Heart of Steel: Concert Reviews

Engorged / Impaled / Wraithen / Dead Bodies Everywhere / Drawn & Quartered
Club Satyricon - Portland, OR
June 9, 2001

By Michael De Los Muertos
Pictures and additional commentary by Ice Maiden

Up Yours!Fans of brutal metal, take heart! We here at Metal-Rules aren't all about slaying dragons and cavorting through the forest with elves, and even the most power-metal mad of us (such as myself and Ice Maiden) still retain the ability to enjoy a good old blood n' guts, ass-kicking death and black metal show. As our experience at this landmark Portland show proved, brutality is still the #1 metalhead-recommended ingredient to a great concert, and the five bands on this bill definitely took the prescription seriously.

This was an important show for our metal scene here in Portland. If you've been following our reviews for the past few months you know that it's been feast or famine as far as metal shows are concerned, and essentially us Portlanders are at the mercy of a single promoter whose willingness to book metal shows changes with the weather. What's really needed is another source of live metal, and the Northwest Festival of Blood, Fire and Steel was an attempt at testing that theory. Luckily the test came out very positively, as these five bands showed, blazing gory (en)trails through a long night which had its ups and downs, but ultimately left the crowd twitching in metallic-induced glee.

The first band was the Cannibal Corpse worshippers from Seattle, the mighty and gory Drawn And Quartered. As with their CD, which I reviewed some months ago, you know exactly what you're getting from a band like this, and you get it -- straightforward Corpse-style death metal. With D & Q, however, there is some energy and dynamism behind the material, which by itself isn't that innovative. Indeed their set kept a tight pace and never got tiresome. Frontman Herb Burke is famed for the impressive length of his hair as well as his Cookie Monster vox, but he obviously understands the importance of, above all, entertaining the audience and giving them what they want. The highlight of their blood-soaked set was probably the title track of their album, "To Kill Is Human." Drawn left the stage with a happy crowd, having given probably the most technically smooth set of the evening. This was an excellent way to start things out. (Ice Maiden's Commentary: D & Q is all about their "Cousin It"-ish vocalist -- I was mesmerized by his hair length -- and incredible guitar solos. My personal highlights were their songs "Incinerate the Faithful" and "Christian Extinction." Yes, they sing death metal, but I think that their song titles show a decidedly black metal lyrical bent.)

The next band, Dead Bodies Everywhere, is, I believe, from the Bay Area. The first thing you'll notice is that the singer has only one arm. While not as impressive as a drummer with one arm, a lot of people in the audience will certainly remember this band for that distinction. (Ice Maiden's Commentary: A one-armed man singing "Less of a Man" with much rage in his voice somehow seems very fitting.) The second thing you'll notice is that their metal, although brutal and generally death-oriented, has a bit of a hardcore edge to it. This dissatisfied some in the crowd, I'd expect, though not vocally, and these guys were far more metal than they were hardcore. They were clearly giving the show a 100% effort. I don't think they were quite as energetic or crowd-pleasing as Drawn & Quartered, but on the other hand, I heard no complaints about this band, and I have none myself.

The next band to tee up was Wraithen. Their frosty slab of black metal, in the form of their new demo Cult Of The 11th Dawn, was definitely impressive, and I was hoping that this -- their first live show in more than two years -- would match its promise. It did. In fact, Wraithen was the highlight of the evening and alone justified the price of admission. Highly technical, offering blistering and punishing black metal riffs, but with an impressive and well-arranged array of melodic stuff in the background, Wraithen's material was top-notch, and their playing was strong enough to overcome the few technical obstacles that plagued almost all the bands all evening. "Folterkammergeist" was, in my opinion, the best song of their set (and also on their demo), but that's not to say that the rest of the material was in any way lackluster. Vocals and guitars were working well in tandem and, if this band hadn't rehearsed a lot before this show, I certainly couldn't tell. The crowd was extremely responsive and enthusiastic for what was essentially a brand-new band for many of them. With two above-average showings this year already -- their demo, and this show -- I now have high hopes for a Wraithen hat trick of successes, as this band is poised to do a split 7-inch with the mighty depressing Germans known as Bethlehem. (Ice Maiden's Commentary: Wraithen was my favorite act of the night, in large part because of the incredible showmanship of their front-man and vocalist, Mike -- and not just because Mike is willing to carve runes into his arms and chest to show his dedication to his music before each show. Ouch. No, the reason they were my favorite is because Mike knows how to perform. He not only uses his voice, he uses facial expressions and a vast array of posturing to get his point across. The last performer who really struck me with his showmanship was Marduk's vocalist -- and I really think Mike was on par with him.)

As the time ticked by with nothing happening after the Wraithen set, I was wondering if the two remaining bands were going to run into timing troubles -- this was a late show (10:00pm) and in the alcohol-phobic Pacific Northwest, the world stops at 2:00am, to say nothing of the phenomenon of "bar time" that might place "2:00am" anywhere in the one o'clock hour. Thus when Impaled finally did get onstage, there was a manic, rushed atmosphere about them. Unfortunately their troubles were just beginning. A vocal mic (or monitor) was completely dead, rendering every song by this normally snappy death metal outfit an instrumental. Then the guitarist began having problems as the cable that was literally duct-taped to his guitar kept coming out. The guys in Impaled were visibly frustrated, at one point the guitarist throwing down his instrument in disgust (and a desperate last-ditch attempt to render some vocals by screaming into the one working mic). I wish I could give a real review of Impaled's set, but without having heard the vocals, and guitars for the latter half of their short set, I can only say that if things had been going well I think they would have kicked ass. (Ice Maiden's Commentary: I was really bummed that we couldn't really hear Impaled. Unfortunately, I found myself focusing on the lack of vocals instead of enjoying their music. It's a shame, because these guys were clearly out to have a good time and give the crowd a good time. Even without their mics working, they managed to get into it enough to slam into each other and end up in masses of laughing faces and loads of big hair playing guitar on their backs on the floor. Very '80s, in a good way.)

Drunken FuckerNow with the sand slipping ever faster through the hourglass, the headliner, Engorged, struggled to clear away the debris of Impaled and set up their own stuff. By now a good number of the audience members were very drunk, and one guy deserves special mention. A short-haired, non-metal looking bloke was not only an obvious Engorged maniac, but also about eight or twelve sheets to the wind. Screaming, literally at the top of his lungs, "ENGORGED! ARMAGEDDON!" in a hoarse monotone over and over again -- perhaps fifty or a hundred times -- he was undaunted by the blood streaming down his face from mosh-pit mayhem during Impaled, and mugged for Ice Maiden's camera as he realized he was the unwitting star of the show. It's rare that an audience member can upstage a band, but Mr. Armageddon certainly drew attention to himself! (Ice Maiden's Commentary: I think I will hear the words "Engorged! Armageddon!" in my head for the rest of my days.)

Engorged finally did take the stage at nearly 1:40am. Guitarist Ryan and vocalist Kevin (both veterans of Portland's legendary black metal outfit, Thy Infernal) set the pace for the show, which was blistering, brutal, blasphemous and played in as big a hurry as possible. Luckily Engorged were not beset by quite as many technical problems as Impaled, and they managed to fire off a reasonable number of crowd-pleasers -- including, yes, "Armageddon," proving that the squeaky wheel does get the oil! In fact, Engorged hit a pretty formidable stride in the last five minutes of their truncated set, and I think in a way the time deadline may actually have helped pump up the energy in the room. Sure enough, at 2:00am on the tick, lights began to come on right in the middle of one of their songs. I can state with much conviction that Satyricon is one place you do not want to see with the lights on. The guys in Engorged, and the audience begged someone (who? the sound guys? the bouncers?) for time for one more song, but it wasn't to be. When the house music comes on, the band members on stage might as well be looking around for canes creeping out from behind curtains to yank them offstage like in an old vaudeville act. Thus, a somewhat disappointing ending, but on the whole Engorged put on a good show, and justified their presence at the 'fest. (Ice Maiden's Commentary: They did manage to get one guest vocalist on stage for a final song. I'm not sure who this guy was, but there were two notable things about him. First, when my pal "Engorged! Armageddon!" (why don't we call him EA) worked his way to the front to scream bloody gore, the guest vocalist kicked EA straight in the face, to the extreme amusement of the crowd. Second, the guest vocalist was shaved bald, and had an EXTREMELY short black vinyl skirt on, under which he was wearing a black Speedo. And I know what he was wearing under his skirt because mid-song he sat on the stage with legs spread wide for us all to take a gander. Between his actions and his get-up I can't say I remembered much about his singing voice. Still, I give him a thumbs up.)

I was pleasantly surprised by the crowd at this show, both by its size and its character. British Steel -- Portland's Judas Priest cover band -- was playing at a strip club across town, and I feared that would draw off some of the potential audience, but actually I think it might have helped us by keeping poseurs and fair-weather friends away from Satyricon and leaving this show rightfully in the hands of the true, dyed in the wool metallers. I don't recall seeing any mallcore shirts or baggy jeans. I do have to say, the mosh pit got a bit out of control, however. I still don't see why a mosh pit has to be right at the front, monopolizing the best space in the whole club from which to watch a band up-close and enjoy the music. In a tiny venue like Satyricon, the loss of space is particularly acute.

On the whole, this show was a success. Metal does have viability in Portland, and we don't need to rely on promoters who dole out metal shows like a Dickensian orphanage headmaster begrudgingly doling out gruel to starving children. Kudos are definitely due to the home-grown organizers of this show, and to all the bands who traveled, scraped, skimped and worked their leather-clad tails off to make this show a reality. It was a great time, and there wasn't even an elf or a dragon in sight. Long live the brutality of metal!


All photos 2001 Metal-Rules.com
Permission to use, copy and distribute documents and related graphics
available from this webzine is only permitted with express permission of Metal-Rules.com.

Drawn and Quartered

Drawn and Quartered Drawn and Quartered

 

Dead Bodies Everywhere

Dead Bodies Everywhere Dead Bodies Everywhere

 

Wraithen

Wraithen Wraithen Wraithen

Wraithen Wraithen Wraithen

Wraithen

 

Impaled

Impaled Impaled Impaled

 

Engorged

Engorged Engorged Engorged

All rights reserved and contents 2002 Metal-Rules.com
Keeping the Metal Faith Since 1995!