4th Annual Hammerween Music Festival A Frightening Success

hammerween posterOne of the highlights of the year for Kansas City rock & metal fans over the past few years has been the annual local festival put on each October, dubbed Hammerween from the headliners each year – local thrash band Hammerlord. The first three years were held at the now defunct Beaumont Club in Westport. With it’s closing in January of this year, the future of Hammerween was up in the air. Luckily, it seems the annual festival has found a new home in the Uptown Theater. Despite being much larger and more open than the club atmosphere of the Beaumont, the house was filled out from the first band up until the last to make for yet another sweaty, scary and loud Hammerween.

Kicking off just after 5 o’clock, Hellevate took to the stage with their brand of thrash metal to get Hammerween IV off to a bang. Hellevate recently brought in a new vocalist, but this new guy hits every note and has every bit of persona and stage presence as the rest of the band. Hellevate combine old-school thrash in the vein of Overkill with a groove-oriented take on it, not so unlike a band like Pantera or such. And the result is great. Lots of twin-guitar attacks and great solos and memorable songs that got the early crowd moving. Hopefully, the KC scene will be seeing much more of this band in the coming months.

moire at hammerween ivThanks to Frankie Kuhl at Kuhl Pics for this picture!

Decked out in various kinds of corpsepaint, Moire was up next. It seems like Moire shows have been a little scarce as late, so it was always good to see one of the older Kansas City bands come out and put on a killer show. Moire’s sound is almost like a harder version of bands like Shadows Fall or even Dethklok (yes, they’re a band too!). Unfortunately for them, their guitarist was plagued with sound issues throughout the 2nd half of their set, including cutting in and out during some key moments of their performance. But luckily for them, their fantastic vocalist made up for it and whipped the crowd into the first mosh pits of the night. Moire caught a tough break for Hammerween, but they shined enough to whet the appetite of the crowd, leaving them wanting more.

Now here’s where Hammerween got a little weird. KC’s Six Percent was one of a few bands not strictly metal to take the stage at Hammerween, but their odd combination of rock, old-school Bad Religion-esque punk and brass section definitely made for a memorable performance. Yes, you read that right – Six Percent has a brass section. No, they’re not ska. To be honest, they sounded like they’d be right at home performing at the Warped Tour – which definitely isn’t a bad thing. Opening with an instrumental cover of Iron Maiden’s “The Trooper” definitely helped kick things off right for them, and their replacement vocalist who flew in from Canada a few days before (!!!) performed very nicely, providing melodic vocals and also Unearth-like harsh vocals. Six Percent definitely provided a new take on the usual Hammerween band, but they succeeded in making Kansas City not only mosh, but dance as well.

the architects at hammerween ivThanks to Frankie Kuhl at Kuhl Pics for this picture!

Maybe not quite as an experiment as Six Percent, veteran KC band The Architects took the stage next for another set of non-metal at the mostly metal festival. But The Architects brand of good ol’ fashioned rock and roll was a very welcome sound and provided the soundtrack for more than a few imbibed beverages of the night. It’s unfortunate that a much more popular but much worse band from the UK has such a similar name to them, because The Architects punk’n'roll music and throwback approach to this kind of music really shows just how much a good live band just needs one element to be awesome – catchy music. The band must have known they were a little out of their element, but their songs went over very well and probably made more than just a few fans. Sleazy punk rock – no one does it better in the Midwest than The Architects.

tennessee murder club at hammerween ivThanks to Frankie Kuhl at Kuhl Pics for this picture!

The smattering of “GIVE US MORE DEATH METAL!” from the crowd was quickly silenced as Tennessee Murder Club took the stage for the second year in a row. This masked band from South Dakota is quickly earning a name for themselves down here in Kansas City for their brutal take on death metal and ability to get any crowd moving. It’s almost as if they’ve taken the place of the late Diskreet in fulfilling dissonant, riff-based death metal in Kansas City. After the previous two bands, those in the crowd who came for death metal got exactly what they wanted from this band. Tennessee Murder Club doesn’t really rely on any frills or chiding the crowd to get what they want – the blastbeat and breakdown hungry crowd ate up everything TMC put down and wanted more after they finished. They’re definitely going to be the highlight of almost any show they play in KC from now on.

atlhog at hammerween ivThanks to Frankie Kuhl at Kuhl Pics for this picture!

Even though each band up until this point was great and the reception was warm, no one received a bigger reaction than veteran metal band At The Left Hand Of God. Another group with a recent change in vocalist, ATLHOG (“addle-hog” as they’re affectionately known) played with a stage presence and a command of a crowd that transcends what a local band should normally do. Anyone who didn’t know the band beforehand would have probably mistaken them for a big-name band: not just from the quality of their music, but they had the crowd in the palm of their hand the entire time. In years past, ATLHOG played a style of metal that blurred the line between old-school Slayer and new-school As I Lay Dying, but in recent years they’ve added a degree of heaviness that seemingly came from nowhere – but it’s awesome. They played a perfect cover of Bloodbath’s “Eaten,” which may have been the best surprise of the night. At The Left Hand Of God has worked very hard to get where they are now and if their Hammerween IV performance is anything to go by, the sky is the limit for them.

trog at hammerween ivThanks to Frankie Kuhl at Kuhl Pics for this picture!

Just as the three Hammerween’s before them, local deathgrind legends Troglodyte took the stage, being the penultimate band of the night. By this point, Troglodyte is very well known by the Kansas City music scene, heavy metal or not. Their insistence on Bigfoot-based song themes and quality, grinding death metal have paved the way for them to be quite possibly the best death metal band not just in Kansas City, but in the Midwest. Not only does Troglodyte punish the crowd with some of the heaviest death metal imaginable, they don’t forget the groove and catchiness in their music that makes them stand out from the sea of extreme metal that usually litters the landscape. Trog is a B-movie come to life, with songs like “Caught (On Super 8)” and “Murderous Bi-Pedal Hominid Rampage (Where are My Legs?)” they are deathly serious about their love of all things Bigfoot, but also have a few more tongue-in-cheek songs to remind everyone that music is supposed to be fun, especially with their 3-second opus “The Only Good Hippie (Is A Dead Hippie)” which is always a crowd favorite. Simply put: Troglodyte is a Kansas City treasure that needs to be shared with the world of extreme music.

skelator at hammerween ivThanks to Tim McLaws, the bad man himself, for this picture!

And now the time had come for the namesake behind Hammerween to lay the fourth iteration of the festival to rest. By way of Kansas City and Lawrence, Hammerlord plays a blistering version of thrash metal mixed with a dose of just about every other genre imaginable. The KC legends, fronted tonight by Skelator, lit up the stage throughout their set, constantly bounding from one side to the other and entertaining the occasional stage divers and the constant mosh pitting. The band hit each stage of their career in their set, from “Lordess” and “Dead City Radio” off their first album, “The Ballad of Rusty Tomaski” and “Storm The Castle” from their second album called “Wolves At War End,” and taking some cuts off their latest EP, including the title track “We Live” and “Kali Bundy.” The two guitarists in the band are dripping with talent, evidenced by their multiple finger-melting solos and ability to lead a dual-guitar attack throughout the show, but each member here has perfected their individual craft and the resulting magic is what makes Hammerlord so good – the ability to craft mind-blowingly good music like it’s just another day at the office for them. Hammerlord ended the night with a particularly savage rendition of “Tombstone Piledriver,” their love note to the greatest wrestler of all time – The Undertaker. More than a few in the crowd were singing along to their entire set tonight – a testament to the kind of reaction their music provides.

hammerlord at hammerweenn ivThanks to William Gleason at Gleason Media for this picture!

Hammerween IV is in the books and might be the next chapter in the hopefully long and storied story that is the Kansas City heavy music scene. Bring on Hammerween V!

LISTEN TO:

Support local music and go buy a Hammerlord album from Mills Record Company.

About Jackson May

Read more from Jackson at Mandatory Metallica and follow him on Twitter at @Mankvill.

View all articles by Jackson May

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