“Belial! Behemoth! Beelzebub! Asmodeus! Satanus! Lucifer!” If you are at show and hearing this verse sung by a choir, you are most certainly in the church of Ghost! The dark one goes by many names and Ghost knows them all, preaching their Satan loving philosophy in an occult rock candy coating shell of musical goodness. They are catchy enough to be popular in the modern sense of any metal band being “popular”, but make no mistake; this is one of the most subversive groups to infiltrate the mainstream in a long time. On this night the current leg of the US “Black To The Future” tour stopped off once again in Arizona, with the faithful masses gathered at the ready. Commanded by the ministrations of Papa Emeritus III and his Nameless Ghouls, crowds at a Ghost headline show are often found in a froth from the jump off. The set list was a heavy mix of 2015’s Meliora (Spinefarm/Loma Vista) and the bands’ earlier work too. The aura and imagery are certainly entrancing, but it is the music that makes fans commit so deeply to the band. They were captured for Ghost Cult tonight by Melina Dellamarggio of Melina D Photography.
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 of 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.
Thus 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.
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 confrontational 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.
As 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.
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.