Saturday, September 26, 2015

Secrets She Kept

Date: Saturday, September 26, 2015
Venue: Lost Well, Austin TX
Bands: Nosferion, Hexlust, Skan, Secrets She Kept, Plutonian Shore

After eight years of playing drums onstage, I still get a decent dose of stage fright before gigs, and still get apprehensive the day of a show. 

"Maybe everyone associated with the venue will spontaneously combust," I'll fantasize as I try to will myself out of bed that afternoon, "and I can just stay home and not have to do stuff."

Don't get me wrong, I love playing live. I love seeing my metal friends, both musicians and supporters. I love setting up my drums and taking a proud second to admire how pretty they are before I smash the unholy fuck out of them. Among all this joy, though, there remains my little checklist - places to go, tasks to complete, things to keep an eye on - that never stops cycling through my noggin. Completed items are crossed out, tasks still to be done are highlighted in an ever-boldening shade of red. On gig days, I'm often withdrawn, distracted, even a little grumpy, depending on how bold any of those red items are.

Not this day, though! Somehow I just woke up knowing this was going to be a great gig. I had used our full-band practice the week before to troubleshoot my drum kit, so all my gimcracks and doodads were in working order, broken down, and ready for load-up. I knew exactly where the Lost Well was and how loading in worked, having performed there with Morgengrau back in December. Load-in wasn't until 21:00, so I spent most of the day relaxing and lightly warming up on my practice pad. Everything in my brain's to-do list was looking to be easily crossed off at a casual rate, practically taking care of themselves.

Of course, I had Jake to do all my worrying for me. When the person who was actually in charge of the show wasn't able to make it, Mr. Holmes stepped into the role of promoter as well as stage manager - charged with communicating with all the musicians and making sure everybody was aware of their stage times - while also performing in one of the bands! I knew he was feeling the pressure, but I had zero doubts as to whether he'd pull it off. He's well known in the central Texas metal scene and has great rapport with many musicians, plus he just plain gives a shit. 

The good vibes continued as Hexlust took the stage. We had a numerous, energetic crowd, which was really saying something considering there had been some higher-profile, well-hyped shows going on in the Austin/San Antonio area since Thursday. Our playing was smooth and confident, and once again Tony displayed amazing presence and crowd control, although he did have one minor issue I'll get to in a minute. Our stage sound was fantastic, provided by a soundman who was actually on his first night employed at the Lost Well. He scared me a bit when we were setting up, telling me that this was his first night as he clipped a mic onto my floor tom. I must have given him a look, because he quickly followed up, "As in, here! I used to work at Red 7, but I recently left." Can't do that to me, dude.

Without the frustration and stress we had at our last show, we weren't playing with the same fire and fury this evening, but we were a well-practiced, finely-tuned thrashing machine nonetheless. Well, there were a few moments of mild concern:
-Right before the set JT thought he wasn't getting a signal to his amp, and had to futz around with some newly-purchased cables he had just then unpacked. He managed to resolve both issues, but still. That's a paddling for bad pre-show prep, Mr Avakuma.
-My hi-hat clutch slipped just a bit (I might have hit it once or twice while playing), to where the cymbals had a fist-sized gap between them and sloshed horribly no matter how hard I mashed the pedal. Annoying, as well as distracting, but the show must go on. Then, despite all the prepwork I did on my kit before our set, my double pedal managed to become discombobulated and revert to a single pedal during "Baphomet Dawn," WHICH, by the way, we weren't even going to play this evening! We had planned on skipping it entirely to save on time, but I was so distracted by my sloshy-ass hats I counted it off out of reflex.

-After Baphomet, I had to call a break to get myself situated, leaving Tony to entertain the crowd in the interum. Here, we rediscovered one of his biggest weaknesses in his otherwise stellar stage presence: improvisation. After all the leaps and bounds he's made in his charisma and confidence, Tony still can not work a crowd on the fly, and I heard some instances of "uh" and "like" slipping into his word-vomit. He even admits that his confidence dips when he has to improvise, which can probably be alleviated if he were to keep a skeleton of a speech tucked away in the back of his mind that he can fill in with details on the moment.
Those concerns certainly didn't detract from the evening's merriment! This was actually a very social show for us, chatting it up with regular metal-scene friends as well as some longtime cronies who came to see us. There was Eric B (we know a lot of Erics, so it's important to make the distinction), an old friend who barista'd with JT for a while, jammed with us on occasion, and even came to our shows, who I haven't seen since the Immolation show in San Antonio back in 2011. Christ, time flies too quickly! Also there were Russell and Amber; Russell used to head I Misery, one of the very very few legitimate death metal bands to come out of the Killeen/Cove area, as well as Special Guest Satan, which also featured our very own Tony on guitar for a while. Adding a slightly surreal touch to the revelry was the presence of Mr. Tom Hamilton of Aerosmith, who was related to somebody associated with this show and is actually an ardent supporter of underground metal. I neglected to get a picture with him, but did have the privelege of carrying on a pleasant conversation for a good while!

Of course, I don't mean to imply that the evening's entertainment was uninteresting, and I did manage to catch at least a little bit of most of the performances. Nosferion employed a soundscape-y approach to bleak black metal which I enjoyed as much as Tarzan assured me I would. Can't wait to see what they sound like with both their guitarists! The Wolves of Skan presented a confident, intimidating stage presence and featured atmospheric segues between blackly esoteric meditations on death and a Slayer cover with Jake's vocal assistance. I missed out on Secrets She Kept, a black metal act on a national tour who were added to this bill after another show they were attached to got cancelled, but from what I saw they got a decent crowd.

Tony, Tarzan, and I were carrying on with Jeff A.D. when I heard Plutonian Shore start up. Of course, I actually wanted to watch their set, after I missed a good 90% of their performance at our last show in Dallas, and Tony wanted to head home, so we started our goodbyes... and they kind of lasted for a while, as our goodbyes tend to... basically I missed a little more than half of Plutonian's set. Whoopsies. I got right up front and added as much falsetto might as my range would allow for their "Highland Tyrant Attack" cover, and headbanged with Eric B for the rest of the songs. There are still a few months left of 2015, so there's room for surprises, but their Sphere of Geburah album is shaping up to be album of the year in my humble opinion, and it's still a blast seeing those songs in the live environment. In fact, I have a Morgengrau gig in December with Plutonian on the bill, so this time, this time, I'll catch their whole set. 

I don't have the brightest opinion of band promo pictures, which is largely why the majority of the photos you find online of Hexlust are live shots. We haven't even attempted a photoshoot since 2008, and we used live shots in the booklet for our album. Those turned out great, so I don't see us changing that policy anytime soon. 

However, an even compromise does exist in the concept of pro-shot live pics, and after this show, I think we know who we'll be using. In fact, the footage taken by Mr. Erik Bredthauer of NecroBlanca Photography this very evening was close to perfect; some killer angles, a tasteful use of black and white, and the best postures and facial expressions captured by his finely-calibrated shutter finger. I'm including four of my favorite examples from his business Facebook page, but if you visit his website, you can see the shots he got of all this evening's acts! That link should take you directly to this evening's folder.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Tony's Stupid GPS, and the Mosh Off of 2015

Date: Saturday, August 8, 2015
Venue: Curtain Club, Dallas TX
Lineup: Bunch o' bands. Lookit that flyer. So many bands.

There we were, heading to play in the Dallas/Ft Worth area for the first time in five years, as part of the weekend-long Mosh Off sponsored by the Pit Bulls organization. Tony and JT lead the way in Tony's truck, carrying only amp heads and guitars since amp cabs were going to be backlined this show. Tarzan followed, carrying his bass, our shirts and CDs, and a recently-aquired merch table. I and my companion Sue held up the rear, lugging my kit since drums were not being backlined. We were excited to see our Dallas friends for the first time in years, and finally play somewhere that wasn't San Antonio or Austin. Hopes were high.

When Tony pulled off the highway, lead our little convoy into a rest area, and told me that his Garmin was erratically trying to direct him to an alternate route which he was just gonna go with, what I should have said was, "Dude, fuck your Garmin. That thing was a miracle back in 2008, when we were stumbling our way through San Antonio using directions printed off MapQuest. But now, with its unreliable satellite connections and insistence on following one route and one route alone, that thing's becoming more of a liability. I know none of us wants to drain away his battery or data plan using his phone to lead us all the way there, but we know that the Curtain Club is not too far off I-35. What we should do, then, is just stay on the highway for about two hours, and when we feel we're in a Dallas-ish proximity, you or JT boot up a GPS app of choice and take us the rest of the way there."

For reasons I can't comprehend, other than I'm stupid, what I actually said was "Okie dokie!"

Now, I'd be lying if I said I didn't enjoy the scenic route a bit. Little towns like Moody and McGregor seem like neat places to book a hotel and spend a Saturday exloring. The Big Rocks Park in Glen Rose promises whole... half hours of amusement climbing on the as-advertised ginormous rocks and I guess eating a picnic lunch or something. Best of all, Stumpy's Lakeside Grill in Granbury has a breathtaking view of the Brazos River, which itself holds promise of summer-afternoon fun for the whole family or a group of close friends.


The four and a half hour drive (it should have only been three) was frustrating. The collision-clogged city streets, on-a-dime lane changes, and residential speed limits were aggravating. Arriving at 5:55pm to play a set at 6:20 was, worst of all, humiliating. Plutonian Shore were set to play before us, and I had arranged to share my kit with Gorgon as a way to reduce changeover time and to thank him for letting me use his kit at the 1349 show back in June. I had to back out on that, and felt double-embarrassed for that. Even the laid-back vibe, plentiful (and cheap!) parking, and agreeable traffic of the beautiful Deep Ellum streets did little to assuage how cranky, cramped, and just plain stupid we all felt.

Our attitudes improved greatly the instant we entered the Curtain Club.

We were greeted by a professional staff and lead directly to a backstage area with racks for gear storage (!) and even a neat little lounge area that was pleasantly isolated without the "fuck you commoner" VIP vibe of separation by rope or door. The stage itself was plenty spacious, had an elevated drum riser, and, true to the venue name, had a heavy dark curtain that was drawn closed between sets.

I didn't even realize how much I dug the drape until I experienced setting up behind it. Offstage, I am all for accessibility and transparency, but onstage, immersion is the name of the game, and nothing will throw that off quite like watching the performers fumble around trying to find the cable that plugs this into that or trip over the drummer's tripod stands. Of course, most audience members head outside or across the venue during changeovers, but when setting up on an open stage I still can't help but feel like I'm already in performance mode, already being observed and made note of. With the curtain, all the audience sees is what was intended for them, and the setup and soundcheck feels that much less stressful because of it.

The soundcheck itself was a dream. We were all mic'd up and we each had a monitor, from which everyone could hear a little bit of everything. The techs helping us were friendly and communicative, and the actual sound guy told us ahead of time what order he'd check us in and how we should indicate desired volume adjustments.

We were given an all-clear, our name was announced to the waiting audience, and the curtain was pulled back. I counted off FBF and we were off into one of the more intense shows we've played in recent memory. I could tell we had a very unique aura going this evening; all the fury built up from our long journey, combined with the goodwill we felt toward this wonderfully run venue, gave us an energy that was equal parts bloodthirsty and playful, malicious and jubilant, exactly what, if anything, Hexlust is "about." It's exactly what Tony and I had in mind when we first started jamming together, and I can honestly say we haven't played with such spirit since that Limelight show last April.

Of course, audience reaction was a huge help. We only had, maybe, twelve people up at the front of the stage? But dammit, those twelve people were STOKED to see us, and I saw quite a few pits going on during our set. 

Unfortunately, our skin-of-our-teeth arrival gave us zero minutes of warmup time, so our demonic fervor was paired with a rather pedestrian execution. We were plenty convincing during mid-tempo numbers like "FBF" and "Baphomet," but lagged on our fuck-you fast church-burners like "Imminent" and "Tombs." My unstretched legs plopped and plodded through the double-bass sections of "Conjure" and "Mega." Some riffs went on too long, some solos were sloppy (even for us), some vocals came in at the wrong place. Speaking of which, thanks to the awesome monitors, I clearly heard Tony's and Tarzan's vocals crack and lose their "metal edge" about halfway through. 

By no means were we terrible, but if we had arrived even just twenty minutes earlier, just had that much time to get ourselves warmed up, our energy and execution would have been exactly equal, and this would have been a show for the history books. But hey, we made it on time, put on a solid show, gave some folks a good time, and sold some merch. I'm still very happy with how it all turned out.

Fucked By Fire
They Conjure
Baphomet Dawn
Imminent Retardation
Tombs of the Blind Dead

Tarzan had been on the road since 8:30 that morning, driving from San Antonio to my house in Killeen and then from there to Dallas, our time here at the show his longest "break" all day. Since he was staying at my house, I was planning on leaving our departure time entirely up to him. Sadly, my energy deteriorated fast once my adrenaline died down, and I, Mr. Night Shift, Mr. Stays Up Til Sun-up, threw in the towel by 8:30. Old Man Tony was getting hungry, and basically this wound up being a rare "dick em and ditch em" show for Hexlust. Next time we come through, though, we'll plan the trip out better, maybe even get a room for the night, and will be able to hang out sooner and stick around longer.

Rest assured, Dallas metalheads, this was just a taste of the hexcellence to come!

A huge thanks goes to Les Playcool, for giving us this chance and for patiently working with us on our scheduling needs, and to the Pit Bulls for bringing this shindig together.

Thanks to the staff at the Curtain Club, you guys are awesome and your venue is top-notch, we can't wait to come back!

To Plutonian Shore, sorry we missed most of your set, though I finally got to hear your rendition of HIGH-LAND TY-TY-RANT AT-TACK! The new album, Sphere of Geburah, is fantastic, everybody should go buy a copy or download it.

Christopher Atomic-Thrasher!!! It was great seeing you again, massively looking forward to what Insinnerator put out next. Remember: MORE WHAMMY BAR SOLOS!

To Sue, for putting up with my freaked-out temper up to our set, and my parents, supportive as ever, always there when they can catch a show, I love you dearly.

Everyone who watched us, headbanged to our tunes, cheered for us, and/or bought some merch, big thanks to you all as well, and we hope to see you out there again! 

UPDATE: It turns out Tony had "avoid highways" selected on his GPS. 

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Basement Dwelling

Date: Saturday, June 13, 2015
Venue: Korova Basement, San Antonio TX
Bands: Aggravator, Nodens, Blood Royale, Hexlust

Originally, this was supposed to be a Hod show, with Hexlust invited to support our favorite San Antonio band at one of our favorite San Antonio clubs. Their sudden breakup last month shifted the lineup, resulting in us getting promoted to headliner and Nodens coming in to fill the void. 

It felt a little weird, almost wrong, to be the top-billed act in a San Antonio show. Probably because - and I just went back through this blog to make sure this was correct - this was our first time ever headlining a San Antonio show! I'd say it's about time. These past few shows have seen us consistently at the top of our game in terms of ability, tightness, and stage presence. Plus, we've been pimping out our album by playing the whole thing live lately, along with bringing out favorite covers, so we definitely weren't lacking material to show off.

So, you know what, yeah, maybe we are accustomed to being the spunky support act, but it was high time for Hexlust to show what we can do with the top slot and a more flexible time limit! Onward and downward, San Antonio hessians, into the Korova basement, Hexlust's dungeon of death and dick jokes for this evening!

AGGRAVATOR, who had been set up and soundchecked since nine, did get a late start to their ten o'clock set, but I'm led to believe they were waiting for their bassist to show up. They took the stage without him, and played an energetic set to an audience who had been waiting to thrash. I saw a few Aggravator shirts in the crowd, too, a sure sign that years of being Central Texas's anywhere/anytime go-to thrash band are paying off.

Watching them as I was putting my drums together, I realized it had been a while since I had seen them play. Mike now had his drums held up by a spiffy curved rack, with his roto-toms out front above his rack toms. Jessie was still the man to beat in terms of technical sweep-happy shredding, and Derek was as caustic and abrasive as ever, although he did show his sweet side on a couple occasions by congratulating us on our album release. Their bassist showed up about halfway through, ampless but still bringing that vital low end to the proceedings by plugging direct into the PA, as bass players are lucky enough to be able to do. 

NODENS were up next, and these Houstonians win the award for quickest setup time. They came in part of the way into Aggravator's set, had their gear set up by the end, and were stage-ready in no time flat! Their music was a death/black mix, heavy on the black, with a wall-of-sound attack that reminded me of "pure" black acts like Inferno that toss aside any sort of rock influence in favor of hateful aural chaos. 

I loved the noisy, whammy-heavy solos, but my attention was really focused on the drummer. This dude had chops to spare, and soundchecked by showing off some spiffy traditional-grip snare work and jazzy hi-hat hits. I definitely wouldn't mind seeing these guys again, this time on a show I'm not playing so I can really take it all in.

THE BLOOD ROYALE, being an awesome band with the "sweet spot" set time that falls between 11:30 and midnight, wound up being the true stars of the evening. Heavy, energetic, uptempo without being full-on speedy, like Motorhead's faster moments sustained for a whole performance. The best part of the whole deal was watching JT Smith go into a solo: holding his guitar way out in front of him where you'd think he wouldn't even be able to pick comfortably, leaning heavily on that wah pedal, building up to a crescendo where he'd suddenly arch way back, dreadlocks flying everywhere.

They're also really cool guys who let us have a bit of space on their merch table, because after eight years of performing live we still haven't realized basic shit like getting a table for the wares we're peddling. Something Walmart's el-cheapo fifteen-dollar foldemups are actually good for. Something I've seen Morgengrau drag to the two shows I've played with them at this point! 

*Sigh* One step at a time towards being a real band. One step, at a damn time.

Random thought: I'm normally up until 5 or so in the morning because of my work schedule, but at shows I'll still be thinking "Fuuuuuuck, it's 12:30 and the last band isnt even on stage yet!"

Yep, that is a status update I posted to my personal facebook profile, just a five days before this show, where we headlined with a 12:45 time slot. 

Turns out, I'm not the only one who feels this way. The room had emptied a bit when we took the stage, and continued to diminish as we played. Even my ever-supportive parents called it a night by about the halfway point. Such is the gamble you take with late shows, I suppose.

Those who stuck around, though, were treated to a fine set of deathrashing hexcellence, if I do say so myself! The surprisingly plentiful stage space negated the crowding issues of our last show, and everyone got a mic so the trade-off vocals in the second verse of FBF went off without a hitch. I did better with energy management this time, not even feeling tired yet until after "Baphomet," although I did experience a brain-fart on my big fill in "Conjure." Possibly the funniest drum happening was when I dropped a stick that came to rest on one of my toms right in front of me, allowing me to pick it right back up and continue on.

After "Baphomet," we switched things up a little by bringing out our cover of "Agent Orange," which we've been nailing a lot in the practice space and is never not fun to pull out live. After that, though, I was really starting to feel the fatigue set in, so of course it was a perfect time to go into "Imminent Retardation." The rest of the set, all our fastest material, went by in a blur, as I was just taking a breath before every song, willing myself not to die, and going for broke. I do know we finished strong with "Tombs," though, and finished to enthused applause from a small audience of loyal hexthrashers. 

Late shows are always a dicey proposition. Weariness sets in with both the audience and the bands, and if the headliner isn't on by midnight there's a good chance they'll be providing the soundtrack to everyone's goodbyes. In ten years of seeing live shows I've only seen two bands take the stage at 1am to a full house, and they were both in Killeen: Downsiid and Kritickill. This was during both bands' unstoppable halcyon days, back in the mid-2000s. 

When it comes to playing a late show, though, I couldn't have asked to be part of a better lineup. Every band on this show managed their stage time well, and made quick work of their changeovers. Everything was running so smoothly, in fact, that when we were setting up on stage, we were told not to rush because our start time was twenty minutes away! In retrospect I should have asked if we could just get going right after the souncheck just so our fine audience wasn't waiting for too long, but that's that ol' 20/20 hindsight kicking in.

So yes, a big thank you to the members and associates of Aggravator, Nodens, and Blood Royale, and again thanks to BR's merch crew for letting us get in a little table space. Thanks to my parents, Jake, Nick, Zvs, Alyssa, Marisa, Dough, Tony R, and all the fine thrashers who stuck around as the night wore on and everyone else started peeling off! You made this night worth it!

Just as a bit of an update, the album is selling pretty damn well. The CD's arent exactly flying off the shelves, but even I'm surprised by how steady the pace is, as well as the reach. I've shipped CDs and shirts to Japan, South Korea, France, and Denmark so far, as well as all over the US. We don't really hype the thing up a whole lot, but part of the fun has been simply putting the album out there with minimal pomp and circumstance, and watching it take on a life of its own! 

And I just gotta say, when our BandCamp has a paid download option, and when I've seen our album pop up on Torrent sites, the fact that some folks are actually laying down the dough to get their own physical copy of our little disc of darkness and fuckery is a huge  honor. I've heard nothing but good things from those who've purchased one, and I'm looking forward to what the future holds for Hexlust as we start working in earnest on new material.

Until next time!


Saturday, April 25, 2015

Morgan's Point Hexcellente

Date: Saturday, April 25 2015
Venue: Morgan's Point Sports Club, Belton TX
Bands: Plebians, Marla Strange, Shfux, Hexlust

It's finally here, folks.

After what felt like a lifetime of obstacles, restarts, nervous breakdowns, and that kooky little thing called "responsible adulthood," our debut album Manifesto Hexcellente has been brought kicking and thrashing into the metal world. 

If you haven't checked it out yet, the tunes are streaming (and totally for sale) at our brand spankin' new BandCamp page

Of course, who better to throw us a CD release party than the man who engineered, mixed, and mastered the thing while also putting up with our naivete and panicky last minute changeups? Walter put together a sweet local show for us, with Plebians, Marla Strange, and his own band Shfux on the bill, and the festivities taking place at a place in Belton called Morgan's Point Sports Club.

Once known as Rockin' Rick's Guitar Bar, the place was, from what I hear, quite the hot spot for Bell County rock fans looking to have a few drinks while enjoying the soaring stylings of Mr Rockin' Rick Bell. The venue closed sometime last year, I believe, and while Rockin' Rick himself now hires himself out as a guitar karaoke artist, the place itself now stands as a sort of rentable event center. 

It's whatever you want it to be for the evening, a club template with no decoration or equipment to ground itsef into a permanent identity. Blank walls, empty tabletops, a bar with nothing on its shelves, a stage with no lights or sound system. There were tables and chairs, though, and power outlets that worked, and even a couple clean and serviceable bathrooms, so it was everything we needed. 

This being a BYOB sort of DIY show, the bar remained unstocked and unstaffed and was set up as a merchandise area, displaying not only wares from the other bands but from us as well! Sure we've had merch before, our one-sided logo shirts that we just kept in the box onstage with us and sold when not performing because fuck having to guard a table, but now we had CDs! And two-sided shirts with the album artwork on it! We made a pretty decent killing, too, so an early thank you to everyone who bought a CD and/or shirt from us this evening!

Speaking of (or, rather, getting back to) the CD, one note of puzzlement I've heard from folks who've received their copy is the sudden presence of psuedonyms in the lineup. Whereas before we had simply gone by our names, Tony, JT, and I have recently tacked on "stage" last names of Morgor, Avakuma, and Nervewrecker, respectively. Tarzan remains Tarzan, the lucky fucker coming with his own ready-made psuedonym from his high school nickname. 

The inspiration behind each man's name is his own, but the purpose is the same: to provide the immersion necessary for us to keep our "stage" selves separated from our "day" selves, to keep ourselves focused on putting on a great show for our paying audience, particularly when things start going weird during a performance.

As they did tonight.

Tony's amp was to my immediate left, not blocked by any drums or stands, allowing me to hear him loud and clear, so I'm gonna pick on him a bunch. He was having a tough time. His effects channel had chosen this evening to crap out, resultng in dodgy sound whenever he went into his leads. This distracted him and he was getting lost very easily, skipping ahead to the next riff in a song way too early, then catching himself and trying to slide back to the previous one, all while singing.

It wasn't as apparent to me, but from what I hear, JT was having some issues of his own. I do recall holding off a song so he could fix something on his amp, but I'm told he was doing a lot of fiddling during breaks in the songs as well.

Then, just add on to all of that, we had the unbearable, ungodly heat. No wonder the Shfux played what felt like a truncated set, it was broiling up there! I believe that day was our first 90 degree scorcher of the season, and we were woefully unprepared. Any water we sucked down between songs was quickly sweated right out of our bodies, leaving us nauseated and shaky, and causing Tony and Tarzan's dusty throats to crack in their "everyday" voices.

Kinda funny, in retrospect.

If all this had happened even just a year ago, Tony would have shut down. He would have still been playing, sure, but the fire would have been snuffed out. He would have closed his eyes and hid behind his hair, maybe angled his body to where he was facing a corner, and his stage banter would have reduced to a mumbled "This next song we wrote is a song that we wrote and we hope you like it it's called Toxic High." 

Tonight, though, armed with his stage name and his pre-selected "stage clothes," Tony Morgor was on fire the whole set! Through the technical difficulties and sweaty hands he continued playing with full confidence and kept his stage banter energetic and engaging, while we threw out every song from the album plus two covers. Ten songs, most of them very fast, all on one very hot, very cramped stage.

A few things stick out to me: Poor JT having to maneuver his way to Tony's side of the stage to sing his parts for Fucked By Fire; me flubbing the big fill in They Conjure a bit; asking Jake which songs were next, since he pretty much has the whole album memorized by this point, then having him come up with us to do our now-usual rendition of Troops of Doom; and closing the set out with Sodomy & Lust, which I honestly did not think we would be able to pull off but somehow it happened, with our usual ramp-up to "fuck-you fast" after the middle breakdown. 

After that, we were done for. Maybe, MAYBE we could have squeezed in "Evil Dead" if folks were demanding just one more tune, but "Agent Orange" and "Open Casket" were definite no-gos. Of course, it would be really nice to be able to pull out some new material, and trust me, we are working diligently on that. Not rushing it, but still keeping the pressure on, focusing on our goal to have three new songs completed by the end of the year. 

This year's already almost halfway over. Shit.

For this, Hexlust's album release show, we want to thank Walter first and foremost, for all that stuff I mentioned earlier. Couldn't have done it without you, man. HEY LOCAL BANDS, if you want something recorded, hit up Walter Martin on Facebook. He knows what he's doing and his rates ain't bad.

Also, a personal thanks for his dedication of "Doomsday" to me during the Shfux's set. That eight-minute punk epic is the highlight of every performance for me nowadays. 

Thanks to Marla Strange, for being the best band tonight! No disrespect to Shfux, who ruled as always, or Plebians, who I didn't see, but these dudes shined above all with their energy and surprising catchiness among the odd guitar chords and slamming drums. Speaking of which, Jason is still an absolute monster on the kit, always making it seem like his poor little set is going to get smashed to pieces under his assault. Buy their album, go see them play!

Thanks to my parents, to Gary & Chris; to JT's parents (long time no see!); Joe Rose; Ralph; that guy JT and Tarzan went to high school with whose name I didn't catch; to Rick and John (Desmortes dudes, haven't seen them in forever!); and everyone else who paid their five bucks to watch our Hexshenanigans!

Extra big thanks to Jake, who once again went out of his way to come see us play, help us with our gear, and sing Troops with us! This evening he had on hand copies of his stellar Under The Sign of the Lone Star zine, quality writing with zero ads or scene politics.

(It also include a nifty review of our album!)

And of course a huge thank you to everyone who has bought a copy of Manifesto Hexcellente, and/or one of our album shirts, both online and at our shows!

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Book of the Worm

Date: Saturday, September 20, 2014
Location: The Limelight, San Antonio TX
Bands: Hexlust, Sardonic Witchery, Witchaven, Hod

Fuckin' Hod, man. Fuckin' Hod.

Some of the neck-snappingest tunes (and coolest tshirt designs) in all of Texas metal are released under their name, and some of the coolest people you'd ever hope to meet can be found in their ranks. Trans Am, their bass player, once regaled me with awesome stories of seeing Death live in Florida when they had just started introducing the Leprosy material; ol' TA was actually absent from this show, filling in for Goatwhore's bassist on tour, and his replacement in Hod this evening was none other than our good friend Zvs, of Plutonian Shore; the guys have said that Carl Necron and Danny Blackwolf, the guitarists, are always up for good conversation, although I think I've spoken five sentences to those guys; and Beer, vocalist, always makes sure to give us all a handshake and hearty hug while pointing out that he's happy to see us and that Hexlust are Hod's little brothers.

Considering all the esteem we have for them, we wasted zero time saying yes when we were offered the opening slot on this show, celebrating the release of their second album, Book of the Worm. Word had it that they would be playing the entire album this evening, so I spent the whole week in advance listening to it (HELL YEAH FOR PRE-ORDERS) to familiarize myself.

I was also going to sport the t-shirt I got in the album pre-order bundle, if I had received the right size. Due to a mixup, though, I wound up with a 4XL, and while I'm sure everyone (especially the ladies) would have considered my Hod muumuu to be quite hip, fetching even, I chose to send it back and wait to receive my proper size.

"Was that there last time?"

First words out of my mouth upon approaching the stage, referring to the drum riser positioned upstage-center. I was positive it was not there when we last played here in April, considering I recall having an easy time getting my kit squared away. This, I could already tell, was too small for the set I normally rock. No problem at all; I would simply do without my rotary toms and the two small toms over my hi-hat. Easy peasy. I've already practiced enough with a condensed kit that I'm able to adjust my muscle memory on the fly in situations like this.

That, however, was only taking into account the width of the riser. What caught me off guard was the depth, just a few inches too small for me. See, I'm a tall, spindly dude with long arms and legs, so I sit further back from my kit than most other drummers I've seen. I felt too close to my drums even with my kick almost at the front edge and my throne right at the back of the riser, which ended with a few inches of space between it and the stage wall to presumably allow cords and wires to be looped around back. Still, my soundcheck wasn't that bad, and I was able to hit everything without knuckling the cymbals, so I was sure I'd be able to endure forty minutes of mild discomfort.

My body had other plans, though.

As soon as we came out of the intro to FBF, with Tony making his grand declaration and me doing my Bonham triplet fill and all four of us taking off at high speed, I started sliding back across my throne. The simple act of working my feet on the kick pedals was pushing the rest of me away, and my ass was too light to anchor myself, so back I went, damn near off my throne. Thankfully, there are a lot of "breather" moments in that song where I was able to pull myself forward, but I knew that not all of our songs would be as forgiving, especially since the guys wanted to play "Agent Orange" tonight.

I was in such a state of screaming red panic that when Tony came over and asked which song was next, my brain froze. I stared at him as if he had just inquired about my favorite flavor of oatmeal, stuttered a few times, and then gurbled out something like "Toxiconjure."

That was a mistake. Tony said okey doke and announced Toxic High, a song which, from the instant we all come in to right before JT's solo three minutes later, has zero pauses. No breathers at all. There were times it got to where I was literally leaning back against the wall with my arms and legs fully extended, before finding a "punchy" spot to tense up and launch myself forward like a coiled spring. Our tightness suffered, and those first two songs were the sloppiest we've played in a long while.

After that debacle, I called for a long pasue so I could see if I could adjust things any further. Tony said stuff to the audience while I pulled my kick forward just a smidgen, maybe half an inch, really skirting the edge of the riser, and did the same with my throne in the opposite direction, again right at the very edge of stable surface grip. The full inch extra didn't do much for my comfort level, but I was now just far enough away that I wasn't in danger of pushing myself off the throne and could play through a whole song.

Of course, everything else about our set was great. For being the opening act we had a fantastic crowd response, lots of moshing and headbanging and folks singing and screaming along. We played with ferocious energy and were mostly perfect; JT hit the wrong notes or started a progression on the wrong chord in a few places but that was it in terms of actual flubs. Agent Orange hit the spot for our audience. The response was so rabid and violent I thought folks were gonna start tearing each other apart, but thankfully the hard moshing in good spirits all the way through.

I think what I'll do if we play the Limelight again is set my kit up in front of the drum riser. It's a pretty big stage overall, so I think there should still be enough space that some fool won't easily be able to grab my front tom stand and pull it over into the audience. And hell, we can just split the guys up on either side of me like Sepultura in those 1986 live videos.

Fucked By Fire
Toxic High
They Conjure
Baphomet Dawn
Tombs of the Blind Dead
Agent Orange

My family were once again in attendance tonight, so it was a more social evening for me. I spent Sardonic Witchery's and Witchaven's sets catching up with my brother over some de-damn-licious mini tacos at that awesome roach coach next door, and finally joining everyone else (my parents, their friends Gary & Chris, and Damiyan's girlfriend Valerie) back at the Limelight patio area for some good conversation. They left before Hod's set, bound for some generously-portioned chicken fried steak at a place called Lulu's, which apparently I gots to try. There was talk of ginormous cinnamon rolls.

Holy bejesus dude. I've seen Hod plenty of times, and they never fail to get an audience going, but this has to be the most vitriolic response they've ever received. They certainly had a bigger crowd at the Absu show a few weeks back, but it was nowhere near as rabid as this one. Every person was there for Hod, and were primed and rarin' to hear the songs from Book of the Worm played in sequence. I thought the pitting during our set was intense, but here it was right on the verge of out-and-out violent. I thought for sure that fights were going to break out on multiple occasions, particularly when one guy looped him arm around another dude's head and dragged him crashing and ping-ponging into the rest of the audience, but again, it was all in good fun and in the name of "fuckin' metal," as Hod put it.

Now, anyone who knows me knows I love me some guitar leads, the whammy-abusing-er the better, so it should come as no surprise that my only nitpick with the performance (and the album) is that there were not enough solos. "When The Ghouls Feed," for instance, is such a little tease of a song, where Necron pulls off a sweet divebomb at one point and then stops.

And the riff just keeps going.

And the riff just keeps going.




All fuddyduddying aside, though, this was far and away the best Hod performance I've ever seen. They played through the whole Book of the Worm album, of course, and capped things off with "The Smoke Will Rise," my favorite Hod song, one I'm surprised didn't end up on the album. All that was done and the band walked off stage and into the "dressing room" off to the side, leaving their equipment set up, sure a sign of an encore as anything.

They came back out, to the surprise of nobody, and regaled a smaller, but no less appreciative audience with "Demoralizer," which I haven't seen them perform in forever. Those of us left had no energy for moshing, which made it safe for some nonstop headbanging as close to the stage as we wished to get.

As of this writing, we are about to receive the final-final mix of the album, along with the final-final version of the album art. Possible release date may be around Halloween, or hell even Christmas. To save yourself a broken heart, expect it on Valentine's Day. Trust me, if it's not out by then, we will have killed ourselves.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

CVMA Vets For Vets

Date: Saturday, September 6, 2014
Venue: Pit Stop Bar & Grill, Nolanville TX
Lineup: Back Creek Band, Hexlust, Lady Zion & The Babylon Boys

Being from a military town like Killeen, you'd think we'd have played veteran benefit shows like this more often. Or, you know, at all. Somehow, in our seven-plus years of playing live, we never got picked up for one.

Well, first time for everything and all that. Our initial foray into the world of military benefit concerts was hosted by the local chapter of the Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association, and held at the Pit Stop Bar & Grill in Nolanville, a few miles outside of Killeen. Proceeds went to veterans organizations in the Central Texas area including, but not limited to, the State Veterans Home in Temple and the Fort Hood USO.

As you may have seen from the list of bands I posted at the top, today's bill was... varied. Very "intersting." The Back Creek Band opened the festivities with a set of mostly if not all covers, culled from the classic/Southern rock spectrum, including that bar-band chestnut "Pride & Joy," mixed with more mainstream songs executed with a laid-back, twangy sort of approach, like Nirvana's "All Apologies." What really made them stick out for me is their use of three guitarists (four if you count the acoustic the singer pulled out of thin air halfway through), which was more fun to watch than you'd expect, especially since one of them took more of a "slide guitar" approach to his playing. My only disappointment is that they had three-plus guitarists and didn't pull out any early Radiohead. Even "High & Dry" would have hit the spot for me.

Closing out the fun was Lady Zion & The Babylon Boys, with some more bar rock, only this time with a keyboard player! The lineup also included one guitarist, an older gent (and the keyboardist's father) who could really shred; a drummer; Lady Zion herself on vocals; and a bassist who was kinda smooshed into the back corner of the stage, WHERE BASS PLAYERS BELONG. TARZAN. I'd say this band had more of a seventy-thirty ratio of covers to originals; I actually liked the originals and wished they played more, and dug the covers enough, they did the job, although I did want to tear my hair out when they launched into "Don't Stop goddamn Believing." Seriously, if you line up your television-watching, radio-listening, sport event-attending, and bar-hopping schedules just right, you could literally hear that song every single day for the rest of your life. I would have been their biggest fan if they'd played "Who's Crying Now."

I did get a kick out of them though, they had some real charisma. I've heard they can really get a crowd going, which, yes, every band puts in their insipid fucking presskit bios, but I could see it being true. I may try to catch them again at a show where theyre playing to an energetic boogie-ready audience, instead of providing background music to more of a social/networking event.

Sandwiched between those two bands, perfectly suited for a family-friendly charity event, you have... us. Yeah. Oh trust me, the disparity did not go unnoticed.

This was also a different show for us in that it was our first daytime gig ever. By that I don't mean we went on before sunset, I mean this shindig started at noon and we were scheduled for 2:30! Being so early in the day, I was a little worried about audience size. Granted, if nobody showed up for us, it was no skin off my ass, I know we rarely play around here and don't have much of an audience that doesn't consist of personal friends. However, my parents are members of the CVMA, and this was a thing they helped put together, to benefit a cause they care about, and I wanted more than anything for today to go well for them.

I had absolutely nothing to worry about. By the time we got there at about 11:45, the front parking lot was full and the place was well crowded. The audience of course consisted largely of bikers, not just CVMA but other associations here to show support, along with local veterans, families, and random folks we connived into showing up and paying to watch us make a spectacle of ourselves (and eat some awesome barbecue). A very different audience from what we're used to, but an audience nonetheless, and a sizeable one at that! Back Creek Band did a good job of keeping everyone entertained, and even had folks singing along in more than a few places; these people were primed and ready for musical amusement!

And what did we do with our sizeable, attentive audience? Why, we drove them the hell away, that's what!

We still had 'em when we were soundchecking. Even with the obnoxiously copious drum kit, and the double-V axe attack, and Tarzan's super-awesome yet super devil-worshippy Hod shirt, everyone still seemed willing to stick this out with us. I think JT even increased our good will by warming up with "Simple Man." Then Tarzan dashed that all to hell when he checked his vocal mic, "Check, one two, check, CHEEEEEEEEEEECK," throwing on his growly kvlt vocals on that last check. According to Tony, folks immediately started nope-ing out the door. They didn't go home, but they sure didn't stay in there. By the time we started "They Conjure" three songs in, we had alienated about 3/4 of what was a pretty packed room.

Not that we didn't have our share of appreciative spectators. In addition to some fine folks who decided they were hip to our jive (or were perfectly capable of ignoring us despite our best efforts to be obnoxious), we also had a mix of personal friends, family friends, co-workers, my parents, JT's parents, and this gaggle of adorable little girls who were there the whole set and were also seen wailing away on my drums before we went on stage. I don't know their names because I didn't introduce myself because I suck at talking to children, but it was endearing to know that we left an impression on them.

We played great today, too! It's always fun playing for an atypical audience, it gives us an extra boost of obnoxiousness on top of our normal high energy levels to really unleash the hexcellence on some unsuspecting souls. I was worried about having an hour-long set, especially since we're used to playing a half hour, maybe forty-five minutes at the max, and after that, stick a fork in us because we are done. Thankfully, there was a drawing for raffle prizes after "Baphomet Dawn," giving us a much-appreciated breather to tune, change guitars, hydrate, stretch, etc. It allowed us to attack the second half of our set, which happens to contain our fastest songs, with a refreshened vigor. Well, maybe a little too much vigor; My right shoulder was screaming at me after "Tombs," and my lower back ached.

And of course, what would a show with Jake in attendance be without busting out Troops of Doom with him on guest vocals? We had actually rehearsed our cover of "Agent Orange" in preparation for this long-ass set, but when it came time to play it just seemed like an impossible task. I had forgotten that we used to play that tune to compensate for a lack of original songs. Now that we have a full album that we can play live, any covers that aren't idiot-simple or less than three and a half minutes are really pushing it for us.

Fucked By Fire
Toxic High
They Conjure
Baphomet Dawn
Imminent Retardation
Troops of Doom
Tombs of the Blind Dead

Did I feel bad for driving damn near the whole crowd away? A little. These people were here to eat some barbecue, socialize and network, and support a worthy cause, and here come Hexlust, emptying the room with our screeching whammy abuse solos, our thrash-til-death tempos, and our songs about shooting up with toxic waste and cities full of dead people and sodomy with a blowtorch (or is it a flamethrower? It's been a long time since Tony and I actually discussed FBF, I've long since forgotten what the implement was).

I can't deny that I enjoyed it, though.  I don't have anything against holding an audience, of course, but I do feel quite giddy knowing that we are the type of band that has to be acknowledged, positively or negatively. We can't be ignored. Granted, people were ignoring us, but they had to go out of their way to ignore us, they had to go to the other side of the venue (separated by a wall) or walk outside. Hexlust shall not just blend into the background and provide a soundtrack to your outing. You have to stand up and pay attention, or stand up and leave!

Also, more silver lining, my dad says that a lot of the vendors who were stationed outside reported a sudden, significant influx of business when we started playing. And who says you can't make money off death/thrash metal?



Thanks to Gary "No Name" and Christina "Devil Woman" for tossing our name in the hat when it came to choosing bands for this event. You guys have been really going out of your way support us over the past year or so, and that has not gone unnoticed or unappreciated.

Thanks to my parents, known by their "patch names" as MFD and Skunk, for their continuous love and support, and telling the other members that hey, you should really give Hexlust a listen and check them out before we decide to have them on this bill, they are a very different sort of band.

Don't let it be said that you didn't try to warn them.

Thanks to the Back Creek Band for letting us use their awesome PA, and to the people running the sound who were met with baffled expressions when they asked us simple questions like how many mikes I wanted on my drums. One of these days we'll be a real band who immediately know the answers to such things, but for now, patience.

Thanks to Jake, for driving all the way here and helping us out with the gear and the vocals, and to Ralph, Walter, Dylan, Chelsea, Tami, Casey Carson (who's been a family friend since before I was even born), and other friends who showed up and I forgot to mention and they'll be like "Screw you Dart where's my shoutout"

Big Special Thanks to Combat Vets Motorcycle Association Chapter 23-5 for putting on this event, and everybody who showed up in support of a cause we all care about.

Finally, thanks goes to all our veterans, past and present. Without your service I'm fairly certain I'd have to seriously watch my back when I walk around town with my long hair and my Strapping Young Lad "HELL YEAH YOU FUCKING SUCK" shirt. Thank you for fighting for my right to rock, so to speak.

Metal forever, cause problems, die by the sword, and don't forget to never blow out that Eastern Candle.

Into Everlasting Fire.

Thrash til Alzheimer's.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Shfuxlust 4: The Dream Master

Date: Saturday, June 21, 2014
Venue: Armstrong Center, Belton TX
Bands: Buoyancy, Moniker, Shfux, Marla Strange, Hexlust

It's been an oddly mild summer in Central Texas. It's the season for high temperatures and low precipitation 'round these parts, but this year, there has been hardly a day in the hundred's, and we've had some actual rainfall here and there. Though the skies were mostly overcast, with scattered showers around the Killeen/Belton area this past Saturday, nary a drop was reported to have fallen in nearby Holland, where residents and tourists alike took part in the third day of the city's 40th annual Corn Festival.

Yessir, from morn til night, festivalgoers ate some catered barbecue, watched some live music, and took part in contests testing their mettle in feats such as corn cob bobbing, seed-spitting, and chicken-hurtling (?) along with such standbys as a three-legged race and a 5k run. From what I hear, it was quite a hootenanny, and fun was had by all.

Not too far away from that setting of some Southern-fried Garrison Keillor monologue, a different set of fun-lovers were gathering for their own sort of festivity. The time had come for another Armstrong show, named after the community center and former schoolhouse on the outskirts of Belton that acts as the sole local venue for the bands and fans of the Bell County punk scene.

Although Tony and I have attended one of these shindigs every now and again, we in Hexlust haven't actually performed since that surreal evening in 2009 that ended with the presence of police, an ambulance, and even a damn helicopter. Over the years, we've had plenty of requests to come back and play again, and yeah we've wanted to; the BC punkers were our first real fans, after all. We could never get the scheduling right though. Finally, as I've explained before, our lives have leveled out somewhat, to where we were able to get things lined up just right, and come back to this place of dirt and bugs and not much else to play a whole album's worth of material for our hexcellence-starved friends.

First up was Buoyancy, a part musical, mostly spoken word act fronted by Gary Spragg, who I've encountered at these shows before but didn't know was a performer, as well as band manager and show organizer. The dude practically crackles with restless energy even if he's just sitting in a booth at Whataburger, a quality which combines with his distinctive voice to make for one helluva public speaker. I was loading my drums in at this time so I couldn't tell you what he was speaking about, and I'm not super familiar with the art of the spoken word performance, but I can tell you Gary was passionate without being obnoxious, greatly preferable to that Levi guy who screams about Jesus, and was very dynamic, only raising his voice at the "emotional highlight" of his monologues. I don't recall hearing anything from the musical side of the act, but again, my body and mind were elsewhere.

It was oddly fitting that his impassioned monologues served as the evening's opening act, since Gary also took on the role of a sort of de facto master of ceremonies. Between bands the audience would almost completely empty out, retiring to the outdoors where there was an awesome breeze that was much appreciated in the day's mugginess. At the end of these "intermissions," Gary would be the one to announce the band, even going so far as to march outside and yell, "MONIKER ARE NOW PLAYING, IF YOU WANT TO SEE THEM, GET THE FUCK INSIDE!"

Speaking of, how the hell have Moniker been around as long as they have (their first album was released in 2010) and I'm just now hearing about them? I know my finger isn't exactly on the pulse of this scene, but I've been working with Walter on a semi-regular basis since 2011 for recording our album and have heard about everyone from Marla Strange to Burnt Fuse, so I wonder how I missed out on them. These guys were definitely the surprise act of the evening, grabbing everyone's attention and sounding pretty damn fat for a three-piece.

They describe themselves on their Facebook profile as a "rock band that has mixed elements of punk, classic butt rock, and metal," but I would pin their sound as being grunge before grunge had a name, sing-songy and melodic but heavy and screaming and more than a little noisy, the way Nirvana sounded in their early days. Or, do any of you remember Tad? I got a huge Tad vibe off these guys and was transported through my memories to my CTC days, spinning the "Inhaler" album at 2am as I got started on a paper that was due in about eight hours.

As is my luck, the moment I discover Moniker is right around the time they decide to call it a day. According to their Facebook, they'll be laying the band to rest after this summer's set of shows, and I dunno if I'll be able to make it out to another gig. Thankfully, they have a wealth of material up on their BandCamp page, so I'll definitely be digging in.


"We're not dead yet! We're not dead yet! We're not dead yet! WE'RE NOT DEAD YET!!!"

Damn I love that song! Shfux ain't going nowheres no time soon, and fuck you if you think otherwise! They've been around since at least 2002, so not only are they the one band still around from back when we first started playing these Armstrong shows, but they actually have us beat by a few years. Their lineup is almost the same as it was back in '08, except Dylan moved to drums to replace the departing Cole, Walter shifted to bass, and they brought in Matt on guitar. Still a strong trio, still angry, still plugging away.

They played some of my favorites from their new album, Not Dead Yet, including (of course) the title track and the epic, shifting "Doomsday Forever," along with an old Hexlust favorite "I Come From The Desert" (WHIFFLE BALL, WHIFFLE BALL!) while I started warming up on my drums and greeting some old friends. By this point I realised I was actually getting nervous, I was experiencing some no-shit stage fright, so if I wasn't catching up with folks I haven't seen since I left my job at the mall last year, I was pacing back and forth or smacking away on my practice pad.

Now this band I've heard quite a bit of, as Walter would play songs from their album The Count | The Priest | The Gunfighter in the studio from time to time. I dig the tunes, and I especially like their live presence. Here are two dudes, guitarist/vocalist Logan and drummer/vocalist Jason,  playing the music they enjoy and having the time of their lives, as evidenced by their perpetual grins.

What I found most endearing is that whenever Logan would play a lead or just come to some instrumental section, he would actually turn his back to the audience and look at Jason, and they'd be locked in with each other. Warms the cockles, it does.

Just a quick aside from a drummer about a drummer, Jason is a damn powerhouse. It probably helps that he's a big dude, but he really packs a whallop, and his snare can be heard for miles. Tony mentioned a show he played way-back-when, a point where Jason had just started drumming and knew only the most rudimentary of beats. A year later, his technique had improved by leaps and bounds, apparently by listening to a lot of Rush.

Lesson for you kids: Listen to Neil Peart. He won't steer you wrong.

So, true to the pattern I mentioned earlier, the audience emptied out after Marla Strange were done, leaving us to set up in an empty hall. I can't tell you how many times I've wished for an empty venue before we played so I could get my drums onstage without bumping into folks, so this was a dream come true. Even better, Walter put on Altars of Madness and blasted it over the P.A.

Holy hell, you guys.

I can't even begin to tell you what a rush it was for us, getting set up for this well-anticipated gig while an album that is near and dear to all of our hearts, an album each of us has admitted to listening to every day for at least a month at some point in our lives, an album currently celebrating its twenty-fifth year of existence and still holding strong, still a benchmark of blasphemy, booming and echoing through this empty hall, somehow sounding even grander and more evil with the reverb provided by the completely-tiled floor. It was an enormous adrenaline rush getting set up while making faces at my bandmates and growling along:

Suffocating evil smoke arise, cleansing the masses of iniquity! Cauldrons blaze in sanctifying ritual, VILE CREMATORY BURNS MY EYES!!!

Even if this turned out to be the worst show of our career, this would stand out as probably the best pre-show ever.

Of course, the set itself was fantastic.

Not only were there some Hexlust fans from back in the day, but there were also some kids who were seeing us for the first time, in fact hadn't even really heard of us before, and had no idea what to expect. According to the open-mouthed reactions we got, some minds were blown, which is always gratifying to see.

We were in fine form, as well; this is probably the most "animated" I've seen JT and Tarzan get in a good long while. Maybe the fact that we were playing right on the floor took away the possible danger of falling off an elevated stage, but they were all over the place. Tarzan was getting in the audience, even with his bass, and JT would come over and play in front of my kit while making faces at me, and even got over near once or twice. This is when I think we're at our best, when we're able to be fully mobile and engage not just the audience, but each other.

We played the entire album, every original song we've written, and had a mosh pit going pretty much the entire time. Thankfully, everyone was also really great about not running into the microphones, which has been a problem at Armstrong shows past, and I know Tony was grateful for it. Probably the best part was the Frisbee that started going around at some point, zipping from one side of the hall to the other, and occasionally making its way to the "stage" area. One time it bonked Tony right in the noggin, and ultimately came to rest next to my drumkit, where it remained for the rest of my set. I was too busy killing myself playing an hour's worth of songs in the humid summer evening air.

"But Dart," you say, "your tunes are pretty short and you only have a couple longer songs. For the whole album's material, plus between-song banter, I'm thinking maybe forty-five minutes, tops." Well, can you say, double encore?? That's right, all those songs and still it all felt too short, so by JT's suggestion we pulled out reliable ol' "Sodomy & Lust," probably the worst we've played it in a while. Tony was impressed he still knew all the lyrics, but by this point, is there any part of that song we could possibly forget?

After that, Tony mouthed to me, "One more?" I responded, "NO, I can't." Fuck you, Tony, I'm out of water and can't lift my arms very well. But then I saw that Old Man Tarzan wasn't packing it in yet, and the audience didn't look like they were ready to go anywhere, and I saw Tony mouthing "Troops?" to JT, so I decided, fuggit, we'll go with Troops.

PSHH, PSHH, went my china, and we launched into "Troops of Doom," which I don't even remember playing but I'm sure was just a big fuckerycloud of flubbed fills and slippery solos. Tarzan later reported feeling like he could play our whole set all over again and wanted to do "Evil Dead," but the rest of us were done. It was right around eleven by then, time to pack it in anyway.

We received an offer or two for afterparty festivities, which we politely declined. I seriously don't see how any musician can go out gallivanting after playing. I need food and quiet, a sentiment echoed by my bandmates. Maybe we're just old. We went to Whataburger, got some food to go, and retired to Tony's apartment to unwind in peace.

Toxic High
They Conjure
Baphomet Dawn
Imminent Retardation
Tombs of the Blind Dead
Sodomy & Lust
Troops of Doom

When these Armstrong shows go well, as this one did this evening, they're a testament to the DIY method of setting up shows. Between bands, when the place was empty, somebody would be going around picking up assorted trash and tossing it into the bin. During the sets, nobody got too rowdy, and we had help dealing with the drunken idiot shithead who accosted my bandmates after we were done, along with having his keys taken from him. As we were packing in our gear, the floors were mopped up and chairs put away. No bouncers, doormen, or waitstaff necessary, nobody was hospitalized, and a good time was had by all.

Our album, Manifesto Hexcellente, is currently in the mixing stages. Slow going as Walter is letting each of us oversee the sound adjustments of our individual contributions, but it's getting done. Even though we've figured out my drum sound, I'm going to be going back here soon to oversee the panning of my toms (there are quite a few long fills on this thing). After that, we have the "whole band" session where we listen to it and decide if we're happy overall, then it'll be time to unleash this abomination!

A physical release is definite; vinyl a strong maybe since all the cool kids are hip to that jive now'days; new designs for shirts an absolute; other crap that real bands do, including patches and stickers and buttons and posters and windshield decals and trading cards and tin lunchboxes and pinball machines and inflatable pools and themed Putt-Putt courses, will be considered. No guarantees though.

In fact, you know what, you might just get a download code, because fuck all that work. We can only be so competent, don'tcha know.