A mystically foggy night in a grocery store shopping center lined with palmetto trees is like a burgeoning, brutal metal scene in the suburbs of Charleston: a paradox, but a welcome one.
When I arrived at Cory’s (a specialty grilled cheese restaurant by day), the lights were off and Cazador’s vocalist was mid wail, full-body thrashing, his bondage-mask-clad head periodically dipping within inches of the floor. Cazador’s speed, vicissitude, and concision (with most songs clocking in around 60 seconds) create a sludgy atmosphere that attests to their solidly powerviolence core—a unique niche to occupy in their hometown of Columbia, South Carolina—however they also hinted at some emerging intricacies, incorporating death metal-tinged riffs. Admittedly the audience was still warming up by the time Cazador finished their set, and in fact the band deserves its own opener, as it was clear from the chaos we did see that that they were just getting started.
In between sets the fluorescent lights flickered on, moshers stepped outside for a breather and the next band began assembling. I took a seat beneath a literal hole in the wall and chatted with Dan, the lead vocalist of Hangman, while his bandmates did the heavy lifting. Coming from Long Island he was pleasantly surprised with the turnout for a hardcore lineup in sunny Charleston. We shook hands just before he stood to take the mic. He required little prep time to shed the polite, unassuming-conversationalist-Dan for the convulsive nuclear-reactor-of-a-vocalist-Dan and delivered a set that was solidly, classically hardcore.
“Man lives in the sunlit world of what he believes to be reality. But there is, unseen by most, an underworld, a place that is just as real, but not as brightly lit… a Darkside,” thus spoke the Tales From the Darkside narrator, ushering us into the first track of Queensway’s set, “Fuel for the Darkest Man,” which immediately dipped into an assault of distorted guitar underscored by steady drums. When the vocalist barreled in I was hooked and headbanging with the raw, textured sound and invigorating breakdowns. Queensway hails from Baltimore, as they proudly, frequently growled at the audience. This was their first show in South Carolina and I’ll be on the lookout for the next time they make their way south.
WVRM brought a number of fans from their hometown of Greenville, South Carolina, and energized the audience with songs from their new album Heartache, a wildly fast drummer, and their own brand of “grinding self-hatred.” Heavy distortion and mesmerizing blast beats were layered and interspersed with abrupt dips into slow tempos, teasing the audience with a chance to catch their breath before accosting us again with extreme tempo.
Vatican, from Savannah, Georgia, was the main event and perhaps the most technically dynamic performance with tempo changes and overt inter-genre influences. The vocalist, who looked like an early 2000s pop star with shorn pink hair, interspersed his raspy screams and growls with melodic spoken word, delivering each register with conviction. Vatican was a constant abrasion, allowing the audience no time to rest—and we really didn’t want to.
Moshers essentially performed alongside the bands with (potentially lethal) windmills, kicks, and rapid two-stepping in a sizable mosh pit that belied the reality of the narrow restaurant. Assembling a lineup of five hardcore, grindcore and metalcore bands that are cohesive without falling into monotony is no easy undertaking, and Cory’s did just that with outfits from Savannah to Long Island. It’s a straightforward venue for veterans of hardcore scenes and newcomers alike, and if last Saturday was any indication, you can attend a show at Cory’s with the promise of the most brutal sounds you can pack in a grilled cheese restaurant.
Written by Bethany Fincher