It’s a gorgeous Saturday morning in East Lyme, Connecticut. Why wouldn’t there be traffic on I-95? Seven hundred gajillion TARP funbucks later, I sat in a miles long line of cars weaving into and out of two exceedingly busy lanes. Much to the chagrin of the dude from Massachusetts next to me with a boat towed off the back of his pickup, I was barely paying attention to my drifting. Some of the sternest looks I’ve had in at least a week.
I managed to sneak in a quick to-go breakfast with The Patient Mrs., who is in the area, and then basically came right here. It’s about 10 to noon now, and I don’t know what time Akris is going to start — they’re setting up now — but when they do, it’ll be the launch of day three of Stoner Hands of Doom XII and the first of two massive all-day shows here at the El ‘n’ Gee in New London.
No doubt it’s going to be a long day, but hell, I’m here. I’ve got a deli sandwich in a cooler in the trunk of my car for later, and enough earplugs to last a month. My plan is basically to do the same as I did yesterday — but, you know, twice as much of it — with updates as the day goes on. Hopefully you enjoy keeping up as much as I do.
SHoD XII day three begins in just a bit. More to come.
UPDATE 12:46PM: Hope you like bass. Akris, the Virginian duo of bassist/vocalist Helena Goldberg and drummer Sam Lohman, fluidly blend thrash, doom and noise, but are also able to dive quickly into runs of progressive technicality. Goldberg played through three heads — Sunn Concert Master and Slave and an Earth Super Bass Producer — and should go without saying was assaultingly, feel-it-in-your-chest loud, and Lohman had his own kit set up toward the front of the stage and off to the site, turned sideways. If I wasn’t awake yet, Akris were loud enough to get the job done, but as overwhelming as it was in terms of volume, the tone wasn’t muddy. The vocals cut through the low end (duh) and I’m not sure whether Lohman‘s drums were actually coming through the P.A. or not — they were mic’ed up, but he looked to be crashing down hard enough to be heard down the street, so who knows — but there was no trouble hearing him either, and even when Goldberg was at her loudest and most raging, everything came through distinct. Their demo was cool and hopefully it’s not too long before they follow it up with either a full-length or an EP. I’d be interested to hear how the dynamic between them came across over the course of a whole album. In the meantime, they were a shot of energy to start the day. Much needed and much appreciated.
UPDATE 1:44PM: From the wilderness of New Hampshire, double-guitar doomly foursome Eerie were quick to align themselves with the extreme. In look and attitude, I half expected the band to bust out throat-ripping screams and searing blasts. Didn’t happen, but they weren’t lacking for grimness besides. Instead, they doomed out a wall of riffs and varied abrasive and clean vocals, relying on steady undulating riffs, not unfamiliar, but hard to place directly somewhere between Cathedral and the semi-psych tonality of earliest Zoroaster. One of the guitarists broke a string early into the set, but if it really affected the sound, I wouldn’t know it. The two guitars played well off each other, and if the broken string did anything, it was force him into a higher register and into starker contrast with his fellow six-stringer. They have a record that I’ll hope to pick up and check out further, but it’s high time New Hampshire’s untamed forests spawned a unit as dark as Eerie — who might need to take a different name for how well it actually describes them. They seemed to have common cause with Statis, who are on next, but what the alliance might be, I don’t know. Either way, if Akris were the stoner hands, Eerie were the doom. Doom like “we only use our first initials” kind of doom.
UPDATE 2:27PM: Well, mystery solved. Stasis‘ drummer — listed on their Thee Facebooks as the mysterious “TBA” — was the same dude who played guitar and handled vocals in Eerie. See? I know it’s precisely that kind of investigative reporting that keeps you coming back to The Obelisk. Anyway, a trio from Portland, Maine — where Revelation and Ogre will doom this very evening — they were more on the sludge end than Eerie before them, but while guitarist/vocalist Michael Leonard Maiewski wasn’t including the same kinds of Euro-doom derived ambient parts, there was still a decent cut of drama in what they were doing. Bassist Mindy Kern had a Warlock or some such bass — many interestingly shaped instruments this weekend — and I don’t know to say for sure, but I think the sound guy working the board here at the El ‘n’ Gee is about ready to hang it up and go get a real estate license. It’s a universal fallback plan. So far, the three bands that have played have been so loud that by the time Stasis were halfway through, he’d left, perhaps in pursuit of lunch, I don’t know for sure. Would require some more of that investigating. I’ll get with the budget office and see if we can swing it. Stasis threw down a little mud, but the wash of low end was obviously intended. Wouldn’t be sludge if it wasn’t dirty.
Curse the Son
UPDATE 3:20PM: Beardbanging all the while, guitarist/vocalist Ron Vanacore led Hamden, CT, trio Curse the Son down a long trail of smoke to the riff-filled land. Playing through a righteous custom Dunwich amp — they make ‘em pretty — Vanacore’s riffly plod was second to none I’ve heard so far over the course of this year’s SHoD, and with the rhythm section of bassist Cheech and drummer Mike Petrucci stomping away, the band gave a strong herald for their upcoming Psych-ache full-length. Most of what they played seemed new, but I did recognize a tune or two from the prior Klonopain (review here) long-player, but really, old material or new, it’s all about the riffs, and Curse the Son has that down. I’d like to see Vanacore (who’s fighting a sinus infection but didn’t let on on stage) in a beard-off with Ben McGuire from Black Cowgirl, who play later, but in the meantime, Kin of Ettins is on next, having come all the way from Texas for the show. Curse the Son gave them a good lead-in and the crowd seems to be right on board. There’s been a lot to dig about today so far, though it’s hard to believe we’re only four bands into the day.
Kin of Ettins
UPDATE 4:22PM: In a dark venue such as this, it’s kind of easy to lose track of time. Whenever someone opens a door to outside and the sunlight comes in, I’m surprised. It’s still daylight out. It’s four in the friggin’ afternoon. Obviously no one told doomly Dallas four-piece Kin of Ettins that. They rocked like it was well after 11PM, proffering a doom that wouldn’t have been at all out of place on Hellhound Records in the mid-’90s and delivering it with just a hint of Texan swagger and inflection. Bechapeaued guitarist/vocalist Jotun (above) made mention in thanking Rob Levey for putting this together that he and bassist Donar were at the first SHoD in 2001 in Dallas. Must be quite a trip 11 years later to play it in New England, but they did well, and with one hand, guitarist Teiwaz ripped into impressive leads, overcoming some early technical difficulties and making a song like “Snake Den Time,” the title-track of a reportedly coming full-length, a standout. They saved the best for last, however, with the cut “Echoes in the Deep,” which also ended the set on their Doomed in Dallas live EP (review here). Awesome to have them represent the fertile Texas scene at Stoner Hands of Doom, and I’m glad I got to see it.
UPDATE 5:13PM: It’s only been about a month since I saw Black Cowgirl in Philly with The Company Band, so they were pretty fresh in my consciousness, as much as anything is at this point. In that time, however, their self-titled full-length (comprised of two prior EPs put together) has seen its CD release, so they haven’t exactly been sitting still. They were much as they were at the Underground Arts, maybe drummer Mark Hanna was a little less inclined to stand up behind his kit, but beyond that, the two guitars of Ben McGuire and Nate Rosenzweig still worked well together and bassist Chris Casse held down the grooves ably without being overly showy. Someone put themselves in the spot in the bar area where I had been setting up the laptop, so I moved outside, and it’s apparently a pretty fantastic day out. Not quite enough to make me regret spending the whole thing inside the dark club, but still. The thing that stands out most about Black Cowgirl‘s set is the dynamics within the band’s approach. The performances were spot on, but even more than that, their songwriting is strong and varied and their ability to convey that in a live setting like this makes them that much stronger a band.
UPDATE: 6:12PM: Wonderfully monikered Maryland classic doom trio Beelzefuzz just wrapped their set with a cover of Lucifer’s Friend‘s “Ride in the Sky.” A pretty bold choice, given that Trouble did the same tune and The Skull is playing later tonight, but I’ll be damned if they didn’t pull it off, guitarist/vocalist Dana using his pedal board as much for his vocals as for his guitar. And I do mean “vocals,” plural. At several points in the set, he was doing live double-tracking, clicking on to add another of his voice and then clicking off. He got jumbled up doing it, but it was impressive nonetheless, as was his voice in general. Though I dug their demo, I’d only ever seen Beelzefuzz for two songs at Days of the Doomed II back in June, so a full set was welcome. Following the energy of Black Cowgirl, they were a calmer stage presence, but tight performance-wise, and usually if it’s going to be one or the other, I’ll take that. Dana‘s guitar magically became a Hammond organ at several intervals and that was awesome as well. The Maryland contingent — a big part of SHoD for the last couple years — will have further representation from Admiral Browning in a few hours, but Beelzefuzz were a welcome dash of Krug’s Place in the meantime, making me a little wistful for Frederick. New London’s been alright in the meantime, though.
One Inch Giant
UPDATE 7:14PM: This was the last stop on Swedish rockers One Inch Giant‘s US tour. I saw the first one earlier this week in Brooklyn. Pretty awesome of an underground band, relatively unknown, to get over here and do a week of shows like that. Unlike in Brooklyn, I watched their whole set this time around, though it seems I’d seen more of it than I thought last time. They sent out a building jam to the ladies, hit the blastbeats again — frontman Filip Åstrand warning the crowd beforehand by saying, “I know you like them slow, but this one’s fast” — and gave a solid, energetic showing of their straightforward European-style heavy rock. I couldn’t help but wonder if Åstrand washed his Morbid Angel shirt between the two shows, but as I couldn’t smell him while was taking pictures, I figure probably there was laundry done at some point during the week. Their stuff was straight ahead catchy, and I think maybe some of the ideas got lost in translation between the Euro and US markets, but for both the fact that they’re here and for what they actually did while they were on stage, it was more than respectable.
UPDATE 8:11PM: As good as some of the doom I’ve seen over the last couple days has been, I don’t know if anything tops Rochester, New York’s Orodruin. They haven’t put out an album since 2003′s Epicurean Mass, but here as at Days of the Doomed, they came on and promptly blew the crowd away. John Gallo doesn’t so much play riffs as he conjures them, summoning them from his guitar in some kind of doomly ceremonial rite. The band played as a four-piece tonight, with second guitarist (and if I’m wrong on the name, please correct me) Nick Tydelski joining the melee alongside bassist/vocalist Mike Puleo and drummer Mike Waske. As a four-piece, they were no less potent than as a trio, and they had what I think was the biggest crowd of the fest so far. I didn’t count heads or anything, but all the people I’ve seen milling about the El ‘n’ Gee today finally seemed to all be in the same place at the same time. Good reason, as Orodruin are hands down one of the best traditional doom acts I’ve ever encountered live, breathing new life into what in most hands is a genre based in no small part on retread. Not knocking that, just saying that these guys have something special. Their In Doom demo/EP is here and on sale. I bought one in Wisconsin, but I’m almost tempted to pick up another, just to have it. Fucking a.
UPDATE: 9:10PM: Anything strike you as a little strange about the picture above of Ron “Fez” McGinnis of Maryland progressive noisemakers Admiral Browning. He’s singing! When their set first started, I said to myself, “Now why the hell would they leave a microphone on stage?” thinking maybe it was just so guitarist Matt LeGrow could say thanks or something, but then Fez had one too, and sure enough, vocals. Not just vocals though, harmonies too. Either these dudes just discovered they could do that stuff or they’ve been holding out. I’d always kind of thought of Admiral Browning‘s tech-minded approach as being too complicated as to allow for structuring into verses, but it worked and it worked well. They still had plenty of instrumental material on offer, but they’ve put themselves into a different echelon entirely by adding singing, all the more so for actually being able to pull it off. And of course, as LeGrow and McGinnis were belting out the songs, drummer Tim Otis was running a marathon across his kit behind them. Legitimately, I’d be surprised if he covered any less than 26.2 miles. They paid homage to Buddy Rich with “Traps” and, after a story of how they ran into Geraldo Rivera in Coney Island earlier today, shouted out “La Araña Lobo” in his mustachioed honor. My plan had been to run out to the car and grab my long-awaited turkey sandwich from the cooler in my trunk, but Admiral Browning kept me right in here. That might not sound like high praise, but there isn’t much that beats “turkey sandwich” in my book. Kudos, gentlemen.
UPDATE 10:10PM: Chicago’s Earthen Grave went sans violin for their set. I seem to recall Rachel Barton Pine, who usually handles that instrument, being either pregnant or recently a mother, and either way, I’d expect that to account for her absence from SHoD. It’s a valid enough excuse. The show went on, as I’m told the show must, and Earthen Grave delivered a crunchier-seeming set of traditional doom and metal. Vocalist Mark Weiner has hit himself in the head on purpose both times I’ve seen the band — here and at Days of the Doomed II — and so I guess he’s just that crazy. He had on a Church of Misery shirt and was happy to show it off along with his formidable pipes, but bassist Ron Holzner has “used to be in Trouble” on his side, and that’s always an attention-getter. The band was pretty crisp, even for lacking their violin, and the assembled heads dug in wholeheartedly as they kicked into a new song, the title of which I didn’t get. Good to know they have new stuff in the works though. I did run out and grab that turkey sandwich, eating half as I sat on the lip of the open trunk of my car — a doomer tailgate party of one — but when I came back, Earthen Grave made me think perhaps I should revisit their self-titled full-length, and covered Pentagram‘s “Relentless,” which is a bit of a coincidence, since that band is about to go on stage in Brooklyn playing that album in its entirety. Go figure.
Devil to Pay
UPDATE 11:12PM: No coincidence that Devil to Pay guitarist/vocalist Steve Janiak was representing the Ripple Music logo, as it was recently announced the Indianapolis four-piece had signed to that label for the release of their new album. Janiak said on stage that the record is due out in January — it’ll be their first since 2009′s Heavily Ever After – and they played a few songs from it, including the gloomy highlight “Yes, Master.” Devil to Pay are always pretty humble on stage, but they’re pretty clearly riding a high. They seemed confident and assured in their sound, guitarist Rob Hough breaking out the weekend’s first and only (to date) windmill headbang, and Janiak‘s tenure in the doomier Apostle of Solitude has brought a new dynamic to his vocals, which had a kind of post-Alice in Chains grunge feel. I had been looking forward to the new album already, but it’s good to have some affirmation for the anticipation. The night is starting to wind down, and with Pale Divine and The Skull still to go, things are about to get awfully doomed around here, but Devil to Pay‘s heavy rock was a great balance between the stoner and the doom, and Janiak is beginning to emerge as a genuine frontman presence. Cool to watch.
UPDATE 12:14AM: The funny thing about watching Pale Divine‘s set tonight was that for most of the contingent up front to see the band, they were local, like well-known, like married-to-them local. For me, seeing Pale Divine, who hail from Pennsylvania, is something exotic, something that doesn’t happen every day. It had me thinking about the bands that I feel that way about — Jersey acts like The Atomic Bitchwax or even a Long Island band like Negative Reaction — who I take for granted. My moment’s pondering didn’t last much longer than that, however, because I was astonished to see Fezzy from Admiral Browning was playing bass alongside guitarist/vocalist and band founder Greg Diener and drummer Darin McCloskey, who also played with Beelzefuzz tonight. Fez was a little punchy on the bass, but that dude’s the kind of player that could pretty much fit in anywhere so long as it’s heavy, and it was cool to see him in a more traditionally riffy context, playing off Diener‘s Wino-inspired riffs. A highlight was “Amplified,” the opening track of their first album, Thunder Perfect Mind, and when the whole thing was done, I won the Stoner Hands of Doom raffle! More on that later, as The Skull is about to go on.
UPDATE 1:40AM: You know what the difference is between The Skull and your Trouble cover band? First of all, you don’t have a Trouble cover band, but even if you did, chances are it wouldn’t have Ron Holzner playing bass in it or Eric Wagner singing, and as someone who saw Trouble proper on their tour with Kory Clarke fronting them, I can say first hand that that makes a big fucking difference. Seems frivolous to say “Psalm 9″ and “Bastards Will Pay” were high points — the whole set was a high point. Together with guitarists and a drummer culled from Chicago metallers Sacred Dawn, Wagner and Holzner ran through a set of classics that seemed utterly antithetical to the late hour. They killed, and the people that stuck around ate it up. Nobody even spoke in between songs. Everyone just stood there and waited to see what was coming next? How about “Revelation (Life and Death)?” Well, yeah, okay, right on. I guess the big difference between tonight and when I saw The Skull at Days of the Doomed is I’m not miserable piss drunk tonight, so I’ve got that working for me. When their set was finished, Wagner said he’d keep going if someone bought him a beer, so beer was acquired and they wound up closing with “At the End of My Daze,” which was incredible of course. The bar called a “get the fuck out” last call after they were actually done, so I’m writing this in the car in the parking lot outside, about to drive back to where I’ll crash out and get up tomorrow for the final day of Stoner Hands of Doom. Tonight was unreal.