The end of September in Seattle, with the days getting shorter and the rains becoming more frequent, highlights the changing of the season. Metalheads and extreme music fans were highlighting something else as well: a celebration of the Satanik Royalty Records roster and its founder, Michael Freiburger (who prefers to be called simply Freiburger or “Frei”). Over 2 days, a packed house at the Belltown Yacht Club was treated to high-intensity performances from no less than 9 bands from a label worth keeping your eyes on!
Founded in 2021, Freiburger has managed to gather an impressive roster of artists and put out some stellar releases on the upstart label. The first day of the showcase started with a punishing performance from the death-grind trio Rat King. The band’s set contained several tracks from their upcoming album, Psychotic Reality. Given the intensity of the live performances, they were a perfect choice to get everyone in attendance off their asses and in the pit. Next up was the incredible Portland-based Dripping Decay. Their set was death metal perfection, emphasising material from their filthy 2023 release, Festering Grotesqueries. Vocalist Eric Stucke lurched around the stage like a zombie seeking its next meal of brains while the band laid down brutal riffs that kept the energy at peak level.
It was Freiburger’s turn to take the stage next, with his band DeathCave, who blend death, doom, and stoner metal into a wonderful hybrid of extreme metal. To see DeathCave live is to be almost overwhelmed on a sonic level. The band’s sheer volume is something akin to Primitive Man, where one is pummelled on an aural level. What made this night particularly special was the almost equally overwhelming emotional aspect of their set. Tony Muñoz, the band’s guitarist and co-vocalist, gave a moving speech about his bandmate, almost coming to tears at several points. The first day of the showcase was brought to a rousing conclusion by Old Iron. The band, setting off for a round of European dates later in the fall, was in peak form, belting out their unique and incendiary sludge doom.
The second day featured five bands and was kicked off by Dark Meditation. This 5-piece is steeped in the classics of traditional heavy metal and treated the crowd to a high-energy set of dark demonic metal. Ugly, hailing from Prescott, Arizona, was one of the most unique bands at the showcase. The band, featuring members of Endorphins Lost, Transient, and Blister Unit, unleashed an outstanding set. Their particular blend of sludge, death, and doom was made all the more captivating by the inclusion of synths and other noise-generating devices, which took the songs to a different level altogether. Speaking of a different level, Izthmi, the next band on the lineup, is the most exciting young band in Seattle at the moment. Indeed, one feels as if they are witnessing the birth of something akin to the next Agalloch, in so far as the band is creating a unique and invigorating form of black metal that is nothing short of spectacular. Tonight’s performance was no expectation, with the band providing an incredible set that concluded with vocalist Jakob Keizer and guitarist Brett Tomsett strewn out across the floor with guitars and wires everywhere.
The showcase climaxed with performances from two powerhouse bands of the Seattle scene (and, in many ways, seasoned veterans of the SRR label): Heiress and Sandrider. Formed in 2006 at Heiress’ core stand riff-master Wes Reed and vocalist John Pettibone (ex-Himsa & Undertow). Their set was a masterclass in ferocity, with Pettibone weaving his way through the crowd the entire time, creating a sense of immediacy unlike almost any other band. When you live, you witness a group that pours everything into their shows as if it were the last one you might ever witness. Few bands could follow such an intense performance, but the showcase’s finale was peak frenetic energy provided by Sandrider. Vocalist/guitarist Jon Weisnewski screamed his way through a raucous set, with the band’s rhythm section consisting of Nat Damm (drums) and Jesse Roberts (the same Jesse from Old Iron), providing the most solid of hardcore/post-punk foundations. They were the perfect ending to a perfect evening.
Some journalists working at the hometown Stranger recently lamented that the “Seattle music scene is broken”. These folks need to get their heads out of their collective asses and attend more shows. The joyous 2-day showcase of Satanik Royalty Records artists was a testament to the vibrancy of the Seattle music scene. Stop pining for some scene that once existed and embrace the incredible eclecticism that is the extreme metal scene in Seattle. Freiburger, who certainly embraces Seattle’s rich history (he does have a picture of himself along with Seattle legend Tad on the top of his Facebook feed), shows us the way, helping to forge a better future rather than simply lamenting the past. All hail Satanik Royalty Records, Freiburger, and all of the artists on the label!