April 22 & 23, 2011

Bay City Brewhaus, Milwaukee, WI

By Dr. Abner Mality

Maybe the best hope of keeping true underground metal alive in the 21st century lies with the concept created by the NYDM. For those not in the know, that stands for New York Death Militia. What NYDM really is, is a biker gang with no bikes and no violence, which is dedicated to spreading the death metal lifestyle across the entire United States. Despite the "New York" part of the name, there are local and regional branches of the NYDM spread throughout the country. Right here in Northern Illinois we have a VERY strong branch called the ILDM and I am proud to call a lot of these scruffy looking scumbags friends of mine.

The various branches spend a lot of time not only publicizing death metal and putting on some great underground shows, but also getting involved in charity work for abused and neglected kids. The notorious ILDM Thanksgiving Bash this last year raised a lot of money for Toys For Tots. Even an evil mad scientist like me has to admit admiring such selfless efforts.

One of the ILDM mainstays is Mr. Randy Kastner, who spent about a year putting together a huge 5-State Regional NYDM meeting/metal party together in Beer City, USA, Milwaukee, WI. Anybody who attended this event can tell you Randy worked his ass off making sure things ran smoothly as possible and that bands, members and concert-goers alike were well treated. I find these NYDM events so much more homey and comforting than shows at "greed palaces" like House of Blues or The Rave. The feeling of friendship and camaraderie is palpable and the Militia members police themselves. No need for heavy-handed security or police at these shows.

So I left my lab in Rotford to head north to the Bay View Brewhaus. As fate would have it, it would be hard to imagine a shittier, more miserable day weatherwise and the fact that the entire city of Milwaukee seemed to be demolished for construction combined with the grey miserable drizzle caused me to be late to the event. But better late than never...

Arrived during the latter part of Vermillion's set and was impressed by the little I saw of these Wisconsin death metallers. Sturdy stuff in the vein of traditional American DM. A good sound was provided throughout the weekend by a very hard working soundman. The Bayview Brewhaus is not exactly a Las Vegas show palace, but it's pretty homey and the staff treated the tattooed, leather-and-denim festooned legions with respect. I heard an estimate that probably close to 100 cases of PBR were demolished during the course of the Bash and judging by the mounds of red, white and blue debris in overflowing trashcans, I'd say that was a conservative estimate.

The onslaught continued with Wisconsin favorites Screaming Entombment and Carnal Befoulment. These guys prove that there is now a thriving death metal scene in the Milwaukee area. It has been a long time coming. Carnal Befoulment also won the award for best song title of the weekend: "Blistered, Bloated and Semen Coated".

Nocturnal Torment played their set despite the abrupt departure of their bass player. This led singer Thomas Stathis to attempt to play the bass live for the first time in 19 years, as he apologetically told us. I couldn't say Nocturnal Torment's set was trouble free but it was nothing to ashamed of under the circumstances and I really liked their oldschool Immolation/Baphomet style of riffy DM. So horns up for these guys for showing up and playing, unlike some others who mysteriously disappeared.

At an event like this, you see new bands and old nestled together. Tonight we had newcomers Face of Ruin playing right before veteran warhorses Abominant. Face of Ruin impressed with a frenzied set, but I think just about everybody was waiting to see Abominant in action. These guys are old school enough to make Jungle Rot seem like a fresh young face and for anybody who digs stuff like Monstrosity, Massacre, Death and similar bands, they were a real treat. The theatrical gestures and twisted facial expressions of singer Mike Barnes kept the entertainment factor high while guitarist Timmie Ball let loose with some sweet solos amidst the mayhem.

The bands on Friday got a little extra time to play due to the absence of Iowa band The Horde (who themselves were filling in for Summon). Last time I saw the berserk Enabler was in the cloying basement death-trap of Disastrhouse in Rockford's beautiful west side...the perfect environment for these demented grinders. Led by crazed frontman Aaron Whitesides (a smaller version of wrestling icon King Kong Brody), these guys are absolutely one of the best grindcore bands in the US, if not the world. They blasted through skullcrushers like "Cocaine And Cheese Curds", "Fuck Fuck" and the brilliantly titled anthem "Last Time I Gave A Shit, I Got Fucked". The real set topper was a cover of Sabbath's "Snowblind" played at Napalm Death velocity. It was easy to see these guys had roots in Anal Blast and it shouldn't be long before they get a good record deal.

Wrapping up Day One was a band I have a personal connection with, Fogcrawler, which features Wormwood scribe Thor on drums. Tonight's show was something of a baptism of fire for Thor and his boys, as they were debuting new singer Dean as well as a new bassist. Enabler is almost impossible to follow, but Fogcrawler kept a good portion of the crowd engaged as they plowed through some of the most extreme death metal in the Midwest. I don't know if Dean's growls match the insanity of former frontman Scott, but he is sure a lot more entertaining to watch, rolling on the ground in agony and giving it all he has. The more live experience Fogcrawler gets, the better they'll be and I'm hoping they'll get a sophomore release out soon, maybe on a label like Unique Leader or Brutal Bands?

Day Two of the event saw a much improved weather scene that could almost be called pleasant. Contrary to popular opinion, metallers hate freezing rain and sleet as much as any normal human being. I missed first two acts, the charmingly named Put Her In the Trunk and Chicago's black metal ensemble Blutige Nacht, whom I have had the pleasure of seeing before.  But looking around the Brewhaus, I could see more people than Day One and a line-up of the usual ILDM suspects: Rev. Randall, Slayer, The Tall Man, Jason Bonilla and Vanna Spite of the excellent 815 productions, Big Boss from Altered Existence, Baby Face Pete from Burial Ritual, The Beast, etc, etc. The usual bunch of lowlifes, including yours truly...

First band I really got to check out Sat. was Appleton's Eternal Silence. Quite a strange contrast was apparent during their set. The first few tracks were ancient and holy American death metal again showing strong Immolation/Morbid Angel influences with deep guttural vocals. Then we got introduced to the band's new singer, a clean cut guy in a Brewers shirt, and the sound noticeably shifted to a more groovy modern thrash assault with some clean vocals awkwardly tossed in. I much prefer the style of the earlier cuts.

Neldoreth blew in from Pennsylvania to torture our ears with simple and blasphemous old school riffage. I like that style of music, but the band was basically singer Oz (looking remarkably like a young Bam Bam Bigelow) and his guitarist. The rest of the "band" was courtesy of a laptop and I had a hard time telling what was real and what wasn't. The drumbeats were obviously electronic, but there was still rhythm and backing guitar playing while the axeman soloed and I could detect backing vocals and effects on tape, too. I don't really like it when half of the band's performance comes out of a computer, but this may have been beyond Neldoreth's control. Anyway, they did a cover of Venom's "In League With Satan" and that's one of the quickest ways to this reviewer's black heart.

40 Oz. Fist is yet another up and coming extreme Milwaukee band that is hard to describe. I first saw them at the November 2011 ILDM show and if anything, they were more extreme here. Imagine a non-stop combination of Anal Cunt, Slipknot, Slayer and Dillenger Escape Plan with two screaming maniac vocalists trading off with military precision and you'll be close. I heard their demo has something like 115 songs in about 40 minutes or something like that??? Yeeee-haw!

Reign Inferno was a unknown name to me but looked awfully familiar. Then it dawned on me exactly who they were...Chicago's Dead For Days with a new name and an even more brutal sound. Dead For Days was always pretty heavy duty but Reign Inferno is just pure American death metal and it's a compliment to these dudes that the first really intense moshpit of the weekend got going during their set. Hoping they can succeed where DFD couldn't.

You talk about true death metal, it doesn't get much more old school than Ohio's Drogheda. Now in their 20th year of debauchery, these dudes have never gotten a break from any underground label and have pretty much gone the distance on their own. I can't say Drogheda is the most original band on the block, but it's hard to figure out why they've gotten the cold shoulder. Suffocation and Malevolent Creation are reference points and while those bands aren't fashionable, they aren't shunned either. Events like this weekend give the band a welcome chance to play in front of an appreciative crowd and they responded with fiery energy.

Everything I said for Drogheda goes double for Oklahoma's Enfuneration. They delivered the most crushing and
remorseless set of the weekend, totally killing everybody there with amazing songs like "Souls To Burn" and "Pious Deliverance". Band leader David Thompson is a true warrior to keep these guys so pure and untainted by trends, especially in the metal-barren wastelands of Okie. Rev. Randall and I had a good conversation trying to fathom why these guys aren't signed. You'd think at least somebody like Ibex Moon and Dark Descent would be on them like flies on shit, but it ain't happened yet.  What a dirty rotten shame. I for one appreciate their efforts and if they get a release out, you can be sure it will be found in the pages of Wormwood.

After Enfuneration, things kinda fell apart and I drifted into several involved conversations with various ne'er do wells. Got to rub shoulders (and nothing else, unfortunately) with a vivacious blond chick who was all over my Mortician T-shirt. If she's to be trusted, she herself is an ACTUAL mortician in civillian life! My kind of woman! I'll call her Morticia. As a result of this hanging out, I only caught a little of Chicago's Eyegouger in action but they looked about as laidback and mellow as you'd guess a band called Eyegouger would be.

After a very nice evening of over the top metal and mingling with friendly people, I took my leave of the NYDM 5-State Regional Spring Bash, missing the "clean-up hitters" Memories Wither and Sexual Atrocities. Sorry, dudes, maybe next time. If I was feeling tired, I can only guess what shape Randy Kastner was in after running the show the last two days. Oh, did I mention there was a two hour power outage Saturday afternoon that caused bands to run behind schedule? No? Well, in true NYDM fashion, people in the crowd pitched in to help the band get on and off the stage in timely fashion. That tells a lot of about the folks who are part of this.

Just a couple days after the conclusion of the bash, I heard Randy was already setting up the Bash for 2012. I'll be there...if the world doesn't come to an end first.