Friday Full-Length: Various Artists, Emissions from the Monolith


I’ll admit, it was thinking of the festival itself rather than this compilation in particular that brought Emissions from the Monolith to mind. The festival, which ran annually the last weekend in May in Youngstown, Ohio, between 2000 and 2006 (there was also one in Chicago in 2001) before its final installment in Austin, Texas, in 2007, was a pioneer of heavy festivals in the US. At that point, outside of showcase events like SXSW and the roughly-concurrent Stoner Hands of Doom fest, which started in 1999 and ran until 2013 in various cities, there wasn’t a ton happening in terms of heavy underground gatherings of its level. Run by Greg Barratt, then also of Tone Deaf Touring, it was a celebration of sludge, noise, doom and everything else heavy whose early lineups read like pages out of riffy history. Imagine seeing Penance and Bongzilla and Spirit Caravan in 2000, or Pale DivineWitch Mountain and Dragon Green in 2001. To-date, the 2006 Emissions fest is the only show Colour Haze have ever played in the US, and while its commitment to the deep underground was unquestionable in supporting bands like Test-SiteWooly Mammoth and Kung Pao, and its aesthetic would continue to expand, its foundation always seemed to be in raw, visceral and heavy noise rock.

Which brings us to the 11-track compilation at hand. The 2003 lineup for Emissions from the Monolith featured the likes of Acid King, The Hidden Hand, Pelican, Dixie Witch, Halfway to Gone, Erik Larson, Solace, Mastodon, The Atomic Bitchwax and Floor, and yet it’s telling that on the Maduro Records assemblage Emissions from the Monolith, it’s groups like Acid Ape, JJ Paradise Players Club, Meatjack — who featured Brian Daniloski, now of Darsombra, and who once upon a time did the best Melvins cover you’ve ever heard — Volume and Fistula. Some bands featured, like Kung Pao or Rebreather, didn’t actually play that year, but were staples enough that it didn’t really matter. Rebreather in particular, whose primo roller “Earthmover” is included as the second track on the CD, were the quintessential Emissions band, and as regards trivia, they were the first act on the stage at the first edition in 2000. Others, like Pennsylvania’s instrumental heavy jazz experimentalists Stinking Lizaveta were on their own wavelength almost entirely, but still kept that overarching sense of rawness to their approach, while Southern sludge riffers like Burnout and Ohio pill-popper sludge eternals Fistula brought attitude and scathe in kind. Kung Pao‘s “D is for Denim” reads like a mantra and also featured on their 2000 full-length, Bogota (see also: that album’s cover art) — their second record was also a gem — and “The Ballad of Sisyphus MacDuff” by The Rubes began a seven-minute loadout with throat singing before a showing of soulful heavy rock the likes of which still makes me want to break out their 2001 Underdogma Records long-player, Hokum.

Over the last couple years, I’ve talked a lot about pre-social media heavy and many bands lost in that shift from one generation to the next, who maybe had one record out, maybe two, maybe three, and then Facebook happened and they missed the party. Looking at the 2003 Emissions lineup, there are plenty who survived — The Atomic Bitchwax, Weedeater, Mastodon, Acid King, etc. — but others like Dixie Witch, Tummler, All Night, RPG and Abdullah, while they may or may not have stayed active, didn’t quite make the same kind of transition. Though they came back later thanks to the enduring affection for their self-titled, I’d put Floor in that category as well. And listening to the echoing forward drive of Volume‘s “Colossus Freak” on the Emissions from the Monolith comp, it’s not at all like these acts didn’t have anything to offer listeners, or like they still don’t some 15 years later. It really was just a matter of timing. Others, like Sons of Otis, who close the comp with the 10-minute drone-into-riff spectacular “Big Muff,” seem to have an audience just waiting for their next offering to arrive, but some of these bands are gone to parts unknown, and especially considering that, the importance of this collection is unassailable.

Emissions was a special event and The Nyabinghi in Youngstown, where it was held, was a special place. A regular stop on the Tone Deaf circuit in no small part because Barratt owned it, for one weekend every year it became a druggy paradise of barbecue, riffs, booze and volume. You can still see the hotel where everyone stayed from Rt. 80 on your way west, and it’s easy to imagine the scars left behind in that building from the years of stoner abuse it took. I’m sorry to say that there’s much of the 2006 edition I don’t even remember, less for the passage of time than the ridiculous amount of beer consumption the weekend brought. I remember seeing Colour Haze (changed my life; ask me about it sometime), and I remember there was some drama with SunnO))). I remember sheepishly handing Barratt a copy of my band’s demo and being “voted off the island” by a group of friends standing outside in back of the place — I actually had to leave and go back inside — and I remember being poorly hydrated. Thinking back on it now, I kind of wish I’d had my head together more. Story of my life.

But the point is that there was only one Emissions from the Monolith, and though US heavy festival culture is currently undergoing a boom, from Stumpfest and Electric Funeral Fest to Descendants of Crom to Maryland Doom Fest to New England Stoner and Doom Festival, the moment that was Emissions won’t come again. Of course, each of these newer fests is making its own contributions, but thinking back on what Emissions was and listening to this compilation particularly, one can hear the undercurrent of barebones fuckall that typified the time, the place and the room. For those who were there and those who weren’t, it remains a happening worthy of document, and as Emissions from the Monolith works to document even some piece of one year of it, it’s all the more worth preserving.

I sincerely hope you enjoy. Thanks for reading.

The week started off with punk rock guilt at all the shows I didn’t go to over the last couple weeks that I wanted to see and featured a canceled trip to Portugal for SonicBlast Moledo next weekend — surprise, I was going, now I’m not; that’s a week’s worth of suckage in itself, even with Psycho Las Vegas still to look forward to — so yeah, I kind of rolled with the punches as they came. Was bummed at the lack of response the Sleep live review got — I posted three pics from the show on Thee Facebooks the next day and those got a big reaction, so I guess that’s where it went instead of the actual review. I was really happy with the piece though, so I take comfort in that and if anyone else read it, that’s awesome. Making Clutch’s crab cakes was fun and I was glad I got to post that All Them Witches bio. The week kind of ends on a downer with that Ancestors review — the album is awesome, I’m just sulky because I wasn’t cool enough to premiere a track with it — but it was fun to get on a little nostalgia trip about Emissions from the Monolith above. Ups and downs, I guess.

Also had a lot of time with The Pecan this week, and baby-time is good time. He’s getting closer to walking — we’re thinking first steps in the next couple weeks — and he’s got a couple consonants he breaks out if suitably prompted. “Ba,” “ma,” “da,” “la” and the like. That’s fun. I feel lucky to be able to be home with him, especially seeing other parents I know go to work. Less over the summer — I seem to know a lot of teacher-types — but in general. I don’t know. He’s a pretty great little guy, and we got a baby-gate to keep him away from the Little Dog Dio’s food and water dishes, so all the better.

Other shit persists in follow-the-bouncing-ball fashion. I’ve been trying to be mindful of things like my general state, depression and so on. I was trying to stay off my meds for a couple weeks, working pretty hard to make a go of it, but I just flat-out failed, and yes, I recognize the language puts it on my effort when it’s not necessarily about that. Thank you, inner therapist voice which sounds remarkably like The Patient Mrs. Still, it’s been upwards of eight months now and every time I sit still for more than five minutes I continue to just absolutely fucking disgust myself. Even sitting here at the keyboard, I feel my arms at my sides and want to crawl out of my own skin. Part of that is I didn’t get to shower yesterday — grunge parenting — but I know part of it runs deeper and I still have more work to do. I don’t think I’ll ever be one of those self-actualized I’m-okay-you’re-okay types, but it would be awfully nice to make it through an afternoon without feeling like I’m going to have an aneurysm. Whatever. Who fucking cares. The pills help, I guess?

Ugh.

Ups and downs. Strikes and gutters. Some you win, some you lose.

He’s a good kid.

Let’s do the notes for next week. Subject to change blah blah blah:

Mon.: The Crazy Left Experience review/video premiere; The Skull lyric video.
Tue.: Jody Seabody & The Whirls track premiere.
Wed.: Mr. Plow full album stream.
Thu.: Mountain Tamer track premiere.
Fri.: The Machine review.

There are a bunch of other videos I need to sort through and decide what I’m actually going to put up, so I didn’t list them other than The Skull, but Weed Demon, Ape Vermin, Black Space Riders and Windhand all have new clips out, so there’s plenty to plug into the week in whatever order I wind up feeling like doing so. I’ll sort it out over the weekend. Have another bio to write anyway, so I’ll be on the laptop one way or the other.

It’s almost six-thirty and I hear The Pecan waking up in the next room, so I’d better leave it there. Hope you have a great and safe weekend. Thank you as always for reading and please don’t forget to check out the forum and radio stream.

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4 Responses to “Friday Full-Length: Various Artists, Emissions from the Monolith

  1. irratebass says:

    That Emissions you mentioned (Colour Haze) was my 1 and only Emmissions, and my god what a list of bands. On another noth Orange Goblin walked through my hotel room (fanboy issues here).

    Thanks for the memories, question why haven’t you mentioned Doomed & Stoned Fest? This year will be the 3rd year in Indianapolis, I am not affiliated with them, just a concert-goer like yourself. Anyway, just thought I’d mention that, I’ve never seen you do a write up for any of the festivals.

    Alright, take it easy brother.

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