Castle, Deal Thy Fate: Can’t Escape the Evil

Posted in Reviews on November 2nd, 2018 by JJ Koczan

castle deal thy fate

All Castle do is kick ass. That’s their whole thing, and they do not veer from that central purpose. They’ve been at it for nearly a decade. Deal Thy Fate is their fifth album in that time as well as their first for Ripple Music after releasing 2016’s Welcome to the Graveyard (review here) as a return to Ván Records out of Germany, which also released their debut in 2011, and the latest work continues to highlight the point of just how brutally underappreciated they are. It is nine songs — eight and a “Prelude” leading to “Hexenring” on side A — and runs a clean 36 minutes recorded live at least in its basic tracks with the core duo of bassist/vocalist Liz Blackwell and guitarist Mat Davis joined by touring drummer Chase Manhattan in Hallowed Halls Studio with Billy Anderson at the helm. That is not a new band/producer collaboration. Castle have worked with Anderson on the three albums since 2012’s Blacklands, that being 2014’s Under Siege and the aforementioned 2016 outing.

And as far as capturing their sound goes, it’s not by any means a broken system. Easily parsed into two vinyl sides, Deal Thy Fate captures eerie vibes and classically metal tones with a natural underpinning born of the developed instrumental chemistry between Blackwell and Davis, who in the band’s time have relocated first from Toronto to San Francisco and, for this album, from San Francisco to the Mojave Desert, where they wrote the songs. Perhaps though where they ultimately reside is moot, since they spend so much time on tour anyway. One way or the other, their sound is defined more by their own pursuit of truth in heavy metal rather than geography — that is, they didn’t move to the desert and start making desert rock. They’re still Castle, which for the steadily growing cult following they’ve amassed by delivering their sharp, thrash-informed riffing to listeners one gig at a time, should only be a relief. If you’ll pardon me for saying so, that cult should probably be bigger — hence “underappreciated” above.

The reasons to take that position run from the hooks of opener “Can’t Escape the Evil,” “Wait for Dark,” and “Haunted” to the eerie atmosphere that “Prelude” sets for “Hexenring” and the sharp turns later in “Red Phantom” ahead of the dynamic and spacious closer “Firewind.” To look at the tracklisting, with only “Hexenring” hitting five minutes long, its intro at 32 seconds and everything else somewhere in the four-minute range, Deal Thy Fate is deceptive, because while the runtimes are similar, what Castle does in each changes. Structures are largely straightforward, but as “Skull in the Woods” unfolds its central riff that seems to be trying to run away from itself after the brash moshfodder of “Can’t Escape the Evil,” a subtle sense of breadth begins to take hold. Davis by then has already tossed off however many pro-shop solos, and Blackwell‘s vocals have arrived in deftly-arranged layers, so the stage is well set, but the atmosphere continues to deepen as the album plays out subsequent to that, and in that way, Castle reveal perhaps their most distinguishing factor.

castle

Blackwell is nothing short of a metal hero as frontwoman, and Davis plays the quiet conjurer well, leading the way through tight, headbang-ready grooves that not only remind of when denim and leather brought people together, but also of the many seasons spent in the abyss. But what they bring by working so much in concert as they do — and especially with Manhattan, a real live drummer able to drive forward each of the album’s varied progressions — is a spirit of creepy-worship that goes beyond skulls in the woods, hauntings and phantoms. It goes beyond horror themes to the very core of the band itself, and in that, it’s difficult to pinpoint but all the more enticing for that. There’s something dark in their work that comes through almost on a subconscious level, and I’m not exaggerating. As familiar as some of their sonic elements inherently are — thrash isn’t new, and classic metal, by its very nature, is a known commodity — there’s a twisted layer of the psychological beneath. Something in the personality of the band that’s as intangible as it is grim.

It runs deeper than the busy iconography of the Patrick Zoller cover art, though perhaps that speaks as well to the complexity of the message across Deal Thy Fate. “Wait for Dark” rolls out a fist-pumper nod after the mostly-mid-paced mini-epic “Hexenring” and soon gives way to the title-track opening side B. From there, “Haunted,” “Red Phantom” and “Firewind” only affirm the fierce grip Castle have on their approach and their raw, unpretentious take on what metal should be and could have become. Maybe that’s it. Think of Castle not as a vision of what heavy metal is, but as a vision of what heavy metal could have become. It’s not about splitting into subgenres of subgenres, though one could tag any number of them to Deal Thy Fate, and hey, that’s fun, I won’t argue with it. But if you take the totality of what their work over the last decade does and more crucially what this album does, with the “Looks that Kill” riff of “Haunted” and the quiet start of “Firewind,” the razor’s-edge guitar slices in “Skull in the Woods” and the determined sweaty push of “Deal Thy Fate” itself, it does for metal what so much heavy rock does in providing an alternate modern interpretation of those classic forms.

Castle are outliers. They’re not retro thrash. They’re not trying to revisit the NWOBHM. They’re not strictly doom. They’re metal. And the metal they play isn’t about joining a side to the exclusion of all else, but about celebrating what brings — or could bring — it all together. Their metal is encompassing, and in that, it provides an alternative look at what might’ve happened had the development of metal — the umbrella-genre of it — grown to take everything in rather than splinter into various extremities. Is that their conscious intention? I have no idea. But it’s how Deal Thy Fate plays out. It’s the album’s fate. And we know from their past work as well as their current that Castle are nothing if not self-determined, so take it as you will.

More important even than their lack of pretense or the natural state from which their material seems to arise — that is, they’ve never sounded overly showy or dramatic about what they do and they don’t here either — is the fact that Castle are happening right now. It’s 2018, they’ve got five records out, and they’re the kind of band who, whenever they actually call it a day, are going to be more missed than people know. They’re reaped critical acclaim for a long time, and have worked hard to translate that into audience appreciation to the degree they have, but Castle deserve to be heard by as many ears as possible, and until the next one arrives, Deal Thy Fate is the best way to go about it. Young or old, their metal should be your metal.

Castle, “Deal Thy Fate” official video

Castle, Deal Thy Fate (2018)

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Castle Stream “Wait for Dark” Lyric Video; More Touring Announced

Posted in Whathaveyou on August 15th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

castle

I’d like to sit here and pretend and say, ‘Oh, well, I haven’t heard the new Castle or anything, but…’ and then start talking about the album which I’ve very much heard, but the truth is, I haven’t heard it. The moved-to-the-desert outfit in preparation for making what’s been dubbed Deal Thy Fate and will serve as their Ripple Music debut upon its Oct. 19 release, and whether or that that will affect the ultimate sound of the thing remains to be seen, even with the lyric video playing below for the track “Wait for Dark.”One never knows where they might go with a full collection of songs.

As it happens, where they’re going is Europe. Castle have already been confirmed for Desertfest Belgium 2018 and, as one might expect for a band who are basically nomadic, that’s just one of many shows they’re playing.

Album info and more comes courtesy of the PR wire:

castle deal thy fate

Castle Debuts New Song “Wait for Dark”; Cover Art and Track Listing for New LP, ‘Deal Thy Fate’ Unveiled

Bay Area Doom Rock Duo to Drop Fifth Full-length LP this Fall; Canadian and European Tour Dates Announced

Heavy metal doomsters CASTLE have announced the release of their new album, ‘Deal Thy Fate’, via Ripple Music on October 19. Recorded at Hallowed Halls Studio in Portland, OR by longtime producer Billy Anderson (Sleep, Neurosis), ‘Deal Thy Fate’ is Castle’s fifth album and follows 2016’s critically-lauded Welcome To The Graveyard.

Building on the stripped-down sound of its predecessor, Deal Thy Fate sees Castle continue to push the envelope of classic heavy metal, crafting epic and memorable songs that hearken back to fuzzier times while keeping the pedal down on their own hard-edged, modern sound. Guitarist Mat Davis’ penchant for riffs that worm their way into your brain and singer/bassist Liz Blackwell’s haunted melodies soar out of the depths across the album’s 36 fist-banging minutes.

Written over the last year in the band’s current Mojave Desert location of Joshua Tree, CA, Deal Thy Fate’s 9 tracks are woven with tales of folklore, dark Americana, serial killers and cult leaders, while the album’s striking cover art, inked by Patrick Zoller, reflects the title track’s no compromise, choose-your-own destiny rally cry. The striking album art and full track listing can both be viewed below.

Commenting on the writing and recording of Deal Thy Fate, which was rounded out on drums by previous touring member Chase Manhattan, Blackwell adds, “We were able to spend a couple months in a jam room honing these songs and for the first time, record the entire album live in the studio – it definitely shows in its energy and intensity and sounds more like live CASTLE than anything else we’ve ever done.”

Track listing:
1.) Can’t Escape the Evil
2.) Skull in the Woods
3.) Prelude
4.) Hexenring
5.) Wait For Dark
6.) Deal Thy Fate
7.) Haunted
8.) Red Phantom
9.) Firewind

Castle tour dates:

September 27 Toronto, ON Coalition
September 28 Ottawa, ON House Of Targ
September 29 Moncton, NB The Caveau
September 30 Halifax, NS Gus’ Pub
October 1 Fredericton, NB Capital Complex
October 2 Quebec City, PQ Le Bateau de Nuit
October 3 MontreaL, PQ L’Escogriffe
October 4 London, ON Call The Office
October 14 Antwerp, BE Desertfest Belgium (w/ Enslaved, YOB, Crowbar)
October 15 Frankfurt, DE dasBett (w/ The Skull)
October 16 Munich, DE Backstage (w/ The Skull)
October 17 Freiburg, DE Slow Club (w/ The Skull)
October 18 Cologne, DE Sonic Ballroom (w/ The Skull)
October 19 Siggiewi, MT Malta Doom Fest
October 20 Cottbus, DE Blue Moon Fest
October 22 Gottingen, DE Freihafen
October 24 Dresden, DE Chemiefabrik
October 25 Osnabruck, DE Bastard Club
October 27 Vallet, FR Westhill Music Fest
November 2 Karlsruhe, DE KoHi
November 3 Siegen, DE Vortex
November 4 Hamburg, DE Bambi Galore
November 7 Furstenwalde, DE Parkclub
November 8 Berlin, DE Tief
November 9 Leipzig, DE Black Label
November 10 Vienna, AT Doom Over Vienna Fest
November 24 Rotterdam, NL Dutch Doom Days

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Castle, “Wait for Dark” official lyric video

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Castle Sign to Ripple Music; Deal Thy Fate Due Oct. 19

Posted in Whathaveyou on July 19th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Nomadic heavy metallers Castle have signed to Ripple Music to release their upcoming fifth album, Deal Thy Fate, on Sept. 22. The announcement of the Billy Anderson-recorded new long-player and the follow-up to 2016’s Welcome to the Graveyard (review here) comes even as Castle live up to their always-on-the-road ethic by touring their way to Maryland Doom Fest this coming weekend. This, of course, is just the beginning of what will be a cycle of tours that will go on for at least a year and then some because — and here’s the thing — Castle never really have album cycles. They just keep touring, then I think they take like a week off to record an album, touring up to the studio and back, of course, and then they go back out on tour. I’m pretty sure this band can’t even go grocery shopping without playing a show on the way to the store.

Their aligning with Ripple Music brings them to one of the heavy underground’s most potent lineups, and while we’re speaking about lineups, Castle will be part of many in Europe’s busy Fall festival season. Dates for the current US tour and subsequent trip abroad follow word of the new album, which you’ll find below, capped off at the end by a trailer streaming at the bottom of the post.

Have at you:

castle

CASTLE ANNOUNCE SIGNING WITH RIPPLE MUSIC, NEW ALBUM DETAILS REVEALED, TEASER VIDEO RELEASED

Ripple Music is thrilled to announce the signing of heavy metal doomsters, CASTLE to a world-wide album deal!

CASTLE’s fifth album — and first for California-based Ripple Music– “Deal Thy Fate,” follows 2016’s critically-lauded Welcome To The Graveyard, which was recorded by Billy Anderson (Sleep, Neurosis) and described by Metal Hammer UK as “epic, heroic, tastefully melodic”. Look for the new album, Deal Thy Fate to hit the streets October 19th, on vinyl, limited edition vinyl, CD and all digital services.

About the new album, Liz Blackwell says “We’re ecstatic to forge forces with Ripple Music to bring you the release of our fifth record, ‘Deal Thy Fate’. We can’t wait to unleash this no compromise, fist banging companion to our fans, present and future. Get ready to Deal Thy Fate!!”

Check out the title track, ‘Deal Thy Fate’ Teaser Video https://youtu.be/va2_ERYpNPs

CASTLE have also announced a run of shows with The Skull and several upcoming festival appearances in Europe to coincide with the album’s release, including; Desertfest Belgium (Oct 14), Malta Doom Metal Fest (Oct 19), Doom Over Vienna (Nov 10) and Dutch Doom Days (Nov 24). Expect a full European tour along with North American dates to announced soon.

10/14 Antwerp, BE – Desertfest Belgium
10/15 Frankfurt, DE – dasBett w/ The Skull
10/16 Munich, DE – Backstage w/ The Skull
10/17 Freiburg, DE – Slow Club w/ The Skull
10/18 Cologne, DE – Sonic Ballroom w/ The Skull
10/19 Siggiewi, MT – Malta Doom Fest
11/10 Vienna, AT – Doom Over Vienna Fest
11/24 Rotterdam, NL – Dutch Doom Days

CASTLE was forged in San Francisco in 2009 and released their debut full-length, In Witch Order, on Germany’s Ván Records in 2011. The album brought light to the newly-formed band and earned them “Album Of The Year” honors from Metal Hammer Norway. Shortly thereafter, the band joined the Prosthetic Records roster in North America and released both their critically-acclaimed sophomore album Blacklands, which led to a Canadian JUNO nomination for “Metal/Hard Music Album Of The Year”, and 2014’s influential follow-up, Under Siege.

Since the release of their first album, CASTLE, which consists of vocalist/bassist Elizabeth Blackwell, guitarist/vocalist Mat Davis and various touring and recording drummers, have maintained a relentless tour schedule, performing over six-hundred shows worldwide alongside the likes of The Sword, Conan, Intronaut, and Pentagram among many others as well as appearances at some of the underground’s largest fests including Roadburn, and the London and Berlin Desertfests and the band’s first ever tour of Japan last year.

heavycastle.com
facebook.com/CastleSF
https://heavycastle.bandcamp.com/
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Castle, Deal Thy Fate album teaser

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Live Review: Maryland Doom Fest 2018 Night Two, 06.23.18

Posted in Features, Reviews on June 24th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

maryland doom fest 2018 night two poster

This scene is staggering. In terms of enclaves of hard and heavy, Maryland doom might be rivaled only by Floridian death metal and New York hardcore for longevity, and I’m pretty sure neither of those dates back to the early ’70s. Think about that. For almost as long as there’s been an idea of “heavy,” there’s been Maryland doom. And the number of lifers in bands and out boggles the mind. At best, I’m an interloper here, and I’d never claim otherwise. Every year or two or three, I’m lucky enough to come down for a fest or something like that, poke my head around and be humbled by the spirit that lives in this place. To actually be a part of it? I can’t imagine.

Maryland Doom Fest has taken on the responsibility not only of representing its native creatives, but in providing the scene a bridge to the outside world as well. The second day of Maryland Doom Fest 2018 did like day one and branched out in geography and sound, the scope of the festival increasing each year even as it maintains its ties to the place whose banner it flies. There’d be plenty of doom, but noise and heavy rock as well, metal both tangible and intangible, and more besides. You bet your ass it’s overwhelming. Maryland Doom Fest comes but once a year. Gotta make it count.

Another rainy day in Frederick set the gray-sky tone for a bill that would start out dark and work its way to the murkiest finish of all with Windhand headlining. Here’s how it happened:

Electropathic

Electropathic (Photo JJ Koczan)

As with Unorthodox last night, the new band fronted by Gary Isom, guitarist in Weed is Weed and former drummer in Spirit Caravan, Pentagram, Valkyrie and others, is a cross-generational affair. Along with drummer Ronnie Kalimon (formerly of Asylum, Unorthodox, etc.), Electropathic features young bassist/backing vocalist Zak Suleri and lead guitarist Eli Watson, both of Et Mors, and with Isom in the frontman role, they ran through a set of classic Maryland doom. Defined in no small part by their lack of pretense, they seemed to still be feeling out where they were ultimately headed as a band. They formed in the back half of last year by all appearances, so while none of them is a stranger to the stage, they’re in the process of developing their chemistry and sound. Likewise, Isom was still internalizing his position at the fore — even in Weed is Weed, he’s off to the side of the stage. He held it down though and their riffs resounded like a clarion to the converted still making their way in — time to go to church, school, whatever. Just time to go.

Molasses Barge

Molasses Barge (Photo JJ Koczan)

Hailing and hauling from Pittsburgh, Molasses Barge reaffirmed the connection between Steel City and Maryland doom that’s been there since the days of Dream Death‘s original run and probably even before that. The five-piece released their self-titled album in 2017 on Blackseed Records and had songs from that and new material in tow, which frontman Brian “Butch” Balich announced from the stage saying drummer Wayne Massey “calls this one ‘Tin Snake,'” or something thereabouts (hard to read the notes, sorry if I’ve got the title wrong). Balich is a formidable presence on his own, as he’s proven over the years in Penance, Argus and most recently Arduini/Balich, and in Molasses Barge he sets his powerful voice the task of cutting through the low end tone rollout from guitarists Justin Gizzi and Chuck Forsythe and bassist Amy Bianco that, presumably is what gives the band its name. Classic heavy riffs and a touch of metal underpinning, they were unsurprisingly met with welcome by the early crowd, and brought out Iron Man frontman Dee Calhoun to co-front a cover of that band’s “On the Mountain” to pay righteous homage to founding guitarist “Iron” Alfred Morris III, who passed away earlier this year.

Shadow Witch

Shadow Witch (Photo JJ Koczan)

I said as much to vocalist Earl Walker Lundy after their set, but I’ve always sensed something a little weird in Shadow Witch. Across the Kingston, New York, four-piece’s two albums to-date, last year’s Disciples of the Crow (review here) and 2016’s Sun Killer (discussed here), there’s been an edge of something standing them out from the pack. Having now seen them live, I feel like I have a better sense of what it is. In no small part, it’s Lundy himself. He carries across his vocals with utmost conviction and purpose, and backed by bassist David Pannullo, guitarist Jeremy Hall and drummer Doug Thompson, he ran his voice through a range of effects and performed barefoot — a bravery in itself considering the amount of spillage I’ve seen on that stage over the last two days — as free in is movement physically as his voice was to carry across the songs. They dwell in a between-genre space and remaining excitingly difficult to classify, but what matters is they carried their passion over to the audience, who met it with welcome. Good band. Better band than people know. Better band than I knew.

Doomstress

Doomstress (Photo JJ Koczan)

Speaking of bands I should’ve seen already, I went into Doomstress‘ set with the distinct impression that their recorded material to-date has yet to do them proper justice. They tour regularly on week and week-plus runs and had been on the road for four nights already en route to Cafe 611, so it seemed likely the Houston four-piece would be on top of their game. Not to toot my own horn, but I was right. They’re a better band than they’ve shown on either of their short releases. It’s a question of balance in their sound. Not just between tonal heft and aggression/attitude or the commanding stage presence of Doomstress Alexis on bass and vocals with guitarists Brandon Johnson and Matt Taylor and drummer Buddy Hachar (also of Greenbeard), or of between the classic and the modern, but between the actual instruments themselves. The live wash of tone suits them, with Alexis‘ vocals cutting through, where on their recordings thus far there’s more separation of instruments. It’s dirtier live, and for the high quality riffs they play, that dirt fits really well. Especially coupled with the fact that their performance was so tight, it was like they were daring the crowd to match their energy level.

The Age of Truth

The Age of Truth (Photo JJ Koczan)

Another band it was my first time seeing (that’s five in a row!), Philly four-piece The Age of Truth had been hanging out all weekend and getting down with some shenanigans the first night of Maryland Doom Fest, but when they got on stage, it was all business. Well, mostly business. One seems to recall vocalist Kevin McNamara saying something before they went on about taking his shirt off and rubbing his nipples on the microphone — it didn’t happen, though it might’ve been an interesting bit of performance art; “what do those nipples signify?” and so on — but with the start of the set, he, guitarist Mike DiDonato, bassist Bill Miller and drummer Scott Fressetto launched into the most noise-rocking set the festival has thus far featured. Their blend of heavy rock groove and crunching tones and riffs made their Kozmik Artifactz-delivered debut, Threshold (review here), an aggro joy, and their live interpretation of those songs as well as the new cut “Palace of Rain” was all the more engaging for the ferocity of its realization. The slow-rolling-int0-quicker-shuffle of “Caroline” was a highlight, but I won’t take anything away from the impact of “Honey Pot” or anything else either. With an injection of melody into the newer stuff, they left some intrigue as to where they might be headed — a proper tease of something to watch for. It’ll be worth keeping an eye out.

Switchblade Jesus

Switchblade Jesus (Photo JJ Koczan)

Before Switchblade Jesus took the Cafe 611 stage, I was asked by Borgo Pass drummer and all-around-excellent-human-being Joe Wood what they sounded like. The first two words that came out of my mouth were “Texas” and “riffs.” To be fair, that’s not by any means all the three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Eric Calvert, bassist/vocalist Chris Black and drummer Jon Elizondo have to offer, but if you’ve never heard them before, it’s a start. They made an encouraging self-titled debut (review here) in 2013 and followed up last year with a contribution to Ripple Music‘s The Second Coming of Heavy split series (review here), which took the foundation of that initial offering and expanded it significantly, pulling back on some of the burl in favor of a more nuanced approach. Their set in Maryland? With Calvert and Black sharing vocal duties and Elizondo pounding away behind, they rose to the occasion. In front of the stage, the crowd headbanged and raised fists and dug in nearly as much as the band itself, whose set was flawless near as I could tell. I’ve seen them twice now, been impressed both times, and could only expect that trend to continue for the next round, whenever that might be.

Foghound

Foghound (Photo JJ Koczan)

The weekend’s emcee, Dave Benzotti, choked up in reading his intro to Foghound, which also served as a remembrance of those the Maryland doom scene has lost over the last year, including bassist Rev. Jim Forrester of Foghound (also Serpents of Secrecy, ex-Sixty Watt Shaman, etc.), and reasonably so given the tragedy of the circumstances of his passing. The inevitability of that loss working its way into the current chapter of Foghound‘s life as a band was thick as the Baltimore four-piece got going, but if they were working toward catharsis, they were doing so with volume and intensity as their means. Their third album, Awaken to Destroy,on which Forrester performs bass and new bassist Adam Heinzmann contributes vocals alongside those of drummer Chuck Dukeheart III and guitarists Dee Settar and Bob Sipes, is done and in the can, and they played material from it both during their own set — the title-track — and afterwards through the P.A., which went unnoticed by many by Dukeheart later explained was a way to get Forrester‘s playing heard even if people didn’t realize they were hearing it at the time. As they also played with a portrait of Forrester signed by many with messages of love (I didn’t have the courage), his presence and absence were both deeply felt by the room, but the music was a fitting tribute and a comfort alike.

Cavern

Cavern (Photo JJ Koczan)

Prog prog prog. Also, prog. It’s fun to watch a band who so delight in being bizarre or outside the norm, and while local instrumentalists Cavern were for sure the odd men out on the bill, that suited them remarkably well and I can only imagine it wasn’t the first time they’ve found themselves in that position. Drummer Stephen Schrock played a kit with his toms out flat before him while Zach Harkins ran his guitar through one of the most elaborate pedal boards I’ve seen this weekend and still had room on stage for a Moog to add atmosphere to the intricate and complex songs they played. Denizens of Grimoire Records, they were a perfectly timed departure. Following Foghound with another straight-up rock band would only be doing said band a disservice, but Cavern were coming from somewhere else completely, so there was no real comparing the two outfits. A jolt to the flow of the night that only served Cavern well, since with all their looped parts, woven-through noise and underlying groove, “jolt” seemed to be the whole idea. It would be all-go riffing from here on out, but whether one considers them on their own merits or in the context of the Maryland Doom Fest 2018 lineup, their efforts toward the bizarre were duly appreciated.

The Watchers

The Watchers (Photo JJ Koczan)

The second Ripple Music act on the bill to have made the trip from the Bay Area behind ZED, four-piece The Watchers delivered one of the most professional sets I’ve seen so far this weekend. I mean, The Obsessed were pro-shop, right? And so were ZED, since they’ve been mentioned, but The Watchers had it all down — from riffs to looks to delivery to vocalist Tim Narducci and guitarist Jeremy Epp working the crowd with natural showmanship while bassist Cornbread and drummer Carter Kennedy locked in groove after groove of rock-solid heavy rock, playing selections from this year’s Black Abyss (review here) as well as the preceding EP, Sabbath Highway (review here). They had a near-commercial level of catchiness, but since that’s not a thing that exists anymore, I’ll just note that as much clear effort as they put into their presentation, the accessibility of the songs came from the songs themselves and the quality of their construction. Were they up there selling it? Absolutely. And kicking ass while doing so, but if the material itself wasn’t so strong the whole thing would’ve fallen flat. The foundation of the entire show was the material itself, and accordingly that show was an utter joy to watch.

Earthride

Earthride (Photo JJ Koczan)

I actually went back and looked up the last time I saw Earthride. It was at Days of the Doomed in 2012 (review here). I also recalled seeing them in Brooklyn in 2011 sharing the stage with When the Deadbolt Breaks, which was a noteworthy coincidence since that band’s guitarist/vocalist, Aaron Lewis, happened to be playing bass in Earthride, having joined just prior to the Maryland band’s just-ended tour with The Skull. Still, six years (and eight days) of not seeing Earthride? Far too fucking long. Dave Sherman, who’d been hanging out all weekend, took the stage in celebration of the welcome-home party that their set was, and with Lewis, guitarist Greg Ball and drummer Eric Little behind him, he held court for what was an absolute highlight of the fest as a whole. I’d been thinking of them as headliners the whole day, and while they didn’t play last, there was definitely a main-event feel going into their set, which started out with “Earthride,” boasted the new single “Witch Gun” (discussed here), the title-track to 2010’s Something Wicked (review here) and capped with “Fighting the Devils Inside You” from 2005’s sophomore LP, Vampire Circus (discussed here). Sherman held the audience and never relinquished his grasp on their attention, and the crowd was as switched on as I’d seen the whole fest. Like I said, they weren’t the headliners in name, but really, they kind of were. And rightly so.

Castle

Castle (Photo JJ Koczan)

Man, I want to hear Castle‘s new album. So bad. The core duo of bassist/vocalist Elizabeth Blackwell and guitarist/vocalist Mat Davis will issue that long-player through a yet-to-be-announced label, but they’re a touring band at their core. They get out. In talking to Davis after their set, he called their current stint a “quick one.” To put that in perspective, it’s a cross-country tour with 12 dates. I’m assuming what he meant was that it was nothing like the weeks-long voyages that will invariably follow the new full-length’s release, and I guess that’s fair, but 12 dates isn’t nothing either. Last time I saw Castle was Maryland Doom Fest 2016 (review here) as they were marking the release of that year’s Welcome to the Graveyard (review here), and though I knew it was coming, I was still blindsided by their intensity. Thrash, doom, classic metal, heavy groove and delighted pummel. Think of them as extreme traditional metal. They bring a classic sound to bear in their material — a number of classic sounds, actually — but have a ferocity to their execution of that which sets them apart from anything that might be considered “retro.” Coupled with the willful eeriness of their atmospheres and cultish themes, they can be all over the place, but that only makes them harder to pin down, and thus, all the more a thrill to watch. As the penultimate act of the evening, they were a last-minute kick in the ass before things got as far out as they would go, and though it had been a long day by then, Castle revived the spirit even as they seemed to herald its demise.

Windhand

Windhand (Photo JJ Koczan)
Windhand were the night’s headliner. They could’ve slinked in late, hid themselves backstage, got on, done their set, collected whatever there was to collect afterward and been on their way. Instead, the Richmond, Virginia, four-piece, who are arguably the most successful East Coast doom band of their generation and whose influence only continues to spread — trying to come up with another name and can’t; if you have one, I’d love to talk it out — hung around all day. They were back and forth through the venue, watching bands, meeting people, this and that. They had the option to take part or not to take part and they took part. And for a group at their level, on Relapse, having toured the world, etc., that’s not nothing. When they finally got on stage and got going, their fog-drenched riffs were as overwhelming as I remembered, and even though they’ve pared down from a five-piece, there was no discernible gap in volume from vocalist Dorthia Cottrell, guitarist Garrett Morris, bassist Parker Chandler and drummer Ryan Wolfe, who produced a soulful, lurching onslaught the likes of which Maryland Doom Fest had not yet known. Their new album, Eternal Return, was announced in April and will be released by Relapse as the follow-up to 2015’s Grief’s Infernal Flower (review here). No doubt it’s one of the most anticipated doom records for the rest of 2018 and whenever it rears its head will be yet another grueling landmark in a catalog that, at this point, teems with them while also constantly showcasing Windhand‘s progression. It was late, but in front of the stage was a press of humanity, and Windhand justified the urgency with a wash of volume and low end that was on a level all its own. A headlining slot well earned.

It’s almost 1PM on Sunday as I wrap this up and I still need to sort photos, shower and change clothes before I head out from Sparks to Frederick, so I’ll turn you over quickly to the pics after the jump and just say thanks for reading.

Because really, thanks for reading. More tomorrow, if you can believe it.

Read more »

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Desertfest Belgium 2018: Crowbar, The Skull, Castle, Yuri Gargarin, and Sofy Major Join Lineup

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 6th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Who’s going to argue with this? Sludge, doom, psych, noise, and metal? It’s like Desertfest Belgium 2018 decided its third announcement was when it would encompass the scope of underground heavy in one go. It’s got oldschool and newschool vibes, American and European bands next to each other, and fucking Castle, who just never stop touring ever. Never ever. I’m pretty sure they made their new record in the back of their van.

Maybe not, but still.

Seriously, the list of bands says it all, and the roster of acts they join only makes Desertfest Belgium all the more significant in Europe’s massively-crowded Fall festival scene. I’m not going to tell you to buy tickets or travel if you’re not in a financially secure situation or something, but if you have to sell your car and become a curiously aged European street urchin, complete with backpack and dog, this one might be worth it.

Behold:

desertfest belgium 2018 crowbar

Since you all liked our last announcement so much, we’re already back with another one!

And oh boy… Another quintuple hit of doom, rock, metal, psychedelics and whatever strikes your fancy, here we go…

First up, the absolute heavyweights of Southern sludge will grace our stage for the first time. Yes, Crowbar will be charged up fresh from their upcoming Eastern Europe tour in the summer, so expect them to be sharp as a razor and hard as nails at Desertfest Antwerp 2018!

Another scene stalwart, this time in the traditional doom vein, we welcome former Trouble makers The Skull, who reportedly will come loaded with a fresh sophomore album, out on Tee Pee Records in the fall.

For some more traditional doom vibes with a nice dose of occult rock, San Fransiscan trio Castle – Metal Band will be back at our festival after their killer set in 2016. We are also most pleased that the Swedish spacerock shuttle Yuri Gagarin will land at DF Antwerp from whatever outer space voyage they’ve embarked on. They’ve got an interstellar live reputation, so expect this to be a highlight for sure! And finally, we close off this batch of goodness with something French and sleazy. SOFY MAJOR is a noiserock outfit that will hit you in the face like a solid steel beercan.

So rest assured, your precious Reduced Combi Tickets will be well worth… what’s that? You STILL haven’t bought your tickets you say? Even though they’re still a steal at €95 for three days? This will not stand! We’ll give you just a little more time to go get them, but next time we see each other, don’t give us any excuses you hear!

http://www.desertfest.be/tickets
https://www.facebook.com/desertfestbelgium/
https://www.facebook.com/events/364607267372737/
https://twitter.com/DesertfestBE

Crowbar, Live in Flint, Michigan, March 2018

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Castle Ready to Start Recording New Album; US & European Touring Announced

Posted in Whathaveyou on April 2nd, 2018 by JJ Koczan

castle

The one time I was fortunate enough to see Cali-based heavy-and-you-damn-well-better-believe-it metallers Castle — certainly not for lack of touring on their part — was at Maryland Doom Fest in 2016, and they were fucking awesome enough that even two years later every time I think about it I say to myself, “Man, that was fucking awesome.” They’ll return to that venerable event this June, and they’ve newly announced a coast-to-coast tour (as they will) presented by Black Arts Booking to coincide. That of course will be after they hit the studio in May with Billy Anderson at the helm to track the new album they moved to the desert to write and before they head to Europe this Fall — presumably after the record is out — to tour alongside The Skull and hit a few festivals.

The fact that there are a few weeks between their Oct. 19 slot at Malta Doom Fest and their Nov. 10 gig at Doom Over Vienna tells me that there could be a whole lot more European touring still to be announced, and sure enough, the PR wire confirms it. Dig:

castle tour

CASTLE: Heavy Metal Doom Bringers Announce US / Europe Tour Dates, Recording Set To Begin On New Album

Heavy metal doom bringers CASTLE have announced a 12 date headlining trek across the US including a performance at this year’s Maryland Doom Fest in Frederick, MD on June 23. The tour will kick off in Pittsburgh on June 19 before hitting select cities on the east coast and winding its way back to California where the band have just completed writing their new album. Scheduled to begin recording over the next month in Portland, OR with producer Billy Anderson (Sleep, Neurosis, Eyehategod), CASTLE’s fifth full length is set for a September release.

Additionally, the band have announced several European shows upcoming in October and November, including a string of dates in Germany with The Skull as well as festival appearances at The Malta Doom Fest (Oct 19), Doom Over Vienna (Nov 10) and Dutch Doom Days (Nov 24). Expect more European dates to follow.

CASTLE – U.S. Tour Dates
6/19 Pittsburgh – Howlers
6/20 Brooklyn, NY – Saint Vitus
6/21 Worcester, MA – Ralph’s
6/22 York, PA – The Depot
6/23 Frederick, MD – Maryland Doom Fest
6/24 Newport, KY – Southgate House
6/25 Kansas City, MO – Riot Room
6/26 Oklahoma City, OK – Blue Note
6/27 Dallas, TX – Double Wide
6/28 Albuquerque, NM – Launchpad
6/29 Phoenix, AZ – Yucca Tap
6/30 Riverside, CA – TBA

Europe Tour Dates
10/15 Frankfurt, DE – dasBett w/ The Skull
10/16 Munich, DE – Backstage w/ The Skull
10/17 Freiburg, DE – Slow Club w/ The Skull
10/18 Cologne, DE – Sonic Ballroom w/ The Skull
10/19 Siggiewi, MT – Malta Doom Fest
11/10 Vienna, AT – Doom Over Vienna
11/24 Rotterdam, NL – Dutch Doom Days

CASTLE continues to tour in support of their molten Welcome To The Graveyard full-length, issued last summer via Ván Records. Welcome To The Graveyard was captured by Billy Anderson at Type Foundry Studios in Portland, Oregon and is currently available at THIS LOCATION.

heavycastle.com
facebook.com/CastleSF
https://heavycastle.bandcamp.com/
https://www.van-records.de/
https://www.facebook.com/vanrecs/
https://vanrecords.bandcamp.com/

Castle, “Black Widow” official video

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Maryland Doom Fest 2018 Announces Full Lineup with The Obsessed, Windhand, Weedeater, Earthride and Many More

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 1st, 2017 by JJ Koczan

Invariably there will be some change between now and next June, and there’s the tradition of the pre-show to consider the night before, but right out of the gate, Maryland Doom Fest 2018 impresses with its scope of heavy rock and doom, cross-country reach and loyalty to its core mission. With The Obsessed, Windhand and Weedeater set to headline, the fourth edition of the fest curated by JB Matson and Mark Cruikshank will welcome return appearances from the likes of Castle, Earthride, Thousand Vision Mist and Foghound, while reaching out to bring first-timers from afar like Texas’ Doomstress and Duel and Switchblade Jesus, Kansas rockers The Midnight Ghost Train, Connecticut’s Curse the Son, New York’s Geezer, and — I believe traveling the farthest — Disenchanter, from Portland, Oregon.

It’s a killer assemblage, and I think the three headliners do a lot in summarizing the whole idea behind the fest in the first place: The Obsessed are among the founders of what we think of as “Maryland doom.” Windhand are the forerunners of the modern scene. And Weedeater bring a riotous sludge party like no one else on the planet. What more could you possibly ask of three bands in terms of expressing what Maryland Doom Fest 2018 is all about?

I’ll have updates as I see them, but in the meantime, mark your calendars for June 22, 23, and 24 at Cafe 611 in Frederick, MD, and I’ll do the same, because this looks absolutely awesome.

Dig it:

maryland doom fest 2018 poster

Maryand Doom Fest 2018

A 3 day weekend of Doom in its purest form.

June 22, 23, and 24

Cafe 611 Restaurant
611 North Market Street
Frederick, MD 21701

Full lineup:
The Obsessed, Windhand, Weedeater, Castle, Unorthodox, Duel, The Watchers, Zed, Switchblade Jesus, The Midnight Ghost Train, Lightning Born, Earthride, Geezer, Disenchanter, Bedowyn, Cavern, Doomstress, Caustic Casanova, Hawkeyes, Curse the Son, Las Cruces, Horseburner, Shadow Witch, Foghound, Witchhelm, Book of Wyrms, Thousand Vision Mist, Molasses Barge, Backwoods Payback, Bailjack, Electropathic, Gateway to Hell

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/the-maryland-doom-fest-2018-tickets-39468562533
https://www.facebook.com/MdDoomFest/
https://www.themarylanddoomfest.com/

The Obsessed, Live at Maryland Doom Fest 2016

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Castle Launch One Tour, Immediately Announce Another

Posted in Whathaveyou on September 15th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

My only concern with California’s Castle continuing to tour forever in support of last year’s Welcome to the Graveyard (review here) is it leaves me wondering when they’ll actually get around to making the next album they moved to the desert to write and record earlier this year. Castle have spent much of 2017 on the road — you might say they’re on tour now and will be through the end of this month, and hey, that’s cool — and they’ve newly announced a string of West Coast dates for November that will follow. Could the plan be to record around the holidays? Early in 2018?

Or hell, for all I know the record might be done. Someone should really drop Castle a line and find this shit out. Let me see if I can get on that.

While I do, here are the dates from the PR wire:

castle

CASTLE: Heavy Doom/Metal Unit Announces Stone Thrones West Coast Dates; Endless Graveyard Tour Underway

Heavy doom/metal unit CASTLE — currently in the midst of their Endless Graveyard live takeover — will take to the streets again in November for the west coast Stone Thrones tour. The trek begins November 24th and runs through December 2nd winding its way through nine cities spread across Washington, Oregon, and California. See all confirmed dates below.

CASTLE continues to tour in support of their molten Welcome To The Graveyard full-length, issued last summer via Ván Records. Welcome To The Graveyard was captured by Billy Anderson (Sleep, Neurosis, Brothers Of The Sonic Cloth, Eyehategod, Ommadon et al) at Type Foundry Studios in Portland, Oregon and is currently available at THIS LOCATION.

CASTLE – Endless Graveyard Tour:
9/12/2017 The End – Nashville, TN
9/13/2017 Odditorium – Asheville, NC
9/14/2017 Strange Matter – Richmond, VA
9/15/2017 Shadow Woods Metal Fest – White Hall, MD
9/16/2017 O’Brien’s – Boston, MA
9/17/2017 Cherry Street Station – Wallingford, CT
9/18/2017 Saint Vitus Bar – New York, NY
9/19/2017 Bug Jar – Rochester, NY
9/20/2017 Mohawk Place – Buffalo, NY
9/21/2017 Maple Grove – Cleveland, OH
9/22/2017 Cattivo – Pittsburgh, PA
9/23/2017 Smalls – Detroit, MI
9/24/2017 Taps Live – Indianapolis, IN
9/25/2017 Northside Yacht Club – Cincinnati, OH
9/26/2017 FuBar – St. Louis, MO
9/27/2017 Riot Room – Kansas City, MO
9/28/2017 The Elbow Room – Wichita, KS
9/29/2017 Stoned Meadow Of Doom Fest – Sioux Falls, SD
9/30/2017 Triple Nickel – Colorado Springs, CO

Stone Thrones Tour:
11/24/2017 The Valley – Tacoma, WA
11/25/2017 Funhouse – Seattle, WA
11/26/2017 Shakedown – Bellingham, WA
11/27/2017 Tonic Lounge – Portland, OR
11/28/2017 Old Nick’s – Eugene, OR
11/29/2017 Spirits – Dunsmuir, CA
11/30/2017 Elbo Room – San Francisco, CA
12/01/2017 Blue Lamp – Sacramento, CA
12/02/2017 5 Star Bar – Los Angeles, CA

CASTLE’s Welcome To The Graveyard offering was captured by Billy Anderson (Sleep, Neurosis, Brothers Of The Sonic Cloth, Eyehategod, Ommadon et al) at Type Foundry Studios in Portland, Oregon and is currently available at THIS LOCATION.

heavycastle.com
facebook.com/CastleSF
https://heavycastle.bandcamp.com/
https://www.van-records.de/
https://www.facebook.com/vanrecs/
https://vanrecords.bandcamp.com/

Castle, “Black Widow” official video

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