A&E and Opinion Editor
On April 23, the Alternative Art Gallery in Allentown put on the show for the most recent Metal Assault line-up. This show was organized by Paul Caravasi, creator of the Soulgrinder Zine featuring interviews, reviews, and art based on underground metal acts. Caravasi expressed his passions for showcasing new talent not just in these zines and full-fledged magazines, but also onstage at this unique venue.
The Alternative Art Gallery had a special stage for the performers, decorated with a painting of an orc, its open mouth forming the entryway from the backstage section of the building. The stage was small, yet close enough to the ground to create an intimate atmosphere with the crowd-goers.
The doors opened at 7 p.m., and guests could explore the gallery to check out all of the art before the show started.
The rest of the building was dedicated to various paintings, sketches, and other contributions by independent artists. Both the bathrooms and the basement were covered with graffiti; not just allowed but encouraged in the building. Down the hall, one wall was lined with old TVs, VHS tapes, and LaserDiscs. The wall opposite this one had shelves full of children’s books and toys that felt nostalgic to anyone coming through the building.
In the stageroom, including the performers and workers, there were no more than thirty people there all night. The musicians from each of the five bands set up shop along the merch tables, selling shirts, stickers, and media.
I decided to get one of each sticker to plaster onto my record player later. The sticker for The End A.D.’s ‘Badlands’ was my personal favorite of them all. Dare I say; it might be the most beautiful album cover I’ve ever seen.
Their singer explained to me that both covers for ‘Badlands’ and their subsequent album, ‘It’s All in Your Head’, were done by a Ukrainian artist. A portion of the proceeds from each merch sale would be going to them.
Behind the merch tables, there was an old-fashioned TV loaded up with a bunch of retro Nintendo and Capcom games. As the night went on, I saw some of the younger kids in the audience go back there to play when they started getting tired. It’s such a sweet little addition.
The gallery proved to be the perfect place for a comfortable and fun night, even when it contrasts with the type of music we were about to hear. Every band sounded in-line with the thrash metal subgenre, but incorporated other elements of alternative, death metal, and punk rock.
First up was Brotality, a fun opener with some groovy guitar work. At the end of their set, the singer announced that some of the proceeds made on their merch sales would go towards a mental health service provider they’ve been working closely with.
Next was Dissentience, who were a little heavier and more extreme than the last band. They did a great job considering they came in relatively last minute. When one band calls out for personal reasons, Caravasi does well at finding another in such a short time period.
As the hours went by and the show reached its halfway point, Morbid Cross stepped up to really grab people’s attention. The frontman’s energy was palpable, starting moshpits with ease. At one point, while covering Judas Priest’s “Exciter”, he climbed onto the shoulders of one of the audience members, which is where he stayed for the rest of the song.
Between intermissions, my friend has the habit of lying her entire body down on the ground, which is exactly what she did here. Sure, there were leather couches and a chair made of recycled skateboards to sit on, but the floor was good too.
After all, the skateboard chair was occupied by a giant teddy bear, and we didn’t want to bother him.
When I joined her on the wooden floor, I started doing some stretches in preparation for the next two bands. Over the next ten minutes or so, more people started joining in to stretch, including some of the other musicians. Maybe we’ve started a new Alternative Art Gallery tradition, but who knows?
When The End A.D. took the stage, the sound system unfortunately started to give out. The uneven amp levels and now blown-out right speaker put a little damper on their set, but their style was brilliant. The singer’s retro-style microphone was a nice touch.
Cruelbomb was the last band of the night, and their fast-paced, thrashier music distracted the audience from the otherwise faulty speakers. The two frontmen, the vocalist and bassist, had more of a joking approach to their set, sharing one microphone in the center of the stage after the other gave out.
There was even one moment where, after being heckled for wearing a tacky green polo shirt onstage, the bassist comedically ripped off the polo to reveal a tank-top with the Cruelbomb logo on it.
As is commonplace for metal shows, the largest circlepits of the night occurred during the final band’s set. Less people, thankfully, meant better safety. The bassist was even able to join in for a few minutes.
For crowd-surfing, however, the ‘surf’ was more of a ‘parade’. Crowd-surfers were instead carried around the venue by other audience members holding them up and walking around. No one ended up getting hurt though, so it’s still a success for everyone involved.
For a casual night out to support some local performers, I had a wonderful time. Less people means more opportunities to bond with the musicians, which I’m very grateful I got to do here.
I wish all the best for Caravasi, the bands, and the Alternative Art Gallery going forward. Here’s to a successful line of upcoming Metal Assault shows!
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