A blow-by-blow account of surviving Las Vegas Death Fest

It’s Thursday, 5:53 p.m., and it feels like a team of mini-Clydesdales outfitted in cement horseshoes is stampeding in my rib cage.

The Las Vegas Death Fest has begun.

Portland, Oregon’s Abiosis is on stage at Backstage Bar & Billiards, their double-bass drumming registering in the sternum like a series of rubber bullets fired at close range.

I’ll be here for another 7½ hours.

Ever ponder what it’s like to survive Death?

Wonder no more:

6:04 p.m.: SoCal’s Voices of Ruin, the lone melodic death metal band of the night, is on stage and their bassist is sporting a Metallica T-shirt. Dude, do you know where you are? Considering the context, sporting ’Tallica gear is kind of like bringing a six-pack of O’Douls to a liquid-meth chugging contest.

6:25 p.m.: Saponification is the process of producing soap from fats and lye. It’s also the name of a Bay Area slam troupe who gets the first pit of the day going.

7:29 p.m.: Next up: Nocturnal Slaughter, another band from Portland. Why are these Oregonians so damn angry? Didn’t they invent bacon-flavored donuts up there? Even Satan has been known to take a break from spreading plagues, roasting souls and keeping up with the Kardashians in the face of pork-flavored breakfast eats.

7:35 p.m.: Nocturnal Slaughter dedicates a tune to Ted Kaczynski. Careful opening his thank-you letter, dudes.

8:04 p.m.: Whoa! A defensive-end-sized fellow just starts laying waste to everyone in the pit as Defleshed and Gutted blasts out a set akin to a death metal blanket party. People fly every which way, like bowling pins upon a strike. To paraphrase Theodore Donald “Donny” Kerabatsos: Someone’s throwin’ rocks tonight.

8:37 p.m.: Michael “Big Mike” Gordon, a silver-haired man-mountain who co-founded LVDF, and his wife circle the pit in unison. It’s like Dr. Phil once said, “The couple that bruises strangers together as Inhuman Atrocities savages earholes with vomitous death grind stays together.”

9:10 p.m.: Have you ever been driving too fast and then had to slam on the breaks suddenly? Time slows for a second, everything moves at half-speed for a breath as your body is pulled forward, then inertia kicks in like a mule with pneumatic hindquarters and you’re slammed back into your seat. That’s kind of what experiencing Insanity’s turn-on-a-dime death metal is like.

9:20 p.m.: At this point, you may be wondering, why do people subject themselves to what might best be described as the harshest form of heavy metal asceticism, this pure musical masochism? Well, for the same reason people watch horror flicks, skydive from airplanes and get married: there’s a thrill, a palpable rush in being so overwhelmed — in this case, both sonically and physically. Not everyone gets it; not everyone is meant to. That it’s so abhorrent to most is part of its bile-laquered charm.

10:53 p.m.: New York’s Internal Bleeding begins their set with a tribute to recently deceased drummer William Tolley, an NYC fireman who died in the line of duty in April. The brutal death metal scene is a tight-knit community, and Internal Bleeding’s set culminates with the crowd invading the stage, hugs replacing mosh pit shoves as band and crowd memorialize the loss of one of their own.

11:03 p.m.: Contemplate purchasing Aileen Wuornos T-shirt from merch booth.

11:14 p.m.: Observation: You know what you don’t see a lot of at death metal festivals? Pastels.

12:00 a.m.: The blood-red curtain parts and there’s Poland’s Vader, a band whose grooves are so infectious live, they’re kind of like the Thin Lizzy of Eastern Bloc death metal. “Let’s make some chaos now!” frontman Piotr Wiwczarek exhorts as the band plays their venerable 1992 debut, “The Ultimate Incantation,” in its entirety. Arguably the biggest band to headline the LVDF in its nine-year history, Vader is ensuring that no momentum flags.

1:10 a.m.: Some people believe that when you die, you travel toward a bright light. It’s true: after Death, the lights came on. And now to answer, once and for all, the biggest question that mankind has ever wrangled with: what comes next?


Contact Jason Bracelin at jbracelin@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0476. Follow @JasonBracelin on Twitter.

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