Rock Hollow Hunt Club,  Freeport, IL Nov. 16 and Nov. 17


On the Limiter, Cudahy, WI Dec. 8

By Dr. Abner Mality

I could tell word is starting to get out about the ILDM Thanksgiving shows at Rock Hollow when I stopped to get gas on my way to the Friday Nov. 16 show. It's a long trip from where I work to Freeport and I filled up my tank at the Road Ranger at the corner of 251 and Latham. There I had to grit my teeth as I heard the usual crap you have to be subjected to at Road Ranger..."we'll get back to the shitty music in a minute, but now here's some useless products we want you to buy"...but I was surprised as a guy came across the parking lot towards me saying "Thanks for your support, I want to shake your hand."

At first, I thought I might get robbed, but things soon cleared up. I was wearing my handy ILDM Supporter T-shirt and the gentleman identified himself as being involved with Toys for Tots. He, too, was on his way to the show and happened to be filling up at the same station I stopped at. Due to my advanced old age, I can't recall his name, but I saw him both nights at the show and I know he was quite pleased with the amount of toys the benefit produced.

I've been to every edition of the November tradition, but 2012 brought something different, as organizers Scott "Slayer" Severns and Randall "Boss Man" Mikkelson decided to expand it to two days. That's quite a risk to take in these days when live music seems to be slowly evaporating. To be honest, I'm not sure it paid off, because Friday night had an "off" feel to it.  The attendance was sparse at first and although it picked up towards the end, it wasn't what it could have been. There were some problems with the bands that hampered things, too, but more on that in a minute.

I got there in time to see new band Eminent Slaughter, who delivered a very punishing attack of raw and traditional American death metal. Good band to kick off the show! Next up were punkers The Tunnel Snakes and talk about playing against the odds, half the band didn't even show up, leaving these guys to play as a two man unit....guitarist/vocalist and drummer. It's really unfair to judge a band when they play with such a handicap,  but I will say these two soldiered on manfully and put as much energy as they could into their raw hardcore punk.

Casket Robbery is a band I've seen at Rock Hollow fact, it's where I first encountered them...and they seem to get more manic every time out. I feel like calling for Max von Sydow every time I see lead singer Dustin Froesch convulsing and violently jerking around on the floor. The band usually deals with serial killer themes, but I like their tasteless humor on tracks like "I Did Coke With Billy Mays" and "Gary Busey the Transcendent One" better. I can't imagine it will be much longer before these guys get signed somewhere.

The same thing can also be said for En Masse, who also were returning to the fest. It's hard to describe the kind of metal these dudes's a mixture of Agnostic Front-style hardcore with odd Meshuggah type time signatures and classic thrash influences...but it is sure as fuck heavy. They are blessed with one of the great characters in metal, Don Adam, as their frontman. Not only does he deliver incredible passion in his performance, he also keeps the whole place in stitches bellowing out insults and wisecracks with that super-gravelly voice. There is a star waiting to be discovered right there, and the rest of En Masse is a more than worthy accompaniment.

I would say one of the big surprises of the weekend was up next. A two-man outfit (that I was told was supposed to be a 3-man unit but the bassist skipped) with the very unmetal name of The Sparrow took the stage. What a cool breath of fresh air these dudes were. A bespectacled guitarist named Zeke playing some cool atmospheric riff-rock kind of like an instrumental Kylesa or Baroness, with a powerful drummer accompanying the set with some intense jazz-like workouts. Zeke's guitar was drenched in all kinds of spacy effects and the result was hypnotic and different. These NYDM/ILDM events certainly focus on brutal metal, but not to the exclusion of other sub-genres and I think that really helps make their shows memorable. Despite being down a bassist, The Sparrow was much so that they also kicked off the second night of the fest with virtually the same set when the band Miserable Hope failed to appear!

If The Sparrow was an unknown quantity, the one-man porngrind attack Sikfuk has become a bit too well known. The freshness date on this kind of music is very limited and I'm afraid the honeymoon is over for me and these kind of acts. Even the scatological wisecracks of Nik Turner seemed kind of tired to me this night, although I'm always amazed at the snorts, squeals, grunts and roars that this guy produces at will.

The first night was capped off with an appearance by Chicago's avant-garde metal extremists Yakuza. Never pass up a chance to see these guys live, their records may be impressive but they don't hold a candle to the smoldering passion of the live show. Lead man Bruce Lamont is a legendary figure in the Chicago underground and now known mostly as the leader of the most successful Led Zeppelin cover band in the US, Led Zep 2. But his heart is in Yakuza and don't ever think otherwise. I was almost out on my feet when they played their set, but you can't help but be mesmerized by their odd, indescribable grooves. They played some cuts from their new one "Beyul" and it was obvious this release is more hyped up and manic than what has gone before. What a shame that this band plays to a crowd of 25 people tops.

Day Two brought better attendance and a livelier atmosphere. More of the brethern gathered from afar and I was surprised and kind of nervous about seeing Randy Kastner put in an appearance. Randy had just gotten out of the hospital after a LONG stretch due to kidney failure and in the opinion of many should maybe not have attended. But this guy has pure metal in his blood and when I spoke to him that night, he said "This is what I do." He had to enjoy the good vibes headed his way this night....much more on Randy later in the article.

Miserable Hope skipped out so The Sparrow was drafted to open Day Two and they pretty much played the same set as night one. Then came one of my absolute favorite underground metal bands in the U.S....TERMINATE! These guys in time could grow to rival mighty Cianide in terms of sheer nuclear HEAVINESS. Let me throw a few names at you...Bolt Thrower, Asphyx, Dismember, If you like those bands, you are gonna go apeshit when you hear the dowtuned chainsaw brutality of Terminate, packed with groovy riffs and roaring vocals. I'll say again, I love this band and I was thrilled to hear they just signed a contract with respected Polish label Selfmadegod.

Two ILDM favorites were up next. Milwaukee's Burial Ritual is another band that has me scratching my head wondering why they aren't signed to some label like Unique Leader or Dark Descent. Really fast, hard-hitting American death metal in the style of Malevolent Creation and Cannibal Corpse. Very good outing from these gents. Then Peoria's most hated Altered Existence returned to the Rock Hollow stage. It was a stage awash in eyeballs, as the ocular organ has apparently very important meaning to the trio. They played an assortment of cuts from their album "Something Unknown", but more importantly a new track that seemed to mix a black metal feel with the mid-tempo stomp the band specializes in. I really hope the new album has the sound and attitude the band is really capable of, because it hasn't been captured on disc yet. I give great hails to band mainman Mark Ellsworth for bestowing a Marshall County ILDM patch on me!

A band from Dubuque with the peculiar name of The Tapeworm Trend was up next and these manly men made a point of it to play shirtless for the whole set. They have a really odd sound mixing super brutal slam death metal with off-kilter samples and sound effects, funky bass workouts and a general avant-garde feel. It was a little too manic for me, but your mileage may vary.

To be honest, I didn't catch next band Reign Inferno, but the viciousness of this band formerly known as Dead For Days is well-known and I'm sure they tore shit up royally. I heard that one man attack squad Putrid Pile no-showed the event, but I've seen the guy so much over the last few years that I feel that was not a big deal.

Was the 2 day version of the Bash a success? Only Slayer and Bossman know the answer to that question for sure. One thing I have no doubt of is that there will be another ILDM Thanksgiving Bash at Rock Hollow next year...and that I will be there.

Above I briefly mentioned the name of Randy Kastner, who I have nicknamed The Wizard of Watertown. He is the guy who makes the metal flow in the state of Wisconsin...he has promoted dozens of shows, done the work of 10 men getting the name of the NYDM and its good deeds out in the public and generally proven himself an asset to the metal world. It seems no good deed goes unpunished and he has suffered a drastic health setback in the second part of 2012. Briefly put, his kidneys have failed and he is on dialysis awaiting a transplant.

Never let it be said that The Club doesn't take care of its own. On December 8th, a big league benefit show was held with virtually all proceeds going to help Randy pay his medical debts. The site was On The Limiter in Cudahy, which has hosted many of the shows Randy himself promoted. The weather was thankfully good and I couldn't think of a better way to spend the evening than support the Club and one of its mainstays.

These days, a lot of "Facebook Warriors" say they will attend events online but never actually put in an appearance. I am very happy to say that On The Limiter was packed to the max for most of the show tonight, with only the very beginning and ending thinning out somewhat. I think just about everybody who signed up on FB made it, including yours truly.

I arrived in time to see the second half of Festerfuck's set and the beards these guys have are even more frightening than their brutal death metal. From what I see,
these guys deliver extreme brutality that touches on many metal styles, from super-fast slam to more catchy stuff and even some tech-death. Very entertaining set from these wildmen, who seemed to play half the show on the floor instead of the stage.

Vermillion is another great Wisconsin death metal band who are just waiting to be scooped up. They play a somewhat slower but no less intense style of death than Festerfuck...incredible throbbing riffs that just ooze into your skull. This show came on the heels of their successful gig opening for Cannibal Corpse and Misery Index, which had to be the biggest of their career.

Lots of familiar faces in the crowd tonight, including Slayer, Bossman, Bloodsoaker, The Beast, Tom and Adam from Cardiac Arrest, Heather, dudes from Burial Ritual and Carnal Befoulment, many others. Heart-warming to see the level of support for Kastner. Lots of cool stuff was being raffled off, including items autographed by Cannibal Corpse themselves and some original artwork. I grabbed a new Cardiac Arrest T-shirt with most of the proceeds going to Randy.

Next band up was one unknown to me by the name of Mourn and four scruffier looking mofo's would be harder to find. I don't think these guys quite know what they want to be yet. They were much more "rock n' roll" than anything that had gone before, but had their moments of extremity. They dedicated a song to the late great Dimebag so they trotted out a Pantera song, they praised Black Sabbath and did a slow doom song, the rest of their stuff veered between screaming crossover punk to raw-ass Zeke style stuff. It all came across as kind of sloppy to me and I think they need to figure out what kind of path they want to take because they are jack of all trades yet master of none at this point in time. But there's room to grow.

Morta Skuld is the elder titan of Milwaukee death metal bands. Somehow I never really got into them during the heyday of the early 90's, a fact which now makes me bow my head in shame. This band were the revelation of the festival as far as I was concerned and everything I love about early American death metal was summoned by these grizzled vets. Such amazing riffings, such doomy destruction, such morbid vocals. Songs like "Prolong The Agony", "Preacher of Lies" and the bone-grinding epic "Of Evil" are stone-cold CLASSICS that brought roars of appreciation from the diehard crowd. "Of Evil" had a slow doom break with riffs that oldschool Obituary would have died and went to hell to write! A tremendous performance from Morta Skuld (with some guest vocals from Viogression's old singer) and I sure hope they come out with new stuff in the style of what they did here!

Relief was nowhere to be found when the two-man barrage known as the Minimum Wage Assassins struck. I don't know what the hell you call this...powerviolence, grindcore, hyperpunk...but it was absolutely INSANE! A guitarist/vocalist who should be arrested for beating his defenseless guitar to a pulp and a drummer who could outblast a machine (and proved it later that evening!) combined to unleash vicious noise at warp speed. I don't know what the musical value of this stuff is, but as a  cathartic explosion of sonic violence, it's hard to top. At one point, some idiot (i.e., yours truly) shouted at the stage "Play something fast! I can't stand the slow stuff!", which brought a lot of laughs. These guys could be legends in the vein of Hewhocorrupts and Marion Barry!

I was joined by Mr. Slayer for the next act, Mass Murder Messiah, whom I've seen at previous editions of the Thanksgiving Bash. Well, this was kind of their "rebirth" party, as they have gone from a two-man outfit backed by a drum computer to a full-fledged band with second guitarist and flesh and blood skinsman. The opening part of the show still featured the computer before new drummer Derek (the guy who just finished pummeling the kit for Minimum Wage Assassins) joined them on stage. WOW! These guys have truly improved and the new additions have added a thickness and thunder to their sound that adds immeasurably to the heaviness. A lot of the music is now in the slower mode and it is so totally down-tuned and bass-heavy that it feels like you are swimming in molasses. When the band blasts, it's that much more effective and Derek's drumming is way more convincing than a laptop. I also noticed that the lead vocalist seems to have dropped about 50 pounds as well....this guy had a running battle with a dude in the crowd named Bob that you know was only tolerated because they were really best of friends. Along with Morta Skuld, Mass Murder Messiah was the highlight of the night for me.

From there, I caught a couple of tunes from slam-beasts Sexual Atrocities before deciding to throw in the towel for the evening. That meant I missed the great Enabler from Minnesota (not to be confused with the Southern Lord band from right in Milwaukee) and I regret that because those guys are always a good time. But I'm sure those that remained were knocked silly  by them and I will probably be catching them again sometime.

So another year down the chute. We'll see what 2013 has in store for the faithful NYDM members. If good wishes translate into actual health, then Randy Kastner should breeze through his health problems, based on what I saw at On The Limiter. But even if things get rough, he will have The Club to watch his back...