The second (and unbeknownst to all of us, the final) round of Wacken was a delightful hodgepodge of metal.
Pictured: Black metal locals Mythraeum

We are living in insane times right now. Countries had shut down and we had managed to turn “America the Beautiful” into “America the booty-ful.” Honestly, how much TP does a household need before realizing that actual necessities are needed? Anyway, excuse the Klown he had to get this off his chest. Despite the chaos, the show went on and the locals took the stage for round two of Wacken Open Air Battle of the Bands at the Brick By Brick on March 14. 

The night had unexpected twists and turns, pro-wrestling and live theater weren’t the only forms of entertainment with a disclaimer of  “card subjected to change.” On that note, the night kicked off with Funeral Dirge. The Klown will admit that he didn’t know who the band was or that Mortar’s drummer, Henry, had canceled prior. So rather than leaving an open slot, guitarist James Flynn made the best of this opportunity and went on as his solo noise project Funeral Dirge. 

Flynn donned a white decontamination suit, and a jet-black plague doctor mask as he played with his mixing board. The Klown would later find out that Flynn improvised the song he was playing which he called “FEMA Deth Kult.” The frontman’s latest contained a mash of speeches from  Albert Pike, Bill Gates, and Trump in combination with an Aztec death whistle. 

James Flynn didn’t waste his slot go to waste and performed as Funeral Dirge rather than Mortar.

Flynn later removed the mask and shouted through his mic “Coronavirus” and new world order related things before plucking his guitar a bit. Flynn finished his set by climbing off the stage while he continued to shout into the mic while getting into some peeps’ faces. The Klown shall admit that he was confused by what he had seen, but welcomed the distraction and it was entertaining overall. The Klown felt like he was a part of a performance art exhibit, and recommends Funeral Dirge to fans of Full Of Hell and Author & Punisher.

End Thy Species stepped in on behalf of local thrashers Manic who were originally scheduled to compete. The Klown shall once again admit that he didn’t know who End Thy Species was prior, but the Klown enjoys surprises. The quintet opened their set with “Universe of Hate,” and from the moment lead guitarist Bradley Struble began the opening strums, and Alex Garcia let out his thunderous screaming vocals, the Klown and the crowd knew they were in for a jump start. 

End Thy Species obliterated their last minute set as they graciously stepped in for local thrashers Manic.
L TO R: Lead guitarist Bradley Struble, vocalist Alex Garcia, bassist Jose Reed, and drummer Ratnaksha Lele.

Despite the handful of people at the venue, they were ready to have a good time and moshed whether it was side-by-side or in a circle. The Klown didn’t think that would happen early on or at all given the amount of attendees present but it did! The band also treated us to old fashioned ditties such as “Rise of Democracy” and “Deceitful.” ETS also commemorated their last-minute entry by dedicating their two new songs to them titled “Katana” and “DNA Apparatus.” These guys seemed great and gave it 150% for a group that originally wasn’t on the lineup. The Klown won’t say that it’s unheard of for a band to pull that off but he’d be lying.

Right after ETS, a bit of darkness cast over the stage. The Klown then noticed that it was because the house lights weren’t entirely on allowing the youngin five-piece known as Blackcast to set up. Blackcast is also rather new to the Klown but he has heard their name casually thrown around. This time, the Klown was going to see what they were all about. In terms of sound and attitude, the Klown felt like a kid again… mind you the Klown is not that old but it felt like a high school time capsule blew up on his face. The quintet kicked off with “In Modern Times” and followed up with “Fishnets & High Heels” off of their sole album Riches to Ruins

Blackcast let a lasting impression on fans and new listeners alike and continued to liven up the night.
L to R: Rhythm guitarist Montgomery Turel, vocalist Luis Perea, lead guitarist Armand Guerra.

Blackcast also drove out an extra pulse out of the crowd! There was some guy who cartwheeled his happy ass into the pit and did his best impersonation of Jean Claude Van Damme for a moment. The band upped their ante by tossing in their new song/current single, “The American Dream,” which sounds like it could rival any metalcore band such as August Burns Red and Atilla. The band ended their time with an oldie called “Braindead” in which frontman Luis Perea went into the pit screaming his lungs out and was followed by bassist Richard Orozco. Like the Klown said before, he felt like a kid again and will admit that he liked Orozco’s swag and energy as he paired it with the rest of the band’s bluster.

As Blackcast departed, the night picked up with a band that the Klown has not seen in a long minute. The last time the Klown or Ugh Metal saw Mythraeum was in August… 2016. Their entry to this battle was rather welcoming for the Klown as he was seeing this collective for the first time, again. Mythraeum has had a lineup change since 2016, and once the band began to play, the Klown saw that he was in for an absolute treat. The band kicked off their set with a new song… new to the Klown at least, titled “Terrestrial Despair.” The band also incorporated a bloody baptism, much like the mighty Watain has done times before, with new frontman Anthony “Plague” Vivoli baptizing new heretics unto their legion. 

A revamped Mythraeum added a drop of black metal in to this metal medley and executed an impressive set.
L to R: Guitarist Alonzo “Wraith” Larios, vocalist Anthony “Plague” Vivoli, bassist Nick Lepisto, and guitarist Zack “Algiz” Simsay

The band continued their lurid opus with songs that already had an established presence with them. However, unlike the previous time and their sole demo (available in Bandcamp), it was different and felt more aggressive. Plague had a command firmly in his grasp, and not only did he acknowledge the crowd but he interacted with the rest of the members as well, as if to remind us that all eyes shouldn’t be just on him. With that said Alonzo “Wraith” Larios and Zack “Algiz” Simsay highlighted the mastery of their strings by taking the spotlight when the opportune moment presented itself. Before we all knew it, Mythraeum finished their set with “Through the Nether” off of their 2020 debut LP The Inevitable Return leaving us with an adrenaline high.

As Mythraeum’s foggy presence lifted, we were ready to honor the dead. Dead Serial Killers to be precise! The Klown shall confess that this is the first time he’s ever heard of the band. So, naturally, the Klown was stoked to see these guys take the stage and hear what they got. This quintet from Ramona stormed the stage and revived the night. For those not familiar with the band, they are a bunch of dudes who take care of business with some in-your-face Hardcore. In honor of the ever-growing situation, they kicked off their set with “Brand New Anxiety.”

Dead Serial Killers killin’ it and keeping us on our toes.
L to R: Vocalist Drew Caravana, guitarist Joe Faust, and bassist Shawn Davis.

Although they don’t do any bloody baptisms or get off stage to finish a performance, Drew Caravana didn’t just simply stand around. In the mood and style of all that is hardcore, Caravana paced and moved around the stage like a prizefighter blood lusting for the next fight. The Klown also suspects that he was a man after the Klown’s heart as he swilled some beer down in between breaks. Remember kids, hydration is key! Just like a posse that you don’t wanna cross or look at the wrong way guitarist Joe Faust and bassist Shawn Davis played their part in looks but over exceeded with their instruments. Faust even had some killer solos throughout their set that would even make Hatebreed’s Wayne Lozinak a bit envious. The group finished their set with “Consumed by Hate.”

First impressions alumni Nightshadow, were originally billed as a special guest headliner but unfortunately, they bowed out due to rising concerns. So instead of just allowing the night to finish without a guest performer, another last-minute addition swooped in and filled a vacant slot. This time, last year’s Wacken U.S. champs Monarch took the stage. The last time the Klown saw Monarch was at the second round of 2018’s Wacken, when *spoiler alert* they were declared the second winner for San Diego’s division. Not taking away from previous performances, but this time around the reigning U.S. champs performed like they just had a new lease on life and demonstrated why the name “Monarch” simply isn’t just their band name anymore.

Bassist/honorary judge Alex Pickard and Vocalist/guitarist Matt Smith of Monarch filling in for Nightshadow and gloriously performing their victory lap.

The quartet started their set with a new song titled “Future Shock” from an upcoming album. The band followed up with “Dawn to Night” from their debut LP Go Forth… Slaughter. Much like before, the boys showcased and strutted their stuff. From exchanging riffs and licks, to each guitarist doing their solo and Alex Pickard going the way of Cliff Burton. Casey Trask even got close and personal with his guitar with peeps in the front as did Matt Smith and Pickard throughout the rest of the set. Before we all knew it, the band announced their final song which ended up being “Nuclear Warfare.” We were bummed but we knew that winners had to be named.

Before El Pallaso tells you who the winners were, he would like to address some things first. If Manic, Henry, and Nightshadow are reading this, just know that the Klown does not fault you and looks forward to your future performances. If anything, the Klown admires you all especially knowing how things have escalated since that day. 

Matt Smith and guitarist Casey Trask having an epic ax battle that won over the judges at last year’s Wacken Battle USA!

The night saw judges Alex Pickard of Monarch, Helsott’s Mark Dow, and SD Metal Swap Meet founder Brian Parker declared End Thy Species, Blackcast, and Mythraeum the winners of round two. Most of all, just like the Klown thought, we were all winners that night. As you may have guessed, the next round (and any concert, for that matter) had been postponed until who knows when. Despite the Klown praising the previously mentioned, he also admires anyone who showed up that night to support the acts. It took some insanity and bravery for us to go out and show the world that while a virus might have slowed things down a bit, it did not stop us from having a last hurrah. It sounds bad but given the circumstance, you’ll have to excuse us for doing so. 

Although some will look back at this as an irresponsible thing to do, we, who attended, will look back at it fondly. We don’t know what the future will hold for us or how the future of live performances will be like. One thing that we do know is that we must  continue to support local bands safely such as buying their merch and records, and know that we are in this together. For better or worse and please, for the love of all that is sacred to you, STAY HOME AND WEAR A MASK.

Congrats everyone! And thanks for making this last hoorah of 2020 a memorable one 🙂
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