Booze, Broads, Beelzebub... and BBQ:
Samhain Black Metal Fest MMIX in Charlotte, North Carolina on All Hallow's Eve

Here in historic South Carolina, the stench of grey matter stagnating in a despotic pool of force-fed religion is driving me to the point of wanting to buy a Greyhound ticket just so I can run in front of the bus. In a town where the under-stocked shops don’t open until one p.m. on Sundays to make sure everyone goes to church, there’s absolutely no sign of anything to do with metal. So, I decided to make a quick escape, leaving the rude acrimonious verbosity and the suffocating Christian deluge behind to attend Samhain Black Metal Fest in Charlotte, North Carolina. And what better place to find reprieve from air made thin by the sermons of hyped up preachers and the wailing of a possessed crowd of Methodists than at a satanic black metal festival? After waiting for a bus five hours late, I jumped up from a brittle, green bench as the gas-guzzling monolith finally stopped at my feet and hopped in. Speeding past white magnolias, deteriorating barns and stumpy palmettos, anticipation for the onslaught of blasphemy and the noxious bouquet of sweaty men, beer, leather and burning black wax made me shiver with excitement. 

I passed out onto my hotel bed when I got into town, lulled into slumber by the sounds of slurred yelling and cackling laughter from the streets. At around 3 p.m. the next day, I took a bus to Monroe Road and crossed the street, dodging white pick-up trucks with gun racks and plumbing/drywall/painting vans, to Charlotte’s Underground. The setting was certainly not of the back alley warehouse in the middle of downtown as they were of venues I’ve been to before. There were no curious passer-bys wearing thick black glasses, skinny jeans and messenger bags to stare at a line of loud, hairy metalheads. No, this wart on Lucifer’s back was right by an elementary school and a grassy green residential area. I mean, I’m used to the condemned looking buildings of Seattle. Where's the dried up fridge tossed outside, pavements littered with cigarette ash, metal scraps and the fresh, moist stains on crumbling concrete? Yet, once inside, I felt at home amongst long-haired individuals dressed in black and covered in blasphemous tattoos; much different from the rap-blasting homies of my college town. I made a trip to the bathroom, the balm of which was a classical mélange of piss and vomit and then headed over to the stage to spy on Mysteriarch setting up. Forming in 2001, the band of three plays symphonic black metal and is native to Charlotte. They had the typical set-up of corpse-paint, leather boots and candles and gave a mediocre performance that only managed to rouse a handful away from the bar and line of lads with their arms crossed that always forms in the back of the pit.

After seeing them, I headed on over to the merch counters. Over the clattering of pool balls exploding in my ears and standing right next to the dingy, dark blue couches in front of me, I noticed I was the only one wandering about with “X’s” on my hands. Shrugging, I gazed at the Manticore, Legions of Astaroth and Krieg LPs, CDs and shirts. I also noticed a familiar logo, round with two hourglasses, scattered about a bar table and the face of Chris Grigg of Woe. Greetings, hugs and “how are you?’s” followed, leading to a car trip downtown and my first dinner outside of the cafeteria in months with Chris and a couple of others in a BBQ restaurant.

When I came back, stuffed, I noticed that Myrmydon of the Cathedral of the Black Goat and a member of Order of the Black Wolf were still walking around in black metal gimp styled attire; KKK-like outfits complete with spiked armbands (See Vulture Lord for an example). It seems Myrmydon Pontifex Maximus was supposed to sign copies of “The Devil’s Bible,” which he authored. Yet, no one brought any books and well, he was beyond wasted anyways. The heathen quartet of The Order of the Black Wolf offered an eclectic array of witchy craftsmanship with jewelry and statues made from authentic animal bones. I was also glad to have made it back in time to see Legions of Astaroth from Atlanta, Georgia. With both Occaxial (Crimson Moon, Demoncy, Eyes of Ligeia) and Baalxixras getting equal time on the microphone and drummer Amon blasting chaotically from behind, Legions of Astaroth played a blazing set of abysmal and arcane black metal. Mmm. They even used some bones courtesy of OBW to decorate the stage. Mmm... surely the scent of candle smoke and leather is a true metal aphrodisiac.

Forming in the mid-nineties, Krieg was next. The rebellious battalion was made up of an unconcerned, red-headed vocalist in a white shirt, a charismatic guitarist in war paint, a smiling, drunken, bassist and Chris Grigg, with short hair and glasses, on drums. Remaining forever underground and proudly maintaining their place outside of the mainstream, Krieg doesn’t generate hype, aren’t name-dropped on metal message boards and top-friended across the globe. Nevertheless, they managed to hypnotize the audience into a trance of head-banging Tourette’s syndrome ticks. They sport an ungodly number of session/former members ranging from Satanic Tyrant Werewolf of Satanic Warmaster to members of Nyktalgia, Judas Iscariot, Antaeus, Katharsis, Nargaroth and a slew of others. Their current   line-up as it stands sports former and current members of Profanatica, Nachtmystium… etc., with Wrest (Leviathan, Lurker of Chalice, Twilight) newly anointed on session bass. Despite the echoing effect of Imperial's screams getting old after the first couple of songs, Krieg’s black metal groove and lethiferous live attack left a lasting impression like a slap on the face with a bloody mitt of protruding, rusty nails. With Krieg, you can tell they could care less about trying to keep up with personas and playing to the wet dreams of little boys in corpse-paint so they can sell a heap of records.

Climaxing a night of broken glass and coyote bones, barbecue sauce and blood stains, Manticore closed the long day’s festivities. Krieg’s live bassist/Manticore’s bassist Ixitichitl, had taken it upon himself when the sun was still out to slay a gigantic white rat and keep it in a plastic bag; pulling it out every once in awhile to chase people around with. Later, Manticore’s guitarist tied it around his neck and wore it around the venue, provoking some to poke at it with their fingers and everyone to stare in a combination of disgust and awe. The deceased vermin was then mutilated as it was sacrificed to its killer’s bass guitar, its guts spilling onto the floor and onto Myrmydon’s eager face. Manticore played thrashing black/death metal and if this is a normal live show for the Ohio band, they’d be worth seeing again and again and again. 

I hope Samhain Black Metal Fest makes another appearance next year. It’s the only thing keeping me on the inside of a Greyhound and not on it, my memento mori Polaroid plastered onto the Myspace pages of grindcore fans and generic bi-sexual goths/emos trying to act scary and brutal. It seems Teitanblood and Weapon were supposed to be on the bill, but couldn’t make it. Perhaps if they had been there, this truly would have been a ritualistic massacre of Christianity through black metal; instead of just a fun music festival. I mean, it’s right in the heart of the bible-belt! The thought of throwing your horns up in the hair while someone shouts “Hail, Satan” in the land of churches and evangelical bullshit should be enough to beckon you to NC. Sure, it might be pretty hilarious when you think about it, but you can still come down and pretend like you’re throwing a fist against the Pope himself when you’re really just getting drunk to the sounds of underground bm. I mean, isn’t that what life’s all about? Booze, broads, Beelzebub… and BBQ?