By Matt “Rabit” Martinez
Upon the announcement that Glenn Danzig was holding a two-day long music festival called Blackest of the Black Festival, one could only imagine which heavy-metal bands would be called upon in bringing their sound and presence to a stage befitting the former Misfits singer. After an exhilarating first day of the festival that concluded with an amazing performance by Suicidal Tendencies along with a night of debauchery and drinking, the question arises: would anyone be ready for what Day 2 has to offer?
Starting the day off on the right foot involved a black-metal band called Ritual from Los Angeles, California. Ritual has been around since 1993; however, they did break-up in the late 90’s. Coming back together in 2011 stronger than ever, Ritual restrings for the people of Los Angeles and BlackestFest. Now, it is a strange sight to see a black-metal band performing in the middle of the day with the sun shining bright; yet that did not stop these guys from making their presence known. Layering whimsical guitar melodies, lead guitarist Peter Traux and singer Ian Fleming entranced the audience. With powerful drum beats by London May and Austin Spitler bringing driving bass lines ritualistically. Ritual brought a musical style to black-metal that I have yet to experience.
Ritual Slideshow below
Up next onto the stage was a very eccentric and theatrical band called Ghoul. Treating the whole audience to what would more be considered a stage-show, Ghoul brought costumes, props, fake blood by the gallons and a killer robot named Killbot to the people of BlackestFest. A thrash-metal band from Oakland, California, Ghoul’s true individual identities of its performers are unknown other than the names they dubbed themselves by: Digestor on Vocals and guitar, Dissector on lead guitar, Cremator on bass and vocals, and Fermentor on Drums.
First entering the stage was not the band itself but an orange-skinned, toupee-wearing man who thought he owned the place. Ghoul quickly dispensed with him by chopping off his hand and soaking the front row in blood. Immediately after, they took the stage with a flurry of fast guitar licks and blasting the audience with drum beats. Their set would fluently switch between furious songs that had the moshers crashing into everyone in sight to a comedic stage show. For example, amidst the ferociously entertaining songs, a towering 8-foot tall Killbot debuted on stage to execute the band one member at a time. Before you could fully comprehend that which you were experiencing, Ghoul’s time to part from their audience had come, but not before creating a Ghoulunatic out of every audience member.
Ghoul Slideshow Below:
Making way to the stage was the band I probably was most excited to see, CombiChrist, an industrial-metal band helmed by Andy LaPlegua. In my opinion, this band has a personality all its own. Andy LaPlegua is just candy to the eyes as he fly’s around the stage with a strong in-your-face voice and lyrics that speak to the counterculture at their hearts with songs like “Skullcrusher” and “WTF Is Wrong With You People?” Filling in for this show on guitar was Oumi Kapila whose use of pedals warp the sound of his guitar to create synth-like licks that will have you grooving in the stands. Crashing down on his drum kit was percussionist Nick Rossi, whom I still cannot figure out as to why he had a seat seeing as how he was standing and jumping over the kit every other beat. Rounding off the group at this show was Brent Ashley on bass and backing vocals. Brent kept a strong beat for the band to continuously come back to along with his backing vocals which complimented Andy’s strong style. CombiChrist might have gone on early but they were a performance that will stick with everyone who saw them.
CombiChrist Slideshow Below
Each new band to hit the stage, brought a completely different musical style to BlackestFest. DevilDriver, fronted by Dez Fafara, brings some straight heavy-metal to this festival with dueling guitars by Mike Spreitzer and Neal Tiemann. DevilDriver commanded the stage making sure every head was banging along to the music. Drummer Austin D’Amond, gave the crowd some of the best beats of the festival to mosh to. Aided by Dez Fafara calling for a circle pit, the crowd was moving non-stop throughout the entire set. If you were just at the edges of the pit, you were going to be sucked in.
Devildriver Slideshow Below
This festival is meant to be the Blackest of the Black Festival, so of course you should expect not just one black-metal band on this day but you should have also expected Swedish black-metal band, Marduk. Marduk is formed by guitarist Morgan “Evil” Steinmeyer Håkansson and created with the sole purpose to be “the most blasphemous band in the world” by lyrical content that features Satanism, anti-Christianity, and death; a triad to be reckoned with. The only thing lead singer Mortuss had to do was stand there and stare at the crowd while not a single person would dare break his gaze. Some heavy use of fog only added to the atmosphere that Marduk was creating, so much so that the band seemed like figments of your nightmares as they moved around stage. All eyes were on this band as they enticed you with their residence on stage.
Marduk Slideshow Below
Probably the newest band on stage but carrying on a legacy that was started in the late 70’s was Venom Inc. This band reemerged when former Venom members Tony “Demolition Man” Dolan on vocals and bass, Jeffrey “Mantas” Dunn on guitar, and Anthony “Abaddon” Bray on drums created an off-shoot called, Venom Inc. in 2014. Even though this renewed band is relatively new, these guys have been playing for decades and know how to rock their style of thrash and speed-metal. The three-man band never let up with the wailing guitar riffs, driving bass lines, and solid drum beats that sent adrenaline through your veins forcing you to bang your head. Continuing the legacy that was created by the original band, Venom Inc. injected their style of thrash into the arms of all music fans at BlackestFest.
Venom Inc. Slideshow Below
For anyone reading this that has fond memories of a little movie called, The never-ending Story and a love for metal music, Atreyu is the perfect band for your liking. I coincidentally came across this band while looking up The Neverending Story and learned that Atreyu based their name from one of the characters of the movie. I was instantly intrigued by this and had to look them up. Seeing them live was something I never thought I would get a chance to do and seeing them at Blackest of the Black was a fantastic treat. The first thing I am always drawn to is Dan Jacobs custom blood splatter guitar and Kanji headband. It is such a striking image for the band and an iconic symbol. Pumping out a fusion of melodic and unclean vocals is Alex Varkatzas that cannot help but get the crowd jumping to the tunes. Running around the stage like a madman was bassist Marc McKnight, throwing his guitar over his shoulder and still finding time to hit every note. In the middle of their set they decided to do a cover of Bon Jovi’s “Shot Through The Heart” that had every person at the festival singing along from all corners of the venue. Atreyu lived up to my expectations and I look forward to seeing them again one day.
Atreyu Slideshow Below
As the next band was about to come on stage, you could feel the energy of the crowd completely change. All the metal-heads were pushed back and the front row was lined with bloodsuckers waiting to see Japanese-based hard-rockers, Vamps. Bloodsuckers are the name of Vamps’ fans, some of which travelled all the way from Japan just to see these icons. All of the metal-heads looked around in confusion but as soon as guitarist K.A.Z. started to play the opening riffs to their set, it spoke a universal word to the entire crowd, Rock. Vocalist Hyde merely stood at the foot of the stage wearing a cloak and hood with his pale skin barely peeking through. Not a single lyric had been sung yet but metal-heads and bloodsuckers were moshing and head-banging together within mere moments into the set. Watching the crowd come together was a sight to behold, so much so that many fans were just watching other audience members instead of the band. Yet, that did not take away from the performance or energy that Vamps was bringing to BlackestFest. Their set consisted of mostly songs from their newest album, Underworld. Vamps may not have set out to unite two nations but they definitely united the Japanese and American heavy-metal nations together. If I had to pick one band from this entire Festival that left the biggest impact, it would have to be Vamps.
Vamps Slideshow Below
The penultimate band to grace the stage of the Blackest of the Black Festival is also the most tenured band on the dais, known as Ministry. Ministry has been bringing their music style of industrial-metal to the people since 1981. Taking the stage was lead singer and original member, Al Jourgensen. With songs that are very politically charged and allude to past presidents, Ministry has made a name for themselves over the decades. Playing at BlackestFest allowed them to promote their first album in four years, “AmeriKKKan’t” and debut their first single “Antifa.” Jourgensen still has the charisma and energy to captivate a festival and he brings a bit more theatrics to the stage. Acting as if he was a preacher speaking out to the church of BlackestFest, Jourgensen had a podium made of skulls and a bible that he would read from whereby he would present each song as if it were the next verse in his sermon. Ministry left the crowd cheering and desiring more which needless to say, could also have easily been achieved by simply playing more songs from their catalog of 14 albums. However, they left the fans fully satisfied and in the perfect position for our headliner to take the stage.
Ministry Slideshow Below
After two days of nonstop heavy-metal music from sixteen different bands that came together across the globe, could the fans have any energy left? Of course they could. As Glenn Danzig hit the stage, the fans erupted sending a scream all across Santiago Canyon. Former lead singer of the Misfit’s, Danzig has had a storied career in the music industry and a very iconic one at that. Allotting himself the longest set time of the festival, Danzig never let up on the classic rock tunes; playing songs from his bands first album Danzig 1 all the way through his discography and playing two new songs “Devil on Highway 9” and “The Last Ride” from his new album Black Laden Crown. Ending their set with Danzig’s biggest hit “Mother,” they walked off stage but the crowd demanded more. Nay, they needed more and Danzig was more than willing to appease them. Coming out for a two-song encore, they finished the night and the festival on such a high note that no one was ready to leave.
Blackest of the Black set out to do a lot for its fans and the fans all got what they came for. A two-day long music festival filled with great music, amazing attractions, and a headliner that left them with memories that they will never forget. I know I will never forget the experience I had here. Hopefully Danzig will grace us with another blasphemous time next year with a return of the Blackest of the Black Festival. Until then, to all the bands that performed and fans that came out in support, I raise my fist to the sky and give you a, “Hell Yeah!”