Migration Fest – Capitol Theater, Olympia, August 13, 2016

Do the other blogs have reviews for all three days of the northwest’s, newest, face-meltingest extreme metal festival that they all posted much sooner than a month after the event? Yes, they do. Do the other blogs have a totally excellent photo collage where stolen album art from all of Saturday’s bands infests the Capitol Theater? Come on, what do you think?

Yes, I only went for one day, and yes, it was the Panopticon day. Let’s get it out of our systems: PANOPTICONPANOPTICONPANOPTICONPANOPTICONPANOPTICON!!!! It’s true. They were good. Also, there were some other bands.

Christian Mistress and Magic Circle filled the retro-doom/hard rock-revivalist course on Migration Fest’s menu with competence and reliability.  If you are looking for accessible, vocal-centric music that lets you forget the 70s ever ended, these are bands worth checking out, although I can’t for the life of me figure out why neither of them is blasting an organ.

On the other end of that menu, Nightfell and Yellow Eyes made absolutely sure that there was absolutely nothing wrong with absolutely any frequency band of the sound system with a garbage plate of genre-loyal sludgy black metal. Or blackened sludge metal. The point being, it was so loyal to genre that you could always hear it, even if you weren’t always sure what genre that was, which might be what makes these two bands so metal in the first place.

Unfortunately, I got there too late to see Alaric, and I missed most of Fórn’s set because I had to take a lunch break. My pizza had cashews and cauliflower on it, which might sound like it wouldn’t work, but it was pretty good, actually. I only got to see Fórn play one song by the time I got back. It had about as much respect for convention as my pizza did. Awesome. And, yeah, like, I heard Alaric killed it  . . . okay, I get it. I’m going to have to work a little harder her to convince you how metal Migration Fest really is. Here goes  . . .

Thou rhymes with wow, and now I know how (much). I guess there might be some other bands that care just as little about what they look like, but they tend to do it more in the dark. There’s so little to look at in Thou’s live performance that it’s impossible not to hear how much they do care about their scary, scary music. Wearing black robes and masks or whatever doesn’t make you scary — playing music like Thou play it does. It’s always scary when someone believes in something this much. Thou have sworn a vow of fealty to their music so complete that you can even hear it when they’re playing someone else’s songs. I mean, “In the Pines” has always sounded kind of scary no matter who’s played it for the past 100 years or so, but I’m going to say it: I never thought I was going to be scared shitless by a Duran Duran cover. Thou pulled it off. Are they doing it to mess with us? Probably. But if they’re going to keep writing music that’s as scary and as scarily sincere as their own tunes are, I say let them.

Though I had high expectations, Vastum still managed to surprise me in three ways. One: I thought Leila Abdul-Rauf was in this band, but all I noticed was a tactical nuclear strike with a guitar. Two: Nearly as destructive, but in a more literal sense, was talented death metal vocalist Daniel Butler. Like anyone seeing Vastum the first time, I was impressed by the whole band. But also like anyone seeing Vastum for the first time, I can’t say if it’s typical or not for Butler to kick his band mate’s cables out of their pedal sockets that many times or hover creepily over their shoulders when its their turn at the mic and they can’t get away or to spend more time crowd surfing than actually singing. Either way, people who have seen Vastum before clearly love this guy, as evidenced by the second biggest crowd of the day (next to that summoned forth by the band-which-was-already-named) surging to the stage even before Vastum’s started, probably because they knew it would take a lot of people to keep him up in the air for half the set. That’s what I think anyway. It’s a theory. Another theory could be that putting up with a drunken maniac stumbling around the stage while you try to play is just part of the price for riding the cutting edge of American death metal, for working to transcribe anger and horror into the truest sound possible, no matter how illegible, for choosing chaos. Three:  None of the other bands on Saturday were really going for mosh, but Vastum went for it, and Vastum got it. Their riffs set off a pre-linguistic panic stimulus in your medula. The response is you mosh.  No surprises there. But none of the mosh pits I’ve seen in the past have had quite that many hugs in them. I mean, it’s bound to happen sooner and later, and there were the moshers with the pony masks at MDF, but this? I guess Migration Fest just brings it out in everyone (see Panopticon, etc.). And by so doing, perhaps re-contextualizes one of the things that metal is all about. When you see something that scares you, you should hug it. And then ram your shoulder into its chest. (But then after that you should probably hug it again).


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