The metal music festival heard ’round the world

BY RYAN FOSMARK | JULY 09, 2009 7:21 AM

Picture 13 hours of shrieking tunes, blazing metal, and enough noise to send Marilyn Manson running for earplugs. Though this may seem hard to grasp, it’s the concept behind Melapalooza, a one-day festival featuring the hard-core tunes of 12 metal bands from around the region.

Local bands Identity Crisis and the Horde will play at Melapalooza II, which will take place at the Rock in Coal Valley, Ill., on Saturday. Along with the Iowa City natives, Waco Jesus, Cardiac Arrest, Altered Existence, 5th Dawn, Upon the Awakening, Helmsplitter, Hills of Byron, Still Chyld,

Ageless, and Lefwitch will play. The metal fest will start at 11 a.m. and end at midnight, delivering more than half a day’s worth of some of the heaviest music around. Admission for the all-ages show is $15.

Four years ago, Bruce Duncan, the bass player for Waco Jesus and Helmsplitter, wanted to throw a birthday blowout for his wife, Mel. With the help of Upon the Awakening drummer Mike Lambert, the result was a small metal festival that has been a buzz ever since.

“It turned out so good, you know,” Duncan said. “And people kept talking about it, so I was like, ‘Well, you know, if I’m going to do another festival, it might as well be Melapalooza II, since everybody remembers it was so much fun.’ But this one’s a little more for the bands, for the music, you know.”

The event is one of a kind in the Heartland, not only for the sheer number of metal bands participating but for the mixed-age crowd. There are very few shows around that feature these kinds of bands and allow all ages to attend. Melapalooza II offers metal tunes to the seasoned die-hards as well as the younger ears.

“That’s what turned me on to metal when I was a kid — these shows,” Duncan said. “You see the guys rocking out with the lights, and they look like rock stars. It makes you want to pick up a guitar.”

Of course, certain precautions have to be taken in order to accommodate a younger crowd, especially when dealing with bands of the heavier persuasion.

“I’ve never done a big show with younger kids, so I’ve been telling everybody to kind of tone it down,” Duncan said.

Duncan has played bass for 22 years and has been a part of the metal scene for most of it. He has been able to witness the progression of the music from the Slayers and Panteras of yesteryear to what it has become today, and he has managed to include the whole spectrum in Melapalooza II.

“What I’ve noticed is there are a lot of bands that are coming out that sound like the more thrash and old hard-core. You know what I mean, like Slayer — the older stuff,” Duncan said.

As well as the in-your-face lightning fast grind-core of the old days, Melapalooza will exhibit the newer sounding tunes of local melodic death-metal band Identity Crisis.

“Then there’s the new breed,” Duncan said. “I remember when death [metal] came out, and it was really big. It kind of spawned a whole bunch of technical death-metal players, and it started sounding almost like a different genre you know.”

Jonathan Finney, the guitarist for Identity Crisis, said he is excited about being part of the festival.

“That’s one of the exciting things about the festival; it’s encompassing a lot of different genres within metal,” he said. “It should be really fun. There are a lot of really good bands playing.”

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