A Mini Milwaukee
Dying Fetus, Skinless, Divine Empire, Misery Index and Stavross at the Reverb, Cedar Falls, Iowa on August 9th 2003
by: Aaron McKay
With a good deal of confidence I'd wager to say few communities in Iowa have ever seen the unabashed onslaught of extreme music like Cedar Falls, Iowa has, held at a venue called the Reverb on August 9th. Truthfully, most concerts generally skip Iowa altogether, so when I came to know this tour was scheduled in such close proximity to me on a weekend, there was absolutely no question where I would be spending my Saturday night.

Having been served an appetizer from (most of) these bands at Milwaukee just last month, I was hungry for a larger helping of stage time than what these guys were allotted at the MetalFest. The Reverb is an upstairs bar area with an accommodating stage and plenty of room for the fan-base this tour would draw. People slowly poured through the door during the set by Stavross, the opening act.

Stavross kicked things off about 8:25pm with a fairly concentrated set -- due to scheduling concerns, I'd imagine. Noticeably, this band suffered from a generally weaker instrumentation that seemed nearly superseded by the vocals most of the time. In addition, the guitar solos were difficult to segregate from the rest of Stavross's sound. "The Wasteland" and "Last Rites" were a couple of higher points in their set even with the aforementioned issue(s), but "Botchulism", the band’s last song for the night, was a real feather in the Stavross cap. Vocals on that song were supplied, at least in part, by the bassist, who also added a tight, heavy-ass bass chop at the onset and conclusion of the song.

Misery Index took the stage about 9:20. Most will remember bassist/vocalist Jason Netherton from his former band and current tour mates, Dying Fetus. Humorously, the beginning of the third song, the new title track "Retaliate", was met with a really deep, throaty cry by someone in the audience to the band on stage exclaiming "IOWA!" to the enjoyment of the whole crowd; this happened several times throughout the night, never really losing its comedic appeal. At any rate, Misery Index surprised me by pulling out "My Untold Apocalypse" from their split about a year ago with Commit Suicide on Willow Tip Records; it was a nice touch by the group, who knows how to keep the crowd's interest piqued. They unleashed "Servants of Progress" and "Demand the Impossible", but finished up with a flawless "Manufacturing Greed" from the _Overthrow_ EP.

Divine Empire was certainly the 'most improved' sounding band that played that Saturday night over their time at the Milwaukee MetalFest. The stage, time and crowd at the MMF wasn't up to the task of supporting a band like Divine Empire with all that this group might deserve. Being the third on the bill, Divine Empire found a welcoming crowd already in their full concert mindset, and they took total advantage of that stroke of luck! They ripped through monstrous offerings like "Induced Expulsion" and "Out for Blood" from _Redemption_, while working in new tracks like "Aggravated Battery" was almost as enjoyable as reliving classics like "War Torn" (dedicated to Saddam's two dead sons) and "Repulsive" (dedicated to Iowa's corn-fed women) from the 2000 album _Doomed to Inherit_. "The Pain Remains", from the new album, utilizes a clip taken from the movie "The Fifth Element" -- while this was just spoken in concert and not played to the crowd as a sample, it was still every bit as effective and the fans responded accordingly with floor-shaking intensity at the power of the song's delivery. Divine Empire dedicated the new release's title track "Nostradamus" to Vinny from Dying Fetus, as Saturday August 9th was his birthday. Jason Blachowicz, Derik Roddy and J.P. Soars took their leave about 10:30 that night after a truly spectacular set.

If you weren't tired yet, Skinless was up next to wear you down in proper style -- and wear us down they did! Pushing 11:00, the theme to '80s hit show "Nightrider" announced the coming of Skinless. A couple of weeks isn't all that long, but it is amazing what you get a hankerin' to hear again; so when "From Sacrifice to Survival", from the album of the same name, was one of the first I heard these New Yorkers play, I feared things might be anticlimactic. Boy, was I wrong! We in the audience were treated to "Tampon Lollipop", "Miscreant" and "Enslavement", among others. During "Tampon Lollipop", some eyeglasses came up missing off the face of a pit dweller -- Sherwood Webber, in the middle of the song and without so much as missing a word of the lyrics, instructs the crowd to help the guy look for his specs; that's fan-oriented metal right there, kiddies. Moving on, whoever heard of a band hitting the stage without proper refreshment in hand? Not me, and apparently not Sherwood either: after a couple of polite but unanswered calls out for a beer to be brought to him on stage (mid-song and still growling out the lyrics the whole time), Sherwood made his way to the bar for his own beverage. On the way back up front to the stage once again, we are all reminded to tip our hardworking bartenders. Nice shameless plug there, but hey, I guess Sherwood figured whatever works... Few bands engage the crowd as aggressively as Skinless and the entire Cedar Falls fans responded like a bunch of horned-up high schoolers after prom especially after tunes like "Escalate Discord"!

Near the strike of midnight, Dying Fetus took the stage to close the show. At this point, it had been a powerfully loud and hot evening already, but I felt my second wind creep over me especially about the time "Intentional Manslaughter" screamed forth. I counted my lucky stars that I was fortunate enough to hear "Grotesque Impalement" and "Killing on Adrenaline". Much like when Skinless did "From Sacrifice to Survival", I thought Dying Fetus's set had climaxed; I should have known better. Vinny was feeling pretty good on his birthday night, even if he was on the road like the tour dogs Dying Fetus have always been. Something that I guess I've never noticed before was John Gallagher's awesome red Hammer guitar; the Cedar Falls venue, however, allowed for a clear, unobstructed view of the band and their gear providing a wicked sound in the room(s) to boot. Dying Fetus maximized every plus available to them and ultimately put on a great show. As seemed to be the theme that evening, Dying Fetus dedicated "Skullfucked" to the women of Iowa. Whatever happened to having a song like "Abandon All Hope" dedicated to the guys? Equal opportunity offenders, Dying Fetus is -not-, I guess! "Institutions of Deceit" and "Pissing in the Mainstream" wrapped up the nearly phenomenal sixty minute set.

While Wisconsin has just a little less than double the population of the Hawkeye State, Iowa turned out an energetic and enthusiastic crowd for this tour. Obviously Cedar Falls is no Milwaukee and the Reverb isn't the U.S. Cellular Center, but Iowans are nonetheless passionate about their metal. My gratitude and appreciation goes out to Dying Fetus, Skinless, Divine Empire and Misery Index for making Iowa a part of the tour in August!

(article submitted 31/8/2003)

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