(Check out our Instagram for Day 3 Photos!)
Why the hell am I so goddamn tired? Oh, that’s right, it’s because when I got home at 1:00am after yesterday’s full day of extreme music insanity at Obscene Extreme America Festival , my five-month-old daughter awoke to greet me with cries that could only be interpreted as “Dad, I don’t give a shit that you both attended a festival and played a show yesterday. Hell, besides mom and a handful of St. Henri crusties, no one gives a shit that you played a show yesterday. Now put down your gear and feed me a bottle! Also, I love you and thanks for creating me.”
After not enough sleep and a bacon-heavy breakfast, I made my way back to the Telus Theatre. It was going to be a long day, so I decided to take it easy and only skull two beers upon arrival. After finishing my demonstration of responsible living, I made a bee line to the merch table where Full of Hell, one of my favourite bands, had already set up shop. I promptly bought everything. Presentation of responsible spending complete, I headed towards the stage for Quebec City grindcore act Mesrine. The group’s grimy death grind was razor sharp, and the lead singer’s throaty screams reminded me of Brutal Truth‘s Kevin Sharp with the occasional DM guttural emission.
After a quick loop around the venue and a quick beer with unofficial festival ambassador Luke, I caught Parisian grind band Department of Correction. The group’s music was incredibly fast (if a tad busy), but their lead singer, who appeared to be fatally caffeinated, was super entertaining to watch.
While the venue emptied out between sets, I secured a spot closer to the stage. This was primarily done to ensure an optimal spot to have a totally-not-obsessed fanboy freakout during Full of Hell’s impending set, as I was genuinely intrigued to hear the band that would precede FOH, Rumpelstiltskin Grinder. Any group with a name so patently ridiculous – even by grind and metal standards- deserves the benefit of the doubt, and I was very glad I stuck around. This Philly thrash metal outfit was pure, fist-pumping fun. The mirth was driven primarily by lead singer Eli Skaika, who was convivial and boisterous despite a sparse crowd.
Next up were Maryland death grind noise punks Full of Hell. Full disclosure: I am HUGE fan of this band, so the following review may be less than impartial. With that out of the way, Full of Hell’s set was totally fucking amazeballs. FOH’s blend of hardcore and grind with noise elements provided by lead singer Dylan Walker’s effects pedal board creates an astoundingly visceral and raw sound that is one of the most sincere musical expressions of misanthropic fury I have ever heard. The band played tracks from all three full lengths, including “Gordian Knot” from their 2014 collaboration with Japanese noise artist Merzbow. My only complaint was that this set wasn’t three hours longer.
I decided to grab one of the couch seats near the rear of the venue to obtain a beverage, chill out, review my notes thus far, and get ready for the next barrage of sets. Legacy punk-turned-grind act Psycho took the stage at this time, and while I was later informed of the group’s storied over thirty-year history, I found their set to be enjoyable but nothing extraordinary.
After a quick A&W health food refuel, I returned to Telus Theatre just in time to catch French grind weirdos Inhumate. Inhumate’s peculiarity is embodied in lead singer Christophe’s high energy and violently bizarre stage antics, which included smashing the microphone into his forehead until a steady trickle of blood was running down his face. This sacrifice did not go unrewarded, as the crowd reacted to the exsanguination like a school of sharks. To further up the carnage ante, Inhumate invited the crowd on stage for a giant on-stage mosh pit. Total lunacy!
I was looking forward to seeing New York technical death metal band Malignancy in concert, especially considering the extent to which ambassador Luke had raved about these guys. Holy hell, how the fuck have I slept on this band? Malignancy’s musicians, especially bassist Monty Mukerji, quickly demonstrated that the group had more than earned the “technical” designation; it may in fact be more apt to reclassify Malignancy as “Jesus fucking Christ, how did they do that?” death metal. Songs like “Neglected Rejection” and “Xenoplantation” demonstrate Maligancy’s ability to throw multiple sonic curve balls while maintaining an elephantine groove. Lead singer Danny Nelson is a true entertainer with a wry sense of humor reminiscent of Cannibal Corpse‘s George Fisher. Near the end of the set, a member of the OEF volunteer crew appeared on stage in a grass skirt and handed out leis. Nelson couldn’t resist the pun, exclaiming, “Everybody’s getting Lei’d!”
Up next were Brooklyn’s Magrudergrind. After a false start due to a busted kick drum head (which the stage team replaced with NASCAR pit crew-like speed), the band hurled themselves into a frenzied set of punk-informed grind/powerviolence that has undoubtedly influenced contemporary acts such as NAILS and Dead in The Dirt. During the set, a fellow in a sumo suit attempted to stage dive with less-than-stellar results. E. Honda would have been ashamed.
Chicago’s Broken Hope was another US death metal group that I had totally slept on, despite the high volume of positive press the group had received for their recent reformation and new studio album. Broken Hope’s straightforward approach to old school DM was heavy and satisfying, and seemed purposefully built for windmilling freshly flat-ironed metal hair. Closing track “Felching Vampires” was especially grimy,and included an legitimately gnarly riff.
After watching security remove a dude who had allegedly pushed a women down some stairs and then subsequently got his ass whipped, I made my way to the stage in order to catch Trap Them, a band whose entire discography I have loved but have never had the opportunity to see live. Similar to Full of Hell, Trap Them’s music is pure, unfiltered rage; however, their style is far more akin to Entombed-core acts such as Converge and Baptists. The band sounded fucking mean, and singer Ryan McKenney was truly a sight to behold. Although there were numerous examples of energetic frontpersons over the weekend, McKenney was as much in his own category as he was in his own world, as if the audience was inconsequential to his need to expel whatever ugly demons rent the room behind his eyes. Trap Them’s set included scorchers like “Guignol Serene” as well as slow jam “Fucking Viva,” the eerie opening track to 2008’s Seizures In Barren Praise. The band also delighted fans with tracks from their newest LP Blissfucker, includi
It pains me to say that while the crowd was a healthy size at this time of the night for a regular show, it should have been far larger considering this line up of bands.
Up next were hardcore politico-punks DROPDEAD. I’d seen DROPDEAD deliver a punishing performance at last year’s Maryland Deathfest, and tonight’s effort was no less enthusiastic. The music is rapid-fire, short bursts of highly political powerviolence-tinged hardcore punk, with lyrical themes focused primarily on animal rights, the environment, and a host of social justice issues. Lead singer Bob Otis took every opportunity between songs to preach to the crowd on these issues, and while I respect the man’s convictions the content was at times so overly simplistic it lost all impact.
“This song is a big fuck you to Big Tobacco!”
“This next song is a big fuck you to Nazi Skin Heads!”
I mean, is there really anyone in a contemporary punk audience that is going to find either of these positions controversial? I get that activist rally cries need to be simple, but if the message is going to be so devoid of challenge or insight, it kind of wilts on the vine, no? Wouldn’t it have been punk as fuck if he had said something like “Hey metalheads, wearing a Burzum shirt shows tacit approval for Varg Vikernes’ racist ideology!” or ” This is a big Fuck You to people who don’t recognize the existence of white male CIS gendered privilege!”
As I could already picture the disapproving look on my daughter’s face upon my return home, I was only able to hear American death metal pioneers Immolation tear through a few double-bass drum laden tracks before I had to hit the road.
Obscene Extreme America Day 3 was full of amazing performances, costumed silliness, and minimal negative bullshit. All in all a great day outside of the slightly lower than anticipated attendance numbers, which may unfortunately jeopardize OEF’s ability to return to Montreal.
Stay tuned for Paul’s Day 4 coverage!
Written by Jesse Gainer
*edited by Kate Erickson