March 30, 2013

Live Wire, Chicago, IL

By Frater Mality

You know when you are at a REAL underground metal show? When you look at the backpatches and instead of Slayer, Pantera and even Immortal, you see the likes of Veles, Beherit and Pest instead! Of such subterranean roots arises a festival such as Cathedral of the Black Goat.

The Good Doctor has travelled into many darkened corners of the metal world, but never into an abyss as black as this. When battle-scarred thrashers Nocturnal Fear can be considered the most commercial band on display, you know you are on a new level of KULT. Put together by Myrmydon Antichristus and Pontifex Baal, those fun-loving disciples of Satan, the Cathedral of the Black Goat has been a magnet for bands who are not kindly disposed towards the Christian Church. This year's version was the most difficult to put together...but maybe ultimately the most successful.                                                                                                                                             

The line-up of bands was scary enough to turn Marilyn Manson into a member of the Westboro Baptist Church. All the way from Poland came the gas-masked terror commandos of Bestial Raids while goat-worshipping Morbosidad rolled in from Mexico. Demonic Christ, led by legendary female devil-worshipper Dana Duffey, put in an appearance. So did Black Witchery, Nyogthaeblisz, Nuclearhammer, Nocturnal Fear, Baphometic Fire, Nexul and Infernal Sacrament. I doubt if you could find a more nefarious gathering on the North side of Hell.

It just about didn't happen. With less than 24 hours notice, I learned that not only had the venue completely changed from what was advertised the last six months, but that the starting time of the fest had moved up four hours! It seems that infamous Polish mafia bar Cafe Lura, the original site, had the effrontery to lose their business license, forcing Myrmydon and Pontifex (hereafter known as Myrmy and Fex) to frantically search for someplace else to host the unholy shindig. Fortunately, the Live Wire bar bravely stepped up to the plate on short notice. Located only a few blocks from Cafe Lura, Live Wire was about half the size...a difference that was keenly felt. I spoke to a bleary-eyed doorman going into the Live Wire and he revealed that he had been up until 4:00 AM the night before preparing the club.

For a brief time, I considered maybe passing on the whole thing, but I sucked it up for Satan and headed into Chicago early on a sunny pre-Easter day. In retrospect, I am glad I made the trip, because Cathedral of the Black Goat was an experience like no other I've had in my 50 years on this planet. What more can be said about fans of metal in Chicago, Illinois? Despite the very short notice of change in time and venue, I found there was already a very healthy line waiting to get into the Live Wire at quarter past 11. The metalheads here are the most dedicated of any in the world. Believe it or not, once the venue changed, Mr. Antichristus changed the show into one supported by "free will donations". Person after person tossed $25,00 or sometimes even more into the donation buckets inside the club. I don't think this could have been pulled off as well anywhere else in the States.

Upon entering the venue at the rather un-witching hour of high noon, it was clear to see that humans would be packed together like a riot scene from "Soylent Green". Before the first band played, this fucker was already rammed to the gills. As the day wore on, the sweaty mass would become even more tightly packed, especially towards the front. Navigating this crowd of die-hard goat-worshippers required equal parts of brute force and cunning. It took a lot out of me.

First band Infernal Sacrament warmed us all up and got us in the mood for some good old down home blasphemy. Buzzsaw guitar riffs, sick vocals, machine gun drumbeats initiated the coven into the mysteries to unfold.  Clad in a crimson robe and sporting nailed armbands was singer Myrmydon Antichristus himself. The band sported hooded monks robes, a popular fashion choice for bands at the fest. Myrmy also sported that primitive black face paint...without the contrasting white corpse paint that so many European black metallers sport. Many bands today had this crude black facepaint, which I think may be intended as an antidote to the "too fancy" appearance of many "name" black metal bands. I also have to remark on the cool as hell mikestand, made up of what looked like human verterbrae with a wolf's skull on the end.

The show really heated up with the appearance of Baphometic Fire from Texas next. This band delivered an impassioned, ritualistic performance that helped me rediscover the power of black metal in the live setting. These dudes take their Satanism seriously. Their very LaVey-ish looking frontman, resplendent in a blood red robe, functioned more as high priest than lead singer. Reading solemnly from a grimoire that never left his hand, he screamed with extreme intensity, veins bulging on his bald head, almost weeping as he delivered a tortured sermon.  Between songs, he would often make gestures and read from his book. The band's music itself was droning, repetitive and high velocity black metal in very old school fashion. I suspect if I heard this material on CD alone, it might bore me, but live, it cast a very powerful spell on a packed crowd of admirers. These guys made a lot of converts on this day and I think America has a new assembly of black metal knights.

One thing I feel compelled to mention about the Cathedral of the Black Goat is the surprising amount of extremely hot chicks attending. Most underground metal shows draw women who look like they just escaped from an all-night truck stop, but not this one. Lots of hot Latina babes in tight black leather pants with bullet belts were there in particular. The old joke says that a metal show is attended by a hundred horny guys and three women who are ready to take them all on. I dunno, but it was a pleasant surprise to see the fair sex so well represented at the show.

Canadian band Nuclearhammer lived up to the promise their name implied and pretty much smashed the crowd to pulp with an ultra-brutal set of Blasphemy-inspired "war metal". Savage is the best way to describe this assault....low-tuned high velocity noise with sick slower breaks is what these guys specialized in. There were some sound problems with the vocals, but really, with what these guys do, who the fuck cares? We all know they are grunting and screaming odes dedicated to Satan and atomic warfare. An extremely punishing band, who made a good impression on the crowd.

Next came Nocturnal Fear with their screaming, diabolical thrash metal. Big drawback here was the complete lack of a bassist, who could have provided the thick bottom end the show lacked. But the remaining three members poured on the coal to make up for the conspicuous absence and they just about got away with it. The guitarist here was literally a sight to see...every inch of his bald head was covered with tattoos. I mean, EVERY inch! They should give this dude his own reality show...put him in a house with some Amish guys or something. More than that, he was a pretty amazing fret-man, cutting loose with wild solos and intricate fast-picking for extended lengths of time. Adding to the fun, the lead singer held up a copy of the Good Book for us heathens to light on fire. The Live Wire filled with the scent of burning bibles. I had visions of Great White and Rhode Island in my brain and this would not be the last time we saw the Holy Book ripped and burnt. As for Nocturnal Fear, I wasn't a big fan going in, but I will certainly keep an ear out for their forthcoming album "Sadistic Inquisition".

Got the munchies pretty bad after this so I headed next door to Mexican restaurant La Oaxaquena. This unfortunately caused me to miss the band Nexul, but I'm pretty sure they didn't do an unplugged set of old gospel favorites. My apologies to them. As for La Oaxaquena, well, it's well known the Doctor is an aficianado of Mexican food, so I was looking forward to this. The restaurant patrons were a surreal collection of Latino customers and denim and leather crusted fiends from the fest. Alas, I was rather underwhelmed, especially when my steak burrito came out cold. Never a good thing. But they nuked it and the result was acceptable. The fest goers were well treated by the folks there and I give them great respect for that!

Got back to the Live Wire just in time to see Black Witchery hit the stage. For many, these guys are heroes of the Satanic/war metal underground. They've been around for many years and never compromised their incredibly primitive and brutal sound one iota. This was like taking a bath in hellfire. Sporting the fashionable monk's robes and black face paint, they made for a pretty grim sight. There is absolutely NO variation or nuance in their approach. In the packed and intense atmosphere of the COTBG fest,  this worked out pretty well. Their tall, demonic looking guitarist is actually a guy named Steve who looks to be in his 50's.If you cut off his ponytail and put him in a business suit, he could be the CEO of any big corporation. Here, though, he was Satan's own archangel. Kudos must also go to Black Witchery's drummer, who looked like he was in absolute agony throughout the entire set playing the non-stop hyper-fast barrage on a stage that had to be hotter than Lucifer's armpit. I thought the guy was gonna pass out, but he made it all the way through the set, which ended with the volcanic explosion of "Command of the Iron Baphomet". A knee-buckling set from these  brethern...

The Lovecraftian horror of the unpronounceable Nyogthaeblisz was next and this trio was a welcome contrast to the hurricane winds of Black Witchery. They played an agonizing doom-filled wall of sound that could best be described as "sick". Very much in the Incantation "Onward to Golgotha" vein, but maybe even more bestial and crawling. I love horrific death-doom but by the end of Nyogthaeblisz's set, it got rather monotonous. This is a band for fans of only the most repulsive drone. The lead singer was a very unhealthy sight, wearing tattered robes. sporting white corpse paint with veins of black that dripped across his face as he roared gutturally along. There was something about this bald priest's features that came across as completely evil and unwholesome...a quality reflected in his band's music.
One would think that after the mayhem of Black Witchery and Nuclearhammer, there would be no further you could go in terms of extreme metal crazines. But one would be wrong. Time for Morbosidad...

These Mexican narco-satanists have been spreading bloodshed for a LONG time now and apparently have a huge cult following. That following was in full force tonight. The Live Wire had to be about 100 people over a fire code violation as Morbosidad hit the stage, making things VERY uncomfortable up front. But I wouldn't have missed this thrashing black slaughter for all the world. These dudes delivered a set that defined underground extremity! I don't care if you call 'em thrash, death or black metal, because they had aspects of all 3 genres, but don't call them dull. Led by their bald, blood-covered, bullet-belt festooned singer, this band is more akin to a volcanic eruption than a collection of human beings.

The real fun of Morbosidad's set came when the singer unleashed the infamous PIG'S HEAD upon the crowd. Pulling it out of a white bag, we got to see the porcine cranium in all its glory. Yeah, friends, this was the real actual PIG HEAD complete with eyeballs, floppy ears and lolling tongue. I thought it was a fake at first, but examining it up close later on proved that this was truly the dismembered noggin of some poor hog. I wonder if this poor animal could have imagined that it would some day be tossed around a black metal show in Chicago? The biggest laugh of the night came when some wag grabbed the head and forced it to headbang up at the front of the stage. That was incredibly sick but funny.

As for Morbosidad, they just ripped into one Spanish-lyriced ode to blasphemy after another. For good measure, they did the burning bible gimmick again and probably abused the Book even worse than Nocturnal Fear did earlier. Father, forgive them for they know not what they do. What an awesome beast of a set these dudes put forth.

Morbosidad was really impossible to top but we had two more bands yet to go. The band with the unenviable task of following the Mexicans was the venerable Demonic Christ, who have haunted the underground for almost 20 years. Their lead singer was Dana Duffey, who would hardly rate a glance if you were behind her at Wal-Mart, but once sporting spikes and black face paint, she becomes a screaming she-demon harshly belting out Luciferian odes. Women really can't match men when it comes to guttural death metal vocals, but raw black metal shrieks are a different story and Ms. Duffey's rasping vocals had a unique flavor to them that made Demonic Christ appealing. The band couldn't equal the bulldozing rage of Morbosidad, but instead channelled their music down a different path. I found their more composed and epic songs a welcome relief....still fast and evil, but with some real melody and even class. The crowd really came to life when they did an awesome cover of Venom's "Countess Bathory", which they did full justice to. I would also like to give props to drummer Jeffrey Mhaghnuis, who also beats the death skins for Ptahil (who would make a GREAT addition to a future COTB.

The last band for the Cathedral came all the way from Poland to play their first show on American shores. This was Bestial Raids. Well, they say Chicago has more Polish folk than anywhere except Krakow and Warsaw, so I imagine they felt at home. There was a bar Janina's up the street that featured only Polish beer. By the time these guys hit the stage, I was getting light-headed from the sweaty heat and claustophobic crowding inside the club. Just about towards the end of my rope. As for Bestial Raids, they are three short-haired and bespectacled young men who look like they could be selling term life insurance to suckers. That was the sound check, though. When they came on stage for the actual set, the drummer and guitarist were sporting actual WWII era full head gas masks, which they wore throughout the set. The singer/bassist was a bit more conventional, wearing a patchy denim vest and more of that black facepaint. These fuckers played WAR METAL, full blast. Think of stuff like old Sodom, Sarcofago, Bestial Warlust, Revenge, Conqueror and Angelcorpse. Super low tuned and merciless FILTH. The drummer was a beast and he gave the songs a real militaristic beat. The amazing thing about Bestial Raids set was that the bar was still packed even after an eight hour show.
I missed the very end, so if there was more pig head tossing, bible burning or blood letting, I did not see it. I got my taste of Hell at Cathedral of the Black Goat and despite the last minute craziness and the almost illegal conditions inside the club, I was glad I went. The next morning, Easter would come and I could go to confessional and speak of what I had done the day before....on second thought, maybe not. But I did atone somewhat by watching "King of Kings" on TCM.