NYDM SPRING BASH X
Featuring ANVIL, EVILDEAD, HIRAX & many others
April 18-20, 2019
Club Garibaldi and Cactus Club, Milwaukee, WI
By: Dr. Abner Mality
**Special Thanks to Scary Dan Gildea + Scaryhouse for assistance!**
Well, that’s a wrap!
After 10 years, one of the best metalfests in the Midwest, if not the USA, comes to an end and with it, a lot of memories. I made all but one of these events. I can’t tell you how many bands I was able to cross off my bucket list because of NYDM Spring Bash. Well, maybe I can…how about OMEN, ARTILLERY, WHIPLASH, POSSESSED, RUTHLESS, and HELLWITCH, just for starters? And for this event alone, I was able to see ANVIL, EVILDEAD and HIRAX for the first time! Not to mention dozens of up and coming bands, cult names from the past and promising local acts.
One man was generally responsible for putting it together and that’s Randy Kastner, the No Fun Shogun. The event started with one night and about six or seven bands before growing organically into a truly spectacular fest. In 2018, it even went to 4 days! That was a little bit too much and I was glad to see if moved back down to 3 days this year. Randy works at a “real” job about 70 hours a week…I cannot imagine juggling that kind of schedule with the effort necessary to put a fest like this together. The logistics are so much more than people realize, including getting tickets and accommodations for the bands, venues set up, advertising with physical and digital media, and probably a million other things I am forgetting.
The decision was made to go out on top and in style with a strong lineup of bands. Mission accomplished! Not without the usual bumps in the road like last minute band cancellations and the like, but I can say that no true metalhead went home unsatisfied from the omega edition of NYDM Spring Bash.
The Thursday night kick off was held exclusively at Club Garibaldi, about a block from the Lake Michigan shoreline. There was no snow on the ground like there was last year, but the howling wind coming off the lake was brutal. I was glad to see the Club offering some food this year, unlike last year when I couldn’t even find a bag of peanuts there. Good move!
First band of the fest came all the way from the potato fields of Idaho and went by the name of MUNCHKIN SUICIDE. With a name like that, I had them pegged as a crossover thrash band and sure enough, that’s what they were. They leaned a bit more to the punk side than most crossover bands but they mixed up their set by including different kinds of tunes. A D.R.I. type thrasher here, a more chugging tune there and even a song in German that reminded me a lot of what ONKEL TOM, the SODOM side project, sounds like. It was entertaining enough even though they had a guitar player that played sitting on a stool which is usually not a good sign. The crowd was trickling in in a steady fashion.
Next band AGGRAVATOR upped the ante in every way. Never heard of these cats before, but wow, they ripped everybody there a new one with absolutely relentless thrash metal in the mode of early SLAYER and KREATOR. No mercy at all here, every song was a piledriver. The lead singer’s between song banter was an unintelligible gabble that could have been in Slovenian for all I knew, but that didn’t matter when the songs themselves were in play. I’m going to make a point to find some material by these guys, who should be signed to a visible label. Scorching pure thrash!
Well, Canada’s long-running AGGRESSION was scheduled to play next, but earlier that day we had gotten word that they were stopped at the US border due to “incomplete” paperwork. This is the sort of shit that drives a promoter crazy. The band apparently knew months in advance that they were scheduled to appear, but somehow they neglected to make proper preparations. Maybe this is part of the reason that this otherwise killer band has never made much of a mark.
Doomy power trio CASTLE were next to appear. They often get lumped in with doom and stoner rock, but live they seemed more uptempo and aggressive. A lot of the tracks cranked along at MOTORHEAD speed with occasional slowdown to a SABBATH-y pace. Lead singer/bassist Elizabeth Blackwell cuts quite a witchy figure and if she would have flown around the room on a broomstick, I wouldn’t have been surprised. She was really into it, as was the band in general, and CASTLE got a good reception from the Bash faithful. I thought they were a nice touch of something different at the fest.
One of the acts that I had absolutely no clue about was Canadian trio ARCHER NATION. ANVIL was taking these 3 young dudes with them on tour as openers, and I think maybe because it was they saw a little of themselves in the band. ARCHER NATION played a more melodic type of metal than most of what was signed to the Bash. Half the time they sounded like a heavier DOKKEN and the other half they were a lighter thrash like mid-period MEGADETH. The lead guitarist/singer was quite the shredder and made sure we never forgot it. Something about these guys was just a little off for me and it took me a long time to warm up to their style. But I eventually got there when they played a pretty sizzling cover of MEGADETH’s ‘Tornado Of Souls’. That seemed to break the dam and from there on, they started to click. Not exactly my type of band, but I could see the promise in ARCHER NATION.
After they completed their set, comedian DON JAMIESON, known for appearing on Eddie Trunk’s generally appalling That Metal Show, tried his hand at some metal standup. I wish I could tell you more about it, but I took advantage of DON’s gig to bullshit with Johnny Vomit and some other metalheads out in the bar area. Standup is not for me and it takes a lot to get me laughing at a show like this. Yes sir, I’m a firm believer in the misery of metal…
It’s hard to be miserable when the mighty ANVIL comes to town. Believe it or not, this was my very first experience with the grizzled Canadian metal band. What can I say? These dudes are entertaining in a way that very few bands are anymore. Lips connects with the crowd on a very personal level and relates a lot of hilarious stories about his interactions with MOTORHEAD and OZZY over the years, including pretty good imitations of Lemmy and Oz. I heard a number of people tell me he was naturally funnier than DON JAMIESON was. Lips got the show off to a cracking start by running right into the crowd to play ‘March Of The Crabs’ before running back on stage to slam into ‘666’.
You have so much fun with ANVIL that you might tend to forget what top notch players they are. Lips himself plays lead guitar in classic metal fashion, with overtones of NUGENT, MONTROSE and JOE PERRY. The real eye opener was bassist Chris Robertson, who delivered a super energetic set that a lot of guys half his age would have had trouble duplicating. He even got a chance to deliver a bass solo. He really was the missing piece of the ANVIL puzzle. That leaves drummer Robb Reiner, and wow, can this guy SLAM! What a FANTASTIC performance, including a drum solo that ranks with the best I have seen and that includes Neil Peart. This band is a true unit, and three very talented metal musicians.
The ANVIL set spanned their career and included expected hits like ‘Mothra’, ‘Metal On Metal’ and ‘Winged Assassins’. A lot of newer material like ‘Bitch In the Box’ and ‘Badass Rock N’ Roll’ fit very well with the classic stuff, showing these guys have stuck to their guns. Two stand out cuts were the doomy, almost Sabbath-like ‘This Is Thirteen’ and the cool melodic metal epic ‘Free As The Wind’, which was a bit more involved than the usual ANVIL sound. All in all, this was a tremendously fun set from a great band that you should go out of your way to see. A killer way to close the first night of the Bash!
Day Two started back at Club Garibaldi with a band called EVIL TERROR who were called in as last minute replacements. I must confess, I was out in the bar polishing off some hot wings and bullshitting with Johnny Vomit and some other headbangers so I really didn’t catch the set. However, I did hear enough of it to know they had a female lead singer and played raucous speed metal with a bit of rock ‘n’ roll flavor. In fact, old school speed metal seemed to be the pattern for the earlier Friday bands.
The Bash has had a history of bringing in good bands from Mexico over the years and another one hit the stage now in the form of THUNDERSLAVE. Never heard of these guys before, but they really had a handle on early 80’s speed metal ala AGENT STEEL, SAVAGE GRACE, EXCITER and the like. The mop haired lead singer’s voice was so high pitched and squeaky it made my balls hurt just listening to him. The helium vocals got a little over the top, but the band really delivered a scorching fast set complete with shredding guitar work. Somehow these Mexican and South American bands make 80’s style metal look natural and normal whereas most Gringo bands seem to be straining for authenticity. THUNDERSLAVE came a long way for a 20 minute set but they packed maximum energy into it.
WARSENAL came screaming in from the opposite side of North America, the Canadian province of Quebec, which is a red hot base for metal these days. They were out on tour opening for SEAX and were nicely positioned between THUNDERSLAVE and SEAX. They were a bit rawer than the Mexicans and seemed to inject a good deal of raw rawk and even punk into their attack. They got the job done, but to be honest, their tunes came across as a bit faceless to me and sounding a lot like each other.
Following WARSENAL’s set, I ran across the street to the Cactus Club for the first time to catch ARA in action. The Cactus is smaller than Garibaldi but I actually like this room better. The sound is always great there and the more confined feeling usually leads to a livelier crowd. As for ARA themselves, they are a native Wisconsin band that has been around a while but which I’ve never heard. They may have very well been the harshest and most purely heavy band I’ve seen all weekend. In contrast to the resolutely old school sounds emanating from Club Garibaldi, these guys played a super dissonant and brutal form of modern death metal. A disorienting blast of dense, off the wall riffing coupled with nonstop guttural vocals made ARA a challenging experience. The crowd was fairly small for them and their stage presence wasn’t exactly electric, but I actually liked their set because it was different from almost anything else playing that weekend.
After ARA, it was another brisk jog through bone-chilling wind to Club Garibaldi to see speed metal demons SEAX play. This was the first of the bands to play that I was really looking forward to. The previous acts THUNDERSLAVE and WARSENAL were good appetizers for this full-fledged entree of raging early 80’s speed metal. Think of a head on collision between EXCITER and AGENT STEEL, with some touches of OMEN and MERCYFUL FATE tossed in. Again we got the high pitched helium vocals, although not to the extent of THUNDERSLAVE. These guys left nothing on the table and played balls out through the whole set, touching on songs off their new Fallout Rituals LP and bringing the house down with a furious cover of PRIEST’s ‘Rapid Fire’. This was a band made to be seen live.
After SEAX’s set, I was in need to some refreshment so I visited the nearby neighborhood grocery store Groppi’s, which is a hell of a cool place. Got a cold libation, a giant homemade oatmeal raisin cookie and a bag of junk food. Not many places you can experience a cosy, family-owned store like this anymore! The downside of my pit stop is that I missed almost all of the Cactus Club set from BOUND BY THE GRAVE. I made it in time for their last tune, which sounded like a crusher in the vein of MASSACRE or early DEATH. Johnny Vomit told me these dudes hammered hard…I regret missing more by this band, but it is super hard to see every single act during a multi-day fest like this…
VULGAR DEVILS from Cleveland was called in on very short notice to replace ANVIL BITCH, who had the bad taste to break up and not tell the promoter about it. That’s just no class. The DEVILS featured Dave Overkill and Matt Flammable of DESTRUCTOR, a band that has graced the Bash on multiple occasions and always torn the house down. Whereas DESTRUCTOR is total thrash, VULGAR DEVILS are a bit more rock n roll in their approach. They are still heavy metal and still fast, but not strictly interested in stripping the paint off the walls. There’s some definite MOTORHEAD influence here. I enjoyed the set! So much that I picked up their album Temptress Of The Dark on the spot. Speaking of which, the title track of that album is a total killer live! I would see these guys again in a minute, and I noticed that even super fussy King Fowley of DECEASED was nodding his head in approval during the set.
Back over at the Cactus Club, gruesome death metallers ESTUARY were already slamming in front of a packed house. This is the band led by female growlbeast Zdenka Prado, who I think has the most guttural vocals of any woman around…and better than most guys as well! The band now features well traveled drummer Kyle Severn, best known for his INCANTATION work, and that gives them some extra oomph. If you like crushing death metal with discrete riffing, this is a band to see. A perfect mixture of Swedish and American DM influences and Zdenka is amazing live.
I first saw AT WAR at the Metal Threat show held in Chicago a few years back. Paul Arnold’s band of scruffy war-mongers have been on the frontlines since the mid-’80s. To be honest, I always thought their recorded output suffered because of poor production. Live is where this power trio thrives and we saw the proof tonight. In an intimate room like Club Garibaldi, their crude, punky thrash comes across with brute force intensity. They churned out favorites like ‘Semper Fi’ (complete with OOH RAHs), ‘Ordered To Kill’ and more, but their all-time classic has to be ‘Ilsa, She-Wolf Of The SS’, which just rocks like hell and is sure to satisfy all fans of sleazy thrash. A good set from these war-hardened vets.
As rough and ready as AT WAR was, the real beatdown of the weekend came next with CARDIAC ARREST’s all-out attack at the Cactus Club. That small room was seething with pit-crazed bangers eager to get their skulls crushed by this Chicago band’s oozing old school death metal. These maniacs have always had the secret of putting a sick type of groove into their diseased mayhem that grabs you by the neck and shakes you around. They started the most furious and actually the most dangerous moshpit of the entire weekend; I got slammed around hard a couple of times and things were just about ready to break down into a fight. Thankfully that never materialized as CARDIAC barreled into tracks like ‘Embrace The End’ and ‘Carnage Your Fate’. If you ever get a chance to see these guys play live, which isn’t often anymore, don’t miss it, as they embody the sickness of death metal like few other bands.
DECEASED is another veteran of the Bash. Last time they played was at the old Metal Grill, when they tore the house down. This time they hit Club Garibaldi with more of their speed/death metal tinged with hints of classic bands like IRON MAIDEN and JUDAS PRIEST. Anybody who’s seen lead man King Fowley in action knows he’s one of the underground’s real characters. He gives inspiration to fat old metal guys like me with his dedication and wild stage antics. He doesn’t leave anything on the table, let’s put it that way! The band’s set list traveled all the way from ‘Fading Survival’ which originated in the late ’80s to ‘Mrs. Allardyce’ from their new album Ghostly White. King dedicated the set to band drummer Dave Castillo, who passed away in a drowning accident earlier in the year. This band has always been super tight and although I sometimes disagree strongly with some of King’s metal opinions, there’s absolutely no denying his lifelong allegiance to underground metal.
The final Cactus Club band of the night was COVEN 6669, formerly known as COVEN. This Seattle thrash band was infamous for infantile sex and Satan lyrics in their late 80’s heyday. They were a band I always kind of relegated to the second or third tier of the thrash scene, but I’ll be damned if they didn’t put on a fun and entertaining oldschool set of pure thrash tonight. Bearded singer Jay Clark was a dynamo of tasteless energy, introducing “classics” like ‘Iron Dick’, ‘Out Of The Grave’ and ‘Ted Bundy’. As you can guess, it was easy on the brain and no heavy thinking needed. When your most popular tune is ‘Fucking A Nun’, that kinda tells you what you need to know. Fun set, especially for nostalgic thrashers.
Speaking of thrash nostalgia, the final band of the night has to rank high on the list of thrashers that flew under the radar: EVILDEAD! These SoCal maniacs unleashed one of the fastest albums of its time in Annihilation Of Civilization. They graced the Garibaldi stage for us tonight. Not going to lie, by the time they rolled in, I was pretty tired, so I caught their set from the back of the room. The crowd by this time wasn’t bad, but it obviously had thinned out and the local bars were full of bangers. EVILDEAD hit the stage as hard as they knew how. There has always been an “urban” feel to this band and their baseball hatted singer could have easily passed for a rapper. The guitarist with the headband looked to be a dead ringer for wrestler Terry Funk in his ECW days. I’d describe EVILDEAD’s music as NUCLEAR ASSAULT meets SUICIDAL. I enjoyed it, but honestly, it was not something that stood out hugely for me. I missed the last couple of songs from them. Back to the hotel and whatever shuteye I could muster…
I had plenty of time to kill before festivities resumed at Club Garibaldi around 2:30 in the afternoon. Saturday was finally a pretty decent day, without howling winds freezing my tender flesh. I decided to poke around the trendy area of Bayview about a mile away from where the Bash was taking place. I nosed around the local library, which is always a favorite haunt of mine, for a while and then headed down to the restaurant district.
I grabbed a pretty good Asian meal at a place called the Hungry Sumo. This was a hell of a lot better than the overrated hipster sausage joint Vanguard, where I got snubbed last year. I had an excellent seaweed salad, which isn’t easy to find in my hometown of Rockford, and a nice spicy bowl of Pad Kee Mao. I recommend this place!
Then I headed down to long-running record shop Rush-Mor Records, which is always worth a visit. I picked up ACID’s Engine Beast as well as Canadian band OVERLORD’s Back Into The Dragon’s Lair, both exceedingly hard to find. The metal selection here is eclectic and odd, but their prog and rockabilly sections are outstanding. While I was there, I ran into a couple of the guys from COVEN 6669, who tore up the Cactus Club the night before. Cool guys and it’s always fun to rap about underground metal with guys that have participated in the scene.
Well, the final ever day of NYDM Spring Bash beckoned and I was back at Club Garibaldi to catch as much of it as I could. First band up was one I’ve been hearing about for quite a while now, Chicago’s MOLDER. These guys play rancid death metal much in the vein of CARDIAC ARREST and CIANIDE and are another fine addition to Chicago’s line-up of crude and riffy death metal bands. Their tunes had a bit of the same sick “swing” that CARDIAC is known for. I really look forward to hearing a lot more from these guys!
ULTHAR was one of the bands I was most looking forward to checking out. They hail from that fertile West Coast death metal scene that has spawned bands like ACEPHALIX, NECROT & VASTUM. Their debut album Cosmovore vomited forth some of the most mind-warping death I’ve heard recently and that’s what they delivered. Super intense MORBID ANGEL/SUFFOCATION style death metal with insane speed, time changes and a non-stop barrage of guttural, harsh vocals. That sounds great, but these guys had all the aggressive stage presence of a basset hound doped up on cough syrup. Zero crowd interaction or even any sign that they knew a crowd was there. They said nothing and when the set was done, they left like monks on their way to morning prayers. I don’t care how amazing your technical ability is, if you don’t have the ability to entertain, you’re not going to impress live. Pretty disappointed in ULTHAR’s performance.
Another band from Mexico by the name of ACERUS was next. These guys were a definite change from the first two acts, as they favored a very classical, traditional kind of metal with very dramatic, almost operatic vocals. They played almost as if they had walked out of a time portal leading to 1987. Unfortunately, the vocals did not come across all that well due to a poor sound. In fact, poor vocal sound plagued a number of the early bands playing Saturday at Garibaldi. If you liked that ’80s style of power metal, chances are you liked ACERUS but I wish the fruity richness of the singer’s tones was able to come across.
After ACERUS. I made my way to Groppi’s to get some grub. That caused me to miss the first part of KUBLAI KHAN’s set. These dudes were yet another second division thrash band from the 80’s. I was told by a couple of folks that the early part of their performance was very awkward. When I got there, I was for the most part satisfied by what I heard….very fast, Bay Area style thrash. There was some amateurish moments between songs, but I had no major complaint. I’m guessing this might have been the first time these guys played live in front of a crowd in quite a while so a little awkwardness was understandable. And once again, the sound man did a poor job on the vocals, which is once more not KUBLAI KHAN’s fault.
First band at The Cactus Club was Minnesota’s OUTSIDE THE MURDER. I recognized these guys immediatelyas fans who attended many previous editions of the Bash. I believe they even have run a merch table a time or two. Well, now they were on stage and belting out a modern form of brutal death metal with a ton of breakdowns and bellowing vocals. The music I didn’t think was anything particularly special, but the dudes put their all into it with a lot of physical action and some crowd interaction. So although their tunes didn’t technically match up with ULTHAR’s, they put on a more entertaining show by far. There’s a lesson there.
Randy tried to carefully arrange set times so there was as little overlap between them as possible, but unfortunately there was now some definite conflict between the shows, leading me to miss the first few tunes by RENEGADE at Club Garibaldi. That was unfortunate, because this long running Wisconsin band delivered one of the most surprising gigs of the weekend. Apparently they have a kind of cult reputation among Wisconsin metal fans and I could see why. They were one of the least metal looking acts I’ve ever seen and looked more like some awful popcore band like DANCE GAVIN DANCE. Looks are deceiving because this bunch cut loose with some blistering fast metal in the traditional vein. This was stuff like LIEGE LORD or SAVAGE GRACE, with great twin guitar work and high energy. To put the exclamation point on RENEGADE’s set, they did a picture perfect cover of THIN LIZZY’s ‘Emerald’, one of the best metal songs ever written in my humble opinion. I sure hope to hear more of RENEGADE in the future!
At The Cactus Club, Green Bay’s DUSK delivered the slowest set of the weekend. This band has been around since the early 90’s but because of geographic location and the kind of music they play, they’ve not been that well known. They play LONNNG tunes of crushing and miserable funeral doom, like a stripped down version of MY DYING BRIDE. They even brought a female singer on stage for one tune, to contrast with the bestial growls otherwise being emitted. These guys started by playing to a sparse crowd but by the end of their set had attracted more curious onlookers. Their slow and brutal metal, laced with Gothic and industrial touches, won me over and provided something just a little bit different for the Bash faithful.
JACOB’S DREAM is yet another cult metal band that Randy managed to book for the Bash. The guy has an uncanny knack for signing these kind of bands that rarely play out. I knew their name but had never heard a note from them before their set at Club Garibaldi. Wow, what a talented band this is! I’ve seen them described as progressive metal and there is that element to them, but like RENEGADE, they played with a lot of metal fire and fury. Think of a combination of NEVERMORE and QUEENSRYCHE in their more metallic moments. The lead singer of this band was AMAZING and may have had the most technically perfect voice of anybody playing this year. Once again, this was yet another band that I would never have had a chance to see if not for Spring Bash.
A trip back to the Cactus Club brought me into contact with brutal death metallers GLUTTON FOR PUNISHMENT. This was pretty much boilerplate standard death metal with little identity of its own. The guys seemed vigorous enough on stage and the crowd seemed to enjoy them, but I just wasn’t feeling it. Maybe I just needed a breather. After a couple of nondescript songs, I headed to the bar to whet my whistle.
To make up for this disappointment, THE CHASM delivered the best gig of the weekend. This mystical Latino death metal band has been one of the unsung treasures of the underground for decades. I recall seeing them more than 20 years ago in Freeport, IL and talking to mainman Daniel Corchado. Wow, I barely have words to describe the perfection of their set. They started with one of the best intro tunes in death metal history, ‘Revenge Rises’, before blasting into ‘Drowned In The Mournful Blood’. THE CHASM’s style is unique and hard to describe…technical death metal with traces of black metal and odd melodies. The set was a whirlwind of blazing death metal perfectly played. The stage presence and movements of the band were everything a live death metal band should be…an archetype! Even Corchado’s short hair that made him look like an insurance salesman didn’t mar their stage presence. The crowd was blown away watching THE CHASM and I can say with assurance that this was one of the best performances in the 10 year history of the Bash. Now I can only hope that some major metal label picks these guys up and invests in them in a way fitting to their talent!
By the time I got back over across the street, INCINERATE was already almost half way through their set. Oh well…I wouldn’t have left THE CHASM early for anything. INCINERATE were yet another brutal slamming death metal band, sounding much like DYING FETUS and DEVOURMENT getting together and having an ADHD afflicted kid. The music was not particularly memorable or different but the execution was tight and there was some fun banter between bouts of mayhem. I don’t know whether I was in a better headspace, but I liked INCINERATE’s set better than GLUTTON FOR PUNISHMENT’s. Just one of those things…
There was only one band out of the entire weekend that I had zero interest in seeing and that was CARNIVORE A.D., the hackneyed “tribute” band dedicated to playing early CARNIVORE tunes. This stuff sets my teeth on edge. If Lips gets killed in a car accident, does that mean we will have an ANVIL A.D. running around? Is there going to be a MOTORHEAD A.D. with no original members? I understand that CARNIVORE A.D. now has not one single member that ever played in the original band. Fuck this nonsense. I stuck my head in long enough to see a guy looking like a short version of Pete Steele at the mike. I have no time for grave robbing ghouls like this so I went back out to the bar area to hobnob with Mad Brad Toth and members of CARDIAC ARREST for a while.
Feeling refreshed and ready for the final sprint to the end of Spring Bash, I made it back to the Cactus Club to see Milwaukee originals MORTA SKULD busting skulls with their meaty and morbid death metal. I prefer this slower and more macabre form of death to the insane brutality of INCINERATE and the like. The band has played the Bash several times before and delivered no real surprises, but if you like death metal sounding like a slightly more complex and thoughtful OBITUARY, then MORTA SKULD is for you!
Sweden’s MINDLESS SINNER was the sole European metal band appearing at the Bash this year. Getting these kind of bands is becoming harder and harder because of the extreme difficulty of getting visas and paperwork in order. The visa issue has been a real killer during past Bashes and I remember very clearly bands like Japan’s LOUDNESS and Belgium’s EVIL INVADERS having to pull out at the last minute. I was quite surprised to see MINDLESS SINNER show up and successfully run that gauntlet. And I’m glad they did! This was a cult band from the ’80s that I really knew nothing about. Well now I know. These guys played what can only be called ’80s Euro metal…it was hard and fast, but not thrash. Influences from ACCEPT and elder bands like CUTTY SARK and OVERDRIVE were very apparent. The dudes kind of looked their age and only the one long haired guitarist looked “metal” but damn, they were tight and on point for their whole set. Once again, Randy knows how to dig up obscure bands that can get the job done. I even chatted briefly with the MINDLESS guys….nice fellows!
For the very last time, I trotted back over to Cactus Club to witness the return of Chicago’s warriors of cryptic metal, USURPER! The band recently released their first record in 14 years, Lords Of The Permafrost. This was one “retired” band that I always knew would return and leave it to Randy to book them. These dudes drove the packed club into a frenzy. They poured about as much dry ice fog as RAMMSTEIN uses in a year onto the stage and hit with a thunderous bang. Many “EUGH’s” and “AAGH’s” were belted forth by vocalist Dan Tyrantor, proving the always strong CELTIC FROST connections of USURPER are still there. They played a lot of stuff from the new album including the title track and ‘Beyond The Walls Of Ice’, but also visited the past classics like ‘I Am Usurper’ and ‘Skeletal Season’. New bassist Scott Maelstrom did fine, but I must admit, I missed the brooding presence of old bassist Jon Necromancer. On the whole, USURPER was the perfect band to bring the Cactus Club portion of Bash X to an end.
Now, only one was left…
It’s funny how what goes around, comes around. I remember telling Randy around the time of Bash 2 or Bash 3 that veteran SoCal thrashers HIRAX would be a perfect band to get for the festival. Year after year, I kept hoping that this would be the year.. And now, the very last band to ever play NYDM Spring Bash would be HIRAX…
They lived up to the expectation and more. HIRAX is a fine band to hear on record, but live, they are so much more intense. They live for the stage! Their longtime frontman Katon W. DePena has always been one of the coolest and most dedicated guys in the entire underground metal scene. He hit the stage with every ounce of energy he had and even the fans who were bone tired and barely hanging on (like me) felt a new burst of power just watching him. Some of the later HIRAX albums are not the equal of the earlier ones, but live, newer tracks like ‘Black Smoke’ and ‘Hostile Intent’ burned with thrashing mayhem. And older ones like ‘Lightning Thunder’ and ‘Raging Violence’ had the pit in ecstasy. Katon ran all around the place, pulling goofy faces and gesturing at the crowd. This is what the underground is all about. And just like that, with this final surge of metallic energy, the set was over and with it, ten years of Spring Bash reached its logical conclusion.
Some final thoughts on this. There’s no doubt I will miss this event in the future. Not only as a great way to see bands that would otherwise be impossible to see, but also as a social event that allowed you to hobnob with friends into the same music as you. Met a ton of interesting people at the Bash over the years.
I can understand wanting to put an end to it. It’s a ton of work, lots of unexpected problems that crop up and the hard truth is that the underground extreme metal scene in the US is just not what it was. The attendance at Bash X was in no way bad, but at no time was it close to a sellout. This year there were a lot of familiar faces that didn’t show up. I just get the impression that the fanbase in the States is getting tired and not as fanatically driven as they once were. There’s no doubt it’s getting older, too, and not as many younger kids in the crowd.
I contrast it with what I see from shows in South America and India where the metalheads seem batshit crazy, young and filled with enthusiasm to see underground bands in action. In other words, they are what we once were in the 1980s. The torch belongs to bands in these areas and Europe, where love of metal is passed from one generation to another. In America, the tide has passed and anybody who thinks otherwise is really deluding themselves.
I know Randy wanted to go out on a high note and he did. This was the year to cap it all off. Maybe someday metal fever will burn brightly in the States again, when a new generation gets sick of autotune, mumble rap and Dad rock with no balls. That generation can look at the history of NYDM Spring Bash to see how a grassroots metalfest should be done.