Posted in Whathaveyou on February 10th, 2017 by JJ Koczan
Expand or die, right? Certainly the idea isn’t a new one for the crew behind the famed Maryland Deathfest, which already has brand extensions in place in California and the Netherlands, but the newly-announced Days of Darkness Festival — for which early-bird tickets are on sale circa now — feels immediately different. Set for late October at the Rams Head Live, for one thing, it takes place in Baltimore, the home-base of the Maryland Deathfest itself. Second, it abandons the “Deathfest” title, in favor of the less genre-adherent “Darkness.” Third, its lineup seems way more of the doomed/post-metal/psychedelic/classic metal variety than any of the extremity one might find at the other Deathfest-promoted fests. These things make Days of Darkness 2017 distinct. The fact that Neurosis headline and Warning will appear playing Watching from a Distance in its entirety — something they’re also doing at Roadburn this April — means they mean business.
Compared to the core Maryland Deathfest, which runs four days at this point, the two for Days of Darkness feels a bit like testing the waters, and indeed that may be exactly what’s happening, but while a number of heavy festivals have popped up and disappeared after one shot — whither thou, Planet Caravan? — far fewer have the kind of production machine behind them as this one. Accordingly, one looks forward with great anticipation to seeing how Days of Darkness 2017 continues to develop its lineup and set itself apart not only from the central Deathfest brand, but also the slew of heavy fests in what seems to still be a surging US sphere.
More to come, in other words. Here’s the initial word in the meantime:
Maryland Deathfest presents: Days of Darkness Festival
October 28 & 29, 2017 @ Rams Head Live – Baltimore, MD
Lineup: Neurosis Warning (Watching from a Distance set) Manilla Road Elder GosT Unearthly Trance Dälek Bongripper
Posted in Whathaveyou on February 1st, 2017 by JJ Koczan
You should’ve seen me the other day. I was a pouting mess. Could’ve cried. Thinking to myself there was a new Arbouretum record that had been announced for nearly two weeks and I’d missed out. “No one told me,” and all sad. I felt really down about it, because the truth is I still go back to their last album, 2013’s Coming out of the Fog (review here), on the regular. I can’t even tell you how many phone-culls it has survived where other records have been removed to make use of the limited storage space. It’s an album I refuse to travel without. Not that the band would know that, or it would matter, but it mattered to me that the news had come through and I hadn’t gotten to see it. I even dug frontman Dave Heumann‘s solo record, Here in the Deep (review here), when that came out last year. I’ve been dying for news on a new Arbourteum.
Well, here’s me getting caught up. Thrill Jockey will issue Song of the Rose — the much-anticipated new studio full-length from Baltimore’s Arbouretum — on March 24. Preorders are available now. No audio yet. Presumably some will start to surface soon. Needless to say, I’ve got an eye out.
Details from the preorder page:
Arbouretum – Song of the Rose
Arbouretum has been called “the best of the millennial classic rock bands, a guitar-fuzzed powerhouse.” The band, founded by guitarist and vocalist Dave Heumann, effortlessly weaves its melodies and guitar solos with often hypnotic rhythms of bassist Corey Allender and drummer Brian Carey around the deliberate keyboard of Matthew Pierce to lift the vocals. The results are a full sounds delivered with a striking sense of intimacy. Throughout their time together, the Baltimore-based band have been praised for their ability to weave elaborate vocal lines, and guitar solos that often unravel into extended improvisation, but never with as much finesse as on Song of the Rose. In less practiced hands, these ideas could easily fall into contrivance, but on Song of the Rose, Arbouretum use these elements to perfect their craft of storytelling in song, both lyrically and sonically.
Arbouretum recorded Song of the Rose with Steve Wright at Wrightway Studios. While previous records were recorded in a matter of days, Song of the Rose took weeks. Attention to production details augment their time-tested emphasis on capturing the energy of performance. Song of the Rose is the first time the band has mixed with Kyle Spence at his studios in Athens Ga. (Kurt Vile, Luke Roberts, Harvey Milk.)
At their root, the songs and compositions of Song of the Rose is the concept of balance. As is true for the movements of Tai Chi, of which Dave Heumann is an avid practitioner, each motion both musical and lyrical has an equal but opposite motion, that works together harmoniously. “Woke Up On The Move” pores over nature’s beauty as much as it heeds the warning of humankind’s destructive potential. The variations that result from the constant push and pull throughout Song of the Rose make Arbouretum’s music as arresting as it is thoughtful. The lyrical imagery makes it masterful.
Arbouretum’s lyrics explore elements of philosophy, mysticism, redemption, and the implications of human “progress”. Songs are written in poetic form as Heumann, Arbouretum’s lyricist, prefers stories remain abstract and open rather than a more typical storytelling format, all within a more traditional song structure. Titular track “Song of the Rose” completes a trilogy of songs from past records, calling back to “Song of the Nile” and “Song of the Pearl,” which have their roots in examining Taoist and Gnostic mythic traditions. Fittingly “Rose” is also a nod to Heumann’s ancestor Richard Lovelace, a 17th century poet who penned “The Rose.” The driving “Absolution Song,” featuring the albums only instrumental guest appearance by Drums of Life, is a contemplation of the idea of writing and thereby absolving oneself of all wrongdoings, through the creative act, in this case, using poetic imagery. Arbouretum music takes these philosophical ideas and transforms them into a sonic experience that is at once contemplative and emotionally affecting.
Tracklisting: 1. Call Upon the Fire 2. Comanche Moon 3. Song of the Rose 4. Absolution Song 5. Dirt Trails 6. Fall From an Eyrie 7. Mind Awake, Body Asleep 8. Woke Up on the Move
Posted in Reviews on January 6th, 2017 by JJ Koczan
[Click play above to stream Mangog’s Mangog Awakens in full. Album is out Jan. 9 on Argonauta Records.]
For those off the Eastern Seaboard of the United States, Maryland doom must seem like a curious animal. It’s angry, but restrained, sad, but grooved, melodic and still weighted down by a particular disaffection. Over the last three decades, it’s also become one of the longest-lasting and prolific regional sources for heavy output, and as Mangog‘s Argonauta Records debut album, Mangog Awakens, demonstrates, it remains a sound that is growing and shaping itself. As rigid as its tenets can sometimes seem in post-The Obsessed riffing and Sabbathian loyalism, there’s room in the Chesapeake State for a breadth of atmospheres, and Mangog take advantage of this while staying grounded in deeply human experiences of loss and betrayal on “Ab Intra” and “A Tongue Full of Lies,” and still having a bit of fun in a cut like “Meld,” which from its opening lines, “Your thoughts to my thoughts/My mind to your mind,” through the inclusion of “It is a good day to die” in the chorus was bound to win over my Star Trek-loving heart.
Granted that cut is a long way from “Walk in my shoes/Feel the abuse” and “Chase the dream then you die” from “Modern Day Concubine,” but it fits sound-wise with Mangog‘s straightforward, semi-metallized take, marked out by the rumbling basslines of Darby Cox (Major Company), the thickened riffing of Bert Hall, Jr. (also bass in Beelzefuzz, ex-Revelation, the snarl in the vocals of Myke Wells (ex-Final Answer) and the dead-ahead push drumming of Mike Rix (ex-Iron Man). In any case, a bit of thematic variety doesn’t hurt, especially when so much of Mangog Awakens basks in the emotionally grim.
Welcome to doom, chief. I’ve said many times over the years that repetition and that grueling feeling that sometimes emerges from bands in the style are key markers for doom, and Mangog do a fair bit to play into that, but from Mangog Awakens‘ opening salvo of “Time is a Prison,” the aforementioned “Meld” and “Ab Intra,” they seem intent likewise on finding a niche for themselves within the sphere’s overarching lack of pretense. “Meld” is shorter, but “Time is a Prison” hits seven minutes and “Ab Intra” tops eight, so there’s an apparent drive toward immersing the listener quickly in the album’s moody vibes, and if they haven’t already done it by then, the creeping start of “Ab Intra” assures the task is complete. Compare that to the ticking clock that begins the lumbering “Time is a Prison” and the sounding alarm at the end that still jars every time I hear it and Mangog are clearly pushing deeper as they go, but both “Time is a Prison” and “Ab Intra” rely on strong hooks to help get their point across, and that root of classic-style songcraft is important as the rest of the album continues to build fro this beginning.
“Ab Intra” is one of the three songs from Mangog‘s 2015 debut EP, Daydreams Within Nightmares, to be included on the full-length alongside “Of Your Deceit” immediately following and “Daydreams Within Nightmares,” placed here as the penultimate track before “Eyes Wide Shut” closes, but there’s no discernible interruption in flow between previously-released material, despite the band having worked with a slew of engineers — Jason Blevins and Mike Franklin, Mike Engel, and Drew Mazurek — on the recordings. The crawl-paced plod of “Of Your Deceit” might be preaching to the converted, but one wouldn’t accuse it at all of being incongruous in doing so. If nothing else, Mangog Awakens makes plain that the four-piece know the sound they’re shooting for.
Fine. The question then becomes whether they get there. From “Of Your Deceit” into the sub-three-minute tempo kick of “Into Infamy” and onward to the chug of “Modern Day Concubine,” the answer would seem to be yes. These are not rookie players, and while this is their first outing together in this incarnation, they sound comfortable in the mode of expression, going so far as to have Wells branch out a bit into a more rhythmic vocal patterning on “Modern Day Concubine” with just a hint of growl layered in. “A Tongue Full of Lies” offers more languid flow after that aggro moment, but has a build of its own that comes to a head in its second half, leading into the more upbeat shove of “Daydreams Within Nightmares,” the lyrics of which nod toward political turmoil — one might say “Into Infamy” did so earlier as well; both working in a general way relatively open to interpretation — as a choice riff churns around a hook that seems to reorient the listener moving into Mangog Awakens‘ final statement.
That comes with “Eyes Wide Shut,” which at 5:41 doesn’t touch “Time is a Prison” or “Ab Intra” in terms of runtime, but in its layered vocal harmonies — either Wells on his own or Wells with backing from Hall — and ultra-slow initial rollout punctuated by Rix‘s snare, it’s nodding enough to give the impression of being longer than it actually is and atmospheric after the fashion of classic Pentagram. Once again, Mangog bring their own stamp to the proceedings, adding a speedier, metallized bridge in the second half of the track before returning to the lumber to end out, not quite paying off the full record, but at very least assuring their audience there’s more to come. That may well be true, and at this point one might only speculate where Mangog might go after this “awakening.” What the band establishes, though, is the core of songwriting that will hopefully continue to be fleshed out from here and a strong awareness of where they’re coming from that will allow them to grow as they move forward.
Call it a flair for the epic, but as Baltimorean five-piece Blood Mist make their debut Feb. 10 on Grimoire Records with their self-titled five-track EP, the pattern of classic metal grandiosity and swinging-mug heavy rock groove can’t be missed. Across the 25-minute outing, the relative newcomers show marked cohesion of purpose in taking cues from early, pre-self-parody Danzig as well as Candlemass, but even with those names as core influences, I wouldn’t necessarily tag them as only being a doom band. Certainly those elements are there, as one can hear by the chugging slowdown that finishes opener “Burn the Trees” as much as the foreboding guitar and cymbal wash interplay that begins the subsequent “Blood Mist,” but guitarists Kevin Considine and Nick Jewett, vocalist Matt Casella, bassist Scott Brenner and drummer John de Campos (also artwork) pick up into near-High on Fire onslaught later in their eponymous cut. With the sense of drama that Casella brings to his approach, in places calling to mind Scott Reagers as well as the likes of Witchfinder General and others from the NWOBHM, everything Blood Mist do on this offering just feels that much bigger.
Blood Mist hits its most fervent nod in righteously-titled centerpiece “Goblin Overload,” pulling back on the tempo, upping the fuzz and giving Casella and the lead guitar all the more room to flesh out what were already impressive performances, some of the shoutier vocals recalling King Giant, but ultimately winding up less burly as they set up a transition into speedier fare circa the four-minute mark, de Campos taking point in pushing the song to its break, when it snaps back into a mid-paced revisit of its chorus to end with what seems to be a well-earned big rock finish. Dueling leads start the shorter, faster “As the Crow,” which highlights its hook as it courses through like something that might’ve opened a Dio-era Sabbath record en route to what seems to be a companion piece in closer “My Lord.” The finale is the only song included under four minutes long, but the impression it leaves is brash and substantial in kind, setting up its last minute as a build into a final thrust that comes topped with more stellar guitar soloing and righteous crash for an ending that, to be perfectly honest, probably could’ve ridden out its groove for another two or three minutes at least if it wanted to. Maybe next time.
Take that “maybe next time” as evidence of a desire to hear more from Blood Mist. The band treads on some dangerous ground in providing a next-gen take on traditionalism of sound coming from where they do — Baltimore has some very definite ideas about what makes a doom or otherwise heavy record — but frankly, that’s how innovation happens. Like all of Grimoire‘s fare, the EP was recorded by Noel Mueller, who gives ample space to each instrument (vocals included) while bringing them together all the more as a unit priming themselves to develop the potential to capture hearts and minds of heshers and weirdos alike. As with many early releases, debut EPs, etc., it’s hard to guess where Blood Mist might go from here — “Blood Mist” and “My Lord” are very different tracks, may have been written over a greater span of time, and so on, and while they sound like they’re all-in from the start of “Burn the Trees,” there’s yet no context for assessing what their sonic intent will be over the longer term. However, Blood Mist excite with the possibility of what their metallically-tinged heavy could become on this initial collection and already showcase a will to distinguish themselves from their surroundings. Do it loudly enough and someone’s bound to pay attention.
Today I have the pleasure of hosting “Goblin Overload” as a track premiere ahead of Blood Mist‘s Feb. 10 arrival. Please find it on the player below, followed by the release announcement courtesy of Grimoire, and enjoy:
Formed in 2015 and hitting the stage in March of 2016 Blood Mist has been on a tear of performances sharing the stage with acts such as Valient Thorr, Black Lung, Gateway to Hell and others. This culminated in Blood Mist being invited to record with local metal label Grimiore Records and producing their self titled debut release with label head Noel Mueller.
The self-titled 5 song EP features meaty, stoner rock riffs, hard hitting drumming, ripping guitar solos, and over-the-top theatrical vocals. “Blood Mist” is only the beginning of the epic tale set to unfold. What evil power birthed the blood mist? Who will survive the roaming, rolling cloud of madness? The answers are found in the pounding, guitar driven, hazed musical metal maelstroms crafted by the now battle tested Blood Mist. Don’t miss out on the first chapter as we journey into the thick fog of destruction.
Grimoire Records has set an Oct. 21 release date for a new split titled Vortex 6 from instrumental outfits Thought Eater and Iron Jawed Guru. Each band will present four tracks recorded, as all of Grimoire‘s releases are, by label honcho Noel Mueller, and each band has tied their tracks to a theme born out of classic cult sci-fi. I’m not sure if I’m supposed to say what movies in particular, so I won’t give anything away.
In the case of Baltimore trio Thought Eater, this split marks their first outing and finds them somewhere between more aggressive chug and engaging depth of tone. They lead off on the first half and provide a tight but still grooving approach, their “Crushing Metaphysical Crisis” shifting easily from semi-blastbeats into more open fluidity and demonstrating a clear lack of respect for the boundaries of genre.
You might recall West Virginia’s Iron Jawed Guru offered up their debut EP, Mata Hari (review here) through Grimoire in the early hours of 2016. Relatively quick though it was, their straightforward approach to Appalachian-style riffy instrumentalism left an impression for sure, and here the duo tease a bit of melody in in their sound, showcasing early growth as they move forward.
Right now, if you play your cards right — and by that I mean click the player below — you can stream premieres of “Crystal Maze” from Thought Eater and “Emerald Seer” from Iron Jawed Guru.
Preorders for Vortex 6 are up as of today from Grimoire, who also had the following:
Thought Eater / Iron Jawed Guru split “Vortex 6” – 10/21/16 Grimoire Records
Thought Eater is a brand new 3-piece instrumental band from Baltimore, MD, featuring a 12-string bass through a big muff. This monstrosity is a standard bass with 3 of everything, producing a bizarre double-vision effect on every note. Uniquely hypnotic High on Fire riffs are woven into angular odd-time compositions reminiscent of Intronaut and Zebulon Pike.
Douglas Griffith – guitar Darin Tambascio – bass guitar Bobby Murray – drums
Iron Jawed Guru, an instrumental power duo from West Virginia, is back with their second Grimoire release of 2016. True to Mata Hari form, epic compositions reminiscent of Kyuss and Russian Circles. They too employ a novel technique to thicken up their sound, running their guitar through an array of different amps and octavers to create a mammoth wall of sound with a paradoxically clean edge.
[Click play above to stream Darsombra’s Polyvision in full. Album is out Sept. 9 on Translation Loss.]
Last year, Baltimorean experimentalist duo Darsombra went on tour. Pretty much for the whole year. They played well over 100 shows on what they dubbed the “Three Legged Monster” tour — it took place over the course of three separate legs — and they played plenty of other shows besides. That nomadic existence seems to feed into the sense of revelry and freedom that one finds in listening to Polyvision, the two-piece’s latest studio full-length for Translation Loss Records and first since 2012’s Climax Community. Or at least that’s easy enough to read into the outing’s two extended, multi-movement component tracks, “Underworld” (21:45) and “From Insects… to Aliens (The Worms Turn)” (22:31).
Guitarist/keyboardist Brian Daniloski and keyboardist/vocalist/visual effects creator Ann Everton bring a clear sense of composition to both pieces, but there’s an undercurrent of improvisation atop which the building layers of samples, loops, synth and effects create their swirl, and where so much of drone/noise is hell-bent on post-apocalyptic desolation, the creation of all-gray spaces, Darsombra offer a full spectrum of sonic color across Polyvision. Moreover, there are moments where they sound truly and genuinely playful in what they do, Daniloski‘s guitar or the keys winding around celebratory figures in one track or the other, bringing about a spontaneous feeling moment of arrival — “We’re here now and isn’t it great here?” — that also would seem to fit with the presented-as-being-completely-on-a-whim turn to nomadic living that the band made in 2015. Have drone, will travel, will be glad to end up wherever.
That’s a simplification of the mindset, obviously, but the underlying point is that Polyvision feels unafraid to embrace joy as it moves through its complex and ritualized-feeling soundscapes. Not that it doesn’t also have its foreboding stretches, as any even vaguely drone release with a low tone will — soundtracks have conditioned us to hear things a certain way, even subconsciously — but though its two titles are somewhat dark in their themes, with the creepy vibe and strangeness of the construction of “From Insects… to Aliens (The Worms Turn)” and an “Underworld” traditionally being a place not known for its pleasant afternoons, it’s not long into Polyvision before Daniloski and Everton are exploring colorful, rich textures.
It’s still fair to call Darsombra instrumental, but vocals do play a large role in setting the vibe, and that happens relatively quickly in the first movement of “Underworld”; voices almost choral loop in with undulating volume swells, fading in and out again, moving toward an end just before the five-minute mark where all goes quiet before the next wave starts with what seems to be both their voices leading to the establishing of a slow, patient rhythmic guitar figure around which the keys and a brightly progressive and extended guitar lead unfold. It’s here, making its way toward and past the midpoint of “Underworld” that Polyvision first and perhaps most effectively conveys the joy at root in its creation. It finds itself in a bouncing, almost child-like section of fuzzed-out keys and guitar — still with that original rhythm beneath; it doesn’t leave just yet — that receives due exploration before giving way to rolling waves, which is how “Underworld” ends. At the ocean. I’d assume that’s a field recording from the band, rather than a keyboard sample, but never fully knows. In either case, it’s hypnotic and signifies the kind of perpetualness Darsombra are looking to convey in their material as well as a peaceful moment to collect oneself before moving onto the second, longer track.
“From Insects… to Aliens (The Worms Turn)” finds itself building layers of proggy guitar, more active, more intense, with washes of cymbal added for effect in the first couple minutes. A swirling solo takes hold and winds its way into another seemingly simplistic progression around eight minutes in, but it gives way to lower rumbling undertones, if only momentarily before the guitar surges forward again. Though only part of Darsombra‘s broad approach, Daniloski‘s lead work isn’t to be undervalued. Aside from being technically proficient, it brings a rare spontaneity to what might commonly be thought of as a drone or noise record, neither of which is a style known for working off the cuff, adding to the atmosphere of positivity and basking in the spirit of an apparently ceaseless creative drive. Just past 15 minutes, Everton begins a vocal loop that is ultimately the introduction to the final movement of “From Insects… to Aliens (The Worms Turn)” and after a final crash of guitar, she’s backed by noise that indeed sounds like and may or may not be bugs, like crickets at night something from the forest.
That Darsombra would choose to end both of Polyvision‘s cuts with nature sounds — granted in the closer the human voice is still more prominent in its long fadeout — and one can’t help but wonder in light of the album’s title if the band isn’t trying to see multiple sides, and trying to show their audience multiple sides, of how humans interact with the world around them. Of course that’s speculation on my part, but if you take anything from it, take it as a sign of the depth of the evocation that the duo enact over the course of the album’s 44 minutes. If what they gleaned from those 100-plus days on the road together are the lessons they seem to be teaching here, then their time was well spent.
[Click play above to stream Foghound’s The World Unseen in full. Album is out Friday on Ripple Music.]
Originally set for a Spring release, The World Unseen is the second full-length from Baltimorean four-piece Foghound after 2013’s Quick, Dirty and High (review here). It’s also their first offering through Ripple Music, and like a lot of productions in which Mike Dean has a hand — he produced here along with Frank “The Punisher” Marchand and the band itself — one can hear some C.O.C. in a song like “Serpentine,” but in the context of the record as a whole, that becomes only one element at the band’s disposal.
Shades of fellow Marylanders Clutch, of a roughed-up Fu Manchu and of Alabama Thunderpussy‘s Southern edge show up, but primarily what’s happening in The World Unseen is Foghound are establishing their own style with those influences as a foundation. They do Baltimore proud in that, and over the course of its 10 tracks/43 minutes, the album offers a force of delivery well beyond that of the debut. The sound is tighter, the performances crisper, and the production sharper. Not that Quick, Dirty and High didn’t have its hard-hitting side, but The World Unseen sees each member of Foghound turning in the same direction and heading forward at breakneck speed, and the result is strong, clearheaded heavy rock and roll like “Message in the Sky” or “Rockin’ and Rollin’,” songs executed with no pretense of wanting to do anything more than kick ass and have a good time doing it.
More complex vocal arrangements also help bring out more of Foghound‘s sonic identity, drummer Chuck Dukehart and guitarist Bob Sipes splitting the bulk of the lead duties while also backing each other complemented by guitarist Dee Settar. Bassist Jim Forrester rounds out the lineup this time around, making a considerable impression under the guitar fuzz of “Truth Revealed,” and fitting well in Foghound alongside his former Sixty Watt Shaman bandmate Dukehart, who belts out his vocals with similar a physicality to how he hits his drums — a full-body process. The record starts off innocently enough with the roll of “Above the Wake,” one of three songs to hit five minutes with the later “Truth Revealed” and closer “Never Return,” but builds intensity as it moves toward each of its choruses, its loose groove tightening amid a flurry of guitar leads and rhythmic push.
The next two songs, “Message in the Sky” and “Serpentine,” help define a large portion of The World Unseen‘s personality, moving fast, making an impact and wasting zero time. Efficient, catchy and on the beat, they’re paired well together for the hooks they proffer, but all the more so because the more swinging “Serpentine” also provides a more flowing transfer into “On a Roll,” which has a nod straight off The Action is Go and a lyric about blasting off into space, just in case the classic stoner rock vibe wasn’t apparent enough. It was, but the song is almost maddeningly well written, and also the shortest at just over three minutes, so it’s not like it’s overstaying its welcome. “Give up the Ghost” recalls Down in its sung/spoken vocals and its style of riff, but by the time it arrives, Foghound have already established themselves as able to draw these things together to suit their own purposes, and they do likewise to close side A.
A more fervent thrust resumes with “Rockin’ and Rollin’,” which seems like as much a mission statement as anything else, another track that wastes no time getting to its point and offering another driving verse and memorable hook, put to good use, but “Truth Revealed” provides counterbalance with a more laid back groove, highlighting the tone in Sipes and Settar‘s guitars as a blown-out vocal tops as atmospheric accompaniment. They pick up the tempo for the last measure or two, but the prevailing feel is still less insistent, and the spacier instrumental “Bridge of Stonebows” follows up on that and pushes it further with subdued guitar, punctuating drum thud and rumbling bass that speaks to something foreboding but bittersweet, a solo in the second half a standout moment for its fluidity amid the build behind it. The side B interlude doesn’t so much derail the considerable momentum the band has built up to that point, but it does broaden and shift the overarching feel of the album, giving the return to a more straightforward approach on “Street Machine” a different context than it would have coming out of, say, “Truth Revealed” or one of the other tracks.
So be it. “Street Machine” remains catchy in the spirit of “On a Roll” and leads to “Never Return,” which makes a fitting enough finale but one can only hope isn’t prophetic in some way about the band itself. Its chugging riff, mid-paced push and larger sense of space come with lyrical escapism, but for what it’s worth, Foghound don’t sound like a group looking to make their end. Quite the opposite. They sound hungry, and when they return, it’ll be one to watch for, because while The World Unseen makes its primary impression in the quality of its songwriting and the tightness of its performances, it also showcases the real potential at heart in Foghound as they continue to develop. As a second full-length and a debut for this lineup, it marks an arrival for sure — almost for Ripple Music as much as the band itself — but it also feels like another step in a larger process of growth still to play out.
Try to stay with me on this one. Last weekend was Maryland Doom Fest 2016. I drove down from Massachusetts last Friday to Frederick, MD, for it with The Patient Mrs., dropping her off first at family friends’ outside of Baltimore. We had her car, which, on Sunday, died in the parking spot outside the venue and had to be towed to a garage to receive a new alternator. Okay. That’s step one.
Step two: I had to get back to Massachusetts on Monday to start my new job on Tuesday. As her car would not be ready in time, The Patient Mrs. rented another vehicle and came and picked me up in Frederick and north we went. The repair would end up costing $900, but I made it to work on Tuesday and all went well, so it could’ve been much worse. The snag was that her car remained in that garage in Frederick and the rental would also need to be returned to Maryland, so looming all week was this impending journey back down I-95/I-78 to swap out cars again.
My job is in Rhode Island and gets out early on Fridays. 1PM. After swinging through Frederick to get her car and dropping off the rental, we got to where we were staying Friday night at 11PM. Between that, the fact that I’d survived my first week at a new job while still feeling positive about the experience, and the likewise impending trip back north, there was basically zero fucking chance I wasn’t going to The Sound Garden in Baltimore to do some serious-business record shopping before we hit the road.
So that was Saturday morning. My foot still screwed up, I hobbled toward the Psychedelic section (which had moved since last I was there) and started grabbing discs. Some new, some old, some in between, but The Sound Garden is arguably the best record store I’ve been to on the Eastern Seaboard — my heart will always hold a place for Vintage Vinyl in NJ, of course — so I knew I was going to find plenty.
I don’t record shop the way I used to. It used to be constant, a snag-this-snag-that process to put CDs on the shelf. I’m a little less likely to find stuff now, buy more online and direct from bands, and so on, but though I couldn’t really walk in the early part of the day, I still very much enjoyed digging through the rows to see what there was that needed to get bought. Turned out I did fine:
Maria Bamford, Ask Me About My New God! Beastmaker, Lusus Naturae Causa Sui, Return to Sky Comet Control, Center of the Maze Conan, Revengeance Death, For all the World to See Earthless / Harsh Toke, Split Flower Travellin’ Band, Satori Graves at Sea, The Curse that is Graves at Sea Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard, Noeth ac Anoeth The Meters, Look-Ka Py Py Monolithe, Epsilon Aurigae The Motherhood, I Feel so Free The Peace, Black Power The Pretty Things, S.F. Sorrow Valley of the Sun, Volume Rock
Some of that was stuff I had to own on principle. How often do you run into a US-based store with El Paraiso Records distribution? Causa Sui, then, was a must. I was likewise surprised and thrilled to see Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard and Monolithe, so those were musts. The Death record (and documentary) was recently re-recommended to me from a trusted source, so I figured I’d grab that, and then stuff like Graves at Sea, the Earthless / Harsh Toke split, Comet Control, Valley of the Sun and Beastmaker were records I’d written about that I wanted physical copies of anyway. I’m about 80 percent sure I already have a copy of the latest Conan. but thought I’d get it while I was there, and if I wound up with a double, worse things have certainly happened.
From the aforementioned Psychedelic section, a couple treasures in Flower Travellin’ Band‘s Satori, which was also the first of the haul I put on, its hard-thudding krautrock-inspired proggy proto-metal enough to gloriously alienate a room, and The Pretty Things‘ concept album S.F. Sorrow, and The Motherhood‘s I Feel so Free — all ’70s-era outings. The Funk/Soul section yielded The Peace and The Meters, and Comedy/Spoken Word the Maria Bamford, which I picked up in no small part because her show on Netflix, Lady Dynamite, is so remarkably brilliant. If you haven’t yet watched it, do so immediately.
By the time I got through finding Monolithe, Graves at Sea and Beastmaker in the metal section to grabbing the Death record as I walked past it on my way to the register, I was feeling considerable discomfort at standing on my right foot, which was in the same supportive cast — I call it “das boot,” well aware that the actual German word means “boat” — I had on at the fest last weekend. That put something of a rush on the tail end of the shopping experience as I needed to get somewhere I could sit down, but while I probably could’ve spent a few more hours dicking around at The Sound Garden, I don’t at all feel like I missed anything except perhaps a t-shirt from the store, which I’ll grab next time, and for a trip that was made under less than ideal circumstances, I definitely felt as I walked out that I’d made the best of the time I had.
There are all kinds of record shop ratings out there, but if you happen to be in Fells Point or the greater region, The Sound Garden really is one of the best stores I’ve ever been to, and it continues to be a destination in my mind for when I’m around. It made the long drive back north that much easier to endure, which is saying something in itself.