Taming the Beast of Milwaukee
CoC covers the Milwaukee Metalfest XIII
at the Milwaukee Auditorium in Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Friday and Saturday July 30th & 31st, 1999

by: Aaron McKay
Whew! Quite a motherfucker Jack Koshick puts on every year in the not-so-quiet city of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Plagued too close for comfort toward the show's concert date of July 30 by location changes -- the venue moved from last year's Eagle Ballroom to the state fairgrounds (thank god it wasn't held there), ultimately materializing at the Milwaukee Auditorium. For all the location questions prior to the event, I might say the strife was worth it due to the fact that I think that the Milwaukee Auditorium was as close to perfect as one could hope. I say this due to the fact that, for the most part, my fellow metal advocates tend to be a touch more rowdy than we are tidy! At any rate, here is what unearthed itself over the two-day sheer blur of metal sequence...

Upon a natural path of familiarizing ourselves with the Milwaukee Auditorium, my ol' college chum, Jerry Hrdina, and I navigated a course to absorb The End Records' Epoch of Unlight. EoU was, without a doubt, one of the biggest reasons for me attending this year's fest. I was -not- disappointed! The group sounded flawless performing as a three piece unit. Vocals were clear (both the gruff and serpentine voices handled by EoU's guitarist) and Tino LoSicco's incredible drumming through the twenty minute set was honestly stunning. As a worthy side-note, look for EoU on tour with Dimmu Borgir and Samael later this year. Right after Epoch of Unlight came the masters of crunch. "You know what time it is! Jungle Rot time", articulated Dave Matese, guitarist / lead growler for the band. Damn fine riffing, crushing and pulverizing, going down here from JR in the concert room, Kilbourn Hall, that will soon prove to house the -vast- majority of acts worthy of Metalfest attendees. I was blessed to hear a track or two from the impeccable _Slaughter the Weak_ as Jungle Rot thrusted their way through another all-too-short time allotment.

I slipped into Juneau Hall to stare at the laughable stage antics of St. Madness for a few moments. Unknowingly, this little manoeuvre cost me valuable time in which I could have been seeing Candiria in the main hall. This, in retrospect, steams me to no end. Live and learn. Another little faux pas I made was standing around a touch too long (out of earshot, I might add) of The Gathering. I did, however, manage to wrap myself in the last song performed by the band. Musically and vocally spectacular -- so much so that my friend accompanying me to the Metalfest, Jerry, spent a large portion of the ensuing hours attempting to track down a copy of -anything- by The Gathering. Jer's exercise in futility fuelled solely by the power of -one- song should tell you something about this performance. "Unfortunately I only caught the last song of The Gathering's set, but what I did hear was very impressive. Solid performing and songwriting plus the bonus of Anneke van Giersbergen's soaring, soulful vocals makes this band stand out of the crowd", Mr. Hrdina articulated.

Before I get to the dregs of Friday, I want to regale the yarn of the most impressive band of the Metalfest -- Neurosis. As Jerry said, "Neurosis brought psychedelic influences into their style both musically and by visual stimulus. The movies they projected behind the stage captured the eye and the music's hypnotic passages drew the listener into the performance. It was a good contrast to the speed driven bands that populated the festival." Personally, I am forced to admit I was -never- a fan of Neurosis' style, that is until I saw them perform live. I did a complete 180 degree turn with regards to my opinion of them. The set was magnificent! Excellent film/movie footage showing behind the band in the main hall. The crowd was appreciative of the more than striking musical spectacle going on before their eyes, as was this writer, honestly. A wonderful set that was -almost- worth me missing out on In Flames' first show in the United States. Keep in mind, I said -almost-. I am still very hacked-off that I was not able to see both groups.

Now, to wind-up Friday night's fulminating experience was a band that I have seen previously on tour with Cannibal Corpse, Anthrax and Life of Agony. This band, of course, is The Misfits. Let me state first and foremost, what a bunch of glorified, pompous, pretentious prima donnas! Their fuckin' sound check took longer than the set. Let's face it, folks, The Misfits' music is pretty same-y, so why spend an hour hammering out a sound for a guitar, drum, bass, and vocal mic when some of their best material sounds infinitely better when it drips with an unpolished, rough rancor-laced edge anyway? Oh well, The Misfits' attitude at the 'fest surfaced a taste in my mouth last experienced upon hearing Metallica's last three humiliating releases -- _Load_ (of shit), "Refund" and "Garbage Inc.".

Saturday brought both Jerry and myself to the Milwaukee Auditorium at about 11am to see Gang Green. Unknown to either of us, the band cancelled. Nice fuckin' luck, huh? I saw Gang Green twice in the days of my youth opening for Social Distortion. I was hoping to recapture some of that vibe to kick-start my energy for the day like a double cappuccino a la Gang Green-style. Sucks to be me, I s'pose! The first band that I was able to witness Saturday was the British group Chelsea. Hoping for Gang Green and seeing Chelsea instead is the musical equivalent to a groin pull! Damn, I lasted five minutes in Juneau Hall before running out the door struggling to remember the theme to Barney as to block the sound emanating from Chelsea. Even a singing purple dinosaur is preferable to Chelsea's shit. Jer and I killed a bit of time by watching Step Kings, for a brief second or two, in the main hall, while talking things over with the mighty Andreas from The End Records at the label's booth... Next we saw October Thorns in Kilbourn Hall at 2:00 in the afternoon. OT had a clear, crisp and professional sound, but I could list off a hundred bands that these guys sound like and none of those one hundred groups would be an awe-inspiring comparison.

Here's where things got moving... D.O.A. ripped up Juneau Hall at 3pm. To articulate how stunned I was by D.O.A.'s edgy and gritty sound is almost unimaginable. So energetic, pummelling and masterfully executed was D.O.A.'s set that I was monumentally overwhelmed. What a killer band.

Immediately following came the long-time hardcore outfit D.R.I.. A stroke of genius putting these two back to back on the same stage. I did see the D.O.A. bassist catching some flack from the stage manager for the Milwaukee Auditorium due to D.O.A.'s set running five minutes longer than scheduled. Apparently, five minutes means life and death when trying to keep 150-plus bands on time... D.R.I.'s sound was not quite as undiluted as D.O.A's, but still next to effulgent as I've seen punk/hardcore metal come. The band managed to work in a song slamming Jerry Garcia of The Grateful Dead -- something about "...you're shit, shit, shit, shit, shit" and "...dead, dead, dead, dead, dead!" Very precise and humorously fitting. Judging from the crowd reaction, I don't think many of them displayed a "Deadhead sticker" on their vehicle.

After almost the entire weekend, about this time, I met up with my CoC brethren. Some of us retreated upstairs to the Relapse stage for Benumb. This room was very agreeable for concerts, although maybe not -metal- shows. Red carpet covered the floor here and red padded seats fanned-out across the room. It still made a nice space to see the masterful Benumb. I have always been reminded of Brutal Truth when listening to Benumb's recorded material, but, naturally, this is a good thing. In concert, Benumb comes across a lot more chaotic, disjointed, and free-form than Brutal Truth. Both groups, however, focusing on concentrated blasts of power. Benumb did an incredible job.

After some much needed rest and food, we all prepared for the massive onslaught of bands in the eminent future. Being gluttons, we started this evening of punishment off early, dancing off presently to hear the Japanese band Defiled. Jerry had this to say: "Defiled attracted my attention by being the only Japanese band at the Metalfest that I am aware of. However, they held their own and delivered a bitchin' set instead of just being a novelty from Japan. They received a good response from the crowd despite their apparent technical difficulties."

Now for a group that had -as much- to do with me attending the Metalfest as any reason that I can think of: Dying Fetus. These gentlemen are ace connoisseurs of thrash tempo changes! Fantastic effort on DF's part and they honestly worked magic in the twenty-minute time allotment they where restricted to. A killer blend of material from _Purification Through Violence_ and _Killing on Adrenaline_. These guys were currently on tour, making the MMF part of the band's schedule. The following night, Dying Fetus took part in a show in Chicago at the House of Blues with Immolation, Rotting Christ and Sinister. If given the chance, do yourself a favour and -see- DF live. They -won't- disappoint!

Lorde of All Desire was on the docket next in Juneau Hall, across the way. They were given a half an hour and I took in most of their show on the suggestion of Adrian (good call, brother!). Keyboards dove-tailed beautifully with placid guitar and bass work. Jerry comments that at first Lorde of All Desire seemed like they might be another generic medieval warrior type band, but they actually delivered some noteworthy songs.

Dashing back and forth between Juneau Hall for Mexico's The Chasm and Kilbourn Hall for Monstrosity proved to be worthy of the energy I expended to do this. I found both groups to have the potently crunchy and powerful sound that I have come to expect at this festival, but about this point in the evening I began to anticipate Nile's performance, so it was difficult, at best, to concentrate on any group other than Nile. Due to Kilbourn Hall getting off their agenda by almost a half hour, I was forced to wait for the mighty South Carolinians to arrive. Not using their technical effects live, by choice or otherwise, I am unsure, Nile executed song after song from _Amongst the Catacombs of Nephren Ka_. Musicianship like this could only have been perfected through the next to non-stop touring Nile has done. Jerry thought they delivered an aggressive and very potent set.

Due to the schedule getting all fucked-up, I busted a move to the main hall for Immolation. These venerable masters of their domain tore up the awaiting fans. The band was appreciative of the support for _Failures For Gods_, the group's second Metal Blade release. Ross Dolan's incredible low, intense vocals came across flawlessly as the band whipped through an awe-inspiring, but all-too-short, half hour set.

The next two hours of the Metalfest substantiated the most hectic of the two days. I greeted myself both coming and going between Sinister, Cradle of Filth, Mortician, Gorguts, Pissing Razors and Rotting Christ. Appreciating Cradle of Filth's music and stage presence like I do, I watched with Jerry transfixed as Dani and the band took to the main hall. Jerry commented to me that Saturday's headliners, Cradle of Filth, did not disappoint at his first exposure to them. Swirling lights, gothic chicks, massive black metal, it was all there. CoF often come across as grandiose, but that night they were merely -grand-! Once again, due to the Kilbourn Hall being behind, I ran upstairs to admire Gorguts. Luc Lemay and Gorguts demonstrated a skill and vehemence almost unattainable to most other groups of like experience, playing to a crowd not even worthy of their time. Once again, we have scheduling to thank for this.

Pissing Razors graced the Relapse stage next, sounding in fine form for the two songs I could stay for. Having seen PR open for Pro-Pain in the past, I felt Mortician calling me downstairs. Mortician supporting the new release, _Chainsaw Dismemberment_, was something I needed to see. Even though Mortician are old hat at the MMF, they -never- fail to communicate their brutally exceptional style to the audience in a fashion belonging to Mortician alone. I was floored by the performance and have to say, if Dying Fetus got me to Milwaukee, then Mortician was the reason for staying!

To end this event that eludes proper description, Greece's Rotting Christ hit at about 12:30 or 12:40. Killer tracks from _A Dead Poem_ rang across Kilbourn Hall. This sublime musical menagerie was cut short due to the police calling it quits to RC's set at 1:00 due to, I believe, a sound ordinance for the city. Knowing what was to transpire, I watched with interest as the stage manager informed the band that the last song they just played would indeed be their final one. After a bit of bickering, Rotting Christ forced the stage manager to be the bearer of bad news, as to save them the responsibility of such a duty. Some commotion ensued, but soon died away. I retired to my hotel room that night exhausted, but pleased with myself for not only surviving the 13th annual Milwaukee Metalfest, but also comfortable in the notion that Dani of Cradle of Filth could not have been accurate in stating this was the last MMF. With support like I saw at this 'fest, Jack Koshick would be insane to let something this good simply come to pass forever.

(article submitted 12/10/1999)

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