November 13, 2010

Rock Hollow Gun Club, Freeport, IL

By Dr. Abner Mality

I've been doing the ILDM Thanksgiving shows at Rock Hollow since their inception and continue to enjoy this cozy little metal festival in the country. This year's proceeds were going to the Marines' "Toys for Tots" charity and I'm happy to say a ton of toys and cash were donated. Although I shudder to think what kind of "toys" the brothers of the ILDM might bring, especially to a show featuring such family oriented bands as Sikfuk, Mutilated by Zombies and the Hollywood Dirtbags!

ILDM Bossman Randall decided to pull out the stops for the fifth anniversary show by making this a real bash. Twice the amount of bands as usual appeared this year and the show kicked off around 3:00 in the afternoon instead of the usual 6:00 or 7:00 starting time. It was a heck of a risk and the fest started in a rather subdued fashion before really picking up steam in the evening. I am hoping that the ILDM didn't take too much of a bath.

It was a dreary November day and I was actually sick as a dog, which somewhat cut into my enjoyment, but I wouldn't miss this show for anything, it's a permanent part of my yearly schedule. The good vibrations and camaraderie at this strangely homy hunting and fishing club are becoming legendary.

Found out right away that a couple of the bands had to back out: Wisconsin grind psychos Meth Tooth and local Freeport metalcore stalwarts Abandon All Hope had to ditch the fest. Well, that loosened things up for the rest of the bands and allowed those that remained to play a couple of extra tunes each.

Beyond the party-like atmosphere, I've found that Randall and his buddies have pretty impeccable taste putting together a diverse underground metal show focusing on different sounds. This is not the show to go to if you want ten goregrind bands with squealing vocals or a whole mess of indistinguishable deathcore bands playing. Despite the extra length of the show, this was one of the most diverse...and enjoyable...outings so far. Let me briefly give my impressions of the bands I saw:

EMBALMMENT: This Rockford deathcore band had the awkward task of starting the show. I have seen them before and they still are pretty tentative on the live stage. The heaviness and sickness is there, but there's pretty much zero stage banter beyond stuff like "This next one is..." and the dudes lack energy, especially since they are playing such raging stuff. This band has plenty of time to grow and they're going to need to spice it up would be great to have a TRUE death metal band from Rockford.

KROTCH RIPPER: I've heard of these dudes and was pretty mollified to find out that they had heard of me! So maybe I really AM infamous after all! Anyway, these 3 guys and a drum machine played some pretty groovy and sick death metal with some real catchy riffs. The drum machine sound was weak....they gotta get a real human being to play with them. I was impressed with them and look forward to hearing more.

MUTILATED BY ZOMBIES: This Dubuque band really delivered the goods when it came to traditional death metal. They covered all the bases for those into Obituary/Deicide/Incantation style death and they also boasted one of the DEEPEST DM vocalists I've heard who still has good articulation. Those sick, deep vocals boost thick material like this immensely. Keep an eye out for this bunch...even if they might gouge it out.

HOLLYWOOD DIRTBAGS: As you might imagine from the name, these guys were more into sleazy, raw rock music, like a cross between Nashville Pussy and Motley Crue. The crowd really dug it and threw the horns big time for these dudes, who probably would have been kicked out at more "elite" death metal festivals. The bandana'ed vocalist had a pretty ripping scream that was very intense in its own way and there was also a lot of funny banter. The guitarist quipped "The handbook of rock n' roll says that after the third song, you should always ask everybody how they're doing. HOW Y'ALL DOING?!" Good fun stuff!

FINAL DAYS: Final Days is the new project of former Hog Tied front-man Rocky James, one of the craziest fuckers in the Northern Illinois scene. Wherever you see a pile of crushed beer cans on the floor, Rocky will be there...with a bloody forehead! Final Days has a lot of that Southern-fried Hog Tied sound, but the country parts sounded more country and the heavy parts were heavier. Rocky's got himself a hell of a crazy axeman with diminutive guitarist Zeke, who can jam like hell. The drummer is also pretty manic. Songs ranged from pure southern sludge to fast thrashing stuff to a track with almost Johnny Cash-like acoustic work. Hope Final Days can succeed where Hog Tied didn't.

ANGELIC VISCERA: I think the ILDM Thanksgiving bash might be the only show I've ever seen where gritty Southern metal has been followed up with epic black metal of the purest Norwegian vintage. Damn, I cannot believe these three guys hail from Rockford...they do some of the best "frozen" BM riffage I've ever heard from an American band. No face paint or spikes and the band leader looked like a clean cut boy straight from First Evangelical, but wow! That selfsame dude sported not only fierce croaks but a very strong clean vocal approach and even some deep death grunts. A cross between Immortal and Burzum from Rockford, playing at a hunting lodge in Freeport? Better believe it, fuckers! These dudes need to be heard.

DISSENTER: These guys came all the way from Omaha, NE and just about burned the Rock Hollow club to a cinder with their extreme violent thrash metal. Man, I love this stuff. This band played their thrash hard and mean, with no let up, no "nice bits" and no overly technical stuff. Kreator was a huge influence and to prove it, they ended with a scorching cover of "Tormentor". Lots of early Slayer and Possessed in their attack as well and a crazy ass drummer. I will remember their name!

ENABLER: Believe it or not, things got even more intense with this insane two-man crustcore outfit. Two-man, you say? Yep...a singer/guitarist and a drummer on occasional vocals. No bassist. And man, did it kick ass. Imagine a steaming mix of old Napalm Death, early Frost/Hellhammer and super crusty punk ala Discharge and Amebix. The long-haired guitarist was the most hilarious guy on stage banter all night long and song titles like "Last Time I Gave A Shit, I Got Fucked" give you an idea where they are coming from lyrically. They did an awesome speeded up cover of Sabbath's "Snowblind" and pretty much ignited the biggest pit I saw that night. Crude, filthy, neck-wrecking stuff!

40 OZ FIST: Hailing from Milwaukee, this 6 man wrecking crew played a style of extreme metal I'm not overly fond of, but they put so much intensity into their set, I had to be impressed. Plus, it really helped that we didn't have four or five similar bands playing in a row. The variety of the show helped these guys stand out. To describe them, I would say imagine Slipknot meeting Dillenger Escape Plan in Cannibal Corpse's backyard. The two vocalists unleashed an unbelievably harsh screaming assault that pushed the limits of sanity. On one track, they traded ultra-rapid roars like a pair of human burp guns. A lot of it was just plain aggression without much form, but man, what aggression it was! Also have to mention the bald guitarist on the wireless guitar, who played most of his set in the crowd, up by the bar, etc, etc.

GORGY: Hey there, Gorgy girl....heh heh, couldn't resist that. By this point of the show, illness, antibiotics and painkillers had me about out on my feet, so Gorgy was the last real band I caught. These boys were nothing less (or more) than pure gory death metal in the traditional style of Midwest faves like Lividity, Fleshgrind and Cardiac Arrest. One item that has to be mentioned is the incredible pumpkin orange mohawk of the lead singer, which had to be close to 3 feet tall. So unbelievable was this masterpiece that when he was on stage in front of a stage light and turned sideway, the whole room was bathed in an orange light...coming through that monster mohawk. It was almost worth the price of admission just to see that classic do.

I feel bad that I missed the rest of the show due to my physical state, but the show had really blossomed after a slow start and now drew an enthusiastic and chummy crowd. I met Jason from 815 Productions and got a long sought after Tombstones CD from him for just $5. Also rapped with members of Krotch Ripper and the Bossman himself, Randall Mikkelson.

Just in the interests of completeness, here's the acts that went on AFTER I left:

SIKFUK: Notorious one-man death metal unit, known for insane pig squealing vocals, retarded lyrics and programmed drum machine fun.

BURIAL RITUAL: Really regretted not seeing this great death metal outfit from Milwaukee. Very impressed with what I've heard from them on the net.

SELF INFLICTED GENOCIDE: No idea what these guys were about, but from the name, I'm guessing chill out electronica was not their forte.

ALTERED EXISTENCE: Death metal veterans from Peoria, they played the Bash last year and delivered a solid show.

INVADERS: Very renowned Iron Maiden cover band. Usually I could care less about cover bands, but I've heard nothing but raves about these guys and felt bad I couldn't check them out.

I sure hope Randall and the ILDM can put together another great show like this next year. I hope it stays at the Hollow,too...that place has a vibe that can't be duplicated elsewhere!