Gig Report – Screams of Metal Festival (San Jose, CA)

Are there any bands out there that still play early era metal? Does the San Francisco Bay Area have a true underground metal scene? Can bearded fans of satanic death metal get along with metalcore scene kids? These burning questions have brought me to Music Ink in San Jose, California, where a group of local bands have taken over a music school to hold the very first Screams of Metal Festival.

by Noel Holmes

Skinner has been in so many different bands that they the promoters stop referencing his current band by name, instead writing “Skinner” in the largest, boldest, and most pronounced font on the entire flyer. He hooked me up with access immediately, with a closing message that “he would make sure that no one would give me any trouble.”

I was going to ask what he meant by that, but after looking at his immense gallery of highly confrontational photos, I decided that it was probably best not to ask.

The ballot contained a host of metal bands, most of which were influenced by early era American Metal bands from the Slayer era, leading up to an unexpected finale: a metalcore band with only 2758 Facebook fans. The writeups for each band are listed in the order that they played.


Due to me accidentally driving to Players Ink instead of Music Ink, I arrived during the last 30 seconds of Apothesary’s set. Fortunately, that didn’t stop me from hearing what sounded to be at least 1,000 notes from the two back-to-back guitarists. It was enough to convince me that they probably knew what they were doing, but that’s about it.

Tyrannosaurus Christ

Their band page describes them as “straight up metal loud hard and heavy.”

It turned out that their self-assessment was accurate. Amidst their decor of bones, skulls, and pitchfork demons, their metal was slower than usual, and commanded enthusiastic headbanging.

Referring to themselves as “T Christ,” they entertained the early show crowd with dark rituals involving dual-wielded hammers, fake blood, and a skinny blonde woman.


If you know anything about the manual process of taking photographs, you know that you need to set your camera to a shutter speed that is fast enough to match the speed of your target. This became comically difficult when it came to keeping up with the ludicrous speed of the synchronized headbanging performed by the three frontman of Desecrator.

Desecrator didn’t make a major impression on me. As someone who has a hard time following the structure of music that doesn’t have a vocalist or primary melodic instrument guiding the listener, I wasn’t able to follow the mostly-instrumental pieces played by this band. However, judging only by the crowd participation, and trance-state demonstrated by the artists, I would estimate that their performance was one of quality.

The Venting Machine

Featuring two members of Paul Bostaph’s revival band, The Venting Machine was a solid local act portraying a modern style that could be described as “what 90’s bro-metal would have sounded like had it been good.”

With plenty of dramatic pauses, clean melodic riffs, and pitch-agnostic 8 beat yells, The Venting Machine offered a dynamic range of sounds that made me understand that holding in massive amounts of generalized anger at life was completely human.

It’s crazy how well some metal performers maintain their hair without having a hairstylist on staff.


It was still early in the day , and most people were hanging about, casually waiting for the “real bands” to take the stage when it was Hysteria’s turn to give the crowd a pleasant surprise. This group of boys, had it not been for their unwavering confidence, and the minimal amount of facial hair the frontman sported, could have easily been mistaken for high school kids.

After a brief, uneventful sound check, the lights dimmed and the band began to play.

The opening note was a high pitched vocal cry inspired by the Iron Maiden era, caused every guest in attendance to stop what they were doing and stare at the stage in shock. They were captivated instantly.

Hysteria rocked through a complex and energetic set of songs and never broke their stride. For anyone that is longing for the nostalgic sound of early metal, or just into good music in general, Hysteria is definitely worth checking out.

Serpent and Seraph

Any decently attractive female can become a one-trick vocalist of some sort, but it takes a truly talented and dedicated individual to be equally proficient in death growls, opera, and theatric performance.

Wearing a dress that would make any Disney villain jealous, Serpent and Seraph’s frontwoman clearly displayed profound skill in all these areas, hypnotizing the crowd through each song.

Many of the songs utilized samples and additional melodic content from an electronic keyboard system, giving their music a more dramatic and theatrical feel.


If the Scream of Metal Festival was a talent show put on by the unique and talented individuals of the Mutant Academy, then Skinner would be Professor X. As both a performer and an organizer, frontman/vocalist Norman Skinner was both the brains, and the brawn, of the operation.

Featuring a crazed drummer, a sedated metal chick on bass, a father-son combo on guitars, and a man recently run over by a forklift on another guitar, Skinner truly felt like a group of friends that simply wanted to celebrate their passion for metal.

They did a breathtaking job.

Above: The american metal scene summarized by a single image.


Any aspiring vocalist should take the opportunity to see Mudface perform, as the lead singer regularly stops to give useful tips on singing such as “never drink a jamba juice before going on stage or you might shit your pants on a scream.”

At first glance, Mudface might look like a your typical slow-BPM hair metal band, but their songs are actually quite fast, technical, dramatic, and american as all hell. Had it not been for the volume of anti-military sentiment contained in their lyrics, their war-like pieces would undoubtedly have become the soundtrack of countless anti-third-world-civilization propaganda videos created by off-duty USMC soldiers.

Thank you Mudface. Your sound thrashed through my spirit so hard, that I was forced to hide my camera in a tower of sound equipment and join the mosh pit!

Casket of Cassandra

It’s been almost a week, and I still get scared every time I recall the screams and dual-tone growls of Amanda Maddera, Casket of Cassandra’s frontwoman.

It wasn’t the fact that she was wearing an R2-D2 costume, nor was it the fact that she ran all throughout the venue (including dancing on the bar) while delivering her performance, it was that she was incredibly real. Approximately one year ago, Casket of Cassandra’s original drummer  was involved in a near-fatal car accident. Between her spasms of dire rage, Amanda would stop to share the emotional challenges she and her bandmates have experienced, genuinely thanking the attendees for their support during the hard times they were facing.

Overall, the only thing I can say about this festival as a whole is “wow” – I was deeply impressed by the production value, timeliness, sound system, and performance quality. While America doesn’t have the multi-day metal festivals that require you to rent a bathroom, it does have legitmate shows that can keep you busy for a whole Saturday.

It was a bold move to have such a mixed ballot, and beyond that, to have so many bands play in a single day. I must say that this was one of the healthiest music scenes I’ve ever observed. I don’t know what happens backstage, but in person it was heartwarming to see all the different bands supporting each other, regardless of the subgenre. We see a lot of trolling on the internet these days, but when you get to the heart of the metal community, that is, people that actually compose music and support local shows, you don’t see that kind of hate. Metal is metal, regardless of whether or not it appeals to teenage white girls.



  1. Commented by: gabaghoul

    nice write-up and fantastic shots as always. sounds like a diverse line-up and after sampling a few, there are some gems in here – Skinner looks from the pics like it’d be meathead bro metal but is actually quite an impressive power/thrash band. Skinner’s vocals sound a bit like Tim Aymar or Warrel Dane too which is great.

    Digging Serpent and Seraph too, was expecting something along the lines of The Devil’s Blood but it sounds like Cradle meets old Beauty & the Beast stuff like Tristania, Theatre of Tragedy, etc. great to see, as always, such a diverse mix of material coming out of the Bay Area.

  2. Commented by: Apothesary

    No love for the opening act lol.

  3. Commented by: Jobby

    Nice review!

  4. Commented by: Noel

    @Apothesary: Plenty of love. :) At least a lot of love for only have a few seconds to check ya out. But mostly I blame Player’s Ink Studios for having a similar name confusing me into going there first instead of music ink :P

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