06.22.13 — The Blue Pig — Cudahy, WI
11:41AM: Quiet start this morning at The Blue Pig for day two of Days of the Doomed III, but no doubt things will pick up shortly. Today is 12 bands in more than 13 hours, so it’s going to be a long one, a busy one and I expect by the end of it, a tired one, but that’s a long ways off, and after a hotel breakfast and a couple minutes respite before heading down to the venue, I’m feeling good and doing my best to ignore the prospect of the drive tomorrow morning. Much to do before I get there.
In about 20 minutes, Whaler from Michigan kick off the day, followed by Gorgantherron, Beelzefuzz, Spillage, King Giant, Leather Nun America, Earthen Grave, Pale Divine, Dream Death, In~Graved and The Gates of Slumber. It’s a powerful lineup, but they must have powerwashed the venue after last night, brought in a firehose or something, because it smells much better this morning than it did by the end of yesterday’s bands.
Last night was pretty riotous by the end of Penance and Iron Man, so I figure there’s a lot of attendees getting off to a slow start this morning, but if the kickoff is as righteous as yesterday’s — and I hear excellent things about Whaler — I’ll be glad I got here early.
Before I start, and since I don’t know if I’ll have the energy to point it out later, I just want to say a quick thanks to Mercyful Mike Smith for putting on Days of the Doomed III, and for the tremendous work he’s done assembling this lineup and getting the right crew in hand to make it run so smoothly.
Alright, here goes:
12:37PM: Apparently, Michigan trio Whaler had something of a late night. They were not alone, but they nonetheless delivered a respectable set of roughed-up/burled-up Kyuss-style heavy rock and showcased a dynamic of their own within the semi-familiar riffing. Guitarist/vocalist Adam Lupo and bassist Eric Lomba had rich tones and drummer Adam Weiler, despite chasing his cowbell across his kit as it moved away from him, was adaptable either to the desert grooves of the material they played earlier or the thicker, Sleep-y vibes of their closing instrumental. Their debut LP, Deep Six, was self-released last December and I’ll see if they have any available. It probably wasn’t an ideal time to see them — noon after a hell of a Friday night — but they opened day two with smooth, rolling grooves and an engagingly bullshit-free atmosphere.
1:28PM: Imported from Indiana, the trio Gorgantherron clearly got more comfortable as their set went on and seemed more at home in their faster parts, rather than some of the more languid sections. All three members — Chris Flint (drums), Clint Logan (guitar), and Toby Richardson (bass) — contributed vocals, and that gave cuts like “Mothra” and the particularly memorable “Assimilate” a touch of flavor, which went down well with the crowd, still rolling in and wiping the crust from its collective eyes. Keeping holy the Sabbath, Gorgantherron hit on a few satisfying shuffles in their solo parts, Logan taking the fore with a smile to rip out blues leads while Richardson and Flint held down the solid grooves beneath. They weren’t trying for anything fancy, but there was some potential there, and they sat naturally between doom and heavy rock as only a band who doesn’t think there should be a line between them can.
2:40PM: I don’t know what Beelzefuzz are ready for, but whatever it is, they’re ready for it. The Maryland bizarro doom trio had Days of the Doomed III more or less eating out of their hands 10 minutes before they went on, and it was readily apparent that they were the show-up point for a lot of people this afternoon. The band’s way of rewarding such loyalty? Well, they brought up Eric Wagner to cover “Ride the Sky” by Lucifer’s Friend, and that was pretty awesome, Wagner and guitarist/vocalist Dana Ortt trading off parts and laughing all the while. Beelzefuzz have a new record coming Aug. 9 on The Church Within, and I’ve yet to see them and not be impressed. I realized watching them that it had only been a couple months since I caught them in Delaware at The Eye of the Stoned Goat 2, but nothing here felt redundant or stale. Bassist Pug Kirby and drummer Darin McCloskey were dead on with slow, creeping grooves that gave Ortt plenty of space to weird out with vocal effects, organ-sounding guitar and all the rest. If their record captures even a fraction of what these guys have turned into in a live setting, it might just be the summer’s don’t miss for doom.
3:45PM: When I streamed a couple tracks from Chowder‘s Passion Rift full-length last summer, I wondered how they’d be able to bring so many textures to a live setting. Now I know: They do it with their feet, and they do it very carefully. Maryland doom nobility Josh Hart (guitar; also bassist for Earthride) and John Brenner (bass; also guitarist/vocalist for Revelation) both had an array of foot-pedals at their disposal and they made liberal use of them to add to the instrumental progressive runs of their material. Early on, Hart blew out the Sunn head he was playing through — always a bummer, especially for someone who’s come a long way — but Al Morris from Iron Man‘s amp was brought in as a replacement, Chowder recovered and the three-piece rounded out by drummer Ronnie Kalimon (Unorthodox) had the room packed out by the time they were done. I don’t know if maybe they were playing doomier songs for the fest or if the tones were just different live, but they seemed thicker tonally than I recalled from the album and I didn’t hear any whining about it. Cool set, and where they seemed on paper like an odd fit, they made sense for the bill after all.
4:42PM: Going by their name and how they worked on stage, Chicago-based Spillage would seem to be the brainchild of guitarist Tony Spillman, who’s pulling double-duty later in a set with Earthen Grave. Days of the Doomed III was their first show, and while it was the “featuring Bruce Franklin of Trouble” portion of the lineup that first drew my attention, the whole band was stellar. Really. And not just for a first show, either. They were tight, the songs were spot on, they covered “Devil Woman” by Cliff Richard, and had a great energy throughout their whole time on stage. They looked genuinely thrilled to be here, thanked the crowd, thanked Mercyful Mike Smith several times, and even though Spillman had a little technical difficulty, there was never any real loss of momentum as they settled into a killer set that ranks up there with Moon Curse yesterday as one of the weekend’s most pleasant surprises. With two guitars, keys, bass, drums and standalone vocals, they were crowded on the Blue Pig stage, but that only added to how together they were sonically. I haven’t the faintest idea what their plans as a band might be, when they’ll put material to tape, etc. — they have shirts for sale but no music — but as righteous and enjoyable as their set was, I’ll be keeping an eye out and hoping they can bring the same vitality to a studio recording. An awesome debut.
5:58PM: There hasn’t been much Southern metal thus far into the fest, but if there was a quota, King Giant just met it. I was pretty familiar with their stuff after streaming their Dismal Hollow LP last year, and they were basically what I expected, just tighter and louder. In the case of vocalist Dave Hammerly, much louder. Of the two mics he had on stage, one cut through the Virginian five-piece’s thick riffing enough to border on abrasive, but they grooved out darkly nonetheless, here touching on Down, there nodding out a Clutch riff. It was burly stuff, and I think a lot of people unfamiliar with what they do decided it was a good time to grab a bite to eat — they love their own here, as everywhere — ahead of some of the evening’s headliners, but King Giant were professional and energetic, many-hatted (four out of five) and they made the most out of the time they had, playing to a tight group of their fans who seemed appreciative enough to make up for everyone else.
Leather Nun America
6:50PM: I’ll give it to Cali trio Leather Nun America (also stylized with a lowercase ‘a’ to start the last word), they know what they like. Tonally, guitarist/vocalist John Sarnie was straight-up Wino, and the band covered “To Protect and Serve” from The Obsessed‘s The Church Within to drive the point home. Bassist/backing vocalist Francis Roberts, his eyes rolled back, was a more unhinged presence than Sarnie, but it made the dynamic on stage more complex and, frankly, more satisfying. I was starting to drag ass a bit and so ordered a pizza (hasn’t arrived yet, but I’ll get to eat at some point) and had another bottle of water, but some of the people who were in and out during King Giant settled in for Leather Nun America and the band, despite being the only West Coast act on the bill, seemed right at home amongst the doomed.
8:22PM: I’ve seen Earthen Grave a few times now — here last year, at SHoD — and to my ears they’ve never sounded so good. Of course, nailing a cover of Rainbow‘s “Stargazer” with not one but two violins (Rachel Barton Pine and her younger sister dueling it out) helps, and bringing Victor Griffin up to take on Pentagram‘s “Relentless” (who better?) for a set closer helps as well, but even so, from the opener “Death is another Word” — the bonus track on the Ripple Music reissue of their self-titled debut — to the plodding aggression of “Dismal,” the Chicago outfit seemed to hit it just right this time around. Maybe they’ve coalesced more as a unit, or maybe I’m on some post-pizza energy boost — pizza gives you energy, right? — but they killed it, and placed where they were in the lineup, they more or less started off the evening’s headliners, with Pale Divine, Dream Death, In~Graved and The Gates of Slumber still to come. Things are about to get heavy and miserable, but I’m up for it, and judging by the howls of the crowd who just moved from in front of the stage being changed over to the tvs in the back which have the Blackhawks game on, the crowd is up for it, so what the hell? Let’s make an evening of it.
9:39PM: With three new songs in tow, Pennsylvania/Maryland trio Pale Divine — drummer Darin McCloskey doubling up on the day after performing earlier with Beelzefuzz — sounded positively refreshed. Guitarist/vocalist Greg Diener and bassist/backing vocalist Ron McGinnis (aka Fez, also of Admiral Browning) have gelled tonally to the point where you’d swear the latter had always been in the band, and likewise, McGinnis brings a different personality with him that adds to the chemistry. I took it as a sign that they’ve already started to write a follow-up to last year’s Painted Windows Black — which, not to take away from it, was accomplished but hardly what I’d call refreshed — and for as gloomy and plodding as the material is, spirits seemed high straight through when they handed a mic into the crowd where it was picked up by Sanctus Bellum‘s Benjamin Yaker and shared with Butch Balich and Mercyful Mike Smith for a finale take on “Amplified” from Pale Divine‘s 2001 debut full-length, Thunder Perfect Mind. The Blue Pig is packed out (still watching hockey), and the mood is good, so with three bands left to go, the night is on a roll.
10:54PM: I’ve had my earplugs in for too long, can feel my right ear beginning an infection. Probably better that than dare to take on Dream Death unarmored. I knew when I missed them in April at Roadburn that I’d have seeing them at Days of the Doomed III to look forward to, and honestly, I’ve looked forward to it ever since. The Pittsburgh four-piece — all of whom played at one point or another during Penance‘s set last night — are something of a legendary act, and here, it felt like it. Fists pumped to “Divine Agony” and a slew of cuts from the band’s 2013 new album, Somnium Excessum, including “Feast” and “You’re Gonna Die up There.” The biggest response was saved, fittingly, for closer “Back from the Dead,” and if ever you wanted to see who in the crowd knew a song and who didn’t, you need look no further than who followed the on-a-dime time changes in “Back from the Dead,” raging Celtic Frost fast and dark, viciously primitive but still holding a potent tension after all these years. They were welcomed as liberators, and it’s hard to imagine it wasn’t gratifying for the band. When they were done, Mike Smith took the stage (he’s been introducing each act) and called the raffle. I didn’t win, despite my sure-bet tickets. Always next year. The good news is Dream Death were excellent and I got to pick up a copy of Somnium Excessum, which I’m looking forward to adding to my already considerable ride-home playlist for tomorrow. Right on.
12:24AM: Well, Victor Griffin wins tone again. He can take home his trophy from Days of the Doomed III and put it next to the similarly-shaped awards for tone he’s picked up at probably every show he’s played in the last 25 years. Much of the In-Graved set was familiar from Roadburn, but “Digital Critic” still made an effective opener and “Late for an Early Grave” seemed especially rousing. The lights went out for a minute, but were quickly restored, not that it stopped the band in the slightest. Bassist Dan Lively stepped in to fill the role Guy Pinhas had held for the European tour, and he, drummer “Minnesota” Pete Campbell and keyboardist Jeff “Oly” Olson meshed well, and the band had clearly gotten more cohesive over the course of their time in Europe, which ended a month ago now if I’ve got the dates right. Still. Ron Holzner came out for a song and Campbell broke all his drumsticks, so it was a loose vibe but a tight band, which is just as it should be. In~Graved rounded out with the Animals cover “Don’t Let Me be Misunderstood” into Place of Skulls‘ “Last Hit,” which if nothing else was a stirring reminder to me of just how good 2003’s With Vision was. I could go on a whole rant about it, but wow, it’s been a hell of a day. This is the proverbial home stretch though — or whatever the hockey equivalent is, in honor of the Blackhawks, who apparently won — and with The Gates of Slumber still to come, I know this is still the place to be. Feet sore, head sore, brain tired, but not done yet.
The Gates of Slumber
2:12AM: Just for kicks — also in the name of Science Bloody Science! — during The Gates of Slumber‘s set, I walked outside the venue and down the street to see how many houses I’d pass before I couldn’t hear the band anymore. I got six properties away from The Blue Pig, and I could still hear them, but it seemed reasonable to assume that the people inside the house couldn’t feel the vibrations of Jason McCash‘s bass, and that would have to do. I’d have kept going, maybe, but I wanted to see the band. It’s been a minute and I was hoping for some new material. They played “Death March” from their Scion-sponsored Stormcrow EP, which I also picked up off the merch table, and that sounded pretty vicious. The place was winding down on the quick, people giving drunkhugs and saying their “see you next year”s, but I wasn’t gonna split until they were done. Not that I didn’t think about cutting out and going back to the Best Western, but putting it to the scale of having been there for over 13 hours, another couple minutes to watch “The Scovrge ov Drvnkenness” or “Day of Farewell” — which is one of those songs I’m reminded of how much I dig every time I hear it — or the closer “Coven of Cain” didn’t seem unreasonable. It had been a long day, but The Gates of Slumber — McCash, guitarist/vocalist Karl Simon and drummer “Iron” Bob Fouts — were the downtrodden nail in Days of the Doomed III‘s coffin, and the fest would’ve been hard pressed to find someone more appropriate to close out after In-Graved and the many others preceding. By the time the house lights came up, it was clear the night was over.
2:32AM: Back at the hotel now, listening to someone stomp the living shit out of the floor one level up, also known as the ceiling of this room. All the same, this chair seems absurdly comfortable. One more time, I just want to thank Mercyful Mike Smith for the effort and execution behind this fest. The whole crew at The Blue Pig ran this thing smoothly from front to back, kept the mood positive and kept the drinks flowing. Also special thanks to Postman Dan for generally being awesome and for specifically dealing with me running back and forth and taking out the laptop like a dork. It’s much appreciated.
There are a lot of others. A lot. I’d start to list them, but it’s getting on 3AM and I have the alarm set for just about four hours to get up and start the at-least-15-hour drive back to New Jersey. Gotta be to work on Monday. So I’m gonna get to bed and then get coffee. Lots and lots of coffee.
Thanks for reading.Tags: Beelzefuzz, Chowder, Cudahy, Days of the Doomed III, Dream Death, Earthen Grave, Gorgantherron, King Giant, Leather Nun America, Pale Divine, Spillage, The Gates of Slumber, Victor Griffin's In~Graved, Whaler, Wisconsin