Photos by: Josh Ford
In contrast to the sludge and doom orientation of the event’s first three days, Southwest Terror Fest‘s final day boasted a day of vicious powerviolence, relentless metallic hardcore and titanic drone metal. Falling on a Sunday, the evening was aptly headlined by Sunn O))), the earth-shaking brainchild of Stephen O’Malley and Greg Anderson, the latter of whom performed with Goatsnake on the fest’s second night. Interestingly, the three preceding bands were the weekend’s fastest outfits, tempo-wise, outpacing any other band that had played prior. Tucson’s own Sex Prisoner opened the show with explosive results, stretching their regular fifteen minute set into the required thirty. Known for being shamelessly pissed off, Sex Prisoner channeled their open rage into a blistering set. Throughout the weekend, the audience was overwhelmingly receptive to each band, however this night was one for the pit. The crowd raged, splitting the gathered mass in two, with fist striking air and meat alike, convulsing to Sex Prisoner’s neck-breaking speed. A violent energy had been whipped up like a flash flood, a hungering storm that would not rest until it had been satiated.
Obliterations followed with an outgoing performance that belied the savagery of their music, maintaining the mood set in by Sex Prisoner. Vocalist Sam Velde took particular care to reach out to the audience, berating the Rialto’s barrier that severed stage and floor, going so far as to invite the crowd, especially those moshing, onto the stage for one chug-heavy song. Those who accepted the invitation clambered over the railing, brushing off security’s advances, with Velde personally intervening on their behalves. Those on stage were elated, following along with light push-moshing, headbangs, brother embraces or off-tune air guitars. It was certainly the most interactive set, compounded by Velde’s penchant for leaping the barrier himself to scream with the crowd.
Canada’s Baptists followed suite with their distinctive metallic hardcore, riling the crowd into outright frenzy, leveling the pit into a wasteland. Vocalist Andrew followed Obliterations’ lead of ignoring the barrier, bending over the railing to deposit the mic into eager attendees, inviting a shrieking chorus to his band’s assault. Punk-laden beats churned the wasteland into roiling cyclone of fist, kicks and barreling bodies. Clawed hands curled into the air as the solo in “Vistas” screamed triumphant, the band members’ ebbing with each crushing passage with Andrew’s eyes affixed forward with predatory vision. At one point, Velde relinquished the mic from Andrew, commanding the chorus as if it were his own. Baptists succeeded in maintaining an energy that would be emotionally and physically drained from the audience by the evening’s end.
As if being suffocated by a creeping twilight, the lights in the Rialto Theatre dwindled only to eerie purples and greens on the stage. As if demons were awakening from an Evil Dead film, smoke machines issued constant billows of fog into the packed auditorium. Oozing synthesized scores from Halloween III: Season of the Witch prefaced Sunn O)))‘s arrival, climaxing in the giddy jingle from the film’s Silver Shamrock commercials. As per their custom, Sunn O))) was flanked by a phalanx of towering amps, their lights peering through the mist like disembodied creatures. Greg Anderson and Stephen O’Malley’s riffs washed over all in attendance, many accepting with arms skyward in embrace, while others lay spread-eagle, allowing the vibrations to overcome them. All within sight wisely brandished ear plugs, lest they fall victim to Sunn O)))’s mythical ability to induce bowel movements and fainting. The duo did what they do best, knitting together shapeless riffs into an experience, framing it with an occult atmosphere, with the riffs as the worshiping point. Wrapped in the same midnight robes as Anderson, O’Malley and frequent collaborator Tos, Mayhem’s frontman Attila Csihar strode pensively through the smoke. Delicately taking the mic stand into his hand like a leper-stricken romance, Attila exercised his trademark amalgamation of snarls, croons and screeches, accepted by the crowd like an Antichrist-superstar. Attila took a brief hiatus to allow Anderson and O’Malley further time to rattle everyone’s bones, the sound reverberating deeply enough that it equated to an exorcism, like unholy spirits clawing their way through a fleshy portal. Attila returned in a robe adorned with broken mirrors, his head wreathed in jutting shards and facial features obscured by knitted shadow. Like a glass Sauron calling Mordor to battle, his black speech a perverted war horn augmented by the droning chords. As the guitars were raised heaven-ward, Attila craned his neck, refracting violet beams that lanced outward in all directions. As their monolithic set ended, the nature of volume found new meaning as the Rialto and all within shuddered with fear and awe.
In what was a one-of-a-kind experience, Southwest Terror Fest III was unforgettable. All performances therein were received with roaring applause and gratitude that could only come from such specific, dedicated connoisseurs of the loud and profane. Specific thanks goes out to David Rodgers and crew for putting together this fest together and to all the bands that played, no matter how big or small. Additionally to Josh Ford, for contributing the photos, beers and insight. Of course, to the fellow fans, who are integral to the experience. Til’ next year, keep the riff alive.
Thank you Josh & Bruce for the awesome coverage of SWTF 2014!!
October 29, 2014 at 6:09 pm
OH THAT RIFF!!!!!