Meditations on Migration: A Recap of Migration Fest

In our little world of heavy metal there’s nothing quite as magical as a multi-day festival. Some bands will plan a tour around them, others play a one off show and hang out, and hundreds (if not thousands depending on the festival) of metalheads pour into a city for a weekend to sweat all over one another and paint the town black. These are all part of the reason I found myself overwhelmed with excitement over the inaugural edition of Migration Fest. The other, more obvious reason is that the festival is curated by two of the hottest labels on the planet right now: Gilead Media and 20 Buck Spin.

A three day festival showcasing the monstrous talent signed to both labels was an absolute no brainer, and the fact that it was to be held in Olympia, WA and provided me a reason to escape my hell-on-earth existence in Texas was just icing on a very sweet cake. I could hardly contain my anticipation, but finally the weekend arrived. Migration Fest was here. It was time to board the plane and head to beautiful Olympia. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to make it to the pre-show on Thursday night, featuring Eos, Cavernlight and False (playing Emperor covers!) as I didn’t get to my hotel from Seattle until about 12:30 am. Needless to say, I went the hell to sleep and prepared myself for the weekend ahead.


The first day of the festival had a late afternoon start time, affording me and my friend the chance to explore the town of Olympia a little bit and get acquainted with our surroundings. That’s all really just a fancy way of saying we camped out at Burial Grounds coffee and ingested as much caffeine as we could like the java freaks we are. Semi related: Should you find yourself in the area, do yourself a favor and stop by Burial Grounds and order the Zombie Defender. You can thank me later. After brief bit of wandering around and picking up my wristband, it was time for the show to begin. Kicking things off was San Francisco’s Pale Chalice. Adorned in corpse paint, and with all of the lights off, the band took the stage and proceeded to rip through several cuts from last year’s Negate the Infinite and Miraculous. It was an incredibly cool atmosphere and a great way to kick things off, setting an eerie and tense mood for the rest of the evening.

This mood more than carried over for the collaborative set between The Body and Krieg. Though I’m quite a fan of The Body’s utter weirdness and desire to experiment as well as most of Krieg’s back catalogue, their collaborative album is one that slipped through the cracks for me. After seeing them perform it live I found myself wishing I hadn’t allowed that to happen. Perhaps it was for the best, though, as the sheer intensity of the performance caught me by surprise, the whole thing culminating with Neill Jameson on his hands and knees screaming into his microphone and pounding the stage in a fit of madness. It was one hell of a thing to behold.

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It’s at this point that everyone I know will absolutely kill me: Khemmis was up next, but I opted to scope out the merch area and get some food instead (I can feel every single one of you sighing right now). Last year’s Absolution just didn’t tickle me the way it did so many others, but I’ll be the first to admit that the preview track from their upcoming album Hunted is pretty promising. I returned with time to spare for Obsequiae, one of my most anticipated acts at the festival. As soon as the band took the stage there was an electricity about the theater, the likes of which was topped only once the rest of the weekend. Everyone knew how special seeing Obsequiae was going to be; we just didn’t know how hard they would kill it. The medieval melodies and castle-heavy riffs of Tanner Anderson perfectly translated to a live setting and had everyone moving, even vocalist Brandon Almendinger, who could be seen frequently swaying back and forth to the music when he wasn’t screaming his guts out over top of it.

Finally, with the crowd still riding high atop an armored horse of adrenaline from Obsequiae’s chivalrous jams, Krallice took the stage. I know that their technical wizardry and the complexity of their songs get brought up in every conversation, but to see such dense and intricate songs brought to life with such fury and energy was like witnessing a miracle before my very eyes. Though every member was in top form, it was drummer Lev Weinstein who got the majority of my attention. The man is an absolute monster behind the kit, and I honestly would not be surprised if they buried his drum set out back after the show because he beat it to death. Did I mention after a 90-minute Krallice set he headed down the street to play with Anicon at the after-show? Absolute. Monster.



Despite wanting to see Anicon and Bell Witch, I skipped the after show because the venue was packed to the point of immobility. I decided I’d just save my energy for day two because I am an old person and as an old person you need to consider things like that. I returned to my hotel room to steel myself for the rest of the weekend. I was going to need it.

After some beer and a late lunch, I arrived to the Capitol Theater just before Yellow Eyes took the stage. On a weekend full of anticipated sets, the New York quartet’s was easily near the top of my own list. The band easily lived up to any and all hype, self-made or otherwise, as they tore through their set with nary a moment spared. Perhaps the best part of seeing them live is that it really gave their more melodic tunes the chance to soar in a way they can’t on record.


Up next was Portland’s death/doom duo Nightfell, who thankfully brought a full live band with them for maximum eardrum destruction. A very nice perk of this festival being held in a theater is that there is a balcony that overlooks everything, so I decided to grab a beer and check out Nightfell with a bird’s eye view. Even from high atop the theater the riffs of Todd Burdette were absolutely crushing. Following Nightfell was one of my favorite set’s of the weekend: Vastum. They were the equivalent of a bulldozer demolishing everything in their path, sometimes even the audience (courtesy of vocalist Daniel Butler). He provided enough stage diving, head grabbing, and face screaming for a lifetime in a brief 30 minutes, all without ever missing a line. The rest of the band weren’t exactly slouches either, bringing their own high levels of intensity and playing tighter than the tightest pair of jeans in the crowd.

Fórn were a pleasant surprise, but not because I wasn’t expecting them to be good. I knew their music was fantastic, as seen on The Departure of Consciousness and last year’s Weltschmertz, but I didn’t know how energetic their live show would be. It isn’t every day that you see a sludge tinged doom band with a front man leaping and stomping around the stage like he was at a punk gig. Despite the doom and gloom, Fórn was an incredibly fun band to watch command the stage.

I opted to dip out for Christian Mistress and Magic Circle because neither band does much for me musically and the Vastum set had exhausted me to the point of starvation. I returned just at the tail end of Magic Circle’s set, and while their music isn’t my cup of tea they certainly put on one hell of a live show. At this point, though, it didn’t really matter who had come before because Thou was up next. The sludge maestros played arguably the most dynamic set of the weekend, playing the likes of “By Endurance We Conquer,” a devastating new song, and even covers of Duran Duran’s “Ordinary World” and folk/blues legend Lead Belly’s “In the Pines.” I assure you it was every bit as astounding and unbelievable as it sounds, perhaps even more so.

Needless to say Panopticon, in their first ever public live performance, had their work cut out for them. This may have been the most anticipated set at Migration Fest, and Austin Lunn and company absolutely delivered the magic and then some. Just for taking the stage the band was greeted with the loudest and warmest reception of the weekend. Austin Lunn smiled and, perhaps realizing the surreality of the situation, half laughed to the audience “We haven’t even played anything yet!” Naturally this was met with even more vigorous cheering. Lunn and his live band, consisting of Ray Capizzo, Andy Klokow, and Jake Quittschreiber, put on a perfect 90 minute display of what Panopticon is all about. After a couple of tracks from Autumn Eternal, the band launched into On the Subject of Mortality in its entirety before  “Black Soot Red Blood” and closer “Sigh of Summer” (with some help from Obsequiae). If I had gone into this knowing nothing of the band, I would never have guessed that this was the first time they’ve ever played. Of all the memorable moments throughout their set, I think the one that will stick with me is Lunn’s constant smile and laughter about all of this actually happening.



The third and final day of Migration Fest had possibly the most stacked lineup of the lot, and that is truly saying something. After what had become our morning ritual of 800 shots of espresso, I trekked on to the Capitol Theater and arrived at the tail end of Dead to a Dying World. I had seen them a few times prior since they’re Dallas locals so I didn’t think much of coming in late, but by all accounts they tore the whole place down and were kind enough to rebuild it around the audience for the next band. In a weekend of so many great experiences, this was my lone regret.

I wasn’t given too much time to reflect on my grave error as Auroch took the stage and completely undid all of the rebuilding done prior to their set. After a few oldies, the band rattled off three new songs from their upcoming album Mute Books. While it can be hard to appreciate new material when hearing it first in a live setting, these new songs bode extremely well and indicate that Mute Books is going to be a monster of proggy/weird death metal goodness. The assault didn’t end there as Full of Hell was up next. In an appropriate mirror of their music, their set was a fast and violent explosion of fury and noise. My head was down and banging so hard that I think I killed all the brain cells responsible for this particular 30 minutes.


Lost in the shuffle of Panopticon’s first live performance was the fact that this was also the first live performance of one-man blackened doom beast Mizmor. Fresh off the release of the utterly fantastic Yodh, Mizmor slowed the pace down to a crawl without sacrificing an ounce of the rage that had come from the bands prior. The pace wasn’t meant to last as Mutilation Rites and Vhol were on back to back. These seemed like the best bands to sit back and have a beer to, so I headed upstairs to enjoy a brew, rest up a bit, and watch from up above.

I made sure to get down and as close to the stage as possible for sludge/drone conquerors Hell, and I’m quite glad I did. The band looked like they were having an absolute blast on stage. Live drummer A.L.N. (mainman of Mizmor) was especially fun to watch, looking like the sludge metal equivalent of the drummer at the wrong gig. After Hell managed to squeeze in one last song just under the wire, it was time for False. Their album Untitled was one of my favorites from last year, so I was eager to see them play through a few of those songs live again. Although the setlist seemed (from my faulty recollection) to be the same as the last time I saw them, this performance was far superior. Getting seven people (!) on the same page on a stage and sounding good sounds like a logistical nightmare, but they were absolutely killer. Vocalist Rachel menacingly paced back and forth during their performance, commanding the audience’s attention with her absolutely vile vocals. False are an absolute treat to see live and I’d love to relive their performance over and over.


Since False thoroughly melted me and I’m not much of a fan of Mournful Congregation, I decided to go ahead and call it a fest. I stumbled back to my hotel room to eat and reflect on the weekend. The most astounding aspect of it all is that everything went off without a hitch, aside from some to-be-expected stage problems (broken string, feedback, etc.). In a time filled with bigger and bigger music festivals featuring one thousand bands, Gilead Media and 20 Buck Spin have created an intimate festival with a lineup that rivals any competitor. If this was just year one, I sincerely hope there is a year two, and I can’t wait to see what could possibly be in store for it.

Gilead Media, 20 Buck Spin, and Migration Fest are on facebook, go give ’em a like! 


  • Oh man, I bet the skinny jeans were strong with this fest.

    • Dubbbz

      I wear skinny jeans because any other cut makes me look like I’m wearing JNCOS.

      • Scrimm

        I don’t because A) Skinny jeans and B) they’d make me look like even more of a fatass

        • Dubbbz

          Just gotta look good in what you wear. My legs are frequently confused for those of a chicken (since I run constantly).

          • Scrimm

            I usually stuck with shorts except at work. Luckily in AZ that’s pretty much the standard

          • Dubbbz

            Oh another problem. I wear slacks/business attire a lot. Most dress clothes are fitted for fat old men.

          • Joaquin Stick

            I have to buy expensive shirts because of this. Seriously every cheap shirt that looks halfway decent also looks like it was made for a man shaped like a box. I have to go to girly-mall stores like Express to find shirts for twigs.

          • Dubbbz

            You and I have much in common. I’m about to go drop some cash at J Crew to get nice looking pants that fit well.

          • Joaquin Stick

            I’m currently lucky that there is a pretty lax dress code so I get away with non-dress pants like different colored khakis.

          • Dubbbz

            I don’t think anyone really cares what I wear to teach classes, but I like to look respectable. I will probably get some nice looking Chinos to mix in with the slacks.

          • I want to post a Trailer Park Boys khakis image so fucking bad.

          • Scrimm

            I wear dress pants to work so I feel that pain. It’s like most of the ones I find are designed to fit around a beer gut.

          • Dubbbz

            Yes, exactly.

          • Scrimm

            Doesn’t help that I have one now

      • King Shit of Fuck Mountain

        Start doing to squats bro and bring back the butt!

        • Dubbbz

          I’m training for a half-marathon tho 🙁

          • King Shit of Fuck Mountain


          • Is it soon? I feel like you have been training for a long time.

          • Dubbbz

            It’s in November. Been training for like a month? We’re up to five mile runs, and I’m pretty close to consistent pace (I’d like to be at 7.5 miles/hour).

          • Ah, I feel like I remember you talking about wanting to do one for much longer. That is likely what I am remembering.

            Nice goal. 8’s should be doable!

            Even though I have done 2 dozen fulls, I have only 1 half under my belt…. 1:37:35! Did 13 miles indoors once averaging 7:01/mile. Those were the days.

          • Dubbbz

            Woof, 7:01/mile is cooking.

          • That was the same day I did 10 miles in under 70 minutes. Slipped on the last few miles. That was the same winter I pulled 20 miles at 7:18/mile. But, that was 30 lbs ago 🙁 Miss those days.

          • Sad dad is sad about reminiscing about wasting time running indoors.


          • King Shit of Fuck Mountain

            Sad dad is sad about being sad.

          • Sad Bro.

          • ALSO, asides from the track was indoors, NO ONE USED IT. I could run for 2.5 to 3 hours at a time and not see another person. Banked curves, AC, could run with my shirt off. Gawddamn!

          • Get a bike and start climbing some serious hills bro! That will grow you a butt.

          • Dubbbz

            This semester, I plan on getting up early and going to the rec center on campus before I start working and doing more lifting/resistance training. I’d like to build some more muscle to offset all the cardio.

          • Good call, I’d like to start doing that in the fall. I just started running again. Did 2 miles yesterday. Big woop, I know. Slowly getting back to full strength again. Give it a month and I’ll be able to do 3 miles again with no real struggle. Hopefully, that is if I don’t injure myself first.

          • Dubbbz

            That is a big deal, though. Recovering after being sidelined for so long is awesome.

          • Waynecro

            High-rep sets of squats with low to moderate weight can be very good for endurance. Though adding something new to your training right before a big event is rarely a good idea. Plus, just walking is pretty difficult for about three days after you do high-rep squats.

      • To bad you can’t grow a man bun to go with them. No pun intended.×300.jpg

        • Dubbbz

          Not a fan, tbh. Lol.

        • Dave Vincent’s Perm

          I had to put my hair in a manbun at my uncle’s wedding. It was not kvlt or trve whatsoever.

          • Haha! Saw this and thought of you.


          • Dave Vincent’s Perm

            Apparently earache really fucked them over with the deal they gave them, and I wouldn’t be surprised if that pressing was burned off the CD. Still, Choronzon>>>>>>>>>>>

          • Choronzon is my favorite I think.

          • Dave Vincent’s Perm

            I hope they play Enraptured by Evil when I see them in November.

          • Howard Dean

            The Goat of Mendes is always there in a pinch (like Skoal but without the mouth cancer)! Legit brutal black/death before they became a bit more progressive. However, I’ve got to say that I enjoy all five full lengths, including the more progressive leaning Words… and Antichrist. Just an enjoyable band. Really interested to hear what they cook up now that they are back together.

          • The drum production on Antichrist really pisses me off. Way too triggered. Words… and Mendes are both great listens though. Some of the more singy shit bothers me, but it’s still better than most of the clean metal shit out there.

    • Leif Bearikson

      I busted out the skinny jeans AND the jorts

      • Damn, I took you for a cargo shorts kinda guy.

        • Leif Bearikson

          Not since high school

    • CT-12

      It was a way more jorts crowd

  • Hot damn, you gotta see Panopticon? Fuck yeah!


  • Scrimm

    Great fucking writeup dude. now that I have more money coming in, I have to hit a fest next year.

    • Leif Bearikson

      Housecore is coming back next year. Always a super fun experience, especially since you’re a fellow horror nerd.

      • Scrimm

        That one is definitely a possibility too.

    • Come to Hells Headbash 3, Scrimm.

      • Scrimm

        It’s on the list of ones I was thinking about. Maryland next year just doesn’t look appealing to me so far.

        • Maryland Death Fest doesn’t appeal to me anymore. It’s way too stressful of a festival for me anymore. It’s in the middle of a big city, it’s hot, and there are too many people. Plus it’s expensive as fuck! Hells Headbash is super laid back, smaller, and cheaper. I like the bands more anyways.

          • Scrimm

            Yeah it seems that way. If it had a few bands that I really want to see i’d probably do it at least once. Something like Asphyx along with a few others that don’t tour hear. otherwise fuck it.

          • You could always just do a day or two instead of doing all 4. That’s always a nice option. I’m usually pooped by day 3.

          • Scrimm

            That is very true. first time I travel though I want to shoot for the whole experience

          • Nice, I did it for 5 years in a row. It can be done 😉

  • Dubbbz

    Man, i would have loved to have been at this show. Take me with you next time.

  • Joaquin Stick

    Gah! Missing Khemmis! Sounds like you saw some other excellent stuff though. I need to live somewhere that does fests that aren’t lollapalooza. Smaller ones like this would be ideal.

  • Waynecro

    Thanks for sharing this awesome experience, dude. Man, I’d love to see Panopticon and False.

  • Dubbbz

    That’s interesting that you thought Weinstein was the most interesting part of Krallice. I don’t think I’d be able to take my eyes off Colin.

    • Leif Bearikson

      A lot of the drummers at the fest were a sight to behold. They had to bring out bricks after a few songs to keep Lev’s kick pedal in place. Panopticon’s live drummer, Ray from Falls of Rauros, was a madman behind the kit. It was actually kind of difficult to even comprehend because he was all over the place (in a good way).

      • I hate the hovering kick pedal. It’s the worst live.

        • King Shit of Fuck Mountain

          Why is that such a common problem?

          • In most cases it’s because the venue doesn’t have a carpet on the stage for the kick pedal to stick too. Most all kick pedals have spikes or Velcro on the bottom which allows them to stick.

          • King Shit of Fuck Mountain

            Ok, should have figured.

          • Stop figuring and start failing bro. Come on! Take a lap fucker!

          • King Shit of Fuck Mountain

            YES SIR!

          • BYAH!!!

  • Simon PhoenixKing Rising

    I would have loved to see Khemmis and Obsequiae live. Tch.

    Great write-up.

  • CT-12

    It was cool seeing you man! For shame though on missing Magic Circle dude, this cassette hasn’t left my fucking car since the fest.

  • 1. You missed Eos? Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu-
    2. I support your decision to skip Khemmis.
    4. THOU
    5. Thank you for this, Bear.

  • Señor Jefe El Rosa