For some, extreme metal is like an aural disaster to the ears, assaulting every physical sense in the most unenjoyable way. But for others, it’s like the air they breathe — it’s necessary for living. At least, that definitely seemed to be the case for the hordes of heshers and heads who swarmed Neumos and Barboza for the first night of Northwest Terror Fest in Seattle. The whole fest was stacked, but the first night saw quite an introductory lineup.
Spirit Adrift called back to a classic, ’80s-type of heavy metal that the crowd Neumos was really feeling. They gave off an air of timeless rockstardom, which was an entirely different feel from KEN Mode. In the hot and fairly packed basement of Barboza, KEN Mode humbly played the disjointed post-hardcore they started back in 1999. It was abrasive and noisy in all the best ways, but they threw the majority of a crowd for a loop when they played an audio sample from Sex and the City. Particularly, from the season 6 episode “An American Girl in Paris” when Carrie decides to leave Aleksandr Petrovsky and get back with Mr. Big — but that’s something only deep fans would know.
Acid Witch is always a crowd pleaser, spreading their Halloween “cheer” year-round. Even without their occasional onstage mask antics, the band blasted through some of their old classics like “Witchfynder Finder” and “Live Forever,” which they played for only the second time live that night. A frizzy-haired fan of theirs kept growling and screaming in the audience, which others in the crowd found both humorous and incredibly annoying. But metal horns were still thrown up with the intense passion of excitement and satisfaction for the band as the played through “Mutilation Mansion,” “The Black Witch” and “Stoned to the Grave,” eventually surround by clouds of weed smoke post-performance.
One thing Northwest Terror Fest has been good about is going out with a metal bang on each night, ending with some pretty seminal acts. On night one it was Cirith Ungol, beloved heavy metal act from the ’70s. Even after all of these years, they haven’t faltered in their blend of doom and power elements, all tied together by the wizarding imagery. “Join the Legion” and “Frost and Fire” were certainly favorites, and “Blood and Iron” caused everyone to throw beach balls around like it was a party.
But that wasn’t the end of it — each fest night had an after party set at the Highline. While they were ragers, they surely packed up. Local experimental two-piece Pound dished out shred heavy crusty grind, with guitarist Ryan Schutte running out into the crowd and engaging with people to get them pumped. He plays a headless 9-string baritone that resonated no matter which corner of the venue he ran to. Pound even brought out Lindsay O. of Washington D.C.’s Coma Cluster Void to do guest vocals during one of their tracks and with that, a mosh pit finally started.
Bongzilla brought an entirely different, cannabis-fueled energy to the set. “I highly encourage you to smoke weed while we play,” said guitarist and vocalist Michael Makela as he sparked one up himself. “Get high, you motherfuckers!” Puffs coming up from the crowd proved people followed his directions.
They chugged through their set, taking smoke breaks at various points during the set. The band wasn’t the only ones to do so and by the time they were done playing, an incredibly stoned horde of zombies slowly scrambled their way for water, bathrooms and fresh air.