Decibel Magazine's editor-in-chief, Albert Mudrian, spoke at length prior to the inaugural Metal & Beer Festival about the parallels between the craft beer and heavy metal communities. Mudrian likened his desire for the heaviest riffs to his tastes in craft beer. The boldness in heavy metal's concepts and instrumentation mirrors craft beer's flavors and extensive brewing processes. It was one of a few interviews and pieces that came out in anticipation of the festival. The excitement for what was to come on the weekend of April 22-23 was growing. As the bands and breweries descended on Philadelphia, the anticipation billowed over and these two worlds coalesced in a memorable spectacle.
Prior to the gates opening, an official pre-show took place across the street from the Fillmore. Long Island's Artificial Brain was celebrating the release of their stellar, new album, Infrared Horizon. Joining them were fellow New York death metallers, Pyrrhon, and the local Die Choking. Fans waited outside for over an hour in the rain to pack The Barbary from stage to wall. The reward for their patience was a trio of quick and fiery sets featuring new and old music from each of the bands. Once the pre-show concluded, fans poured into The Fillmore to await the start of evening's festivities that included breweries, music, and a chance to meet and listen to Dave Mustaine discuss his and Unibroue's collaborative beer.
The Fillmore's layout was an ideal scheme for the festival. Upon checking in, attendees could shop from a wide array of vendors and bands selling merchandise. Labels like Bindrune Recordings, Season of Mist, and Dark Descent Records trekked to Philadelphia to sell gear. Relapse Records and Forever Plagued Records also made appearances during the weekend. All of them gave attendees plenty of opportunities to spend all their money before the music even started. The vendors spread throughout the hall leading towards the main ballroom. Merchandise stands then slowly transitioned to brewery booths. As attendees entered the ballroom and walked towards the stage, breweries lined the walls of the giant area. Those who bought the metal and beer tickets got tasting cups to wander around and try unlimited pours of beer from 16 different breweries.
Meanwhile, the music kicked off with Philadelphia's own Crypt Sermon. They set off the evening with an electric performance. They ripped through much of their acclaimed 2015 album, Out of the Garden. Following them were day one standouts, Krieg and Panopticon. Both bands, led by commanding frontmen, played incredibly powerful sets. Each band exists on opposite ends of the United States' black metal spectrum. The pair of bands made a unique and blackened dynamic that was personally the best part of the first night. Death metal greats, Immolation, the return of thrash titans, Municipal Waste, and a rare performance from Agoraphobic Nosebleed also featured heavily. The final three bands of the night were absolutely enthralling. Immolation and Municipal Waste played music that spanned their entire careers. Later, ANb vocalists, Kat Katz and Richard Johnson, roared back and forth as the night one wrapped up in a grinding tempest.
The final day of festivities began with the same sort of fervor as the previous. Cemetary Piss brought their blackened thrash to wake up fans still reeling from hangovers (and bangovers). The band also played to lead singer Adam Savage's mother who was in attendance. It was, of course, a nice touch to the beginning of the evening. Following the Baltimore thrashers' set, Portland, Maine's Falls of Rauros took to the stage. The outfit plays a strong, atmospheric and folk-tinged black metal much like fellow labelmate, Panopticon. Much like their friend from Minnesota, Falls of Rauros also played one of the best sets of the festival. The band recently released Vigilance Perennial, their fourth studio album. To celebrate, they brought a few of the songs from that album to life.
After Falls, the latest champions of Decibel's (and Metal Injection's) coveted album of the year took to the stage. Denver's Khemmis showed once more that they continue to be one of the best bands on the planet. Their 2016 album, Hunted, received an immense amount of praise and their live show exemplified this sentiment. The high-energy set covered much of Hunted, including the stunning title track finale. The night carried on and got progressively more intense as Withered and Pig Destroyer took to the stage. The night and festival eventually capped off with the legendary Sleep who played "Holy Mountain", "The Clarity", and a number of other classic songs from their discography.
Ultimately, the first Decibel Magazine Metal & Beer Festival was a great success. In reflecting on the maiden voyage, it creates almost a good problem to have. With such a successful first journey, the bar sits very high for the next endeavor. Yet, with the triumph of this festival and continued accomplishments of the annual Decibel Magazine Tour; there is no doubt there will be more success to come. The bands featured were undoubtedly electric and drew an immense crowd. Equally as exciting was the prospects of enjoying delicious, handcrafted beer from across the United States and Denmark. One can only hope it returns soon with the same sense of enthusiasm this first installment had.
I would like to personally thank everyone involved in constructing this festival. Likewise, I am gracious to all of the people who made my experience in Philadelphia so wonderful. All of the bands, breweries, and staff especially. I would also like to extend a special thank you to Kassandra Carmona for the photos taken (see more photos here). Finally, to my friends, both old and new, who I spent the weekend with taking in great music and beer; it was an absolute pleasure to see you all and spend time together.