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Locals Rule American Icon Records Showcase, Lady Gaga Ducks In For Quick Head Bang

(March 11, 2013) Beerland seemed the perfect venue for the suds fest that marked this year's South By Southwest festival--at least the music portion. Alcohol-induced projections, from top to bottom, were a common, public spectacle this year. One had to be aware of stepping into a puddle of piss or slipping on chucks of regurgitated BBQ on the sidewalk. Some venues, including parties held outside of the downtown area, even offered free drinks. The following night at Dirty Dog Bar, Christian Mistress singer, Christine Davis, called SXSW a "beerfest" during a brief break between songs.

The name alone is enough to beckon club hopping patrons, but it has a special relationship to local metal heads and punks. Although this wasn't a SXSW sanctioned show, American Icon Records presented one of the heaviest lineups during the whole festival. The initial lineup included label showcase artists Black Tusk, Windhand, and Primitive Man, but the festival saw a conflict with their showcases (the booker felt SXSW has a prejudice against Beerland), so it made sure none of these bands played this show. Some of the groups ended up on the Pitchfork "Show No Mercy" Showcase a couple of blocks on the same road.

Considering the extent of shredding this lineup experienced, local acts Whore of Bethlehem, Blood Royale, War Master, Headcrusher and Widower still brought in a modest sized crowd of local friends and fans. Badge and wrist bands couldn't get SX attendees into this show without paying a few bucks. This didn't stop Lady Gaga and her body guards from stopping by to head bang during Lazer/Wulf's closing set. Decked out in shorts, an Iron Maiden t-shirt, bare feet and a beer in her hand, she took pictures with several members in the sadly dwindled crowd. She used several vehicles including Twitter and "Jimmy Kimmel Live," which broadcasted all week in Austin, to talk about how much fun she had at the show and her love of "death metal." When I told one of the members of the Atlanta-based experimental/prog band about her calling his music "death metal," he laughed and said she didn't know what it was. Regardless of her misnomer, Gaga certainly brought attention to Lazer/Wulf and the concert.

Gaga wrongly attributed the style of metal played by Lazer/Wulf. However, she may have mistaken them for the band's predecessor--War Master, whose barbaric banner still draped the back of the stage during the Wulf's performance. War Master represented death metal band in a night chalked full of extreme sounds. Armed with an arsenal of blast beats, churning, down-tuned guitars and vocals seemingly buried in a bunker, the group whipped the largest crowd of the night into a frenzy of banging heads and bashing bodies. Whether shouting fuck yeah between songs or dangerously brandishing a sword, vocalist R.G. War-Minister led one of the fiercest sonic assaults of the week.

While one might hear the down-tempo grit of Grave or Entombed during pieces of War Master songs, Headcrusher's sound is more inspired by Gothenburg greats such as At The Gates or older In Flames. The Austin-by-way-of-Columbia group previously played with At The Gates on the Barge to Hell metal cruise, but this was their first stint at Beerland. The crowd favored its endless barrage of screams, banging drums and exquisite finger movements, a feat that may bring them back to the club's dark halls. As stated above, Beerland hosted extreme sounds, but there was no confusing these bands, as each group spoke in its own, distinct voice.

Widower was closest to the second wave of black metal that arrived from Scandinavia (Obliteration would prove a close second even though the band hails from Norway). Some parts reminded me of blaring cassette tapes of Dissection in my car, while their emphasis of pure speed and defied comparison.

When J.T. Smith banged his serpent nest of hair around during The Blood Royale's set, he was pulling double duty. Solos rang out on Smith's guitar during both The Blood Royale and War Master. Chord wise, Smith played rhythms aligned with NWOBHM, speed and followed the d-beats of John Petri. Tim Corken's gruff vocal style resembles Lemmy. It's the perfect mix of Motorhead and Discharge. It seems The Blood Royale can be found playing a show in Austin almost every night, but their rhythms never grow tiring, and heads banged in abundance on this night. Whore of Bethlehem kicked off the night in a cauldron of goats' blood and inverted crosses, not literally, but their songs certainly created such scenarios.

Featuring members of heavy weight TXDM bands such as Flesh Hoarder, Disfigured, Uncleansed and Scattered Remains (although missing bassist Jason Ogden), WOB captured the majestic chords of Behemoth and Morbid Angel and paired those with grueling, medium paced avalanches of Incantation and Immolation. WOB didn't miss a step even though they were only playing in front of a handful of horned flashers. Check out the band perform the following night at the following night's American Icon Records' showcase.

I wanted to conserve my energy for the week, so due to a 1 AM set time, I missed Lazer/Wulf's performance. I caught it on Saturday, my last day attending the festival. I will have more details on this band when I publish my report for that day. Make sure to visit Metalunderground.com throughout the week to read that report and all my other observations on official and unofficial SXSW events.

Rex_84's avatar

An avid metal head for over twenty years, Darren Cowan has written for several metal publications and attended concerts throughout various regions of the U.S.

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