One Last Night with Insect Warfare
At 6pm, just as the thermometer ticked the highest mark of the day, my buddy Chris(tkiller) and I pulled up to the record store. Sound Exchange, an eclectic record shop in Montrose, is an old house immediately surrounded by liquor stores, foreclosed homes, and high-dollar gentrification projects. It was Summer in Houston and the sun blasted oppressive heat on the cracked parking lot, like an endless dutch oven from a vengeful, flatulent god. We arrived two-and-a-half hours early for the most unexpected show of the year. Neither the humidity nor the stench of dozens of crust punks could dampen the mood that day. Insect Warfare announced a last-minute set in this tiny record store, their last U.S. show ever, and there was no way we were gonna miss it.
Houston might be the hottest place on Earth. From the manicured suburbs of The Woodlands, to the derelict shotgun shacks of Third Ward, all the way down to the jellyfish-infested waters of Galveston Bay, the defining characteristic of this 600 square mile behemoth is sticky, soul-sucking heat. This savage swampland is a fertile breeding ground for mosquitos and black-clad kids that love extreme metal.
Anti-music, anti-fashion, anti-positivity, Insect Warfare was born in Houston with a desire to channel the primitive grindcore of early Napalm Death and disgusting noisecore of early Anal Cunt. Formed in 2004, Insect Warfare thumbed their noses at the artistic “fashion grind” exemplified by popular acts at the time like The Locust by embracing uncool, rage-fueled grind. The band recruited Dobber Beverly, a human shaped extreme metal drum machine, in advance of their debut LP, 2007’s World Extermination. By 2009, the band had gained a much larger following when Earache Records reissued World Extermination. If you wanted to catch an Insect Warfare show after hearing that reissue, you were shit out of luck; the band had broken up.
In the post-MySpace era, the band had picked up a huge following of internet metal nerds. This long-defunct band thrilled grindcore fans the world over by announcing a headlining reunion appearance at this year’s Obscene Extreme Fest in the Czech Republic. Could it be that the band was reforming? Making new music? Touring again? No, no, and fuck no. The band planned one final show at Obscene Extreme to ostensibly celebrate the 10th anniversary of World Extermination before putting a final nail in the coffin. You can imagine my surprise when the band announced Thursday that they would play a show Saturday night in Houston. One last U.S. gig before putting a bow on it.
Insect Warfare were there at Sound Exchange to play an event celebrating 10 years of excellent metal artwork from acclaimed visual artist Daniel “Sawblade” Shaw. Shaw, a deadlock’d mountain of a man, had the unenviable task of setting up tables to display his wares among the clumsy throngs of half-drunk punks. Fortunately, his merch survived til the end of the show so I could greedily purchase it. If you’re not familiar with his work with Insect Warfare, Mammoth Grinder, or Municipal Waste, do yourself a favor and check out his portfolio.
In the hours before the band took the “stage” behind the clear display cases, crust punks guzzled brown liquor from paper bags while old metalheads sang and formed a chorus of air guitars to Overkill tunes from behind the register. Young metal nerds sweated through their newest battle vests, abuzz with 40s of malt liquor and the excitement of seeing this rare house show of a band that had supposedly hung up their sticks years ago. All around, sleeveless arms proudly displayed Texas Death Metal tattoos.
For two hours we drained bottles of Lone Star, every drop of moisture immediately sweated from my pores. By the time the band donned their instruments, the room was packed as tightly and as oily as a can of sardines. “WHO ARE WE? WHO ARE WE?”, vocalist Rahi Geramifar yelled to the crowd, clearly relishing his role as a grind rockstar. Guitarist Beau Beasley plainly announced “If you break anything in this fucking store, we stop.”
A gentleman that was the spitting image of Beavis and Butthead nemesis Todd yelled out with a demand for violence. By the time Insect Warfare unleashed their first blast of grind, two overweight, bald men threw clumsy ham-sandwich fists at each other and Todd kindly helped escort the gentlemen right out the front door. As the band lurched into “Manipulator,” a 250-pound man flew unsteadily above the packed audience, knocking out ceiling lights before landing with a thud on the sticky hardwood floors.
Dobber behind the skins was a sight to behold. The drummer was blasting at a blinding fast speed amid the chaos of the cramped room. Cheap beers soared above the room for the entire 13-second runtime of “Street Sweeper.” All around the room, punks were furiously moshing to the grindcore oldies. Rahi jokingly (but very accurately) declared that the crowd was a bunch of “fuckin’ nerds.”
And less then 30 minutes later it was all over. No opener, no encores, no dogs, no hamsters. As the closing blast rang, I quickly escaped the room and found dozens of people milling about in the parking lot, either unable or unwilling to get inside with the oppressive heat and stank. I briefly contemplated suicide as an alternative to dealing with the heat as Christkiller’s brother staggered up to us, utterly soaked in Miller Lite and prouder than a peacock. “You see that shit?”, he yelled, “41 years old and I held it down like a kid. Got-damn.” Got-damn indeed.
Insect Warfare is playing Obscene Extreme in the Czech Republic next week. Go see ’em if you can. If you can’t make an international trip on such a short notice, you can watch video of their last U.S. performance below.