For the uninitiated, extreme metal can seem monolithic, a one-size-fits-all onslaught of lightning riffs, guttural vocals, and blitzkrieg drumming. But while it’s easy to latch onto the similarities that separate it from more traditional metal — faster, more intense, a greater willingness to assume risks — the reality is that extreme metal is but an umbrella term for a sprawling network of different styles, sounds, and sub-genres that often overlap and intertwine. Be it death metal, doom, black metal, thrash, or anything in between, extreme metal fans flock to sounds that are louder, more brutal and aggressive, and their passion for such music is both remarkable and well established.
Case in point is Cody Martin. A data analyst and web scraping professional by day, Martin and his girlfriend are diehard metalheads who keep their ear to the ground for the latest music and often travel to festivals to catch their favorite artists. After spending a significant amount of time attending vaunted events like Maryland Death Fest, Chicago’s Metal Threat Fest, and Hell’s Headbash in Cleveland, Martin began to ponder the possibility of organizing a similar festival in Atlanta. Convinced there was a market and a need for such an event in the Southeast, he turned to his friend Amos Rifkin, a longtime veteran of the local metal scene and founder of the Atlanta booking agency, A. Rippin’ Production. The pair began planning and collaborating almost immediately.
Originally slated for 2016, Mass Destruction Metal Fest encountered several insurmountable roadblocks and delays in its initial stages, forcing Martin and Rifkin to push the event to 2017. Now two years in the making, the fest is finally set to go down Nov. 3-4 as what the promoter’s are labeling “the Southeast’s premier extreme metal festival.” With doors set to open in just over a week, we spoke with Martin and Rifkin to learn more about the fest and why it’s so critical to the growth of extreme metal in the region.
What is your background and involvement with the fest?
Amos Rifkin: I’ve been a local musician in Atlanta for the last 18 years, and I’ve been promoting concerts locally under A. Rippin’ Production for a little over three years now. Between my contacts and Cody’s vision, we were able to assemble a pretty excellent lineup — no easy feat considering we were soliciting bands with next to no reputation to fall back on. Cody did most of the legwork when it came to contacting the bands, hotels, and researching airfare, and I’ve been handling the logistical side of the production, including securing equipment backline, sponsors, and coordinating things with the venue.
Cody Martin: My background is actually in IT. I went to school for video game development, and I’m currently working in web scraping and data analysis. Mass Destruction has definitely been a joint venture with Amos every step of the way. Whether one of us was booking a band or organizing travels, we always checked in with each other for a ‘thumbs up’ before pulling the trigger. I spent a lot of time in spreadsheets and digging through emails with every attempt to be organized so that we can have the smoothest possible outcome.
How has the response been since the festival was announced?
CM: It’s been overwhelmingly positive and extremely humbling. To see all of these like-minded people genuinely as excited as I am about this festival is an unbelievable feeling that is hard to describe. We’ve got folks coming from the northeast U.S. as well as Mexico, all for the same reason: Their love of heavy metal. And that just rules. I’m grateful that others see what we’re trying to do here and I have the utmost respect for the bands and fans coming to join in on this party!
AR: We’ve been extremely encouraged by the response so far, and it’s even more encouraging to see some of the enthusiasm translating to ticket sales. Since I’ve never personally put on an event on this scale, it’s tough to tell how full the building will be come showtime, but I can’t say it hasn’t been tempting to imagine a full house for this one.
How would you describe the extreme metal scene in the Southeast?
CM: Diverse and awesome! It’s really cool to see how everyone knows and supports bands from all over the region; some even sharing band members. Whether you’re looking for black metal (Vimur, Hellgoat, Valle Crucis), death metal (Cemetery Filth, Malformity, Ectovoid) or thrash metal (Sadistic Ritual, Veterum, Death of Kings) you can find it. There are a whole host of bands to listen to and see!
AR: I think the Southeast is one of the most promising areas in the country right now when it comes to this stuff. There’s an extremely deep pool of both fans and bands in the Southeast, and a fest like Mass Destruction wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for them both. The time is definitely right for something like this, and I think we’re just crazy and organized enough to try to pull it off.
What makes an event like this so important to the growth of that scene?
AR: After working locally in the scene for a few years, I’m excited to help bring Atlanta more into the spotlight on the regional stage. I know a dozen people that travel to multiple metal fests all over the world every year, and having something like this in their own backyard gives them something to show their friends in different cities how we do things here at home. We’re looking forward to seeing a ton of familiar faces.
CM: It really gives everyone a place to gather for the same reason. I know quite a few people who want to go to festivals elsewhere but simply can’t afford the travel, lodging, and other expenses. Now we all have a festival of our own here at home.
Talk about some of the acts performing. Who are you really excited to see at the fest?
CM: The majority of the bands performing were around in the ’80s or ’90s and really helped shape their respective genres here in the United States. I’ve been fortunate to see almost all of the bands previously — with the exception of Brutality and Abazagorath — so naturally I’m super excited to see those two bands for the first time. Everyone is going to rule though. I’m ridiculously excited for the whole fest!
AR: I’ve had the pleasure of working with Demonic Christ and Tombstalker in the past, so I’m excited to see them again. I’m looking forward to seeing old school death metal bands Embalmer, Deceased, and Macabre, as well as some of our more black metal acts like Profanatica and Demoncy. Honestly, I’m just hoping to keep the whole weekend from being a complete blur and enjoy every second of these bands that I can.
Will this event definitely be back for 2018? I so, what are some of the things you learned from this event that will help for next year?
CM: I try to avoid speaking in absolutes, but I can say there is a high probability that round two in 2018 will happen. This year was largely a crash course in logistics for me — planning flights, hotels, organizing ground transportation, and the million LITTLE items that have to be discussed and planned at the venue to make the show go on. Having done those, I definitely feel that any future years will be a little more smooth as I’ll have a plan of attack rather than just stumbling through it.
AR: Only time will truly tell if the amount of work we put in to this event will result in subsequent ones, but we’ve definitely put a ton of work in and learned a lot on the fly. As long as we manage to not completely lose our asses on this year’s fest, I think there’d be a lot of interest both from us and from Atlanta to continue putting it on. I’ve put on enough events in my short time as a promoter to know that no amount of planning ensures a perfectly run event, so as long as we do as many things right as we can, word will spread that this is a well organized, professionally run event worth playing in the future.
Mass Destruction Metal Fest goes down Nov. 3-4 at the Loft. Doors open at 5 p.m. on Fri. and 4 p.m. on Sat. Single day passes are $45 in advance or $50 DOS. Two-day passes are $75. All Ages.