• Sun. Apr 14th, 2024

Holiday Hellfest
December 13th, 2019
Fremont Country Club and Backstage Bar & Billiards

Cattle Decapitation – Unearth – Atheist – Darkest Hour – Primitive Man – Author & Punisher – Vitriol – Gods of Hate – Pariah Was One

Our coverage of this show is so late due to my wife and I packing and moving into a new place. So her photos and my piece kept getting pushed down our list of priorities. Though I have to say this in particular is majority my problem as I’m the far less busy spouse.


I’m not the guy who’s going to sell you on Pariah Was One. Like vocalist Calvin Sroka’s other band death in Motion it’s just not my thing. Both bands have their following that show up for the gigs I’ve been to, so I know it’s me. 

Gods of Hate on the other hand, who I last saw opening for The Black Dahlia Murder impressed me more this time around. The blend of modern deathcore with a more old school feel in the recording of their single “Kildare” makes it easy to ignore that I don’t much care for deathcore to begin with. CHeck it out here on the band’s Bandcamp. I’m absolutely drooling over that artwork at the moment. 

Author & Punisher

What interests me most about Author & Punisher is that unlike many of the electronic artist that the kids listen to, the man behind the project Tristan Stone can actually be seen doing stuff… Based in San Diego the mechanical engineer/artist started work on A&P in 2004 and has released eight albums since then playing a doom inspired form of industrial music played on various instruments put together by himself. 

Check out this doc on YouTube put together by Noisey if you want to learn more. 

Darkest Hour

Each time I’m reminded that Darkest Hour formed in 1995 I’m fucking shocked. I was four years old then. This has a lot to do with my not being aware of them until 2007’s ‘Deliver Us’. Initially I didn’t think too much of them however I attribute one of this album’s tracks “Demon(s)” to serving as a first real step out of a months long bout with depression. 

As one might expect from a band nearly 25 years into their career, Darkest Hour has made numerous changes to their sound over that time. But most importantly I think they serve as a bridge between the metalcore that would become popular in the states and melodic death metal that inspired the former. 


I guess going in my expectations for Atheist weren’t very high. The classic death metal outfit formed in Florida in the 1980’s. They’d release three studio albums from 1990 to 1993 before splitting until 2006. At the time there had to have been half a dozen bands reforming that I was already a fan of so Atheist continued to fly under my radar. Not helped by the band not releasing new music until 2010’s ‘Jupiter’. Overall I’m glad to have been able to see them live. I just hope that with this new young lineup that Kelly Shaefer takes his band into the studio in the future. 


I had such a great time with the Unearth album ‘III: in the Eyes of Fire’ back when it was released in 2006. Easily one of my favorite records I bought that year. The following year I’d see them tour with Slayer and rarely have I seen a band come close to their performance. They opened that Slayer show with their song “Giles” and their drummer broke his snare head in less than thirty seconds. Each member would find something to jump off of. Guitarists Buz McGrath and Ken Susi were doing beer bongs during a suitably sustain chord. It was Ken that took the cake. He’d let a note ring out, put his guitar behind his back and do push-ups until it was time for him to get back to playing the song. 

At this show Ken proved to me yet again my belief that he’s perhaps the very best in metal at crowd interaction. I laughed so fucking hard when he took one girl’s phone while she was recording and mimed taking a call during the song. The guys in Unearth are quick to give out high fives and shake hands with their audience but Ken gave that girl and by extension myself a story to tell. 

Cattle Decapitation

Cattle Decapitation’s ‘Death Atlas’ came out on Black Friday of 2019. The album was the new hotness that accompiented my favorite Unearth album in preparation for this show. If you the reader is looking for an introduction to deathgrind; ‘Death Atlas’ and Cattle are as good as a place to start that I’m aware of. 

I had to work last time Cattle came to town, so the last time I saw them was at the Dive Bar when I wrote my first review for ZRockR. This time the band has plenty of room on the FCC stage and a light show. If my better half weren’t a photographer I’d hardly care how fancy the lights were at a show. However she is and so I got an earful. Being in this relationship I’ve learned through osmosis that red lights are a problem!

The real problem for me was those goddamn spotlights pointed into the crowd and having to time when to close my eyes each time they’d pass over me. Fuck. That. I’d be happy to see Cattle Decapitation again in the future but I hope those lights fall off the back of their trailer on some rural highway.

Additional Holiday Hellfest Galleries:

Primitive Man:


Our friend Annie over at Into the Pit with Annie caught an interview with Vitriol at Holiday Hellfest, you can find it below if you’re interested in those guys!

All live photos by Courtney Ware for ZrockR Magazine 2019. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

By Ethan Pretre

I'm a husband, guitarist, and writer born in Michigan but have lived all over. I consider my hometowns to be Las Vegas, NV and Berwick, LA. Fan of extreme metal. All time favorite bands include Acid Bath, Cradle of Filth, and Arch Enemy to name just a few.

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