Blue Ridge Rock Festival, Alton, Virginia, September 8-11, 2022

I returned to Virginia this year for another round of Blue Ridge Rock Fest. I sure did. The headliners for 2022 were Slipknot, Disturbed, Ghost, and Mudvayne.

Mudvayne

There were a few issues last year at Blue Ridge Rock Fest, and they were widely publicized and discussed. I was there, and, as I wrote at the time, there were rough spots but certainly the line-up was great and the music was fantastic. This year, the festival moved to a new venue to address many of the concerns from the previous year, and, given that earlier experience, one might reasonably expect this year to be a lot better. I have a few thoughts on that. The upshot is that this year’s line-up and music were once again excellent, and there were still a few noticeable problems.

Sevendust

The new venue was not an improvement over the previous one. The biggest problem last year with the venue was parking. It was a tough slog. This year at the Virginia International Raceway, I thought there would be parking lots on location. I had never been to the speedway, so this was just in my imagination. In fact, this time the festival used remote parking locations and shuttle busses. Guess what. There were long lines for the shuttles. Like last year, the first couple of days were the worst and things improved as the weekend went along.

Shadows Fall

Many of the problems from last year were indeed mostly solved this year, and that is good news. The big issue besides the long wait for shuttle was the layout of the venue on the festival grounds. Last year, one of the best things about the festival was that the stages were relatively easy to get to. No so this year. There was a total of five stages. The two main stages were near the entrance and set up side by side. That is a good arrangement. To get to the third stage, you had to trundle up a long sloping hillside. It wasn’t too bad, but it was a bit of a slog.

Alice Cooper

The final two stages were past the third and down a steep hill, lying at a considerable distance across a rutted field. Once you arrived at any of these three separate regions, it wasn’t so bad as long as you stayed there. Moving between stages was very difficult for me. I am an out of shape older dude, so you could say that my complaints are my own fault. Fair enough, but whether it is my own fault or not, it was a situation for me. Anyone with mobility issues would have faced a considerable challenge (you can read Heather Koepp’s discussion of this at the link below). I was at the festival primarily as a photographer, so moving between the stages is what I had to do, all day every day. After a while, I started making choices about which sets to shoot based upon whether I would be able to make it in time or not to the next stage. You always have to do that at a big festival to some extent. At Blue Ridge, it was a bigger than usual problem.

Ghost

What else do you need to know about the Blue Ridge experience? The music was fantastic. Alice Cooper, Down, Halestorm, Tenacious D, Cannibal Corpse, Kittie, Anthrax, Municipal Waste, Baroness, Jelly Roll, and so many more. The headliners were OK, too. You can tell some of my favorites from the photos I have included here. There will be many more to follow in individual photo galleries in the coming weeks. There is also a feature article at Ryze-Up Magazine that uses my photos, if you want to see them (link below).

Down

Oh yeah, the weather. I know I sound like an old man talking about the weather all the time. Guilty. These big outdoor fests are at the mercy and whim of Mother Nature, though, and that’s the truth. There wasn’t any weather that was dangerous enough to affect the program schedule, but wow it did rain on Saturday. Drenching, cold rain. Tough conditions. The music continued to be excellent, even as the conditions worsened the experience, through no fault of the organizers at all. Saturday wiped me out so much that I have only foggy memories of Sunday.

Apocalyptica

I am on the fence about whether to go back next year. We’ll see. For able-bodied fans who aren’t seeking a physically comfortable experience, Blue Ridge Rock Fest offered great music this year and will probably do the same next year, too. After two years of experience under my belt with this festival, it is coming down to a question of stamina for me. I’ll just have to wait and see which way the wind is blowing in 2023.

Municipal Waste

Photos by Wayne Edwards.

Links.

Blue Ridge Rock Festival, https://blueridgerockfest.com/

Rival Magazine article by Heather Koepp, https://www.rivalmagazinela.com/live-show-reviews/what-went-wrong-at-blue-ridge-rock-festival-2022

Ryze-Up Magazine feature, https://www.ryze-up.com/ryze-up-magazine-current-issue/ryze-up-magazine-october-2022/

© Wayne Edwards

Blue Ridge Rock Festival, Alton, Virginia, September 8-11, 2022

Goatwhore, Angels Hung From The Arches Of Heaven (Metal Blade 2022)

New Orleans metal band Goatwhore reach a new plane on their eighth album, Angels Hung From The Arches Of Heaven.

Goatwhore came to life in New Orleans a couple of years before the turn of the last century. After a demo and a split, the first full-length album they released was the raw The Eclipse of Ages into Black (2000). A few years later came Funeral Dirge for the Rotting Sun (2003) and then, the first one I heard when it came out, A Haunting Curse (2006). The next couple of albums were break-outs for the band in many ways. My favorite of them all, looking back, has become Constricting Rage of the Merciless (2014), but the new album has given it a run for its money. It is the intensity combined with the relentlessness that gets to me when I listen to Goatwhore. The band is Louis B. Falgoust II (vocals), Sammy Duet (guitar, vocals), Zack Simmons (drums), and Robert “TA” Coleman (bass).

After the eerie invocation there are eleven blazing tracks on Angels Hung From The Arches Of Heaven, beginning with the bestial “Born Of Satan’s Flesh.” It is a rampage of savage metal. Speed and wickedness are the guiding principles, and they are executed to the extreme. The growling and howling vocals are an active threat; the guitars an attack. The lead guitar break is surprisingly lyrical, luring your attention away before a counterattack. “The Bestowal Of Abomination” follows and falls in line. Here the guitars soar at the beginning and the opening percussion is even more in your face. And, here too, the lead guitar at first gives a look that stands in contrast to what is happening around you. When it returns, however, it is a craven menace.

The title track, “Angels Hung From The Arches Of Heaven,” comes third. It is dark and dramatic. The opening bars set up a story from which you cannot turn away. A superior depth is plumbed here. The odyssey you are on with the album comes into sharp focus, as the does the realization of the magnitude of the band’s achievement. I am impressed with every song, and I have a special attachment to the sequence of “Voracious Blood Fixation” and “The Devil’s Warlords.” In both, and for different reasons, the guitars are especially vivid to me.

The set ends with “And I Was Delivered From The Wound Of Perdition.” This last piece has its own set-up and culminates in a voracious consumption of doom. It is my favorite track on the album for the way it brings together and connects all the thriving elements employed in Goatwhore’s music into an overwhelming compelling amalgamation. This record will live on in your mind and will haunt you for as long as time exists. Highly recommended.

Angels Hung From The Arches Of Heaven is out on Friday, October 7th through Metal Blade Records in all kinds of vinyl and the usual other formats.

Photos by Wayne Edwards.

Links.

Goatwhore website, http://www.goatwhore.net/

Bandcamp, https://goatwhore.bandcamp.com/

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/thegoat666

Metal Blade Records, https://www.metalblade.com/us/

© Wayne Edwards

Goatwhore, Angels Hung From The Arches Of Heaven (Metal Blade 2022)

Behemoth, Opvs Contra Natvram (Nuclear Blast 2022)

The twelfth album from Behemoth is a milestone in the band’s historic career: Opvs Contra Natvram.

For more than thirty years, Polish black metal band Behemoth has been one the leading bands in heavy music. They are known for black metal, but their music is more of a combination of black and death metal, and traditional metal as well, in combination with dramatic and complex arrangements. Often imitated but never equaled, Behemoth does truly stand apart from its contemporaries. The band is Nergal, Inferno, and Orion.

It took me a long time to finally catch up with Behemoth live. I saw them on Slayer’s final tour a few years back, and I remember thinking at the time that they were the best act on the card. I have been looking forward to this new album for a while.

Talking about the album, Nergal has this to say … “The album title means going against the current. It’s the negative of the values and morals and ethics that I stand against. I’ve seriously been wrestling with destructive tendencies in pop culture – cancel culture, social media, and tools which I feel are very dangerous weapons in the hands of people who are not competent to judge others. That’s something which I find very destructive and disturbing and extremely limiting coming from an artists’ perspective. This is my middle finger to that.” That’s a fairly positive message for such a villainized band, huh.

“Post-God Nirvana” is the first of ten tracks on the album, and it functions as an effective introduction to the experience. Loaded with effects and production, the vocals dig deep in your psyche and the growing guitar punches land harder and harder as the song progresses. “Malaria Vulgata” is a more contained song. In its brief two-minute run, the well-defined boundaries are filled to breaking. “The Deathless Sun” is more of a campaign by comparison. The guitar breaks are the sound of a charging weapon, and Nergal’s vocals are commands. The meshed death and black metal is a towering monument that cannot be ignored once it comes into your life, and that ideal is epitomized in this song.

The music continues the story and depth of expression in variety and in encouraged reinforcement throughout the entire set. “Neo-Spartacus” uses dissonance melodically, if you can imagine that. “Once Upon A Pale Horse” is among the most dramatic songs, and its theatrical nature is extremely engaging. The closer, “Versus Christus,” begins melodically, with growing urgency. The music is quite dramatic, and in a way gathers and restates the thesis of the entire work in a new package. Excellent. I recommend this album for Behemoth fans and newcomers alike.

Opvs Contra Natvram is out now through Nuclear Blast Records. Investigate the possibilities at the links below.

Links.

Behemoth. website, https://www.behemoth.pl/

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/behemoth

Nuclear Blast Records, https://shop.nuclearblast.com/en/shop/index.html

© Wayne Edwards

Behemoth, Opvs Contra Natvram (Nuclear Blast 2022)

Autopsy, Morbidity Triumphant (Peaceville 2022)

Oakland death metal band Autopsy is back after eight years with a new full-length album, Morbidity Triumphant.

Autopsy stomped the earth in the first half of the nineties. Their first two albums, Severed Survival (1989) and Mental Funeral (1991), are considered by many to be standards even now. They were a band that cut deeply in the death metal scene, and left carnage in their wake. The band split in 1995, then reformed in 2008/9 and have been cracking on ever since. Their most recent full-length album came out in 2014, Tourniquets, Hacksaws and Graves, and there have been EPs and splits, compilations, and live albums aplenty along the way. Morbidity Triumphant is Autopsy’s eighth long-player. The band is Eric Cutler (guitar), Danny Coralles (guitar), Chris Reifert (vocals, drums), and Greg Wilkinson (bass).

Autopsy was different from other death bands in the way they used grindcore, punk, and doom in their musical constructions. You get this on the new album as well. The first song is “Stab the Brain.” What a great title. It sounds at first like a disturbed beehive, then a groove kicks in unexpectedly. The chaotic swirl tag teams the groove and hook, showing how well the two disparate ideas can work together. Clever moments of melody and lead guitar bursts elevate the composition to the next level. “Final Frost” is next, and it has an eastern mystical twinge and a moving doom posture walking it to a different space compared to the opener. The second movement of the song is straight up death metal, and then the doom comes back. “The Voracious One” is different still, starting on a groove with a great disarming riff. This one is a top pick for me from the set.

Every song is more than one thing on the new Autopsy album. It is filled with doom and mysticism, and also raging death metal. I particularly like “Tapestry of Scars” for the depths of its doom, and “Skin By Skin” in a similar vein. “Maggots in the Mirror” is a wonderfully stabby punk piece, and “Your Eyes Will Turn to Dust” is perfectly dreary closer. To me, Autopsy has struck exactly the right tone at every turn on this record. Highly recommended.

Morbidity Triumphant is out on Friday, September 30th through Peaceville Records in the customary forms. Check it out through the links below.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://peaceville.bandcamp.com/album/morbidity-triumphant

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100050176223094

Peaceville Records, https://peaceville.com/bands/autopsy/

© Wayne Edwards

Autopsy, Morbidity Triumphant (Peaceville 2022)

Deconsecration, Crypt Lurker (Chaos Records 2022)

Crypt Lurker is the new album from Seattle death metal band Deconsecration, their first full-length studio release.

Deconsecration is a new band, having its origins in the Pacific Northwest in 2019. They have been revving up the whole time with a demo, a live album, and a split with Re-Buried. Their music will spark OSDM nostalgia now and then, combined with fluid and caustic innovations that make it undeniably from our time. The band is Moises Pimentel (bass), H. Murder (drums), Dylan Benedict (guitar), Jordan Garcia (guitar), and Zach Raphael (vocals).

It all begins on a doom stroke with the title track. Weird noises and rattlings lead into deadly heavy riffs and ominously croaking vocals. The screws get turned and the tempo picks up soon enough. Instead of the feeling that you are wandering through a mist-shrouded forest after dark that you had when the song began, you now have the piercing sensation of being in an active torture chamber. If you survive and make it outside, “Cephalic Fermentation” is the next tombstone you trip over. It is a chaotic, panic-inducing thrashing from the very beginning. By the time “Putrescent Birth” rolls around, you start to believe you are in a dark, damp corner of an abandoned Cannibal Corpse castle.

The album is solid throughout. The interconnectedness of the old school death metal elements, the doom, and the periodic splash of blackened thrash is excellent. My favorite tracks come at the end. “Plague Cadaver” is beautifully cinematic with relentless percussion and “Bells Upon the Graves” is an enduring testament to hopelessness. Recommended.

Crypt Lurker is out now through Chaos Records in digital, CD, and vinyl. Stump Grinder Records will be issuing a cassette. Check it out at the links below.

Links.

Deconsecration website, https://deconsecration.com/

Bandcamp, https://deconsecration.bandcamp.com/album/crypt-lurker

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/deconsecrationseattle

Stump Grinder Records, https://stumpgrinderrecords.bigcartel.com/

Chaos Records, https://www.chaos-records.com/

© Wayne Edwards

Deconsecration, Crypt Lurker (Chaos Records 2022)

Dead Void, Volatile Forms (Dark Descent 2022)

Danish doom band Dead Void bring their debut album to the surface, Volatile Forms.

Dead Void is a band of mystery. There is virtually nothing about the personnel in the press materials. The band appears to be a trio – guitar, bass, drums – who started off at some indeterminate time in the past. The Metal Archives does list three demos from them having been released in 2017, 2018, and 2021, respectively. And now we have the new one, a full-length album that is probably the band’s long-player debut. Let’s give it a blind listen.

There are five thunderous tracks on the new album. “Atrophy” takes off with a slow, ominous strum, matched in time by bass and percussion. It is a dark, heavy doom that turns into funeral doom, deepened by treacherous vocals. The song is a warning of an eventual, slow-moving catastrophe. The strum does pick up and the music turns fast and fierce, almost avant-garde at times. Then it winds down and fades out. Contrariwise, “The Entrails of Chaos” starts like a hail of missiles with savage intensity. The doom comes in later, and a kind of groove walks in and out.

“Sadistic Mind” plays like slowed-down Black Sabbath. Absolutely crushing. Death metal tags in toward the middle then bows out. Similarly, “The Reptilian Drive” has a familiar overall arc, but no guiderails at all. Again, the groove in the middle is killer, and it offers a look you almost never get in this manner of music. The final track is “Perpetually Circling the Void.” How’s that for a title? Oh, this eleven-minute opus delivers on its titular promise, have no fear.

This album is excellent. I am a doom fan, and so I appreciate how well those elements are executed in the music. The additional layers of death and groove are what raises the compositions to the next level. Recommended.

Volatile Forms hits the streets through Dark Descent Records on September 15th in CD form, with vinyl provided by Me Saco Un Ojo.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://deadvoid.bandcamp.com/

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/TheDeadVoid/

Dark Descent Records, https://www.darkdescentrecords.com/shop/product/dead-void-volatile-forms-cd/

Me Saco Un Ojo Records, https://www.mesacounojo.com/shop/dead-void-volatile-forms-lp/

© Wayne Edwards

Dead Void, Volatile Forms (Dark Descent 2022)

Revocation, Netherheaven (Metal Blade 2022)

Boston prog death metal band Revocation take you down a dark path on their new album, Netherheaven.

David Davidson (guitar, vocals), Brett Bamberger (bass, vocals), and Ash Pearson (drums) are Revocation. Since 2006 (and even before that as Cryptic Warning), this Boston metal band has been playing technical death metal to the escalating delight of their fans. They have released seven previous full-length albums, most recently The Outer Ones (2018). With what they have accomplished so far, they could have gone in any direction on their new record. They chose the dark, seething mythology of hell itself.

Talking about the new album, Davidson says, “We’re definitely in more of a death metal mindset than on earlier albums in our catalog. We’re focusing on how we can write the best death metal-centric album that we possibly can while still pushing our boundaries. The new songs on Netherheaven are evil and sinister but also have a progressive element to them to keep things interesting. It’s got our stamp on it, no question.”

There are nine crucial tracks on the new album. “Diabolical Majesty” sets the tone, and the tone is bewilderment. The music is almost overwhelming in its density. If you stand back a little you can catch the wave, and when the vocals kick in you will find your legs. The riff shifts are stabbing, the vocal changes are threatening. Prog elements add depth but also have a lifting quality to them that enormously enhances the music.

“Lessons In Occult Theft” is next. The percussion is a brutalizing affair, and the big guitar break is a fleeing spirit wandering the dark regions of a menaced space. It will make your head spin. Immediately following is “Nihilistic Violence,” which is every bit as trance-worthy as its predecessors.

The album does not let up at all. I particularly like the lyrical elegance of “Galleries of Morbid Artistry” and the extended guitar work of “The 9th Chasm.” Don’t miss “Re-Crucified,” either, because it features guest vocals by the late Trevor Strnad and George “Corpsegrinder” Fisher – it is a buzzsaw. Revocation has done it again. Recommended.

Netherheaven is out on Friday, September 9th through Metal Blade Records. Touch the links below to get the details.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://revocationband.bandcamp.com/album/netherheaven

Revocation website, https://www.revocationband.com/

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/Revocation/

Metal Blade Records, https://www.metalblade.com/revocation/

© Wayne Edwards

Revocation, Netherheaven (Metal Blade 2022)

I Am, Eternal Steel (MNRK Heavy 2022)

Texas death metal band I Am bring the heat on their new album, Eternal Steel.

I Am is a deathcore / death metal band from Texas that came to be around 2011. After the Momento Mori EP in 2015, I Am released two killer full-length albums, Life Through Torment (2017) and Hard 2 Kill (2018). Their music is notable not just for its power but also for speed. They have combined thrash and death metal elements with enough of a hook and a groove shining through to make the sound unique. The band is Andrew Hileman (vocals), Tom Reyes (guitar), Chris Burgess (guitar), Erik Rodriguez (bass), and Ian Scott (drums).

I Am gets their point across on the new album through eleven electrifying tracks. “The Primal Wave” poses the first question and introduces the heavy sound punctuated by rapid ripples and brought forth fully by Andrew Hileman’s menacing singing. “Surrender to the Blade” continues the campaign with a steady, driving riff that morphs into a dervish at exactly the right moment. The lead break is eerie and enticing and two thirds of the way through there is another shift. It is impressive how the initiated theme remains in place as it is put through its paces in such variety. “The Iron Gate” follows, a sorrowful, dooming affair, setting up the title track. “Eternal Steel” races through the open field, bewildering all who give it a glance. This song gives you a savage battering you won’t soon forget.

Other stand-out tracks include “Infernal Panther,” again along a doom lane with homage to early heavy metal icons you will recognize right away, and “Heaven On Earth,” a song that pushes on with unswerving confidence – it also has a fantastic lead guitar break. “Manic Cure” is the final statement, and here we go out on a bang when the speed, power, and groove all come together in a signature piece of work. This new album is exceptional, even better than Hard 2 Kill, I think. Go get yours. Recommended.

Eternal Steel is out through MNRK Heavy on Friday, September 9th in digital and an array of physicals.

Photos by Wayne Edwards, taken at Piere’s Entertainment Center, 2022.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://iamtxmusic.bandcamp.com/album/eternal-steel

I Am website, https://iam-eternalsteel.com/

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/iamtxmusic

MNRK Heavy, https://mnrkheavy.com/

© Wayne Edwards

I Am, Eternal Steel (MNRK Heavy 2022)

Sarcophagum, Conduits To The Underworld (Nuclear Winter 2022)

Newly minted dark metal band Sarcophagum release their debut EP, Conduits To The Underworld.

Comprised of members from the Australian death metal band Golgothan Remains, Sarcophagum is a doom-heavy death metal act. There is old school death metal at play hear, to be sure, as well as what I have been trying to call dark metal: an intentional dismalness that is more active than doom metal and can express itself in a variety of forms. There are three songs on the new record, and they are all quite impressive.

“Pits of Hate” is beautifully dark at its open. The growling, croaking vocals enter after the riffs pick up and the land is verily shaken free of care. This song smells like the plague and sounds like its title. The music pushes you right up to the edge of the abyss and makes you look over into the infinite, not at all concerned about the price you will pay.

“Netherengines” poses dissonance as a rendering of attitude, and carries it on to the next level. The sour clashing is a sign that things aren’t right. In due course, we find out the details. No amount of distracting reverie can transport you away from the reality expressed in the constricting musical space of this song.

“Between Two Worlds” is an ode to hopelessness, by the sound of it. The dreariness is oppressive; the weight of a cosmos presses on you from either side. The guitars play together, mournfully detailing the predicament. The vocals are a narration of your demise.

The metal on this EP is as heavy as a rational mind can contemplate. Well done. Recommended.

Conduits To The Underworld is out through Nuclear Winter Records on Monday, September 12th. You can get it at the label’s on-line shop or Bandcamp.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://nuclearwinterrecords.bandcamp.com/album/conduits-to-the-underworld

Nuclear Winter Records, https://nuclearwinterrecords.com/shop/

© Wayne Edwards

Sarcophagum, Conduits To The Underworld (Nuclear Winter 2022)

Mortuous, Upon Desolation (Carbonized 2022)

The mighty Mortuous lays waste to the world once more with Upon Desolation.

Mortuous is a death metal band from San Jose, California. Now in their thirteenth year, they have released a couple of demos and splits, and their intensely memorable first full-length album, Through Wilderness (2018), an record that still gets plenty of spins here at Shardik Media Headquarters. The unearthly devastation that their marauding death and doom metal proposes is unparalleled. I made a mental note that Mortuous is a must-see band before the end of the first song of theirs I ever heard. I’m a fan. The band is Colin Tarvin (guitar, vocals), Michael Beams (guitar, vocals, piano), Clint Roach (bass), and Chad Gailey (drums).

There are eight tracks on the new album beginning with “Carve.” Relentless pounding is initiated with the first note and continues at speed. There is step back for a few bars now and then, but that does not diminish the power of the musical stance. “Nothing” comes next and it squeezes you hard enough to make your eyes water. The blast beats are monumental and the riffs are titanic. There is an eerie and beautiful middle doom section with a melancholy violin signaling no hope is to be had. “Metamorphosis” opens on a slow tempo while “Days Of Grey” is all about a quick start. Here endeth side one.

The back four are every bit as monstrous as the front half. “Defiled By Fire” continues the combination of death and doom with a sweetly murderous section that shines a dark light on the heavier movements. “Burning Still…” wags an impossible lead guitar splash and “Ash And Dismay” has a fantastic clomping set-up. The final word is “Graveyard Rain” and it washes your brain in fetid blood, leaving no doubt that Mortuous is one of the very best heavy bands out there. Highly recommended.

Upon Desolation is out on Friday, September 16th through Carbonized Records. Tankcrimes has a special limited edition vinyl edition as well. Explore through the links below.

Band photo by Chris Johnston.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://mortuousdeath.bandcamp.com/album/upon-desolation

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/mortuous

Carbonized Records, https://carbonizedrecords.com/

Tankcrimes, https://tankcrimes.merchtable.com/distributed-music/vinyl/mortuous-upon-desolation-vinyl-lp/

© Wayne Edwards

Mortuous, Upon Desolation (Carbonized 2022)