Get familiar with the bands pushing the agenda of heavy culture and leading the new generation of extreme music.
The third installment of Knotfest’s digital discovery showcase with the Pulse of the Maggots Festival is set to broadcast Friday March 11th via KNOTFEST.com.
Featuring 18-buzzworthy artists spanning the spectrum of heavy music, the festival brings together an ensemble of players that are all making a lasting impact in their respective lanes. From death metal to hardcore, black metal to post rock Pulse of the Maggots is as dynamic as it is diverse – offering a snapshot of the health of heavy culture.
To get fans familiar with the participating artists for the 3×22 edition of Pulse of the Maggots, the Meet the Maggots feature offers a concise introduction and highlight just why these artists are primed for the spotlight.
Leading the charge among the new school of Texas-bred hostility, hardcore-tinged death metal crew Creeping Death’s most recent road resume includes opening stints for the likes of genre mainstays in Cattle Decapitation and Exhumed. The band’s 2021 EP The Edge of Existence proved a caustic collection of metallic devastation – channeling the force of bands like Bolt Thrower and Entombed with a blue-collar hardcore ethos, the band has quickly propelled themselves into the conversation of the genre’s most exciting new contributors.
With a sound that conveys a reverence for their predecessors without running afoul of rehashing what has already been done, Creeping Death have put on for Texas metal in much the same way their brethren in Power Trip did – with no gimmicks, no bulshit, and no remorse.
Set to make a lasting impact on their Pulse of The Maggots debut, the band’s drummer Trey Pemberton detailed their creative DNA, the intersection of metal and hardcore and how The Edge of Existence has segued into the band writing new tunes of which are some of their favorite to date.
The Edge of Existence had the unique quality of feeling both classic and contemporary at the same time. What are some of those old school elements are important for Creeping Death to keep alive?
Pemberton – The main influences for this band are still bands like Gorguts, Bolt Thrower, Grave, and Sepultura so those old school elements will always be present in this band. We also try and draw influences from contemporary bands like Blood Red Throne, Mammoth Grinder, Iron Age, and Power Trip as well. Trying to blend that mix of old school influences and contemporary influences well has always been something we try to accomplish.
Frozen Soul, Iron Age, Skourage, Skeleton – heavy music in TEXAS just seems to be built differently. What do you think the common denominator is?
Pemberton – First of all big shoutout to all the bands mentioned as well as some up and comers like Tribal Gaze and Kombat. I can’t speak to how it is coming up in other aggressive music scenes in Texas, but coming through the Hardcore/Punk side there’s always been an appreciation for what came before as well as a solid effort from more established bands to help cultivate the success of younger bands. Riley Gale would always say “You gotta put on for the home team” and I think that’s the general attitude here for the most part. You have younger bands doing their best to live up to the standard set by some of the bands that came before. That along with a willingness to take influences from peers and contemporaries plus a little (or a lot) of geography separating us from the coasts leads to a very special and unique situation down here.
There’s a subtle hardcore lean that translates in Creeping Death music. You’re a death metal band that can tour with bands of both genres. Do you see any value in that kind of versatility? Is there any pride in being the kind of band that can connect with both circles?
Pemberton – Like I mentioned earlier we through the hardcore scene in the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex. One of my favorite things about hardcore is the energy of the shows, and so I think we try to incorporate that not only into our live show but the urgency and energy of the songs recorded as well. We try to get to the point and that’s definitely an element of coming up in hardcore. Especially in the case of our live show we’re always going to bring the energy. On this last tour some kid told me “Yeah I really don’t like your band but you guys go hard on stage and that was cool so respect.” And that’s cool, not everyone is going to like your music but we will always try to entertain no matter who we’re playing to. We never wanna limit ourselves with who we play with, be it hardcore, death metal, grindcore, or even hip-hop or indie or something we don’t care. If even one person walks out a fan of a new type of music then I’m super stoked. I take pride when anyone anywhere can connect to our music at all.
What has it been like getting back on the road and sharing the songs from The Edge of Existence live? Is it getting the reaction you had hoped for and more importantly, is it getting the wheels turning creatively to maybe get to work on a full length follow up to Wretched Illusions?
Pemberton – The reaction on these last two tours has been absolutely insane! We’re super thankful for the amazing response both live and online. We actually have a full length pretty much ready to go, we should be recording within the next few months. Super stoked on this material, it’s some of our favorite tracks we’ve ever written.
For fans getting introduced to Creeping Death through Pulse of the Maggots – what can they expect to see on March 11th?
Pemberton – Lots of headbanging and spin kicks by various members of Creeping Death \m/
Hailing from the South of France, Akiavel has only needed all of four years to make a significant impact among the ranks of extreme music. What makes that span particularly impressive is two of those four years include an asterisk – with the band still managing to gaining traction despite the stall of the pandemic era.
Releasing a pair of concept albums in as many years, 2020’s V, followed by Vae Victis in 2021, AkiaveL asserted songwriting expertise and a unique prowess not typical of bands at such an introductory level. The meld of brutality and melody, translated into a collection of complex compositions – a body of work that boasted the thematic weight and stylistic spectacle indicative of a band operating at peak performance. Adding to the technical proficiency on display, the band’s articulate approach to musical extremity is fully realized in the vocal soar of AkiaveL’s lead, Auré.
With an uncanny ability to transition from demonic to angelic, Auré masterfully navigates the band’s fluid stylistic shift – combining the abysmal and beautiful with a kind of skill and confidence that underscores that AkiaveL has yet to fully realize their greatness and yet are already so damned good.
The commanding vocalist along with the band’s bassist Jay, offer their perspective on how each individual member of the band fulfills a role when combined, results in something artistically undeniable.
The band’s sound is incredibly diverse. Thrash, groove, black, death – Akiavel really covers the spectrum in terms of the subgenera of metal. Does that kind of variation occur naturally during songwriting or is the intention to pack all of that to showcase your influences?
Auré – This mix of influences is the very essence of Akiavel. Actually, we do not do this on purpose. Each of these subgenres is the personal signature of one of the 4 musicians of Akiavel. I listen to death metal, Chris (guitars) loves heavy metal, Jay is more into hardcore, and Butch is a big thrash fan. And some songs even have pop rock influences or riffs, like “My Lazy Doll” for instance. We all come from different backgrounds and with different musical influences, so this mixing of influences is just natural for us.
The band’s debut album V arrived in February 2020 just prior to the world turning upside down. How disappointing was it to have such a potent, powerful introduction be derailed by the pandemic and how did the band bounce back so quickly with Væ Victis?
Auré – When V was released, we had something like 16 concerts which were scheduled in France and Belgium, the first of them being on the very first day of the lockdown, mid-March 2020…
Jay – We decided to use the spare time that was left to us to begin right away the writing of Vae Victis. At this stage, we knew each other better due to the writing and recording process of V. The band was fairly young after all, the line-up was completed by the arrival of Butch (drums) at the beginning of 2019 only. So after a few gigs in 2019 and the release of our first album in 2020, writing Vae Victis was easier.
The band was finally able to resume live shows in 2021. Did finally being able to play songs from both V and Væ Victis cast the songs in a new light? Did it feel like the full potential of the songs were realized once they were finally showcased live?
Jay – Our first shows [back] were in September 2021 and October 2021, where we played four festivals in a row… really cool bands like Phil Campbell & the Bastard Sons and Masterplan played just after us.
We had more than 20 songs ready to play so it was a real treat for us to be able to pick the songs that would suit best our mood and the time we had to play, depending on each show. The two albums are different, but also very complementary in terms of atmosphere of songs, so the choice is very easy.
Auré – We already knew from our rehearsals, but also from the social media and fans, which songs would be awaited for by the audience. So songs like “Frozen Beauties” or “My Lazy Doll” are the mandatory part of our setlist but also cool to play.
The band really tapped into the psychological aspect of real horror with Væ Victis – choosing to focus on harrowing crimes of serial killers but also providing some context and narrative to their exploits. Do you take any stock in being the kind of band that can be both brutal and articulate in the same song?
Auré – Vae Victis is indeed about physical wounds [inflicted] by serial killers and their inner suffering due their personal history and/or their mental illness. That was naturally something I wanted to research and to talk about, something I wanted to try to understand to a certain extent – How can human beings become such monsters? We would like to stress the fact that this album is, before all, a tribute to all their innocent victims, but it seemed interesting to dig into these monsters’ minds.
For fans just getting introduced to Akiavel through Pulse of the Maggots, what should they expect from your set?
Jay – Power, violence and Auré’s powerful voice.
Basking in the kind of breakout year that few emerging artists experience, UK metalcore standouts Vexed skipped many of the subtleties of a moderate and ascension and caught a ride on a rocket.
Propelled by the power and personal testimony packaged into the band’s debut full length, Culling Culture, the 11-track collection saw the arrival the genre’s next on deck with a emphatic delivery from frontwoman Megan Targett.
Tracks like “Misery,” “Epiphany” and “Hideous” wielded profound instrumental power. The band’s modern approach to metalcore resulted in compositions that were as pummeling as they were persuasive – a convincing showcase of aggressive songwriting at a craftsman level. Paired with Targett’s cathartic growl and emotional purge, Culling Culture was the kind of album that didn’t need to pique your interest – it demanded it.
Charging ahead propelled by the momentum generated from such a commanding introduction, Vexed stands to become the kind of generational voice that ushers in a new era of the sound. Aggressive, articulate, and authentic, is breathing new life into their genre and remaining true to themselves in the process. Vocalist Megan Targett details how the long and winding road became a clear path once the band decided to make their own lane.
What has the last year been like since the arrival of Culling Culture?
Targett – It’s been incredible in some ways and really difficult in others. We genuinely didn’t expect the amazing reaction we got for the album as we just assumed people wouldn’t care about us. We’ve been working so hard in bands for so many years, we almost expected it to just be another scenario of being ignored again. But the fact that so many people connected with it, gave us that affirmation that we all needed. Knowing that all our hard work and belief in our music had paid off was really rewarding.
The difficult part though was not being able to actually connect with our fans face to face. This album is so meant for the live setting, that experiencing each single release and then the album release just from at home, was heartbreaking. I think if the album had been released during a time where we weren’t in a global pandemic and we could have gone on tour, it would have done even better. However, I think it was an album that a lot of people needed during a pandemic.
The songs are nearly a year old and feel as fresh as ever. Do you feel like the thematic weight and personal quality of the songs add to the shelf life of the music?
Targett – I think a lot of metal in general is the kind of music that will never age badly. It’s always going to be a genre that is so closely connected to people’s identities, emotions and lifestyles… it’s not the same as a throwaway chart song. That’s something that I really wanted to be very clear and sometimes cut throat about with Culling Culture and VEXED. No matter how difficult the subject matter or how difficult the emotion I’m experiencing is, to just be completely honest with myself and my lyrics. When you’re genuinely being vulnerable and opening up to people about topics that are hard to talk about, even to our closest friends, that’s when people will want to listen again and again. We all go through pain and suffering in our lives and knowing that someone else has gone through it too, yet made it out the other side, is a feeling that will never go out of date.
Given how prevalent metalcore is in the UK, what do you think has allowed Vexed to not only standout but do so in a relatively short amount of time?
Targett – I think being completely authentic to yourself when you’re writing is very important. Taking inspiration from other artists is great but don’t fall into the trap of trends and what you think will sound good. With VEXED, it sounds so simple but we decided from day one that we were going to write the music that we’ve always wanted to write, instead of writing songs that we thought were expected from us to please others.
Another obvious reason is hard work. You have to be prepared to spend all your money, time and energy on it. You’re going to miss out on doing things with your friends and family. You’re going to eat beans on toast for a month so you can afford studio time. I don’t think people realise the amount of sacrifices you really have to make and the commitment you have to put in if you want it to work. It has to be 100%. Anything less isn’t enough.
But, I’ll be real though, it’s also luck! The whole world and their Nan are in bands nowadays so you need something that makes you stand out, as well as that lucky break. Which is why all the above is so important because you never know when or where that luck is going to come from.
What has it been like sharing these songs live? How has the energy of Culling Culture live inspired you for whatever is in the works next?
Targett – It’s been the best feeling we’ve had in the past 2 years! Performing live is why we do this. It’s what we all love doing the most and what we honestly live for. These songs especially are so raw and full of emotion that they’re not just meant for listening to through your speakers. Two years of being shut indoors has created a lot of pent up emotions and we’ve been through a lot. Culling Culture definitely made us into better artists but we’re still nowhere near where we want to be. The album made us realise that we can do so much more and we want to push ourselves to the extremes.
For fans getting introduced to Vexed through Pulse of the Maggots – what can they expect March 11th?
Targett – Expect an actual live experience of metal catharsis.
Usually we’d be running around, headbanging and going completely feral on stage, but because we’re plugged in from so many different places and have lots of cameras, it will be more static. Which is a shame because we hate being still, but that’s just how it’s gotta be for the sound to be decent. However, we’re bringing our heavy shit, and we hope that people can see in our faces how much we’re chomping at the bit to match the songs with the physical exertion it needs.