Metalhead moshpit at “Bloody Sabbath”

The lead singer and guitarist of “Dungeon Filth” headbanging during their performance. A fan in the front dances across the open space on the floor, the beginning formations of a moshpit. // Photo courtesy of Ibrahim Mahmood

There was a sort of buzzing in the air — the room seemed to hum with anticipation of the night to come. As more and more people filed into the small brewery, bodies began packing together in the center of the room and of course, at the bar off to the side.

Saturday night kickstarted a two-day event called “Bloody Sabbath,” a music and beer festival held at Sabbath Brewing. More specifically, the music festival was centered around metal music, with the Saturday lineup consisting of bands such as Dungeon Filth, Sustenance, Clot and most famously, Thou. These bands’ fans are known as “metalheads,” which comprises an entire subculture based around heavy metal music. 

As written in “Subcultures and Scenes” by Grinnell College, “Like the emergent punk scene, heavy metal reflected an anti-establishment tone, but separate from punk would evolve into a genre embracing escapism and fantasy in a way that punk did not.” Additionally, given that Sabbath Brewing’s motto is “worship yourself,” it is clear that the appeal of metal music is in its appreciation and expression of emotional extremes and in being able to worship yourself by embracing the chaos of your reality.

The first band, Dungeon Filth, took the stage on Saturday night. On Bandcamp, Dungeon Filth is self-described as a “dirty deathgrind three piece from the Atlanta area.” Deathgrind music is a combination of death metal and grindcore, where grindcore music is characterized by a fusion of extreme heavy metal and hardcore “crust” punk. Dungeon Filth brought this definition to life as they took the crowd

by storm with the lead singer clad in belts and straps. The band played various songs such as their top hit “Dead F***” from their “2022 Demo.” The epitome of grindcore, the Dungeon Filth sound was guttural — almost earthy. Rapid fire drums reverberated through the brewery with the occasional offbeat. 

The band played barefoot on-stage, completely feeling the music through headbanging, dancing around and shredding the guitars, which echoed with so much distortion that the guitars themselves sounded like a crowd screaming.

Next to take the stage was Sustenance, a Kennesaw-based band with two albums and one EP. Their latest release, which was their EP called “Soul’s Grand Remorse,” was the subject of much attention at the show. 

About the EP, Sustenance said, “this music is a prolific display of [us] at our strongest and most powerful; pushing the limits of what can be done with nothing but our will to achieve better for ourselves.” 

Sustenance’s music often starts with a tangible melody that delves into chaos throughout the piece, asserting the sort of power and limit-testing that the audience members and Sustenance themselves identify with in their music.

The third band to play was Clot, a deathcore band which combines elements of death metal such as growling vocals and down-tuned guitars with elements of metalcore, which is characterized by its breakdowns — periods of the song where various different instruments take on solo renditions of the main verse. 

On their Spotify description, Clot says, “Grief tethers itself to those it visits like a ghostly anchor, choosing when to materialize on a whim, silently informing our days.” 

This sentiment was omnipresent within their performance, as the band members seemed almost tethered to each other, whether by grief or another possessive force altogether. Their bodies moved in sync, the bassist putting his head but inches from the drums all while the lead singer screamed and growled the lyrics. At the end of their performance, the band celebrated with the crowd that this was the first show they had booked. As the cheer died down, the band screamed out a message to the crowd demonstrating their anarcho-political beliefs: “Donate, protest and don’t let our city be torn down.”

As the crowd reeled from Clot’s stellar first performance, the audience began to mill about, coming down from the hype of the previous performance. All the fans that had been screaming and growling in sync with the performers just minutes ago began excitedly talking amongst each other. The moshers that had just been bouncing around, dashing about the floor took moments to rest on the floor and chat, smiles ever-present on their faces. Jamie, an 18-year-old concertgoer, had come to Sabbath with her father, who introduced her to metal music when she was in sixth grade. 

About the audience, Jamie said, “Everyone thinks metalheads look so mean but they’re the kindest people ever. I have never felt unsafe at a metal show, and actually my favorite thing about it is the camaraderie and the family atmosphere. At a metal concert, if you fall, someone will pick you right back up. We all take care of each other.” 

The companionship between audience members was certainly present as concertgoers introduced themselves to each other, gave each other first bumps and made way for other audience members to leave the floor to get some air — all in downtime before the last band, Thou, was scheduled to play.

For Thou, the crowd hummed with pure excitement. Members of previous bands joined the audience as well, all standing in wait for the final act of the night. It was electric. As Thou made their entrance, the audience raised fists in the air, fighting to be heard as Thou began their set. Thou is from Baton Rouge, La., and plays sludge metal, a genre of metal which combines doom metal and hardcore punk, known for its abrasiveness, distortion and shout vocals. 

The distortion almost seemed to take hold of the performers themselves as the lead singer, Bryan Funck, rolled his eyes back into his head as he screamed. At one point, he even raised the mic stand high into the air, waving it like a triumphant flag, before pointing the stand directly at his drummer, who continued the barrage of beats and vocals. The entire crowd seemed immersed in the experience, as the crowd began to swell towards the front of the stage, with fans leaning into the stage itself, trying to be as close to the music as possible. 

As they performed “The Hammer,” the audience came alive — dancing, pumping fists in the air, wailing out the lyrics in sync and even crowdsurfing.

While the metalhead subculture is intense and dedicated, first-time metal concertgoers will always be able to find their home within the audience. While the music is often dark and angsty, the atmosphere is nothing but welcoming. 

Though heavy metal is not for everyone, it is a safe haven for many. There is something magnetic about it — the way the music pulls the audience together, screaming and living and breathing as one.