Devil to Pay Added to Days of the Doomed IV

Posted in Whathaveyou on December 31st, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

Tomorrow is the arrival of the New Year, and among the pagan rituals, hangover-dispersal, Readers Poll results-posting and whatever other day-off-style shenanigans one might get up to, it’s also the on-sale date for Days of the Doomed IV tickets. To mark the occasion and the transition from an already-successful 2013 to a bigger 2014 to come, the festival has announced the addition of Ripple Music heavy rockers Devil to Pay to the lineup.

Devil to Pay, who released one of 2013’s best records in the form of their fourth album, Fate is Your Muse (review here), will make the drive north from their Indianapolis home-base to play Days of the Doomed IV alongside Blackfinger, The Mighty Nimbus, Age of Taurus, Wasted Theory and others. Many more bands are still to be announced, but the fourth installment of the metal-heavy doom outing, set for June 20 and 21, seems to be stepping up its game all around.

Announcement, links and Devil to Pay‘s kickass video for “Ten Lizardmen and One Pocketknife” (which premiered here) follow:

Happy New Year everyone! How about another band announcement For Days Of The Doomed Fest IV? Grab a PBR tallboy and get ready for the jams to kick your ass… from Indianapolis, I give you Ripple Music recording artist and purveyors of all things HEAVY.. Devil To Pay!

Back for its fourth installment June 20th & 21st, 2014! Days Of The Doomed Fest IV promises to bring the heavy! Bands will be announced over the next several months, so stay tuned! Tickets on sale starting 1/1/14 at!

Days of the Doomed fest IV is scheduled for June 20th & 21st, 2014 at The Metal Grill in Cudahy (South Milwaukee), WI. It is the same venue as past fests, but it is under new ownership/management! Stay tuned for more details!

Devil to Pay, “Ten Lizardmen and One Pocketknife” official video

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The Obelisk Presents: The Top 20 of 2013

Posted in Features on December 16th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

Please note:  These are my picks, not the results of the Readers Poll, which is still going on. If you haven’t added your list yet, please do.

It’s always strange to think of something so utterly arbitrary as also being really, really difficult, but I think 2013 posed the biggest challenge yet in terms of getting together a final list of my favorite records. As ever, I had a post-it note on my office wall (when I moved, it moved with me) and I did my best to keep track of everything that resonated throughout the year. I wound up with over 40 picks and had to start putting them in order to whittle the list down.

I wound up with a top 20 that, even though it feels somewhat incomplete, I’ve found that I can at very least live with. That’s what I’ve done for the last week: Just lived with it. Even up to this morning, I was making changes, but in general, I think this gives some scope about what hit me hard in 2013. Of course, these are just my picks, and while things like my own critical appreciation factor in because that affects how I ultimately listen to a record, sometimes it just comes down to what was stuck in my head most often or what I kept putting on over and over.

That’s a simple formula to apply, but still, 2013 didn’t make it easy. Please note as you go through that there are some real gems in the honorable mentions. I thought about expanding the list to 30 this year, but the thought made my skull start to cave in, so I reconsidered.

Anyway, it only comes around once a year, so let’s do this thing. Thanks in advance for reading:


20. All Them Witches, Lightning at the Door


Traditionally, I’ve reserved #20 for a sentimental pick. An album that’s hard to place numerically because of some personal or emotional connection. This year wasn’t short on those, but when it came to it, I knew I couldn’t make this list without Lightning at the Door included, and since it was released just last month as the follow-up to the earlier-2013 Elektrohasch reissue of the Nashville, Tennessee, outfit’s 2012 debut, Our Mother Electricity (review here), I didn’t feel like I’ve had enough time with it to really put it anywhere else. It needed to be here, and so it is, and though I’ve listened to it plenty in the month since its release, I still feel like I’m getting to know Lightning at the Door, and exploring its open-spaced blues rocking grooves. All Them Witches are hands down one of the best bands I heard for the first time this year, and I’m looking forward to following their work as they continue to progress.

19. Queens of the Stone Age, …Like Clockwork

Released by Matador Records. Reviewed June 4.

For a while after I first heard …Like Clockwork and around the time I reviewed it, I sweated it pretty hard. By mid-June, I had it as one of the year’s best without a doubt in my mind. Then I put it away. I don’t know if I burnt myself out on it or what, but I still haven’t really gone back to it, and while the brilliance of cuts like “Kalopsia” and “Fairweather Friends” and “I Appear Missing” still stands out and puts Josh Homme‘s songwriting as some of the most accomplished I encountered in 2013, that hasn’t been enough to make me take it off the shelf. I doubt Queens of the Stone Age will cry about it as they tour arenas and get nominated for Grammy awards, but there it is. I wouldn’t have expected …Like Clockwork to be so low on the list, certainly not when I was listening to “My God is the Sun” six times in a row just to try and get my head around the chorus.

18. I are Droid, The Winter Ward

Released by Razzia Records. Reviewed Sept. 19.

Gorgeously produced and impeccably textured, The Winter Ward by Stockholm-based I are Droid aren’t generally the kind of thing I’d reach for, but the quality of the craft in songs like “Constrict Contract” and “Feathers and Dust” made it essential. Bits and pieces within harkened back to frontman Peder Bergstrand‘s tenure in Lowrider, but ultimately The Winter Ward emerged with a varied and rich personality all its own, and that became the basis for the appeal. As the weather has gotten colder and it’s gotten dark earlier, I’ve returned to The Winter Ward for repeat visits, and as much as I’ve got my fingers crossed for another Lowrider album in 2014, I hope I are Droid continue to run parallel, since the progressive take on alternative influences they managed to concoct was carried across with proportionate accessibility. It was as audience friendly and satisfying a listen as it was complex and ripe for active engagement.

17. Magic Circle, Magic Circle

Released by Armageddon Shop. Reviewed Feb. 18.

There was just nothing to argue about when it came to the self-titled debut from Massachusetts-based doomers Magic Circle, but what worked best about the album was that although the songs were strong on their own and seemed to have lurching hooks to spare, everything throughout fed into an overarching atmosphere that was denser than the straightforwardness of the structures might lead the listener to initially believe. It was a record worth going back to, worth getting lost in the nod of, and as the members are experienced players in a variety of New England acts from The Rival Mob to Doomriders, it should be interesting to find out what demons they may conjure in following-up Magic Circle, if they’ll continue down the path of deceptively subversive “traditionalism” or expand their sound into more progressive reaches. Either way they may choose, the material on their first outing showed an ability to craft an enigmatic, individualized sonic persona that never veered into cultish caricature.

16. Iron Man, South of the Earth

Released by Rise Above/Metal Blade Records. Reviewed Oct. 14.

If you’re into doom and you have a soul, I don’t know how you could not be rooting for Iron Man in 2013. Produced by Frank Marchand and the first full-length from the long-running Maryland doomers to feature vocalist Dee Calhoun and drummer Jason “Mot” Waldmann alongside guitarist/founder “Iron” Al Morris III (interview here) and longtime bassist Louis Strachan. The difference in South of the Earth was palpable even in comparison to 2009’s I Have Returned (review here). With more professional production, excellent performances all around in the lineup, memorable songs like “Hail to the Haze” and “The Worst and Longest Day,” and the considerable endorsement of a release through Rise Above/Metal Blade behind them, the four-piece sounded like the statesmen they are in the Maryland scene and showed themselves every bit worthy of inclusion in the discussion of America’s finest in traditional, Sabbathian doom. May they continue to get their due.

15. Sasquatch, IV

Released by Small Stone Records. Reviewed Sept. 16.

Whether it was what the lyrics were talking about or not, the message of “The Message” was clear: Never count out a catchy chorus. Now in operation for a decade, Sasquatch practice an arcane artistry with their songwriting. Void of pretense, heavy on boogie, they are as genuine a modern extension of classic heavy rock as you’re likely to find. The Los Angeles power trio outdid themselves with IV, veering boldly into psychedelia on “Smoke Signal” and honing their craft over various moods and themes on “Sweet Lady,” “Me and You” and “Eye of the Storm.” They remain one of American heavy rock’s key and consistently underestimated components, and the three years since the release of their third album, III (review here), seemed like an eternity once the quality grooves of “Money” and “Drawing Flies” got moving, the former an insistent rush and the latter open, dreamy and atmospheric, but both executed with precision and confidence born of Sasquatch‘s familiarity with the methods and means of kicking ass.

14. Black Pyramid, Adversarial

Released by Hydro-Phonic Records. Reviewed April 12.

It was hard to know what to expect from Black Pyramid‘s Adversarial, their first release with guitarist/vocalist Darryl Shepard at the fore with bassist Dave Gein and drummer/engineer Clay Neely, but the Massachusetts outfit flourished on tracks like “Swing the Scimitar,” incorporating a heavy jamming sensibility with marauding riffs and grooves carried over from the style of their first two albums. Adversarial took the band to Hellfest in France this past summer, where they shared a stage with Neurosis and Sleep, and whether it was the raging chorus of “Bleed Out” or the clarion guitar line of “Aphelion,” the band showed their war ensemble could not be stopped. Their future is uncertain with Neely having relocated and Gein having an impending move of his own, but if Adversarial is to stand as the final Black Pyramid outing, they will at very least have claimed enough heads in their time to line fence-posts for miles. Still, hopefully they can find some way to continue to make it work.

13. Across Tundras, Electric Relics

Released by Electric Relics Records. Reviewed July 11.

Even the interlude “Seasick Serenade,” just over a minute and a half long, was haunting. Electric Relics marked the first full-length from Nashville’s Across Tundras to be released on their own label and the first since they issued Sage through Neurot in 2011 (review here), and as rolling and exploratory as its vibe was, songs like “Solar Ark,” “Pining for the Gravel Roads” and “Den of Poison Snakes” also represented a solidification of Across Tundras‘ sound, another step in their development that refined their blend of rural landscapes and heavy tones. Issued in April, it’s been an album that throughout the course of the year I’ve returned to time and again, and the more I’ve sat with it and the more comfortable it’s become, the more its songs have come to feel like home, which it’s easy to read as being their intent all along. Guitarist/vocalist Tanner Olson (read his questionnaire answers here), bassist/vocalist Mikey Allred and drummer Casey Perry hit on something special in these tracks, and one gets the sense their influence is just beginning to be felt.

12. Borracho, Oculus

Released by Strange Magic/No Balls/AM Records. Reviewed July 26.

Initially a digital self-release by the Washington, D.C. riff purveyors, Oculus just this month got a tri-color, tri-label and tri-continental vinyl issue, and the fanfare with which it arrived was well earned by the five songs contained on the two sides. Borracho‘s second album behind 2011’s Splitting Sky (review here) also marked a lineup shift in the band that saw them go from a four-piece to a trio, with guitarist Steve Fisher (interview here) stepping to the fore as vocalist in the new incarnation with Tim Martin on bass and Mario Trubiano on drums. The results in songs like “Know the Score” and closer “I’ve Come for it All” were in line stylistically with the straightforward approach they showed on their first offering, but tighter overall in their presentation, and Fisher‘s voice was a natural fit with the band’s stated ethic of “repetitive heavy grooves” — a neat summary, if perhaps underselling their appeal somewhat. Oculus showed both that the appeal of Splitting Sky was no fluke and that Borracho with four members or three was not a band to be taken lightly.

11. Ice Dragon, Born a Heavy Morning

Released by Navalorama Records. Reviewed Aug. 14.

Like the bulk of Ice Dragon‘s work to date, Born a Heavy Morning was put out first digitally, for free or pay-what-you-want download. A CD version would follow soon enough on Navalorama, with intricate packaging to match the album’s understated achievements, taking the Boston genre-crossers into and through heavy psychedelic atmospheres added to and played off in longer pieces like “The Past Plus the Future is Present” and the gorgeously ethereal “Square Triangle” by thematic slice-of-life set-pieces like “In Which a Man Daydreams about a Girl from His Youth” and “In Which a Man Ends His Workweek with a Great Carouse” that only enriched the listening experience and furthered Ice Dragon‘s experimental appeal. Ever-prolific, Born a Heavy Morning wasn’t the only Ice Dragon outing this year, physical or digital, but it stood in a place of its own within their constantly-expanding catalog and showcased a stylistic fearlessness that can only be an asset in their favor as they continue to chase down whatever the hell it is they’re after in their songs and make genuine originality sound so natural.

10. Devil to Pay, Fate is Your Muse

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed March 19.

It seemed like no matter where I turned in 2013, Devil to Pay‘s Fate is Your Muse was there. Not that it was the highest-profile release of the year or bolstered by some consciousness-invading viral campaign or anything, just that once the songs locked into my head, there was no removing them, and whether it was straightforward rockers like “This Train Won’t Stop,” “Savonarola” and “Tie One On,” the moodier “Black Black Heart” or the charm-soaked “Ten Lizardmen and One Pocketknife” — which might also be the best song title I came across this year — it was a pretty safe bet that something from the Indianapolis four-piece was going to make a showing on the mental jukebox if not in the actual player (it showed up plenty there as well). Devil to Pay‘s first album since 2009, first for Ripple and fourth overall, Fate is Your Muse was a grower listen whose appeal only deepened over the months after its release, the layered vocals of guitarist Steve Janiak (interview here) adaptable to the varying vibes of “Wearin’ You Down” and “Already Dead” and soulful in classic fashion. They’ve been underrated as a live act for some time, and Fate is Your Muse translated well their light-on-frills, heavy-on-riffs appeal to a studio setting.

9. Beast in the Field, The Sacred Above, the Sacred Below

Released by Saw Her Ghost Records. Reviewed May 30.

Such devastation. Even now, every time I put on Beast in the Field‘s The Sacred Above, the Sacred Below, it makes me want to hang my head and wonder at the horror of it all like Marlon Brando hiding out in a cave. If anything at all, there wasn’t much I heard in 2013 that hit harder than the Michigan duo’s fifth long-player, released on CD in March through Saw Her Ghost with vinyl reportedly on the way now. Toward the middle of the year, it got to the point where I wanted to go door to door and say to people, “Uh excuse me, but this is absurdly heavy and you should check it out.” I settled for streaming the album in full and it still feels like a compromise. I tried to interview the band, to no avail — sometimes instrumental acts just don’t want to talk about it — but what guitarist Jordan Pries and drummer Jamie Jahr were able to accomplish tonally, atmospherically and bombastically in expansive and overwhelmingly heavy cuts like the 22-minute “Oncoming Avalanche” or the noise-soaked riffing of “Hollow Horn” put The Sacred Above, the Sacred Below into a weight class that it had pretty much to itself this year. It’s a good thing they had no trouble filling that space. I still feel like I haven’t recommended the album enough and that more people need to be made aware of its existence.

8. Beelzefuzz, Beelzefuzz

Released by The Church Within Records. Reviewed Aug. 30.

When I finally listened to Beelzefuzz‘s self-titled debut, I was really, really glad I had seen the three-piece — its members based in Maryland, Delaware and Pennsylvania — play some of the material live. I don’t know if otherwise I’d have been able to distinguish between the progress elements of effects and looping and the live creation of layers and organ sounds through the guitar of Dana Ortt (interview here) and the simple humdrum of studio layering one finds all the time. I almost think for their next record they should track it live, just the three of them, and heavily advertise that fact to help get the point across that it’s actually just three players — Ortt, bassist Pug Kirby and drummer Darin McCloskey (also of Pale Divine) — creating the richness of sound on “All the Feeling Returns” and the eerie, gleefully weird progressive stomp on “Lonely Creatures.” The album became a morning go-to for me, and I don’t know how many times I’ve been through it at this point, but “Reborn” and “Hypnotize” and “Lotus Jam” continue to echo in my head even when it’s been a few days. That said, it’s rarely been a few days, because while I appreciate what the trio accomplish on their first record on an analytical level, the reason it is where it is on this list is because I can’t stop listening to the damn thing. Another one that more people should hear than have heard.

7. Samsara Blues Experiment, Waiting for the Flood

Released by World in Sound/Electric Magic Records. Reviewed Oct. 22.

One of the aspects of Samsara Blues Experiment‘s third offering that I most enjoyed was that it wasn’t the album I expected German four-piece to make. After their 2011 sophomore album, Revelation and Mystery (review here), shifted its focus away from the jam-minded heavy psychedelia of their 2009 debut, Long Distance Trip (review here), my thinking was that they would continue down that path and coalesce into a more straightforward brand of heavy rock. Instead, when the four extended tracks of Waiting for the Flood showed up with no shortage of swirl or sitar or open-ended expansion in their midst, it was a legitimate surprise. Repeat visits to “Shringara” and “Don’t Belong” show that actually it’s not so much that Samsara Blues Experiment turned around and were hell-bent on jamming out all the time, but that rather for their third, they took elements of what worked on their first two LPs and built lush movements on top of those ideas. As a happy bonus, this having grown more and more into their sound has helped push the band — guitarist/vocalist Christian Peters, guitarist Hans Eiselt, bassist Richard Behrens and drummer Thomas Vedder — into their own niche within the wider European heavy psych scene, and they’ve begun to emerge as one of its most enjoyable and consistent acts.

6. Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats, Mind Control

Released by Rise Above/Metal Blade Records. Reviewed April 8.

Kind of inevitable that there would be a lot of comparisons made between Mind Control and the preceding Uncle Acid album, Blood Lust. Certainly the newer outing — their third and first for Rise Above/Metal Blade — is more psychedelic, more tripped out and less obscure feeling than its predecessor. It didn’t have the same kind of crunch to the guitar tone, or the same kind of horror-film atmosphere or psychosexual foreboding, but the thing was, it wasn’t supposed to. The UK outfit continue to prod cult mentality even as their own cult grows, and as I see it, Mind Control made a lot of sense coming off Blood Lust in terms of the band not wanting to repeat the same ideas over again, but grow from them and expand their sound. Of course, with the strut at the end of opener “Mt. Abraxas,” they’ve set a high standard on their albums for leadoff tracks, but where Mind Control really made its impression was in the hypnosis of cuts like the Beatlesian “Follow the Leader,” the lysergic “Valley of the Dolls” or the maddening “Devil’s Work.” The deeper you went into side B, the more the band had you in their grasp. It was a different kind of accomplishment than the preceding effort — though “Mind Crawler” kept a lot of that vibe alive — and it showed Uncle Acid had more in their arsenal than VHS ambience and garage doom malevolence while keeping the infectiousness that helped Blood Lust make such an impression.

5. Lumbar, The First and Last Days of Unwelcome

Released by Southern Lord. Reviewed Dec. 3.

Of the ones reviewed, Lumbar‘s The First and Last Days of Unwelcome was the most recent inclusion on this list. Having worked with Lumbar multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Aaron Edge (interview here) in the past with his band Roareth releasing what would be their only album on The Maple Forum, this was a project to which I felt an immediate connection given the circumstances of its creation: Being written almost in its entirety and recorded in everything but vocals during a bedridden period following Edge‘s diagnosis of multiple sclerosis. The contributions of YOB/Vhöl frontman Mike Scheidt and Tad Doyle of TAD and Brothers of the Sonic Cloth were what got a lot of people’s attention for Lumbar‘s The First and Last Days of Unwelcome, but with the situation are the core of the seven tracks named “Day One” through “Day Seven,” what stood out to me even more than those performances was the utter lack of distance and the level of rawness in the album’s presentation. It puts you there. What you get with Lumbar is the direct translation of a range of emotions from hopeful to hopeless, angry, sad, beaten down and wanting answers, wanting more. There’s no shield from it, and as much in concept as in its execution, there’s no other word for it than “heavy.” The intensity Edge packed into just 24 minutes — and not all of it loud or over the top doomed or anything more than atmospherics — was unmatched by anything else I heard this year.

4. Vista Chino, Peace

Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed July 30.

From just about any angle you want to view it, the situation that turned Kyuss Lives! into Vista Chino was unfortunate. However — and I know I’ve said this before — I really do believe that becoming Vista Chino, that furthering the distance from the Kyuss moniker, brand, legacy, and so on, was for the better of the band creatively. And not because the songs don’t stand up. I doubt it helped their draw much, but for vocalist John Garcia and drummer Brant Bjork (interview here), working as Vista Chino for the creation of Peace, and especially or Bjork working with guitarist Bruno Fevery for the first time in the writing process, it allowed them to step outside of what would’ve been insurmountable expectations for a “fifth Kyuss album” and create something honest, new, and ultimately, more true to the spirit of that now-legendary band. Let’s face it, you hear John Garcia, Brant Bjork and Nick Oliveri are working on a project together, you’re immediately comparing it to Kyuss anyway. At least with Vista Chino, they’ve given themselves the potential for growth beyond a preconceived idea of what Kyuss should sound like. Well what does Vista Chino sound like? It sounds like whatever the hell they want. On Peace, though many of the lyrics dealt with their legal battles over the Kyuss name, the vibe stayed true to a desert rock ethic of laid back heavy, and the round-out jam in “Acidize/The Gambling Moose” left Peace with the feeling that maybe that’s where they’ve ended up after all. Fingers crossed Mike Dean (of C.O.C. and the latest live incarnation of Vista Chino) winds up playing bass on the record, but other than that, wherever they want to go with it, as a fan, I’m happy to follow along.

3. Gozu, The Fury of a Patient Man

Released by Small Stone Records. Reviewed Jan. 24.

The second outing from Gozu on Small Stone, The Fury of a Patient Man tapped into so much of what made the Boston band’s 2010 Locust Season label debut (review here) work so right on and just did it better. Don’t get me wrong, I still dig on “Meat Charger,” but with tracks like “Snake Plissken,” “Bald Bull,” “Signed, Epstein’s Mom” (note: it was “signed, Epstein’s mother” on Welcome Back Kotter) and the thrashing “Charles Bronson Pinchot,” Gozu put forth a collection of some of 2013’s finest heavy rock and did so with not only their own soulful spin on the tropes of the genre, but a mature and varied approach that was no less comfortable giving High on Fire a run for their money than reveling in the grandiose chorus of “Ghost Wipe,” which was also one of the best hooks of the year, guitarist/vocalist Marc Gaffney (interview here) delivering lines in crisp, confident layers, perfectly mixed by Benny Grotto at Mad Oak Studios and cutting through the fray of his own and Doug Sherman‘s guitars, the bass of Paul Dallaire (who split duties with J. Canava; Joe Grotto has since taken over the position) and Barry Spillberg‘s drumming. What the future might hold for Gozu with the recent shift in lineup that replaced Spillberg with drummer Mike Hubbard (ex-Warhorse) and added third guitarist Jeff Fultz (Mellow Bravo) remains to be seen, but with European touring on the horizon for 2014 and appearances slated for Roadburn and Desertfest, the band seem to be looking only to expand their reach, and with the material from The Fury of a Patient Man as a foundation, they’ve got some major considerations acting in their favor. Another album from which I simply could not escape this year, and from which I didn’t want to.

2. Monster Magnet, Last Patrol

Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed Sept. 12.

Billed largely and at least in-part accurately as a return to the group’s psychedelic roots, Last Patrol was Monster Magnet‘s ninth full-length, their first in three years and their second for Napalm. The New Jersey outfit led by guitarist, vocalist, songwriter, founder and, in this case, co-producer Dave Wyndorf (interview here) did indeed delve into the space rock side of their sound more than they have in over a decade, and the effect that doing so had was like a great shaking-off of dust, as though the Bullgod in the John Sumrow cover art just woke up after a long slumber. Perhaps even more than tripping on the Donovan cover “Three Kingfishers” or on the more extended freakouts “Last Patrol” and “End of Time,” what really made Last Patrol such a complete experience was the depth of emotion. Wyndorf wasn’t just standing above an overproduced wall of distortion talking about how he’s the best lay in the galaxy or whatever — fun though that kind of stuff is and has been in the past — but songs like “I Live behind the Clouds,” “The Duke (of Supernature),” “Paradise” and “Stay Tuned” offered a humbler take, a spirit of melancholy that rested well alongside the unmitigated stomp of “Hallelujah” or the driving heavy rock of “Mindless Ones.” Even in its most riotous stretches, Last Patrol was a humbler affair, with a more honest vibe than their last four, maybe five albums. A Monster Magnet release would’ve been noteworthy no matter what it actually sounded like, because that’s the level of impact they’ve had on heavy psych and underground rock over the last two decades-plus. The difference with Last Patrol was that it was a refreshing change from what had started to sound like a formula going stale, and it was  just so damn good to have them be weird again.

1. Clutch, Earth Rocker

Released by Weathermaker Music. Reviewed Feb. 28.

Finally, an album that asked the question, “What it was I’m going to do I haven’t done?” I knew at the year’s halfway point that Clutch‘s Earth Rocker was going to be the one to beat, and that it wasn’t going to be easy for anyone else to top the Maryland kings of groove, who sounded so reinvigorated on songs like “Crucial Velocity,” “Book, Saddle and Go,” “Unto the Breach,” and “Cyborg Bette,” and on funkfied pushers like “D.C. Sound Attack!,” “The Wolfman Kindly Requests…” and “The Face.” They’d hardly been in hibernation since 2009’s Strange Cousins from the West, but four years was the longest they’d ever gone between albums, and it was past time for a new one. To have it arrive as such a boot to the ass just made it that much better, the band shifting away from some of the blues/jam influences that emerged over the course of 2005’s Robot Hive/Exodus and 2007’s From Beale Street to Oblivion — though those certainly showed up as well in the subdued “Gone Cold” and elsewhere — but thanks in no small part to the production of Machine, with whom the band last worked for 2004’s Blast Tyrant, Earth Rocker was huge where it wanted to be and that gave Clutch‘s faster, more active material all the more urgency, where although the songwriting was quality as always, Strange Cousins from the West languished a bit at a more relaxed pace. The difference made all the difference. Whether it was the hellhounds on your trail (what a pity!) in “D.C. Sound Attack!” or the Jazzmasters erupting from the bottom of the sea to take flight, Clutch‘s 10th album was brimming with live, vibrant, heavy on action and heavy on groove, and on a sheer song-by-song level, a classic in the making from a band who’ve already had a few. At very least, it’s a landmark in their discography, and though vocalist Neil Fallon (interview here), guitarist Tim Sult, bassist Dan Maines and drummer Jean-Paul Gaster always change from record, but it’s the unmistakable stamp they put on all their outings that have earned them such a loyal following, and that stamp is all over Earth Rocker. Front to back, it is a pure Clutch record, and while I’ll happily acknowledge that it’s an obvious pick for album of the year, I don’t see how I possibly could’ve chosen anything else. Like the best of the best, Earth Rocker will deliver for years to come.

The Next 10 and Honorable Mentions

I said at the outset I had 40 picks. The reality was more than that, but here’s the next 10 anyway:

21. Blaak Heat Shujaa, The Edge of an Era
22. The Freeks, Full On
23. Luder, Adelphophagia
24. The Flying Eyes, Lowlands
25. Black Skies, Circadian Meditations
26. At Devil Dirt, Plan B: Sin Revolucion No Hay Evolucion
27. Kadavar, Abra Kadavar
28. Naam, Vow
29. Mühr, Messiah
30. Uzala, Tales of Blood and Fire

Further honorable mention has to go to Pelican, Endless Boogie, Earthless, Phantom Glue, Goatess, Windhand, GongaToner Low, Jesu and Sandrider.

Two More Special Records

I’d be unforgivably remiss if I didn’t note the release in 2013 of two albums that wound up being incredibly special to me personally: I vs. the Glacier by Clamfight and A Time of Hunting by Kings Destroy. Since it came out on this site’s in-house label, I didn’t consider the Clamfight eligible for list consideration and while I didn’t help put it out, the Kings Destroy I also felt very, very close to — probably as close as I’ve felt to a record I didn’t actually perform on — so it didn’t seem fair on a critical level, but I consider both of these to be records that in a large part helped define my year, as well as being exceptional in and of themselves, and they needed very much to be singled out as such. These are people whom I feel whatever-the-godless-heathen-equivalent-of-blessed-is to know.

Before I end this post, I want to say thank you for reading, this, anything else you may have caught this year, whatever it might be. To say it means a lot to me personally is understating it, but it’s true all the same. I’m not quite done wrapping up the year — I’ll have a list of the best album covers, another for EPs and singles and demos, and of course the albums I didn’t hear — so please stay tuned over the next couple weeks, but it seemed only fair to show my appreciation now as well. Thank you.

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Live Review: Devil to Pay and Mollusk in Allston, 11.15.13

Posted in Reviews on November 20th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

Allston was busy on Friday night as one would imagine it being. I think one of the bars down the way from O’Brien’s was doing a fantasy sports draft or something — walking down the block, I passed two dudes muttering about someone in a tweed jacket cheating, or catching them cheating, whatever it was — but either way, the street was packed out. Still managed to find parking and get into the venue in time to catch most of Mollusk‘s set in support of Indianapolis’ Devil to Pay, who had swung north on the East Coast following an appearance at Stoner Hands of Doom XIII the weekend before. Having missed them there much to my dismay, catching the Boston stop was essential.

I’ve been to O’Brien’s a couple times at this point and I like the room. It’s small, sans bullshit, dive-ish but not like it’s trying to be a dive because that’s hip these days. A comfortable space, and one that was pretty packed with volume when Mollusk were on stage. In a fun bit of mistaken identity, I had thought the Mollusk in question was the duo from Ohio, whose 2013 album, Colony of Machines, is patiently awaiting review. I was excited to see them live, but the Mollusk playing O’Brien’s was in fact a different two-piece working under the moniker, this one local to Allston. Really, I should’ve been tipped off when drummer/backing vocalist Adam O’Day (also an accomplished painter) was wearing a Bruins jersey, but I thought maybe they were playing to the crowd. Steve Janiak of Devil to Pay would later take the stage in a Faces of Bayon (they’re based in MA) t-shirt, so it didn’t seem that strange in context. That Mollusk, which is O’Day and guitarist/vocalist Hank Rose, would actually be from the area makes much more sense.

Blind Tigers had opened and Gut would close, so with Mollusk as the second of four and Devil to Pay in the prime slot, it was a full bill. As I said, I didn’t catch all of Mollusk‘s set, but they were plenty heavy, if somewhat less post-sludge inspired than their Ohio counterparts, reminding of some of Napalm Death‘s brooding moments of groove in between all the brutality. They weren’t what I was expecting — I was quite literally expecting a different band — but for both the coincidence and their sonic assault, it was enjoyable. Devil to Pay, who work much more in a straightforward heavy rock context, had a hard act to follow, but having been on the road for a few nights already were as tight as one could ask. This show was the second to last on their tour, which had started Nov. 1 in Muncie, Indiana, and the band’s 2013 outing, Fate is Your Muse (review here) hasn’t been too far from my consciousness since its release, in part because of their excellent videos.

The four-piece were recording the O’Brien’s set as well, which began with the The Atomic Bitchwax-esque winding riffs of “Savonarola” from Fate is Your Muse. About half of what they played was from that album. Catchy cuts “Prepare to Die,” “This Train Won’t Stop” and “Ten Lizardmen and One Pocketknife” were welcome, and the rest was a mix from their other three records, with “Distemper” and “When all is Said and Done” providing the same one-two live as on 2009’s Heavily Ever After and the band dipping back to 2006’s Cash is King for “Niflheim” and even further to their 2004 debut full-length, Thirty Pieces of Silver for “Valley of the Dogs.” This made for a decent mix of new and old, some of their earlier C.O.C. influence providing a mix among the more recent and individualized material, their standouts well chosen even if I’d been hoping for “Tie One On” from the CD version of Fate is Your Muse as well. Can’t have everything, I guess.

What struck me most in watching Devil to Pay this time around — I hadn’t had occasion to see them since last year’s SHoD in Connecticut, which was before the newest record was released — was how much like a metal band they seemed. With Janiak and Rob Hough on guitars, Matt Stokes on bass and Chad Profigle on drums, they were long-haired, black t-shirted, bearded nearly in uniform. Janiak spent most of the set singing with his hair in front of his face and between their headbanging, their relatively clean tonality and the one-the-road tightness of their set, they played heavy rock like metal dudes. That’s not something I’m about to hold against them, but one got much more of a sense of it live than on the album. They weren’t showy, though, which was all the more a fit with the songs, and if it was a different-seeming route they took to being an unpretentious good time, the destination was reached with no less efficiency than one would expect from their recorded output.

Local dirt-thrashers Gut finished out the night, with vocalist Brian pacing back and forth in front of the stage and drummer Scott Healey (brother of Black Thai‘s Jim Healey and a former bandmate in We’re all Gonna Die) so buried in the back behind the two guitars and bass as to be largely invisible from in front of the stage. Their sound was heavy, aggressive and drunk, which earned much hooting from the gathered masses left at the end of the show. I picked up the Ten Lizardmen and One Pocketknife (they’d played the B-side “Black Fog” as well) and This Train Won’t Stop 7″ singles from Devil to Pay‘s merch table and shot the shit for a while before heading out. Van trouble would keep them from making their final tour stop in Long Island, but between the O’Brien’s gig and their show the night before at Geno’s in Portland, Maine, with the hopefully-permanently-reactivated Eldemur Krimm — not to mention SHoD in Virginia and the other dates on the tour — they seemed to have made the most of their time anyhow.

Some more pics after the jump. Thanks for reading.

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10 Days of SHoD XIII, Pt. 4: Devil to Pay Premiere New Video for “Ten Lizardmen & One Pocketknife”

Posted in Bootleg Theater, Features on October 29th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

The Obelisk’s “10 Days of Stoner Hands of Doom XIII” coverage continues today with a video premiere from Indianapolis four-piece Devil to Pay, who headline Sunday night, Nov. 10 at Strange Matter in Richmond, Virginia. They’ll be the absolute last band to play at this year’s SHoD, and they’re set to tour their way along the East Coast with the fest as the centerpiece in support of their 2013 Ripple Music album, Fate is Your Muse (review here). In addition, they’ll have a brand new 7″ on hand in two different colors with two different covers for the standout cut from that record, “Ten Lizardmen and One Pocketknife” (the B-side is a cover of Eldemur Krimm‘s “Black Fog”), and they’ve got a new video for the song as well that today I have the pleasure of premiering.

Arriving relatively early on in Fate is Your Muse, “Ten Lizardmen and One Pocketknife” is nonetheless one of the most immediately lasting impressions the album leaves. From the quirky narrative of the lyrics, the soulful melodic delivery of guitarist/vocalist Steve Janiak — joined in the band by guitarist Rob Hough (who plays the therapist in the new clip), bassist Matt Stokes and drummer Chad Profigle — to the catchy chorus and quirk of the title and the song itself, if nothing else, it’s a track that stays with you. And like their video for “Tie One On,” which premiered here back in August, “Ten Lizardmen and One Pocketknife” finds Devil to Pay having fun with the form, whether it’s dressing up and dancing in lizard costumes or sitting down  for a little D&D in the awesome space that the credits refer to as the “Godzilla Room.” You’ll know it when you see it.

It’s always a good time to see what Devil to Pay are up to, and between the cut and the video, “Ten Lizardmen and One Pocketknife” sums up a lot of what I really, really like about this band. Check it out on the player embedded below, followed by the tour dates:

Devil to Pay, “Ten Lizardmen & One Pocketknife” official video

Devil to Pay SHoD XIII / East Coast Tour:
11/01 Valhalla Muncie, IN w/ So Sayeth & Witchdoctor
11/02 Radio Radio Indianapolis, IN w/ the Cocaine Wolves & Dead Birds Adore Us
11/06 Springwater Nashville, TN w/ Admiral Browning & Elder Skull
11/07 529 Bar Atlanta, GA w/ Admiral Browning , Volume IV & Iron Whip
11/08 Flat Iron Greensboro, NC w/ NONE and Jews & Catholics
11/09 Roger’s Pub Chesapeake, VA w/ Pillbuster, Wizard Eye, Faces of Bayon & Compel
11/10 Strange Matter Richmond, VA Stoner Hands of Doom XIII
11/11 The Maywood Raleigh, NC w/ Black Thai & Bedowyn
11/12 JR’s Bar Philadelphia, PA w/ Clamfight, The Cloth & Heavy Temple
11/13 Tobacco Road New York, NY w/ TBA
11/14 Geno’s Portland, ME w/ Eldemur Krimm & Eastern Spell
11/15 O’Brien’s Pub Allston, MA w/ Mollusk & Gut
11/16 Mr. Beery’s Bethpage, NY w/ Borgo Pass, Soma & Von Hell

Stoner Hands of Doom XIII

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Video Premiere: Devil to Pay, “Tie One On”

Posted in Bootleg Theater on August 9th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

Indianapolis rockers Devil to Pay throw down a gauntlet in their new video for “Tie One On.” Anyone can make a song about drinking, and a goodly amount of those people can then make a video for said drinking song. But can they do it in a brewery? With the very works that create crisp, deliciously mind-numbing refreshment right behind them? I humbly submit that no, probably not. Unless they know someone at the brewery. Either way, kudos to Devil to Pay and Fountain Square Brewing. They made it real.

“Tie One On” comes off Devil to Pay‘s 2013 full-length, Fate is Your Muse (review here) an album big on riffs, melodies and charm. It wasn’t included on the vinyl version of the album (it’s on the CD and the download, all out through Ripple Music), so if you got your hands on one of the snazzy clear-LP versions, the new video — filmed by Kris Arnold and edited by DTP guitarist/vocalist Steve Janiak (recent interview here) — is a good way to get acquainted with the track itself, the spirit of it captured well in the beery misadventures of the band — Janiak, guitarist Rob Hough, bassist Matt Stokes and drummer Chad Profigle.

If you haven’t heard it before, you might find its pace and shuffle somewhat akin to “This Train Won’t Stop,” which premiered here late last year, but “Tie One On” has a groove and a hook all its own and it’s a standout on the CD from whence it comes. Make sure you watch it to the end, spot the Beelzefuzz t-shirt, keep your eye out for Apostle of Solitude drummer Corey Webb, and in case you’re wondering at any point whether Mr. Janiak is making eyes at you, oh, most definitely.


Devil to Pay, “Tie One On” official video

Metaphysical Doom Rockers DEVIL TO PAY Release New Music Video!

Hoosier Doom Rock veterans DEVIL TO PAY released a new music video for their song “Tie One On” today via exclusive premiere at The Obelisk.“Tie One On” is just the second video from their Ripple Music debut album, “Fate Is Your Muse”. The video footage was filmed by Kris Arnold at Fountain Square Brewing Company in the historic Fountain Square area of Indianapolis.

Before being included on their Ripple Music debut, “Tie One On” was released as the B-Side to the GloryHole Records “This Train Won’t Stop” 7-inch. The boogie-doom of “Tie One On” is described by the band as “ZZ Top and Trouble getting into a drunken conversation about the meaning of life.” The video clip shows the band performing as well as relaxing at the bar, interspersed with various 1950’s educational film footage.

DEVIL TO PAY was recently awarded “Best Metal Band” honors from NUVO Newsweekly’s “Best of Indy”for the fourth straight year. Said drummer Chad Prifogle, “We’re really honored to win. The voting is done by the readers of NUVO and we’re grateful to all our fans for their support.”

The band also just finished up a string of Midwest dates with Columbus Fuzz Rockers, Lo-Pan, and have more regional shows lined up before an east coast trip this fall, including an appearance at STONER HANDS OF DOOM 13 in Richmond, Virginia. DEVIL TO PAY will be performing with a wide variety of bands such as SOULFLY, EARTHEN GRAVE, DAIKAIJU, INCANTATION and ZZ TOP.

“Fate is Your Muse” has been a top-selling album for heavy rock indie label, Ripple Music.  A scant few limited-edition, splatter colored vinyl LP’s are still available in the Ripple Music Store.  The album was also release on black vinyl, CD, and digital formats.  All are available at the Ripple Music Store ( and Ripple Music Bandcamp, ( as well as premium records stores world-wide and via Nail Distribution, Clearspot International and Code 7.


AUG 10th – Mayne Stage, Chicago, IL w/ Earthen Grave with Rachel Barton Pine& Divinity Compromised
AUG 11th – The Vogue Theatre, Indianapolis, IN w/ Soulfly, Lody Kong & Incite
AUG 24th – The Haymarket Whiskey Bar, Louisville, KY w/ The Decline Effect.
AUG 25th – Klipsch Music Center Side Stage, Noblesville, IN w/ Kid Rock & ZZ Top
AUG 31st – Berlin Music Pub, Fort Wayne, IN w/ Born Under Burden, Maumee Project & Dogma
SEP 6th – Beale Street Live, Indianapolis, IN w/ Daikaiju, The Dockers & Mr. Clit & the Pink Cigarettes
SEP 21st– Indy Metal Fest, Old National Center, Indianapolis, IN w/ Incantation, Archeron, Byzantine, Leatherwolf & more

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Devil to Pay Interview with Steve Janiak: Tempting Fate

Posted in Features on July 19th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

Two weeks ago, Indianapolis doom rockers Devil to Pay hit the road for a handful of dates alongside Ohio-based cohorts Lo-Pan. It was Devil to Pay‘s first real road time since issuing their fourth album and Ripple Music debut, Fate is Your Muse (review here), earlier this year, and Fate is Your Muse is the first Devil to Pay album since 2009’s Heavily Ever After. Much of the material on the record had been tested at East Coast gigs last fall leading up to a performance at Stoner Hands of Doom XII, but still, for it having been so long since their last outing, the quality of the songs on Fate is Your Muse was all the more startling.

With tracks like “Already Dead,” “This Train Won’t Stop,” “Ten Lizardmen and One Pocketknife” and the eerily proggy “Black Black Heart,” Devil to Pay showed growth in what was already an engaging songwriting methodology. Strong choruses backed by the thick but not overdone riffing of guitarists Steve Janiak (also vocals) and Rob Hough lent a slick feel throughout, but a natural vibe persisted and won out, bassist Matt Stokes and drummer Chad Profigle holding down a straightforward foundation of organic groove from which tracks branched out in varying but consistent directions — the whole process both unpretentious and flowing over the course of the album as a whole. There was, in short, very little not to like.

As Janiak‘s vocals were a particular point of growth — he doubles as guitarist/backing vocalist in Indy trad doomers Apostle of Solitude — it seemed all the more appropriate to ring him up for a quick interview about Fate is Your Muse, what went into making it and if splitting his time as he does had any effect on the songwriting process for these tracks. Janiak has a keen, critical and self-aware eye, so to hear him turn those impulses inward to discuss putting the record together was especially fascinating. We spoke just prior to their starting the gigs with Lo-Pan and you’ll find the complete Q&A with pictures from last year’s SHoD after the jump.

Please enjoy:

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Jeff Martin’s Lo-Pan Tour Diary — July 6 & 7

Posted in Features on July 9th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

Lo-Pan‘s touring adventures continue. In our last installment, the Ohio heavy rock four-piece stomped their way through Dayton, Ohio, and Chicago, and having covered that ground, this time around they’ve moved on to Madison, Wisconsin, and Indianapolis on their tour with Indy-based Devil to Pay.

Please enjoy, and note that the lead photo here was taken by Devil to Pay‘s own Steve Jankiak:

July 6th and 7th — “Eat a Sandwich”

Did you know Otis Redding was from Madison, Wisconsin? Well, he was. So was Chris Farley. This auspicious town was the locale for our next tour adventure.

We woke up early in Chicago in order to get to Madison by the early afternoon. About a year ago a friend of ours took us to this amazing deli in Madison and hooked us up on some great sandwiches so we always like to revisit that spot when we are in town. Hospitality on tour is like a full tank of gas, or a clean load of laundry — it kind of sets everything back to zero and allows you to start fresh. In my experience, when you go on tour you start out with a plan. I’ve got so many so-and-so’s for so many days and this do-hickey goes in this pocket and that’s where it will be forever. Well, after about eight days, things start to become a little less concrete. Pockets of things change. Things break or get lost. You get hot and tired and you just plain stop caring about those things. After around 15 days you start to degrade into an animal state of instinct and muscle memory. 30 days in, you don’t even remember what home feels like. 40 days and wherever you are is your home. Then, when you go home, it takes a while to adjust. All of this is to illustrate that when you find hospitality — a welcome smile, a great plate of food, a person who lets you enter their home and use it as your own for a little while — all of these things serve to reset the dials, and get you centered to carry on. Madison is such a place for us because it is home to some very hospitable and kind people. It’s one of those places that when you are a few days away you start to hear the mantra, “If we can just make it to Madison, everything will be ok.” So we made it to Madison, our Midwest oasis.

The show was at a bar called Mr. Roberts. We had never played there before so we didn’t know what to expect. We were set to play with a band called The Garza. They are a three piece featuring our friend Nate Bush on bass. We made Nate’s acquaintance a couple of years ago when he was playing bass for Madison band Droids Attack. In addition, the drummer for The Garza [Mike “Magma” Henry] is also in Bongzilla. Hopefully for your sake, Bongzilla need no introduction. The last time we played in Madison was on tour with High on Fire. The show that time was at High Noon Saloon. This was certainly a different situation, but we did see quite a few people at this show that remembered us from the last show. It’s good to see that our travels and work are paying off.

Devil to Pay started off the evening with a killer set. DTP are one of those bands that seem to nail their recorded sound in a live setting, and do it with ease. We played second out of three bands and we decided to change up our set tonight. We were playing Sasquanaut start to finish but on the drive to Madison we decided we would rather play our newer material and that people would just have to deal with it. Whatever! We do what we want! The Garza closed out the night and after some drinks and laughs we packed up and headed to our accommodations for the evening.

Brian is a friend of ours and he owns a tattoo shop in Madison. He let us stay in his posh tattoo studio for the evening. I had an honest-to-goodness couch to sleep on. Jesse slept on his air mattress and Fristoe took up residence on an amazingly adjustable tattoo chair. Skot, however decided to sleep on the floor despite the availability of other tattoo chairs. Skot Thompson is a floor-sleeping sumbitch. He loves it. Got a hardwood, concrete, or tile floor? Skot will sleep on it. Got a dining room table? Skot will sleep under it. And he will sleep well.

We woke up around 9:30AM and tattoo Brian came to take us to breakfast. Nice guy, that Brian. We said our goodbyes and headed off towards Indianapolis.

Indianapolis, Indiana. Indy’s Jukebox Live. Devil to Pay is from Indianapolis. Do you know what else is from Indianapolis? I’m asking because I don’t know. Or maybe I just don’t care. If you have ever driven through Indiana, then you know what a wholly depressing place it can be. Unless you are into extremely flat, corn covered vistas, there is not much outside of DTP to lure you to the Hoosier State. Actually, President William Henry Harrison was from there. I stand corrected.

On the bill for this show were Death Trap and Stealing Volume. Death Trap seemed to be having some technical difficulties during their set. They got off to a rocky start but finally got it dialed in towards the end. It sucks when you are just trying to play some music but you end up wrestling your gear into submission the whole time instead. Stealing Volume was a surprise to me. They had a punchy punk sound and they were very tight. Really good stage presence and delivery. I liked Stealing Volume very much. We played what felt like a good set to a sparse but engrossed audience and Devil to Pay headlined for the home town. After the show we packed up rather quickly and headed for home. Real life loomed large on the horizon, at least for a few days until we pick back up with the DTP boys in Detroit.

Until then…

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Jeff Martin’s Lo-Pan Tour Diary — July 4 & 5

Posted in Features on July 6th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

Ohio fuzz foursome Lo-Pan are currently on the road alongside Devil to Pay supporting the vinyl release of their 2009 album, Sasquanaut. Frontman Jeff Martin has agreed to give us the inside track with a tour diary as the shows play out, and in this first installment, the band is starting out in Dayton, Ohio, and Chicago, Illinois.

Lo-Pan is Martin on vocals, guitarist Brian Fristoe, bassist Scott Thompson and drummer Jesse Bartz. Enjoy:

July 4th &5th – “Doing Crunches”

I am back on the road yet again with Lo-Pan. We started off in Dayton, Ohio, at Blind Bob’s with our old friends Devil to Pay (minus guitar man number two, Rob Hough). For some strange reason, Rob decided not to join the band for this show. We have toured many times with DTP and Rob’s absence is noticeable and strange. He will pick back up with us tomorrow in Chicago but it was Indy’s finest as a three-piece, with Dayton bands Close the Hatch and the always-entertaining Neon Warship set to play.

This show fell on Independence Day. The 4th has to be the A#1 holiday for Lo-Pan. We celebrate and revere our freedom every day and this is the culmination of that mindset. All of our ‘Merica, flag-waving bravado is sure to be on full display. Marvel at and fear us! We weren’t sure what to expect on July 4 in Dayton. Would it be a barren wasteland or would Dayton show up and represent for rock music? Well I am proud to announce that Dayton – and more importantly, Ohio – showed up in full force.

This is not to suggest that we didn’t encounter our fair share of oddballs in Dayton. We always seem to attract the strangest and most out-there people in any town. I am trying to determine which weirdo takes the cake on this particular occasion; perhaps the drunken co-ed who bought a Lo-Pan t-shirt and then appointed herself merch girl extraordinaire and proceeded to bully passers-by into purchasing copious amounts of merchandise? Maybe it was the equally drunk townie and his French companion who decided to share with me his outlandish and less than racially conscious opinions on the President of the United States? Certainly one of the most bizarre unsolicited encounters in recent memory. I think drunken townie takes the taco in this contest for the sheer fact that I can’t stop thinking about the incident.

All in all the show went very well. It feels good to be back on the road and it feels even better to be playing some songs we haven’t played in a very long time. Small Stone Records has rereleased our album Sasquanaut on vinyl and to celebrate that, we are playing the whole album start to finish each night. Some of these songs we haven’t played in more than three years. So it’s nice to revisit some old material and to feel the differences between older songs and new. All the bands in Dayton were great. Devil to Pay sounded great, even as a three-piece. Neon Warship is a powerhouse and Close the Hatch was heavy and deft. I really couldn’t ask for a better way to start off the tour.

At the end of the night we were offered a place to crash by one of the guys in Close the Hatch. We stayed in a recording studio around the corner from the venue. We slept amongst drums and guitars and for some reason there were also many bikes all over the place. I slept on a couch in the control room of the studio and the other guys were scattered around different corners of the recording space. I put my little fan up on a practice amp and passed the hell out. It was surprisingly comfortable. Anytime I am blessed with a couch to sleep on, I consider myself lucky. Many people think that tour is replete with hotels and luxury. I am here to tell you that this is NOT the case. I have laid my head in some of the foulest locales out of sheer necessity. It’s a small price to pay for the ability to do what you love on your own terms.

We woke up around nine the next morning and set off for Chicago. The drive to Chicago featured an unusual event for us. We actually listened to music during the trip. Normally we do not listen to music in the van because we all have such varied tastes, we can never agree on anything to listen to. For some that have joined us on the road, this silence has been jarring. For us it seems to work, though. Today we listened to Bob Seger followed by Clutch. I think tomorrow we are likely to return to silence, however. In addition on the drive we ate snacks… or as we call it, “doing crunches.”

Chicago has always been one of our favorite cities to play. We have met a boatload of great people that are either from there or who currently reside there. We had quite a few people in attendance this evening from other bands we know and even some people from home (Columbus) that happened to be visiting. That sort of dynamic always makes the shows very fun.

This show featured Marmora, a young band with some very talented dudes. We met them a couple of years ago and it’s always enjoyable to see how they become seasoned professionals – a little more each time. Tonight Rob from Devil to Pay was back with the guys and DTP sounded phenomenal. Steve Janiak is a great singer and the house sound guy had him dialed in.

We played third and our set felt ok. Personally, I messed up some of the lyrics to “Wade Garrett.” It’s just been so long since I have had that song committed to memory. Sometimes it takes a couple of tries to knock the dust off of these older tunes. Other than that we played pretty well to my way of thinking. After us a last-minute addition to the show, All Hail The Yeti from Los Angeles, played. They were a little out of line stylistically for the rest of the bill, but they were good at what they do. They had some animal skulls on stage with them. That was pretty odd. Outside of Norwegian black metal, you don’t really see that too much.

The Cobra Lounge, the venue for the Chicago show, has an apartment upstairs for performers to sleep in, as well as a locked parking area for our van – “Van Halen.” This is really a welcome situation. It’s a little worse for the wear for the sheer number of acts that roll through each month, but when all is said and done, a free place to stay is a free place to stay.

That’s all the news that’s fit to print for the first couple of days of tour. Stay tuned…

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