King of the Monsters 20th Anniversary Fest – Day Two
Day two of King of the Monsters Fest featured a robust lineup that included a pair of headlining reunions by 90s’ hardcore pioneers Groundwork and Chokehold – with the former reuniting for the first time in 21 years – in addition to a rare appearance by Creation is Crucifixion. As with the first day, the event’s sets alternated between the Nile Theater’s main stage and its basement, the aptly-titled Underground. Starting midday and continuing for nearly twelve hours after, the day was long, but punctuated with energetic performances and unique interactions with attendees. As with the first day, the Nile’s upper floor was the site of a punk-oriented convention, with the Ebullition Records distro splayed across three tables, containing Orchid’s entire discography on wax for quick consumption. The lineup for the day consisted of Cloak, Lakra, Gatecreeper, Culture, Forced Order, Civilized, Crime Desire, Unrestrained, Seizures, To the Point, Bleach Everything, Chest Pain, Suffering Luna, Trap Them, Creation is Crucifixion, Groundwork and Chokehold.
Local crushers Cloak were heavy enough that gravity could not bear their sound, forcing it up through the Nile’s floorboards, where I could feel it as I made my way downstairs. Truly an amazing opener; I’d been wanting to see Cloak for a good while. King of the Monsters-inductees and locals Gatecreeper followed shortly after, where the venue’s main room could barely contain their sound as well. Their buzzsaw guitars cut through the crowd, whirling the attendant skulls into unified whiplash of a headbang. This band is always a sight behold. On the heels of their new full-length, Vanished Crusade, Forced Order pummeled the upstairs, cracking the pit open for the first time that day, setting the energy that would permeate the evening’s remainder.
All photos courtesy of Hayley Rippy Photography.
Seizures seized the upstairs with their smattering, hyper-dirge metalcore, their abrasive technicality making the stage shudder. Bleach Everything played an interesting set; interesting in that, prior to this weekend, I’d never heard their music. Their set, like Seizures before them, was agile, with their performance darting from song to song, with Bleach Everything stuffing the in-between with playful banter. Chest Pain‘s violent Underground set sliced through the stagnant late summer heat that permeated the stage, the crowd edging closer to take part in the Austin-based quintet’s snarling serenades. Suffering Luna were a peculiar act, as their considerable musicianship and aggression was belied by their stagnant outward presence. That presence appeared to be almost stoic in its delivery when filtered through their playing, displaying a statuesque outfit deep in contemplation. Creation is Crucifixion were among the evening’s most anticipated performances, and, on a technical level, one of KOTM’s more intimidating, heavier acts. In addition to their technical proficiency at their instruments, Creation is Crucifixion’s members proved interesting on a career and personal level, espousing their techno-political savvy to the crowd with a politician’s ease.
Trap Them stabbed deep into the crowd, their frenetic set encrusting the crowd in corporeal grime, while blood poured down vocalist Brian McKenney’s face like an otherworldly sweat. Trap Them’s performance was the definition of feral, their primal war songs keeping the pit agape like a fatal wound. Tucson’s Groundwork, playing their first set since 1994, prefaced their historical performance with an intimate, surprise repress of their lone, phenomenal LP, Today We Will Not Be Invisible Nor Silent. Their set, like Los Crudos the night prior, was an event where one had to just stand back and simply enjoy. While Groundwork are not as boisterous as the former, they instead allured us with the legendary thickness of their sound, their words and strings like a momentous symphony. Chokehold’s performance at KOTM was preceded by a much-discussed controversial set a week prior, the events of which I will not discuss here, as the band did their best to assuage any naysayers present. That being said, Chokehold’s performance was one of a string of reunion shows, as like Groundwork, the Canadian chuggers had recently reformed after nearly twenty years. The sting of the band’s 90s-era political anthems rang loud over the crowd, with the lot of us swelling as Chris Logan threw the microphone at us like a lamb for slaughter. By the time their anti-religious, signature song “Anchor” ended their set, we were all breathless, with the song’s chorus “I won’t fall” spilling from our tongues like a fluid mantra. For me, this was the highlight of KOTM.
This was truly a unique experience, and my thanks goes out to all those I shared a casual, probably awkward conversation with and to all personnel involved – and especially to Mike Genz and King of the Monsters Records for putting this event on.