Heart of Steel: Concert Reviews

Studio Seven, Seattle, WA, USA
August 22-23, 2003

Live review by Princess of Hell
All photos by Princess of Hell except Exhumed pics by Hellion
and Dragonlord pics by Chris Slack/gravemusic.com

I'm happy to report Seattle Metal Fest 2003 not only went off, it went off like a total fucking explosion. Twenty-seven bands played and only two had to cancel - Strapping Young Lad's van broke down in Texas and Forced Entry withdrew for personal reasons. All in all the sound quality was great, bands stayed within their time slots and there was little grumbling about shared equipment. This success is due mostly to the hard work of Frank "Franko" Hetzel of Howitzer Productions, a long-time supporter of the Seattle scene. He not only organized the whole damn thing, he also plays in Beltfed Weapon, one of the bands playing the Fest.

The location was Studio Seven, a two-level club the industrial area of the city (last year's Fest took place a sportsbar called Goldie's). The main floor has the stage and the all-ages area, and 21-and-overs can climb the steep stairs to the upper level which features a spartan yet adequate bar, some tables and a balcony with a bird's-eye view of the stage. All right, without further ado, here's my synopsis of the Fest.

Day One - Friday, August 22



The show started at noon and although people started streaming in steadily around 2pm, in the very beginning the crowd was mostly the bands, the organizers, some crusty punks and quite a few kids. I missed the first band HEADDIRT (headdirt.com) but walked just as Seattle's Scorched-Earth began their war-thrash assault. The Aussie-influenced (think Destroyer 666, Atomizer) three-piece delivered a tight rampage of war metal that had hair flying despite their early slot. Standouts of the set were "Napoleon, Conqueror of the Pyramids" and "YHWH" both from their new album "Gods, Kings and Conquerors." My enjoyment was unfortunately dampened by the convulsing, smelly crusty punk flailing in front of me. (scorchedearthxxx.com)


This was my first time witnessing these Bainbridge Island, WA purveyors of gloomy '80s-inspired thrash. Blackgoat are in the vein of Celtic Frost-meets-Slayer with very catchy mid-tempo parts. Their attitude and energy level was arena-quality (as was their grand finale, during which I couldn't help but think of KISS). A full-length CD will be out next month and the band is seeking a bass player.


Despite my lack of passion for 90 percent of new American death metal, I enjoyed Myiasis' set. These Seattle guys have always had technical proficiency on their side, but now they're making it more interesting by increasing the Swedish melodic-death influence. The clean, cutting sound of the guitars was a high point as were the backing vocals. My only complaint is the band encouraging moshing during songs. All in all Myiasis played very well and I was impressed to see how much they have progressed. Unfortunately I had to leave the front area before they were done, due to the aforementioned stinking cruster returning to assail me with his flailing dirty mop. I didn't want any vermin flying off and implanting itself on me. (unholiness.com)



This Vancouver three-piece were competent - kind of Pantera-inspired aggro-metal - but they suffered from a high out-of-touch factor. The guitarist was dressed like Fred Durst (complete with exposed "TOMMY" underwear) and it didn't help that he kept hopping around like a frog. Hyperthermia proclaimed "We're here to fuck this place up!" and asked "Do you think you guys can go motherfucking crazy up in here?" Their drummer was great though and looked a bit like Lemmy, so I'll forgive him for wearing an Ozzfest shirt.


After Hyperthermia I made an epic voyage down First Avenue South to my friend Hellion's work to retrieve my "good" camera. I would have driven the 10 or so blocks but a delivery truck chose to block in my Jeep. I was followed by some zombie-like old drunks but I lost them in front of Yummy Yummy Teriyaki, and returned to Studio Seven just as Serpens Aeon were finishing their first song. From Seattle and featuring ex-members of The Chasm, Serpens played a short, tight set of black/death metal including some headbangers from their new album "Dawn of Kouatl." A new second guitar player, Max Schlereth (ex-Mindkor) added a dimension to their live sound and the hypnotic Mercyful Fate/Iron Maiden-inspired harmonics really stood out. (serpensaeon.com)


Hailing from northern California, Soultorn replaced local black metallers In Memorium on the bill. They played surprisingly good, angst-ridden melodic death. None of the guys in the band look over 20 and the singer/guitarist was totally nerd-core, about 108 pounds soaking wet with short hair and glasses. The geekiness was amplified when he pushed up his slipping specs during a particularly evil part of a song. The other guitarist was a mad shredder and looked about 15, and the poker-faced drummer looked bored as he focused most of his energy on the toms and bass drum. The band's set was cruelly interrupted before their last song - the singer was handed a slip of paper to read over the PA: "There are two cars parked across the street at the meat market that are about to be towed." (soultorn.tk)


Beltfed Weapon played a set of kick-ass thrash-meets-death with great leads by Franko and vocalist Herb (also of Drawn & Quartered) growling about suicide, rape and killing vegans - and then more about killing vegans. They got a very positive crowd response, not just for their fine playing but also in tribute to Franko. (seattlemetalfest.com/bfw.html)


The time between Beltfed Weapon and Drawn & Quartered was so lengthy that some speculated they weren't going to play. I took a brief nap in my Jeep and as I was ambling back to Studio Seven I noticed flashing red lights in front of the club. At first I thought it was "the fuzz" but in fact it was a homeless guy who had fallen down and hurt himself outside the club. So the show went on. D&Q are a death-metal institution in Seattle. They sing about topics like necrophilia and say "fuck" a lot between songs. They're great musicians but I have never been too blown away by their live shows, and sometimes the solos seem totally out of place in the middle of the songs. Still, they must be doing something right because the crowd's support was strong. The highlight of the show was a cover of Sodom's "Nuclear Winter" - it proved that Herb is capable of more than cookie-monster vocals, and I wish they'd incorporate more of that style into their original songs. (Web)


This growling four-piece from California played too long but were saved by competent guitarwork, cool bass-tapping parts and at least two songs that were mandatory headbangers. Their singer Dusty has a tendency to punctuate his words with a kind of karate-chop motion. The standout song of their set was "Steel Toe Abortion."  (severedsavior.com)


This energetic L.A.-based quintet - a thrash project of scene luminaries Jim Durkin (guitar, Dark Angel) and Steve Gaines (guitar, Abbatoir) - features the dynamic Loana dP Valencia on vocals. She was the only female playing at this year's Fest and her "take no prisoners" screaming-growl was pretty amazing. Their performance of "Women of Sodom" from the new mini-CD totally ruled, but I don't know about the buildup beforehand. It was presented as a "tribute to women in the metal scene" but I have never been that proud of women in metal. I am usually more embarrassed that so few girls can hack it on guitar, and that there are still very few women in metal bands. OK. Sorry about the rant. Anyway, the thrash was delivered raw and fast, the crowd totally loved them and the band promised to return soon. (dreamsofdamnation.com)



Crazy Bay Area chainsaw-wielders Exhumed and Dragonlord, Eric Peterson's (Testament) genre-eluding ode to black metal, were a sight to behold. Unfortunately I wasn't there to behold either sight because I had to go to the airport at to pick up my little sister (who has very bad timing). Luckily my friend Hellion was able to snap some shots of Exhumed with my camera, and she affirms that Matt and the boys delivered a shocking slab of old-school "fückin gore." Chris Slack of gravemusic.com was also kind enough to share some Dragonlord photos - this was their first-ever show in corpsepaint and I'm told it was very… interesting to see Eric and Steve (Smyth) decked out like that.






My little sister is hardly a metalhead but I convinced her she had to see Nevermore. So instead of dropping her back at my house after the airport we screeched back into the parking lot of Studio Seven. We walked in to the now-packed club just as Nevermore were starting their set. In case you haven't heard The Enemies of Reality are back with a vengeance! Although not listed on the flyers due to their earlier show with Type O Negative, the hometown heroes lived up to their "Very Special Guest" billing. Clad in Dickies bellbottoms - and Warrel with his arm still in a sling from falling a few weeks back - Nevermore delivered a mindbogglingly awesome performance that made me rethink my "psychedelic are for dirty hippies" stance. Nevermore are one of a handful of bands that make me very proud to hail from Seattle, and Warrel's voice kicks my ass every time. My favorite song of the night was "Narcosynthesis" but to be honest I didn't pay too much attention to the set list - I was too busy gushing to my poor little jetlagged sister at her first real metal show. "Aren't they great? Don't they fucking kick ass?? Doesn't this song just RULE??? "

After Nevermore took their bows, the lights went up to reveal dozens of exhausted yet satisfied, drunken and dehydrated metalheads trying to remember where they had parked.

On To Day Two...