(Our long-standing supporter and guest writer Black Shuck turns in this report on the inaugural Blood of the Wolf Fest, which took place in Lexington, Kentucky, on Feb 22, 2014. All photos are by AnnSydney Taylor.)
A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of experiencing the dark, mysterious ritual known as the Blood of the Wolf Fest. What’s that, you haven’t heard of it? That’s because this was the first one to ever take place. I’d be very suspicious if you had. (For any reader who had heard about it, take your scrying pool and begone, wizard. We’ll hold no truck with your starry-hatted nonsense here.)
This festival was the brainchild of those Kentuckian warriors of chaos, Tombstalker. Primarily organized by vocalist/guitarist Anton Escobar and bassist Chuck McIntyre, the lineup featured several bands from a group known as the Wolven Brotherhood. The Brotherhood was founded several years ago by Tombstalker and Dawn of Wolves (now Valdrin), when they released their split Cemetery Wolven Ritual (are you sensing a theme here?). The Brotherhood has now expanded to include many other bands from across the country. Presumably their collective subject material has also expanded to cover things that are not wolves, although I hold out hope that I will have a place there once my one-man black metal band, Death to the Three Little Pigs, gets off the ground.
Anyways, on with the fest. Note: All of the excellent photographs that appear here were taken by one AnnSydney Taylor. The festival poster and banner were designed by Lucas Ruggieri.
A prior commitment that Islander would likely describe as “the old fuckin’ day job” prevented me from making it to the venue until around six, so I sadly missed the first four bands (I’ve included Facebook or Bandcamp pages at the end of this piece for those bands whose sets I missed and didn’t get to cover here, with the exception of Lurking and Dirtbag, for whom no music could be found). I came in just as Valdrin were sound checking.
As I mention above, Valdrin have been around for a while under one name or another. They play a brand of black metal that tends towards the melodic, with symphonic parts permeating the music here and there. Some of the rhythms had a sort of “bouncy” feel to them, which when combined with the guitar parts reminded me of dark carnival music (definitely a good thing). The vocalist tended to follow the rhythm as well, which helped the bouncy feel and definitely got heads bobbing in the crowd. But there was plenty of raw aggression to be found in their set as well; their first song began with an eerie, De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas-eque intro and quickly moved into a relentless blaze of riffage, and “Through The Catacombs” had a fantastic moment where the music went into furious riffing, paused for half a second, then exploded in a frenzy of drumming, headbang-inducing guitar, and a skin-searing scream from the vocalist. The effect in our tiny little venue was crushing. Also of note were some impressive solos provided by vocalist and guitarist Carter Hicks.
I missed the set of the next band, Deanimator, because I am a dumb stupidhead and did not realize that the sets were alternating between two different buildings until too late. So the next band I caught was a death metal band from Richmond, Virginia, Organ Donor. It was an immensely enjoyable set. The music was aggressive, fast-paced death metal with an old-school tinge, reminding me a little bit of Chris Barnes-era Cannibal Corpse. It occasionally let up for some truly excellent breakdowns that got heads banging, including mine, but for the most part the band simply kept firing on all cylinders. The crowd responded enthusiastically, moshing, fist-pumping, horn-throwing, horn-fisting, goat fucking, etc. Definitely a band worth paying a lot more attention to.
Next up was Tombstalker, previously covered by me on this website here and here. In the interest of not beating a dead horse, I will only say that they did not disappoint (I’ve seen them live before, they never disappoint), bringing their brand of crusty, grimy filth to a crowd that ate it up and asked for seconds. They’ve also tweaked their image a bit; the members are now performing in more traditional black metal trappings, such as black facepaint around the eyes (and in the case of Escobar, streaked across the face like war paint) and (presumably) fake blood. This works well for them, and helps add another layer of evil to an already dark sound.
After Tombstalker was another brutal death band, going by the name of Mangled. Similar to Organ Donor, but with more emphasis on catchy riffs and grooves than aggression. The band members all wore bloodstained butcher’s aprons, and employed a dual low/high vocal approach that reminded me of Exhumed. They put on an excellent show, chugging and grooving and getting necks and people moving. The frontman knew his business, and the crowd was accordingly hyped, going so far as to crowdsurf, which I found impressive given the size of the venue. Another band worth keeping an eye out for.
Up next was a band called Casket, who ply their trade with a crusty brand of death metal similar to Tombstalker’s, but with more emphasis on the crust. There were some excellent moments in their set; the band certainly know how to write a good riff. But whether it was due to poor sound quality in the venue, or me standing in a poor spot acoustically, or the guitars being too low or the drums too high, there were times where the actual music tended to get lost in the wall of noise, and I ended up finding songs they’d posted on Facebook to get a better idea of their sound. But don’t let that give you the wrong impression. It is an excellent sound, dark, grimy, and head-bobby all rolled into one. I’d like the chance to see these guys again.
I got dinner at the bar while Locusta played their set. Melodic, technical death metal in the vein of Spawn of Possession or Decrepit Birth, the band brought the riffage with a vengeance. Health notice: The surgeon general has advised that discreetly headbanging with a mouthful of food is a choking hazard. But totally worth it.
I finished eating just in time to make it over to the next building to see Coffin Dust, who play a grimy, downtuned sort of death metal. Strangely, I seemed to have the same issue with them that I had with Casket: some really good moments made it through, but other times their music seemed to just be a wall of sound. I didn’t really seem to have this issue with other bands that played in this building. Maybe it did have to do with where I was standing. I really don’t know a whole lot about how achieving a good live sound works. But there were enough good moments that I still enjoyed their set.
Back to the main building to see Hellgoat. They play a serene sort of music, ambient and beautiful, causing your consciousness to transcend your body and blissfully drift through the musical dreamscapes they create.
Just kidding. They play savage fucking metal that shoves a spike up your asshole and drags you through hell.
Blasty and fasty like Marduk or 1349, raw and dark like Bestial Warlust, Hellgoat are unabashedly traditional, no-frills black metal. And it works. One thing I appreciated was how well the image of the band fit the music. The vocalist in particular. A tall, thin scarecrow of a man, with long, stringy blond hair and beard, he looked like some gaunt specter as opposed to a flesh-and-blood human being. The black corpsepaint around his eyes gave them a hollow look, and both he and the drummer (no bass player, which is something I feel like the band could have benefited from; a low end would have given their guitar parts an extra layer of heaviness and evil that would have been awesome) had dabbed blood across their arms and let it drip downward to make it look like they’d cut themselves. At least, I think that’s what they did. They may have done it for real. You can never be sure with these sorts of bands.
Next up was a band called Faithxtractor. They brought dark death metal with a thrashy edge to bear on the concert attendees. Their set was enjoyable, but no moment really stood out to me as truly memorable. The rest of the crowd was quite responsive, however, egged on by the band’s enthusiastic bass player.
The penultimate band of the night was Prosanctus Inferi. I kept wondering why their logo looked so damn familiar, but didn’t realize until the day after the fest that they had been featured on this very website back in September of last year (here). Either I had seen them and not listened, or had listened and somehow forgot about them. I feel pretty stupid for letting them slide under my radar, as Prosanctus Inferi are fantastic.
If you’re familiar with the band, you know they play a vicious, technical, and dark style of blackened death metal. This music absolutely crushes faces in a live setting. Their sound is huge. The onslaught of the drums lent a thunderous undercurrent to an already big guitar sound, deepening the sense of doom that their playing evokes. I really wish I had listened to/remembered them before the fest, and been able to experience the sort of enjoyment that comes from seeing a band live that you already like, but experiencing them for the first time here was great as well.
The final band of the night was Horrendous. They delivered a fine performance of new death metal that sounded old. They had two guitarists, but no bass player, which led to some lovely instances of one guitarist playing the lower parts of the song while the other performed some rockin’ leads over it. A wonderful way to end the night. Also providing entertainment during Horrendous’s set were the (by this point in the night probably quite intoxicated) two or three people happily keeping a little mosh pit alive. I suspect the people right in front of the stage were less enthused, as the moshers kept trying to include them by hitting them in the back, and in one peculiar case, draping an arm over somebody in “I LOVE you, man!” fashion.
And that was that. It was a rolicking good time, and I really enjoyed being around what was obviously a very tight-knit metal scene. Hopefully this continues to be a thing in the years to come.
Sonic Altar (from Kentucky, apparently there is also a New Zealand band with that name): https://www.facebook.com/pages/Sonic-Altar/208949575798946
Apochryphal Revelation: http://apochryphalrevelation.bandcamp.com/album/demo-2013-unearthly-fire