Ghoul Brings Bloody Halloween Celebration To Hollywood

By Elena Whidden

October 12th 2012, The Key Club, Hollywood CA: The Key Club was decked out in Halloween decorations the night Ghoul stormed through on a headlining date, an appropriate backdrop for a night of that band’s gleefully brutal blend of thrash, death metal, and grindcore—the title of their song “Splatterthrash” describes it pretty well.  An excellent and varied group of openers came through with Ghoul, bringing out their own crowds and making for a really great show on Sunset.

The first of these openers was local blackened thrash band Witchaven.  Although I have lived in L.A. for three years now, I had never seen this band live before, and what I saw of their excellent performance made me feel like I’ve really been missing out.  They flew through a couple songs off Terrorstorm, their self-released album from 2010, and also hit audiences with “Faces of Death” and “Blasphemous Cunt” from an earlier EP.  They played tight and kept the energy level high, with tireless frontman Henry Montoya using the occasional pause in the music to growl something at the audience.  It was clear that being the first band up didn’t bother Witchaven one bit, and they really got the crowd going early.  Also part of Witchaven’s set was a dance, as the band played, by tattooed and mohawked go-go dancer Malice 666.  She was pretty entertaining, scantily clad as she was in black lingerie like some kind of vampire punk out of The Lost Boys.  Her enthusiastic shaking seemed a little out of place during a thrash set though.  Unfortunately, I only caught the second half of Witchaven’s set—the Key Club managed to “misplace” Ghoul’s guest list, and so I was late getting into the venue. I look forward to seeing this band again though, and to hearing their upcoming album.

Witchaven Set List:
1. Terrorstorm
2. Empty Chasm
3. Black Thrash Assault
4. A.D.D.
5. Faces of Death
6. Blasphemous Cunt
7. Unholy Copulation

Following Witchaven was the punk band The Mentors.  They are best known for their songs about women.  Specifically, about the gnarly things they claim they would like to do to women.  They have been delivering this kind of shock rock—or “rape rock,” as it has been called—from behind their executioner-style hoods since the late 70s.  I would really like to note at this point that although this band is really entertaining, the stuff they sing about is not meant to be taken seriously; if anyone, male or female, does take them or their lyrics to heart, than he or she has some real problems.  At any rate, the three-piece delivered an old-school punk sound that was also pretty heavy.  They definitely took the tempo down from the fast pace of Witchaven’s thrash, but I thought it was cool to see them next, since the origins of thrash lie partially in punk rock.  The shredding solos of guitarist Tee Sick—which he got around to playing after mooning the audience—were great, and really stood out over the driving beat of the music.  Drummer Marc “Mad Dog” Deleon provided vocals for the band, a duty which used to belong to vocalist Eldon Hoke, aka El Duce, now deceased.  Deleon did a great job singing as he played, and also introduced every song with a lewd, funny anecdote.  He merrily expounded on the meanings of song titles like “Golden Showers” and “Woman From Sodom” over the mic, so we in the audience would know exactly what the band was singing about, whether we wanted to or not.

The Mentors Set List:
1. Sandwich of Love
2. Donkey Dick
3. Woman From Sodom
4. Free Fix
5. When You’re Horny, You’re Horny
6. Golden Showers
7. Get Up and Die
8. Going Through Your Purse
9. Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em
10. Four F Club

The punk/hardcore theme continued as Beowülf took the stage, a band that came out of Venice around the same time as groups like Suicidal Tendencies and Neighborhood Watch (guitarist Mike Jensen of the latter band helped start Beowülf, but is no longer a member).  Beowülf began their set with some newer songs off of their 2011 studio album Jesus Freak.  These new songs had a hard rock feel, and musically were pretty cool.  The very funky bass playing of Christian Olde Wolbers, formerly of Fear Factory, was a real highlight.  Something about Dale Henderson’s vocals—clean, a little whiney—just seemed a bit off to me though, as did his taking a moment to do some kind of spoken word rap between two songs. But Henderson, the original vocalist of the band, was able to redeem himself when Beowülf closed their set with a couple of great old-school hardcore/crossover thrash songs from their self-titled debut album.  Among these was “Drink, Fight, Fuck,” which got an absolutely brutal mosh pit going.

These last songs of Beowülf’s were a great segue into Dr. Know’s set.  By the time they took the stage, a huge and varied crowd had packed the Key Club: girls and guys, young punks, old punks, death metalers, crust punks, people in Halloween costumes, people in white shirts ready for Ghoul, even some hipster-looking kids and a few Ladies of the Eighties all assembled.  The guys of Dr. Know didn’t say anything before starting their set and they didn’t need to: they just announced their presence by starting up playing, which I thought was really great.  This current line-up of the band is led by founding member Kyle Toucher, who sang and played guitar through the 80s on the band’s crossover thrash albums.  He remained all business for the whole set, leaving the brutal music to say anything that needed to be said.  The fact that he didn’t stop between songs very often also showcased how well the songs flowed in their chosen order.  Among my favorites of the night were “Mr. Freeze” (Slayer liked this song too), and the very heavy “Mastermind,” which started out slow and gradually built up to a manic, thrashy pace—a testament, as my friend Avinash pointed out, to the skill of drummer Mike Vega, who handled the tempo changes which pervaded the set marvelously.  All of the members of this line up, in fact, are really great musicians, and I was glad the Key Club sound team was on its game, so that they all could be heard.  I hope this line up, which has been reunited since 2010, continues to tour, because I would gladly catch them again.

After Dr. Know finished, the crowd thinned out a little bit—their loss.  Masked headliners Ghoul, “from Creepsylvania”, played some great music, and had a really fun stage show to go with it, replete with dressed up characters and a good amount of “gore” to be thrown at or sprayed on the audience.  One of the things I liked best about this band, though, was the fact that the songs were so good that the stage show didn’t overshadow them.  I wouldn’t even call it the primary reason to go see this band live. They opened with the first two tracks off their newest record Transmission Zero, before going into “Splatterthrash,” from the album of the same name.  Most songs of the set came from these two records.  At some point during these songs, a character dressed as an evil incarnation of the Pope was dispensed with in a gory manner, and an extremely animated Voodoo revenant entered for “The Mark of Voodoo,” spraying even far away audience members with blood which spurted from a skull-topped scepter (I was near the back of the pit and I got hit!).  “Death in the Swamp” was accompanied by a Swamp Hag character, and I think my favorite of all was the giant Killbot, who came on stage for “Rise, Killbot, Rise!!!”

In between songs, bassist Cremator (Ross Sewage) and vocalist/guitarist Digestor (Sean McGrath) would banter back and forth in thick Creepsylvanian accents, discussing everything from the audience to “Gangnam Style,” and they were hysterical.  The awesome chemistry the two have clearly translated to the really cool way they shared vocal duties, McGrath’s higher death metal singing alternating with Sewage’s deep growl.  Some songs contained hardcore-style choruses that everyone in the band would yell, and these were really catchy and fun.  In fact, the interesting way that Ghoul mixed and messed with genres even within songs to create something all their own in a way that really made sense was one of my favorite things about their music.  The beat of “Death in the Swamp” brought the Misfits to my mind, and “Graveyard Mosh / Ghoul,” off We Came for the Dead, sounded like a Discharge song, but with a sick thrash beat and death-metal vocals.  They really showed how closely related all these types of music are, and succeeded in giving fans of all of them something they enjoy—a really impressive feat.

In fact, Ghoul kept the fans so excited that the mosh pit that started during “The Lunatic Hour” did not relent until “Gutbucket Blues,” the last song before the encore, during which one of the band’s characters added a bucket of fake entrails to the churning mass of people.  Kids were jumping off the stage, and bouncing on top the crowd like popcorn, across the whole floor of the Key Club.  A security guard even fell down into the crowd as he tried to grab on to a stage diver.  Although I can’t say I was in the middle of the pit, I definitely had as much fun as anyone at the show.  Well, maybe not as much fun as the guys of Ghoul themselves.

Ghoul Set List:
1. The Lunatic Hour
2. Off With Their Heads
3. Splatterthrash
4. The Mark of Voodoo
5. Brain Jerk
6. Bury the Hatchet
7. Blood Feast
8. Death in the Swamp
9. Graveyard Mosh/Ghoul
10. Rise Killbot Rise!!!
11. Destructor
12. Gutbucket Blues
13. As Your Casket Closes

Overall Gig Rating: 9/10

Related: Dr. Know interview | Mentors interview | Witchaven interview