Tonight was a special night. Holiday metal is the best. This was easily the most pre-show excitement I’ve had in years. I’m at a loss for decent metaphors, but I doubt there’s one that can accurately describe my hysteria. The anticipation was literally constricting my airway. The leading factor being the opportunity to see GoatWhore live for the first time. Whenever I hear their name, I think of that scene in Anchorman, when Ron yells at Veronica to “go back to your home on Whore Island,” except in my mind he says “GoatWhore Island.” The other factor, a close second, was that tonight we were a trio instead of our usual duo status. For years, my cousin, whom I call A.A. Ron, and I have been hitting shows together across the globe. Tonight though, my brother-in-law Jim, in town for Thanksgiving, was tagging along. Maybe he was mildly interested in hitting up a metal show for the first time, or perhaps he just wanted to get out of the house for a few hours. Jim lives in Texas, has 2 kids, does the white collar thing and only listens to metal when I force him, which is basically twice a year on a drive to the liquor store during an extended family weekend. He’s courteously optimistic and humors me most times, so we felt privileged to be graced with his presence. Using the sounds of Kendrick Lamar as a common thread between us, we hit the road.
It seems that no matter what show we go to, the guy (never a girl) whose gotten himself completely and utterly annihilated before the music even starts, always seems to find us, like a fucking bloodhound. Our contestant tonight was named Ryan. He was from Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin and sporting a stylish “Bomb Squad” jacket. I thought he was doing some type of yoga stance or wicked stretch, but the dude was legitimately trying to keep himself upright…and failing. Noting that he’d had 5 PBRs and an inaudible amount of Jack Daniels, he had switched to water (as though water’s going to make any kind of dent in this disaster) when he stumbled into us. Reminding us that we could punch him in the face, he was on the “less annoying” side of the drunken spectrum, but after attempting various methods of using each of us to physically support himself, it was time to part ways.
Sadly, we missed Artificial Brain, but strolled in about halfway through Entheos’ set. I love the fact that Jim got to walk into what he perceived to be the typical male guttural death vocal, only to find out the he was really a she named Chaney Crab. So moved was he, Jim later moseyed over to their merch booth, learned she was an native Iowan (much like himself), and left their booth with a signed t-shirt. I was elated. Entheos was solid. I had given their Primal EP a quick listen in the weeks preceding, but it wasn’t until after the show that I learned Entheos was comprised of already established musicians in some form or another. They were definitely tech-savy deathcore with some small splashes of prog. Again, timing didn’t allow me to see much, but I look forward to hearing more Entheos in the future.
Iron Reagan is a fucking party. A thrash-alicious soiree of decadent hardcore elegance. What the hell does that even mean? I’m not sure, but it’s all you need to know…that, and they have a song about stabbing eyeballs. Embracing certain visual characteristics (wicked facial hair (mustaches), cut-off sleeves, genital-smothering denim, etc.) of the cold-war-era time period responsible for producing their name, Iron Reagan are the modern-day standard of anti-establishment. With that though, they bring energy and aggression. There were a few flickers of life that scarcely formed a circle pit earlier in the evening, but once Iron Reagan took the stage, that junior high dance of a pit morphed into a hurricane. I made the genius move of standing on the edge of the circle and lost a full can of Furious to some dude’s bicep smashing into me. Utilizing tracks from both full lengths and few from the Spoiled Identity EP, their set was literally a onslaught of thrash including a 5 song blitz lasting probably 8 minutes. Frontman Tony Foresta made light of this (and pretty much everything throughout the set) noting that they had “3 songs left so give us 5 more minutes.” In the end, this is a band you could put on literally any tour, and they would kill. Just ask Jim, he bought one of their shirts too.
After their set we took a group shot in front of the stage. I wanted Jim to have evidence of his head banging antics, and possibly for black mail purposes. While posing, we noticed a horde of security guards slowly crossing the floor, flashlights shining brightly and assisting a slouching figure. Had someone been injured during the set? Nope, it was just Ryan being escorted out. How does one, beyond wasted, get themselves back to Chippewa Falls on a Saturday night? What does that Uber ride look like?
I’m not horribly familiar with the works of Shakespeare. I wish I was, but I don’t have that kind of time (I’ve got a copy of his complete works; it’s on the bucket list). Regardless, I’m certain what I’m trying to articulate somehow lives within the depths of his catalog. I’m thinking of a sorcerer-type character, one whose words transfix people’s minds effortlessly. It’s the tone and cadence of his voice that mesmerizes. To the unaware, he’s perceived as “evil,” but you can’t help but see him as anything but. Obviously I’m describing GoatWhore frontman Ben Falgoust. When Ben spoke, we listened. When Ben kindly asked everyone to move to the front, assuring people, “If someone spills your drink, they’ll buy you a new one,” we did because I believe every word. If Ben would have told us to “Go the distance,” I would have built a baseball field in my backyard without question. I recognized a lot of their set as newer tracks, “Cold Earth Consumed in Dying Flesh” standing out the most in my mind, mostly because of it’s slower, more doomish feel in contrast to the quartet’s unrelenting brand of blackened thrash. It was a brutally pleasurable set, even better than I imagined, and I had the bar set pretty high. Closing it out with a hi-five from Ben clearly made us best friends, at least in my mind.
I saw The Black Dahlia Murder live for the first time back in 2006 when the were touring in support of Miasma. I was unfamiliar with them at the time but the intensity of their show is something that stuck with me. I enjoy their music from album to album, but after you see this band live, you understand that that’s what they’re meant to do. Periodically, I hear people talk about the idea that bands never sound as good live as their albums…I would disagree, but if that were truly the case, The Black Dahlia Murder is not a band that theory applies to. Starting their set with “Receipt,” the opening track off Abysmal, The Black Dahlia Murder spent the next hour completely destroying the place. The intensity that I referenced from 2006 still exists today, but to a higher degree. It’s literally one song after another; they don’t stop for small-talk. Their style of death metal riffs are brutally catchy, without sounding like anything I would describe as catchy. It’s the single note aggressive picking (fused with chords), song after song, that sets their music apart. I could watch guitarist Brian Eschbach kill it for hours, his hands do not stop moving. With it being the 10th anniversary of Miasma, they slammed out a few classics from that album, solidifying the concept of always seeing certain bands when their in town, with The Black Dahlia Murder topping that list.