After almost a half century serving the rock and metal community of Columbus and Central Ohio, the Alrosa Villa will be closing it’s doors this summer. As one of its final shows, they partnered with Filthy Productions to offer nineteen bands a chance to battle it out for a spot on the lineup at the Inkcarceration Festival in Mansfield, OH this summer.
Nine bands played on February 8th, with Harmless Habit coming out on top. On the 15th, ten more bands were on the block, fighting for a shot at a festival.
Before the show started, every merchandise table was surrounded by each respective band. They all shook hands and hugged fans who had come to support them. Bands mingled with each other, giving shouts of “good luck” and “you guys are great” as they walked back their own table.
The atmosphere felt nothing like what you would expect from a “Battle of the Bands” style competition that was about to begin. This was the beauty of the evening. The number one thing all these bands wanted was to win. The second thing they wanted was for any of the other bands here to win and get that opportunity.
First up was The Wolf Hunterz. They used a keytar in place of a traditional lead guitar, which added a slight synth feeling to their music, while also adding a rapper for the second song. The whole set was tinged with a hip-hop or EDM style groove underneath everything that allowed them to fly from genre to genre and remain consistent and cohesive. They covered Taylor Swift’s …Ready For It, just to continue proving they refuse to confirm to any one genre. Alternative metal, nu metal, rap metal, with a touch of electronica, all in a thirty-minute set.
Like Serpents, Like Doves brought back the standard two guitar, bass and drum seen in most metal. The crowd was immediately taken by them, as a mosh pit opened up by the first chorus. They were the second band to mention mental health before a song, and it didn’t feel performative. These bands all genuinely care about their fans, as evidenced after each set as they stood and talked with their fans. Those fans gave that love right back while they were on the stage, singing their songs back at them and jumping around during breakdowns.
Next up was Let Them Divide, metalcore band from Wooster, Ohio. The breakdown in their first song was accompanied by an angelic choir, as well as another song that included the guitar player lilting over a gentle keyboard played alone, before the whole band kicked back in and the lead vocalist started screaming over that same keyboard melody. Most of the set was underpinned by the chugging of at least one of the dual guitars, as well as the bass guitar and drum. This chug was the foundation, the heartbeat, for the majority of their set. In certain sections, the time signature and key would completely change, feeling like a whole new song within another, for a few bars. This variance kept the whole set interesting. The lead vocalist would seamlessly alternate between chilling screams and guttural lows, adding to the variance.
The World I Knew came out of the gate swinging, and did not back down for thirty straight minutes. The lead vocalist started by rapping, before taking a deep breath then letting loose a visceral scream, which caught me by surprise. This switch between fast, precise rap and raw, powerful screams gave the band a certain swagger. The music bobbed with the rhythm of a hip-hop song, then by adding heavy riffs and a vocalist growling over top of that beat, it became infectious. It’s hard to want to dance as well as mosh when the band describes themselves as “Trapmetal.” The lead vocalist walked around the whole bar screaming with everyone he could find, taking every chance he could during the set to find the mosh pit.
After another fifteen minute break for band changeover, Kienemy graced the stage with good, old fashioned heavy metal: no backing track, drop tuned guitars chugging out riffs and pounding drums. The lead vocalist wore a Michael Jordan Chicago Bulls jersey, whether it was supposed to coincide with All-Star Weekend in Chicago or not was undetermined. They played a couple of songs about butts, which was more than any other band, so they definitely won that category.
Upon Impact was the sixth group to take the stage, and they started somber before breaking down, which got a lot of the people standing near the back of the venue moving to the floor and closer to the stage. They had some trouble with their audio before the beginning of the next song, which took away a lot of the momentum they had, but they earned it right back once they started playing again. Soon after, they completely ditched the laptop that was meant to play their tracks, and it only took them a few bars into their next song to get their feet under them without the track. Once they got their confidence back they looked much more comfortable on stage, and it showed in the music. Their vocalist looked somewhat hesitant when he got on stage, even a little timid, but once he opened his mouth and the first guttural roar came bursting out he looked right at home.
Faith in Failure sauntered out next, with their “glam as hell” lead vocalist in a great leather studded jacket. It was the kind of jacket you only get to wear if you’re heading into Madison Square Garden to hang 45 points on the Knicks, or you’re the lead singer of a band. He sang the majority of the first song, but he kept teasing his unclean vocals with ad-libs between verses and chorus. In the next song he finally let loose, sometimes switching between screaming and singing, mid-word. The whole set sounded like bottled chaos that was ready to explode. It felt like it would fall apart any second, but it never did. It was full of frenzied energy that seemed a stark contrast to the relatively intricate and technical work on the instruments.
All the lights on stage turned red as the intro track from The Bubble Bowl episode of SpongeBob SquarePants played over the speakers. Renegade Angel walked out looking like an 80’s power metal band, and once they started to play the comparisons continued.
By this point in the evening, it was 11:30 on a Saturday, and there were still a lot of people at the venue. Granted, there were not as many as the first four bands, but it wasn’t nearly the sharp decline I had expected. This just emphasized the point that people wanted to support all these local bands as they chased the dream of playing a festival, and it showed that this really was an incredible bill, regardless of the battle. People came for one band and would stay for more than just the one the knew or came to support. The lead singer’s voice made every song feel like it was about Sauron or something high fantasy. They finished with a mighty cover of We’re an American Band, featuring beachballs for the crowd.
The penultimate band of the night was Betrayed by the Bullet. For a band that went on after midnight, their energy was still high. At the beginning of their set, they were fighting against a crowd that was obviously starting to wane. People in the crowd tried their best to keep the energy up, and that slowly began to spread, before everyone was back to jumping around and yelling by the end of the first song. They had a lot of technical guitar work that rippled underneath the vocals. The lead singer seemed to injure his foot before the final song, but he finished regardless, limping slightly on the stage as he still tried to dance around to make sure the performance didn’t suffer. The guitarist was given a few solos and he impressed every time, shredding with blistering speed.
At a quarter to one (aka the witching hour), the final group of the night reached the stage. Atimera started their set an hour before the bar had to legally close, which is a grueling spot for any band. But this fact didn’t slow them down one bit. Nor did the fact they had been at the venue for nearly twelve hours that day. They had one goal in mind, and nothing was going to stop them from reaching it, not even a set time well past the average bedtime.
They had choreography, as well as energy, and they got the crowd jumping, moshing, and singing along. The lead vocalist stood atop his pedestal, illuminated from the bottom like he was telling a ghost story, as he snarled through songs. The harmonies between him and their bassist were terrific. I had been sitting for the last nine bands, and with it being nearly 1 a.m., I needed to get some blood moving, so I opted to move into the pit for the last band. At one point I got body checked, and when I turned around to see who was starting another mosh pit, it was actually one of Atimera’s guitarists. As his band was ripping away on stage, he was doing his part to make sure the crowd was hyped. It appeared they had thought of everything, and they had an answer to all of it.
At 1:30 a.m., the organizer of the event, Jay Coughlin, called all the bands back on stage to announce the winner and runner up. In second place was The World I Knew. After an almost cruelly long pause, the winner was announced… Atimera. The crowd filled with fans sporting their newly released shirts erupted, as the band strutted onstage, beating their chest, hugging their band mates as well as their competition. The joy on the stage bled into the crowd as well, as Mike Colletti screamed, “We’re going to Disney World!” To them, this was their Super Bowl. They finally got a shot to play a festival, something they’d told me was their goal for 2020 when I sat down with them last October.
One of the coolest part of the whole evening was seeing all the other bands in the pit or by the stage for almost every band they could. They all supported each other even when they were competing. I saw a lot of bands talking with one another, making plans and making connections throughout the night. Since the show, I’ve seen at least two show announcements that have multiple bands that were at this show on the same bill. I’m not sure they were planned in advance, but with the amount of networking I witness that night, I wouldn’t be surprised if they came out of this event.
These bands want to succeed just as much as they want everyone else to succeed, and again, that’s one of the beautiful things about the music scene, specifically heavy music, here in Columbus.