A gathering of the black-T-shirt-wearing, tattooed, head-banging tribes happens this weekend in Little Rock for the Mutants of the Monster underground heavy metal festival.
Starting Friday at the Rev Room and ending Sunday at White Water Tavern, 15 bands across a range of metal sub-genres will play. Included on the bill are Maryland grindcore outfit Full of Hell, North Little Rock sludge legends Rwake, local heroes Sumokem and Terminal Nation, doom masters Yob of Eugene, Ore., and Pallbearer of Little Rock.
"It's going to be a very cool festival," says Christopher Terry, Rwake singer and Mutants organizer.
Mutants of the Monster is actually a sort of rebirth of a metal festival Terry oversaw at the now defunct Downtown Music venue from 2011 to 2013.
His intention was to have a couple of nights of heavy music at White Water Tavern, but when tickets sold so quickly, Terry moved two nights to the larger Rev Room in the River Market and added a third night, which is sold out, at White Water with Rwake, Pallbearer, beloved Arkansas metal vets Living Sacrifice and Illinois group Minsk.
"Pallbearer is the reason there is a third day," Terry says. "They signed up so we could make a third day."
From a tour stop in Houston, Pallbearer singer/guitarist Brett Campbell says the group is ready to play for fans at home.
"Nowadays, we only play Little Rock once or twice a year, and this festival is going to be even better than a regular show. There's so much variety, and everybody comes out of the woodwork for this stuff. The lineup is so stacked. If you have any inclination to heavy music at all, there will probably be something there for you."
Campbell plans to be in the crowd each night, and Saturday headliner Yob is on his list of Mutants must-sees: "I think they're one of the best bands around. And Gatecreeper on Friday should be a really good time. We toured with them earlier this year and they are a fun band to watch live."
Nate Garrett, the Gatecreeper guitarist who grew up in Oklahoma and who lived in Fayetteville for a while, will be playing alongside some of his friends and heroes at the festival.
"I heard Rwake when I was still in high school," he says. "I was really into Mastodon and they were compared to Mastodon. When I moved to Arkansas, they'd just put out Voices of Omens. I lived in Fayetteville, but I was in Little Rock all the time at Downtown Music. I might as well have lived there. When I saw them, I was blown away. They were scary-looking. I was totally hooked."
Garrett adds that Rwake's psychedelic-tinged approach to heavy music is a big influence on his other band, Spirit Adrift.
Deadbird of Fayetteville -- who share the Friday night bill with Gatecreeper, Terminal Nation, Wvrm, and Reserving Dirtnaps featuring Tom Skeemask -- is another Garrett fave.
"I bugged [Terry] to get us on the same night as them because I wanted to see them so bad," he says.
Yob, the Oregon three-piece, is on tour in support of its latest, the sprawling, darkly beautiful Our Raw Heart, which was made after band founder Mike Scheidt's near-fatal bout with an intestinal disease.
Bassist Aaron Rieseberg recalls the sessions after singer Scheidt had recovered: "He had to relearn how to sing on this album. He had gone, like, seven or eight months before he could sing because they were worried he would tear something inside. By the time we were in the studio, I think he was singing better than ever."
The album, which Scheidt wrote while convalescing, is a reflection on the experience.
"There are some deeply personal lyrics," Rieseberg says. "It was a helluva thing to watch him lay that stuff down."
Naturally, Terry is pumped about all the bands participating, but he's especially thrilled to have Living Sacrifice, the influential Christian death metal group from Little Rock that formed in 1989, on the bill.
"That will be emotional for all of us," he says of the Sunday night lineup. "It's a real added bonus."
Weekend on 06/14/2018
Mutants of the Monster
7 p.m. Friday-Saturday, Rev Room, 300 President Clinton Ave., Little Rock
Friday: Full of Hell, Gatecreeper, Terminal Nation, Deadbird, Wvrm, Reserving Dirtnaps featuring Tom Skeemask
Saturday: YOB, Bell Witch, Yautja, Sumokem, Christworm
7 p.m. Sunday, White Water Tavern, 2500 W. Seventh St., Little Rock (sold out)
Pallbearer, Rwake, Living Sacrifice, Minsk
Print Headline: Heavy metal takes over LR for Mutants of the Monster fest