"No, we'll be back soon," Dustin of Church of Disgust exhaled through a smile after I asked if I'd have to wait five more years to see them.
Maggot Stomp and The Elegy Ensemble in Los Angeles put together A Night of Death, a ticket so heavy I'm surprised it isn't on the periodic table of elements. Church of Disgust headlined with the support of Enconffinized, Mortal Wound, Crematory Stench, and Skulls. Those last two joined the bill last minute when Kommand had to drop out.
As the few patrons at Five Star Bar in Downtown Los Angeles filed out before the show, the speakers inside immediately filled the air with Slayer's "Angel of Death," a welcoming sign to be sure.
A couple guys stopped outside to chat, without question after having a few drinks. They gushed over rock 'n roll with maudlin inclination and were astonished if not a little nonplussed when they learned the name of the band which their conversation companion belonged, Church of Disgust. It's not often that we get to admire the excitement from the inside looking out. They lit up and cheered the name on, praising the history of rock 'n' roll at the same time. They wished all of us well and went about their Thursday.
Skulls took to the stage, a duo from Santa Monica, California. Green lights turned the stage into a swamp and their crushing brand of doomdeath vibrated the floor. I quickly shoved my earplugs in, but even those couldn't protect me from the swelling, oppression of their bass-heavy guitar and drums. Playing something like 4bpm, their long-song subjugation never grew old nor overstayed its welcome.
Crematory Stench stepped up next for a fleeting performance. The contrast between them and Skulls was almost comical. They played fast and abrasive old school death and had the crowd headbanging before the first song was over. With their hair hanging in front of their faces, they all bobbed along with their music and shredded with force and conviction.
It was after their set that I meandered back to the merch tables that had been set up only moments prior. Crematory Stench didn't seem to stick around, nor did they have anything set up; it seemed as if they disappeared just as fast as they had appeared. I snagged a couple cassettes from Skulls and a Frozen Soul cassette from Scott of Maggot Stomp. I made my way back to the front of the venue for Mortal Wound.
If you're not familiar with Five Star Bar, it's not big. It's not a hole in the wall, but it certainly isn't The House of Blues either. Stickers from previous shows, bands, and labels plaster the walls all around and the television behind the bar played muted metal music videos. It's places like this where the underground metal scene finds homes, where it's incubated. The sound system is loud and the drinks are cheap.
The tile floor of Five Star gets slick when beer is inevitably spilled, but that was no matter for the crowd during Mortal Wound's set. In an eruption as intense as the sound on the stage, the pit opened up with people sliding and slamming like they had just joined the NHL. Mortal Wound played flawlessly, their roars giving the crowd life. Their putrescence caused a stampede lit by disorienting colored LEDs from above. Their shredding and pounding almost felt like an emergency, something unavoidable, something you just let take you. The riffs of "Grotesque Head" and "Riddled with Parasites" echoed throughout Five Star like buzz-saws ripping through each person in the crowd.
The penultimate performance marched in straight from the sewers. The parking lot death metal supremacy of Encoffinized took a break from the black top to shake the foundation of Five Star. Max's empty and groovy snare coupled with Chris' odious riffs and grisly vocals combine for a perfect storm of rotted, moldy death metal. Even without a bass player, their sound rings full-bodied and strong. With Chris's eyes rolling into the back of his head, he channels the corpses he writes about, turning the entire venue into an animated mausoleum.
I stepped outside before the last band to cool off a little. Max wheeled out his bass drum and I gave him awkward finger guns and told him that they killed it. And they did. Inside, he approached me and stuck his hand out for a shake. Praising our Maggot Stomp interview and introducing himself in the same sentence, he was enthusiastic. We talked very briefly about his rhythm, his syncopated and groovy snare, before it was time for the headliner.
The final band of the night made their return to Los Angeles after not having stopped by for five years. Their vile form of worship possessed the congregation in attendance and the tremors from the mosh pit could be felt in the bar like it was Jurassic Park. Their sound reverberated off of the back wall, making them sound infinite and unyielding.
After the sermon, I lingered a bit chatting with the bands and snagging up the merch I needed (a Mortal Wound shirt and a Church of Disgust LP) while my friend got a hotdog from the street vendor outside. My ears, even having worn the ear plugs all night, felt like I had been dunked underwater. I strained to hear my own goodbyes as I gave handshakes and fist bumps to various band members, all of whom were personable and passionate. The friend that came along with me, a very good friend, hadn't experienced this part of my life before. This was his first metal show. "You gotta let me know when you go to more of these." I certainly will.
The event was called A Night of Death. The music itself was death, vile and repugnant death. The show, however, breathed new life into those in genuflection.