Milwaukee's Metal Manifesto
Milwaukee Metal Mania XI At The Eagles Ballroom Auditorium, July 25 and 26, 1997
by: Gino Filicetti / Henry Akeley
This year's Milwaukee Metal Fest was a very special event for Chronicles of Chaos. It marked the first time that 5 out of the 9 CoC staff have been in the same physical place at the same time. Gino, Steve, Alain, Adam and Adrian were all in attendance. Needless to say, the entire experience was well worth the time and effort. Here now are our own personal accounts of what transpired in Milwaukee.

Gino Gets Gritty

Since the first time I'd hear of Milwaukee's annual MetalFest, back when I was but a young adolescent, I knew that some day, perhaps far in the future, I would have to experience it. Well, finally, after all these years, my chance came, and the entire experience passed so quickly, it's a crying shame we couldn't stay longer.

My main draw to this year's MetalFest was, by far, Venom. This is a band that I have, and always will, worship. Some of you may laugh and scorn, but to me, Venom, without a doubt, started it all. I was also interested in seeing Cradle of Filth, and when learning that both Napalm Death and Obituary would be playing, I was ecstatic!

Our 'convoy' consisted of seven people renting a mini-van and driving for 11 long hours down to Milwaukee. So you can imagine, we expected the 'fest to be well worth the effort.

On the first day of the MetalFest, we arrived at the Eagles Auditorium early enough to catch all of the bands that played that day. The venue itself is an enormous building that used to be an antique ballroom. Nowadays, the insides of the place are pretty decrepit, and the ventilation was non-existent. With inside temperatures soaring to above 40C at times, you can imagine how uncomfortable we felt. Add to this the absolutely horrendous acoustics that ensued in the upstairs ballroom, and the muddy sound of the downstairs 'Rave Room.' However, we weren't going to let minor details hamper OUR enjoyment.

One of the lesser-known bands that left me more than a little impressed were Jungle Rot. These Florida dudes kicked out some heavy-ass death with a real groove that definitely leaves its mark. I wanted to get backstage after their set to get their demo for review in CoC, but as always, the 'roid monkey bouncers have to be jerks and denied 'press scum' like myself from entering the sacred echelons of 'back stage-dom.' However, if anyone out there knows this band, please get them to send us some material; it was just too good to pass up.

Another highlight of the day was the 'surprise' birthday party that was being held for CoF's Dani. Friday was his 24th birthday and his label decided to get him a nice lovely tombstone-shaped cake, how cute! Best part about this event was the free suds; even if it was the pale piss-water you Yanks call 'beer.'

Obituary and Napalm Death played back to back sets in the upstairs ballroom. Although I had already seen Napalm once in Toronto, Obituary were totally unknown to me in a live setting. I was fucking psyched to see them, but ended up being disappointed. The problem with their set was obviously not their own: Their sound just did not jive with the acoustics of that damned room. Needless to say, I was peeved. Napalm had a marginally better set, but again, they were ruined by the echo of that enormous room.

By far, THE BEST show Friday night, if not the entire MetalFest, was performed by the almighty ABSU. I was totally psyched to see these guys take the stage. I positioned myself in the photo pit, and planned to stay put throughout their entire set. They came on in fine fashion, and played an absolutely slaughterous set of drilling black metal. Proscriptor, while positioned at the back of the stage behind his drum kit, stole the show by shooting fire out of his hands and yelping crazed speeches that came straight from his solo album. These guys were definitely 'the shit.'

After an overly exhaustive first day, we couldn't IMAGINE going to the club on Saturday and staying there from 12pm to 12am. We therefore decided to chill out in our hotel room until 4:30pm when Macabre was scheduled to play. Unfortunately for Adam (the world's biggest Macabre fan), the sets were actually running early (!) and we caught but the last few songs of Macabre. Unfazed, we continued to check out some of the amazing lineup that was slated for this night, although I had a hard time believing anyone would come close to Absu's killer set.

Some notable bands that were unknown to me before the 'fest included Angel Corpse, Vital Remains, and Hemdale. I was absolutely pissed that I missed the majority of Hemdale's set to see the second- rate Avernus. The few songs I did see had me in stitches; these guys were absolute animals on stage, two thumbs up! Another band I missed and am still regretting it were the Hanson of death metal, The DeathKids. The band consists of a 10-year old growler, a 12-year old drummer, and their biker-esque dad on bass. It was said that they were comparable to a lot of 'premium' death metal bands. It's a shame I didn't catch 'em.

First surprise I had Saturday night had to have been Cryptopsy. Although I knew some of their material, I didn't know these guys were gonna put on such an intense fucking show. From start to finish, it was absolutely killer, not an inch of boredom entered my bones during the entire set. Second surprise of the night was Hypocrisy. I had forgotten that they were going to play the 'fest, and was absolutely joyous when I saw their name on the roster. They played in the upstairs room and I was dreading each second as they approached the beginning of their set; I just KNEW the sound would suck, and I didn't want to be disappointed. However, to my own, and everyone else's amazement, Hypocrisy's sound engineer managed to tweek the controls enough to produce the absolute best sound of the entire MetalFest. Hypocrisy were definitely the highlight of Saturday.

Next up were Cradle of Filth, I positioned myself in the photo pit, ready to go snap happy when Dani and the boys took the stage. True to their huge theatrical image, the group took to the stage, clad in their black 'poofy shirts' and plastic pants, corpsepaint, fake blood, etc... The first three songs for which I was in the photo pit turned out to be excellently executed. Dani's screams are something I'll never forget: They pierced me from within and wouldn't let go. When I got booted out of the photo pit, I had to join the rest of the crowd and endured the horrible sound of the ballroom. This definitely detracted from the "Cradle Experience(tm)" but I had my fix, so I was a happy camper.

Finally, came time for the almighty Venom to take the stage. It was now midnight, and I was close to collapsing from a combination of heat exhaustion, muscle fatigue, and shin splints. But nothing was going to tear me away from Venom. Alain and I both got into the photo pit with our trusty cameras [thanks for the loaner, Adam -- Alain]. We got there early and stole the center stage spot from the other "professional" photographers. Finally, after waiting what seemed a year, Venom begun their set with an enormous explosion of at least 10 different flashpots! My face felt as if it had been blown away, but it's all part of the 'magic' of Venom. The band played many of their classic tunes, plus a few that neither Alain nor myself could pinpoint; perhaps it was some new material? Regardless, Venom put on a decent show, despite their 80s rockstar posturing, and fruitless efforts to stir up the crowd a la Paul Stanley. By the time Alain and I exited the photo pit, the rest of our group had disappeared. POSEURS! We exclaimed, how DARE they ditch Venom, have they no respect, are they so worthless and petty? Well, the answer was yes, because they did not return until the end of Venom's set. But who cares, it was their loss, for now I can die and say my life was complete.

Well, the next day saw us rise at around 08:00, having gone to bed a scant four hours prior. Needless to say, we were all totally zombified, AND we had an 11-hour drive ahead of us, to boot. Luckily, the drive went smoothly and Alain DIDN'T end up falling asleep at the wheel, so we were all happy. My experience at the MetalFest was definitely a positive one. I will admit that I was a bit anxious about it, seeing how its track record isn't all that great, but in the end, we turned out to have the time of our lives.

Steve Says It All

As you're probably well aware, a steady intake of black metal, death metal, and grind can provide quite an invigorating antidote to the spiritually poisonous consumerism and conformity that clogs our mainstream "culture." And as you can no doubt imagine, the mega-dose of metallic extremity offered up by this year's Milwaukee MetalFest proved to be a potent concoction indeed. Conspicuous quantities of big-time musical might... lots of friendly and interesting people... quality intoxicants... tangible energy all around... All these elements and more came together in Milwaukee for a truly unforgettable weekend.

Those who understand extreme metal's symbolic vocabulary understand that it's largely about energetically and thoughtfully embracing individual freedom and cultivating individual strength. (Need help? See Milton's _Paradise Lost_ or Blake's _The Marriage of Heaven and Hell_). It's true that all the "Hail Satan" and "kill and kill again" stuff has been done over and over and over... But done right - that is, with energy, sincerity, and authentic creativity - the imagery can still be quite potent, especially when fused with such incredibly powerful sound.

Speaking of incredible: Cryptopsy! These guys simply kicked ass, turning in an absolutely manic set of their super-tight, hyper-blasting death metal. New vocalist Mike DiSalvo proved to be a great frontman, with lots of energy and presence, plus vocals with a sharper edge than his predecessor's grunts. And skinsman Flo Mounier - fucking unbelievable! (In fact, he was so into it that he collapsed from heat exhaustion after Cryptopsy's set.)

And as long as we're talking potency, I should also mention: Angel Corpse (ripping fast, tight, and sinister), Hemdale (grinders who go nuts on stage, a total blast to watch!), Jungle Rot (solid Florida death with great rhythms), Epoch of Unlight (technical, blackened death), Wicked Innocence (wild progressive death), Blood Storm (harsh black metal), Summertime Daisies (solid Canadian death), the black-metal-ish drum-machine band whose name I've unfortunately misplaced (sorry)... plus others I'll mention in a minute.

And let's not forget Incantation and Vital Remains - though I had hoped for a bit more "oomph" from these guys, since they're both favorite bands of mine. The muddy sound (almost all weekend) certainly didn't help, especially during Incantation. Vital Remains sounded a bit clearer, and were definitely very tight - great blast beats, and a good vocal performance too. Another real highlight: the mighty Absu - kilt-wearing, fire-breathing, blazing blackened thrash, with great drumming from Proscriptor and crazed vocals proclaiming their imaginative theology. Nice guys, too.

Of course, there were some bigger "name" bands as well, but in the end, I thought the most memorable sets were by more underground acts - Cryptopsy, Absu, and Hemdale, in particular. On Friday night, I missed the re-formed Exodus, but I did manage to catch the end of good old S.O.D., after Vital Remains finished up on the smaller downstairs stage. Sergeant D. and company were entertaining, but not what I'd call artistically satisfying, at least not when measured against many of the other acts mentioned above. Still, you had to love their new variations on "The Ballad of Jimi Hendrix". (Remove "Jimi Hendrix" and plug in the names and jingles of some other musical icons who've gone down for the dirt nap in recent years.)

Saturday night gave us Hypocrisy (in a rare US appearance), Cradle of Filth (in their first-ever North American show), and of course, Venom. Owing to Kataklysm's last-minute cancellation, I found my way back upstairs in time to catch all of Hypocrisy - and wow, was I impressed! Really great sound, and totally fiery, pro delivery of some well-crafted and powerful songs. Cradle of Filth proved enjoyable, too. I'm not a big fan of either their music or their incredibly campy "mystique," but it was still cool to see the excitement they generated, given that they didn't skimp on the blast beats, the screams, or the overall aura of dark extremity.

As for Venom... This is probably going to cost me some "scene points," but I skipped out on them after the first couple of songs. After a great weekend dominated by struggling acts who maintained a down-to-earth attitude AND played music which completely shreds Venom's amateurish (albeit seminal) material, it was a bit annoying to see Cronos and company up there copping rock star poses and bossing the audience around. Yeah, there is the nostalgia factor, and Venom deserves respect for being among the first - but if there's one thing I took away from Milwaukee, it's this: The extreme metal underground is really thriving right now, and the scene has at least as much to gain by looking forward as it does by looking back.

Adam's Two Cents

This was the second consecutive year that I've attended the MetalFest, and I must say that this was the better of the two. I say this in reference to not only the better quality of bands present, but also in part to the people I went with. Sure, two 11-hour van trips may sound like Hell (especially with Adrian's yammering), but a duo called "The Jerky Boys" made the trip much more bearable. I don't think I've laughed that hard that many times in my life! Pure hilarity.

As I said, this year's show had much better bands than last year (which incidentally did include acts that have played in prior years). Highlights included Macabre, Absu, Morgion, Incantation, S.O.D., Blood Storm, and Cradle of Filth. This year also featured some good Canadian acts, them being Summertime Daisies, Obliveon, and Cryptopsy (who blew me away, and I was not alone in those sentiments). Even the vendors were better this year (and the prices), as I picked up over $150 US in merchandise which thankfully saves me from doing the mail orders that I had originally planned to do.

But when it comes down to it, it wasn't as much the music, but the hanging out and the laughs we had (mostly at Adrian's expense) that made this trip as amazing as it was. This was a trip that I won't soon forget, and I hope it becomes a regular part of my yearly itinerary from now on.

Adrian Always Has Something To Say

Where to begin? Damn! I dunno where... it was such a blast for all us CoC'ers - myself, Gino, Alain, Steve, and Adam (and Black Mark label rep Ed Balog, Alain's girlfriend Kim, and silent metaller Mark) - to be able to attend this year's Milwaukee MetalFest. 70 bands in two days with more than 4,000 in attendance - it was a zoo! We brought ourselves and lots of flyers to hand out to all those attending the convention. We spread the word about CoC to a lot of interested people. Hopefully many of them will become subscribers.

We arrived the night before (following a long 11-hour drive and numerous listens of The Jerky Boys CD), and got right into party mode. Cracked open the Jack Daniels, Jagermeister, and rum, [how quickly you forget Adrian's most righteous leafy green -- Alain] and partied it up. We were all excited about what was to come the next few days. All these great bands, all in one venue.

The next day, the CoC'ers stormed the Eagle's Ballroom with our flyers and earplugs in hand. The variety of bands that day was pretty good. As was the second day. Indie bands like Jungle Rot and Exploding Zombies ruled, as did the black metal dosages of truly dynamic bands like Absu and newcomers Bloodstorm. Headliners S.O.D. were pretty good, and other heavyweights like Napalm Death and Obituary delivered solid sets - even though the sound for those two bands rather sucked. The venue for MMF sported two stages, one on the ground floor (The Rave Room) and one upstairs (The Ballroom) - and it was easily distinguishable that the sound was far better below than in the cavernous ballroom. Only second day headliners Venom and Cradle of Filth were able to get almost near-perfect sound from upstairs [you obviously didn't catch Hypocrisy's set; the clarity was remarkable -- Alain].

There were also a few Canadian bands playing there this year. Bands like Summertime Daisies, Obliveon, and Cryptopsy represented Canada in true metal fashion.

The best bands of MMF, in my opinion: Cradle Of Filth (cool sound, though not a lot of theatrics), Cryptopsy (even though I am not a real fan), Hypocrisy, and Hemdale.

All in all, it was a success, and even though seven of us crammed in a mini-van for an 11-hour trek all the way from Canada to and from Milwaukee, drove through a massive rainstorm, dished out lots of jokes and ridicule, and ate bad fast food (though Denny's ruled all 20 times we were there), it was a great experience to soak up. I'm already packed for next year.

Alain: Quick 'n Easy

Thumbs up: Hypocrisy, Cryptopsy, Obliveon, Morgion, cohorts in crime,

mad weed, Jagermeister, cheap CDs, Denny's.

Thumbs down: U.S. border cops, Obituary, Avernus, Cradle of Filth,

poor scheduling, unbearable heat and humidity, Miller

Beer exclusivity, grueling drive home.

(article submitted 12/8/1997)


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