pueblo Part I

Early in the afternoon on the tenth day of October, a small corner on the edge of a rather quiet neighborhood in Tucson, AZ was besieged by a caravan of tour buses and vans. Within moments of screeching to a halt, this group of transports began disgorging the vanguard of an army primed for delivering an all or nothing audio assault of extreme music over a four day campaign. This was the beginning of the second annual Southwest Terror Fest, a celebration of heavy underground music with an impressive lineup that puts well known national acts alongside the best of the underground scene. Year two was all about outdoing year one. Doubled in length, with sixty-five bands, the headliners also grew in immensity with revered artists such as Kylesa, Red Fang, and Sacred Reich leading the charge. Anticipating the experience of seeing these mighty bands and discovering new ones, a heady excitement permeated the air as those first day bands and venue staff converged.

 

 

 

Within hours of their arrival, these merchants of extreme unloaded mountains of gear to strategic locations inside The Rock, the well known local venue on the street corner that was about to become anything but silent. The impressive array of guitar cabinets, amplifiers, drums, and other instruments were tuned and adjusted, while microphones were fixed to stands much like bayonets would be fixed to the end of rifles. Walking by the bar, one would have seen a stockpile of Pabst Blue Ribbon or a vast array of Jack Daniels, all of it neatly set up to supply the artillery of alcoholism that would shortly be firing for maximum effect. Yes, year two of the festival was definitely going the distance and pulling out all of the stops to make the biggest bang possible. Day one was ready to begin.

 

After an initial gaggle of local bands, who alternately performed on the main stage and the smaller, more intimate second stage, events began to heat up with some on fire performances via Godhunter’s confrontationalTransient2 punk sludge, Anakim’s cerebral hammering, and Sierra’s old school, groovy distortion. The mood of the event was cheerful and the growing crowd flowed smoothly across the the venue in search of merch, beer, or food. Later performances of note on that first day included a powerful set from Demon Lung, packing the smaller side room with their heavy dirges and apocalyptic vibes, as well as a rather unique band named Pinkish Black, who dropped an ethereal, keyboard heavy acid trip onto the curious onlookers over at the main stage. Once Kylesa hit the main stage to close out the first day, it was clear that all which came before was mere prologue. Through their trademark poly rhythmic attack and gut wrenching atmospheres, Kylesa was the definition of heavy during their debut performance in the City of Tucson.

 

 

 

Vehemence5As day two dawned, the festival kicked into even higher gear with a more extensive and diverse lineup. The crowd seemed to grow larger and more eager on that Friday night, ready to party harder. The bands slated to hit the stages for the evening certainly encouraged that attitude. From a local band Kvasura came Eastern European tinged folk metal that could make even the most kvlt hipster nod their head. The band featured an interesting male and female vocal combination, along with a guitarist who picked up the mic and sang a song in Russian. Tucsonans Lethal Dosage also whipped the crowd into a frenzy with their melodic, death tinged pummeling over in the once again tightly packed second stage room. The music grew even heavier when Oregon’s Transient assaulted ears with grinding chaos and Cave Dweller spit venom into the souls of listeners with their prog flavored death metal. Even these performances were outdone when Vehemence deployed a battery of razor sharp death tunes that mowed down droves of the crowd with flawless precision.

 

 

 

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Rounding out the heavy caliber portion of the evening, Landmine Marathon crushed heads with their alternating groove, and straight dirty death grind. The mood seemed to shift after all of the super heavies were done, as a bona fide legend was about to get up on the main stage. The show became a nostalgic sing-a-long as Sacred Reich capped off Friday with 80s thrash and proof that the old guys can still plug in their guitars and rock. They could have played ‘Surf Nicaragua’ ten times and the attendees would have enjoyed each one all the same.

 

 

 

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Southwest Terrorfest on Facebook 

Words: Ryan Clark

Photos: No Ceiling Photography/Violent Resistance

Coming Into Their Own – An Interview With Goya

1276795_608858279170962_1971244100_o (1)Continuing our series from the Second Annual Southwest Terror Fest- “The Year Of The Snake”,  Ryan Clark caught up with Jeff Owens of Goya in an exclusive interview for Ghost Cult . The front man of the doom merchants discussed the bands’ new release 777, the local scene, and the value of making great records that stand the test of time.

What are your thoughts on the heavy music scene in Arizona? If you could change one thing about it for the better, what would that be?

We’ve got lots of good bands and good people involved in the shows here in Arizona. We simply need more people to come to more shows. Sometimes on bills with a couple of local openers and some touring bands, no one shows up for the locals and arrives just in time to see the touring acts. So, more participation is vital.

 

How would you describe Goya’s sound and what are your future plans?

We’re heavily influenced by Electric Wizard, Black Sabbath, and Sleep. We stick to the formula but are coming into our own thing as well. Our new drummer, Nick, has really helped with the overall sound. We have an upcoming vinyl release titled 777, Laney Oleniczak did the artwork for the thirty copies of the limited edition for it, and this will be her first full length LP cover.

 

 

Do you think events like Southwest Terror Fest are great opportunities to expose new people to the underground scene?

Absolutely, 100%. Maryland Deathfest has expanded over the year, Obscene Extreme started small and blew up. As long as people are keeping at it and supporting it! It’s nice to have an event like Terror Fest in your own backyard.

 

Which of the two is more important: Live performance or a recording? Or is it somewhere in the middle?

The recording is the most important, though live performance is still vital. A recording is the thing people will hear everyday. Listen to The Doors. Unless you are old enough to have seen them live, all you have is the recording of such awesome music. So records are the lasting impression. Especially solid and organic albums that hold up well with repeated listens. You need to hone your live performance skills none the less, though. Reaching people live is important and leads them to your recording if they haven’t heard you on the internet yet or by way of a friend.

 

Goya on Facebook 

Ryan Clark

Division and Dust – An Interview With Godhunter

1425690_10151990674319265_1815759436_nRecently, over four days in the arid heat of Arizona, bands from all walks of the underground descended on Tuscon for the Second Annual Southwest Terror Fest! During this completely D.I.Y.  booked and run festival dubbed “The Year Of The Snake”, bands crushed stages and beers, while fans crushed each other (and more beers). Metal was played and eardrums were brought to ruin, as expected. Ghost Cult is proud to have partnered up with Ryan and David, occasional contributors to the Axe of Contrition Blog  to cover the festival on our behalf, and interview some of the bands you ought to know better. First up is the axe-killing Jake Brazleton of Godhunter (Full disclosure Ryan helped book the festival and manages bands, and David is a member of Godhunter). Look out for the rest of the interviews from that weekend, and a series of show reviews for each day, next week on our website.

What are your thoughts on the heavy music scene in Arizona? If you could change one thing about it for the better, what would that be?

There are a lot of good bands with incredible talent here, but sometimes it becomes so fractured that it becomes outrageous. Not enough people are going to shows and the bands are not supporting each other and working to get more people into the scene and keeping it positive. The solution is obviously to have more people attend shows and watch the bands. There is sometimes an air of indifference about people when they are at shows, not really there for the music, but to hang out and drink in the other room.

 

How would you describe your bands’ sound and what are your future plans?

Southern style sludge with a touch of hardcore, the old school kind, not that Whitechapel spin kick shit. We’ve got a new album, City of Dust, coming out soon and we plan to tour as much as possible to support it and get the word out.

 

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Do you think events like Southwest Terror Fest are great opportunities to expose new people to the underground scene?

Yes, this year’s Southwest Terror Fest lineup is amazing, but with the fractured scene in Tucson, exposure is not as good as it could be. A lot of people from others states and even other countries can’t make it out to this particular event, but would very much like to go to one just like it if they could. With a lineup like this, who wouldn’t?

 

How important do you view live performance to be in relation to your art? Do you think it outweighs a recording or falls somewhere in the middle?

Well, records capture your sound as you want it to be heard, but live shows have a visceral energy that is very hard to duplicate on a recording. Playing live gives you the ability to flourish. No one gives a fuck if you aren’t tight and able to capture the crowd’s attention. However you want to look at it, you are in the entertainment business as a musician, so therefore you have to entertain.

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Ryan Clark