This is part two of a three-part review of day one of the San Antonio metal festival known as The Goregrowler’s Ball. Parts one and three can be found here and here, respectively.
The melodic death/thrashers Sargon unleashed a riffy brand of metal that also contained quite a few catchy sections that were executed well. The band features drummer Alex Marquez of Solstice and Demolition Hammer fame, who did his job well, providing out energetic beats that complimented the guitars quite nicely. One song had a majestic collage of guitar parts that recalled the intro to Metallica’s “Blackened”, which served as an especially memorable part of their set, although I didn’t catch the name of the song. Vocally, Sargon utilized a higher-pitched shout that served the atmosphere well, while the bass parts lurked beneath the higher register of the guitars to fill out the low end of the sonic spectrum. Sargon kept the ball rolling (no pun intended), and hopefully this will not be the last time that the city of San Antonio catches their performance. On a personal note, their guitarist bore an uncanny resemblence to your’s truly, to the point that someone on Sunday actually thought I was him. At least he liked the set!
The much-anticipated Hellwitch set absolutely killed, with the group focusing its performance on songs from their debut, “Syzygial Miscreany”, although the superb “Torture Chamber” from the “Transgressive Sentinence” demo from 1986 was also performed to much fanfare. Hellwitch’s brand of riffy tech-death-thrash stood as a highlight of the first day of the festival, with plenty of intricate acrobatics from the guitar and bass players, utlizing a variety of different licks that were backed by a percussive assault that did not miss a beat. Vocalist/guitarist Pat Ranieri (wearing a Slaughter shirt – mad props!) has not lost his touch of being able to deliver high-pitched wails while nimbly casting spells of guitar wizardry that were stunning to take in. Bassist Craig Shattuck also had his fair share of standalone moments, which were quite captivating for this reporter as a fellow bass player. The way that the musicians intertwined their parts was something else, and their chemistry was admirable from beginning to end. Hellwitch were one of the more anticipated bands of the festival (at least, in this reporter’s eyes) and they more than lived up to expectations. Hopefully these masters of old-school tech-thrash will be back and play a second time.
We walked in to see that Nokturnel had already started their set, and while the sound was a little off for the first few minutes of the set, it was eventually corrected and the death/thrashers persevered in the manner of professionalism. The band maintained the consistent old-school vibe that Hellwitch and Solstice brought to the table, ripping through material that recalled an era of when the ideal of “leather and spikes” reigned supreme. Band leader Tom Stevens’s growls and screams sounded inhuman as he picked out lightning-fast displays of visceral guitar playing, while bassist Bill Reuter held down the low-end with deft playing that filled out the sound with a low rumble. Originally, drummer Alex Marquez was going to be handling the percussive side of the set, but apparently that didn’t go through as originally planned and Matt Francis took over. He did a fine job playing his parts, and the band used the rhythmic base to play off him and draw from a seemingly endless well of riffs. The set was overall entertaining, and it was good to have more old-school metal at the Goregrowler’s Ball in order to present a more diverse lineup. The band ended on the single “Ancestral Calling”, which benefited greatly from the live environment and sounded even better than the studio version (although the studio version is certainly a good song as well). Nokturnel were enjoyable at last year’s Goregrowler’s Ball, and they certainly delivered again.
The Singaporean masters of “war metal”, the mighty Impiety, took the stage covered in blood and black face paint, and the atmosphere present at their performance was unlike anything witnessed since this reporter last saw Watain, which is entirely a good thing. For those not in the know, “war metal” is an incredibly visceral type of extreme metal that fuses black metal, death metal, thrash, and grindcore to generate songs that could be compared to Blasphemy’s “Fallen Angel of Doom” or Beherit’s “The Oath of Black Blood” albums, as well as the extreme attack of Brazilian death/thrash. To put it simply – if you’re into Cradle of Filth, this ain’t your thing. Impiety represent the best of the genre, grinding out songs without a hint of commercial stench about them, staying true to their vision of extreme metal. The terrifying set was a highlight of the evening, with vocalist/bassist Shyaithan commanding attention with his violent stage presence. His bandmates brought forth fast and furious riffs that demolished the faint of heart and came close to leveling the stage outside the venue (this is all metaphorical, of course). “Dominator” was one of the best songs in the set, although each song that the band played got heads banging. This reporter had to miss the band’s performance at Rites of Darkness last year, so getting a second chance to witness the band was nothing short of breathtaking. They don’t call it “war metal” for nothing, and Impiety’s bone-snapping performance showed that the band is one of the best around. Hopefully they’ll return to our fair state sometime in the future.
For more info: Parts one and three can be found here and here.