Milwaukee's Metal Monster
Chronicles of Chaos covers the Tenth Anniversary of the Metalfest
At the Eagle's Auditorium in Milwaukee, Wisconsin
July 26 & 27, 1996, Attendance: 3,000 (approx.)

by: Adam Wasylyk
Over the last few years the Milwaukee Metalfest has had its share of bad times with disorganization, last minute band cancellations and a "pay-to-play" policy. But for this year's 10th anniversary, the surprise, aside from the many great acts showcasing their wares, was organization. A definite plus seeing that I had spent 10 hours in a car en route from Toronto, Canada to Milwaukee to catch the two-day showcase.

Arriving in Milwaukee on the night before the Fest, for dinner I ate at one of America's finest Burger King's. Afterwards checking in to our hotel for a much needed night's sleep in preparation for the first day's festivities.

The show was slated to start at 5pm, so with some time to burn I went on a tour of the Miller Brewery....... but that's another story. When I arrived at Eagles Auditorium, it was pretty much the way I had expected it to look like. I went in and found the band lists for the Rave and Ballroom stages already up, but with only one list it was pretty crowded, even to just take a peek. After copying the list down I noticed that the bigger bands wouldn't be playing for awhile so I headed to the Rave stage to check out some of the unsigned death metal acts. I walked in and heard the band SARCOPHAGY in the middle of their set. From Indiana, brutal death metal was their calling card, entertaining to watch but not too memorable music-wise. Following were EUPHORIC EVISCERATION, who played more death metal and fared better at it. After them played Illinois's RITUAL, a metal band with some death influence who played a more interesting set: something different than just death metal.

I then headed upstairs to the Ballroom to watch MORBID SYMPHONY. From Liverpool, England they also played metal with some death influences, with some singing too. The crowd was still scarce, but it was still early.

I headed back downstairs to see another unsigned death band called BRICK. I learned after their set that the singer was a replacement, and the previous singer quit that day. The guitarist, seeing the lack of enthusiasm from the crowd proceeded to tell them off. Well, that's one way to ensure you won't sell any demo's! Anyway, a not-so-bad set taking the vocalist into consideration.

I then headed back upstairs to the Ballroom to see the one of the Metalfest headliners: CANNIBAL CORPSE. Starting their set with a track off their new album _Vile_, this was the first time I had seen them live (my punishment for living in a town where the metal scene sucks). George "Corpsegrinder" Fisher seemed to fit right in, tearing into each number. Some songs to follow were "Stripped, Raped and Strangled", "Fucked with a Knife", "Maggots", "Devoured by Vermin" (with video play on the show LOUD on Much Music in Canada) and finished off with "Hammer Smashed Face". A well played set, and a good crowd on-hand too

I then headed back downstairs (whew!!, these stairs are tiring!!) to catch JUNGLE ROT. Playing an impressive set of death metal, the Rave room became a haven for death fans as LIFE OF AGONY were playing upstairs.

Noticing that the bands on both stages were worth missing, it was the perfect opportunity to check out the vendors!! This year, representatives from Napalm Records, Mosh Pit Records (who of course put out Pit Magazine) and those from the Sounds of Death 'zine were present. After buying a couple of CD's I headed back to the Rave stage where the bigger and more established death bands were almost ready to start.

I entered and awaited the music of BRUTALITY. To tell the truth I wasn't all too impressed with their sound. The PA, which has been notorious in prior years for its lousy sound was to blame, as at times it sounded like a wall of noise. Starting with (well, the first song title I could actually hear) was "When the Sky Turns Black", and went on to play BLACK SABBATH's "Electric Funeral" and some tunes off their up-coming album. Next were INTERNAL BLEEDING, just off their tour with SIX FEET UNDER and this being their third Metalfest in a row. They've developed quite a fan base here as you could tell from the crowd, whose response was one of the biggest for any of the death metal bands on the bill. The band also got very much involved with the crowd, the singer Frank Rini many times stage diving and surfing on the crowd while singing, while guitarist Chris Perveus playing guitar on the barricade that separated the fans from the stage. Playing some songs off their up-coming album _Extinction of Benevolence_ (expected in early '97), they also played some songs off _Voracious Contempt_ like "Humanicide", "God of Subservience" and "Reflection of Ignorance". A good set, and a real crowd pleaser too. MONSTROSITY had a tough act to follow, playing both old and tracks off their upcoming album _Millennium_, which is due to be released anytime now. Songs like "Ceremonial Void", "Imperial Doom" and "Final Cremation" were played well, with new vocalist Jason Avery (ex-Eulogy) fitting right in. Unfortunately they suffered the same fate as BRUTALITY, the music lost its power and sounded at times just like noise, nothing like their recorded material. Really too bad, but it was good to see that the absence of George "Corpsegrinder" Fisher hadn't affected them at all.

Seeing the first minute of the next band, I decided to head back upstairs and end up catch the end of ANTHRAX's set. The majority of Metalfest fans already enjoying their set, I watched while they played "Bring the Noise" and wasn't too impressed. Since the Rave stage was all but done I really had no other choice but to stay. The curtains open, and the MISFITS rip into one of their many songs on the night. Not being a fan I didn't know many of songs that were being played, other than "Last Caress", which I'm sure I knew from when I was a fan of METALLICA. I was impressed by their punk sound, but I left a little early to avoid the crowds, and to get back to the hotel as I was tired, and Saturday would be a full day, from 12pm to 2am. It would be a very long day.

Waking up a little late and after eating lunch we headed to Eagles Auditorium for another day of music. I arrived at around 12:30 and entered the Rave room to see COPHALIC CARNAGE starting into their set. I remembered the singer having a resemblance to Kevin Sharp, they played another set of generic death metal (with many more to come).

After their set someone stepped up to the mike and said a band called CYANOSIS, a death metal band were going to play upstairs. Getting there early, I leaned against the barricade so that I'd have a good spot to watch and hear the band. CYANOSIS finished their sound check and went into another set of mediocre death metal. With them being on the Ballroom stage, I was actually expecting more but I got less. The band was from Milwaukee, so that explained the good crowd on hand for their set. Next up were CORPSICLE, who were much more competent and talented than CYANOSIS, playing an entertaining set of death metal. I left early to head back downstairs to see FLESHGRIND.

All I had heard from FLESHGRIND was but a single track off a compilation, so I didn't quite know what to expect. Expecting to hear another death/grind band, they were good at playing fast and great to watch. A good set, but all of these death/grind bands were getting me confused as to which band played what. The following band I saw was also one of the best. AVERNUS played what I call "tribal metal". With two bongo drum players, a keyboardist, a drummer, three guitarists and a female singer there was a lot to watch on-stage. The band played about 3 or 4 fairly lengthy songs and I was truly wanting more!! A worthy break from the death/grind bands. I found it most puzzling when I found out later that these guys were actually unsigned! I was starting to think to myself "Where are the black metal bands??". Well, my question was soon answered when corpse painted CURSE from Connecticut took the stage. The three piece played an average set, the PA was really starting to hurt my ears. Standing beside a girder really helped cut out some of the high end noise. Los Angeles black/death band SADISTIC INTENT came on in their studded leather and played a rather good set, but I remember them going about 15 minutes over their designated time. This of course made the Rave stage fall behind the Ballroom, but eventually it did catch up. BLOODSTORM, another corpse-painted black metal band then played, definitely playing a better set than CURSE. By this time I was in the balcony, not wanting to screw up my ears like I did the previous night.

Looking at my band list, I saw it was time to head back upstairs to see FU MANCHU. I had seen them the previous week on their Toronto tour stop with ORANGE 9MM and CLUTCH. So seeing them gave me the opportunity to directly compare the two sets sound-wise. The sound was a lot worse here. The PA really didn't do them justice. Having a strong bass sound in Toronto, I really couldn't here it at all from where I was standing. Playing songs off of _In Search Of..._ like "Regal Begal" and "Missing Link", it was a good set, but only average after what the PA did to it. OPPRESSOR were next and played a great set of death metal, playing new and old tunes, their sophomore album _Agony_ expected sometime next month. I stuck around for some of MORDA SKULD's set which I found to be mediocre and not too exciting. Downstairs I went to catch some of KRABATHOR's set.

KRABATHOR from the Czech Republic put on a solid death metal set, but not all too memorable. I should have stayed for MORDA SKULD. Coming up soon on the Rave stage were three of the bigger death/black bands, but with SUFFOCATION to play soon upstairs some of it would have to be missed. ACHERON took the stage with an "Acheron" banner behind the drummer (every band should have had a banner, then I wouldn't have had to keep asking someone "Which band is this?"). With both guitarists bald, at least that was memorable. Their black/death set was pretty good, the on-stage expression of their belief in Satanism was strong. Next were VITAL REMAINS. Smoke filled the Rave stage and most of the room. A banner of the baphomet was illuminated. One of the more memorable sets of the Fest, they went into their set playing some newer and older songs, such as the older "War of Paradise", off _Let Us Pray_.

During the last minutes of VITAL REMAINS I left early to make sure I caught SUFFOCATION. Sure enough I was there with plenty of time. Starting off ferociously with one of my favorite songs, "Infecting the Crypts," they went on to play a variety of songs off most of their albums. Very heavy and at times very fast!!! What surprised me was the length of the set. After about six songs, that was it! I, along with a lot of the crowd were disappointed, wanting to hear more.

I then ran back downstairs to catch INCANTATION. Surprisingly alot of the crowd didn't follow me for some reason. Playing some of their more popular songs like "Emaciated Holy Figure", the vocals were particularly low, so low I sometimes couldn't hear him over the guitars. Getting an INCANTATION newsletter earlier, I was interested to read that they are breaking away from Relapse Records and are working on two Mini CD's for Repulse Records, one CD being from a live show and the other having some new songs and a couple of covers.

At this point, it was over for me. I had seen every band that I wanted to see. If things somehow screwed up from here on in, it wouldn't matter as I had seen all that I desired to see. However, things would not screw up, and there was still plenty of bands to see and plenty of music to hear.

After seeing the last band I wanted to see on the Rave stage, I would spend the rest of the Metalfest preferably sitting somewhere in the Ballroom. I walked in on Canadian boys VOIVOD who were well into their set. Playing their speed/thrash in support of their latest (released some time ago) album _Negatron_, the crowd seemed pretty much into them, as was I.

Next were CLUTCH, who as I said earlier I had seen in Toronto. Playing an competent set, it had me wondering "When are they going to play 'A Shotgun Named Marcus'??". Anyway the band played on for the good part of an hour, much to the delight of the crowd, which consisted of almost all the fans in the building.

To close out the Metalfest was GWAR. Being the first time I had seen them, I didn't quite know what to expect. When the curtains opened, GWAR went into their set of mediocre punk rock. What impressed me were the theatrics of the band, it was quite entertaining to watch. The band's juvenile stage humor had me in hysterics. Songs I liked (and recognized) were "Sick of You" and one of their encore's "Ham on the Bone". A good band to finish off the Fest and clean the palate.

Now, my afterthoughts on the Fest. First off, I'm awfully glad I picked this year to go, as the organization was just fantastic. The Rave stage did fall back by about a half hour but it did catch up. Most of the bands scheduled to play did so, so there weren't any last-minute cancellations or no-shows. Which brings me to one of the controversies of this years show.

I had learned about a month before the show that the promoters were advertising bands on the bill without even asking them to play. IMMORTAL and ABSU were put on the bill early, but later were announced they weren't playing. One of the biggest black metal bands right now, MAYHEM, were hyped to play the Metalfest but in actuality were never contacted to play in the first place. Manheim, the former drummer of MAYHEM refuted the show rumors on the internet by posting a message saying that "Necro (butcher, bass player) is not happy about this false advertising, when I told him about it this weekend. So to all you fans out there : The True Mayhem are NOT doing any conserts (sic) in US this summer". This comment is echoed in this year's Metal Fest Magazine, stating that "Mayhem were never slated to play this years show, but were advertised as such". Michael Hunt Publishing also stated that it will no longer be affiliated with Milwaukee Metal Mania, due to the MAYHEM incident, the continuation of pay to play, and the absence of an apology to the bands and labels for last year's show.

On the topic of Michael Hunt Publishing, it seems that they still haven't learned from their mistakes. Those who remember on last year's compilation CD there was a RaHoWa (which stands for RAcial HOly WAr) track called "The Snow Fell". Well, guess what was on CD #3, track #4??? You guessed it!! RaHoWa's "Might is Right". And thumbing threw the Metal Fest Magazine, I stumbled onto a RaHoWa CD review and in one of the articles some racist language that I won't bother to repeat.

Notable bands that were no-shows were MALEVOLENT CREATION (not sure if they were ever scheduled to play) and V.O.D. (or Voice of Destruction) from South Africa, who I heard were unable to come up with the money to get from the UK, where they were presently to get to Milwaukee.

Overall it was a great show. There were alot of great bands that played, almost every one of them I would never have got the chance to see. Meeting some of the bands and fans was also a great experience in itself. I'm definitely thinking about going back again next year, I'm just hoping they can get it this well organized for next year too.

(article submitted 12/8/1996)

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All opinions expressed in Chronicles of Chaos are opinions held at the time of writing by the individuals expressing them.
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