Florida’s status as a metal-music mecca relies on a perfect storm of time and location — those being the late '80s and Tampa. Broward County has had some acts, but Miami's scene has been overshadowed by more popular forms of danceable stuff.
“Back in 2013, when I first saw Inquisition and Marduk at the Culture Room, I had a dream of putting on a show with Inquisition and Kult ov Azazel,” says Ira Ochacher, who created the Black Kvlt Festival, which will take place in Miami tonight. "I love black metal, death metal, and some thrash, and it got me thinking to do an underground, pure-evil, extreme black-metal fest.”
Ochacher has been at it since then, slowly growing his brand and increasing the fest’s profile. He has booked bigger bands such as Thy Antichrist and Acheron and mixed in local acts. In a classic “if you build it, they will come” scenario, the Black Kvlt Festival has continued to draw devotees from the more extreme scene. It has also converted fans of regular metal.
Black Kvlt 2017 headliner Inquisition has been Jason “Dagon” Weirbach’s main musical outlet since 1988, when he founded the band in Cali, Colombia. Starting as a thrash-metal quartet, it quickly evolved a guitar-driven black-metal sound. Weirbach relocated to the Seattle area in 1996. He later joined drummer Thomas “Incubus” Stevens to form a two-piece that has been at the forefront of black metal in the United States.
The turmoil he experienced in Colombia during the '80s and early '90s opened Weirbach to theistic, Satanist influences. Social isolationism is the driving force for his and the band’s staying power. “Living a more secluded life, having a much smaller social circle since I moved back up here in '96, really made an enormous impact," he says. "[It forced] me to take advantage of it to focus entirely on songwriting and rehearsing.”
The band's most recent effort and seventh full-length, Bloodshed Across the Empyrean Altar Beyond the Celestial Zenith — an album that is mature and deliberate — shows Inquisition in top form. Filled with signature pagan and astrobiological musings, the 13 tracks clock in at just under an hour. Ornate and well composed, the album proves Weirbach is a master of riffage. The band's two-decade chemistry shows in a booming way.
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“I learned to do more with less time,” Weirbach says. “I cannot leave out the serenity and beauty we have here in Washington state. The landscapes are beautiful and magnificent.”
Ochacher’s Black Kvlt Festival seems back on track after some ambivalence last year. Coheadlined by Kult ov Azazel, this year’s two-stage, 11-band showdown will also feature California’s Crowhurst, Chicago’s FIN, Tampa's L.O.R.E. and Nocturnus A.D., and a handful of South Florida bands.
Ochacher has learned to work with what he’s got and has soldiered on with his growing festival. “After I did Black Kvlt Fest 3, I fell into depression. A family member passed away. I thought I was going to move away, but everyone kept telling me to do a fourth one.” It might not be the biggest of its kind, but for South Floridians who love the genre, it is the only one of its kind.
Black Kvlt Fest: Florida's Black Metal Festival 2017
7 p.m. Friday, March 3, at Churchill’s Pub, 5501 NE Second Ave., Miami; 305-757-1807; churchillspub.com. Tickets cost $20 at the door.