Washington Death Fest


Death Metal band Species Splicers. Photo courtesy of Species Splicers Facebook

Madeleine Johnson and Natalie Svinth

On a summery Saturday night the snap decision was made to go the Washington Death Metal Fest. In a group of four, we piled into a trusty red Kia Optima and started making our way downtown…to Bremerton. None of us had ever encountered death metal before; our closest connection to the pulsing stirring music was that one of us loves the song “Walk” by Pantera. The rest of us either listen to older rock or EDM.

While the music started at 8:00 we arrived at 7:45, just in time to check out how empty the venue still was. At that moment we realized that all the hardcore metallers were still out and about in the world and not at the Charleston where Washington Death Metal Fest would take place. We also started to discern just how sorely we’d stick out. Not that it was a bad thing-it’s never bad to try something you’re not used to-it was just ridiculously funny how we showed up; two of us wearing open toed shoes and another dressed in green and red like a Christmas miracle.

Once we found a parking spot we made our way to the ticket window, passing a guy decked in black trying to do a kick-flip. We paid eight bucks each and with entrance stamps on our hands we walked into the Charleston like Scooby Doo walks into Spooky Island; kind of scared, kind of excited, definitely thrilled .

Ready to thrash we passed a corner decorated with graffiti and old concert posters and found ourselves in among Washington Death Fest. The hype was real; there were about 15 people hanging around, most of them setting up the drums and amps and the rest were calmly drinking beers in solitude. We scampered up onto a raised sitting area and there we remained most of the night, facing the stage with a metal railing to protect us from the mosh pit. Sitting in our safe spot we looked around; a green crooked pentagram leaning on the wall, phallic shapes as far as the eye could see, and a spray-painted quote on the floor: “You live your life like a loaded gun because you’re young” – Cock Sparrer.

We stayed for the first three bands-there were more later into the night, but as most teenagers can relate, curfews – amirite? The first band gave us our first taste of live death metal, and we were hooked. The lead singer draped his long and viking-like hair over his face, forming a shield between us and his features. However, the music that exited from his esophagus provided the audience with an intimate and guttural knowledge of who this veiled warrior truly was.

The screams of this death melody echoed inside each and everyone of our minds. Lyrically, it was impossible to understand what he was saying, but emotionally, we could feel and relate to this surprisingly inclusive genre of rock.

After emerging from our tranced-out state of mind brought on by the dream-like guitar solos of the second band, our final death metal group took the stage: Dead Nexus. They were the perfect end to the perfect night; truly magical. Check them out on bandcamp.

Google defines death metal as, “A form of heavy metal music using lyrics preoccupied with death, suffering, and destruction”. However, that night, we came to understand death metal as a form of art used to declare stark and profound truths; suffering and pain is real and love songs cannot fully represent life. More importantly though, we discovered death metal to be an effective way to thrash your body while providing the perfect environment to let out rage and compartmentalized emotions. Another helpful tidbit we picked up at WA Death Fest: don’t mosh with people that are bigger than you, especially if they’re middle-aged men who’ve been punching at the air all night like they’re punishing it.

Although we couldn’t understand most of the songs, there was one lyric we could hear, and that has stuck with us to this day: “There will be an end to this darkness. Love is everything.” Death metal was 100/100.