Crusade to the Carnage Capital
Milwaukee MetalFest XIV
Milwaukee Auditorium, July 28 and 29, 2000

by: Aaron McKay
Well, judging from some of the reviews I've read concerning Jack Koshick's previous March Metal Meltdown, I whole-heartedly believe that he needed this show to go off well. I don't think that I am alone in that opinion, either. I feel that for the amount of bands that were there, people in attendance, and the seemingly smooth flow of the event, I wouldn't hesitate for a minute in placing this year's Milwaukee MetalFest in the "success" column.

At any rate, before I tackle the formidable abundance of bands collaborating for the 'Fest, I'd like to point out the most gratifying aspect of this year's show: comradery. I was powerfully delighted to see my good friend and colleague from Canada, Adam Wasylyk, who I had not seen since last year's MetalFest. Also, Chris Bruni of Unrestrained! and some friends from Iowa and individuals in bands, both playing and not playing, whom I haven't seen in what feels like aeons, made the entire trip well worth it. Well worth it!

Coming in a very close second to enjoying the company of my metal brethren was the line-up this year. As always, too much happening to completely consume and devour, but the portions served and presented this year were very much to my liking.

Having arrived in Milwaukee the night before (as to not miss anything that I might have deemed important, like beer), I was able to make it to the Milwaukee Auditorium shortly after the first bands went on -- pretty close to three o' clock. To be completely candid, I was not much interested in catching any of the performances until about 4:55, as Sarcophagus arrived on the Nightfall stage.

I suppose this is as good of a time as any to rehash the venue's arrangement. The main stage, this year titled KNAC.COM, is the vastest and most cavernous of the show halls. Imagine if you will a large, older gymnasium with fairly decent sized stage at the far end. This main area is split in half by a curtain with some recording labels on the side facing the main stage and the majority of the rest on the other side of the partition situated around the outside, along the wall like a giant "D" shape. The only stage upstairs, as it was last year, was the Relapse one. A great carpeted environment with cushioned chairs and good acoustics. Back downstairs, off the main hall, or KNAC.COM stage, are the two smaller, less comfortable, but effective Nightfall and Necropolis stages. As it turns out, these last two were where most of the bands I saw played.

Day 1

Immediately after nothing more than an acceptable show from Sarcophagus (not bad, but nothing to elaborate on either) was Blood Storm on the same stage. After having reviewed _Pestilence From the Dragonstar_ elsewhere in this issue, and not having cared for it too awful much, I was curious to see if Blood Storm had a notable improvement in a live setting. They didn't. After about four songs, my group of friends and I walked out.

At this point, as I remember, we headed for our first beers of the evening. $3.75 draws for Miller Genuine Draft heavy or Miller Lite. Pretty pricey and I wish I could say that inhibited my usual intake of the frosty brew, but it did little for me in that respect -- save draining my cash reserve. If I would have had the beer prior to Blood Storm's gig, I might have possibly viewed their show with less critical enmity, but I severely doubt it.

Not a lot took place until my first venture of the 'Fest up to the Relapse stage for the last song of Bongzilla and subsequently Today Is the Day immediately thereafter. Having heard only the very ass-end of Bongzilla's last tune, I'll just touch on Today Is the Day. As you might imagine, -extremely- high energy. I am sorry to report that I am not as well-versed on the Nashville group's material as I would appreciate being, but their supersaturated, in-your-face impact style was certainly enough to grab my interest for thirty minutes. Today Is the Day guru Steve Austin deserves a huge round of applause.

Time to make a viscous dash to the Nightfall stage (again) to observe Hate Eternal. Erik Rutan's release on Wicked World, _Conquering the Throne_, is one probably worth possessing. The demo I have from when Mr. Rutan was shopping around for this deal with Wicked World, however, is all I own. I was glad to see them live, but I was truly disappointed with the sound the room was fostering for Hate Eternal. Getting nothing out of the remaining time allotted for HE, I departed.

As an aside, after this performance by HE, the time slots for the Nightfall state became fouled-up and -if- Malevolent Creation was at the MetalFest, they sure didn't play anywhere close to when they were supposed to. This mattered very little, since the press conference with members of King Diamond, Mayhem, Babylon Whores, Shadows Fall and others threw me off kilter time-wise. I'm getting ahead of myself a bit, however.

Now things began to get frenzied. I'd have liked to have seen Cephalic Carnage upstairs, but was instead tortured by the discord on the Necropolis stage radiating from Promisques, an all girls and a guy "metal" act (and I do mean -act-, 'cause they sure didn't seem like real musicians) -- bad, bad, bad. The only reason I stayed was the cover of Cannibal Corpse's "Stripped, Raped and Strangled" Promisques pulled off. I think it was to the liking off all within earshot. In the hopes of catching Malevolent Creation, we stood around across the hall in the Nightfall area. Winding-up listening to Maudlin of the Well, a very populated group comprised of many members playing -a lot- of different instruments, from keyboards to some brass horns. Not at all to my liking, but then again the room wasn't helping matters any, either.

Frustrated at the whole time disorder and Malevolent Creation mishap, we wondered over to the main hall to watch and enjoy Shadows Fall. These Massachusetts-based tempo change-up artists ended up surprising me. While I don't think I'll seek out _Of One Blood_ at Century Media's website, I did enjoy the atmosphere and presentation of Shadows Fall (and being in the main auditorium again).

Before Mayhem began, we dashed to the Necropolis state for a smattering of Babylon Whores. What a mistake that was. BW sounded to me like a warmed-up hard rock band from Atlantic Records, as opposed to a group associated with Necropolis. I heard all I could handle after two songs and decided to wait out Mayhem's arrival back where I was.

Having had my _Grand Declaration of War_ disc snap in two in the mail, I was pretty unfamiliar with their new material. I was told by some pretty reputable pals in the music industry that I would enjoy this new Mayhem direction completely. As my first exposure to anything off of _Grand Declaration of War_, I will say that I am speechless. The sound Mayhem achieved on stage was gripping, all-encompassing and clear/clean -- not something I am used to spouting-off about a black metal band. A wonderful spread of material ultimately ending with my favorite cut, "Pure Fucking Armageddon". Beautiful performance.

As I remember, we peaked in on Avernus about this time to see if I could grab a listen to my all-time favorite song by them, "Godlessness". Hearing no indication of it, we moved back to the KNAC.COM stage for King Diamond. Having grown up with a majority of King's releases in my collection and going to see him live numerous times while in Florida, I was interested in seeing the respected musical entertainer on a larger scale. Before his arrival, a dolt dressed up like the King walked around complete with a would-be sidekick "band member" in hopes of fooling individuals into thinking he was King Diamond. What a loser. Some people have -way- too much time on their hands.

The King opened with a couple tunes off _Them_, my absolute favorite KD release, so I was instantly thrilled. The decked-out stage, adorned with candelabras, a coffin (for the infamous "coffin trick" that apparently I have never witnessed), and "Grandma", was enough to make Alice Copper green with envy. After a track from _Conspiracy_, we dragged ourselves (it was getting late in the evening by this point, so "dragging" is truly appropriate) down to hopefully absorb some of Katatonia.

The Swedish doom metal band seemed to be uninhibited by the shittiness of the Nightfall room and playing their complicated and contrived musical concoctions. As the members of Katatonia pulled off resembling sleep-deprived transients, I also slowly began to feel the effects of the day. No more so, however, than when Opeth finally emerged immediately following.

Opeth, as most all of you are aware, can stretch a melody in a song in so many ways over such a long period you almost forget what you're listening to. Although Opeth are talented musicians, and I -was- picking up a nice shift from _My Arms, Your Hearse_ to _Morningrise_ through the infinite crappiness of the room, I became far too exhausted to wrench anything alluring from their expertise. Couple this with the fact that I couldn't stick around for Usurper or even see Macabre and Gorguts (playing at the same time as Katatonia and Opeth); frustration compounded my malaise. Thusly, I brought to a close a fairly productive day at the MetalFest, but tomorrow bragged of much greater things.

Day 2

Saturday found our intrepid clan rested and in need of some sustenance before entering the Milwaukee Auditorium again for the last day. After a much regretted, failed attempt to meet Adam and his friends for a bite to eat, my group ate some good, ol' fashion mid-West cooking and made a move for the venue -- there was metal to be heard and seen, damn it!

Once we realized that our search for Mr. Wasylyk and his companions was fruitless, like I said, we made haste to the concert after eating. For the record, these asses would have pulled this shit on me, but today the infantile, prick, asshole "door-watchers" (hardly security) decided in their obviously infinite wisdom that taking some granola bars into the venue is "not allowed" today (but not yesterday, mind you, just -today-). After this episode, everything went off without a hitch. Morons.

Okay, sorry for breaking away from the music there for a second, but I have to continue in that line of thinking for another moment. These same pathetic, idiot "door-watchers" were -also- the source of the stream of "squatters" in the 'Fest. In case you have been fortunate enough to never have run across these "squatter" fucks, they are nomadic losers -by choice-, constantly mooching off the concert-goers for beer and money. I am quite sure they don't bathe and sleep on the grass as a way of being indigently different. To illustrate the point, some "squatters" wore designer eye glasses, but couldn't find their way to a fucking shower if their pitiful lives depended on it. Ass-fucks -- every last one of them! Furthermore, I know first hand that the equally stupid "door-watchers" were sneaking them into the concert hall through a side-door on purpose. One dip-shit "door-watcher" even muttered to the other dip-shit "door-watcher" while smuggling them on in, "I wonder if we could lose our job over doing this?" Heaven, I hope so! That'd be poetic justice if ever I did hear of it. Mr. Koshick, if you are reading this -- I'd do something about it for next time around.

Back to the much more sophisticated part of this review: metal. Again, about three o' clock for the second day, we were in full concert preparedness. I'd have really liked to have seen Michigan's Summon, but screw getting there at 11:00 a.m. just for them. The time slot for Summon was honestly regrettable. We goofed around the labels' stands buying up the CDs until we seated ourselves for Wolfspider at 4:20 in the main hall. The group sucked, but not enough for us to leave or pick our asses up out of our chairs. If the truth be known, Wolfspider wasn't deplorable, just nothing great, but they did carry a beat pretty well and understandable vocals, so we listened in spite of ourselves. -Hell-, we all had earplugs!

The reason we put up with Wolfspider was for what was to follow: Yellow Machine Gun. Maybe the greatest surprise of the event for me. I truly enjoyed this Japanese trio that seriously appeared as if they just came from the airport (with luggage and all) moments before their set, and -shit-, what a set it was, too. On Howling Bull records, these three females brutalized the audience from power chord number one on. Speaking of the crowd, the depth of audience steadily became more and more and more as either the word spread about YMG or the concert-goers took in a listen as they moved from room to room. Either way, for so early in the evening (about 5 o' clock), a nearly packed house cheered for Yellow Machine Gun by the end of their set, which included a killer cover of Black Sabbath's "Paranoid".

Next, on to Fleshgrind. I listed this band as one of my Top 10 of 1999. Based on the strength of _Destined for Defilement_ and their performance on the all-too-well established Nightfall "acoustically-shit" room, I still maintain that was an excellent pick (at the risk of sounding like a sycophant). Guitarist and all around amiable guy Steve Murray disclosed to me that the band has a new deal with Olympic Records, which I hope yields them more of the fan-base they deserve.

Off to the main stage for my second time seeing Immolation at the MMF. Not too bad and I will say this, Immolation having formed from the ashes of Rigor Mortis (one of 'em) is -about- the only reason I pay them any attention, so their debut, _Dawn of Possession_, is about the band's strongest effort, in my opinion. Ross Dolan and company, for the most part, provided an excellent musical backdrop to conversations between myself and the rest of the group.

Right after that, Immolation welcomed Entombed to the main stage. I remember trying to go see these guys in Iowa City, Iowa about two years ago, but the weather that Winter must have been too much for 'em and they cancelled. That stunk because I think that I would have liked to have seen the group on more of an intrinsic level as opposed to this time on such a large scale, being my first witness to Entombed's subversion. I watched for a while and not hearing enough from the mighty _Clandestine_ release, I left for the Relapse stage upstairs for Epoch of Unlight.

Here is a group that -never- disappoints. Epoch of Unlight utilizes fantastically sharp, technically-edged material -- and I'm just talking about their old stuff. The band blessed the room with some new material of an upcoming release, hopefully soon, on The End Records, that was diamond-cutter accurate and meticulously pulled off. Impressive right down to the addition of the second guitarist, who was not with EoU at last year's MetalFest. To emphasise my point about what a great group this is, during a guitar change by the individual I just mentioned, there was some silence, naturally. Someone yells out "Drum solo, Tino!" Tino taps his cymbal once and the fans break into laughter. "Burning as One" off of _What Will Be Has Been_ is always a pleasure to hear. Incredibly enjoyable to witness EoU in action once again.

Break time! Some beers are consumed at this point while we sponge the sounds of Destruction from some seats situated afar (Destruction have -never- been favorites of mine), but their lighting and stage show was pretty good.

Somewhat rejuvenated, we hopped over to catch a group that I wanted to see ever since my interview with Killjoy revealed to me that Necrophagia wasn't going to perform at the 'Fest -- Ravenous was my appeasement. Being not too familiar with Chris Reifert's (ex-Autopsy/Abscess) earlier works (or bands), I was impressed with his contribution to Killjoy (Necrophagia / Viking Crown) and Danny Lilker (Nuclear Assault / S.O.D. / just about any other band you can think of) during Ravenous's half hour. Killjoy's necro-vocal style was in stunningly tight form. I'm clamoring to get their _Assembled in Blasphemy_ release through Hammerheart to arrange an interview for more information to pass along for you -- it'll be worth it for sure.

-Thank heavens- the Nightfall stage was running late, otherwise I would have been deprived of Mortician, one of a couple of tried and true staples I demand at the MetalFest. I would devitalize the greatness of Mortician's performance by droning on, but I will say the room was -packed-, the ferocity was evident and the fans were appreciative. Will Rahmer was in his characteristically brutal posture peppered with appreciation and humor for the fans, while Roger Beaujard took over drum duties this show instead of guitar. I have to confess here, I do not know who Mortician had on guitar, but I am pretty sure it wasn't Desmond Tolhurst. I could be wrong due to my uncertainty in this regard. Regardless, Mortician -pulverized-! I just have to get me another copy of 1999's _Chainsaw Dismemberment_ soon (my original was stolen out of my truck last year).

Conflict time. Children of Bodom or Dying Fetus? Well, the choice was clear to me, but not the rest of my group -- but that soon changed. Luckily for us, DF was getting on a bit later than they were supposed to, so to keep the whole gang happy, I was glad to take in some of Children of Bodom. Having interviewed Alexi Laiho last year for the release of _Something Wild_, I was especially grateful to get to hear the song "Children of Bodom" live. Out the door and across the hallway, I see my friends John and Jason of Dying Fetus adorning their instruments on the other stage (it's good to be tall) -- time to go!

While through this whole review I've bitched, moaned and complained about the Nightfall Stage's incredibly terrible acoustics, to this very minute I haven't the foggiest idea what occurred, but DF sounded as good as Mayhem did the previous evening. Torrid! Killer! Marksman perfect and overwhelmingly tight -- I could not have been more pleased with Dying Fetus's set. As I was telling someone just last night, it's like this: if you want a good doctor, find out to whom your physician goes; and if you want a killer band, find out where the other groups' members are going. Watching Dying Fetus, I saw Trevor P. from Obituary, Corporate Death from Macabre, Jeremy Wagner from Broken Hope, Danny Lilker from pick-your-group, and many others. Get this: after a whole day of being in the same building, at the beginning of the DF set is where I ran into my good friend Adam again, who I hadn't seen since before getting in the Milwaukee Auditorium. Better late than never, so we enjoyed DF en masse.

Becoming increasingly drained from the events of the last two days, we decided to watch a few minutes of Enslaved. They gave me what I wanted to hear, the song "Eld", and having gotten separated from Adam yet again, I took a few moments to congratulate John (DF) on the band's magnificent job and headed for the last time to the main stage area for a taste of Howling Bull recording artist Hellchild. I was too tired and worn out to fully appreciate what I think was a pretty decent show by these stripped-down violent Japanese metallers. Even some members of Destruction joined us and the sparse crowd for some of Hellchild's set. That was about all, kids.

Time after time, I am ultimately pleased by the Milwaukee MetalFest and so much for Dani's (of Cradle of Filth) prediction that last year was final time for the event. I'm delighted in his inaccurate understanding. This was a mighty fine year. When all is said and done, you can't go wrong with some good beer, superior friends, and metal music. Here's to next year!!

(article submitted 12/8/2000)


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