It was that special kind of cold that renders pants pointless because the wind goes right through them anyway. Nonetheless, I and the pants I decided to wear despite the futility made our way to The Clash Bar in Clifton, NJ, in plenty of time to catch Nimdok, ClamFight and headliners Iron Man in the surprisingly swanky venue. The floors were clean, the bar freshly wiped down, the lighting expensive. I’d never been to The Clash Bar before, and it hardly looked like the kind of place that would have a doom show, but hey, where Iron Man guitarist Al Morris goes, so go I.
Nimdok was up first; a kind of noisy throwaway trash rock that took elements from the ’90s AmRep scene probably without realizing it. The vocals were bad on purpose in a kind of punk rock way, but not really pulled off, and the impression I got was the young trio didn’t give a fuck about what they were doing. Sometimes that’s cool. Sometimes it just doesn’t sit well. I guess I was anxious to see the next bands, because I wasn’t buying it.
Needless to say, I survived, and they actually weren’t bad dudes and stuck around for most of the show despite being musically disparate to the other acts. You can’t ask for more than that really, when it comes to local bands. Everyone’s going to do what they do and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t and some like it and some don’t. You stand there anyway. That’s just the way it is.
With Diane Kamikaze of the famed WFMU DJing the evening, there were plenty of between-band moments of righteousness. She hit tracks from Darkthrone, Kreator, old Mastodon (you always forget how good that shit was until you hear it again after a while), and plenty of doom/stoner stuff, including “Avon” from the first Queens of the Stone Age, which sent me on a binge with that record from which I’ve yet to recover. Could be worse.
I’ve been a ClamFight fan for years now, and have watched them get heavier with the passage of time. Their set was comprised mostly of new songs from an impending full-length (of which I was fortunate enough to score a CDR copy), and each one boasted at least one of those hair-raising “fuck yeah” moments that come from the best of riff-led metal. They’ve officially gone from “local band” to “need to get signed” in my book, and if the set is any indicator, the material on their new record is easily their strongest yet. Drummer/vocalist Andy, guitarists Joel and Sean and bassist Louis each brought a sense of presence to the stage, and these guys have become a monster live. Seriously. Check them out.
The evening — and by “evening” I mean public drunkenness — was well under way by the time Iron Man went on. Frontman Joe Donnelly had been working his way through the crowd for most of the show, telling jokes and generally being “on,” which made for good times. Bassist Louis Strachan and drummer Dex Dexter were there too, but curiously absent was Al Morris himself, which was odd, since as Donnelly told me, they all came up together. Maybe he was practicing in the van. Maybe he was trying to avoid paparazzi and keep a mystique. I don’t know which, but when they finally took stage, he was almost entirely stationary, content to let his tone do the talking. Fortunately, it did.
Donnelly, on the other hand, is a madman in the Osbourne tradition. Fitting since he used to front Sabbath cover band Sack Blabbath. The sound at Clash Bar wasn’t doing them any favors, but their set was full of killer tunes from Black Knight onward, right up to their latest record, I Have Returned, which Shadow Kingdom released last year. It was getting late, and I’m pretty lame, but they were killer and easily worth the several beers-up toasts I gave them.
When the night was over and the hands were shook, The Patient Mrs. drove back to the valley, where I fixed my customary hangover-avoidance sandwich and called it a night, as ever, watching History Channel documentaries about the end of the world. Hey man, doom or be doomed. Either way, doom.
Tags: ClamFight, Iron Man, Maryland doom, New Jersey, Nimdok, Shadow Kingdom, Unsigned bands