Hitting Hellfest from your couch

Man, I love the Internet. Is there no end to the awesome stuff on this seemingly endless series of tubes? Though it is all a marketing cliché now, we all find webpages that excite, interest and (ahem) stimulate us. And while we’re all a bit callous to social media and online sharing now, there are still some surprises to be found on the wild and wooly Internets.

My latest honey hole, if you will, is Hellfest’s VIMEO video channel. Just sitting there waiting on suburban dads that woke up way too early on a Saturday morning are 21 Hellfest performance videos from some of today’s best metal bands. Heck, they’re even in HD…assuming you can afford that type of bandwidth.

Below are five of my favorites, and conveniently enough, they are all bands that I can tie into the musical history of Birmingham, AL.

 

NEUROSIS

Oh man, this is a burner. From Hellfest 2013, this video is almost 27 minutes and includes only three songs. That lets you know what to expect. Here, the band treats us to one older track plus two tracks off their latest album, ‘Honor Found In Decay.’

Though I made the trek to Atlanta to see NEUROSIS in all their seething, doomy glory late last December, I was happy to see/hear the band play without 20 sweaty beardies under each armpit. I kid, I kid! I think you guys all look great with those long Amish beards, and I’m with you – who actually needs to wear deodorant or put on clean clothes in 2013? Definitely not NEUROSIS fans, I can tell you that!

Birmingham: Though NEUROSIS has made the big time now playing only festivals and one-off gigs around the world, they actually have a long history of playing the Magic City. From what I’ve seen, they played Tuxedo Junction twice back in the punk days, they played some goofy club downtown on the ‘Enemy of the Sun’ tour (I was there!) and they played at (I think) 5 Points Music Hall on the ‘Through Silver In Blood’ tour. A friend once cornered Steve Von Till when they opened for Pantera in Atlanta, and Von Till had nothing but fine things to say about our fair city. I dream of a sold-out show for the band in the small side of Workplay, but I’m weird like that.

 

THOU

This is why I love European metal festivals – a band that plays basements in the U.S. can fly over to Europe and make decent scratch playing to thousands of drunk music fans. Make that money in 2012, son! I’m assuming you’ve never heard of THOU. Well, what are you waiting for? Click play, just take an antidepressant first.

Yep, all down-tuned gloom and tortured growling all the time. I’m not sure how you even tune a guitar that low, but whatever, man. THOU hails from Baton Rogue, LA, and they have an exhaustively thorough website. There you can learn anything you’ve ever wanted to know about the band and download a good bit of their discography for free. They are evidently huge NIRVANA fans and have done a few covers, so check those out as well.

Birmingham: I caught THOU at The Firehouse back when it was still called The Firehouse. I had heard the Internet chatter, and it ended up being one of those sets that I wished would never end. Once the gurgling began, I was awestruck at how something so ugly and unwieldy could tickle my brain stem in such a pleasant way. “You keep hitting that ride cymbal nice and slow, you keep screaching and you guys keep those guitars rumbling…I’m going to stand here and contemplate the beautiful cruelty of life.” THOU tours less than they used to, but rest assured, if they ever play Birmingham again I will get on BhamFM.com and gush like a 13-year-old Bieber fan after three Redbulls.

 

WITCHCRAFT

Do you guys/gals like hard rock? I mean, do you really, really like hard rock? Cool. Me too. I only ask because the last WITCHCRAFT album was fucking awesome. Basically, after a handful of albums where the band stayed within their restrictive ‘rip off PENTAGRAM’ framework, ‘Legend’ really surprised me.

After signing with Nuclear Blast and going through some lineup changes, the band came out with ‘Legend,’ a well-written, polished (I’m going to say it) masterpiece. A complicated but poppy album packed with killer riffs that were actually helped by the clean production. This 42-minute live set from 2013 highlights a number of songs from ‘Legend,’ and even though the drummer is wearing funny pants, I give it an enthusiastic seven thumbs up.

Birmingham: WITCHCRAFT played the Bottletree, and I didn’t fucking go. What is wrong with me? Do I have brain damage? Okay, it was a long time ago, and the band was relatively unknown. At that point, I’d only heard a song or two. But, I’m still kicking myself in the ass over this one. A roving band of PENTAGRAM loving Swedes played my local rock club, but I was too busy cussing at my dog and watching Pawn Stars to go. Damn, kill me now. How can one metal fan be so short-sighted and ignorant? Don’t be like me, kids. Go see every band, every time!

 

KYLESA

Speaking of the Bottletree, KYLESA are playing there in just over a week, and I’m tickled pink. Another Hellfest video band, another great new album. I’ve been swimming in the second side of ‘Ultraviolet’ for months now. Psychedelic, sweet and crushing, I love this band even more as they shuffle, evolve and transform. I’m sure there are KYLESA fans out there complaining that the band has left most of their early hardcore and crust sound behind, but I’m not one of them.

If you’re like most red-blooded music fans in America, you spent at least six months soaking in PINK FLOYD albums as a teenager. Their influence has been huge in the metal world, especially lately. Other than BLACK SABBATH, I don’t think there is a classic rock band that has had a heavier effect on metal bands throughout the years. In fact, their influence can be traced through the years on bands like VOIVOD, NEUROSIS, KYLESA and now a whole new generation of doom and shoegaze metallers.

Birmingham: They’re coming back to Bottletree on Oct 2. They’re coming back to Bottletree on Oct 2.They’re coming back to Bottletree on Oct 2. Go buy a ticket. Go buy a ticket. Go buy a ticket. – This is not a sponsored post. I bought a ticket a while back because if this show sold out and I couldn’t get in, I would have cried for a solid month. I’m pretty sure that my wife would have left me.

 

THE MELVINS

OMG you guys, 62 minutes of THE MELVINS squeezing your soul like a tube of toothpaste. This is a set I’ve actually watched more than once. The four-man lineup of the band featuring both members of BIG BUSINESS (two drummers, ya’ll!) lurches through a fantastic set. Dudes from other bands actually crowd the side of the stage to watch these sludge mavens bang out 16-tracks of tar-soaked goodness.

Speaking of a band that’s influenced thousands, the world could pile heaps of fame, money and accolades on THE MELVINS for the next 30 years, and it still wouldn’t be enough. In my mind, there is no overstating this band’s impact on music over the past 30 years. From hardcore, to grunge, to doom, to noise…this band has influenced every scene. This is especially strange considering their unassuming approach to the music business. At times grumpy and obtuse, at times happy and copacetic, these old goats still got it.

Birmingham: If there’s a touring rock band that’s played Birmingham more than THE MELVINS, I’ve never heard of them. I can’t even begin to type up an exhaustive list of their Birmingham gigs, so I’ll tell you about my first experience with the band instead. I had tried to get into THE MELVINS twice in the early 1990s. Dead ears, dumb brain, sluggish development…whatever the cause I had traded the CDs in and moved on to something more palatable.

In 1996, I tried again with ‘Stag’ and a friend and I decided to check out their set at The Nick. It was a Wednesday night: I had a midterm the next day and my buddy had to be at work at 6 a.m. We showed up knowing there was no opening band. ‘Cool, we’ll get out of here early.’ Uh, no. Since there was no opening band, the members of THE MELVINS switched up instruments and played a clunky improv set. It might have been 20 minutes, but it felt like three hours. Brought low by our responsibilities and pissed about the whole episode, we left before the main set even started and talked endless shit for months. I didn’t end up being a full THE MELVINS convert until the 2000s when my beloved Internet allowed me to fully explore their back catalog. If you choose to follow my lead, here’s a little friendly advice: Don’t even bother with ‘Prick’ or ‘The Crybaby,’ and the new ‘Everybody Loves Sausages’ ain’t so hot either. Sorry, guys.

So there it is. Waste a day of your life watching these high-quality metal videos like I did. All the cool olds are doing it. Sorry, but I gotta split. I found QUEEN’s ‘Jazz’ on vinyl at the Roebuck thrift store yesterday. I’m gonna go listen to that like four times in a row.

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3 thoughts on “Hitting Hellfest from your couch

  1. That’s correct for Neurosis. Twice at Tuxedo from old fliers I have seen (I was at the Souls at Zero show). The goofy club was called Bugsy’s. They did play some Through Silver and Blood material there…and they did play at 5pts Music Hall.

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  2. I forgot to list some of the other videos on the site: Eyehategod, YOB, Doomriders, Big Business, Pentagram, Converge, Goatsnake, Red Fang, Ghost, etc. Pretty awesome collection…

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