Morning has broken, bringing agony and pestilence. The general consensus is that last night was ill-awesome but gross. Those just arriving to the fest are full of faux-cynical wonder, while those of us who slogged through the Shadow Kingdom Records kick-off are doing their best to put on airs and not throw up. Hell’s Headbash 2015, Friday. Let’s blow off some steam.

Fuck good coffee and protein-filled eggs. The Continental Breakfast at the University Hotel & Suites hails from the continent of A Bad Neighborhood In Iowa. All options have either been recently unfrozen or shoveled out of a barrel. The fruit is satisfying, if you like produce by Phillip Morris. But the crowds are ready—they scarf Eggos and jam-slathered English muffins like pros. They pound juice that obviously has no Vitamin C whatsoever in it simple for refreshment and basic sugars alone. Then it’s over to the Agora, which has intelligently rescinded last night’s No Re-Entry policy. Outside, a gyro truck slings some level of nourishment, but mostly just provides a drinking base.

Fuck the ballroom—the Agora theater is a massive multi-tiered space with an extra bar, lines of merch-slingers, and a huge stage flanked by red marble columns, making it look like the temple of an old and bloody god that often demands sacrifice. Giant fans stationed throughout provide little relief from the slowly-growing humidity within the venue. That mixed with the heat bleeding off the industrial lights illuminating the merch alley, itself a sauna, becomes nearly unbearable throughout the course of the evening. Stay hydrated, motherfuckers.

The Lurking Corpses are the perfect act to open the day—spooky, funny, thrashy. The five robed men in masks get the crowd smiling with their brand of Halloween metal, closing with an awesome cover of Twisted Sister’s “Burn In Hell” that’s sadly plagued by technical issues. Prosanctus Inferi get things noctambulous quick, blasting back open the wounds on the crowd’s eardrums with cosmic black metal. Then, Cemetery Lust come out in full pervert leather and toss in a healthy dose of grimy death metal. With the three major genres breached, the drinking can really begin.

Abysmal Lord are enthusiastic, furious, and play the kind of war-drenched music that everyone really came here to see, so the crowd loves them. Bat bring the stark and dirty thrash attack, complete with a Venom cover that finally gets a mosh pit going. But it’s Bonehunter who rule the afternoon, destroying attendees with a deeply satisfying set of truly badass jams. Bonehunter are the kind of band who don’t play a specific genre, but rather all of them at once, so that everyone from the skinny nerd in the tie-dyed Maiden shirt to the fully-equipped leather-clad lifer has their beer in the air and a scream on their lips. Blood Feast play an awesome set of old-school thrash afterwards, but Bonehunter is a hard act to follow. They do all right.

Acid Witch’s timing is perfect—it’s getting dark outside, everyone’s hammered, the venue is sweltering, and there’s only so much straight killing thrash one can take before needing to doom out a bit. Their lumbering riffs and psychedelic backdrops provide relief for the more weary fans. Immediately after them comes High Spirits, who look like Devo and blow everyone away with some dynamic-yet-classic heavy metal; you've never seen so many kvlt black metal footsoldiers having so much fun as during a High Spirits set. October 31st are entertaining enough, and definitely get the crowd jazzed, but it’s Cianide who everyone seems to die for. And rightly so—their doom-injected death metal hasn’t been fully explored today, so they’re a bit of novelty and a ton of talent. Those in need of a solid shift in direction head to the Insomnium show over at the ballroom.

Don’t kid yourself—no matter how many other bands you want to see this weekend, we all came here for Midnight. They’re the essence of Hell’s Headbangers embodied in a single band; they're a band that makes us hard-drinking sex-obsessed gore-worshipping black wizards feel a little less alone. The place is packed when the masked maniacs finally take the stage, and everyone goes absolutely apeshit as they launch into a furious set of stark, charging sonic poison. “Evil Like A Knife” has the entire Agora singing along, while “Satanic Royalty” has those at the front row death-humping the barrier in a rage of headbanging. Everyone seems to know every word, making the set two parts mosh pit and one party sing-along. The whole thing is the perfect welcome to the weekend ahead.

The many well-laid plans to hang out, get a beer, blaze one, all go out the window in a fit of the drunchies. The bar at the University Hotel & Suites has solid late-night garbage food. I eat two dinners and wash them down with Old English while watching Internet TV and drunkenly worrying that the maid stole my Blasphemophager record (it was behind the dresser). The spirit to party is willing, but the Casserole is weak. Let’s see if we can keep from killing ourselves tomorrow.

 —Scab Casserole



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