Rock Hollow Gun Club, Freeport, IL - 11/25/07

by Dr. Abner Mality

The Rock Hollow Gun Club is one of the coolest venues possible for a metal show but it's sure a bitch to get to. For the second time in 12 months, I managed to get lost looking for it. After determining I was going the wrong way TWICE, I was about to throw in the towel and return to Rock Bottom, but suddenly, I got a clue and at last, Rock Hollow greeted my weary eyes. This might be the only place in the country where the sign outside has "Sat: Waco Jesus" between "Puppies for Sale" and "Friday Night Fish Fry".

Once inside, I was soon glad I was a little late. The first band was on stage and I never did learn their name. Which is fortunate for them, because they really sucked with a vengeance. A bunch of high school kids playing a random mess of cliches touching on nu-metal, metalcore and Nickelback type stuff. They didn't fit the show at all and vanished without a trace once their set had concluded. I'm pretty sure that exposure to Waco Jesus and Cardiac Arrest would have melted them into a puddle.

Things improved with the arrival of Life In Shadow to the stage. This band was unknown to me and while they certainly had their flaws, at least they fit the tone of the show with some aggressive thrash. The young singer had a case of stage fright, telling the crowd "This is only my second show, so take it easy on me!" You couldn't get away with that in Chicago, but in Freeport, everybody gave the kid a break. In fact, he did have a pretty full throated roar. The bass player threw in his own growl and the result was generally pleasing to the death/thrash worshipping crowd. Life In Shadow is a little amateurish yet, but there's sure some potential here.

In from Chicago was Severed, who stepped in when Anal Blast dropped off the bill (perhaps they had a previous engagement with the proctologist). This is the second band of Cardiac Arrest guitarist Tom K. Apparently Tom is not content with being in just one kick-ass death metal band. A three-man outfit, Severed cleared the cobwebs from the crowd's head with a ripping set of ultra-fast American death metal. Names like Malevolent Creation and Diabolic sprung to mind while listening to this, but there's also some sludgy slower riffs that Chicago bands such as Cianide and Usurper seem to specialize in. Tom handled the vocals himself, no mean feat as he was also the sole guitarist. The sound quality wasn't the best, but Severed laid the smack down real well and set the table for the following bands.

A little less than a year ago, Faded Embrace made their live debut in the very same venue, opening for Jungle Rot. Since
then, it's been a whirlwind ride for this band and they've opened for some very prestigious names. They are one of the few Rockford bands to actually take dates out of state. Last year, they were raw recruits with a lot of energy but unknown potential. This time around, they were a polished but brutal act that could hold their own with the bigger bands like Waco Jesus and Cardiac Arrest. Granted, their stytle is not the pure death metal of those two bands but they laid on the aggression so thick that only the most cult death fiend would be disappointed. Jon Sanchez on vocals unleashed probably the most hellish howls of the entire night and cuts like "I Disagree" and "Turning From the Light" oozed with fury. It's also good to see Six Foot Ninja has his giant spike mohawk back. You could probably call Faded Embrace metalcore, but it's the hardest, most vitriolic metalcore there is. I hope these guys don't implode like the Heavils and continue to advance.

I'd heard of Chicago's Cardiac Arrest but had never seen them before tonight. All I got to say is...somebody pick my balls up from the floor, they're probably still rolling around Rock Hollow along with my head! This band is glorious crude death metal in the purest old school vintage. They could give a shit about being technical but instead blast out with morbid feeling and catchy but brutal riffs. These dudes unleashed the most furious moshpits of the evening and never let up for a second. The best thing about Cardiac Arrest is the inclusion of tons of slower. doomier moshparts. Again, you think of that "Chicago Sound" of Cianide, Lair of the Minotaur and Usurper. But they also bombarded the crowd with total blur blastbeats of cyclonic proportions. Their vocalist Adam is a true oldschool metal dog and he was a great frontman who felt like your best metal buddy from high school. Plus he can shred! Tom K from Severed is also in Cardiac Arrest but was content to merely jam furiously on guitar and cut loose with backing death screams.

Some of the best tracks were "Carnage Your Fate", "Make Them Die Slowly" and the Obituary-like "Stiffs in the Basement". These guys stole the whole show tonight and I would see them anytime, anywhere!

I'd like to put a shout out for Randall Mikkelson and the other members of the ILDM, who work so hard to bring these brutal shows to our metal-starved area. These guys are dedicated to the cause and Randall is one of the nicest guys around. Not just in the metal scene, but period. They've had good success with the Rock Hollow shows and I hope they continue in the future.

Waco Jesus is very likely the most revolting death metal band in America. And I'm sure they're content with that. Even a tasteless freak like me gags on seeing their grotesquely scatological albums covers. Gross...juvenile...misogynistic...I really think Waco Jesus subject matter and presentation are damaging to death metal.

But as far as being a live act goes, these perverts are very good indeed. Without a doubt they were the most accomplished and tightest musicians of the night, grinding out tune after tune of hyperspeed technical death metal. This is true
underground brutality that is beyond even Cannibal Corpse style death. We are talking more about subterranean fiends like Mortal Decay, Deeds of Flesh and Lividity. The guitarists crank it out with blurring can barely see their hands on the frets...and drummer Johnny is beyond tight. Their short-haired frontman looks like he just came out of boot camp, but if you're into pig squealing death grunts delivered with breathless velocity, he's the man. Plus he has a fairly droll sense of humor as he introduces pleasant ditties like "The War on Women" and "Gay Basher". In the final analysis, Waco Jesus succeed mostly on the strength of their complete intensity. Memorable song writing and catchy lyrics have nothing to do with it.

Their performance brought another evening of hard-hitting metal at Rock Hollow Gun Club to a close. I look forward to the next "hunting expedition"!