*SPECIAL EDITION* THE WEEKEND HEADLINER: a RoM exclusive with..The State Round Finalists of TX for Wacken Metal Battle-USA 2019

THE TEXAS FINAL NINE

There can be only one

The final nine’s last words before the 15 minutes that could win them the state round and a chance for Wacken Saturday night.

by Ryan A Vasquez

ratedrv79@gmail.com

For the last thirty years and counting, there’s been a metal tradition that’s been celebrated by musicians and fans alike around the globe every summer. And it all goes down in a village in northern Germany.

Wacken Open Air center stage shot
Wacken Open Air center stage shot / photo courtesy of Facebook.com/WackenOpenAir.official

For three days on two stages in Wacken, Schleswig-Holstein, Germany, the biggest names in the industry from the underground to mainstream worldwide give this audience the performance of a lifetime, despite any language barriers, all for the sake of international unity as a metal festival.

Wacken Open Air 2018 stage right shot
Wacken Open Air 2018 stage right shot / photo courtesy of Facebook.com/WackenOpenAir.official

And if that wasn’t enough, the last decade of this 30yr old tradition came with an interesting twist for the audience and an even better incentive for the participating acts. It would go on to be considered the mother of all battle of the bands.

Wacken Open Air Metal Battle 2019 graphic
Graphic courtesy of Facebook.com/metalbattleusa

You could say, if the underground metal scene across the globe had an Olympics, this event would be it.

For the third time in its existence, though, America has been invited to participate the international competition called Wacken Metal Battle-USA, where in a series of elimination rounds in their territories, the winner(s) advance to their nation’s final before battling it out against 29 other countries’ chosen finalists for a global ‘top five’ crowning at Wacken Open Air metal fest.

The following six photo slideshow are the first American national winners: 2017’s Corpse Hoarder (Philadelphia, PA death metal) and 2018’s Voices Of Ruin (Costa Mesa, Southern CA melodic death).

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

To play this stage means perseverance through a long, anxiety-filled and hard-fought journey. But before you feel the rush of a gathering of thousands in the Deutschland, there’s a war to be fought right here in our own backyard.

Wacken 2019 TX State Bracket
Bracket by Ryan A. Vasquez

Nine bands from five major cities here in Texas (Dallas, Houston, Austin, San Antonio and Corpus Christi) won their regional round to face off for the chance to win the state bracket and represent Texas in the national finals May 25 in Los Angeles.

To earn the honor of leading the Lone Star State to the national round, all acts shall first be judged by a panel of selected distinguished figures in the industry.

And the chosen setting for this date with destiny will take place in one of Texas’ widely recognized and respected live music venues, Come And Take It Live of Austin.

Come And Take It Live venue
Come And Take It Live of Austin, Texas recent second year anniversary photo / photo courtesy of Facebook.com/comeandtakeitlive

For two years now, this venue has been an symbol of strength for the Texas metal circuit by providing a modern and affordable live music experience for artists and concert-goers here in Austin.

This exceptional Texas institution has hosted shows from underground names with modest-size audiences to national acts drawing hundreds and a second stage area. Undoubtedly, an absolute fitting choice for such a crucial and historic event.

Anthony Stevenson
Anthony Stevenson, Founder/Owner of Come And Take It Productions & Co-owner/Talent Buyer for Come And Take It Live

“What I love the most about showcases like this is bringing our amazing regional acts from around the great State of Texas into the limelight,” Anthony Stevenson said, Founder/Owner of Come And Take It Productions & Co-owner/Talent Buyer for Come And Take It Live. “There are so many great bands and artists that deserve to be recognized, and if we can facilitate a way to make that happen then we are doing our job.”

“The national final will be tough, but I think the acts competing from Texas have a solid shot,” Stevenson said. Let’s show the world how Texas does it!”

State Round Conditions
graphic by Ryan A Vasquez

[The following order of artists does not reflect the order in which they shall perform Saturday night Apr 20th]

THE NINE STATE FINALISTS FOR TEXAS IN WACKEN METAL BATTLE-USA 2019

DALLAS REGION WINNER:

1. RELEASE THE FALLEN

Garland, TX Latin Metal est. 2005

Release The Fallen 2019
Release The Fallen 2019, back row from L to R: Igor – bass, Daniel Luna – vocals/guitar, front: Genaro ‘Ginno’ Luna – drums/sound effects

Reaction to advancing to State:

“…to be honest, we never thought that we would win so we were very excited…we were the last band of the night and our adrenaline was so high, when they said we won I was jumping and screaming,” drummer Genaro Luna said.

Release The Fallen 2019
from L to R: Genaro Luna – drums/sound effects, Igor – bass, Daniel Luna – vocals/guitar / photo courtesy of Facebook.com/fallen78

 Currently working on:

“Our primary goal is to check our songs and see if we have some mistakes that we need to fix,” Luna said. “There are some ideas we want to add to our show and we’re currently working on a song called ‘Evil Inside’.”

Release The Fallen live shot
Release The Fallen live shot / photo courtesy of Facebook.com/fallen78

Strategy:

“…to keep our songs tight and keep the integrity of the songs but our primary interests will be to keep the energy of the crowd,” drummer Luna said.

Release The Fallen graphic
Release The Fallen graphic / courtesy of Facebook.com/fallen78

Message for the audience:

“Our first intention is to keep our crowd intense and share our energy…we definitely make songs for the metalheads and we always try to keep our songs strong, dark and very high bit,” Luna said.

2nd DALLAS REGION WINNER: 

2. TEXAS 223

Lubbock, TX Hard Rock est. 2016

Texas 223
Texas 223 from L to R: Chad Russell – lead guitar/vocals, Kolton Westbrook – bass, Ben Villalobos – drums, Brittan Church – lead vocals/guitar / photo courtesy of Facebook.com/TEXAS223

Reaction to advancing to State:

“…I was ecstatic,” lead guitarist Chad Russell said. “It was an exciting day that was full of metal…It was encouraging and rewarding to see people’s reactions to our music.”

Texas 223
front: Brittan Church – lead vocals/guitar, back: Chad Russell – lead guitar/vocals / photo courtesy of Facebook.com/TEXAS223

Currently working on:

Texas 223 is always working on new material,” Russell said. “We are always working to master our craft, and improve on what we can musically for our fans and the metal community.”

Texas 223 live @ Reno's-Dallas
Texas 223 live @ Reno’s-Dallas / photo courtesy of Facebook.com/TEXAS223

Strategy:

“Honestly, leave it all on the stage,” lead vocalist Brittan Church said. “Take no prisoners. By the time we step off that stage, that place will be rocking. We are here to represent Texas and then USA in Germany at Wacken Open Air, and we are going to do everything in our power to make that happen.”

Texas 223 logo
Texas 223 logo / graphic courtesy of Facebook.com/TEXAS223

Message for the audience:

“We can’t wait to see you guys in Austin!,” vocalist Church said. “Come show us your support and get ready for the one and only Texas 223!!! Stay Metal Baby!

HOUSTON REGION WINNER:

3. EPIC DEATH

 Houston, TX Melodic Death est. 2010

Epic Death 2019
Epic Death 2019 from L to R: Becky “The Witch Demona” Dorsett – keyboards/backing vocals, Alex “Karma” Costa – lead guitar, Dennis “Vamp” Dorsett – vocals, Reese “Phantom” Stanley – drums/backing vocals, Justin “Yogsothoth” Riddler – bass/backing vocals, Jesse “Vodnik” Jordan – rhythm guitar / photo courtesy of Epic Death

Reaction to advancing to state:

“…there was a bit of silence as [Judge Ashley] said the two bands we choose to go forward are, at that moment I was nervous and excited to hear who she was going to say,” keyboardist Becky ‘The Witch Demona’ Dorsett said. “The first band she announced was Epic Death. I kid you not, I kept my phone recording but I was elated and tears started to roll down my face as I started scanning the crowd for the rest of the band. Once everyone was in one spot we all continued to repeat ‘Holy shit, they called our name!’ The next thing we did, we headed straight for the bar and got a celebratory shot!”

Epic Death
(L) Becky “The Witch Demona” Dorsett, (R) Dennis “Vamp” Dorsett / photo courtesy of Facebook.com/EpicDeathOfficial

Currently working on:

“We are steadily working on our set for April 20th Texas Region Battle for Wacken as well as writing songs for the new album,” keyboardist Dorsett said.

Epic Death 2019
Epic Death 2019 / photo courtesy of Facebook.com/EpicDeathOfficial

Strategy:

“We are going to do what we always do,” Dorsett said. “We believe in our music and our stage show, and we will be bringing our best to the stage as we do with every show we play!”

Epic Death 2015 EP "Witchcraft" cover art
Epic Death 2015 EP “Witchcraft” cover art / photo courtesy of Facebook.com/EpicDeathOfficial

Message to the audience:

“We appreciate each and every one who is a fan or that will become a fan of Epic Death,” keyboardist B. Dorsett said. ” We strive to bring the metal to the masses and as our guitarist ‘Vodnik’ loves to say: ‘We’re going to melt your faces off.’ But truly, the one thing we would love to say is THANK YOU for believing in us!”

2nd HOUSTON REGION WINNER:

4. ENVY THE DEAD

Boston, Venezuela, California, France, Spring, TX Melodic Progressive Death Metal est. 2014

Envy The Dead 2019
Envy The Dead 2019 from L to R: Manuel Sarmiento – bass, Dustin LaRose – rhythm guitar, Aïcha Finnleikr – vocals, Ethan Doig – drums, Oliver Reed – lead guitar / photo courtesy of Envy The Dead

Reaction to advancing to state:

“It was surreal,” lead guitarist Oliver Reed said. “There were great bands and friends of ours playing that battle with us and we were honored to have been selected to move on to the next round.”

Envy The Dead guitarists Dustin and Manuel
(L) Dustin LaRose – rhythm guitarist, (R) Manuel Sarmiento – bass / photo courtesy of Facebook.com/EnvyTheDeadband

Currently working on:

“We’re currently finishing our EP at Southwing Audio, while also getting new material ready for a full length release in the near future,” bassist Manuel Sarmiento said. “In addition to that, we’re about to release a music video we shot with Josh Vargas (DTRL Productions) and are in the process of shooting our second one.”

Envy The Dead 2019
Envy The Dead 2019 live shot / photo courtesy of Facebook.com/EnvyTheDeadband

Strategy:

“Our strategy is to pick the most impactful 15 minutes of our set and play our hearts out,” lead guitarist O. Reed said. “We put everything we have into every single show we play, but being given only 15 minutes to show the judges what we’ve got is an opportunity [for us] to really analyze our songs and distill the most impactful elements. Once we’re on stage together we’re just doing our thing. We all believe in each other and our music. We’ll bring our A-game and we’d put that up against anybody, at any time, on any stage.”

Envy The Dead logo
Envy The Dead logo / courtesy of Facebook.com/EnvyTheDeadband

Message to the audience:

“This is a dream for us,” vocalist Aïcha Finnleikr said. “We have so much appreciation for the opportunities that have come to us and a lot of it has been with hard work, with support from friends, family, and the local music scene. It’s been amazing to see the support grow, it’s truly appreciated.”

AUSTIN REGION WINNER:

5. NAHAYA

San Antonio, TX Thrash Metal est. 2014

Nahaya 2019
Nahaya 2019 from L to R: C. Semir Ozerkan – bass/vocals, Carl E. Ford – lead vocals, Daniel Abbott – guitar/vocals, Zachary Herber – drums, Ryan M. Peters – guitar/vocals / photo courtesy of Facebook.com/nahayaofficial

Reaction to advancing to state:

“We were stoked, obviously,” guitarist Ryan Peters said. “But it was also a little bitter-sweet, considering we had a lot of friends in other bands that were playing in the battle, as well. The scene down here has always been really tight and supportive, though, so they were excited for us, which was really cool.”

Nahaya 2019
from L to R: Daniel Abbott (half shown) – guitar, Zachary Herber (not visible) – drums, Semir Ozerkan – bass, Carl Elfin Ford – vocals, Ryan Peters – guitar / photo courtesy of Facebook.com/nahayaofficial

Currently working on:

“Aside from prepping for the next battle(s), we have another EP that will be out this year, as well as a new official video in the works,” guitarist Peters said. “Daniel [Abbott – guitarist] has been writing like a mad man, so we’re gonna have a lot of new live material for everyone to check out at the upcoming shows also.”

Nahaya live shot 2019
Nahaya live shot 2019 / photo courtesy of Facebook.com/nahayaofficial

Strategy:

“Our focus moving forward is on precision,” Peters said. “Picking and practicing the songs we know we can nail with our eyes closed, but also making sure to play stuff the judges haven’t already heard from us.”

Nahaya graphic logo
Nahaya graphic logo / photo courtesy of Facebook.com/nahayaofficial

Message to the audience:

“Bring your dancing shoes, haha,” guitarist R. Peters said. “We’re nothing if not super energetic on stage, so we’d love to be able to get a little energy exchange going on with our audience. Come ready to move.”

 

2nd AUSTIN REGION WINNER:

6. DAYS UNDER AUTHORITY

Clovis, CA Hard Rock est. 2010

Days Under Authority 2019
Days Under Authority 2019 from L to R: Brannon Armitstead – guitar, Jonathan Bracamonte – lead guitar, Zach Corsi – lead vocals, Stone Roach – bass, Brenden Bonsell – drums / photo courtesy of Days Under Authority

Reaction to advancing to state:

“…Zach ended up getting sick and losing his voice the night before round one,” drummer Brenden Bonsell said. “We all agreed that he needed to sit out of the battle performance to prevent him from physically damaging himself any further. When the judges announced our name, I remember just screaming ‘Yeah!’ super loud, Zach and Jonathan started getting hyped and hysterical, and Stone and Brannon were nearly in tears. We were all convinced because we were not a complete unit that night, the victory slot was out of reach. Texas has so much talent to offer, we are still shocked another band didn’t secure that victory. However, we are very grateful for the opportunity.”

Days Under Authority 2019
Days Under Authority 2019 from L to R: Jonathan Bracamonte – lead guitar, Brenden Bonsell – drums, Stone Roach – bass, Zach Corsi – lead vocals, Brannon Armitstead – guitar / photo courtesy of Facebook.com/daysunderauthority

Currently working on:

“Our agenda has been focused heavily on rebranding, playing shows, and saving money in the last two years,” drummer Bonsell said. “It has limited our time to write new music [but] the last few months we have…and the results are exceeding our own expectations. Be on the lookout.”

Days Under Authority 2019
Days Under Authority 2019 live shot / photo courtesy of Facebook.com/daysunderauthority

Strategy:

“We have competed in many battles like this before and have learned over the years not to take them so seriously,” Bonsell said. “It creates the ability to connect with new people and to have fun doing it. In some cases, those connections can prove to be more valuable than some of the winning prizes offered. However, playing out of the country is a goal DUA has dreamed of for a long time. It would be surreal to see that become a reality.”

Days Under Authority logo
Days Under Authority logo / courtesy of Facebook.com/daysunderauthority

Message to the audience:

“If you enjoyed us as an instrumental band in round one, be ready for what is about to hit you now that we’re back at 100%,” drummer B. Bonsell said. See you soon, Austin.”

SAN ANTONIO REGION WINNER:

7. VERNON OF PERSIA

Missouri, Maryland, Puerto Rico, San Antonio, TX Melodic Metalcore est. 2017

Vernon Of Persia 2019
Vernon Of Persia 2019 from L to R: Anthony Navarijo – vocals, Steven Giro – bass, Kalen Thomas – guitar, Jaime Vargas – guitar, Tyler Thomas – drums/synth/back up vocals/audio engineer / photo courtesy of Facebook.com/vernonofpersia

Reaction to advancing to state:

“It was a bit of a shocker…because we have actually competed in a few battles to get into bigger festivals in the south Texas area before but had no luck,” vocalist Anthony Navarijo said. “I think primarily it might have been because we hadn’t had that experience through time in the studio, out on stage, or out on the road to grow together. Now things are really starting to flow for us–the creative process and changes to our live sound are really at the forefront of what we are trying to achieve.”

Vernon Of Persia drummer Tyler Thomas
Vernon Of Persia drummer Tyler Thomas / photo courtesy of Facebook.com/vernonofpersia

Currently working on:

“We are writing our second album and plan to release later this year,” vocalist A. Navarijo said.

“We are really focusing on the structure of our songs this time around and pushing ourselves to do things that are challenging,” guitarist Kalen Thomas said. “We have really invested in making our live sound the best it can be through significant gear changes, renting out venues to sound test, even hired a professional sound engineer, Marcus Garcia, as part of our lineup–one of the smartest moves we have made so far as a band.”

Vernon Of Persia 2019
Vernon Of Persia 2019 live shot / photo courtesy of Facebook.com/vernonofpersia

Strategy:

“Our strategy is simple,” vocalist A. Navarijo said. “We’re gonna play our asses off and leave everything on that stage.”

Vernon Of Persia logo
Vernon Of Persia logo / courtesy of Facebook.com/vernonofpersia

Message to the audience:

“‘Vernon Of Persia’ was a man of legend who traveled the world in search for peace and understanding,” vocalist A. Navarijo said. “He believed that home is everywhere and all around us, in the people we meet, in the places we visit, and the cultures we embrace. As he stood atop the temple’s high tower of ‘Tulum’ taking in the sun and the white sands surrounding the ruins, he knew then that he could never really die. He disappeared into the light and flooded the Earth in great illumination.”

2nd SAN ANTONIO REGION WINNER:

8. EVEN IN DEATH

San Antonio, TX Groove Metal est. 2013

Even In Death
Even In Death live shot from L to R: Joey Villalobos – former guitarist, Sean Nations – vocals, Anthony Carrillo – lead guitar / photo courtesy of Facebook.com/eidtx

Reaction to advancing to state:

“We were really excited,” vocalist Sean Nations said. “This is a chance for us to sharpen up our chops and bring our live show to the next level. We are looking forward to competing, as well as making new friends with some of the other great bands in the mix.”

“I felt confident in our band but I was still stunned to hear that we were moving on,” lead guitarist Anthony Carrillo said. “It was awesome to go up against some great local talent and move to the next round.”

Even In Death drummer Mark Reyes
Even In Death drummer Mark Reyes/ photo courtesy of Facebook.com/eidtx

Currently working on:

“We are almost completely finished with the mastering of our full length album that should be going to press next month,” vocalist S. Nations said. “When the album goes to press we will start shooting videos for a few more songs. One of the songs will include a little Wu-Tang stamp on it thanks to one of their crew.”

Even In Death live shot
Even In Death live shot / photo courtesy of Facebook.com/eidtx

Strategy:

“Our strategy is to just go up there and kick some ass on stage and give them the total Even In Death experience,” Nations said.

“We plan to go up there, do what we do, and represent the San Antonio metal scene in the way we always have by delivering a great metal show,” Carrillo said.

Even In Death logo
Even In Death logo / courtesy of Facebook.com/eidtx

Message to the audience:

“Get some rest because we want you to tear it up with us,” vocalist S. Nations said. “We can’t wait to meet you all along this journey!”

“Come out and enjoy some of the best metal bands in Texas all under one roof,” lead guitarist A. Carrillo said. “Everyone will be bringing their best so prepare to be blown away! Maybe you’ll find your next favorite band!”

CORPUS CHRISTI REGION WINNER:

9. TBA-TX NOISE

Taft, TX Thrash Metal est. 2017

TBA-TX Noise 2019
TBA-TX Noise 2019 from L to R: Viejo Ladrone – vocals, Jessie Rodriguez – guitar/backing vocals, Ryan Reyna – drums, Marcus Rios – bass, Jesse Guitarwin – guitar/backing vocals / photo courtesy of Facebook.com/TBATXNOISE

Reaction to advancing to state:

“I wasn’t expecting us to make it past the first round because of all the local talent there is around us here in the Corpus Christi area…but then again, we were the only band that competed here in Corpus, which is pretty sad, but beggars can’t be choosers, right?,” guitarist Jessie Rodriguez said.

TBA - TX Noise
(L) Marcus Rios – bass, (R) Jessie Rodriguez – guitar/backing vocals @ Harbor City Sound Lab / photo courtesy of Facebook.com/TBATXNOISE

Currently working on:

“We are currently in the album recording process…just waiting to get some mixes back to finalize,” guitarist J. Rodriguez said. “Also, we’re working on new songs that will unfortunately not be on this album, but we’re already setting up an EP with those on it, or live versions.”

TBA-TX Noise live shot 2019
TBA-TX Noise live shot 2019 / photo courtesy of Facebook.com/TBATXNOISE

Strategy:

“Our plan is the same as any show: go in, play hard, run around like lunatics, get the crowd as involved as we can and HAVE FUN–seems to be the part people forget to do,” Rodriguez said.

TBA-TX Noise logo
TBA-TX Noise logo / courtesy of Facebook.com/TBATXNOISE

Message to the audience:

“Don’t be afraid to come up and hang out with us, we may have raunchy songs but we’re cool(ish),” guitarist J. Rodriguez said. “We ARE also known as ‘The South Texas Donkey Show.’ We’ll be in your face so come thrash with us! We also sell a salsa that has a Ghost Pepper & Carolina Reaper in it! It’s got a kick to it, obviously, but it’s edible.We also ask that you feel free to yell “FUCK TBA” at us–it’s our catch phrase if you will.”

A Note From The Editor:

Regardless of the end result Saturday night, the metal brethren of Texas is not a competition against each other. Shows bring musicians and fans together in a setting where everyone is considered family (if not, at least respectful to one another) and is in a place free from politics, passing judgement or social unacceptance.

Every band performing Saturday have made tremendous strides in their career and have faced so many obstacles just to get this far in life as a musician. May they all receive the exposure and recognition they so deserve and worked their asses off for. Good luck!

DALLAS ROUND CONTESTANTS: Of Deities And Dust, Under A SpellZativah KidSanta Mortem, Mudd FluxTexas 223, Release The Fallen

HOUSTON ROUND CONTESTANTS: Aedra, Black Standard, Darkness Of Tomorrow, Epic Death, Envy The Dead, Eric Teaches Gun Safety, Etsai, Nocturnal Avernus, Ominous Necro, Sift Through The Ashes, Welborn Road

AUSTIN ROUND CONTESTANTS: Æternal RequiemAstrixionBlack Heart SaintsCold FormDays Under Authority, Nahaya, Never Buried, Overthrow, Psychocell, Send Help, Stitched Up, Unwritten, Warhead Wrex, Zorboje

SAN ANTONIO ROUND CONTESTANTS: Wulfholt, Jessikill, Vernon Of Persia, Terrestrium, Target 7, LaSanche, Even In Death

CORPUS CHRISTI ROUND CONTESTANTS: TBA-TX Noise

GET READY FOR US, LOS ANGELES.

Author: Republic Of Mosh-Texas Underground Journal

I am a freelance writer with a passion for the underground metal music scene in Texas. I studied advertising and mass communication at Texas State University in San Marcos and Radio & TV at Del Mar College-Corpus Christi. I've been jumping in mosh pits all across Texas since I was a kid and now it is my goal to create the most informative and widely recognized publication for the Texas underground. I have a son (Vicente) and a daughter (Valentina) and currently live in Austin, Texas.

One thought on “*SPECIAL EDITION* THE WEEKEND HEADLINER: a RoM exclusive with..The State Round Finalists of TX for Wacken Metal Battle-USA 2019”

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