Hemp Heaven? No, It's Iowa!
Hatebreed, Madball, Hate Eternal, Terror and Cephalic Carnage
Toad Holler, Des Moines, Iowa, on September 25th 2003

by: Aaron McKay
"They better grow some weed in these fields here", announces Lenzig, the vocalist for the evening's first band up, Cephalic Carnage. We all knew we were in for a something right from the start with a phase like that.

Let's take a step back a minute. The venue is the "famous" Toad Holler in Des Moines. Never having been to this venue (at least at this location), I was stoked for something new.

The 25th of September was a "school night" and I had to be at work mighty early the next morning, but who the hell can't limp through a Friday in the office especially if it meant being able to attend a show of this caliber the previous evening?! Anyway, having touched base with Erik Rutan a few hours before the show, I was under the impression the doors opened at 6:00 pm. Wanting to get the evening underway, I promptly arrived at 6:30.

God knows what happened, but my name was not on the two (as Henry Rollins would say) "CHIX" guest list for Hate Eternal. As a matter of fact, these two couldn't spell Hate -or- Eternal with a dictionary open to "H" or "E" section in front of them.

After about thirty infuriating minutes at the door waiting for this less-than-dynamic duo to decide which side is up, I managed to get it all cleared up and headed off to the bar for an adult beverage.

At the back of the room, I catch a glimpse of Erik Rutan. As a bit of background for everyone, Mr. Rutan and I go back to my days in St. Pete, FLA. It was great to have a chance to catch-up with Erik, despite my horrible mood stemming from the whole ordeal only minutes before trying to get into the damn place.

Erik told me that Hate Eternal is third on the bill, so I had some time to absorb the whole atmosphere of Toad Holler. It's a venue that would remind people of a sports bar / Fight Club-like establishment; I was taken in by this place's whole atmosphere and the fact they were open to having such a metal crowd inside their doors. Hell, most of these bands had never been to Iowa, let alone Des Moines. Previous to this night, Hatebreed had played in Clive (a Des Moines suburb) with Slayer, and Erik Rutan with Morbid Angel on the Pantera tour at the U.S. Cellular Center in Cedar Rapids, a short two hour drive from my doorstep. A show of this particular size and style, I dare say -never- in Des Moines -- at least not in the time I've lived here.

At 7:45, the unclassifiable Relapse outfit Cephalic Carnage announced the onset of tonight's festivities with the statement of hemp-induced craving, "They better grow some weed in these fields here!"

Always an entertaining bunch, Cephalic Carnage all donned white masks and spikes for an obvious tongue-in-cheek stab at the black metal genre. Not to be left out, CC ripped a page from the Beverly Hillbillies' dress code and played up their metal rendition of stoner metal complete with "hick" glasses and all.

How can all this be summed up? What about Lenzig spouting off that this is all for those that eat Cheetos and wind up with orange dicks? Know where this band is comin' from now?

Anyway, these guys have more change-ups in their tempo than the mathematical equations goin' on in IBM's Big Blue in a chess match with Kasparov! They dedicated "The Isle of California", from the incredible _Lucid Interval_, to the next band on stage, Terror.

This "Rise of Brutality" tour was off to a great start and Terror kept it movin'. Bass heavy with a thick, rich sound even live, this Southern California four-piece has a quickened pace to complement their Agnostic Front / Sick of It All style. Scott Vogel, the band's skilled vocalist, was impossibly infused with energy the likes of which I haven't seen since the Skinless show in late August in Cedar Falls.

As Terror plainly put it, they're -huge- Madball fans, so we in the audience had a lot to look forward to. Before that point, however, Terror had the audience piping up and screaming at their lung's capacity for "What the Fuck Have We Done". All these festivities taking place on Nick Jett's, the band's drummer, 21st birthday. It must be my year for seeing metal shows who are celebrating a member's b-day (see the concert review for "A Mini Milwaukee", Dying Fetus).

It was a big treat to have seen Terror live, but their killer performance was, at that time, being overshadowed by the looming promise of Hate Eternal in concert in my home town... "Obscure Terror", "Powers That Be" and "King of All Kings" still are ever-present in my memory. I delight in the fact this speed-infused death assault of cataclysmic proportions was brought to bear upon a mostly unsuspecting crowd -- it was surprisingly pleasurable to witness the expressions of the people's faces as they took in what Hate Eternal was dishing out. I might add, in all fairness, I believe that Hate Eternal had the volume a might too loud for the venue. It was a might too overpowering to fully appreciate the devastation they were clearly known to create. By and large, their performance was jaw-dropping. Enough said.

Try topping that one, I thought to myself as Erik Rutan, Jared Anderson and Doug Cerrito exited -- stage right. While the hour was getting late, Hate Eternal having enjoyed a full half hour, I always wanted to see Madball live in concert.

At 10:10, I got my wish. I've owned the album _Set It Off_ since 1995, and when Freddy (Cricien), Madball's frontman, announced "Set It Off" as their first song, I was sure the night could not get much better. "Can't Stop, Won't Stop" from the Epitaph release _Hold It Down_ came next, followed closely by the incorrigible, free-for-all, "Get Out". We were indeed treated to a very new song for an EP/DVD, called "For My Enemies". "New York City" was brought to us "old school" from their city to ours, as we were told. Our last chance to dance was "Pride (Times Are Changing)" as a tipping of the hat to Agnostic Front.

Well... After the Ball of Destruction, I was spent like a 20 dollar bill on a suitcase of Miller, so I decided to call it ALL GOOD after Madball: besides, I've seen Hatebreed. While they are a good "strongman" metal outfit, I was in no mood to have anything come in-between a fond recollection of a fine August night of metal. Is this Heaven? No, it's Iowa...

(article submitted 13/10/2003)

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