Oblivion Access festival curates the ‘weird end’ of the underground music spectrum

From black metal to ambient, hip-hop to shoegaze, this year’s lineup runs the gamut.

By Wells DunbarJune 14, 2023 9:44 am, ,

Obliv·​i·​on (noun):  the condition or state of being forgotten or unknown.

But while many of the bands on the Oblivion Access Festival lineup may not be what you call household names, the four-day festival of underground and extreme independent music and art will definitely leave a mark on festivalgoers.

Ahead of the festival’s run across clubs in downtown Austin June 15-18, Texas Standard spoke with fest co-founders Dusty Brooks and Dorian Domi. The pair have been organizing the festival together for the past five years.

Initially known as Austin Terror Fest, its original incarnation focused heavily on extreme metal in all its various permutations: death metal, grindcore, sludge, doom and hardcore. But after a pandemic-necessitated regrouping, the fest returned in 2022 as Oblivion Access – and with a broader sonic palate.

Brooks, who has been booking shows in Austin since 2012, reflects that, “Every show that I booked, every contract that I signed, every agent that I yelled at or got yelled at by … it was just one step closer to getting to where we’re at today.” Domi attributed his extensive knowledge of music to his parents’ influence, his curiosity, and the collaborative friendship with Brooks, with the two “exposing each other to different types of music and [exploring] different genres.”

The pair took a different approach to this year’s lineup by partnering with acclaimed indie record labels to curate several showcases. The most notable partnership is with San Francisco-based  record label The Flenser, which is hosting three showcases.

Brooks expresses his admiration for the label, helmed by Jonathan Tuite, as being able to coalesce multiple styles and genres under one roof. “The way that he crafts and curates his label, he makes the shoegaze and the black metal and the ambient music work together perfectly.”

Arguably The Flenser’s biggest success story, Oklahoma City noise rockers Chat Pile, make two festival appearances. “They’re mixing so much of the old school noise rock, like The Birthday Party, and kind of bringing it a new life,” Domi says, accurately noting their “lyrical themes are very dark and visceral.”

Those loud, dark and aggressive sounds are prevalent in many of this year’s acts, including influential industrial and doom metal band Godflesh, and a stacked Sunday matinee of hardcore bands including Drain and Gel.

But another sign of Oblivion Access’s continuing evolution is reflected in another label showcase: Dais Records and their roster of darkwave and synth-driven artists, like headliner Drab Majesty. “Gothy and synth-poppy and a little spooky, all at the same time,” Brooks adds. Underground hip-hop is also represented this year, with performances from RXK Nephew, GothBoiClique and Lil Ugly Mane (whose 2015 album “Oblivion Access” the festival took its name.)

Another highlight of the festival will be a performance by the influential drone band Earth, who will be playing their album “Earth 2” in full. The show will place in Austin’s Central Presbyterian Church, which will feature, per the band’s request, a quadraphonic surround sound system. Brooks describes it as a “totally immersive experience” and reveals that Earth will have three guitar players performing the album live.

While there’s plenty of other festivals and events in Austin and throughout Texas, Brooks emphasizes their focus on capturing the darker and more artistic end of the spectrum. “I think we’ve kind of got a grip on that one.”

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