Milwaukee, Here I Come Again
CoC covers the Milwaukee Metalfest XIII
at the Milwaukee Auditorium in Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Friday and Saturday July 30th & 31st, 1999

by: Adam Wasylyk
Thinking about the 13th instalment of North America's premier metal festival leaves a bittersweet taste in my mouth. Not that those in attendance (at least 4000+, including CoC scribes Adrian "The Energizer" Bromley, Paul Schwarz, Alain Gaudrault and Aaron McKay) necessarily had a bad time, as many of the 160+ bands demonstrated that metal couldn't be further from "dead". But what lingers in the mind is how much better it could have been.

Early drop outs (Morbid Angel, Manowar, Machine Head) and last minute ones (mostly Scandinavian black metal in the form of Satyricon, Marduk, Mactatus and Mental Home) gave a lot of metal fans something to feel shitty about. But many bands promised to play showed up and proceeded to kick some major ass. Including mine.

Originally scheduled to take place at the Wisconsin State Fair Park, this plan was eventually dropped due to bureaucratic bullshit and a last minute venue had to be found. No better place could have been found than the Milwaukee Auditorium, air conditioned with plenty of space for four stages and a large vending area. This may have been a blessing in disguise, as Milwaukee's temperature on day one of the festival was over 100 degrees Celsius, which would have made for a day in Hell (however appropriate that may sound). [100 degrees Celsius, eh Adam? I guess you guys had no trouble boiling water in that mosh pit! -- Gino]

Day one featured a varied array of acts, catering to a number of metallic tastes. The gang arrived at approximately 4pm, well rested and ready for some great metal.

The first band I saw worthy of mention was Chicago's Ember. Not what I remembered them to sound (and look) like, I was thrown back for a moment as I came to the realisation that this was the same band that sounded like Enslaved (in my ears, anyway) at last year's Fest. Boasting a smorgasbord of influences, it was metal all right, but difficult to nail down exactly what kind. The vocalist ranted like a madman, while the drumming kept things moving and tight. Cool stuff.

Fellow Canadians Kitty took to the Bruce Hall (the main stage) to a curious bunch of onlookers, most likely more interested in the band being comprised of four hot chicks rather than what they sounded like. "Do you wanna hear some cunt metal?", the blonde in the band yelled at the audience. "Hell yeah!" Meshing metal with alternative rock/punk influences, surprisingly it sounded pleasant and eerily pleasing. "Do you think I'm a whore?", one of the brunettes in the band yelled at the audience. "Hell yeah!" Surprisingly, they had a larger crowd than some of the upcoming acts, although it's doubtful that it was because of their musical integrity.

The Relapse stage would prove to be the place to be for a large part of Friday. The first band to pique my curiosity was Bongzilla, the band not two feet away from a bong or a copy of High Times. Playing their brand of sludgy metal with vocals from Hell, they played a variety of tracks from their new album _Stash_ which the crowd on hand lapped up merrily.

Next up were Dillinger Escape Plan, who have created quite a name for themselves as a live band. Going nuts as soon as the first chord was stuck, these guys never let up from beginning to end. Playing hardcore sped up a thousand times, the start/stops and off time signatures really messed with my head. Disorienting, to say the least.

Today Is the Day never fail to disappoint, and Milwaukee #13 was no exception. Steve Austin must be troubled; I've seen no front man for a band this pissed off and agitated. Taking the mic into his mouth to accentuate his screams, Austin's performance would prove to be the highlight of their set. Fucked up noise metal. Gotta love it.

Another fellow Canadian band Solus ended up following Soilent Green, but unfortunately didn't retain much of their audience. Playing to a mostly empty Relapse stage, it didn't stop the band from playing an energetic set of metal with death influences. Having heard some talk about wanting to catch their set, I was surprised by the lack of people on hand. But with three other stages playing at the same time, it was bound to hurt many bands in attendance.

After checking out one song of The Gathering, it was time to see why Brazil's Krisiun have such a cult following. Hearing but one song showed me why this band are so popular in the death metal underground. The Morbid Angel-isms combined with a go-for-the-throat attitude made the band's half an hour set both exhilarating and exhausting. Occasionally bland because of too much speed where better control of tempo would have been more favourable, overall Krisiun won the packed Kilbourn Hall over in spades and will hopefully come back to these parts soon.

Norway's Twin Obscenity made my worst of the Fest list, simply because they seem unable to write a song that one can remember after it's over. Containing a keyboardist who was nice to look at but looked totally out of place, the band seemed uncomfortable and couldn't excite the half capacity room, many of whom I followed out the door. Wish they stayed home, to be totally frank.

Time conflicts soon became too painful to bear, as both Oakland's Neurosis and Sweden's In Flames were scheduled to play at the same time. But due to a delay on the Kilborne Hall stage, I was able to check out half of each band. Neurosis, with their brand of hardcore/noise/metal accompanied with movie screen backdrop depicting downcast and incomprehensible images almost made me unable to tear myself away to check out the Scandinavian act. In Flames put on a good show, but not knowing some of their material may have hampered my potential enjoyment. Highlighted by "Episode 666" and playing tracks from their new album _Colony_, I was glad to have gotten the opportunity to see them, knowing they most likely won't be back for some time.

The Misfits, who I surprisingly enjoyed (contrarily to many I would later speak to), closed out the night. Being completely unfamiliar with their material (apart from the tracks Metallica have covered in the past) and having heard their fans sing along with the band made me wish I wasn't so. Oh well, ho hum.

Mass quantities of beer would be consumed on this night, with our own Paul Schwarz having a bit too much and paying for it the next morning. Rookies!

Day two wouldn't start for us until 3pm, missing as many pay-to-play bands as possible. Unfortunately, I was to miss Markham, Canada's Rotting, who I later heard played a powerful set of brutal death metal to a near-packed Kilborne Hall.

Victory's Shutdown followed on the Bruce Hall stage where they played a 20 minute set of speed/thrash metal -- for some reason, the band like to label themselves "hardcore". I can honestly say I didn't hear ONE OUNCE of hardcore, just dated metal music. Sure they may look hardcore, but they don't play it. Whatever.

Back to the Relapse stage, which contained more great bands to check out. California's Benumb kicked some major ass, playing 30 second to one minute blasts of pure aggression. Effortlessly meshing hardcore with grindcore elements, it's music that the hardcore kids can appreciate and the metalheads can get into. Vocalist Pete Ponitkoff's face was beat read by track two, and ready to explode by the set's end. Fucking intense the whole way through.

Sweden's Nasum proved that grindcore is an international way of total brutalization. Featuring drums on full blast with a bassist who was unable to stand still for even one second, they played a number of tracks (that I could discern, anyway) from their _Inhale/Exhale_ debut on Relapse. Not playing the full half hour as originally scheduled, they did however make an impression on the audience, that of an auditory representation of a charging bull. Intense, to say the least.

Atrocity played a cover of Tears For Fears' "Shout". 'Nuff said.

A death metal phenom if there ever was one, Nile had no problem proving to the Milwaukee audience why they're one of the more intense live acts around. Playing a number of tracks from their highly acclaimed _Amongst the Catacombs of Nephren-Ka_ (climaxing with "The Howling of the Jinn"), the drumming was spectacular while all four members contributed vocally to the malicious onslaught. One of the best bands to play the Fest, hands down.

Holland's Sinister sounded (to me, anyway) to be the fastest of the 160+ bands on hand, with guitaring that's really something to behold. The beer was starting to kick in, so song titles started to become a blur, but Sinister's tight musicianship and good sound could never be forgotten.

Quebec's Gorguts showed 'em Yankees how death metal is really played, despite being a member short. Playing without Steve Hurdle, it did have an effect on their sound as the technical brilliance exhibited on _Obscura_ didn't shine through as when I last saw them as a complete band. Not deterred, they played a good half hour to a sizeable crowd who showed their appreciation appropriately.

Closing out the show was Greece's Rotting Christ, who were only able to play about four songs until the promoters pulled the plug. Playing mostly new stuff with one track being an older one, they travelled too far to play such a short set. Almost a disappointment to see them for such a small amount of time, I've never been a fan of RC but I've recently culled my releases by the band to give 'em another listen. Who knows, perhaps they'll get another chance to play America. I just hope it's sooner rather than later.

And just like that, the festival was over. However, this year wasn't just about the bands. It was also cool to get to talk to people about metal, this coming from someone who's from a town where death metal is only starting to get the attention it deserves. Accompanied with some great pot and lots of beer (excluding American beer, which could generously be called "piss water"), it truly made it a year to remember.

Incidentally, the talk recently has centred around Holland for Dynamo 2000 for the CoC crew. We'll keep you updated.

(article submitted 12/8/1999)


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