Deathrash/Midnight/Mutant Supremacy/Mutilation Rites
Sunday, June 20
First, a note on the cancelled Metal Stage at Sunday’s third-annual Punk Island Fest on Governor’s Island: Apparently, it’s “punk” to invite bands from hundreds of miles away and then fail to provide them with stage basics like a PA, a microphone, and rudimentary drums. (Attendees, meanwhile, had no maps or schedules to help them find the bands they wanted to see, out of the 130 artists occupying multiple stages spread across 172 acres.) I sat with the small crowd of metal bands while they waited and tried in vain to contact the festival’s sole organizer. “This is why monarchy will never work,” sighed one staff member.
Undeterred by that non-show, however, Cleveland’s Motörhead-meets-Venom troupe, Midnight, went on to join forces with some of New York’s elite local metal talent to destroy Brooklyn’s Club Europa later in the evening.
Europa’s troubles are similar to those of many NYC metal venues: Pretty lights and velvet sofas line the walls right up to the corner stage, allowing bored-looking club regulars to sit on the sidelines and stare in wonder at the few actually energetic bodies in the crowd, though that didn’t seem to dampen any band’s enthusiasm. I arrived in time to catch New York’s Mutilation Rites, who play a form of slightly proggy black metal that’s all the rage with the kids these days. Equal parts frosty and spaced out, their tremolo-picked riffs settled into comfortable, almost melodic jams; as opening acts go, they were tight as hell, nice and easy on the ears.
Brooklyn’s Mutant Supremacy were the biggest surprise of the evening. I never thought such meat-and-potatoes American death metal could be so refreshing, but the absence of chugging breakdowns, pig-squeal vocals, and New Era baseball caps was a welcome change from the current DM climate. Their sound is encyclopedic, with touches of all the greats–Morbid Angel blasts, dissonant Immolation-isms, and plenty of straightforward Cannibal Corpse bruising. They’re still unsigned, though they would fit right in on, say, Metal Blade’s roster of traditionally minded but technically tight DM bands.
There was a slight delay before the black-hooded Midnight trio finally appeared, while everyone waited for Bob the drummer to don his mask and use the restroom. Finally, Bob ran through the crowd and propelled himself onstage like a clumsy pro wrestler leaping into the ring, while frontman Athenar addressed the audience: “Let’s be honest for a second,” he bellowed. “Fuck New York. FUCK THIS CITY!” The crowd was audibly displeased by the lack of respect (read: ass-kissing) traditionally shown to NY crowds; Midnight, meanwhile, tore into “Lord in Chains.” Despite the bristling energy level, most folks in the crowd kept their distance, leaving about five of the faithful to do the metal equivalent of a flower-child dance to Midnight’s throwback, three-riff beatdowns. Refusing to beg for more participation, Athenar played like a maniac to the few headbangers brave enough to approach him, and thanked them at the end of the set by placing a bottle at the foot of the stage and smashing it in their faces. Super metal.
Unfortunately, no one really felt like staying for Deathrash’s set except the bandmembers’ wives, along with the three people who had an awesome time watching them kick out their fun and bouncy classic thrash/hardcore jams. Riding the very tips of the coattails on this whole classic-thrash revival/reunion thing, the New Jersey band cut one demo back in 1986 and finally released a full-length, Thrash Beyond Death, this year. If nothing else, they deserve credit for playing like champs to a nearly empty room. Had I not looked back, I would have thought there were 200 people watching. “Who’s having fuckin’ fun?!” yelled bassist Pat Burns, right in my face. “I fuckin’ know I’m having fuckin’ fun!” Deathrash take home the Good Sport Award for 2010.