Milwaukee Metalfest XV @ Milwaukee Auditorium August 10th and 11th, 2001

by Thrash-head

Abbreviated version of morning: awake, tired, shower, dress, frosted flakes, brush teeth & hair, backpack, CDs, map software, car, driving, pick up friends, more driving, pissed at friend in back for not shutting the fuck up, park, figure out oddball parking, walk to auditorium, go to back, get pass, try to get in front, told if have pass must go in back, go to back, I'm here!

Friday, August 10th
A bad review right off the bat! Painmask were a god-awful rap-metal band! I happen to like rap-metal, but this was a pathetic excuse for it, not to mention it was at metalfest. Where's the brutality!!! On the Digital Metal stage, I met my friends Matt and Randy to watch Rise; a superb black metal band from L.A., with the coolest head-banging keyboardist I've ever seen.

Here's where the fun begins. Michigan's Summon sets up and goes onstage, but much to my amazement, there's only one guitarist, and the bassist is the only vocalist. Then, midway into song 3,the singer strolls onstage, picks up his guitar, and jumps in... but without any guitar distortion! He sets his axe down, and then Necromodeus relinquishes vocal duties so that our hero can sing the whole set. Technical difficulties/entertaining shenanigans notwithstanding, this was a killer set by a no-bullshit black/death-metal band. "A" for effort!

Two bands later on the same stage, Promisques proved that just because you kicked ass the year before doesn't ensure you will again one year later. Chicks in the band and the lead guitarist's outfit aside, I couldn't get into it!

Immortal Cringe is one of those bands you wait for every year and they always kick ass! Being on the main stage this year helps for exposure, but it killed them in terms of sound quality. Their new bassist is fingerstyle and seems to be a little more adept at his instrument than the man he follows. There was a significant flaw in their set though, and that was the addition of two instrumentals, which is bad because their overall set time was a mere 20 minutes. Bottom line though, these guys are the second coming of Cynic, only a little less melodic, and a little more eccentric. If you guys are reading this, thanks for the free t-shirt too.


Around 7:30, I had to rest my tootsies and get a bite to eat with my lovely companion, Misery. After that I managed to somehow squeeze into the packed Digital Metal Stage to catch Macabre as they began. With Corporate Death in his red longjohns, the Chi-town boys played career-spanning cuts, and proved themselves again as reigning kings of satirical gore metal. Then, as Soilent Green didn't play due to illness, I ran over and caught Fog who amidst an awesome light show, gave an absolutely blistering set. Noctuary, move over! You've been dethroned as the best U.S. black metal band!

To start off a long sitting on the Nightfall stage, I was looking forward to The Chasm, who are always crowd-pleasers, who this time without warning, decided not to show up. So, we went off to the Snakenet stage to catch the reunited Helstar. While the main stage had terrible reverb all weekend, it provided excellent sound for the veteran thrashers, who absolutely floored me, especially when they broke into "Baptized in Blood". Kudos!

Sweden's Darkane has it's fair share of musicianship in the band, from the absolutely blazing guitar solos and riffage, to the 'Devin Townsend meets Anders Friden,' screaming of their frontman. They blasted through several killer songs, and even let a girl from the Century Media booth get in on the fun (she kicked ass on her death-ish screams!) for her birthday. After this, Catasrophic took the stage, proving you can take Trevor Peres out of Obituary, but you can't take Obituary out of Trevor Peres. B-O-R-I-N-G!!!

With the recent demise of Emperor, what are Samoth and Trym to do but get a new band? Zyklon picks up on basic Emperor riffs, kicks up the brutality and speed factors by 10, and creates the most awesome set of the day in a blinding flash of blackened death not seen since the likes of... well, no one!!! And their lead guitarist absolutely floored me!!! Upstairs to Diecast, who were good, but unfairly placed on the tiny (and posh) Relapse stage. Expect to hear a lot in the future from these Boston hardcore upstarts!


The last band I cared to see was Gorgoroth, and while this was the first time I'd ever heard them, I was fairly impressed. Their sound was plagued by NO GUITAR DISTORTION for the first two songs, and after that a wall of muddy, brutal, keyboardless black metal pushed itself against me. The lead singer has the "more-evil-than-thou" stage presence going, and I was impressed by their bassist's choice to use a fretless for black metal. Overall a good set, plain and simple...just a good set.

Saturday, August 11th
I arrived too late for Antithesis, an awesome Ohio-based prog band that is newly signed to Massacre Records. From what my friend Dust told me, they were incredible! (He was right!--Dr. Mality)

Around 3:30, the scheduling got really fucked up (two stages were ahead of schedule by about 20 minutes, the other two were behind by a whole set). On the main stage, Chicago's Damien Thorne were a nice blast from the past, as old school as can be, and with a drummer who closely resembled Tommy Aldridge. Fairly decent heavy metal in the traditional vein. Another
Chi-town band, Venificum, just blew everyone away with their brand of Dimmu-esque gothic black metal, and I urge everyone to check them out as soon as they can. It was an all-around brutal set by a band lacking in years. Napalm Records should have this band!!!

Jag Panzer

Colorado's Jag Panzer were a band that just killed last year, and I was seriously looking forward to seeing them again this year. With awe-inspiring musicianship, especially from lead guitarist Chris Broderick, and full-on metal stage presence courtesy of Harry "The Tyrant" Conklin; now sans all-black "JP" attire from previous year, they took the stage like the legends they should be by now. The new cut "Take to the Sky" is the song that really sticks with you, and it shows just how much of a rebound they're making from the slightly watered-down "Thane to the Throne" album.

Several minutes early and with a packed crowd inside the Digital Metal stage, Einherjer made their first U.S. appearance one to remember, cramming career-spanning material into their brief, half-hour set. What is so cool about these guys is that they take medieval vibes from their Viking heritage, and they actually make metal that you can tell is Viking metal, as opposed to say Amon Amarth or Thyrfing, which takes you a while before you realize the "Viking" part. Awesome set!

On the main stage, there was about to ensue a serious one-two punch in the form of Soilwork and Primal Fear. Soilwork, another first-time stateside appearance, had to cope with a very poor lead guitar sound, but still managed to play a bruising set that opened with the title track of "Chainheart Machine", and proceeding through several favorites off of their last two albums, including my favorite song, "Neurotica Rampage".


The future of Swedish death metal is a band called Soilwork. Primal Fear, featuring former and current members of Gamma Ray and Sinner, are an awesome power metal supergroup-turned-full-time-band. This was true metal at it¹s finest, although I have to question the inclusion of the weak "Eye of an Eagle." Still though, it proved to be a true event to actually see this band at work. It was purely amazing!

Primal Fear

From there I moved to the Nightfall stage, where despite Acheron's cancellation, the schedule was still a whole set behind schedule. Whereas before I figured I¹d have to miss them for the first time at Metalfest, I was actually able to catch Immolation, now again with a second guitarist and
kicking as much ass as ever.

From what I gathered were the newer songs, you can tell this band is taking a step in the right direction. Total brutality was here tonight!!! And as if they weren't enough, here we had a newly-supplied Krisiun (new gear, folks!!!) showing us what Brazilians can do when handed the instruments of a death metal band.


While I was taking some awesome pictures, I was tapped on the shoulder and told by the security guard that despite my photo pass, I couldn't be there taking pictures. I'm so sorry if those idiots thought that small lens meant small dick, and that they had to prove their manliness by throwing out a little dude like me. Oooo, big and tough, so I gave up on the Nightfall stage. I don¹t need Mr. Steroids to be breathing down my neck, especially at a metal show.

While walking out, I suddenly ran into the keyboardist from St. Louis' Emaciation, a killer black metal band that plays well beyond their years of experience. She let me know that their vocalist/ guitarist Kirby Ray had been drug off by two undercover cops for possession of marijuana. Folks, let me just say that if your band is scheduled to play you should be allowed to play, especially when you gotta pay $1000 just to get on the schedule in the first place. If it were Limbonic Art or Zyklon, there wouldn¹t have been any arrests, and that you can be sure ofŠ

Rain Fell Within

At the main stage I was given a relaxing treat by two extremely talented gothic metal bands. First off, Grey Skies Fallen, whose drummer made his body movements flow like Morgan Rose, but yet with a knowledge of his kit reminiscent of Gene Hoglan. Add to this some interested guitar harmonies and somber melodies, and it was a definite winner. After them was Rain Fell Within, whose twin-female-opera vocal attack was dyn-O-mite combined with the gothic guitar intertwining and fluid drumming!!!

Not really giving a shit enough to catch Limbonic Art, I stuck to the main stage and caught a front row glimpse of Amon Amarth's first U.S. performance. They killed!!! A band from Sweden that leans more death than black, these guys proved to be the most enthusiastic band of the fest, as they cheered on the crowd, demanded beer for us, and cheerfully thanked November's Doom for loaning the gear. All this in between the 5-minute blasts of brutal Viking metal.

And so my experience was complete. All in all, it didn¹t hold a candle to last year's event. They needed better headliners, better scheduling, better everything. And that stage upstairs is pointless because it sucks to walk up and down stairs just to see a bunch of noisy bands play the only carpeted stage area in the venue.

Overall though, I had fun, and that is what was important!!!

... And Now A Few Words From Dr. Mality...

I have to agree with my esteemed colleague Thrash-head regarding this year's Metalfest. I still had a great time and met a lot of cool humanoids. But, there was a lack of vibe at the event. There were rumors that a reformed Carcass would play along with murmers that Celtic Frost might make an appearance. Unfortunately, these resulted in naught. Even dodgier rumors suggested that Slayer or Judas Priest would show up but I knew that wasn't going to happen. If any of the above had shown up, it would have pushed the Metalfest up about 10 notches in intensity. I happen to like Primal Fear, Soilwork, etc. but these bands are not enough to draw interest yet.

I scored a press pass from the lovely Debbie Sellnow at Mazur PR. That got me into a press conference featuring members of Monstrosity, Darkane, Soilent Green and Gorgoroth. Since the Gorgoroth boys didn't want pictures taken of them without their make-up, it made for some awkward moments for the photographers. The conference was underwhelming, with penetrating questions like "What do you think of your fans?" being asked. Well, nobody's going to say that their fans suck and should die a long, lingering death, that's for sure. I asked King of Hell from Gorgoroth if he thought black metal had peaked. He suprised me by saying that it probably has in Europe but that America would be the new frontier for the style.

Theatre of The Macabre

Much more entertaining was a hilarious acoustic set by Corporate Death and Nefarious from Macabre. This was a media-only event and it would bring a smile to even Pat Robertson's face to hear beautiful acoustic melodies accompanied by lyrics about Albert Fish eating children and his own excrement. It was a special moment, that's for sure. Though some critics have a hard time with their goofy sense of humor, it's obvious that Macabre is a much-beloved band.

Here' some bands that I want to send props out to. Bloodstorm: These Texas black metallers destroyed everything in sight with a brutal set. 137: Great doomy sludge metal and I got to hang out with them as well. Engrave: Absolutely devastating Slayerish thrash from these LA veterans.The ONLY band I saw get an encore this weekend. Despite: Blistering crusty grindcore played in front of a small crowd, which pissed off the frontman. Well, I noticed the set, dude.


1. Macabre's acoustic set, when Corporate Death announced: "Here's a song about Albert Fish's time in Germany, entitled 'Germany'."

2. Helstar returns, with singer James Rivera sounding absolutely god-like.

3. Talking to Soilent Green's Ben Falgoust about comic book art after the press conference.

4. Asking Denise Baughmann of 137 "How can anything that looks so sweet play so mean?" and having her actually smile.

5. Having Metalfest fans actually ask for copies of the Wormwood Chronicles. Woo-hah!


1. Hearing directly from Ben Falgoust that Soilent Green will not be playing due to illness.

2.Hearing a band called Unholy Congregation actually playing fuckin' rap metal BULLSHIT during an underground metal event.

3. Other bands like Omen, Mortician, Destroyer 666, Centinex no-showing the event.

4. There were no porn queens doing photo ops this year. Too bad, because it helps make me look like a stud when I get my pic taken with them.

5.The hassles that Thrash-head got from security despite having a valid photo pass. Why the hell wouldn't you let a guy with a pass take pictures?

See you next year.....