Not sure if you’ve heard, but Choosing Death—a.k.a. “the death metal bible”—has a new revised edition. To celebrate editor-in-chief Albert Mudrian’s intensive tome, some of America’s heaviest malcontents will join forces and honor the improbable history of death metal and grind. A day after the Decibel Magazine Tour leaves the venue slick with smeared corpsepaint and spilled beer, Choosing Death Fest will invade this publication’s unofficial second home, Union Transfer. Here’s the lineup of legendary noise ordinance objectors:
If you weren’t familiar with Steel City newcomers Taphos Nomos prior to dB #137, don’t burn your battle vest in self-disgust. What’s important is that you now allow yourself to be crushed by their rotten, earthy death/doom until you’re one with the topsoil.
“We are so flattered and feel so validated to play alongside these incredible performers,” shares monumentally-monikered vocalist Mountain of Doom. “Dying Fetus are reigning kings of brutal death metal, and having Misery Index on the same show has to be historical or something. That’s not even mentioning King Fowley and his fearless undead machines.”
“We hope to give a performance worthy of our slot on this killer show,” MOD continues. “We will play our metamorphic death metal, and people will hear our message—or they will cross their arms and check their phones. Either way, humankind is doomed.”
Long-running doomy death metal crew Derkéta will import even more iron from Pittsburgh. The band’s late ’80s early ’90s demos (expertly by anthologized Necroharmonic Productions in the form of 2003’s Goddess of Death comp) will be familiar to fans who lived through the original death metal explosion. But it’s the band’s proper debut, 2012’s In Death We Meet, that should appeal to fans of all deathly generations. In fact, you may have already caught Derkéta opening the Pittsburgh date of the 2014 Decibel Tour. If you blew it, that performance was recorded for the bonus LP double-album reissue of In Death We Meet recently released on Ibex Moon. If you somehow fucked that up, too, we got you covered on April 16.
“We’re honored and excited to be a part of this fest, and to check out this Choosing Death book that we keep hearing about!” says vocalists/guitarist Sharon Bascovsky. You’re in luck, Sharon; pretty sure copies will be available at Union Transfer.
There aren’t too many ways to forcibly dismiss novelty-based attention when you’re a group of fresh-faced teenage thrashers. Writing a bruising masterpiece like Agony Defined—named an essential album in Choosing Death—is obviously the best possible solution. “I thought it was awesome that we were asked to be part of the revised edition of the book, so of course it was awesome to be asked to play the fest, too,” shares guitarist Sebastian Phillips.
Naming Slayer’s South of Heaven as his metal gateway album, the Charm City shredder later recounts a memory of the Choosing Death author and a death/grind superstar. “It was pretty sweet hanging out with [Mudrian] and Scott Carlson at Starbucks, complaining about the ‘ugly’ Repulsion merch,” he laughs. Considering the strength and intensity of last year’s Blossoming Decay, awesomeness (and hell) awaits.
If this were a playoff matchup, Horrendous would be favorites. Not only was their latest groundbreaker (Anareta) named Decibel’s best extreme album of 2015, but they’ll be on their home turf. As students of death metal history, Horrendous’ compositions tastefully reference the genre’s past while transcending their inspirations.
“My initial exposure was through the melodic side of the genre,” vocalist/guitarist Damian Herring reveals. “Some of the first death metal bands I got into were In Flames and At the Gates, with The Jester Race and Slaughter of the Soul quickly becoming classics in my eyes.”
With three classics already to their name, Horrendous still speak like fans first. “We are very honored to have been asked to be a part of this fest,” shares Herring. “Any chance to share the stage with some of the biggest bands in death and grind going today is a very exciting opportunity.”
When asked about Choosing Death Fest, every word Deceased founding member King Fowley types is soaked with intensity. “I’m always ready to rock live,” confirms Fowley. “Get out and smash stuff through the walls. Have a blast.”
Calling Deceased the lineup’s “old-school maniacs,” Fowley reflects admirably on extreme metal’s continuing metamorphosis. “I remember when bands like Metal Church and Cirith Ungol were called death metal,” he shares, relaying flashbacks to Napalm Death’s first U.S. tour. “It’s come so far in speed, power and over-the-top-ness. Everyone does their thing to turn it up another notch.”
And that’s exactly what Fowley intends to do as the Decibel Hall of Famers and zombie enthusiasts crank up their amps. “We haven’t played Philly in some time, so we’ll give ’em an even wilder dose of the dead,” Fowley promises. “Gonna be wild as fuck!”
Jason Netherton—vocalist/bassist of Baltimore deathgrind cutthroats Misery Index, and ex-member of Dying Fetus—knows a few things about heavy ‘n’ loud on the printed page. In his book Extremity Retained: Notes From the Death Metal Underground, he captures the genre’s camaraderie, resiliency and DIY attitude. “I guess many people felt the internet destroyed this community, but I think it’s still very much alive, and it’s just more immediate and even more interconnected,” he explains.
Mentioning Deceased and Exmortis as regional bands that made him think “this isn’t thrash anymore,” the whole Choosing Death Fest roster receives his approval. “We were very happy to join this stellar lineup. I can honestly say I like all the bands involved—except Dying Fetus, they suck. Just kidding!” jokes Netherton. “It certainly reflects the superior music curatorial skills of the Decibel senior administration!”
Back in dB #104, Shane Mehling boiled Nails’ Abandon All Life down to three words: “So goddamn brutal.” That unrelenting brutality has landed them on both Decibel year-end lists and Choosing Death’s catalogue of essential albums, to the surprise of vocalist/guitarist Todd Jones.
“I was really taken back, because being in Decibel wasn’t something that I was expecting or thought could ever happen,” admits Jones. “I mean, the night prior, I played a show in Germany to 10 people, and then the biggest extreme music magazine in the world was giving props to us.”
With a new Nails album looming, Jones is eager to pay tribute to grindcore’s past. “We’re going to be delivering a couple tunes by the godfathers from Los Angeles,” he hints. “If you don’t know immediately who I’m talking about, you must not own a copy of Choosing Death, and I suggest you do so, ASAP!”
With 2016 marking the 25th anniversary of their formation, Dying Fetus have punched a lasting impression into the last quarter-century of death metal. That means they know a gnarly roster when they see it. “[This] is a killer lineup,” vocalist/guitarist John Gallagher confirms. “We are stoked to share the stage with our friends Misery Index, and to share the stage with Nails, as well as all the others.”
Bringing all these bands together is Choosing Death and its author Albert Mudrian, who you’ll likely spot shouting along in the crowd. “It's great to have someone like [Mudrian] in our community that is really passionate about the extreme metal genre. His efforts help continue the growth of our scene and exposes our music to new fans every day,” insists Gallagher. “We are happy that we can give something back, such as supporting this show.”
Playing with both old buds and bands they inspired, Dying Fetus represent the persistence, power, and connective tissue of death and grind. But to Gallagher, it’s the fans that make the genre endure. “We have seen our fair share of musical trends come and go,” he confirms. “With our genre, the fans seem to stay loyal from start to finish.”
To those wavering on witnessing this madness, we present these lyrics from Dying Fetus’ “Subjected to a Beating”: “No redemption / No regrets / No excuses / Only death.”
The revised and expanded Choosing Death: The Improbable History of Death Metal & Grindcore is currently available, but selling fast -- as are tickets for Choosing Death Fest. For the raging death metal maniacs wishing to expand their brains on the death of the festival, check out Choosing Death Fest: Grimposium (only $5!) featuring panel discussions, workshops, and the screening of the Chuck Schuldiner documentary Death by MetaL at Underground Arts in Philly.