Southwest Terror Fest Vol. IV: Day Two
Southwest Terror Fest continued with a double whammy of shows that consumed a sizable portion of Tucson’s downtown. The first show, headlined by vegan powerviolence legends Dropdead, continued at 191 Toole. The night’s second show took place a block away at the infamous Club Congress, which featured a headlining set by stoner metallers Bongripper. The night served as the festival’s most faced-paced showcase with 191 Toole’s breakneck hardcore and death metal roster contrasting the sludge and doom that permeated the majority of the event. As a welcome change of form, the night showed a crowd that was divided in taste but united by a love of all things heavy, a characteristic that every band that played could boast of.
Tucson’s own Warmonger was among the earlier bands to play, opening the night’s ceremonies with their explosive, gritty crossover thrash. Flagstaff’s Swamp Wolf followed suite with their barreling powerviolence and hardcore that intermittently dripped with black metal’s frost and thrash’s sweeping leads. New York’s Bleak recalled the demonic murk of 90s metallic hardcore with their earth-breaking, haunting set, splitting the crowd open like a softened skull, allowing the warm blood lust of the pit to seep forth. Arizona’s own Gatecreeper dropped a care package of buzzsaws and malicious intent on the crowd, rending spectators apart with their vicious, pummeling set. 908 were a swarm of grinding, sentient razors as the Colorado quartet sliced through their set e and audience like an experienced death squad of cannibalistic butchers. Chicago’s Immortal Bird took flight over the crowd like a mad bomber, unleashing a searing maelstrom of weapons ranging from grind, black metal to death metal, always in spastic bursts that induced seizure-like responses from the crowd. Their aggression was not to be outdone, their sonic venom lashing out from the stage, enticing and ensnaring all who dared. Be sure to catch their new EP, Empress/Abscess. Phoenix’s Landmine Marathon, no strangers to Southwest Terror Fest, raised the tension to a thrumming fever pitch as their city-leveling death metal razed Tucson like a scene from a Roland Emmerich film, though in a way that was actually entertaining. Colorado’s Call of the Void’s frenetic onslaught of sludged, grinded hardcore upped the ante, shrouding the dimly lit venue in further darkness, their instruments like snapping beast from beyond the precipice. A nasty, energetic set that tenderized the fest for Dropdead.
Providence, Rhode Island’s Dropdead crowned the matinee show with their blisteringly honest and breathless set. Espousing their vegan ideology with a passionate fervor, the band punctuated their set with these ideals, calling to the crowd like a general would an army, sans brainwashing. Their call to end the suffering of all life was apocalyptic in its tone but uplifting in its message. Their music played out in a similar fashion, juxtaposing their progressive themes with unbridled savagery. Throughout their set, vocalist Bob Otis would rest his hand on the heads of onlookers, all the while laying his eyes on the crowd in an all-consuming gaze, netting all who cared to listen about the man-made Armageddon of the meat industry. Similar to the aptly titled record store and label the band runs in glorious New England, Dropdead contributed a healthy dose of social awareness to the night, not unlike what they’ve done for the scene they’ve partaken in for the past 25 years.
Following Dropdead’s set, the festivities migrated through the cooling rain to Club Congress a few slick streets away. Here the booze flowed in droves as the festival’s patrons awaited the crushing sets that were to follow. Oregon’s Graves at Sea slowed the mood but quickened the heart rate with their monolithic sludge and doom, sharpening their fangs on glacial riffs, tectonic percussion and snarling vocals. Arizona’s Naught unraveled their bleak soundscape, their riffs droning off into some undiscovered dimensions where only the forlorn may dwell, while their tempo trembled in an area between life and death. Punishingly heavy, the Phoenix outfit maneuvered like phantoms behind their slowly exhaling death rattle of a performance. Bongripper, hailing from Chicago, smoked out the evening with their vast set, their sound an addictive inhalant that melted into flesh and twisted the audience’s lungs. Appropriately breathtaking, the instrumental doom quad assault closed the second night of Terror Fest with such hefty aplomb that Club Congress was left reeling with aftershocks well after their set ended.