By Eric May
The past few days at Phil Anselmo’s Second Annual Housecore Horrorfest have definitely been one of the best experiences in my life. Held in Austin, TX; this Wacken style atmosphere featured tons of bands, horror films and other attractions for one to sink their teeth into. Though there were a few minor issues and concerns, I’ll get to them later. On Thursday, a free show was held at The Dirty Dog Bar, of which few were in attendance. Mostly local bands played there, but most press members simply went in and grabbed their passes. The rest arrived the next day, which is when the real event began.
On Friday, things kicked off on the Midway Stage at twelve sharp with locals Empire Undead. Though I was still getting things ready, I managed to catch the second half of their set and it absolutely ripped my face off. Combining the thrash of Testament with the high flying vocal antics of bands like Judas Priest or Helloween, these Texans really set the stage and made their presence known. Origin and Cattle Decapitated came next; both delivering performances that could only be described as being hit with a Japanese bullet train, whilst sledgehammers rain down from the ground to fully finish the job. Both bands seemed surprisingly energetic despite the scorching heat, with frontmen who found it more than necessary to jump around like maniacs as they tested the very limits of their throats. It’s no surprise that bottled water was almost a valued resource, with some of the bands dumping it all over themselves as they played. Though I could scarcely tell one song from the next (aside from the new Cattle Decapitation track, “Plague Barn” which actually featured a section of clean vocals for the first time in the band’s history) I was left picking my teeth up off the ground after such a roundhouse of energy and sonic force. It was surprising that the amps didn’t explode! But there was a slight segue into Cattle Decapitation’s set, which consisted of heavy metal comedian Brian Posehn. In a short stand up routine (outside in the heat, no less) he discussed serial killers, Star Wars and his balls – it was definitely a classic Posehn set, which had even the most rough necked metalheads rolling with laughter. Finally Unearth played (which had me confused, since the stage used the same Unearth banner for every band that played) and they actually surprised me. I’ve never been a very big fan of the band, even though I tried a few of their earlier albums and found them rather hit or miss. It seems that in the ten plus years that they’ve been playing, they picked up a few tricks from classic metal and it made their set more enjoyable. But they did manage to crack open a real cold one with “Endless” which reminded me of my good old teenage years, where I was still discovering metal and soaking in the metalcore scene. I never thought I would say this, but that song still manages to topple with its impressive use of rebellious breakdowns. Since the show got started late, there were a few conflictions and in one of them I missed quite a bit of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre Reunion Panel which was being held in Emo’s, a massive indoor venue that’s about the size of a gymnasium. I’m also guessing that its name came from the owner, as I found the place completely devoid of any emos. I only managed to catch the bare end of the panel though, wherein the director said that he felt “horror these days doesn’t leave as much as the imagination as it used to” as he also expressed a rather vehement dissatisfaction for CGI. But I truly concur with the man, as CGI has been ruining the magic of horror films, which these days are quite tasteless compared to the classics. Additionally, he disproved heavily of the remake of the film, as he felt that it really didn’t update the franchise and there was no real need for it.
When the music came back, I was greeted by a Texan black/death collective known as Skan. According to the band’s EP, they were originally called Wolves Of Skan, which I felt was a better name. Regardless of this, the guys put on a rather staggering performance, recalling Enslaved at their most folkish and unhinged. The set’s closer “Father Qayin” really managed to pack a punch, even though the band’s EP (which I heard shortly after) didn’t even manage to hold a candle compared to their performance on the stage that night. Nevertheless, I will be keeping my eyes on these gentlemen. SubRosa came on stage next and I had been heartily waiting for their performance. Having spoken with the frontwoman earlier in the artist room, I was humbled by her and the rest of the band. SubRosa might be a hugely popular heavy metal act, but the sheer fact that the band sold their merchandise for a bit less than some of the bigger acts and even offered free hugs was a truly great thing. Apparently though, even those hugs were abused and that was crossed out and replaced with a two dollar fee. Perhaps a larger gentleman thought he might give one of these tiny girls a bear hug and that was the end of that. The show itself consisted of absolute and utter beauty. If Neurosis was the burly male element of metaphysical post metal, then SubRosa was definitely the softer female iteration of the genre. The vocal element was surprisingly potent, yet harmonious as electric violins and thundering doom riffs pelted the stage and images of a woman crying blood amongst the statues of several religious figures populated our eyes. When it was done, it was done too soon. If there was one band I wouldn’t mind seeing several times, then it was most certainly these Utah based sirens. After that I was starving, so I checked out Hoek’s Death Metal Pizza which was being sold at a small cart outside the venue. The price of the pizza was actually affordable and the five dollar specialty pizza was certainly worth the money you paid for it. As a quarter of a traditional pizza was placed on my plate, I scarfed it down as quickly as possible in order to make it in time for Wizards Of Gore/Rigor Mortis. Bruce Corbitt took the reins just as well as he did later in the week fronting Warbeast, though I only managed to catch the last song of their set, the classic “Bodily Dismemberment.” But in all honesty, it was more than enough to convince me of the great Texan force that was Wizards Of Gore/Rigor Mortis. By just the nature of that track alone, I would say that the work of Wizards of Gore/Rigor Mortis made the later work in Warbeast pale in comparison. Though both bands might sound identical to the untrained ear, there is a clearly noticeable difference in the structure and memorability of the two acts. But with the band’s former (ex-Ministry, ex-Revolting Cocks) axeman Mike Sccacia no longer with us, it’s understandable as to why they can no longer continue in this form. Phil Anselmo came out (I met him earlier and gave him a copy of my band’s latest record, Elabrynth) to introduce the Australian act Portal of which many (including yours truly) had been waiting to see perform on American soil. They did not disappoint, as “the darkness” that Phil warned us about certainly became apparent as three hooded men began to come onto the stage and play rather unsettling tunes whilst a certain creature crawled out onto the stage. It certainly looked Lovecraftian in origin as it slithered to the microphone and raised its arms into the air as its tentacled fingers seemed to ask the crowd for adoration, which it received. On the screen above, several intriguing images of mitochondrion, cell splitting, and Sumerian artifacts were displayed for our visual ingestion whilst the band played an extremely pummeling set where each piece seemed to bleed wholly into the other as the beast began to bellow indecipherable roars into the microphone. The hour long performance felt like it had gone on for an eternity, as time itself literally seemed to slow down and the atmosphere produced by these Aussies seemed to suck everyone into a veritable sort of vortex which left them feeling like they’d been at hard labor for days. The concert literally left me drained and every muscle in my body felt stiff and rigid, like I had just endured the frantic blasts of firing squad as steamroller followed right behind. It may have even been more punishing than the Origin and Cattle Decapitation show, even though I still have no idea how the music of this amazing band literally seemed to slow down time itself. I still cannot believe that this performance was only an hour long… it was absolutely surreal. Finishing up the night was Voivod who offered a solid performance even though I wasn’t necessarily blown away by it. Though I respect the bands progressive thrash nature and legacy, it just didn’t seem to meld all that well with me. But after such a devastating effort by Portal, I felt that the night had been more than complete.
Before I talk about the most important day of the event, Saturday; I want to tell you a little bit about what you’d experience outside of the shows themselves. Housecore Horrorfest was definitely a sprawling area, filled with all sorts of delicacies for one to indulge into, especially if they were a horror aficionado. Several vendors lined their shops up in the corridors, selling everything from band t-shirts (one that said “Illegal downloads are killing the music industry and so is Warbeast” happened to be a very popular one, as I kept seeing it for days after it was first sold) along with several vintage horror tees, decals and prints. Even full-size paintings and artist renditions of classic works were for sale, showcasing the sort of “one of a kind” items that you just can’t produce a million of overseas. But it was good to see independent art being represented just as well as the music itself. One vendor was selling several band pins (many of which were classic logos, like the Gothic-era Paradise Lost logo, for example) of which were being sold for a mere seven dollars a pop. These pins were finely detailed and a friend of mine bought a ton of them after asking all of his friends which ones they wanted him to purchase. You could only imagine the comment flood. Additionally, tattooist and Tryptikon album artist Vincent Castiglia was there signing autographs and generally chatting about his work; whilst Heavy Metal Movies author Mike “McBeardo” McPadden was promoting his five years of work and countless years of research in what was a hefty five hundred and sixty page encyclopedia that catalogued nearly every mention of a metallic term or band in cinema. The book itself was heavy as well, but he joked that it was only so heavy because it was heavy metal! John Borowski was also there promoting his Serial Killer Culture films, among others based on Albert Fish, H.H. Holmes and Carl Panzram. All of these films were on display as well. Former Face-Off competitor Matt Valentine was also there, with several of his wonderful works, some of which were probably a bit too much to show on the television series. A cloaked evil with an inverse pentagram greeted me, which I found rather appealing even though I’m sure that the FCC might have found it a little less family friendly. Though looking at Matt’s ravenous works, I’m definitely glad that he’s still making some of the most “metal” beings that I’ve seen in recent memory. I’ve no doubt that he’s going to go places. There was also a Housecore booth, where one could buy shirts and merch from the label as you might expect. But of the bands there, only one was out there managing their own booth for three full days. This was Texas’s own Dead Earth Politics, a band that I’ve praised heavily on my website and they no doubt kicked my ass tremendously when they took to the stage later in the week. The guys were selling a few shirts and their CD’s, of which were all reasonably priced. I got a little sneak peak as to the band’s next offering as well, which certainly didn’t hurt matters. As the festival went on, more things were added like the autograph room where you could get virtually any artist to sign something for you, as well as a model by the name of Kitty Korvette, who was selling perfume while looking exquisitely saucy. On the second day, more vendors were added like an independent author of both comic books and novels (a plateau that I would like to climb myself someday) and I purchased a copy of his work, which he signed. It was a very good place to buy work and get it signed by the author, which is always a seal of approval for me. The second day of the event also included mountains of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 related booths, by which fanatics could browse through between the bands. There was also a press room, which of course had musicians walking in and out of it. If you sat on the ledge and kept to your own business, you would see several musicians walking in and out of there. Though it was rumored that David Vincent of Morbid Angel was at the event, I was able to confirm it by taking a quick glance at his tag. I did not approach the God of emptiness however, as he seemed a bit too busy to chat. But that was just another part of the event – you were bound to see an artist at one time or another, but you needed to have your manners in hand and be mindful not to disturb them. I walked by Randy Blythe several times, but didn’t want to approach him. He looked like he’d been through a lot of stress in recent years however, which couldn’t be any further from the truth, especially if you’ve seen As The Palaces Burn which was screening at the festival along with several other metal related films. As for those films, they were being screened in two large tents outside the venue. Several were in attendance for the films and they appeared to have drawn just as much of a crowd as the music events. But it was a horror movie festival after all. You could even watch VHS only releases in a certain room called “The Vomitorium.” If all that wasn’t enough, you could even get a tattoo or body piercing done professionally for ten percent off the original price over at the world famous BHS Tattoo And Body Piercing cart. It was no doubt lined to the rim with requests and I hope that they were able to fulfill all of them before the festival closed.
Saturday opened up back to the heat of the Midway Stage with Acid Witch, of which few were in attendance. Unfortunately my breakfast took much longer than I expected to arrive while at the diner and I ended up missing the whole damn show, which I was quite upset about being that I’m a huge fan of their material. I’m still kicking myself for that. Fortunately I was able to catch the next band, tech-deathers Archspire who hailed from Canada and gave us all a good ass kicking lined with extremely hilarious outbursts in the vein of dark humor. I think the band’s frontman Oli Peters was trying to give Posehn a run for his money and he certainly succeeded in some instances. Adding to that the remarkable mix of potently structured tech-death (not even these guys think they’re as good as Necrophagist, but I think they are) and death metal vocals that roll into rapped growls which certainly do the Wu-Tang clan shirt that he wore justice and probably ended up pissing off many metal fans in the process. I always knew that rapped growls would work if done correctly and he proved it can be done effectively with such speedy and intricate metal as this. A lot of metalheads don’t care for these dudes, but I loved them from the first time I heard the disc and I can definitely say that they’re just as mind-blowing on stage, not to mention just plain cool in person. Ringworm took the stage next, but I wasn’t a big fan of them due to frontman James Bulloch’s difficult to access vocal tone on the records. But oddly enough, they didn’t sound anything like their records on stage and I quite enjoyed the performance. I never thought I’d ever say that I enjoyed watching Ringworm, but that certainly seems to be the case. The guys went out there and barreled it out in the heat. I don’t think that anyone was left unhappy with their mix of hardcore and thrash with the energy and spirit of punk music. Poland’s Decapitated finally took the stage afterwards (even though I’d been in a short interview at the time) and I caught them right in the thick of it with several newer tracks from their most recent albums. Classic hits like “Spheres Of Madness” and “Nihility” were not played or even hinted at as the band seemed confident with their new sound and style. They plan to keep further evolving, so if you didn’t like the more modern approach to technical death metal that they’re playing on this particular tour, then maybe you should check them out around the next one. These guys aren’t bending that rule for anyone, apparently. Macabre then took the stage, as they brought their intriguing style of classic heavy metal and death metal together on such hits like “Nero” and personal favorite, “Countess Bathory.” These guys are certainly not an act that you’ll want to miss, as they just don’t sound like anyone else out there in the metal scene today. Napalm Death finally graced the stage around five o’ clock (things were running a bit late) and rolled through a quick set that even included their “hit” which consisted of one single word. Two new songs were also premiered, though I could not ascertain much difference in either. Barney certainly jumped around like a madman despite the fact that age seemed to be creeping up on him (just a little) and doused himself repeatedly with water bottles. The best part of the show for me was in the man’s wisdom-filled stage banter, which consisted of descriptions of the material that he would later scream about. Though most people might have heard what might sound like a fellow breaking down, it is my personal belief that this gentleman is quite on the top of his game and is speaking more truth through his bellows than most claim to do behind the pulpit. Napalm Death was no doubt insanity at its highest level, with all cylinders firing to their fullest extent, despite the ridiculous heat. If it is true that damnation is indeed where we metalheads will be spending our afterlives, then at least this heat will prepare us for the myriad of metal and horror festivals that the dark lord will no doubt be throwing in the underworld. After the Napalm Death show, it was back into Emo’s for the night events. I completely missed the Masters Of Metal And Horror event due to poor scheduling, but I was able to catch a little of the set from Texan act Images Of Violence. This one wasn’t all that special however, as their style of death metal I thought was a little bland and derivative. They’re still young though, so I’m sure that they’ll get better with time and experience. Though I’ll admit that it was excessively brutal, I’m not so sure it’ll be memorable in the current form. The next Australian band to perform was King Parrot, who I remember being quite insane on the album. Well, that insanity translated very well onstage, as the band mixed grindcore, death metal, core and punk into a veritable clusterfuck of aggression that involved a frontman by the name of Youngy who came out in his boxer shorts and little else. He seemed to have no problem showing his ass, as he leaped about the stage. The man’s vocal approach certainly sounded like that of an angry parrot, as he found his way into the crowd to join in with the pit antics along with several stage dives of which the venue security seemed to be rather tense about. The security guard held out his arms in order to catch the man and put him back onto the stage, but the crowd didn’t seem to want to let him go just yet. All this and he was still squawking about like a parrot as the band continued to play on the stage. It soon became apparent to me however, that Youngy would have rather played in the audience, instead of on the stage itself. It was surely a sight to behold. But with a band who sings about all manner of things including defecation, it made perfect sense. After the silliness of King Parrot, Author & Punisher finally took the stage, bringing to the stage something that wasn’t metal as much as it was extremely thick industrial. As the band’s mastermind Tristan Shone continued to utilize the weird metallic instruments in a manner that made organized noise, it slowly became interesting the crowd who were giving it the horns of approval, even though technically this wasn’t a metal act at all. I was just glad that people were enjoying it however, as the music of Author & Punisher is a bit much for some, especially in a heavy metal festival like this one. Instead of hundreds of people bellowing and wondering what the fuck was going on, they embraced the weird futuristic vibe and found themselves rather entranced in what was often times thick electronic dub. It was quite preferable to dubstep at any rate. Neurosis came on next, and this was the first time that I’d ever seen them live, so I was heavily anticipating what was sure to be a transcendental showcase of post metal; which is exactly what they gave me. If you looked at the stage, you’d only see a sort of purplish black light effect and four guys standing there on the stage playing instruments. They seldom moved an inch, so there wasn’t really a need to focus on them. Nor was there a need to focus on some sort of video backdrop. What you needed to do was to close your eyes and focus on the music. They would even help you with that as the lights would dim to black and the sounds of the astral world could be heard… or was that coming from me? It’s unknown as to exactly where such sounds were coming, but all I can tell you is that I completely left my fleshy encasement and rose into some level of consciousness that escaped into the music. Though Neurosis has been fierce in the past, this performance saw them rather mellowed and enraptured in their music. It was something that you both heard and felt, stimulating both senses simultaneously. The final act of the night was Gwar which brought me back into consciousness and the physical world immediately. Following up such a transcendental act like Neurosis with Gwar was quite an odd decision, but I think that we all felt better for it in the end. After the set, everyone seemed relaxed and at ease. The back pain I had been previously experiencing had completely vanished, thus as a testament to the power of music. When we piled back in for Gwar’s set, a large portal greeted us as the speakers began to blast the first few riffs of Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs.” This is nothing unusual, because the venue speakers literally churn out classic heavy metal tunes while people wait for the bands to take the show. But the venue turned off the speakers right as the song began and people actually began protest and boo, so they turned the music back on. But when they did, one of the most magical things that I’ve ever witnessed in my entire life happened. The entire crowd, made up of metalheads from all different backgrounds, cultures and several different countries from around the world; all began to sing along to the lyrics of this classic Sabbath tune. It was a tune that virtually everyone knew, from one of metal’s most beholden albums. Almost the entire track was played, right before the solo sections came on and the venue really did have to turn it off. But no one complained this time, as Gwar finally stepped on stage. This was my very first Gwar show and even though it did have a bit of a mournful air about it as it was done as tribute to the great Oderus Urungus (David Brockie), it did feature the reveal of new frontman Blothar (Mike Bishop, a former Beefcake The Mighty) and new frontwoman Vulvatron (Kim Dylla of A Winter Lost, Ossuary Vault, ex-ThisMeansYou) who each brought their own distinctive style to the band. Blothar’s previous work in early Gwar made his performance almost an emulation of Oderus, even though he is memorable for a few clean lines on the earlier records and most particularly “The Road Behind” in which he performed as a touching tribute to what was undoubtedly a very dear friend. Gwar and beautiful are two things that normally don’t sit well together, but this passionate yet rowdy performance of the track certainly left an impact on me and the rest of the crowd. As far as Vulvatron is concerned, I’m still a bit curious as to how her background in black metal and melodic death metal will play out in the band, as these are some unlikely influences that I think would be interesting to hear on future albums. They fought several villains and even had several guest singers for some of the songs (even though the tiny voice of Bonesnapper became grating after a while) as they showed the world that Gwar can still live on long after the demise of the band’s architect. There were still plenty of things being massacred on the stage and buckets of blood to spill, so it still felt very much like Gwar show. The band ended the night with an interesting cover of the Pet Shop Boys “West End Girls” which is probably circulating all over the internet by now. Whether you love them or hate them, they’re still one-hundred percent Gwar and you’ll still find the show appealing if you’ve been a Bohab as long as I have. After the concert, they showed the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre on the Midway Stage along with a Q&A from the original cast, but it was already midnight and watching that would have killed the mere ounce of sleep that I was barely getting every night to begin with.
After washing off all the Gwar blood and getting some rest, I ate a quick breakfast this time and readied myself out there to Sunday’s portion of the event. This was the final day of the event and to be honest, it began on a rather mediocre bit. There were several Housecore bands on display here, but the majority of them seemed to emulate the same punk, metal and crust stylings with a hint of thrash and what-not. There was very little distinction between the four Housecore acts that played in the morning (Krigblast, Gasmiasma, Fulgora and Child Bite) except for Fulgora which featured some interesting interludes and a hefty drum performance. The rest of the guys seemed to just play what was glorified punk music and it sounded quite derivative. Most of the metalheads were becoming bored at this point, as people began to look for shade and whip out their cellphones. I noticed one female metalhead simply sitting cross-legged while texting and she did that through all four of the opening sets. Finally, the mood changed as Corrections House (a supergroup made up of members of EyeHateGod, Neurosis and others) took the stage. The band announced that their set was going to be a bit shorter than usual to make up for the long-awaited (especially in that brutal heat) Superjoint set which would close out the daytime events. Corrections House seemed a little odd outside, as I think the band would have greater benefitted from an indoor show completely with smoke machines, a video backdrop and several other theatrics. Industrial just sounds odd outside and the fact that the Bruce Lamont read quotes from some book while a man played Saxophone and Scott Kelley tackled the guitars (as well as vocals on one of the tracks) was just a little different. It’s the kind of act that should have come somewhere in between Author and Punisher and Neurosis and just felt sort of forced. I’m not sure that anyone really got much out of the short set, but the majority of people hadn’t ever heard the band either. Sadly, that performance probably won’t net them any new fans. After the smoke cleared and the dust settled from the previous Corrections House set, Superjoint (“…and you know the “R” part” as Phil conveyed to the audience) finally took to the stage as the outside lot in front of the stage became tightly packed with metalheads and people who seemed to have just bought tickets to see this show in particular. Even the artists themselves were out there for this one, as a legend was showing off his skills to all those who were in some way inspired by him. Superjoint packed a punch, bringing the same amount of piss and fury that one might expect from their albums, even though Phil Anselmo himself seemed a much different man than we might remember. He cracked plenty of jokes while on the stage, almost giving us an entertaining stand-up routine as well as a raucous metal performance. But this was a kinder, much gentler man who seemed to frown upon negativity as he even called the much despised Corey Taylor (Slipknot frontman) a kind and sweet individual. The power was still there and the vulgar display was still imminent, but this was a more mellowed and peaceful man who just seemed to be going out there and having a good time playing the music that he loved. The band played several of their later tracks as well as their older cuts and even combined two tracks into one due to scheduling. They even managed to slide some demo tracks into the mix and no one seemed to bat an eye in disapproval. It was a great performance that reminded me of the attitude from Phil’s younger years. Unfortunately, Hank 3 was not able to take the stage that afternoon due to family problems so needless to say he was replaced for the performance. After an electrifying Superjoint set, we moved into Emo’s one final time where the staff announced that due to Danzig’s security, we’d be given the old TSA pat down every time we left the venue. The staff said “you can either get used to it, or you can just stay inside the venue” which eventually, is what most people decided to do. Additionally, a paper sign announced in emboldened letters that no filming or pictures of any kind were allowed during the main event, which was a Danzig and Samhain performance. Most metalheads were immediately upset and let their frustrations be heard as the sign was posted onto several social networking sites. But I didn’t want to focus too much on the sign, as Dead Earth Politics were playing as soon as I walked in. There was an earlier interview with Randy Blythe about his ordeal mentioned in As The Palaces Burn, but due to scheduling conflicts you’d have to miss half of the Superjoint show in order to be able to attend that as well. I managed to catch a few minutes of it where he discussed being detained, but I hope there is an online video of the interview that you can watch on YouTube just in case you missed it, like many other people who were getting a bite to eat between venues. As Dead Earth Politics took the stage I was literally blown the fuck away and would consider their progressive laced brand of power/thrash to be one of the best performances that I had seen all week. These Texan natives didn’t play long, but the tracks that they did manage to barrel out featured some absolutely incredible guitar antics and an astonishing display of energy from frontman Ven Scott who invoked an utterly powerful presence on the stage. In fact, the overall performance from these guys was nothing short of professional and if they don’t make it anywhere in the next few years, I’ll eat my shoes. They might have seemed mild-mannered in the merch booth where they sat for the past few days, but when these guys took to stage, people took notice. I only wish that more people had gotten a chance to see this show and if you didn’t, then you really missed out. Let’s give these unknowns a chance, folks. After Dead Earth Politics finished their awesome set, a gentleman came out to announce that the Rot Scars Award Ceremony had been moved to happen in between each of the night’s several acts. During these short interludes, filmmakers were presented creepy, yet interesting awards that certainly seemed befitting of their work. The winning documentary was Welcome To Your Funeral (The Story Of Rigor Mortis) and the winning feature film was Circus Of The Dead, which they joked that you could “find at the Dollar Store.” After the first of these short ceremonies had ended, KENmode took to the stage and left a very bizarre, yet interesting interpretation of metalcore, post metal and several other tinkerings that were quite intriguing to listen to and made an impact live. I was never a fan of their recordings, but seeing them live was definitely a game changer. These guys were very cool in person and it was great to hear them really knuckling down live. The band’s frontman Jesse Matthewson seemed to have lost his mind after a quote where he expressed denial of the existence of God, wherein he jumped into the crowd and just started screaming without his microphone. The look in this guy’s eyes really made the performance all that more appealing. He looked like a recently released mental patient as he stood there in the crowd. I was actually quite thankful that this was just a part of his performance art and that Jesse wasn’t really this crazy… or was he? Shortly after Warbeast frontman Bruce Corbitt took the award for best documentary, the band took the stage and offered a rather solid performance while the classic horror War Of The Gargantuas played in the background. But even though Warbeast managed to pump out a solid set, I still thought that the Rigor Mortis/Wizards Of Gore performance was leaps and bounds better. But, there’s nothing we can do about that now. I guess it was also unfortunate that the band tried to get a pit going during one of the latter songs and three guys jumped into start it, but just wound up bouncing off each other a couple times before they finally realized that nobody was interested enough to join in. But this was only because the next act was the legendary EyeHateGod and everyone was saving their energy for that. As Danzig was headlining along with Samhain, people knew that this EyeHateGod set would be their last chance to start a pit, so they really went all out and I stayed as far away as humanly possible. The rowdy New Orleans act played several of their new songs and even classic “Dixie Whisky” as they provided the doom, sludge and blues stylings of the night. Regardless of what some might say, I thought of these guys as more of an extreme blues band than anything else. But in that instance it made sense, because the blues have always been about pain, sorrow and struggle, which these guys emulated wonderfully onto the stage, making for one of the best performances of the weekend. EyeHateGod may as well have kicked my ass all over that stage, because I was definitely feeling it afterwards. With the Rot Scars interludes having ended, the venue decided to play videos from Author & Punisher in the background instead. It seemed to work, but also relegated the man’s fantastic art into simple waiting music. But that didn’t last long as we began the waiting game for Danzig. Yes, you heard me right. Apparently, classic Danzig entails a lot of waiting before he takes the stage. Well, we certainly did plenty of that as the venue tricked us about three or four times. A member of the crowd told me that he might have been in the backroom watching the Saints game, as it was quite a big deal and everyone was watching it around this time. But I wouldn’t put it past him, as I nearly waited about forty five minutes to an hour for the great dark one to show. Even though my mind became populated with images of a man sitting at a table while watching the game on a large screen as he drank some beer and ate a burger or perhaps even some of that death metal pizza. Eventually he finally did come roaring into the crowd, showing off several hits like “Hammer Of The Gods”, “Dirty Black Summer” and my personal favorite “Under Her Black Wings.” The band also tried a new song for the set which had never been played live before. It was entitled “Black Hell” and it was originally a B-Side used on The Hangover 2 soundtrack. Sadly the track didn’t elicit much response from the audience and it sounded a little boring and watered down, which would make it fit well with most of the pop music and popular Hip Hop material that adorned the rest of the film’s soundtrack. It even felt funny that it landed on there in the beginning, smelling of a cash grab. But it’s not as if Danzig’s merchandise wasn’t ten dollars more than everyone else’s, because it was. After Danzig played, Samhain finally came out. Unfortunately, I’ve never heard a Samhain song in my entire life, sans the cover of “Halloween II” by Cradle Of Filth. That song didn’t get played either. Why they didn’t play it, I have no idea. But at any rate, the music of Samhain sounded like a bridge between Glenn’s work in The Misfits and his solo work in Danzig. It was a little punk and little bit Rock n’ Roll, but I didn’t really feel anything from it. I guess if you were a real punk, you’d have loved it. But I thought it was rather boring and I hoped that maybe he would come back on and do some more Danzig material… which did happen. Instead of giving us a mild encore, the dark one came back to the stage to unleash some more Danzig tunes and followed it up with a unique performance of the hit “Mother” with Phil Anselmo as a guest vocalist. Though this sounded like a good performance on paper, there were just a few issues with it and Glenn seemed to be taking most of the reins of the track. Phil tried to give it the “old Pantera touch” but that didn’t last long as it didn’t work and was clearly the result of something unrehearsed. But that was cool, because it made it believable. It made the performance seem real and not scripted, like an off the cuff sort of thing that was worth trying out. But the festival was full of things like this, with hits and misses being a big part of it.
Now there were a few issues with the festival and I’ll get into these now. First of all, it was extremely hot and you might expect there to be plenty of water on hand in case someone passed out due to the scorching Texas heat. But unfortunately, this was not the case. In fact, while there were bottles of water there at the festival, vendors were charging three-dollars a bottle for water that you can usually buy in a twenty pack at the dollar store for the same price or even less. And no, you could not bring in your own water bottles. The guards would stop you at the door and you’d have to drink the entire bottle or throw it away before you could come in. The tables outside next to the guards were loaded with water bottles. The reason for this was the bar itself, which apparently had some sort of liquor license that prevented people from bringing water in for fear that they would bring their own alcohol in water bottles. But to be brutally honest, if someone was literally that stupid then they deserved to pass out and die from the heat. Believe it or not, shots of whisky and vodka were also being sold for four or five dollars (a shot) though they did not sell very well compared to the beer and water (as you might expect.) People were having a hard time seeing the bands as well, because the sun was so bright that it would block their view of the stage completely. Most people had to put their arms over their heads to block the sun’s rays, and people would then start using whatever they had to shield their eyes from the sun. It’s a shame that none of the bands were selling hats, because those would have sold out quickly. Some people could have even had health problems or had gotten sick, due to how to how much tolerance their body had to the heat. Secondly, you’re doing a lot of physical activity out there in the heat while jamming out to your favorite bands and that’s going to make you even hotter. It makes your heart have to beat faster and can cause you to have a heart attack or heat stroke. There were no volunteer nurses or medical staff to prevent any sort of emergency and the bar wasn’t even letting people know that once they had bought an armband, they were pretty much consenting themselves to not be able to hold anyone liable for any injuries or medical issues, or practically anything that happened to them while at the Midway Stage. The staff just kept slapping these on people, but they never even passed the sheet around to let people know exactly what they were consenting themselves to. Some people ignored it completely and watched the show from a high outcropping. Mostly photographers shared that space, however. Fortunately, an Indian fellow was selling water (and Monster energy drinks) in a small room of the venue and he was only offering a dollar for the water. Even if you bought water from him, you still couldn’t bring it in and those were the rules. So I bought it and drank quickly. During the final day of the concert, that gentleman was my lifeline. Though in a bit of a comedic note, he brought a radio on the final day of the concert and blasted pop music out of the room, to which many metalheads rolled their eyes and cursed as they walked by. I just thought it was funny. Emo’s had air conditioning, so it was a great place to cool off after the daytime shows, but it’s not surprising to me at all that more people showed up to the inside venue than the outdoor stage. It was literally unsafe and I’m glad that nothing happened that I know of. Additionally, you had some darker areas as night fell so you needed to be careful at night. But there’s really not much you can do about that, other than to not meander about the venue after dark. But people did, as they were still showing horror films in some parts of the venue. The parking lot and behind Emo’s is where I was most worried, but there was a front shopping center between Emo’s and the stage and this is where several Mexicans walked around as they wondered what the heck was going on. My colleague and I even got asked about the festival a few times. It was odd that there was a whole world going on apart from the metal and horror around us. I’m just thankful that no one took advantage of the fact that there were a lot of people who had saved up a lot of money to buy things at the festival.
Aside from lack of water and relaxed security measures, the festival showed that metalheads can come together and show people that while our music can be heavy, we are not brutal or evil people in real life. We love each other and show each other respect. I saw many hugs in both brotherly and sisterly love, as well as several couples embracing each other during even the most unforgiving of music. Cattle Decapitation and Origin might as well have been playing love songs out there, as metal couples held each other close. If someone fell down in the pit, they were picked back up before they could hit the ground. Nearly everyone there was there to have a good time and that’s what happened for the most part. Even Phil congratulated everyone on behaving properly and being kind to each other. We all had bands that we loved and hated, but in all my walks (and I must have lost a zillion pounds walking around) I never saw any metalheads bashing any other metalheads. In fact, if I saw someone who had a shirt of a band that I really liked, I asked them about it and we wound up talking on the way to the next show. Phil almost compared us to geeks in that sense and maybe we are. We’re just geeks about metal and horror instead of Star Wars and Star Trek, even though some of us are geeks about those things too! Nearly all of us were considered outcasts and we’ll all go back to our normal day jobs where most people listen to whatever is on the radio or Pandora, with all the metal being thrown back in the closet until next year.
AFTERMATH / CLOSING STATMENTS
But then, the unthinkable happened… Monday morning, just after the festival had ended and during the clean-up, event co-founder Corey Mitchell died of heart attack while at Emo’s. He was a best-selling true crime author and he’d just finished his latest book, Time To Kill which will be released in the coming weeks. A fund is being set up for his wife Audra and their two daughters, who lost their father way too soon. I didn’t know Corey much, nor did I see him all that often at the festival; but he did seem like a rather warm fellow that loved his metal and horror films, just like Phil Anselmo who had been working on a novel with him at the time. The Housecore Horror Festival was his idea, so now that he’s gone it seems uncertain as to whether or not there will be another one next year. This was only the festival’s second year, so things still needed to be worked on as expected, but surely it won’t be the end. There are far too many horror and metal fans that braved the heat and grit their teeth on some of the funny policies just so that they could enjoy their favorite bands and see some really great movies with friends, while making new ones. People may have even met their life partners at that festival, so I definitely think it’s an essential place for metalheads to meet and gather. The Juggalos have had their own little horror and hip hop festival for years, so it’s good to see the metal community bringing out some underground acts and some underground flicks together in the same room, all the while promoting classics from both spectrums. Phil said that the next one would be bigger and better and I think that Corey Mitchell would want his baby to go on. I’d like to report on it again next year, it was an absolute blast and one of the best experiences I’ve ever had in my entire life. Things could have been better, but hopefully I can make an even greater experience next time. If there will be a next time, that is. If you’re looking for horror and great metal bands, then don’t forget to mark your calendar around the same time next October. Because I truly feel that this extravaganza is far from over. Hopefully I’ll see you at the next one!