Chris Loomis

Decibel Magazine Metal & Beer Fest @ The Observatory – 12/13 & 14/2019

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After a successful Metal & Beer Fest in 2018 at The Wiltern in downtown Los Angeles, the world’s most extreme metal publication, Decibel Magazine returned in 2019 with another loud, heavy and extreme Metal & Beer Fest 40 miles south of Los Angeles at The Observatory in Santa Ana (Orange County). The two-day Fest featured a lethal lineup with Death Metal pioneers Possessed headlining Friday night December 13 and Goregrind Godfathers Carcass closing out the weekend of extreme metal on Saturday night December 14. In addition to the music, a plethora of metal breweries were in attendance to supply the suds as well as a small vendor village to purchase your favorite band t-shirt, patch or CD.

In addition to the headliners, the two-days of performances featured some of metal’s most extreme acts with some making their first appearance on U.S. soil. Friday night featured Nails and Gruesome just to name a few while Saturday night had none-other than the re-united Bay Area thrash masters Vio-Lence as well as all the way from Switzerland, the black metal attack of Schammasch.

Night 1: Friday December 13

Friday nights highlights included an early set from Arizona based Death Metal outfit Gatecreeper as well as a dose of progressive metal from Intronaut. Things got a bit crazier from a moshing and crowd surfing standpoint when Gruesome hit the stage. Born out of the love for the Band Death, Gruesome payed homage to the late Chuck Schuldiner by playing Death’s “Born Dead”. Schuldiner passed away exactly 18 years to the day on December 13, 2001.

Gruesome Photo Gallery

When Nails began their set, the madness escalated to a whole new level of insanity. Frontman Todd Jones immediately got the crowd moving as the band opened with “Conform” and “Scum Will Rise”. The mosh pit was vicious and the bodies were flying in every direction. The 12 song hardcore infused with death metal show set the bar high as the band ended with the brutal “Wide Open Wound”.

Nails Photo Gallery

The Observatory was packed wall to wall by the time Possessed unleashed their hellish onslaught as vocalist Jeff Becerra wheeled his way center stage with a huge smile as he led the band through 75 minutes of extreme metal with a focus on their 1985 masterpiece Seven Churches. As insane as things were during Nails performance the intensity of the music and the crowd was just that much more powerful. Guitarist Daniel Gonzalez pulled double duty as just two hrs earlier he performed with Gruesome.

The fact that Jeff Becerra is performing in a wheelchair should be an inspiration to us all as he rocks harder than most onstage and his enthusiasm for the music and the fans is endless.

Possessed Photo Gallery

Night 2: Saturday December 14

With Friday night one to soon not forget, Saturday night was just as, if not more memorable. The night started early with sets by Mortous, Visigoth and Spirit Adrift before The Inland Empire’s Xibalba really got the crowd moving with their aggressive set. Next up was the U.S. debut of Schammasch, the mysterious Black Metal band from Switzerland whose sound is similar to that of Behemoth. The band received a great crowd response as they played a very dark, spiritual set that was heavily backlit with the band members becoming black silhouettes.

Schammasch Photo Gallery

At about 9:30pm The Observatory got very packed with fans especially in the pit area . . . you could feel the anticipation for Vio-Lence and they hit the stage and all hell broke loose for the next 45 minutes. The band opened with the full on thrasher “Eternal Nightmare” as vocalist Sean Killian stalked the stage. The mosh pit was insane, and the crowd surfing and stage diving was off the hook. Guitarist Phil Demmel with his trademark polka-dot V scorched his solos along with fellow guitarist Troy Fua. The dual six-string attack of Demmel and Fua is a thrash monster just as drummer Perry Strickland and bassist Dean Dell provide the classic thrash gallop. “Serial Killer”, Call in the Coroner” were standouts and the band ended with the fan favorite “World in a World”. An EPIC return to Orange County for Vio-Lence.

Vio-Lence Photo Gallery

The last band of the two-day Fest Carcass destroyed the stage with their gore themed, Death Metal infused Grindcore brand of extreme metal. These guys are as tight as ever as bass player/vocalist Jeff Walker belted out his gravelly vocals with aggression. Walker’s bandmate and fellow original band member Bill Steer is a master on his guitar and also providing some guttural death metal vocals. The fans at The Observatory had the pleasure to hear the new Carcass song “Under the Scalpel Blade” played live for the first time. “Buried Dreams” and “Keep Rotting in the Free World” rocked as the band played a perfect setlist. There was a brief equipment outage but the band didn’t stop and kept playing through it and the fans cheered loudly when the sound came back. “Heartwork” and “Unfit for Human Consumption” ended the night and the 2019 Metal & Beer Fest in grand fashion.

The next Decibel Metal & Beer Fest on tap takes place in Philadelphia on April 3-4 2020 with Naplam Death, Mayhem and Abbath. Fingers crossed for a return to Southern California in December 2020.

Carcass Photo Gallery

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