Monday, January 16, 2012

Gathering Of The Bestial Legion V Festival Review


Gathering Of The Bestial Legion V

Venue: Echoplex; Los Angeles, California

Date: January 14th, 2012

As far as mini-metal festivals go, the sort of bi-annual Gathering Of The Bestial Legion Festival in Los Angeles is pretty damn good. Loaded with heavy hitters of the black and death metal subgenres, the last incarnation from a couple of years ago sported Deströyer 666 and Urgehal as headliners. Unfortunately, that show, although monstrous, was not held in the greatest of venues, occurring in a warehouse (given the moniker The Iron Room) somewhere in the industrial wastelands south of downtown Los Angeles (this was due to the unfortunate closure of the old Knitting Factory).

Fast forward to the summer of 2011, and Gathering Of The Bestial Legion V is scheduled to take place on August 27th at the Proud Bird, a banquet hall/ restaurant near LAX that is only a marginally better location (it’s also only about seven miles from my house). However, a few weeks before the show, a shooting occurred in the venue’s parking lot during a hip-hop concert, resulting in a cancellation of all subsequent concerts, regardless of genre, at the restaurant.

However, the festival’s promoter, Iron Room Productions, was determined that “the show must go on.” Finally, the festival, with most of the original bill in place, was rescheduled for January 14th, 2012 at a MUCH better venue, the Echoplex in Echo Park. A nice venue with two separate stages, valet parking, a good bar with decent food, and clean restrooms, metal concerts at the Echoplex have been increasing in frequency of late.

Co-headliners Autopsy and Incantation were firmly in place along with most of the other acts, including a rare appearance from Divine Eve. Rounding out the other acts of interest to me were Acheron, Hod, and Sanguis Imperem, a local blackened death metal act that impressed the Hell out of everyone with their monstrous debut full-length album, In Glory We March Towards Our Doom, on Hell’s Headbangers Records. Ares Kingdom had to drop off the bill, though.

So, the final schedule for the festival became thus…



My intention was to arrive early enough to be able to browse the merchandise tables before getting neck deep into the bands. I arrived just as locals (well, from Ventura, anyway) Crypt Infection were about halfway through their set on the second stage in the venue’s upstairs bar. Good, catchy death metal but nothing spectacular. Towards Crypt Infection’s conclusion, the main hall of the Echoplex opened, and a number of those already in attendance eagerly streamed downstairs to hit the merch tables.

After browsing and making my initial patch and t-shirt purchases, Depths Of Misery promptly hit the main stage at 6:15pm. Another local band, Depths Of Misery opened very strongly with a bottom heavy depth to accompany good, deep guttural vocals. The first few songs were quite good as movement began to appear in the still sparse crowd, but the last few songs were a bit bland. Still, lots of potential in Depths Of Misery.

At this point, I encountered my only conflict of the night as Hod and Sanguis Imperem were scheduled to appear at the same time. So, I decided to split my time between the two stages, electing to catch Hod’s first half, and then finish with Sanguis Imperem. Texas’ Hod never disappoints as I’ve caught the band a few times before, the last time in August of 2010 while visiting my in-laws in Austin, Texas. An awesome display of drunken, semi-sloppy death metal, Hod now sport at least one new member in former Ignitor guitarist Erika Tandy. A good performance and I’m now keenly interested in hearing new recorded material from Hod.

I jumped upstairs to catch the last half of what turned out to be one of the best sets of the night from the mighty Sanguis Imperem. Thoroughly crushing blackened death metal, Sanguis Imperem had it all going on with a tightly focused sound and a huge, dynamic presence on the small stage. The upstairs bar was packed with necks snapping left and right, and numerous festival goers that I talked with later in the evening agreed that Sanguis Imperem were the pleasant surprise of the night.

The main acts began with Divine Eve, a semi-legendary, old school death metal band from Texas with a very spotty discography. My only exposure to Divine Eve was a brief look at the recent EP Vengeful And Obstinate, but Divine Eve greatly impressed the now packed Echoplex crowd with a huge set. Divine Eve’s live sound is more dynamic and fluid than from what I’ve previously heard from the band, and a new full-length album moves up a few notches on my metal “wish list.”

Long running black/ crunchy death metal stalwarts Acheron were up next, and, although I’ve liked a few releases from Acheron over the years, they are a much more entertaining live act. Fronted by the huge presence of bassist Vincent Crowley, an alternate version of Glen Benton, if you will, Acheron are a tight live act with good songs and stage presence. Acheron will never rise into the top tier ranks of death metal, but they are a very solid support act and were highly entertaining.

Everyone, including me, was really attending this festival to catch two giants of death metal that rarely appear in Southern California. Incantation have been one of my favorites over the years, and I find myself returning to the band’s classic albums with semi-regularity, Though a grizzled veteran, frontman/ founder John McEntee still plays like he’s 20 years old, and Incantation bombed through a ton of classic material for their crushing performance. The crowd went nuts for Incantation, and the band’s closer, “Impending Diabolical Conquest,” absolutely brought down the house. McEntee also spoke briefly about the recent loss of former Incantation bassist Joe Lombard.

Autopsy were up next and, as good as Incantation were, Autopsy absolutely flattened the Echoplex with a monstrous set that had the crowd in a frenzy with one of the most energetic pits that I’ve seen in awhile. Running the gamut with tracks covering the band’s awesome discography, the festival goers were also treated to a preview of material that is to be re-recorded for an upcoming compilation. Autopsy flat out stole the show with the night’s best performance.

All in all, Gathering Of The Bestial Legion V was a rousing success. The event was obviously well organized, the venue was great, the crowd’s mood was good, and the bands were all very into their giving it their all. Highlights for the night were Autopsy, Incantation, and Sanguis Imperem, but I was impressed by all of the bands that I saw. I would have liked to have seen Ares Kingdom as originally scheduled, but, oh, well.

As to be expected, just about everyone from the L.A. extreme metal scene was in attendance, and it was great to see all of the friendly faces from the familiar crowd, plus make some new friends.

Special thanks to Ryan Feldman!

Here’s the gist of it!

The Beginning...



Crypt Infection



Depths Of Misery



Hod





Sanguis Imperem







Divine Eve





Acheron





Incantation






Autopsy






The Crowd




The Merch



The t-shirt haul!




The video...

Sanguis Imperem



Hod



Divine Eve



Incantation



Autopsy (I fall down at 0:52)



Next...



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