06.21.13 — The Blue Pig — Cudahy, WI
4:24PM: Welcome to Cudahy, Wisconsin. Were I one of the homeowners living on the residential street off the corner where The Blue Pig is located, I’d probably already be pissed. I’m not, though. I’m here for the show. Hence, doom on.
The venue — kind souls — gave me the wifi password, so over the course of tonight and tomorrow I’ll be updating live with words and pics from the Days of the Doomed III fest. Tonight, the lineup features Gravedirt, Moon Curse, Kings Destroy (go hometown heroes), Lucertola, Venomous Maximus, Iron Man and Penance. The show kicks off in about half an hour and there’s the usual pre-fest milling about, plus a DJ spinning the usual suspects — Pantera, AC/DC, etc. — drinks at the bar and already a cool vibe in the air. I’m looking forward to seeing how the night plays out.
I’m sitting in the back by the merch area, but judging by the people rolling in, it looks like I’m going to have to find a different spot to set up shop, so that might be an adventure, but I’ll do my best to make it work. Long night and day tomorrow ahead, but I’ve got a doomburger — yes, it’s a special at the Best Western — in my gut and spirits are high. Let’s do this thing.
5:39PM: Nothing to dive headfirst into a night of riffs like some low-end-centric, extreme sludge. Native Milwaukee trio Gravedirt do it muddy. The snare was cutting through high in the mix, but beyond that, they slung ooze like they meant it, bassist Chris Cottreau adding low, death metallic growls over top (or at very least, buried within) that reminded me almost immediately of earliest, pre-psychedelic Zoroaster. Within that, their stuff was straightforward and they seemed to be getting their bearings in on stage, but they had a lot going for them and by the time they were finished, I had forgotten it would still be light out when I turned around and looked out the window, so I guess that’s saying something. A heavy start to what seems like it’s going to be a heavy evening.
6:37PM: Another local trio, Moon Curse had a sound that almost couldn’t help but be their own. Guitarist/vocalist Matt played through a custom rig on a custom guitar, drummer Keith brought his own kit and let loose his swing-heavy grooves in front of the riser, and bassist Rochelle anchored the lumbering riffs with thoroughly weighted runs. They hovered mostly around traditional doom riffing, but every now and again, they locked into a marching plod that showed some awareness of Red Fang or even High on Fire‘s second-gear moments. Matt kept his vocals mostly clean, and I suspect that much of what they played came off their recently-released self-titled vinyl, which they’re selling here in a number of editions. I may or may not get the chance to pick one up, but they impressed all the same and out of the two bands who’ve played so far, I’ve found two whose work I’ll look forward to following from here on out.
7:55PM: Some high order horror vibes permeating Lucertola‘s set, driven forward at a doomly crawl by the dual guitars of Tad Leger (also Blood Farmers) and Zack Breiman, the latter of whom tossed off fuck-you-up leads at a whim and broke his strap during the first or second song. Otherwise, the young six-stringer made hard shred look easy while Leger held down rhythm lines alongside bassist Chris Konys. I had meant to see them a while back in Philly, so they were something of a must to catch at Days of the Doomed III, and while they were still pretty clearly sorting out their material, they ended strong and had some potent chugging lines along the way, not lacking in classic atmosphere or doomly vibing, tossing in some variety (just enough) and keeping people hooked with a cover of Witchfinder General‘s “Burning a Sinner” that was greeted with universal welcome.
9:08PM: Not sure if I’ve ever seen Kings Destroy so much live up to their name. It’s terrifying how good these guys have gotten, from the flow they build during a set to their tones, to how they all slam together at the end of “Turul” and the time changes it brings. Fucking terror, I tell you. I wasn’t sure if they were going to break out “Turul.” Early on, it seemed like they were sticking to some of the earlier, first album stuff, rather than the A Time of Hunting material, which is more diverse-sounding — they were sticking to the doom as befitting the occasion, in other words. But not only did they play it, they closed with it, using it to follow up “Blood of Recompense” in a one-two punch of gloriously heavy oddness. I’m hardly an impartial source, but god damn, I fucking dig this band. “Planet XXY” and “Medusa” were pleasant surprises, but really, the whole time, they were tighter than one generally thinks of doom as tight and showed that you can play heavy, downer music and still not lose all life from the performance.
10:14PM: It’s hard to argue with a professional presentation. And now having seen them live, any question I might’ve had about how Napalm Records came to pick up Houston four-piece Venomous Maximus has been answered. It’s easy: They saw them live. From “Path of Doom” to “Give up the Witch” to the grandiose ending of the finale “Hell’s Heroes,” Venomous Maximus were a pro job all the way. Stage costumes, their own lighting — they even brought their own photographer! The songs were no less dead on for the band being so aesthetically focused, though, and having experience with their Beg upon the Light full-length and the prior The Mission EP, the songs came right back, delivered with power and finesse and a raucousness all their own. I’d have signed them too. It would be foolish not to. If these dudes can get out and tour, their ascent could be quick. They brought the audience with them for a run through powerful riffs and over-the-top metal that was self-aware but not at all ironic. Again, it’s hard to argue.
11:36PM: Filling in for vocalist Lee Smail, who couldn’t make it to Days of the Doomed III, Brian “Butch” Balich (who’s wrapping a new album with Argus) took the frontman role for Penance‘s set. They opened instrumentally, bassist Richard Freund, drummer Mike Smail and guitarist Terry Weston, and were joined shortly thereafter by Butch, whose presence was announced by launching into “Words Not Deeds.” Hell of an introduction. Butch wouldn’t be the only guest, either. Several songs in — “Monster I’ve Become” and “Reaching” among them — guitarist/vocalist Brian Lawrence came out for a few from 1992′s The Road Less Traveled. “A Wayfarer’s Tale” was perhaps the highlight of the whole set, but I won’t discount either when Butch came back out and they closed out as a five-piece with “Misgivings” off the same album. I knew when I saw the band with Smail at Roadburn that this would be their crowd, and it was. Penance received a hometown-esque welcome at The Blue Pig, and proceeded to earn it with crunching tones as doomed as the emotionality both Balich and Lawrence brought to the vocals. I considered myself lucky to have seen them once, so to do it twice in a matter of months with three different singers, all the more so.
Tags: Cudahy, Days of the Doomed III, Gravedirt, Iron Man, Kings Destroy, Lucertola, Moon Curse, Penance, The Blue Pig, Venomous Maximus, Wisconsin
1:12AM: Somehow it always seems to be Iron Man rounding out all the doomliest evenings. Only fitting, I guess. Tonight the Maryland — vocalist Dee Calhoun, in a Ravens jersey, said they were from Baltimore tonight, D.C. other nights — stalwarts gave Wisconsin a taste of classic riffing the likes of which it probably hasn’t had since, well, since Days of the Doomed II last year. Tonight they were showing off new material from the forthcoming South of the Earth full-length. Cuts featured included “The Worst and Longest Day,” the extended “A Whore in Confession” and the title-track, which the band put next to the title-track from I Have Returned, maybe for a bit of symmetry, maybe not. Calhoun and guitarist “Iron” Al Morris III command a lot of attention, but the rhythm section of bassist Louis Strachan and drummer Jason Waldmann sounded especially on tonight (Strachan added some wah on “A Whore in Confession” that was a nice touch), and the band seemed most gelled of all on the new material, which was encouraging for the results on that album whenever it surfaces. As ever, Iron Man closed out with “Black Night” from the classic 1993 album of the same name, but the crowd wouldn’t let them go when they were done, so they followed it with “Run from the Light” from I Have Returned and capped day one of Days of the Doomed III with a fitting summary of what I take away as the whole idea behind the fest: Good people, good riffs, good times. You won’t hear (or read) a complaint out of me. Tomorrow we go again.