There was a kind of buzz in the air – the room seemed to buzz with anticipation of the night ahead. As more and more people entered the small brewery, bodies began to pile up in the center of the room and, of course, the bar to the side.
Saturday night kicked off a two-day event called “Bloody Sabbath,” a music and beer festival held at Sabbath Brewing. Specifically, the music festival centered around metal music, with Saturday’s lineup made up of bands such as Dungeon Filth, Sustenance, Clot and most famously, Thou. Fans of these bands are known as “metalheads”, which includes an entire subculture based on heavy metal music.
As written in Grinnell College’s “Subcultures and Scenes,” “Like the emerging punk scene, heavy metal reflected an anti-establishment tone, but separate from punk it would evolve into a genre embracing escapism and fantasy in a way that punk didn’t do.” Additionally, given that Sabbath Brewing’s motto is “Adore Yourself”, it’s clear that the appeal of metal music lies in its appreciation and expression of emotional extremes and its ability to adore each other by embracing the chaos of your reality.
The first group, Dungeon Filth, took the stage on Saturday evening. On Bandcamp, Dungeon Filth describes itself as a “dirty three piece of deathgrind from the Atlanta area”. Deathgrind music is a combination of death metal and grindcore, where grindcore music is characterized by a fusion of extreme heavy metal and hardcore “crust” punk. Dungeon Filth brought this definition to life by taking the crowd
assault with the singer dressed in belts and suspenders. The group performed various songs such as their top hit “Dead F***” from their “2022 Demo”. The epitome of grindcore, Dungeon Filth’s sound was guttural – almost earthy. Fast-firing drums echoed through the brewery with occasional hitches.
The band performed barefoot on stage, fully feeling the music through head-butting, dancing, and shredding guitars, which sounded so distorted that the guitars themselves sounded like a screaming crowd.
Next to hit the stage was Sustenance, a Kennesaw-based band with two albums and an EP. Their latest album, which was their EP titled “Soul’s Grand Remorse”, got a lot of attention during the show.
About the EP, Sustenance said: “this music is a prolific display of [us] to our strongest and most powerful; pushing the limits of what can be done with nothing but our will to do better for ourselves.
Sustenance’s music often begins with a tangible melody that descends into chaos throughout the piece, affirming the kind of power and limit-testing that audience members and Sustenance themselves identify with in their music.
The third band to play was Clot, a deathcore band that combines elements of death metal such as growling vocals and tuned guitars with elements of metalcore, which is characterized by its breakdowns – periods of the song where different instruments take solo renditions of the main verse.
On their Spotify description, Clot says, “Grief clings to those it visits like a ghostly anchor, choosing when to materialize on a whim, silently informing our days.”
This feeling was pervasive in their performance, as the band members seemed almost attached to each other, whether through grief or some other possessive force. Their bodies moved in sync, the bassist putting his head inches from the drums as the singer screamed and rumbled the lyrics. At the end of their performance, the band celebrated with the crowd that this was the first show they had booked. As the cheers died down, the band shouted a message to the crowd demonstrating their anarcho-political beliefs: “Donate, protest, and don’t let our town be torn down.”
As the crowd reeled in shock from Clot’s stellar debut performance, the audience started moving, coming from the hype of the previous performance. All of the fans who had been screaming and growling in sync with the performers a few minutes ago started talking excitedly among themselves. The moshers who had just bounced back, rushing to the ground, took a few moments to rest on the ground and chat, smiles still on their faces. Jamie, an 18-year-old spectator, had come to Sabbath with her father, who introduced her to metal music when she was in sixth grade.
Of the audience, Jamie said, “Everyone thinks metalheads look so mean, but they’re the nicest people around. I’ve never felt unsafe at a metal show, and actually what I love most is the camaraderie and family atmosphere. At a metal concert, if you fall, someone will pick you up immediately. We all take care of each other.
The camaraderie between audience members was certainly present as spectators introduced themselves, gave each other their first shots and gave way to other audience members to leave the floor for some air – all during the time outs before that the last group, Thou, is programmed to play.
For You, the crowd was buzzing with pure excitement. Members of previous groups also joined the audience, all waiting for the last act of the evening. It was electric. As Thou made his entrance, the audience threw their fists in the air, struggling to be heard as Thou began his set. Thou is from Baton Rouge, Louisiana and plays sludge metal, a genre of metal that combines doom metal and hardcore punk, known for its aggressiveness, distortion and screaming voices.
The distortion almost seemed to take hold of the performers themselves as lead singer Bryan Funck rolled his eyes in his head as he shouted. At one point, he even raised his mic stand in the air, waving it like a triumphant flag, before pointing his foot directly at his drummer, who continued the barrage of beats and vocals. The whole crowd seemed immersed in the experience, as the crowd began to swell towards the front of the stage, with fans leaning towards the stage itself, try to be as close to the music as possible.
As they performed “The Hammer”, the audience came alive – dancing, throwing their fists in the air, moaning the lyrics in sync and even crowdsurfing.
While the metalhead subculture is intense and devoted, newbie metal audiences will still be able to find their place in the audience. While the music is often dark and eerie, the atmosphere is nothing short of welcoming.
Although heavy metal is not for everyone, it is a safe haven for many. There’s something magnetic about it – the way the music brings the audience together, screaming, living and breathing as one.