Every once in a while IMP sends out one of its rogue journalists on a machine to go to a festival, get super drunk, see a bunch of old friends – and hopefully see some bands to write about. Matt Bacon got a chance to attend this years House Horror Film Festival and this is what happened to him. HUGE thank you to Dante Torrieri (Useless Rebel) of Blow The Scene for his photography work!
Hung over. The day began with me and my apartment mates (Four of us crammed into a room) groaning and tired – trying to figure out what the hell we were supposed to do before the festival started up for the day. It turns out that the answer was to sleep. Nevertheless – we found ourselves digging in deep to face the second day – Housecore sees a fair amount of walking around, with the Korova a seven minute walk away, and cheap food options scattered around the adjacent blocks, this kind of thing can get tiring fast. Especially if you’re a rogue journalist running around the festival trying to score interviews with anyone you can.
After handling a few earlier interviews I managed to go with a friend to see Gasmiasma – notable for sharing members with Down and Eyehategod – as well as a singer with a massive tattoo of an eagle on his forehead. These guys are essentially a powerviolence act with more than a touch of their beloved New Orleans sound. The sludgy magic of Gasmiasma is wonderfully counterbalanced by the grindcore parts and it helps, for me at least, to prove that these guys are the real deal. Gasmiasma are wonderfully vicious live and it’s hard to deny yourself of the soul searing majesty that this band so easily invokes. Gasmiasma understand what it means to create gut crushing metal with punishing grooves and once you dive in, there is no escape from one of the most wonderfully blasphemous bands in the world.
Nails were up next – and as usual they pretty much destroyed the venue. This is one of those bands who, while excellent on the record, manage to push things to the next level with their live performance. With a singer who looks and acts like a younger and sexier Phil Anselmo the sense of raw fucking anger that these guys exude is utterly stunning – it’s as if there is no escape from the existentially terrifying sense of sublime hate that defines the music. Nails are utterly devastating and if you don’t know what’s coming, then you might as well just crash and burn. This is not a band to be taken lightly but rather one to be feared. They will choke you out and make you suffer – eventually transforming you into a slave to the ear melting desecration that Nails seem to be so bizarrely comfortable with. These guys are one of the most devastating live bands out there, and it is impossible for any fan of the heavy stuff to miss out on their magic.
At this point I had to dart back to the artist lounge to conduct more interviews .Such is the struggle of the journalist – you find yourself writing, working and trying to get interviews pumped out before diving right back into the quasi-apocalyptic destruction of whatever band you happen to see next. That being said – these things are also rather special because they give you a chance to see people you might only bump into once or twice a year. The rat race continued until Phil Anselmo himself pulled me over and told me to go with him to see Poison Idea.
So I did.
Of fucking course I did.
What would you do?
That being said – Poison Idea were truly impressive. Their distinct fusion of punk and 80s metal was perfectly executed and they were a lot of fun to see bring it live. The raw energy unleashed by this band is stunning and it felt strangely triumphant to see an act so used to playing tiny clubs get a chance to tear it up in front of hundreds of fans. Anthemic and bold, Poison Idea have a fundamental understanding of the nature of the beast, and furthermore get exactly what makes this whole thing so special. The guys clearly had a blast on stage – the guitar solos were especially impressive and left me curious what more these old time legends have to offer. This is a band who are only just starting to receive recognition for years of hard work, and their energetic live performances will impress just about anyone.
One of my most anticipated bands of the festival was Cripple Bastards – a group who used Housecore as an opportunity to play their first ever US show. I had honestly never expected to see them live, so this was a rare opportunity that I relished every minute of. They have a wonderfully demented stage presence, defined by vicious energy and a deranged frontman. Despite their relative lack of live experience, this band is very fun to watch – they bring in a diaspora of influences to help craft some of the most abrasive grindcore you will ever hear. There is a vicious cult of desperation and destruction around what this band does too that can’t help but impress. You find yourself left like a raw nerve – every chord grating you into oblivion and forcing you to handle the perpetual sonic trauma that makes Cripple Bastards so special.
The interviews got in the way of seeing bands once more – but that being said – these kind of endurance events also require you to take the time to step away and drink. A heavy alcohol regimen is essential to surviving multi-day festivals. Otherwise you’re left having to face the madness with the incredible pain of sobriety. To push through any sane and rational being knows that they need at least something to help keep them going through the storm. It’s the only real way forward at times – such is the nature of the beast.
Crowbar ended up being – as expected – one of my highlights of the weekend. Their unique brand of Southern sludge has been often imitated but never improved upon. These guys are the best of the best – impossible to fight against and always there to crack your skull. They get the fundamental power of heavy music better than perhaps any other band in the word. Their is a very palatable sense of deranged dissonance to their sound that leaves you questioning your sanity and gasping for breath. Crowbar – in the live setting especially – truly live up to their slogan of “None Heavier”. At the end of the day it’s impossible to combat it – Crowbar slowed down, turned up and then tore our hearts to shreds – after all, that’s what they do best.
I didn’t know much about Negative Approach going into seeing them other than that they are currently on tour with the masterful Child Bite, but that didn’t stop them from impressing me. I had climbed to the upper level of the Aztec to view their live ritual, and soaked in every moment. Sure their guitarist never faced the audience, and sure the mix seemed sub par (A recurring issue throughout the weekend) but this is still a band who know how to rage on stage. And while yes – it probably is a band more suited for a club show (At times the band members looked downright uncomfortable on such a massive stage) they still were an exciting group to watch and who executed their twin vocal assault wonderfully, they couldn’t help but capture the imagination.
Corrosion of Conformity is another band who have unfortunately escaped the breadth of my metal knowledge. Call it a sign of the times, or just general ignorance on my part but I ended up being stunned by their set. The sludgy magic that they invoked with Pepper Keenan – a man who simply reeks of rock and roll – was astounding. This is the kind of band who bring it at a very high level – unleashing an energetic (If slowed down) sound and devastating the listener at every turn. Phil Anselmo came out to do a couple lines here and there and added to the general magic of the performance. After all – how many other fests get have someone as legendary as Phil just wandering around – guesting wherever he pleases? It seems that now more than ever, as thousands of fans howled along to Pepper’s powerful vocals, that Corrosion of Conformity are the metal band for their time and place.
And so the hour was nigh for Agoraphobic Nosebleeds second ever show – hotly anticipated by the gathered masses – even if it was slightly dimmed by the recent announcement that the band would be playing club shows and touring in the next few years. Nevertheless – the show that these guys put on was utterly dominant. After all, Agoraphobic Nosebleed are brutality incarnate. The multi-layered growls are utterly terrifying and the drum machine (Even given its own solo!) sounded absolutely perfect. There is something magical about Agoraphobic Nosebleed – something that transcends the denseness of the music and the face melting insanity that defines some of the riffs. Toss in a horror inspired background film and you start to get a sense for the demented triumph of this band. Agoraphobic Nosebleed have found a way to create sublime and brutal music that speaks to the human spirit and leaves you in physical pain, but still begging for more – this is what grindcore should be all about.
Agoraphobic Nosebleed had done well – extremely well in fact. But I still was incredibly excited for Suffocation. As my tastes change I find myself listening to less and less straight death metal – but Suffocation have always managed to maintain a place in my heart as perennial techdeath favorites. When they took the stage – hair flying and guitars blaring, I felt my body forced into that unholy motion that has helped come to define all of the best death metal bands. The wonderfully fucked up breakdowns, sick almost to a fault, left me headbanging so hard that I still feel the pain in my neck a few days later. But that seems almost aside the point because what really matters is that after twenty five years Suffocation still fucking kill it.
See – despite the crappy mix (A lot of the bands trademark technicality was lost to a bass happy engineer) this is one of the few death metal bands with enough festival experience to make a stage like The Aztec their own. Spread out, and utterly vicious, these legends left us in awe. Frank Mullens New York swagger guided the band through sets and left us all excited for what more was to come. Suffocation drive forward with the infinite passion and danger that makes death metal so great. This confluence of factors managed to invoke the inherent magic of death metal and make the bands set a stunner – despite any sort of engineering limitations they may have faced.
It was at this point that I ran over to the Korova for the first time, the secondary music venue for the festival, to watch my buddies in Disfigured. Now, here is a band that really get what makes death metal great. Mike De Leon (Now a member of Phil Anselmo’s Illegals) is one of the great death metal guitarists of his generation. His distinctive stage presence, and raw energy is always exciting to watch and he simply can’t help but to lay it all on the line and play an absolutely stunning show. As I got shoved to the front, I couldn’t help but feel in absolute awe – witnessing these guys was an honor, especially considering that I doubt I will ever get a chance to seem them play again. I rarely get into a death metal band as much as I did with Disfigured, windmilling the whole set and raising my fist – enthralled with the bands unabashed energy. This is a band who love Texas Death Metal with all of their hearts and souls and watching them rip it up was something I will never forget.
The night came to a close, and I had the chance to walk on my own through San Antonio, which I must say is a truly awesome city – even with the Texans. Filled with great food options (Although for vegetarians like me there was certainly a bit of a struggle) San Antonio feels safe and friendly. It’s a pleasant city to simply wander in – and wander I did. Reveling in the beauty of the night, and fully content with the brief and cleansing escape from reality that this festival represents I couldn’t help but smile. God is good and death metal is great – what more could a boy ask for?