MILWAUKEE METALFEST 2000 - Web Exclusive!
September 16, 2001, 19 years ago
After the disastrous March Metal Meltdown in Jersey, people had their speculations if they were actually going to attend this year's Milwaukee Metalfest. Actually March Metal Meltdown was so disastrous that people began to lose their faith in ever again attending a festival run by Jack Koshick.
Last year's Milwaukee Metalfest wasn't any picnic either, seeing the throng of bands canceled at the last minute. This year only a few bands canceled, most notably LOCK UP and OLD MAN'S CHILD. But no big deal anyway seeing that more notable bands were going to make their debut on American soil. Bands such as OPETH, KATATONIA and ANATHEMA were the hot topics of the fest as people were highly anticipating their performances. Actually the night before the fest, Anathema played a surprise gig at a pre-show party at a local bar where members from Opeth, Katatonia and Enslaved also made an appearance. But that was just a little taste of what was to come.
Once again taking place at the air conditioned Milwaukee Auditorium, the fest was off to a good start, the schedule flip flopping around a bit but no big deal. It was the same set-up as usual, four stages (the main stage, the Nightfall and Necropolis stages across each other, and the Relapse stage on the top floor in the auditorium); quite convenient to maneuver around to the stages amongst the many booths that the record labels had set up.
Usually at a Milwaukee Metalfest, the bands that have always stuck out were the underdogs and not the main and bigger bands (such as King Diamond and Destruction this year). The underground death metal bands have never failed to prevail in their performances and this year was no exception. Bands like SARCOPHAGUS, BENUMB, BURNT BY THE SUN, FLESHGRIND, the awesome power of SKINLESS, DYING FETUS and DEEDS OF FLESH all put on killer performances.
But such standouts in the death metal realm would come in the form of ORIGIN who presented a much more powerful aura live than on record, EXHUMED, and of course the relenting attack of CEPHALIC CARNAGE. Other notables that made quite the impression were THE CHASM (totally metal!) and the onslaught of HATE ETERNAL who had a presence that was simply electrifying. Also other notables worth mentioning: the madness of Steve Austin and TODAY IS THE DAY, whose new line-up (again) prevailed, and the Southern Black Metal Cajun fury of GOATWHORE, featuring Ben from Soilent Green and Sammy D (ex-Acid Bath/Crowbar). Fellow scribe Mark Gromen (good to see you got your differences with Killjoy settled, I hope) wanted me to check out CATASTROPHIC, which is Trevor Peres' (Obituary) new band, but I went to the Nightfall stage during their set, and left after one song, not wanting to be subjected to any more genericism.
On the main stage though, the notable bands somehow had to suffer a hollow sound in such an expansive area. ENTOMBED kicked ass as usual, DESTRUCTION was quite forgettable, but it was MAYHEM'S performance that sparked interest, and even though they had some sort of rockin' aura to them, their sound and set ended up being drowned out. But it was still a tolerable set by any measure.
Now for the true highlights of the fest. How fucking metal are DECEASED? King Fowley almost started a fight with the guy who told them that their set had to be cut down to fifteen minutes and after everything got sorted out, Deceased ripped through many of the highlights from their catalogue, including a Hirax cover, with Fowley interacting with the crowd by screaming "Do we have any Anvil fans here?!". Truly an awesome set and boy, saying that Fowley is a maniac would be an understatement and a half.
How heavy are MORTICIAN? Well, seeing that they are the most brutal band in the world (and vocalist Will Rahmer was on his best behavior for the fest), Mortician showcased their brutality in top form. Playing a much better set than last year, the sheer brutality that Mortician displayed was uncanny and unrelenting.
The highly anticipated performance of THE RAVENOUS featuring Killjoy, Danny Lilker and Chris Reifert also was a sick and vile amalgam, unearthing the true Autopsy spirit. Killjoy was as psycho as ever while the vocal trade-offs between him and Chris were awe-inspiring. Totally sick and brutal indeed. And another highlight was actually meeting one of my many idols, Chris Reifert.
Out of all the Norwegian bands that I have seen live, I must say that none of them even come close to the metal fury and intensity that ENSLAVED portrayed on Saturday night. Enslaved simply wiped the floor with a true and energetic performance, outdoing Mayhem's set with ease. The new tracks sounded killer and again the energy within surged and flourished in glory and might.
KATATONIA's set was definitely a magical moment, paralyzing me when the opening chords of 'For My Demons' rang out. Even though singer Jonas Renkse was a bit out of tune, it didn't matter because the magic that Katatonia prevailed with was a special moment that kept me in awe from beginning to end. And what a way to end the set with one of the most desolate sounding songs ever, 'Endtime'.
On the Relapse stage is where ANATHEMA made their presence felt and just like Katatonia, Anathema had their magic to share with an overwhelming crowd. The band was having a blast, interacting with the crowd and churning out some of their best tunes. It was also awe-inspiring and something to behold. And at the end of their set, it seemed that they had ten minutes extra so what do they do? End it with a Pink Floyd cover of 'Is There Anybody Out There?' as well as the Misfits' 'Halloween'.
And finally the main highlight of the Metalfest, OPETH. With a massive crowd at the Nightfall stage anticipating, Opeth naturally come onto the stage, tune their instruments and begin to amaze the crowd with one of the most flawless performances that I have ever witnessed. The crowd went crazy as the chants of 'Opeth, Opeth...' rang through the hall as the band drew tracks from their entire repertoire. Nothing seemed out of place, the sound was excellent and their playing was flawless. Opeth's performance was easily the talk of the fest. Speechless and reeling I was left...
So overall it was a success. Easily eclipsing the past two Metalfest's, people seemed to be in good spirits at this year's Metalfest. It is always a great event to hook up with your many contacts around the world so I must finally thank those who made it special for me to have a grand experience; Killjoy (great to have you as a friend!), Roy, Ivar and Dirge of Enslaved, King Fowley of Deceased (fuckin' maniac!), Chris Pelletier, Pat from Red Stream, Joker Lokison, Paul Thind and Jon Paris of Necropolis, Roger of Mortician/Malignancy, Ben of Soilent Green/Goatwhore, Daniel Chorado of The Chasm, Erik of Hate Eternal and of course Jonas and Anders of Katatonia as well as Mikael of Opeth. But extra special thanks goes out to the entire Relapse Records crew for the ultimate in hospitality and for being the coolest guys on the face of the planet. You guys all rule!