At Japan's 1997 Air Jam punk festival, the manager
for thrash metal warriors Slayer, who happened to be in attendance,
asked promoter Howling Bull's Hide Uehara if there
was a festival where bands like Slayer could play, recalls
Uehara in an interview.
This conversation, he says, planted the idea in his mind for
Beast Feast, which got off to an appropriately deafening launch
last year in front of 20,000 at the Yokohama Arena, and is
the Japanese metal scene's answer to Ozzfest and Asia's
largest festival exclusively devoted to heavy variants of
"At the time the market was dominated by punk,"
continues Uehara, "and we had some trouble getting
sponsors, but recently young people are returning to harder
sounds, so we were able to make it happen last year."
While Howling Bull changed the venue this year to the more
wide-open Makuhari Messe, many of the anchors of the show
will be returning, including of course Slayer, as well as
Sweden's Arch Enemy and Japan's own Cocobat.
In fact, Slayer did ultimately prove crucial to the first
Beast Feast, with many of the bands at last year's
festival culled from Slayer and Pantera's Extreme Steel
tour of 2001. Meanwhile this year's bill, aside from
the coup Howling Bull scored by lining up hoary metal gods
Motorhead as headliners, offers a look at some recent acts
in metal, which include among them new units formed by some
Chief among these are Soulfly, created by singer/guitarist
Max Cavalera formerly of Brazilian unit Sepultura, and Down,
fronted by singer Phil Anselmo of the US's Pantera.
After leaving Sepultura, one of the world's most successful
metal bands, in 1996, Cavalera wasted no time in putting together
the ultra-heavy Soulfly. The band provided him with an outlet
to deal with the unresolved murder of his stepson Dana Wells,
and the group quickly stepped out on tour in support of their
self-named debut. While Soulfly's incorporation of
rap-influenced nu metal vocals earned Cavalera the wrath of
more orthodox metal fans, the band's determination
have seen them through to a third album, this summer's
Down, meanwhile, is an all-star metal side project, originally
formed in 1995 during downtime between tours by Pantera's
Anselmo, guitarist Pepper Keenan (of Corrosion of Conformity),
and bassist Todd Strange and drummer Jimmy Bower of Crowbar.
Despite expectations for something in the aggressive thrash
metal vein, their 1995 debut, NOLA, harkened back more to
the early days of metal and bands like Black Sabbath.
Like Fuji Rock has done for Japan's rock scene, Beast
Feast, Uehara hopes, can play a role in cultivating Japan's
metal scene. "Recently there has been a lot of emerging
talent among Japan's younger bands and labels,"
he says. "With more of them hoping to get booked for
Beast Feast, I hope we can play a role in giving these bands
a push. Japan's mainstream media seems mostly interested
in trendy culture, so it's up to us to see that metal
puts down roots here."
Metalheads who want to preview Beast Feast or who can't
make it to Makuhari out in Chiba may want to consider "Club
Beast Feast" this Friday at Club Asia, which will offer
sets by some of the Japanese bands on the Beast Feast bill
as well as one promised "special guest." Meanwhile,
US metal act Hatebreed will be playing a one-off gig next
Monday at Club Quattro.
Beast Feast takes place at Makuhari
Messe on December 14-15. See listings for details.
Photos courtesy of Howling