Fuck the Facts and Dreaming Dead played at The Arena in Philadelphia on July 4. The Arena hosts boxing and wrestling matches; parts of Darren Aronofsky’s The Wrestler were filmed there. It is a big room with a high ceiling. Early in the afternoon on this first day of the Hostile City Death Fest, the Arena was desolate. Instead of a fighting ring in the middle, a stage sat against a wall. A barrier blockaded the stage from ten feet out. This was unnecessary, as there were maybe 50 attendees, not counting vendors, in this 1000+ capacity room. The promoter’s gamble to hold a fest on a holiday didn’t pay off. With no bar (Day 2 of the Deathfest was BYOB) and a chilly temperature, the venue might as well have been the moon.
Yet Los Angeles’ Dreaming Dead did the best they could. They are a young band, and it showed. Their stage presence was a little off. One guitarist and the bassist whipped long hair around majestically, while one guitarist gamely shook a short bob. The drummer’s blastbeats were tappity-tap soft. (The Arena’s echo chamber acoustics didn’t help.) Death metal drummers should sound like they want to kill you. Still, vocalist/guitarist Elizabeth Elliott (nee Schall) kept the set aloft. She is a consummate shredder, etching out riffs with precision and speed. Pick squeals erupted from her with delightful regularity. Elliott’s attack is eerily Chuck Schuldiner-esque, with raspy growls over spidery riffs. She executed both with mastery. If her bandmates catch up to her, their thrashy death metal should go far.
Canada’s Fuck the Facts are seasoned veterans, and it showed. Vocalist Mel Mongeon evokes Henry Rollins’ warrior poses. She constantly coils and uncoils, bounding up on monitors, crouching down low, shrieking, growling, spitting. Her eye contact is not rehearsed. She is fully “in” her performance, and if she stares daggers through you, it is incidental and fleeting. (Converge’s Jacob Bannon likewise flouts eye contact conventions.) Her band’s grindcore meshes Godfleshian harmonics and tectonic sludge with punishing blastbeats. After years of experimentation, the band has gotten down to business. Stage banter is minimal, limited mostly to song introductions. Transitions between songs are vaguely unsettling soundbites. The band executes violent tempo changes in sync, without eye contact. On this afternoon, the audience was seemingly galaxies away. Still, one could hear Mongeon scream in space.