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As we enter December and the Christmas/Holiday time, we want to remember what makes this time of year so special. Spending quality time with family, friends, and loved ones. Going out and enjoying the holiday spirit and decorations while wearing season attire. Coming together to sing merry songs with one another. Giving gifts and donating to charity to help make others happy. When you think of these topics, of course a death metal music festival is what comes to mind. Xibalba wanted to through a huge death metal festival for a good cause hosted at the Belasco Theatre in Los Angeles, CA. Bringing family and friends together, with members of the audience dawning their battle vests, while coming together to sing brutal lyrics in harmony. What made this event so special is that this was a non-ticketed event. Xibalba just requested that you bring an unwrapped new toy to donate, and you would be allowed to enter the show for free. With a ticket price of knowing you are helping make a less fortunate families holiday time more special, who would not want to come out.

The first band that I was fortunate enough to see was Undeath, and these guys were ready to tear the Belasco apart. Opening their set with “Rise from the Grave,” lead singer Alexander Jones let out some vicious guttural vocals. Flanked by guitarist Kyle Beam & Jared Welch playing the crunchiest of riffs that let everyone head bang. With bassist Tommy Wall holding down the low end, it was drummer Matthew Browning’s flurry of double bass beats that got the crowd moving. Not only was the mosh pit the craziest I’ve seen from any concert in a long time. Fans were continually jumping on stage and stage diving throughout their entire set. If you wanted to be up close and personal with the band, you had to strap yourself in for war as you moved in the chaotic ocean that was the crowd. Dodging flying torpedoes of human bodies from all sides. Playing a set that consisted of songs like “Lord of the Grave,” “Necrobionics,” “Grave Osmosis,” “Brandish the Blade,” and closing with “Lesions of a Different Kind.” Undeath brought out the brutality in every crazed maniac in the crowd.

Up next was a band that has been making waves in the death metal scene for the last couple years, that being 200 Stab Wounds. As an ominous overture played over the speakers, the band prepared to unleash hell onto the Belasco. Lead singer and guitarist Steve Buhl roared the opening lyrics to their song “Phallic Filth.” Guitarist Lance Buckley fingers were on fire as they flew over his fret board ripping through the songs. Bassist Ezra Cook helped brought the heaviness in tandem with drummer Owen Pooley. Once again, the crowd could not be contained to just the floor, as body after body would jump on stage and hurl themselves back into the crowd. Some were caught, some were not, but no matter what the stage divers jumped up with a fiery passion of excitement. 200 Stab Wounds played a fierce set consisting of songs like “Slave to the Scalpel,” “Drilling Your head,” “Skin Milk,” “Tow Rope Around the Throat,” “Masters of Morbidity,” “Release the Stench,” “Itty Bitty Pieces,” and closing out their set with “She Was Already Dead.”

Stepping onto the stage was one of the more tenured bands of the day, that being Skeletal Remains. This band brought a heavier and thrashy sound in my opinion. Looking like Cousin It with his hair completely obscuring his face, vocalist and guitarist Chris Monroy opening their set with a ravenous song called “Illusive Divinity.”  Fellow guitarist Mike De La O weaved his guitar solos into each song with perfection. Bassist Brian Rush was flying across the neck and strings of his instrument with ease and comfort while non-stop head banging. Drummer Pierce Williams kept the beats blasting in the faces of the crowd as he pounded away on the double bass. Playing songs like “Beyond Cremation,” “Traumatic Existence,” “Tombs of Chaos,” “Devouring Mortality,” and ending with “Congregation of Flesh,” Skeletal Remains kept the crowd roaring back at them through the entire set.

This festival has been going on since 2 o’clock, and the fans have been going ballistic all day long. By the time the final band was setting up, you could feel the energy was starting to waiver a bit in the crowd. Xibalba was about to hit the stage, and they had a mission to wake the crowd back up. As the slow creeping opening to their song “La injusticia” started to creep into the ears of the crowd. You could feel an energy shift. As vocalist Nate Rebolledo walked on stage, the guitars came in with heavy riffs and attack to them. Nate commanded the stage, and his first line of lyrics woke the battle-weary crowd at the Belasco back up. As everyone caught their second wind, the mosh pit opened fiercer than it had been prior. Guitarist Jensen Huncle and Brian Ortiz traded off licks that ignited the headbangers and air guitarists. Bassist Martin Stewart and drummer Jason Brunes made sure there was a solid beatdown beat playing throughout the set that let the crowd killers throw their fist and kicks in the air.

Once again, the crowd was not satisfied to just be going crazy in the audience. Fan after fan would jump on stage, only to hurl their body back into the crowd. Because of the chaos of the mosh pit, fans would try and run up the side stage stairs, which had security on their toes the entire set. At one point a rogue fan went to pat Nate Rebolledo on the back before jumping into the crowd, and Nate lost his balance and fell into the crowd. Ever the showman, Nate kept singing and performing as the crowd caught him and kept him trapped in the audience for the rest of the song. This crowd had been moshing for hours, but that wouldn’t stop them from going crazy during Xibalba’s set for songs like “Bright Sun,” “Cold,” “Años en infierno,” “Cursed,” “Hasta la Muerte,” and “Stoneheart.” During their final song “No Serenity” the crowd stole the mic from Nate and passed it around from fan to fan until the song was over. One fan even let out some Lorna Shore style pig squeals when they got their hands on the mic.

Throughout the day we had the heaviest of music to listen to. People going crazy in the mosh pit, throwing fists and kicks. People flying over the crowd. Just looking at the chaos this way, you would think that this was just a normal metal festival. Xibalba took a moment to remind us why we were there. This was a non-ticketed event. No one paid money to get in. All anyone needed to do was bring an unwrapped toy to donate to charity and you were allowed into the show. Metal heads get a bad wrap for looking scary, menacing, and appearing like they hate the world. But this festival was a great reminder that metal heads are still just people. People who care about others. We come together to enjoy live music, sing the songs we love, take joy in being surrounded by people who share our same musical interests. Its just a little more chaotic than some other kinds of shows. I met so many people that were happy to be attending this show, to see the bands, but also to be able to attend by helping people who are less fortunate. I do hope that more concerts may take this motto to heart in the years to come.


Matt Martinez

Editor - Orange County

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