City Slang: A brutal Thursday at Berserker Fest
How fucking great is this idea? Shawn Knight of Child Bite took the brave step of hosting a metal festival in Ferndale, and judging by the crowd on Thursday night (still a school night), his courage has paid off. Despite the snow, despite the fact that you have to pick up your wristbands in a tent in the snow, despite all of that, metal heads, punks and all manner of reprobates have gathered at the WAB/Loving Touch to hear an eclectic collection of intense bands, both metal and punk, some local and some out-of towners.
Saw a lot of people hanging out, from the dudes who work at Signature Tattoo to members of All the Wild Children, the Amino Acids, and Drew Podgorski of the band Size Queen who played earlier that my arrival time. Doh!
Still, I saw a lot of bands, some awesome and some ok. Not a one was terrible. First one, Pink Eyes from Illinois, got my ball rolling with some metalcore (I think – the genres blend nowadays). Really tight, super-annoyed. Local boys Dead Church were next, a death/grind band with a singer who also looks very angry. High energy stuff, the band says on its Facebook page that it’s going to be recording after this show. Looking forward to hearing this.
The A-Gang made for a nice change – some bright and punchy melodies and vocals that are easy to make out, even if they are backed up with fast-paced musicianship. It’s all a little “Warped Tour” for some, during an evening of guttural grunts and intensity. But for me, they were a welcome curveball.
S.N.A.F.U. describes itself as hardcore thrash punk on Facebook, so that covers all the bases. They’re fucking great. The singer is a Tasmanian Devil, all dreadlocks and beard, whizzing around like a little metal hurricane. Shit Life is a two-piece that I assume was added at the last minute due to the cancellation of headliners Macabre. Fair enough, I’d rather see these local boys shred through a crazy set anyway. “We’re Shit Life, and fuck all that slow shit,” says the drummer. Yeah!
M.Sord seems to be three proggy dudes gathered tightly together. They also seem to have forgotten that they are at a gig tonight, not rehearsing in the drummer’s basement. That’s ok though – there’s something refreshing about them playing for themselves. The Stonecutters, out of Louisville, KY, have a heavy Neurosis and Obituary influence and a big, booming sound. Not spectacular, but brutal enough to keep me interested.
Best band of the night is Gutrot, no question. I’ve listened to a lot of death metal in my life. At college, we all passed around copies of Cannibal Corpse’s Tomb of the Mutilated and Deicide’s Legion – the beauty was that we could play to at home because, though the lyrics were violently offensive, our parents had no idea what they were saying. I love this music, and yet I have never heard a voice like that coming out of Gutrot’s front man. It sounds like a stuck pig put through distortion, and yet there are no tricks. This is the guy’s real voice. The drummer plays at inhuman speed, and the rest of the band is killer too. Plus, they have a song called “Teabagging the Dead.” Love it, and I want to hear more.
After that, Voyag3r sounds a little light. Not their fault – this local prog outfit has some cool tunes but, you know, at this point I just want to keep with the crazy. That’s provided downstairs by the awesome Nice Hooves, who rip through a typically in-your-face hardcore-ish punk set, all in a circle like the crowd isn’t there.
And then local band Acid Witch finish the night in the absence of Macabre. They make for an odd sight – the whole band is big and hairy, besides the singer/keyboardist who looks a little tidier with his immaculate horror t-shirt and painted leather jacket. Also, a synthy intro tape plays before they do, and the band look disgusted by the fact, eyes rolling. Once they start, they’re great. Elements of Carcass and a touch of Morbid Angel, with added keyboards, make for a great set, and a cool end to the night.