Thursday, December 15, 2011

Rites of Darkness III Festival



Early Monday morning on December 12th, a mere 4 hours after the final band left the stage at Backstage Live in San Antonio, Texas I was on a flight back to Toronto; sleep deprived, sore and totally destroyed from 5 days of head-crushing metal.

There wasn't much activity on Equivoke during the past week and that's because I was busy having a shit ton of fun down in Texas at the Rites of Darkness III festival. Despite the bitching an whining in the weeks and days leading up to it (some of it justified) the show was definitely one I would've regretted missing even if Evoken/Funebrarum/Disma/Dead Congregation/Pagan Altar/etc. didn't make it in the end — there was ample amounts of brilliant bands that made the trip absolutely worth it. It may have been too much for a 3 day fest if the 11+ bands that dropped off had been able to show up since even without them shows went pretty late (10 hour days man, I barely got any sleep).

So yes this post is going to be a lazy review of the fest and a shameless plug of my youtube shit. Skip it if you don't care, I won't make a habit out of these kinds of posts I assure you and I'll get back to posting albums soon.

The shows themselves started from 3:00 pm and went usually until 2:00-3:00 am and each one was progressively more fantastic than the last, not one having a weak band or set. There was so much merch for sale it was overwhelming, booths for every band and some record labels like Dark Descent, Parasitic, The Basar, etc.

Day by day breakdown was something like this:

PREFEST (08/12/2011)

Drawn and Quartered
Ares Kingdom

DAY 1 (09/12/2011)

Infernal Stronghold
Ritual Necromancy
Grave Upheaval

DAY 2 (10/12/2011)

Grave Ritual
Black Witchery

DAY 3 (11/12/2011)

Ares Kingdom
Impetuous Ritual
Mournful Congregation

Surprises for me were Aldebaran, Pallbearer, Midnight, Anatomia and Blaspherian who (aside from Aldebaran) I knew very little about but made a big impression on me.

Favorites from the show? Easily Grave Upheaval, Mitochondrion, Cruciamentum, Impetuous Ritual, Vasaeleth, Ritual Necromancy, Dispirit, Adversarial, Inquisition, and Ignivomous no doubt. I managed to capture the entire sets of these acts (minus Vasaeleth and Inquisition) as well as Aldebaran's. If you want to view them you can head over to my youtube channel. For now I'll briefly review these ones.

Grave Upheaval were so unbelievably dark and heavy it was scary, suffocating clouds of smoke from John Gossard's wonderful smoke machine, bathed in an ominous red light — creating the perfect atmosphere for the writhing assault they put forth. It was truly trance inducing, suffocating, primal. They played several new tracks and a few older ones as well as the one from their split with Encoffination. What a performance...

Ritual Necromancy played a good half of their brilliant album Oath of the Abyss and they are so fucking tight live. My jaw was on the floor, and they closed the set perfectly with "Consummating the Crypts of Eternity"; that bone smashing riff at the end gave me chills. Such a wicked guitar tone. I'd love to see these guys again.

Dispirit were haunting and played twice: once at the prefest and again the following day. Both sets were killer, they played their entire Rehearsal demo and one new track — it was a magical experience. Engaging and atmospheric, cold and spellbinding. The rolling smoke was a perfect addition to their music. Gossard truly is a god. I feel privileged to have seen them twice in two days.

Adversarial made a huge impact on everyone I talked to. My second time seeing them live. Doing Canada proud, they played a good mix of material including two new tracks (one of which may be on the upcoming split with Antediluvian) and their Archgoat cover. Technical, vicious, precise and uncompromising in all aspects. Carlos is a fucking beast on the guitar man, just unbelievably skilled — as is the drummer. This is a band you don't want to pass up seeing, and I happen to be seeing them again with Antediluvian and Nucleahammer in a week which is going to be fantastic.

Ignivomous got pushed back to the third day of the festival putting them right before Impetuous Ritual — this just made the last day of the festival extra powerful. I was anticipating Ignivomous so much and they didn't disappoint. Playing some shit off Eroded Void of Salvation, Death Transmutation, Path of Attrition, the title track from the upcoming album Contragenesis, and a Bolt Thrower cover to end their set. A truly abrasive, dirty and barbarous set to behold. The aussies man, they can do no wrong.

Impetuous Ritual were truly otherworldly, smeared in blood and clad in spikes. This was a hypnotizing set, oppressive, churning, angular and chaotic darkness washing over the venue for 50 minutes. Performed a few new tracks and a lot off of their album Relentless Execution of Ceremonial Excrescence. Something absolutely frightening to witness.

Fucking Mitochondrion man. This was my third time seeing them and again they conjured up a magnificently bleak and ugly performance, running through the first half of Parasignosis and then two of my favorite tracks from Archaeaeon. Another band that a lot of people were talking about after the show as a highlight. Always a mind-blowing experience. The band posted my videos on their facebook page along with a shout out.

The UK badasses Cruciamentum were so damn ferocious, a huge highlight of the fest. They ran through their demos, the split with Vasaeleth, and two tracks off the new EP which were like a kick to the chest. These guys can play the shit out their instruments and put on a hell of a show, really impressive.

Aldebaran. Wow what a massive avalanche of doom they were. They pumped out a crawling 25 minute song that impressed me so much. I've been hearing about them for a while now but until this I had no idea what I was missing. One of the heaviest sludge doom acts out there at the moment I'd say.

Other notable sets I didn't capture on video were Midnight who's set was the only one where people were stage diving, breaking bottles and reeking major havoc in general. Shirtless and wearing executioner hoods they had quite presence. Another good one was Anhedonist. I really wish I recorded Anhedonist's set, they were massive and had a melodic beauty to each song (I'm pretty sure they played their The Drear demo in full).

Vasaeleth's set was also impressive, the one at the main fest was better in terms of sound. PLF were the only grind act but they grinded the shit out of the place. Pallbeaerer were a huge surprise, some kind of sludgy stoner goodness that I really enjoyed (great vocals). Inquisition were also mind blowing and they played two of my favorite tracks from the last album — though the cleans Dagon used were kind of comical to be honest. Regardless they put on a great show.

Weapon tore the place up too. They were another Canadian band that a lot of people seemed impressed with, and they played quite a few from their last album. Anatomia from Japan caught me by surprise as well, what a slow and huge sound they have.

So all things considered the festival was a blast and a success. A couple of final lackluster stories:

I stayed at a Red Roof Inn a mere two blocks away from the venue, also where multiple bands were staying at different times, and the after parties went long into the early mornings each day — sometimes involving legends like John Gossard (Weakling, Asunder, Dispirit, The Gault, The Fucking Champs, etc.) showing up wasted which was pretty epic. I met and chatted with the man at the prefest show, he's quite a nice guy and boy does he have a wicked smoke machine. Had a quick chat with Shawn from Mitochondrion as well.

Other interesting moments were seeing Gossard spin/mosh one-on-one with the guitarist of Impetuous Ritual/Grave Upheaval/Portal at the back of the venue a few times, a member of Antaeus got a warning from the cops for pissing on the Alamo, and the bassist of Ignivomous was deported back to the land of aussies for smoking weed. What a cunty move that was!

Now, I have some requests to sift through and some sleep to catch up but if any of you were also at the fest leave a comment!


  1. Right on. I drove down to S.A from Austin(about an hour and twenty drive),to see MIDNIGHT and they destroyed once again. Dig their records but live is where it's at...the guitarist is from Canada(was in a band called Rammer.) All Hail Hell!!!!!!!!! I had to go to work right after Midnights set...missed everything else...thanks for the vids!

  2. Hey man - thanks for the write-up! Excellent review and stories. I'm fucking jealous - gotta save up and make it down for IV in 2013. At least there's the Antediluvian / Adverserial / Nuclearhammer show next week in TO to look forward to. That shit's going to be awesome.

  3. leaving this show after one band to go to work is just unacceptable daniel

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  5. It's hard to post a thorough review of such an epic fest. Thanks for doing all that work documenting many of the bands.

  6. I know....I know,very unacceptable leaving the show but in my defense I was going to work the Scratch Acid(pre-Jesus Lizard) show in Austin and it's Christmas time...gotta make that money. Feliz Navidad.