SXSW Metallurgy

SXSW's metal offerings.

For the past two years during South by Southwest, I’ve made it a point to stumble into Room 710, the void where the Relapse Records showcase goes to die, to catch Cephalic Carnage’s piss and grunt routine. It wasn’t the grindcore innovators’ neck-breaker Anomalies that intrigued me at the time but the prospect of finding suit-and-ties huddled in a corner together, fumbling with their BlackBerrys, and deciding whether or not to lift their devil horns in salute. I was seeking confrontation, a turf war, the battle between “us” and “them” that unites all metalheads beneath proud flags of Iron Maiden and Metallica.

Thankfully, such was not the case. Both times the venue was practically empty, save for some hardcore fans who formed a small pit, giving me a much-needed opportunity to get primitive. This is exactly why SXSW is a blessing in disguise for metal fans. The music conference continues to attract some of the most renowned acts in the genre (see forthcoming interviews with Boris and Mastodon) and spotlight-deserving local talent (see next week’s Into the Void for more), allowing for rare and occasionally intimate performances while the rest of the industry chases the next Tapes 'n Tapes and the dudes who normally pick fights at shows are stuck at home.

That said, here’s a quick look at how this year’s festival will paint things black.

After a one-year absence, Aaron Turner’s Hydra Head Industries returns with a killer lineup – Stephen Brodsky’s Octave Museum, Oxbow, and Daughters – that’s sure to crack the concrete at Emo’s Annex Thursday night. Chicago instrumental outfit Pelican headline following the dynamic duo of Melvins recruits Big Business (who’ll join King Buzzo and Dale Crover for a special Scion day party on Thursday) and Jesu, assuming their work visas finally get cleared.

Another familiar figure this year will be NYC indie Kemado Records, which released the Sword’s debut Age of Winters following a series of successful SXSW throw-downs. The label hosts Danava, which turns Sabbath into a ballroom blitz, along with Turzi, Vietnam, and Cheeseburger Thursday night at Bourbon Rocks. Vice Records returns with Panthers and Black Lips at Flamingo Cantina, while Relapse goes extreme once more at Room 710 (Coliseum, Minsk, Don Caballero, Rwake, Alabama Thunderpussy). Other repeat offenders include Hella headlining the Suicide Squeeze showcase Friday at Maggie Mae’s, Dead Meadow trampling Club de Ville, and Montreal’s Priestess, who kicks things off Saturday at Auditorium Shores, 3:45pm.

For everyone who missed Matt Pike’s short lived Kalas project and the J Mascis backed Witch last year, Columbus’ Teeth of the Hydra carry on the sword of doom with their epic debut Greenland, which traverses through “The Garden of Rotten Teeth” and “Purgatorium,” Friday on the Lava Lounge Patio at midnight. Lastly, Tone Deaf Touring unleashes a monstrous lineup inside Emo’s Lounge, including the dual drum and guitar attack of Kylesa, Slough Feg, Stinking Lizaveta, Weedeater, Hammers of Misfortune, and Bible of the Devil. Saved once more.

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SXSW, metal, Pelican, Jesu, Hydra Head, Aaron Turner, Big Business, Melvins, Relapse Records

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