NOTE: This is the final part of the Goregrowler’s Ball 2011 reviews. A summation of the previous reviews can be found here.
The one-man project of Bloodsoaked served as one of the better acts of the Goregrowler’s Ball IV last year, and this year also served as a sight to behold. Accompanied by none other than Disfigured’s Metal Mike, who performed three sets in one day, band leader Peter Hasselbrack summoned a storm of vile death metal that was as sickening as it was enjoyable. The chemistry between the two guitar players of de Leon and Hasselbrack was evident as each player intertwined riffs with the other to create a classically inspired smorgasbord of death metal. While Bloodsoaked’s appearance at last year’s Goregrowler’s Ball presented some heavy expectations for this year’s incarnation of the fest, Hasselbrack and De Leon shattered previous conceptions to deliver a smashing performance. Hats off to Hasselbrack and to Metal Mike for this one, especially since – once again – the latter was performing three times in one day, a feat nothing short of breathtaking.
For a third time over the course of the festival, Shawn Whitaker took the stage, this time armed with a full band to perform a Viral Load set, which sounded as stellar as ever. With John the Butcher on bass and Darrel White on drum duty, Whitaker led the band through a superb set that showed that these “sick hicks from the sticks” were a force to be reckoned with as a live band. Drawing from over a decade’s worth of material that included fan favorites such as “U-Haul Full of Dead Bodies”, Viral Load left a favorable impression on the crowd that was clearly hungry for more relentless death metal even after an entire weekend of chiefly bands in that style. The trio of Whitaker, White, and John the Butcher had several moments of an intense groove that locked in which had quite the effect in terms of presenting a furious death metal assault. This reporter did have to leave in the last several minutes of the set in order to do some investigating about certain circumstances involving the last few bands of the festival, which, again, will not be discussed here, but I assure, it was for a legitimate reason. According to the Viral Load Facebook page, it will be a while before the band steps onto the stage again, as they are focusing on recording their upcoming album, which should be met with anticipation amongst Texas death metal fans.
Due to circumstances beyond our control, Phobia wound up not playing the festival, so the next band witnessed was none other than Mexico’s Rottenness. Rottenness performed enthusiastically and exuded an energetic stage presence, which is quite impressive if anyone knows the backstory behind their appearance at the fest (that will not be discussed here – if you were there, you probably heard the circumstances). The Mexican metallers were clearly taking no prisoners with their disgusting approach to death metal, with grindy riffs complimenting the sickening sections to great effect. The three-piece utilized the stage of the Korova to its maximum potential, running around while vomiting up sickening hymns that are typical of the death/grind genre that really made the set entertaining to watch. As a side note, this reporter witnessed them perform at the Mine Shaft on November 25th and they put on a similarly entertaining set that included covers of sections of Metallica’s “Blackened” and Slayer’s “Black Magic”, and while I had to duck out before their performance on Saturday, November 26th, I was informed that it was a killer performance that achieved the goals set out for the two benefit shows.
As headliners of the entire festival, Suffocation brought an anticipation about them that served as an apropos conclusion to the Goregrowler’s Ball V. Unfortunately, things weren’t perfect, namely the sound issues that plagued the mic at the beginning of the set (a scar acknowledged by a thoroughly peeved Frank Mullen after the song’s conclusion), scarring the landmark “Liege of Inveracity” somewhat, although the greater effect was not lost on the crowd, who whipped themselves into a frenzy, most notably during the legendary slam that takes place midway through the song, which could be used as a benchmark to test someone’s knowledge of brutal death metal (if you don’t know what I’m talking about – leave the hall!). Thankfully, the problem was soon fixed and the band launched into an impeccable set that uncannily included this reporter’s favorite Suffocation songs. Seriously, every single tune killed, and off the top of my head, I can recall (in no particular order) “Liege of Inveracity”, “Abomination Reborn”, “Infecting the Crypts”, “Entrails of You”, “Bind. Torture. Kill”, “Blood Oath”, and “Mass Obliteration”, all of which are in the running for my personal favorite Suffocation song. The band was incredibly tight as they played off each other’s strengths, and yes, Frank Mullen did his signature chop (“ladies love the chop!”) as he ran around gurgling and growling. The razor-sharp guitar playing of Terrence Hobbs and Guy Marchais kept the vile riffs flowing well into the night, while the unstoppable rhythm section of bassist Derek Boyer (wielding his bass in his signature stance) and drummer Mike Smith (an absolute god of percussion to anyone who knows anything about death metal drumming) showed why the band has such a respectable reputation in the underground. After watching band after band perform in a brutal style, it was something to watch the originators of the subgenre get up and show everyone who the true masters of brutal death metal are (not that this is intended as a slag on the other bands, of course). Suffocation simply took no prisoners and left a (non-literal) trail of bodies in their wake, and watching their set was nothing short of awe-inspiring (although the dubstep that blasted over the PA speakers immediately after their set was enough to rip anyone out of a metal-induced trance, though).
It may not have been perfectly accomplished, but Day Three of the Goregrowler’s Ball was quite the occasion to witness, and the lineup brought back memories of previous Goregrowler’s Balls that focused more on the more extreme death metal side of the spectrum as opposed to the more diverse lineup that Days One and Two offered. Nonetheless, your San Antonio Heavy Metal Examiner (along with a few other Examiners who showed up) had a blast! Here’s hoping that the San Antonio scene has great shows for years to come.
For more info: A complete summary of the Goregrowler’s Ball V can be found here.