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Live Review: Denver Black Sky Fest III, A Killer Night of Craft Beer-Fueled Brutality

All photos by Azara Golston.
All photos by Azara Golston.

While its format has been whittled down from a two-day event into a single night of scathing metal and delicious beer, the third Denver Black Sky Festival garnered ample anticipation this year, with no small amount of excitement surrounding appearances by grindcore sex maniacs Pig Destroyer, reinvigorated death metal crushers Skinless, crushing crossover thrashers Ringworm, and a slew of local heavy hitters, that have since the last Black Sky Fest released some of the best metal out there. But more than anything, DBS III provided the Denver metal community with an event to rally around, celebrating two of the Mile High City’s best exports: tasty craft brews and gut-wrenching riffs.

Regarding the former, Black Sky Brewery was out in full force Saturday night, providing concertgoers with two event-exclusive beers: the Pig Destroyer Stout and the Skinless Caveman Kolsch. The stout was a nice easy-drinking dark beer leaning on the sweeter, more chocolatey side of the spectrum–maybe a little sweet for its namesake. The latter, though, was a delicious light brew with floral hints, suited both for thoughtful sipping and pounding six or seven in quick succession, making it a perfect accompaniment to Skinless’ brand of no-frills death metal.

By the time Wyoming’s Casket Huffer took the stage, the Gothic Theater was already filling quickly, and the hoodie-clad band charged through a quick set of harsh crush-and-croak death metal that got the crowd banging their heads if not moving around. But it was pizza metallers Axeslasher who really got the party started, playing in the round on the raised second stage smack-dab in the middle of the Gothic. The masked madmen raged wildly, with unhinged frontman Professor Pizza pausing between violent bellows to fire fake blood into the crowd from a severed head attached to a squirt gun.

With the two stages, the whole night was filled with quick back-and-forth transitions, so there was no time to grab a beer after Axeslasher’s set before Nekrofilth took the main stage. The band transformed the crowd from good timey moshers into rabid psychopaths with pus-drenched anthems of perversion like “Junkie Cunt” and “I’m A Degenerate”, along with a cover of Venom’s “Poison” thrown in. Frontman Zack Rose was in fine form, his maggoty shrieks and stage banter about fucking corpses welcome on such a night of debauchery. Following them, local doom stalwarts Khemmis launched into a set of looming occult doom that proved refreshing after all the grimey death-thrash. Playing in the round was the perfect choice for Khemmis, their monolithic sound big enough to fill the room even as they stood among the transfixed crowds staring.

With all the filthy death and epic doom, a little straight thrash was needed, and Denver’s own Havok were the perfect providers. The band’s straightforward speed metal sound got the audience going absolutely apeshit, with the pit switching from casual to serious in a matter of seconds. Frontman David Sanchez’ rants about the Paris tragedy were heartwarming in their earnestness, if a little cheesy. Sadly, Ringworm’s set fell a little flat; though Human Furnace and co. brought tons of energy to their performance, the band’s sound wasn’t helped by the in-the-round stage, and didn’t have the raw punch-in-the-gut power that one wanted from a band of such unrelenting force.

By the time Skinless took the main stage, everyone was pretty fucking wasted, and it lent the band a certain strength. One could both see and hear in the band’s live set how much their breed of stomp-and-crush death metal has influenced modern deathcore; frontman Sherwood Webber’s manic stage energy and the churning guitars of Noah Carpenter and Dave Matthews (oh yeah, I forgot that’s his name) were just too violent to be old school. After them, local doom duo In The Company Of Serpents played the center stage, and managed to turn make a shit-ton of gigantic noise between the two of them. They played a powerful set, but one wondered if they shouldn’t have gone on earlier in the night; by that time everyone was hammered, stoned, keyed up from all the death metal, and ready for the main event.

And the main event came with full force. Pig Destroyer were magnificent, overflowing with rancor and chaos as they stormed the stage in an explosion of fury, fuzz, feedback, and flying bodies. The band wasted no time in turning the already-crazed audience into a pack of wild animals, with frontman JR Hayes even grinning and embracing the occasional stage-diver brave enough to approach him. With each song, the metal state of the show deteriorated, so that the end of their set saw the audience staring dumbfoundedly at the main stage even after they left. Some stuck around for a last-minute set by Maruta in the round, but the Miami grind act had no chance whatsoever after a PxDx set. Bleary-eyed and thoroughly punished, the audience poured out into the streets, smacking their beer-soaked lips and stumbling into the thin and frigid night.


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