For the second year in a row, Metallica guitarist Kirk Hammett (aka Kirk Von Hammett) combines his love of horror and heavy metal for the latest edition of Fear FestEvil. The celebration was inaugurated with a three-day event at the Regency Ballroom in San Francisco, but this time Fear FestEvil takes over the RockBar Theater in San Jose for two nights of metal and mayhem.
The festival kicks off with Hammett hosting a sold-out VIP Murder Mystery Dinner at the Winchester Mystery House Friday night that will feature the guitarist participating in a theatrical whodunit caper. After guests are treated to an opening reception with drinks at 6 p.m., they will enjoy dinner and a tour of the infamously eerie mansion while trying to figure out who killed who among Kirk and his special guests Cory Taylor (the lead singer of Slipknot and Stone Sour) and horror legend offspring Sara Karloff, Bela Lugosi Jr., and Ron Chaney.
On Saturday afternoon, the terrifying celebration continues with the free outdoor Carnival of Chaos at 1 p.m. that will offer up an authentic freak show, horror-themed games and vendors, a car show featuring Kirk's sleek, custom-built 1936 Ford and numerous vintage hearses and more outside the RockBar Theater. Inside starting at 5 p.m. (VIP ticket holders get in early at 3 p.m.), attendees can peruse Hammett's world-class collection of horror movie memorabilia and meet and get autographs from the aforementioned children of Karloff, Lugosi and Cheney as well as cult horror actor Bill Mosley (Chop Top in "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2," the HBO dark fantasy series "Carnivale" and several Rob Zombie films).
There will also be panel discussions with Hammett and his fellow rock star aficionados of the macabre including Taylor, Anthrax drummer Charlie Benate, the ubiquitous Slash and Marilyn Manson/Rob Zombie guitarist John 5. Fear FestEvil's main attraction may be the impressive music line-up that will take the stage over two nights.
Saturday's highlight will be a headlining set Oakland metal juggernaut High On Fire. Founded by renowned Sleep guitarist Matt Pike in 1998 after his seminal San Jose stoner-rock outfit imploded over label issues, Oakland-based outfit High On Fire gave Pike a chance to continue exploring his Sabbath obsession in a power trio format with monster drummer Des Kensel and original bassist George Rice.
Crafting aggressive riff-powered songs that nod equally to the classic-era thrash of Metallica and Slayer and the grinding crunch of Motorhead (Pike's growling vocals bear a distinct resemblance to Lemmy's gravelly voice), High On Fire established itself as one of the modern era's true metal powerhouse bands with its recorded material and furious live shows.
While Melvins/Thrones bassist Joe Preston stepped in for the band's acclaimed Steve Albini produced effort Blessed Black Wings in 2005, his departure later that year led to the addition of former Zeke bassist Jeff Matz to establish arguably the band's strongest line-up yet. Fans can expect crushing songs from throughout the trio's illustrious career and possibly a preview of new material. Saturday's schedule also includes Sabbath-channeling East Bay rockers Orchid and bloody theatrical thrashers Ghoul as well as a show-closing all-star jam with Hammett, Taylor and Benate teaming up with High On Fire
On Sunday, the festival presents headlining Swedish experimentalists Meshuggah. Shredding the boundaries of metal with quantum-physics complexity and brutal precision for over a quarter century, the group was formed by singer Jens Kidman and guitarist Fredrik Thordendal in 1987. The quintet rose to international acclaim in the '90s after influential early efforts Destroy Erase Improve and Chaosphere scored Meshuggah critical acclaim and support slots on tours with the likes of Slayer and Tool.
Powered by the nearly inhuman timekeeping of drummer Tomas Haake and Thordendal's melodic, Allan Holdsworth-meets-Kerry King free jazz/metal fury, Meshuggah pushed the metal envelope once again with its 2012 Nuclear Blast salvo, Koloss. The band will share the stage with NYC hardcore heroes Agnostic Front (who recently issued their first new studio album for Nuclear Blast in four year, The American Dream Died) and local underground headbangers Asada Messiah. Hammett will strap his guitar to close out the FestEvil backed by Meshuggah for a blistering finale. For more information and tickets, visit the Fear FestEvil website.
Saturday and Sunday, April 11-12, 1 p.m. $25-$65