This is part three of a three-part review of day one of the San Antonio metal festival Goregrowler’s Ball. Parts one and two can be read here and here.
At this point, band’s sets started overlapping, so we didn’t get to see as much of Solstice as we wanted to (drat!), but what we did hear sounded excellent! The band plays an old-school style of death/thrash that blurs the line between the two with killer riffage that recalls the days of early Malevolent Creation and Devastation, days that regrettably passed while this reporter was learning to walk. The riffing was strong, and Alex Marquez showed no sign of fatigue after playing with Sargon earlier in the evening. Christian Rudes’s vocals were consistent with the vibe of the atmosphere laid down by Hellwitch and Nokturnel, sounding more intellgible than the croaks and gurgles of today’s death metal (although this is not a stab on today’s death metal either), while the guitar playing reflected Solstice albums accurately from what was witnessed. Unfortunately, as previously mentioned, we didn’t get to see much of the set due to the overlap, so my apologies to Solstice for not being able to cover as much as I’d liked to. Hopefully they’ll be back soon.
At this point, bands were only playing on the inside stage, so after a quick turnover, it was time for none other than Goatwhore to play. Goatwhore absolutely slayed and presented themselves as one of the best bands of the entire weekend, with an unrelenting pit that persisted throughout the course of their set. The band did the usual fan favorites like “Alchemy of the Black Sun Cult” and “Apocalpytic Havoc”, but also reached into the vault to perform material from “The Eclipse of Ages into Black” (which happens to contain some of Goatwhore’s best material if you don’t know) which translated quite well into the live environment. The band even brought out a surprise in the form of a brand new song, “Collapse of Eternal Worth”, which kept the energy going with its ripping riffs. Veteran showman Ben Falgoust can command a crowd like no other while guitar player Sammy Duet summoned forth riff after riff that merged the best aspects of death and black metal, and he even stepped in to do some backing vocals, utilizing a higher rasp as opposed to Falgoust’s Tom G. Warrior-like grunt. Bass player James Harvey and drummer Zack Simmons have an incredibly solid chemistry about them as a rhythm section that was likely honed from years of touring (as Goatwhore are touring machines), never dropping the beat no matter how fast or slow the rhythm was. Goatwhore ended their set with the infamous “Apocalyptic Havoc”, which contains one of the most memorable (and least subtle) lines in all of post-1999 metal, so much so that I don’t have to type it – you should already know this one by now (hint: you couldn’t throw a rock without hitting someone wearing a shirt with the line on it). It was a great set, but we weren’t done yet!
The mighty Exhumed closed out their set with a bloodsoaked display of death/grind (sometimes called “gore metal” after the band’s album of the same name) that is stylistically in-line with bands like Carcass and Impaled. Vocalist/guitarist Matt Harvey led the band through about 45 minutes of of a savage set that featured songs from all eras of the band’s career, including their landmark “Anatomy is Destiny” album as well as their newest release , “All Guts, No Glory”. While the riffs were played well and bludgeoned the crown into submission, what really caught my ear were the vocals, which were incredibly diverse in the presentation. The low gurgles were brutal (there’s that adjective again, get used to it), but the high screams were astonishingly visceral, leading to many instances of thinking “how is he capable of doing that?” Matt Harvey (also of Gravehill and Dekapitator) is quite the effective frontman as well, keeping the crowd entertained during and between songs. During the last fifteen minutes of the set, this reporter and friends found themselves in an enlightening conversation outside with Shyaithan from Impiety, a fascinating person with many unique insights. As such, that part of the performance was missed, although from the outside the band still sounded bludgeoning and precise. Apparently there was even a guy in a chainsaw that came out (according to Metal Underground reporter Darren Cowan), which is quite appropriate given the style of metal that Exhumed plays.
Overall, it was a great way to close out a great day, although the festival was far from being over. Days two and three would show plenty of surprises, and would make this fest one to remember.
For more info: A review of day two of the Goregrowler’s Ball will be posted tomorrow.