Friday, May 24, 2019


March 5, 2017 Rites and Rituals
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Estimated reading time — 13 minutes

I am here to discuss my experiences with a band, known as Vantablack. They are a progressive death metal band, based in my hometown of Battered Grove – a small, but lively, town in New England. The band consists of five members: a drummer, two guitarists, a bassist, and a vocalist. Beyond their roles in the band, I know little about them. They’ve exclusively played shows at my hometown venue since they formed a few months ago – nowhere else, but I’ve never seen them in town before. I still don’t. I don’t even know their names. The band and its members are shrouded in mystery. The only thing I’m certain of is what I’ve witnessed.

Before we get into the details of what I’ve experienced, let’s talk about Battered Grove’s local music scene. The bands here and in the surrounding towns are predominantly metal or, at least, metal in some form. Their genres range from extreme metal, death metal, and black metal to metalcore, deathcore, and even grindcore. If you aren’t familiar with these genres, don’t worry. It’s not important to understand the context of my situation. I’m just trying to paint a clearer picture for those who are familiar.

These bands play at our local venue, Garrett’s Locker. It’s a small, run-down place, but it’s ours. A great place for kids to have fun. I go there every chance I get. Watching bands, in addition to moshing, is a great stress reliever. But it’s more than that. Being at a metal show is a thrilling experience. The environment is positive, the people are friendly (for the most part, occasionally, there’s a moron who likes to crowdkill every chance they get), and the music is phenomenal. It’s a heavenly assault on the ears and an alleviating comfort to the soul. There’s nothing else like it.

In more recent years, financial issues have led the venue owners to allow in touring bands. These bands have a bigger draw than locals, and more people equals more money. There’s nothing wrong with keeping your head above water, especially when it means saving the place, but I miss when the venue was ours and only ours. It was like a secret club, almost, a place for local musicians only. Our escape from the day to day troubles of the world. I mean, it still is all of that, but the touring bands bring fans with them that just don’t give a shit. Scene girls that care more about who’s cuter, rather than the actual quality of the material. I’m not judging. I just miss the old crowd.

One day, I noticed an invite on Facebook to an event page for Garrett’s Locker. It was a show, but not just any show. It was an “ALL LOCAL METALFEST JAMBOREE!!!”, as it said on the page. All locals, huh? I was intrigued. I hadn’t been to a show at Garrett’s with all local bands in years. This was great, I thought. I looked at the lineup to see who was playing. I recognized every band on the bill, save for one. Vantablack. They must have been new, I thought. But new local bands almost always were openers. Vantablack was headlining the event. I found this very odd, but I assumed they paid the promoter for the spot or something. Things like that happened occasionally. Rarely, but they happened. I figured this must have been one of those times.

Fast forward to the day of the show. My friend, Billy, and I showed up early, as we usually did. We always loved to hang out in front of the venue for a while before the show started. It gave us a chance to meet friends and meet some of the bands during load-in. We already knew all of the members in these bands, having seen them play for years. Instead of a meet and greet, it was more like a family reunion. But at every family reunion, there are always new relatives to meet. You know, those cousins you never knew you had? That was Vantablack.

While talking with the lead singer of my favorite local band, a bus pulled up. Thinking it was an actual bus using the parking lot to turn around, everyone got out of the way. Instead of turning around, it parked. That’s when I noticed the lettering on the side of the bus, “VB”. That’s when I knew that it belonged to Vantablack. This was a surprise. No local band, or even touring band, had ever showed up to Garret’s with a bus. It was always either multiple cars, a couple of pick-up trucks, an SUV, or a van. Having an actual tour bus was impressive, especially for a local band. This, coupled with the fact that no one else knew anything about the band either, caused everyone to stare. We were waiting to put a face to the name, so to speak. We were waiting for the big reveal.

With equipment in hand, five cloaked figures came off of the bus in an orderly fashion and walked into Garrett’s. When I say cloaked, I mean cloaked, hood and all. I couldn’t even make out a single face. Strange is an understatement. It was downright bizarre. Billy agreed, having seen nothing like it, and he’s been to more shows than I have. Besides confusing us, Vantablack’s “grand entrance” succeeded in making people interested. It was all anyone could talk about the whole night. The mystery surrounding the band was enough to make everyone insatiably curious. I have to admit; I was looking forward to seeing what they offered.

The night was going well. I met new friends, enjoyed the music of some of my favorite bands, and moshed to my heart’s content. It was shaping up to be one of the best shows I’d ever attended. All of my favorites had taken the stage, and the only thing that would make the night better is if Vantablack lived up to the hype. Having not emptied my bladder all night, however, I took a bathroom break right before their set.

The bathroom for Garrett’s Locker was actually in another building, connected to Garrett’s via a long and narrow hallway. This meant a bit of a walk was needed to get there and back, which was part of the reason I hadn’t gone all night. When I finally arrived at the bathroom, I noticed something weird. Among the many band stickers on the wall by the sink, there was something else. Carved into the wall was the letters “VB”, followed by a strange symbol. I figured that one of Vantablack’s members had put it there. It was kind of fucked up to carve it in the wall, though, and besides, what was the purpose? Carving your band’s initials and symbol into a bathroom wall isn’t exactly the greatest method of promotion. I simply brushed it off and finished my business before returning to the show.

Upon returning, I could hear the music as it filled the room. Vantablack had already begun their set. From the sounds of it, they were good. Not just good, but great, even better when I got a view of the stage. The members were dressed up in dark, brooding get-ups. Some of their clothing included gauntlets, spiked boots, chainmail, and horned helmets. The vocalist was wearing what looked like samurai armor. They all had different styles, but all of their clothing and armor was black. To be honest, they looked like villainous characters right out of an RPG. It was awesome.

This is where things get a little weird. I was so caught up in the music and the band’s appearance that I didn’t notice what was going on in the room. Looking down at the crowd, I realized what everyone was doing. They each had their left arm in the air and were swaying back and forth in unison. It looked as though they were in a trance. I’ve been to a lot of metal shows, so I know how things should operate. Movement from the crowd is always sporadic and unpredictable. This was not the case. Everyone was perfectly synchronized. No moshing or dancing, just swaying together like zombies. And let me tell you; it was fucking creepy.

After noticing the seemingly hypnotized audience, I caught up with Billy to see what was going on. I noticed him standing in the back of the crowd, so I went over to him and asked what he was doing. I received no response. I kept yelling in his ear, but he wouldn’t reply. I eventually became aggravated and shook him. Nothing. No reaction. Just constant swaying. Everyone, swaying. I looked over at the sound guy and the person running the concession stand. They too were moving back and forth, mesmerized by the music. I was baffled.

I watched the rest of Vantablack’s set from the back of the room, not knowing what the hell was going on. Eventually, they played their last song, and just like that, everyone snapped out of it. Looking dazed as ever, they all wandered out of the room and to their cars. Billy was my ride home, so I followed him.

On the drive home, I mentioned to Billy that I tried to get his attention during the show. He acted like he didn’t recall this. But what he remembered was Vantablack. He wouldn’t shut up about how great they were. It’s all he talked about the whole ride home. He even ventured to say they were his favorite band now. That struck me as highly unusual. I’d known Billy for years. I also knew his favorite band. He would never put another band above them, especially after only seeing them play once. I didn’t voice my thoughts to Billy, though. I just wanted to go home and sleep and forget about the whole thing. And I did, until the next morning.

I woke up the next day, sore. My arms and legs were in pain from the night before. Moshing will do that to you. Because of this, I popped a few aspirin before starting my daily routine. Everything was back to normal, until I checked my phone.

I had a few Facebook notifications. Nothing out of the ordinary at first, a like here, a comment there. One notification, though, was an invite from Billy to like the page “Vantablack”. I then remembered the peculiar show they put on and how they hypnotized my friends. I decided to do a little research.

I visited the Facebook page and checked out their music. They had one release, The Nihilist. It was free to download and contained five songs, all of which I recognized from the previous night. One that really stood out to me was “Knowledge of the Damned”. This was the song they were playing when I entered the room. All songs were professionally recorded and sounded as high-quality as any touring band’s music would sound. I was impressed, but that wasn’t what I came to the page for.

I scoured the page for any answers to what happened the night before. I found little. The page had just been created. There were no posts or pictures. Still, they had roughly 200 likes. This was also about the number of people who had attended the show. No new band could gather likes that quickly. It was unheard of. Something still wasn’t adding up.

As I sat there, completely baffled, I noticed Vantablack make their first post. It was for a show the following day. It read “VANTABLACK SECRET SHOW: TRUE FOLLOWERS ONLY”. The title was odd. I clicked on it to find out more. These were the details provided:

Welcome to your new belief-system! This is an opportunity to show Vantablack you are a true follower. Rules are simple. Find a stygian tome. This will be your ticket into the event. It also contains the event’s coordinates. Tome locations are outlined below.

Several locations were listed, including the Grovewood Cemetery, right near my house. I didn’t understand the secrecy or the meaning of the event, but I was compelled to find out more. Something wasn’t right, and I wanted to know exactly what it was. I thought that, perhaps, the secret show would shed light on the situation. As such, I decided to find a “stygian tome”.

I searched for a few hours in the cemetery before finding what I was looking for. Leaning up against one of the gravestones was a small, brown, leather-bound book. I picked it up and inspected it. It lacked any noticeable features, aside from the black silhouette of a ram’s head embossed on the front. Inside, there was a single page with the show’s coordinates, followed by several blank ones. Despite the lack of characteristics, the book was very nice. Vantablack was going all out for this show. It made me want attend the event even more, if only out of pure curiosity.

The next day, I punched the coordinates into a GPS app on my phone. The place was in town, but seemed to be in the middle of the woods. This made me hesitant, but morbid curiosity outweighed my concern. I would have to walk there, but it wasn’t that big of a deal. A hike wouldn’t be the worst thing for me. Giving myself enough time to get there before the event started, I set off into the woods behind my house.

It took nearly two hours to reach the spot. There were no trails, so I fought with branches and briers most of the time. It was hell, but I made it there in time. Upon arriving, I noticed something right off the bat. I saw no instruments or equipment. Kind of hard to play a show without those, right? What I didn’t know, at the time, was there would not be a show, at least not of the musical variety.

The members were standing near a large tree, wearing those cloaks they adorned when first entering Garrett’s. Others were showing up. I watched as they walked over to the members, handed in tomes identical to mine, and then stood in a circular formation. I followed.

The circular formation was purposeful. On the ground in front of us was a large design, spray painted in red on the ground. It was the symbol I had seen carved into the bathroom wall contained in a circle. Before I could contemplate its meaning, I noticed Billy walk up and turn in his tome.

I was about to wave and say hi to Billy, but I quickly discarded the thought and chose not to. He looked different. Different, but familiar. It was the same look he had when swaying during Vantablack’s set. I then looked around and realized that everyone looked like that. They were all in a trance, just like they had been during the show. I was the only one out of place.

In an attempt to follow the pack, I decided to sport a similar expression on my face. I had to blend in with the “true followers”. I couldn’t risk getting kicked out, especially after I’d traveled so far. Shortly after I did this, the vocalist stepped forward and removed his hood. The event was about to begin.

Vantablack’s vocalist spoke with authority and conviction, reciting the following at the start of the event:

“Welcome, believers. We appreciate the journey you’ve made to get here, today. We appreciate the sacrifices you’ve made in your lives: past, present, and future. We are here now to share the burden. We are here today to unite as one people. Are you with me?”

In unison, everyone replied with a loud “YES!” I failed to do so, but was sure no one noticed. For roughly an hour, the vocalist continued to speak and asked for more synchronized responses. I don’t remember much of what he said, as I was more focused on fitting in and fearing what might happen if my true intentions were discovered. I do, however, remember what happened towards the end of the event. It’s difficult not to.

At the end of the vocalist’s long and drawn out sermon, he raised his left hand and shouted “NO ESCAPE, NO JUSTICE!” which I recognized as lyrics from “Knowledge of the Damned”. The group then repeated this back. I did as well, having caught on by this point. After this, one of the other members of the band came over with the skull of a ram and placed it at the center of the symbol. The vocalist stepped forward until he was directly behind the skull. I didn’t know what to expect.

At this point, Vantablack’s vocalist called out names. Full names. How he had that information, I didn’t know, but when he called out a name, that person would step up to the skull and face the vocalist. Billy was the first one called.

Still hypnotized, Billy walked up to the skull and held out his arm. I was confused by this. The vocalist then pulled out a dagger from within his cloak and sliced Billy’s arm, allowing the blood to drip onto the skull. Billy didn’t react. I did instead. I shook in fear. Was my arm going to be cut as well? What if I screamed in agony? What would they do with me if they found out I wasn’t a “believer”? These were the questions that raced through my mind as I watched my friend’s blood paint the skull red.

I watched in horror as names were called, and skin from each person was torn open by the vocalist’s blade. I didn’t understand, nor did I want to. I just wanted to get the hell out of there. I thought about making a run for it, but I knew I wouldn’t get far with the plethora of obstacles the forest offered. Plus, I was outnumbered. It would only take one person to catch up with me and drag me back into the ceremony. I decided to stay and play along.

My name was the last to be called. I hesitantly stepped forward and faced the vocalist. He stared at me for an awkward length of time before speaking.

“Are you a true follower?”

“Yes,” I said.

He continued to observe me and then spoke again.

“NO ESCAPE!” he shouted.

“NO JUSTICE!” I retorted, almost instinctively.

The vocalist then sliced my arm open, and my blood dripped onto the skull like the others before me. I felt the color drain from my face, but I didn’t react. The pain was great, but my will to live was greater. The vocalist smiled and allowed me to walk back to the herd. I must have played my part well.

After slicing my arm open, the vocalist concluded the event by thanking everyone for their participation. I began walking home, but started running when I got far enough away from everyone. I was officially spooked. However, I was more ecstatic that I was able to make it through the event. Who knows what might have happened had I cracked under the pressure? After getting home and bandaging my arm, I sat down and took a deep breath, thankful to be alive.

Vantablack has played many shows at Garrett’s Locker since their sadistic ritual in the woods. I haven’t gone to any of them. I wasn’t affected like everyone else was, and I think it’s because of what happens at the beginning of their sets, whether it be a spell, incantation, or ritual. I missed the start of their set that night due to my impromptu bathroom break, and that is most likely what saved me.

Despite not going to their shows, I pay close attention to their Facebook page. After every show, they gain more followers. After each surge of likes, they put on another “secret show”. I don’t know what to do. I’m scared of what’s happening to my friends, and I’m scared of what Vantablack will do next. I thought of calling the cops, but I’m too paranoid. If the members found out that I was trying to put a stop to their antics, I could become a sacrifice in one of their rituals.

I have nightmares about that day in the woods. It plays out like it did in real life, only instead of slicing everyone’s arms, he stabs them in the heart, killing them instantly. I want to run, but cannot move. After watching everyone else die, the vocalist walks over to me. Just as he’s about to deal the final blow, I wake up. Every single night this happens. Why? Why?!

The thing that scares me the most is that I keep finding myself listening to their music. It’s the only thing that seems to comfort me. And when I do, I feel the need to join them. I feel the need to be a part of their nefarious cult, and I don’t know why. I’m at the end of my rope, here, and I can feel myself slipping. Their lyrics keep ringing in my head, and I think they hold true. There is no escape, and there is no justice. I don’t think they can be stopped, and I don’t think I can keep myself from them any longer. I want the nightmares to end. I think it’s time to become a true follower.


Credit: Christopher Maxim

(Click HERE to check out Christopher Maxim’s book, How To Exit Your Body and Other Strange Tales)

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