Thousands of Death, Punk, and Heavy Metal fans converged for Danzig’s first ever “Blackest of the Black Festival” in Silverado , Ca. this past Memorial day weekend. Artists that performed across this two day event were diverse enough to draw crowds from several different backgrounds that touched on every style of metal & punk from old-school bands like Suicidal Tendencies, COC and Ministry to the speed-core, noise-core, and whatever-core played by up and coming acts looking to make a name for themselves on the two-sided testosterone filled stages.
Something notable about Danzig’s first festival was Castle Danzig, that explores the depths of surrealism by exploring the inner S&M mind one step deeper into the realms of fear, horror, nightmares, dreams and sex. The twisted images that this one of a kind music festival encompassed included a lady suspended and swinging from hooks attached to her back, fire eaters, other performers who were hammering nails into their noses and a gimp on a leash being whipped by his handler, to name a few. My disappointment was that it was made to be something more than what it actually was but I can see that it’s going in the right direction to be bigger and better next year.
Standout performances from Friday’s mixed bag of punk and metal, including a new one for me. Los Angeles’s very own 3Teeth, who were handpicked by Tool to tour with them in 2016, started the day off with their own industrial metal sound. Butcher Babies, the only female fronted band on the festival, came out in leather and lace and screamed at us. I finally understand all the hype about them when you notice that most of the audience watching them were men. Suicide Silence, another band hailing locally from Riverside, Ca. was another breakout performance of the festival that had metal-heads heading for the moshpit with their death core metal. The recently reunited Corrosion of Conformity tore up the stage Friday night getting all the fans ready for Suicidal Tendencies, the main act. Pepper Keenan (Vocalist & Rhythm Guitarist) announced the signing to Nuclear Blast, along with new tour dates before going into the classics like “Clean my wounds.” I will get some stank eye for this one, but it’s a bit humorous to see fifty year old Mike “Cyco Miko” Muir energetically delivering that old school skate-punk-rock while Dave Lambardo impressed with his drumming on the classic S.T. hits. Even when they were having mic issues ‘Cyco ‘ never missed a beat while playing “Institutionalized” and “I Saw Your Mommy” or even going as far as inviting all the female moshers to come up on stage.
Saturday is the day I dubbed Metal Day. With soreness and pain from the night before , Ritual, another band hailing from Los Angeles, started off the day playing their brand of black metal all while wearing their signature makeup. Dust smoke filled the air as fans moshed while Ritual impressed with an incredible performance that had the crowd cheering louder and louder after each song. Saturday’s standout performance was Ghoul, a trash metal comedy rock band. I don’t really think anyone knew what to expect when the band came out and “cut down” the two characters on stage and fake blood started squirting out at the audience. This had all the photographers in the pit running for cover to protect all their equipment. Throughout their theatrical set, they had different characters come out that would eventually get run off by the band. By the time Combichrist came on stage, the crowd was starting to really grow and getting near the stage was almost impossible. DevilDriver (featuring Dez Fafara of Coal Chamber) offered screaming speedcore with a dark edge and as always, Devil Driver does not disappoint in their live performance. Venom Inc., the new reincarnation featuring original VENOM members Jeff “Mantas” Dunn (guitar) and Anthony “Abaddon” Bray (drums) longside ex-VENOM bassist/vocalist Tony “Demolition Man” Dolan, performed much of the classic Venom material along with a new song and were well received by all metal minions in attendance.
Another surprise breakout performance from Saturday was VAMPS a Japanese metal band, not to be confused with The Vamps, that I wasn’t sure would fit in with the other metal acts until they started playing. Even the heaviest metal fans were moshing with the rest. Afterwards, Ministry (The Industrial Metal Kings) hit the stage and killed it as usual. Before they played a new song off the upcoming album AmeriKKKant , Al Jourgensen had this to say to the fans, “We are gonna play a new song. If you like it, then buy it. If you don’t, then throw shit at us. Maybe it will inspire us to write better shit.” Someone then proceeded to throw a water bottle at the stage to which Al responded, ” Hey, we haven’t even played it yet!” Danzig finished off the night with classic Misfit’s and new solo music off his just released “Black Laden Crown” to a packed audience. All in all, I feel all corners of the metal spectrum were covered on this day as Danzig made sure the fans had an experience to remember.
For more information on Blackest of the Black, please see their website.