My favorite metal festival isn't Maryland Deathfest, and it isn't some massive camping event in Europe, either. It's a one day slugfest wherein a pack of top-notch unsigned Michgian metal bands pile into Mac's Bar, a tiny dive joint in Lansing, Michigan. It's called Ogrefest, and it's a hidden gem in America's metal scene. Last week I ran down the bands that palyed during the day. These bands played at night. Each and every one of them is worth a listen.

— Words and photos by Joseph Schafer

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I've been meaning to write about Lansing's Genocya for some time. The group's perpetually opened for death and thrash metal bands passing through Michigan for a decade. They've played every single Ogrefest—their 2013 set is all available on youtube, pro-shot. Named after an Overkill song and perpetuated by bassist Jim Albrecht, the group has wethered numerous lineup changes with sound and work ethic intact. Their take on death thrash is not particularly game-changing, but the band does toss in the odd progressive interlude now and again, hinting at a hidden appreciation for Opeth buried underneath all the Exodus and Cannibal Corpse worship. Still, points are awarded for viciousness. If Genocya were a monster in Dungeons and Dragons, it would live in a swamp, strike multiple times per turn with razor sharp claws, and prove both bloodthirsty and impossible to kill. Most C-markets wish their local death metal band was this good. Sadly, my favorite Genocya song, “Captured by Freaks,” is not available online, so here's their last album, Ever Descent.

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In slower territory, Detroit's Failed paralyzed the audience with their mix of Am Rep-style noise rock and doom metal. The group is the child of Detroit-based guitarist Michael Erdody, who has lent his axe and vocie to numerous projects more well-knwown that Failed, including Acid Witch. His other rojects include classic throwbacks Harbinger, and death-doom act Temple of Void, whose demo was well-reiceved last year, and whose debut album will be released later this year. Failed is by far his most progressive and obtuse project. If any Ogrefest band could relocate to Brooklyn and hang with Colin Marston, this is the one.

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Metalarchives lists eight bands with the name Sauron. At least the Lansing variant are the only such band in America (I count three in Poland!). That's alright, their old-school black thrash attack isn't the most original concept, either. What it is, however, is meat and potatoes Sodom and Bathory worship built on a foundation of rock solid verse-chorus songwriting. In case you couldn't tell by the sunglasses, Sauron sling hellfire that's too cool for anything corpsepaint-related. Members of Sauron also clocked hours in Borrowed Time, a Michigan power metal band that had built up a head of steam at one point, but Sauron sound more like a few other Midwest black thrash bands that form a unique little micro-scene, including, once upon a time, Midnight, as well as a band I love called Reaper. Live Sauron dates are about as common as anyone who can actually speak the tongue of Mordor, I was lucky to make this my third time seeing them. Sadly, I can't find any of their music on the internet.

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To a certain crowd of people, Boreworm will be the most recognizable band on the 2014 Ogrefest roundup. Their style of technical hi-fi death metal has maintained its popularity while other trends have ebbed and flowed, much to the chagrin of some metal enthusiasts who would rather things sounded a bit more organic. That said, Boreworm pull off the cold, clinical approach better than most, with more vitriol but less progressive tendencies than, say, Fallujah. Their bandcamp described their sound as insectile, and that seems apt; their bent is cold blooded unsympathetic as well as un-sympathizing, wrapped in a hard carapace. Boreworm don’t have a full-length yet, but their slot on this year’s Summer Slaughter club tour leaves little doubt that they’ll have a highly-compressed barrage ready by this time next year.

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The night concluded with a set from Lansing’s own Satyrasis, a progressive death metal group whose long existence has been plagued by several lineup changes. Don’t bother listening to their 2008 release Creation of Failure if you want to taste the band; the Satyrasis sound has morphed and changed multiple times since then, resulting in one released demo, and a couple unfinished records. Guitarist/vocalist/songwriter David Peterman is a perfectionist, as well as the Ogrefest curator, though 2014 marked his last year on the job. This year saw he and guitarist Matt Trzcinski (formerly of Dagon) performing to pre-recorded bass and synth tracks. The effect was a bit thin-sounding, but still ambitious and reminiscent of later Death albums. Here’s hoping Peterman can recapture the adventurous spirit of the late-90’s in the studio soon.

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Overall, the metal underground is often too controlled by PR and press outlets based in large coastal cities. This site is no exception. As a result, those looking to find innovative bands often skip over smaller regional scenes. As a result, these smaller acts have to innovate to be noticed. After years of experience, it is my conviction that Michigan’s overlooked local scene is pound for pound as creative and rife with good songwriting as well-known hotbeds such as Brooklyn, Chicago and Seattle. Lest we forget, American Death Metal is a Floridian invention. Ogrefest is not the only small, regional fest that showcases undiscovered excellence, but it is my personal favorite.

If any of you dear readers have any regional scenes you wish to expose to the world, drop some hint sin the comments, or contact Invisible Oranges via email. This is a topic we here are keen to address moving forward.