Festival Review: Disemboweled God Fest 2023 at Bar House in Seattle, WA

One of the most endearing qualities of the extreme metal community is the beautiful irony at its core. A collection of people fascinated with death, decay, and general ruination, bent on slamming their bodies into each other and screaming at the top of their lungs, are also the same folks smiling ear-to-ear, hugging each other, and experiencing genuine happiness in both an individual and collective sense.

This wonderful duality was on clear display at the three-day Disemboweled God Fest in Seattle at Bar House the first weekend of February. Hosted by Seattle-based Satanik Royalty Records, the festival was described by Michael Freiburger, the label’s head, as a “celebration of underground death, grind, and crust.” Featuring bands from the impressive extreme metal scene of the Pacific Northwest, the experience was nothing short of horrific…in the best possible way.

The fest began with Portland-based death metal band Vulnere featuring the insane drumming of Cody Pulliam and massive riffs of Mike Ashton. Next up were two representatives of the spectacular local Seattle death metal scene. Degraved, a four-piece who just released a new EP entitled Whispered Morbidity, kicked everyone in the ass. They were followed by the raw energy of Cyscit.

The day was brought to a fittingly intense conclusion by the mighty Oxygen Destroy, masters of Kaiju Metal. Playing what was arguably their best live set ever in Seattle, the band’s vocalist and guitarist, Jordan Farrow, noted that “the crowd was awesome and the sound was great.” As the night ended, the duality of the festival was at its peak, with everyone in attendance almost joyfully ecstatic as the band closed with “Cleansing the Earth of Humanity’s Existence.”

The second day featured four bands from around the PNW, each bringing their own unique take on extreme metal. Spokane’s Grave Depression rose to the challenge of getting a crowd, possibly tired from the intensity of the first night, moving. Vocalist Noah Lane Coleman repeatedly threw himself into the audience to get people going. Seattle-based Axefear kept the energy of the crowd at a fever pitch with their onslaught of blackened-death thrash.

The second day of the festival was capped off by two extraordinary performances by bands from Portland. Spirit Possession brought their unique and boundary-pushing form of black metal, ripping through a frenetic set, half of which was new material off their upcoming release (due out in March). The innovative guitar playing of Steve Peacock and punishing drumming of Ash Spungin were on full display as the two-piece band leveled the crowd with raw energy.

Most bands would have found it impossible to follow such intensity, but this was not the case with the night’s closer, Witch Vomit. By this point, the crowd was ready to explode, and the four-piece lit the metaphorical match, playing a nonstop set of their trademark style of death metal. Blending technical mastery with emotional resonance, the band brought an awesome night to a perfect end, capping it off with their vicious encore performance of “Circle of Blood.”

Day three commenced with a ferocious set by Portland-based Dripping Decay. Vocalist Eric Stucke had an incredibly engaging stage presence that helped everyone shake off any bangover from the night before. A newer Seattle death metal band, Decaying Crypt, provided an absolutely crushing set. Rat King, the third band of the evening, tore the damn roof off. This Seattle-based trio pounded their way through a set of grind-infused death, featuring several new songs from their upcoming release on Satanik Royalty Records. Vocalist/bassist Daniel Racine described how it’s “always inspiring to play in front of a crowd that supports and appreciates underground music!”

The fest was brought to an appropriately grotesque conclusion with possibly the sickest sets of the entire weekend by two Portland-based bands, Hemorroid and Torture Rack. Featuring songs with titles such as “Dante’s Fecal Inferno,” Hemorrhoid pushed the crowd to revel in the filth and disgust celebrated in their music. Torture Rack’s 2023 has been interesting. On the one hand, it has seen the release of “Pit of Mutilation,” a compilation of early demos, on Headsplit Record. On the other, it has seen the departure of Pierce Williams, changing the line-up from a four-piece to a trio. Indeed, this set was the first appearance of Torture Rack as a three piece. What was so impressive about the set was how damn heavy and twisted they were able to perform the material with the new lineup. The crowd was in a state of furious joy as the pit took on epic proportions. It was a truly masterful performance and a perfect ending to three days of mayhem.

All in all, Disemboweled God Fest was an incredible experience that left every attendee with sore necks, ringing ears, and huge smiles on their faces. Not only was the lineup stacked with bands demonstrating the depth of the Pacific Northwest’s extreme metal scene, but the sound was top quality, as was the general atmosphere. The only negative aspect of the weekend was the fact that the venue, Bar House, will have to stop hosting shows in March.

The place had become a focal point for high quality national and local underground metal shows, helping to connect and strengthen the Seattle and regional scenes. However, while Bar House may not continue hosting shows, the individual at the center of this fest and other shows at Bar House, Freiburger, plans to continue booking shows at different locations in collaboration with Hierophant Booking. Regarding Disembowled God Fest in particular, Freiburger stated, “As of right now, I plan to keep this fest going every year to celebrate underground death and grind bands around the PNW.” Everyone who attended the festival is certainly thankful for that. See you next year… you fucking sickos!

Review and photos by J. Donovan Malley

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