To Oblivion and Beyond: A Breakdown of the Bands at Oblivion Access

Translating the scrolls at Austin's most interesting festival of the year

Heavy hitters, cult figures, moshers, rappers, and sub-sub-subgenre breakouts highlight the 107 acts on Oblivion Access' poster. The festival, christened with a two-word title that seems to imply "going into the unknown," has expanded its scope in 2022. While continuing to chant at the altar of the black-shirted heavy music realm, it also swings open the gates to alt-era favorites Blonde Redhead, one of rap's great characters in Danny Brown (who has recently lived locally), and quintessential hardcore via Youth of Today and Converge. Here are some unmissables. – Kevin Curtin

Wiki

Mohawk, Thursday 12, 6pm-close
Billed with: Lil Ugly Mane, Injury Reserve, Armand Hammer & the Alchemist, Akai Solo, Wolfie Warship

Wiki emerged in 2011, equal parts blaring urban sound effect and tough-talking gutterpunk rapper. As a member of experimental trio Ratking, his Enrico Rizzo snarl was but one pulsating node in overwhelming city-grid soundscapes. But a decade of increasingly poetic solo work on, there's no disputing Wiki now occupies the center of his music. On 2021 high-water mark Half God, his vulnerable storytelling speaks for itself, frequently without so much as a chorus to blunt its impact.  – Julian Towers


Carcass (Photo by Gene Smirnov)

Carcass

Empire Garage, Thursday 12, 5-11:30pm
Billed with: Massacre, Windhand, Primitive Man, Devil Master, Hell, Elizabeth Colour Wheel, Immortal Bird, Shitbag

Liverpool's third-greatest band sold out Mohawk in 2014 following sixth asphyxiation Surgical Steel, a comeback nearly two decades in the decomposition. Original butchers Jeff Walker and Bill Steer slayed to the last bleacher's spot on the third deck (here, sir), early grindcore through contemporary death & roll. Follow-up Torn Arteries dropped last year: rawer, catchier, meaner. Don't wait another eight years. Oh, and Echo & the Bunnymen, thanks for playing Final Jeopardy.  – Raoul Hernandez

HTRK

Elysium, Saturday 14, 8pm-close
Billed with: Author & Punisher, Missing

Though not the loudest or most flamboyant band at OA this year, Melbourne duo HTRK (pronounced "Haterock") may be one of the most intense. Jonnine Standish and Nigel Yang's beautifully crafted but emotionally grim broodtronica tenderly caresses matters of the heart – romantic and otherwise – with a steady hand that bares claws when least expected. Texas sightings are as rare as a Democratic majority, so this performance, in support of the acoustic-centered LP Rhinestones, is one to savor.  – Michael Toland

Andy Stott

Elysium, Friday 13, 7pm-close
Billed with: Debit, Bridle

If Andy Stott is back to his old tricks, OA festophiles should catch the Manchester-based producer's muddy, crunchy, splintered, and dubby ambient techno, without fail. The slow-burn set, unspooled live from his computer, favors dark ground, though vocals from his former piano teacher, used on his now classic 2014 LP Faith in Strangers, as well as on 2021's Never the Right Time, add light to the subterranean depths Stott plumbs.  – Christina Garcia

Autopsy

Mohawk, Saturday 14, 6pm-1am
Billed with: Blood incantation, PLF

"We're Autopsy and we play death FUCKING metaaaaaal." So begin most Autopsy slaughters, and in particular the 35-year-old Bay Areans' 2020 disc Live in Chicago, a fetid, rotting, leprosy soundtrack. Flayed alive by Death survivor Chris Reifert, percussion and larynx tartare, and axe murderer Eric Cutler, these real-life White Walkers returned this century with enduring triumvirate Macabre Eternal, The Headless Ritual, and Tourniquets, Hacksaws and Graves, but haven't yet christened this decade with any new studio DFM.  – Raoul Hernandez

Cave In

Empire, Sunday 15, 6pm-12mid
Billed with: The Locust, Zola Jesus, Liturgy, Leya, Troller, Mvtant, Private Service

As a relief pitcher for bands like Converge and Quicksand, Stephen Brodsky is one of hardcore's most reliable journeymen. In his signature songwriting vehicle, he's an unpredictable cosmonaut. From psychotic, frostbitten metalcore to their stint cosplaying as space rock Foo Fighters on a major label, Cave In has never made the same album twice … until now. Upcoming double record Heavy Pendulum finds the band rerouting the mother ship back to the seismic wonder and majesty of their 2000 masterpiece, Jupiter.  – Julian Towers

Elizabeth Colour Wheel

Empire, Thursday 12, 5-11:30pm
Billed with: Carcass, Massacre, Windhand, Primitive Man, Devil Master, Hell, Immortal Bird, Shitbag

Transfixing vocals from Lane Shi, dragging with a kind of drawl over static cracking like a vintage radio broadcast, recall a haunted Beth Gibbons, but in hell, over the full pulverizing doom, shoegaze, hardcore, atmospheric amalgamation that is Boston band Elizabeth Colour Wheel. From wildly satisfying, terminally gloomy 2019 debut Nocebo, try "23" for the band's best, genre-sprawlingest, madhouse-drummingest song, giving way to the quietest electric guitar strumming.  – Christina Garcia


Glassing (Courtesy of Trey Hicks PR)

Glassing

The Belmont, Friday 13, 6pm-close
Billed with: Coven, True Widow, Primitive Man, Cough, Uniform, Christworm

Post punk/doomgaze/etc. quartet Glassing loudly released one of Austin's best 2021 albums with Twin Dream, a screaming, psychedelic hellscape of intimate emotions and hard-wrought songcraft. Anyone who's seen the band's fulminating performances knows the tendency to scorch a stage, leaving any luckless subsequent acts to stand in the ashes, so pity the bands following Glassing on this sterling bill. Get there early and have your mind blown and your teeth disintegrated.  – Michael Toland

Full of Hell Blows Trumpeting Ecstasy

The Belmont, Friday 13, 2-7pm

Vio-Lence Relives Eternal Nightmare

Empire, Saturday 14, 2-7pm

Album performances remain exceptionally well-suited to metal since slow songs and shitty ballads seldom manifest. Maryland power noisecore quartet Full of Hell, screamed by vocal blowtorch Dylan Walker, here revisits breakthrough third LP Trumpeting Ecstasy (2017) even though last year's fifth immolation, Garden of Burning Apparitions, erupted as if all Hades shrieked at once into an ungrounded mic. Bay Area thrash pioneers Vio-Lence, still led by singer Sean Killian, guitarist Phil Demmel, and drummer Perry Strickland, resurrected this March with EP Let the World Burn, but that only flickers in the face of reanimating 1988 debut Eternal Nightmare, still the thick and sleek torpedo, a pantheresque pounce of speed, lunging riffs, and mosh pit vox.  – Raoul Hernandez


Windhand (Photo by Joey Wharton)

Dorthia Cottrell

Valhalla, Friday 13, 7pm-close
Billed with: Thou, 16, Jarhead Fertilizer, Body Void, Vile Creature

Windhand singer Dorthia Cottrell's previous appearance at OA 2019 included both a solo set devoted to Texas icon Townes Van Zandt's catalog and a guest appearance with Panopticon leader Austin Lunn during his own Lone Star troubadour-focused show. That left little room for any of the Virginian's own songs from 2015's gorgeously ethereal self-titled album, but perhaps she'll make up for it this year. Windhand slays elsewhere in the weekend, too.  – Michael Toland


Blood Incantation (Photo by Alvino Salcedo)

Blood Incantation

Mohawk, Saturday 14, 6pm-1am
Billed with: Autopsy, PLF

Established as the closest thing to Hawkwind found in brutal death metal, aliens-obsessed Blood Incantation followed up its conspiratorial masterpiece Hidden History of the Human Race with Timewave Zero, a shockingly strong set of spaced-out synthscapes owing its firstborn to Tangerine Dream rather than Morbid Angel. Given the company the band's keeping at this show, it's unlikely TZ will be the focus of the performance, but then, no one could've foreseen it being so good at aping Zeit, either.  – Michael Toland

Show Me the Body

The Belmont, Saturday 14, 7pm-close
Billed with: Fury, Drain, Outer Heaven, Yellow Eyes, Vile Creature, Judiciary

Forget Rick James. Show Me the Body make the real Street Songs. The New York trio has spent a decade synthesizing the Big Apple's filthiest underground urban stylings, uniting hardcore-inflected scrape rock with rawbones industrial hip-hop. Secret weapon is the group's ace melodic instincts (frontman Julian Cashwan-Pratt famously plays a mean banjo) – a touch of sugar that patches the sidewalk crack between genres like a disused wad of blueberry chewing gum. – Julian Towers

Coven

The Belmont, Friday 13, 6pm-close
Billed with: True Widow, Primitive Man, Cough, Uniform, Christworm, Glassing

Bookended by "Black Sabbath" and "Satanic Mass," 1969 LP Witchcraft Destroys Minds & Reaps Souls predates the former Birmingham blokes' debut by six months. Breaking later that Altamont Christmas by covering anti-war ode "One Tin Soldier" in indie film smash Billy Jack, Chicago's Coven invented Satanic proto metal. Incanting like a possessed Grace Slick, Esther "Jinx" Dawson told Kerrang! in 2019: "It was actually meant to be a scholarly work … a sort of rock opera …" – Raoul Hernandez

Mortiferum, Outer Heaven, Spectral Voice

The Belmont, Saturday 14, noon-6pm & 7pm-close

Limbo rock got zero on cutting-edge modern death/doom. How low can you go? Last year's Preserved in Torment, second full-length from Olympia, Wa., foursome Mortiferum, drops the vocals to an almost subatomic level, like oil gurgling down the drain of some sludgy, Eastside chop shop. 2022, meanwhile, marks a decade for both Outer Heaven and Spectral Voice, the former Pennsylvania fivepiece marking the pandemic with last year's In Tribute… EP moshing covers of Repulsion, Death, Morbid Angel, Mortician, and Pig Destroyer. The latter Denver foursome celebrated the very first year of our COVID via Necrotic Demos. Mortiferum and Spectral V decimate the day show and Outer Heaven cleaves the night brigade. – Raoul Hernandez

Thou

The Belmont, Friday 13, 2-7pm
Billed with: Uniform & the Body, Prurient, Full of Hell (Trumpeting Ecstacy set), Ringworm. Mizmor, Midwife, Sore Dream, Saintpeeler
and
Valhalla, Friday 13, 7pm-close
Billed with: Dorthia Cottrell, 16, Jarhead Fertilizer, Body Void, Vile Creature

Heavy and harsh. Sad and somber. Crushing and contemplative. Emotive doom metal that's been blackened to perfection, Louisiana sludge heroes Thou are a monument to duality. Fearless and unyielding, they will break your heart with gentle beauty right before dragging you into the abysmal black void. Fresh off collabs with celebrated black metal act Mizmor and genre-bending singer-songwriter Emma Ruth Rundle, Thou's set is not to be missed. – Robert Penson

Metz

Elysium, Thursday 12, 7pm-close
Billed with: Spotlights, Deaf Club

Metz is one of those bands that pulls you in but you don't know why. Fans of Fugazi, Idles, and even metalheads will be drawn in by their refined noise rock that retains its underground aesthetic. Sub Pop-supported and Steve Albini-recorded, the Canadian trio's mysterious yet mature sound casts a wide net but does so without losing their DIY sensibility. Punk with a broad appeal, they are approachable yet uncompromising. – Robert Penson

Billy Woods

Empire, Friday 13, 7pm-close

Billed with: Danny Brown, Ho99o9, Soul Glo, N8NOFACE, Fat Tony, Plack Blague, Sex Pill

Billy Woods' lyrics will send you down a rabbit hole that's pitch black, unpredictable, and utterly fascinating. The New York rapper, playing Oblivion Access both solo and with his duo, Armand Hammer, uses a clear-cut, steady vocal expression to unleash unmatched lyrical density, with poetic lines on pestilence and history's horrors cut with cultural references ranging from Mao Zedong to the mid-Nineties Dallas Cowboys. His knack for putting his cutting lyrics on cutting-edge abstract hip-hop production continues on sonically diverse new album Aethiopes, which arrives 10 years after his brilliant History Will Absolve Me – bookending a streak that could be considered the best in a decade of underground hip-hop. – Kevin Curtin

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