Two years ago, Caden Dudek — with wild curls of headbanger hair that blended into his messy beard — faced fans of his deathcore band from the stage of Wussow’s Concert Cafe. As Torment cranked up behind him, he waved, commanding a finger: “Not yet, not yet,” he said into the microphone, as captured in a video on the band's Facebook page.
Then, a beat later, “Gooooooo!” he roared, an earth-ripping growl from a deep, dark place. Fans crushed to the center of the room — a mosh pit like a street brawl, shoves, elbows, wipe-outs. This, Dudek will tell you, is the essence of a Torment show.
And this is what he wants to get back to.
Dudek, while walking home after a night downtown with friends, was the victim of a hit-and-run near Duluth Bethel in the early morning of March 1. His outing started with Grandma’s Sports Garden, Aces on First and Erbert & Gerbert’s — and ended with broken ribs, damaged organs and a 20% chance of survival, he said.
“The last thing I remember is headlights — and I can’t get the taste of my own blood out of my mouth,” Dudek said recently from the patio of Vitta Pizza, the Canal Park restaurant where, four months later, he is back to work — though without the use of his right arm.
‘Go super hard, mosh, hurt each other’
According to the police report, multiple squads from the Duluth Police Department and the Duluth Fire Department responded to the call at 2:28 a.m. that reported Dudek was bleeding from his head, but breathing. He was taken to Essentia Health, where he was in a medically-induced coma for six days.
Cassidy Obeidzinski, 19, was arrested and charged with criminal vehicular operation resulting in bodily harm and leaving the scene — a felony with a maximum sentence of three years and/or $10,000. Several pieces of black plastic from the car she was driving were found at the scene.
Dudek's bandmate, drummer Andrew Olsen, came upon the scene when he was driving home from a late shift at Pizza Luce. He didn't know that was his friend at the center of the emergency personnel, and didn't find out until the next morning. More than four months later, he is still angry that his friend was left alone on the street to die.
"He is a big sweetheart. I don’t know anyone he’s ever wronged before," Olsen said. "The last person ever to deserve something like that. "
Obeidzinski told officials that she knew she hit something that night, according to the complaint, but she did not stop to investigate.
The court case is pending, due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Dudek, 24, suffered broken ribs, punctured lungs, a rupture to his liver. He has nerve damage in his arm, which probably isn’t permanent, he said, and a zipper-like scar that bisects his torso. He’s had dozens of blood transfusions and he is physically weakened — he dropped 45 pounds and had to relearn to walk and talk.
A Torment show at Blush, arranged before the accident, went on less than a week after the hit-and-run. The band played without Dudek and re-billed the night as a fundraiser. The venue hit capacity, and his friends reported to Dudek that everyone was told to “go super hard, mosh, hurt each other.”
“It’s a way to take out negative emotions,” Dudek said.
He woke from his coma within 24 hours of the concert to a new world — the reality of his injuries and a global pandemic. A GoFundMe online fundraiser, to help him with medical bills and rent, raised more than $13,000.
“My biggest thing pushing me through is my support system,” he said, a crew that includes his close friends, bandmates and family.
Olsen said he has lost a lot of friends and family members, but that he has never before seen someone in the state of suffering.
"I'll never get used to the sight of my best friend in the hospital," he said. "I'm still sitting next to him. It's crazy the amount of progress he's making from what he first looked like compared to now, sitting on a porch. He's like a super hero."
'You've got to get those emotions out'
Torment, which includes Olsen, Kyle Rudd and Connor Slawson, has been around for more than three years. Dudek is the designated screamer. It’s an angry, aggressive hardcore band intent exorcising the negative emotions and delivering a positive message.
“You know mosh pits — people like to push each other around and punch each other in the face,” Dudek said. “If that’s a way to get out a negative emotion and be a bigger and better person after that — that’s the kind of message we want to send. I firmly believe everyone has pent-up rage inside them. You can take it out by writing music, pushing people around in a mosh pit or you can find an abandoned car and bash it with a bat. It really doesn’t matter. You’ve got to get those negative emotions out.”
The band released its debut album, "Earthburner," in late 2019; it is available for streaming.
Torment's lyrics are political or about mental health. Olsen calls the genre's signature vocal expression the most direct and intense way to let out an emotion.
"That's how you let the feeling out," he said. "It's harsh, and it's gnarly. He's still killing it. If anything, his vocals — he's getting more in-tune with them."
On July 1, the band posted on YouTube a video of Dudek covering "Sadist" by the Minneapolis band Reflections. In it, Dudek is able to dig past the throat, scratchy from housing a tube and busted lungs to drag out his signature roar. In the song's summary, the musician writes about how he refused to give up on getting his voice back and how he has changed his technique.
"But I think I'm starting to get it down again," Dudek writes. "A traumatic experience like almost losing your life can really eat you alive mentally, but only if you let it."
EMBED: Weekly Wave newsletter signup banner.