Decibel Metal And Beer Fest in Philadelphia

I don’t usually cover things outside of the DC area but I’ll make an exception for the Decibel Metal & Beer Fest held at the Fillmore Philadelphia on April 22nd and 23rd. Metal and beer are two of my favorite things and Decibel did a great job of bringing together some excellent bands along with some quality breweries with heavy metal ties for a weekend that was pretty damn fun overall. I’ve been a rather sick since the fest so I’m behind on getting this post up, but there was some cool stuff going on at this fest that I wanted to make sure got covered here even if it is going up a bit late.

I’d never been to the Fillmore in Philadelphia before but I quickly realized that it is much larger than our Fillmore in Silver Spring, maybe about double the size. The doors opened at 5pm each day and bands were still setting up their merch booths as the doors opened. Things were a little disorganized, but considering this was the first fest of its kind it wasn’t that bad. One of Mikkeller‘s beers didn’t show up until the second day and the venue ran out of the small plastic beer sampling glasses rather quickly on the first day which lead to most people getting cups from the bar. Overall those weren’t major issues though and it was a lot of fun talking to the people that work for the various breweries about their beer and metal bands they are into.

Atlas Brew Works at Decibel Metal & Beer Fest

Atlas Brew Works representing DC

There were 17 breweries at the festival and each had a booth with at least two beers being poured. The booths were mostly on the ground floor lining the walls in the main concert room, however there were 4 upstairs and 3 in the main entry room, including the massive Unibroue booth. Along with the band merch and beer booths there were a few other merch vendors in the main entry room. Despite being in Philly, between all my beer friends and metal friends I felt like I kept running into someone whichever way I turned all weekend.

Dave Mustaine of Megadeth

Dave Mustaine pouring the A Tout Le Monde beer

The festival did a really good job of actually blending a metal fest with a beer fest. This wasn’t just a metal show with some beer vendors, or a beer fest with some metal bands playing. Decibel managed to bring together metal bands with ties to craft beer with breweries with ties to heavy metal. Burnt Hickory had a beer tap that looked like an Orange amp rig. Trve Brewing and Hammerheart Brewing both had brewers in bands that performed at the fest (Khemmis and Panopticon, respectively). Dave Mustaine was there on Saturday to pour samples of the Megadeth beer A Tout Le Monde at the Unibroue booth, he was certainly getting A-list celebrity treatment. I found Dan Lilker (of Anthrax, Nuclear Assault, and a ton of other bands over the years) pouring beer at the Mikkeller booth and taking photos with any fans that wanted one. I talked to him a bit and it turns out he’s really into craft beer and even knows some of the guys at the Danish brewery Mikkeller, which is how he ended up manning their booth. At one point I saw Municipal Waste drummer and craft beer connoisseur Dave Witte at the Cigar City Brewing booth, where the Municipal Waste beer Divine Blasphemer was being poured. And Richard Christy (of Death, Iced Earth and also the Howard Stern Show) was seen sipping the Charred Walls Of The Damned beer from Burnt Hickory.

Dan Lilker at the Mikkeller booth

Dan Lilker at the Mikkeller booth

And let’s not forget about the awesome bands! There was a wide range of metal in the line up. Grindcore, stoner, thrash, death metal, black metal, doom, the focus was certainly on the more underground sub genres. On the first day of the festival I was most excited to see Panopticon. Austin Lunn is the mastermind behind Panopticon and also a brewer at Hammerheart Brewing in Minnesota. Despite forming about 10 years ago, the band has only recently starting performing live. Their first live show ever was last summer at Migration Fest. This is because Panopticon is a one man band in studio and Austin gets other people to fill out the band for live shows. Panopticon is known for mixing black metal with Appalachian folk to create a truly unique sound, sometimes called “blackgrass” as a hybrid between bluegrass and black metal. Unfortunately they didn’t use a banjo live, and their mix wasn’t always great, but it was still pretty awesome getting to see Panopticon live as they have some very powerful and moving songs. I also found Austin’s Hammerheart brewery to be one of my favorites at the fest. They specialize in smoked beer (which is a personal favorite style of mine) and their rauchbier was my favorite beer of the entire fest. Apparently Austin apprenticed at a brewery in Norway for a while and upon returning to the US he moved from Kentucky to Minnesota to start Hammerheart Brewing. The brewery’s name is no coincidence, it is in fact named after the 1993 Bathory album.

Panopticon performing their song Black Soot And Red Blood at the Decibel Metal & Beer Fest!

A post shared by Metal Chris (@dcmetalchris) on

Immolation also played an intense set on Saturday, as they are typically known for. They may not do a lot on stage besides stand there and play their instruments but they do get people going with those crazy riffs. I thought I would see a lot more crowd surfers during Municipal Waste’s set. They were fun as always but I guess the fans were holding back because they went nuts for the night’s headliner. Agoraphobic Nosebleed headlined the first day with a great set. I wish Jay Randall had been there to perform with them, but the band still put on a great show and even played one of their sludgy songs from the Arc EP, “Not A Daughter.” As usual the Chicken Man was there leading the moshing and even got a shout out from ANb.

Agoraphobic Nosebleed at Decibel Metal & Beer Fest

Agoraphobic Nosebleed at Decibel Metal & Beer Fest

On the second day my favorite performance was probably Khemmis. The Denver based doom metal band put out one hell of an album in Hunted last year and I had yet to see them perform live. Their drummer, Zach Coleman, is also a brewer at the black metal themed Trve Brewing in Denver so their inclusion on the fest’s line up seemed like a no brainer. I had actually met Zach a few weeks before at my own metal show at Atlas Brew Works, and as fate would have it Trve’s booth was next to Atlas’s booth. Trve is best known for making excellent sour beers, though they only brought one sour to the fest, along with their Sleep inspired Nazareth IPA. Trve’s beers are very hard to come by on the East Coast, so this was a great opportunity to get your hands on some.

Zach Coleman of Trve Brewing and Khemmis

Zach Coleman at the Trve Brewing booth

Sleep headlined the final day of the Metal & Beer Fest and they put on a great show as always. Time seems to have no meaning when Sleep is playing live and although they didn’t play any parts of the song “Dopesmoker” like they usually do, they did play some rarities like “The Clarity” single they released on Adult Swim a few years back and “Sonic Titan,” the other song on the original release of Dopesmoker. Pig Destroyer was another highlight of Sunday’s line up. Their lighting was low and there was a lot of fog, less than optimal conditions for photography, but don’t let that make you think their set was anything but intense. They even brought out Dag Nasty vocalist Shawn Brown to perform with them when they covered the Void song, “Who Are You.”

Sleep at Decibel Metal & Beer Fest

Sleep at Decibel Metal & Beer Fest

Sleep at Decibel Metal & Beer Fest

In all the weekend was pretty great! Almost all the best metal related breweries were there, like Burial, Three Floyds, Trve, Holy Mountain and DC’s own Atlas. The only breweries I felt really should have been there but weren’t were Jester King from Austin and Oliver Ales from Baltimore. While Hammerheart’s Weltenwanderer rauschbier was my favorite beer of the weekend, there were other standouts as well such as Wigsplitter coffee stout from 3 Floyds, Ritualknife black braggot from Burial (a collab with Trve), Charred Walls Of The Damned Belgian quad cinnamon apple pie variant from Burnt Hickory, Twisted Doom New England style IPA from 18th Street and Cursed sour pale ale from Trve. I think the best brewery of the event has to go to Burnt Hickory from Kennesaw, Georgia. They were totally in the spirit with their Orange amp rig beer tap as well as bringing by far the most beers of any brewery to the event, including several rare variants of Charred Walls Of The Damned. I hope Decibel does this event again next year and I really hope more breweries get as into it as Burnt Hickory did!

Burnt Hickory Brewery's Orange beer tap

Burnt Hickory Brewery’s Orange beer tap

Thanks for reading to the end of my post. I had some help covering things in Philly from Metal Nick so be sure to check out more of his videos from this fest (and many, many other concerts) on his YouTube page here and more of his photos on his Flickr page here. Maryland Deathfest XV is just around the corner so stay tuned for our coverage leading up to our favorite local metal festival!

Something new planned on DCHM

I’m always looking for ways to use new forms of social media on DCHeavyMetal.com and this weekend I’ll be doing my first live streaming video interview on Periscope, a free video streaming app for both iOS and Android. On Saturday, May 13th (that’s tomorrow!) some time around 7:30 or 8pm I’ll be at DC Brau with Richard Johnson of Agoraphobic Nosebleed and Drugs Of Faith talking about the upcoming ANb show at the Black Cat on May 21st, beer, music and anything else that comes to mind. I’ll also have a free pair of tickets to give to the person with the best question for Richard!

Periscope is owned by Twitter so if you have a Twitter account you’ve already got a Periscope account. The cool thing about Periscope is that it will let people watching ask their own questions that we can answer in real time. And on Saturday I’ll have a pair of tickets to give away to whoever has the best question for Richard. All you need to watch or join in is a smart phone (with the Periscope app) or a computer with a browser and the link to my account conveniently posted right here: www.periscope.tv/metalchris

If you can’t watch live don’t worry, I plan on saving the stream and posting it to YouTube and on the main site for people to watch later. If this goes well then I hope to do more interviews with metal musicians at local breweries and bars around town in the future. I hope you enjoy the first in a series of interviews I’d like to call “Have A Beer With…” so join us Saturday evening and have a beer with Richard Johnson of Agoraphobic Nosebleed!

Agoraphobic Nosebleed at the Black Cat

Review of Arc by Agoraphobic Nosebleed

Band: Agoraphobic Nosebleed
Album: Arc
Release Date: 22 January 2016
Record Label: Relapse Records
Buy on CD ($11) or digital ($6) or vinyl ($19) from: Bandcamp

Arc by Agoraphobic Nosebleed

Locals Agoraphobic Nosebleed have been very active lately. They recently started performing their first live shows at various festivals around the world (including their first ever live performance at last year’s Maryland Deathfest). Now they’re working on putting out a series of EPs that each feature a different band member’s musical tastes. When I heard the first of these was going to be a slower, more sludgey album I knew that DCHM writer Buzzo Jr would be perfect to review it since he is a fan of both grind and sludge metal. What follows is his take on the first studio recording of this new era for Agoraphobic Nosebleed. And don’t forget to stream a track from it at the end of this post!

Grindcore legends Agoraphobic Nosebleed have been delivering hyperspeed audio assaults fueled by manic riffs and machine gun tempo drum machines since the early 90’s. The band have since experimented with harsh noise, power electronics, and crossover thrash. Their experimentation continues with Arc, the first in the series of EPs the band is releasing that will each have a separate style representing a different member’s musical taste. Driven by vocalist Kat Katz, Arc is definitely a major departure from the ultra fast grind/crossover style Agoraphobic Nosebleed is infamous for, and instead is a slow, heavy, 3 song slab of sludge metal. If this was your first time listening to them, I’m pretty sure you would be quite surprised to learn that this is the same band that released Altered States of America; a frantic 100 song EP clocking in at only 20 minutes.

Arc gets the ball rolling with “Not a Daughter,” a relentlessly groovy track that at some points sounds almost upbeat with its swaying, southern feel. I don’t think anyone has ever dared to use the term “catchy” to describe an Agoraphobic Nosebleed song, but I’ll be damned if I can find a better description for the bluesy, pulsating riffs that guitarist Scott Hull unleashes here. Hull, also of local grindcore band Pig Destroyer, has flirted with slower, doomy material in the past on some Agoraphobic Nosebleed tracks and with Pig Destroyer’s Mass & Volume EP, but on this album it seems as if he’s actually been in at least 3 secret sludge bands. The riffs here are something I would expect from seasoned sludge veterans like Jimmy Bower of Eyehategod or Buzz Osbourne of the Melvins. The mid paced grooves of “Not a Daughter” soon give way to the next track, “Deathbed.” Any sense of slight optimism that may have been heard in the first track are now all but gone, with the pace coming to a slow dirge that creeps along with a spiteful sonic intensity. Agoraphobic Nosebleed has always been instantly recognizable for their use of incredibly fast drum machine blast beats, giving their early releases an almost machine like feel to them. Scott Hull’s programming skills have vastly improved throughout the years however, and on Arc the pounding drumbeats feel completely organic; at times I almost completely forgot that Agoraphobic Nosebleed didn’t have a drummer. The methodical pace of the drums on this album show that Hull definitely knows what he’s doing. Hull also handles the basswork on all of the tracks, and while not as exceptional as his guitar work, the flowing basslines on all of the tracks provide a great backbone to the rest of the music. The EP soon comes to a close with “Gnaw”, a mammothly crushing track filled to the brim with slow, sinister riffs and tormented screams. Vocalist Kat Katz is front and center on this album, with her howling screams and low growls echoing along with Scott Hull’s brilliant guitar and drum work. Kat is no stranger to doom and sludge, as many will remember her amazing vocals from her time in local doom band Salome. While not exactly a replication of past work, it’s great to hear Kat’s amazing vocals alongside slower material once again. Apart from the major change in tempo and number of songs, another huge change that listeners will notice about Arc is the subject matter of the tracks. You won’t find any songs like “Dick to Mouth Resuscitation” or “Druggernaut Jug Fuck” on here. The morbid comedy of past Agoraphobic Nosebleed tracks are instead replaced with much more personal tone. The lyrics on Arc are all written by Kat Katz, and revolve around her dealing with the death of her mother who suffered from schizophrenia. The intense personal meaning in the songs gives even more weight to them; with the emotional severity adding to the bleak tone the album already conveys.

The band is planning to release the rest of the EPs later this year, and I’m pretty psyched to hear how they differ from this and all of the previous Agoraphobic releases. Those of you who were expecting just another hyperspeed offering of grindcore may be disappointed, but if you’re open to a band experimenting with vastly different musical influences, and are a fan of slow, Black Sabbath worshipping tunes, then this is for you. Agoraphobic Nosebleed’s Arc is a major departure from the sound we know them for, but it’s proof that experimentation can bring forth great results. For those still sad about Salome breaking up (myself included) this is a great way to appease your need for more local sludge driven by Kat’s peircing howls. Definitely give this album a listen and don’t miss Agoraphobic Nosebleed when they play their first ever local headline show at the Black Cat in May!