It would not be inaccurate to suggest that after the savage beating that Day One of Rites of Darkness gave us (largely due to Adorior, Weapon, Demigod, and Inquisition’s pummeling sets), many attendees of the festival had to be thinking “How could today be any better?” Luckily, your San Antonio Heavy Metal Examiner is pleased to report that not only was Day Two of Rites of Darkness the best day of the festival, it also ranked highly among the best shows this reporter has ever witnessed, even in spite of the show starting about two hours late.
Texan grinders P.L.F. initiated the day of madness with relentless furor, blasting out some of the fastest grind that the state has ever seen. The Houston speed demons proved themselves as a fine way to start off Day Two of Rites of Darkness, with blistering riffs that fueled a small circle pit, representing grind well as the sole band of its genre on the fest. The band injects its grind with a strong death metal sensibility that adds a noted air of brutality to the band’s audio assault, and with a new bassist in tow, the band sounded heavier than ever. Frontman Dave (last name unknown) addressed the crowd in an engaging manner in between short bursts of songs, with many of the tunes played by P.L.F. clocking in at fewer than two minutes for maximum effectiveness. It was a refreshing change of pace from most of the bands on the bill, and despite their differences, P.L.F.’s set was certainly memorable.
The Houston assault continued in the form of Blaspherian, who beat the crowd into a bloody pulp with a consistent display of old-school death metal that drew heavily from the rotting stench of classic New York and Floridian death metal, with a down tuned sensibility that recalls a more glorious time for the genre. New front man Lycanthrope served Blaspherian well, grunting our guttural growls that benefited from an excellent stage presence. The band is currently riding high off the critical acclaim of their full-length debut, “Infernal Warriors of Death”, which earned a hefty 4/5 rating from this very column upon review, and the songs from the album sounded even more killer in the live environment. Blaspherian are unending in their devotion to heavy metal, and this was clearly illustrated by the musical context of Blaspherian’s set, with nothing but the purest representation of the old guard manifesting itself in the deathly riffs. The reek of undiluted evil was present as Blaspherian delivered infernal odes to blasphemy that were successful in their execution, and it seems safe to say that the band made a very positive impression on the crowd. Although Texan bands were a minority at Rites of Darkness III, it’s safe to say that hordes of the Lone Star State delivered well on all accounts, and we await their next performances.
Grave Ritual was missed due to the need to acquire eatables, so the next band seen was none other than Midnight, whose insane set was easily – for lack of a better word – one of the funnest of the festival. The cloak-clad metal maniacs had arguably the best crowd reaction of the entire fest, with stage dives and crowd surfing aplenty, with the (largely booze-soaked) audience fueled by a brash display of old-school speed metal that took the crude structures embraced by Venom and injected it with a Motorhead-like swagger. Band leader Athenar barked out confident commands while his partners-in-crime, guitarist Filey the Kid and drummer Count Zigar, fulfilled their roles as deliverers of sonic storms of speed. The noted highlight was the energetic “You Can’t Stop Steel”, which was met with a seemingly unending number of stage dives, much to the chagrin of the stage manager. The punk-like furor was accompanied by a rock and roll sensibility that was encapsulated in a crippling array of blackened heavy metal that would make Cronos himself proud, with a dangerous element that so many “metal” (and for that matter, rock) bands seem to lack nowadays. Needless to say, as an old-schooler trapped in the body of a 21-year-old, the set stood as a testament to the power of high-octane heavy metal, which is exactly the vibe that Midnight were giving off. As the band brought its set to a bombastic finish, Athenar took the liberty of mangling and snapping his bass strings while wrapping a lucky audience member in what remained of his E string (the audience member was not garroted, thankfully). The appearance of Midnight was a show-stopping one indeed, and anyone who missed out on it missed out, big time. Here’s hoping these masked madmen make a future return to San Antonio, because anyone who considers themselves a fan of metal, punk, or rock owes it to themselves to give the band a shot.
For more info: Part two of this review can be found here.