Shadow Frost Music & Arts Festival 2020 Updates Lineup

Posted in Whathaveyou on December 30th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

shadowfrost 2020 banner

A wintry companion to each autumn’s Shadow Woods fest, the inaugural Shadow Frost Music & Arts Festival is set to take place not in the forest — probably a practical choice, given, you know, winter and all — but at the Clarion Inn Frederick Event Center in Frederick, Maryland, on Feb. 21 and 22. And let’s be honest, that’s not as romantic or as kvlt an idea as having a party out in the woods in the waning days of summer, but from where I sit, it’s also kind of awesome. Think of it this way: Here’s an all-ages festival infiltrating an otherwise normal, unassuming space that, instead of a campground, gives you on-site hotel amenities. Of all the fests you’ve ever been to, how many have listed “free breakfast” and “Saturday morning yoga” — which I’m going to assume will be led by Darsombra, who are also playing, and if that’s not true I don’t want to know — among its resources? Imagine going for a swim before you see some “pizza-themed punk/grind.” This could be your life.

Like Shadow Woods, the lineup for Shadow Frost 2020 carries a rich and admirable sense of curation, loyal to its Chesapeake home, but unafraid as well to branch out in multiple directions, as festival director Mary Spiro continues to proliferate her vision of an underground that transcends genre barriers and unites communities who probably have more in common than they think.

Awesome project, especially for a first run. I hope it goes off without a hitch:

SHADOW FROST MUSIC & ARTS FESTIVAL: Frederick, Maryland’s Exclusive Indoor Winter Gathering Announces Updated Lineup + Merch Presales

SHADOW FROST MUSIC & ARTS FESTIVAL, Frederick, Maryland’s exclusive indoor winter gathering, will take place February 21st and 22nd, 2020.

Produced by Shadow Woods Productions, LLC, this inaugural, hotel-based gala will feature Oakland’s crushing Vastum with a special set from their guitarist/ambient industrialist Leila Abdul-Rauf. The lineup rounds out with East Coast cult thrashers Deceased, Vermont’s thunderous Barishi, Boston traditional metallers Magic Circle, and Houston’s Doomstress. Also performing are heavy psych throwbacks Alms and the otherworldly Darsombra (both from Baltimore), Detroit black metalists Fell Ruin, and up-and-coming doom maestros from Maryland’s Eastern Shore, Yatra. Tickets and the full daily lineups can be found here at THIS LOCATION.

Exclusive SHADOW FROST merch has also been released for presale until February 1st. Designed by Legerdemain’s Brian Sheehan, Wailing Wizard’s Rebecca Magar, and Art Noir’s Yuriy Seroff, these phenomenal creations all evoke the chilling winter months. Merch can be found HERE.

SHADOW FROST is heavily focused on Maryland-based artists including Alms, Darsombra, Spiral Grave, Radamanthys, and Yatra and is geared toward those who want to step outside their comfort zone and explore. “There is so much great music being created that totally flies under the radar in the music scene, even among people who seem to know a lot about music trends,” said SHADOW FROST producer M A Spiro. “I am not trying to host bands that you can see at a lot of other festivals, but I want to showcase a few of the best that that underground music has to offer. That has been my philosophy with every event I have done, and I don’t plan to change that.”

While previous Shadow Woods fests have been outdoors, the hotel setting provides attendees with unique opportunities to mingle. Hotel amenities include an indoor pool and game room, tavern serving traditional pub fare, and free breakfast every morning. Festivities will occur in the ballroom and pre-function area of the event center, which is attached via an indoor corridor to the hotel. No need to step outside in the cold! SHADOW FROST will also host arts and music vendors, workshops, Saturday morning yoga, table games, and other fun activities. The fest will have the feel of an event such as a horror or comic convention.

Friday – February 21st:
Barishi — Vermont prog-psych rock
Leila Abdul-Rauf — Oakland dark ambient multi-instrumentalist
Doomstress — Texas heavy rock
Alms — Baltimore proto-metal
Fell Ruin — Detroit blackened sludge
Capitalist — New Jersey crust grind
Infinite Pizza — Baltimore pizza-themed punk/grind

Saturday – February 22nd:
Vastum — Oakland death metal
Deceased — East Coast death metal legends
Darsombra — Baltimore trans-apocalyptic galaxy rock
Arsantiqva — New York black metal
Magic Circle — Boston traditional heavy metal
Frost Giant — Philadelphia viking metal
Volur — Toronto ambient doom
Spiral Grave — Maryland/Virginia heavy metal
Witching — Philadelphia blackened sludge
Yatra — Maryland death doom
Mo’ynoq — Raleigh DSBM
Polemicist — Philadelphia blackened death
Radamanthys — Maryland tech death

SHADOW FROST is an all ages event, however, children’s tickets (ages 5-17) will be available at the door with a PAID parent or guardian on-premises. Children under 5 get in for FREE with a paid parent or guardian.

Tickets: http://www.eventbrite.com/e/shadow-frost-music-and-arts-festival-tickets-85987128817
** Please note tickets do NOT include hotel reservations. **

Hotel reservations can be made separately at: http://ow.ly/VWzY50xCrMw

http://shadowwoodsproductions.com
http://shadowwoodsproductions.bigcartel.com
http://www.facebook.com/events/319480581997089
http://www.instagram.com/shadow.woods.metal.fest/

Shadow Frost 2020 YouTube Playlist

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The Obelisk Presents: THE BEST OF 2019

Posted in Features on December 24th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk best of 2019

[PLEASE NOTE: These are not the results of the year-end poll, which is ongoing. If you haven’t contributed your list to the cause yet, please do so here.]

Make no mistake, my friends. 2019 was the year it went off the rails.

Every 12-month period brings a lot of records, and they all seem overwhelming, but this was the first year I’ve ever felt quite so helpless when it came time to sit down and actually make my list. Of course, I keep running notes all year long, but even so, ordering everything, bringing it all together? What a mess.

I almost thought of breaking it down into smaller lists in addition to the big one, subgrouped by style. But then, where does doom end and sludge begin? What about psych and heavy rock? Should prog get its own list? And what the hell counts as prog?

In the end, that didn’t seem like it would be doing me any favors, so we’ll stick with the one big list and then others for debut releases and another for EPs, splits, demos and so on. You know, the usual.

Pretty sure I say this every year too, but it bears repeating: if you read any of the below — and thanks if you do — and have a response, be nice. If I’ve forgotten something — and yes, I have; I’m sure of it — that you think needs to be included, and you want to leave a comment that says so, please, by all means. But keep it civil. I know people are passionate about this stuff and so am I, but consider there are probably over 200 offerings covered here by the time you get through all the lists and honorable mentions, and I’m one person. I’m doing my best, and though I try not to, I tend to take being called a dumbass personally. So yeah, chill out and please be constructive in calling me a dumbass. Words matter.

A few hard choices here, most especially for album of the year. I was back and forth with each of the top three in the top spot for a good long while, and it might change again between now and when this post goes up. But it’s been that kind of year. In 2018, there was no question. It was Sleep all the way. The question was what came after that. This year has been different without that kind of duh, punch-in-the-face obvious pick. Relative parity isn’t a bad thing though.

Enough delay. The usual parameters apply. These are a combo of my personal listening habits and what I think are the most important records/achievements of the year, critical importance, etc.

Here we go:

The Top 50 Albums of 2019

#50-31

50. Hazemaze, Hymns of the Damned
49. Lightning Born, Lightning Born
48. Bees Made Honey in the Vein Tree, Grandmother
47. PH, Osiris Hayden
46. Thunderbird Divine, Magnasonic
45. Abrahma, In Time for the Last Rays of Light
44. Uffe Lorenzen, Triprapport
43. Swallow the Sun, When a Shadow is Forced into the Light
42. Caustic Casanova, God How I Envy the Deaf
41. The Devil and the Almighty Blues, Tre
40. SÂVER, They Came With Sunlight
39. Ogre, Thrice as Strong
38. Lamp of the Universe, Align in the Fourth Dimension
37. Vokonis, Grasping Time
36. Sacri Monti, Waiting Room for the Magic Hour
35. Across Tundras, The Rugged Ranges of Curbs and Broken Minds
34. Duel, Valley of Shadows
33. Orodruin, Ruins of Eternity
32. Zaum, Divination
31. Inter Arma, Sulphur English

Notes: Honestly, if this had been the top 20 of the year, I’d still call 2019 a win. Aside from the fact that I somehow thought Caustic Casanova would enjoy coming in a number 42, the sheer quality of this stuff should tell you what kind of year 2019 was. Inter Arma’s Sulphur English was a significant achievement in genre melding, and Orodruin’s return after more than a decade since their last LP was a masterclass in doom worship. Debut albums from SÂVER and Thunderbird Divine and Lightning Born showed marked promise of things to come — and there’s more on them below as well — while Zaum’s, Bees Made Honey in the Vein Tree’s and Lamp of the Universe’s meditations, Vokonis’ noise, Abrahma’s emotive progressivisim, Swallow the Sun’s melodic melancholy, Sacri Monti’s boogie, and whatever the hell PH were doing on Osiris Hayden remind just how much the word “heavy” can encompass. The Devil and the Almighty Blues, Duel and Uffe Lorenzen and Hazemaze were musts here, and Ogre are perennial favorites whose work always brings a doomly grin. Don’t sleep on any of it.

30. Sun Blood Stories, Haunt Yourself

sun blood stories haunt yourself

Self-released. Reviewed Sept. 6.

Until they put out a complementary follow-up record of such fare, one might’ve accused Idaho three-piece Sun Blood Stories of becoming less experimentalist/droned-out/noisy on Haunt Yourself, but they seem to have met their quota one way or the other with the Oct. 2019 advent of Static Sessions Vol. 1. Still, it’s melody, heavy post-rock/psychedelic drift and emotive soul that rule the day on the crushing and enriching Haunt Yourself, and no complaints from me on that.

29. Church of the Cosmic Skull, Everybody’s Going to Die

Church of the Cosmic Skull Everybodys Going to Die

Released by Septaphonic Records. Reviewed Dec. 10.

I don’t have to do anything more than read the name of the album to have the chorus of the title-track stuck in my head, and it’s a reminder that although the Nottingham troupe put so much into their progressive style and vocal harmonies and arrangements, and a more conceptual theme in the case of Everybody’s Going to Die — their answer to 2018’s excellent Science Fiction (review here) — their roots are in songcraft, and it’s the foundation of songcraft that lets them soar. Would be higher on the list if it weren’t so new.

28. Devil to Pay, Forever, Never or Whenever

devil to pay forever never or whenever

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed Nov. 4.

With their sixth album, Indianapolis’ Devil to Pay collect 10 tracks of unpretentious-almost-to-a-fault of straightforward heavy rock songwriting that continues to be woefully underappreciated. They have become utterly reliable in that regard — you know, to a certain extent, what’s coming — but the vocals of guitarist Steve Janiak (also Apostle of Solitude) and some more metallic turns to the riffing give Forever, Never or Whenever a subtlety that holds up all the more on repeat visits. I don’t know if Devil to Pay will ever get their due, but suffice it to say, they’re due.

27. Howling Giant, The Space Between Worlds

howling giant the space between worlds

Released by Blues Funeral Recordings. Reviewed Oct. 11.

If you’re of a certain age, you remember when the first Playstation came out and everyone looked around at their Nintendos and Segas like, “What the hell am I messing around with Mario Golf for? I could be playing Resident Evil!” That’s kind of what Howling Giant are as compared to “regular” rock bands. They’re the Playstation of heavy: that next progressive step forward carrying an inhuman amount of swagger and personality while still delivering a stepped-up product from their would-be peers. The scariest thing about The Space Between Worlds is it’s their first LP. One looks forward to the next generation.

26. Saint Vitus, Saint Vitus

saint vitus saint vitus

Released by Season of Mist. Reviewed March 19.

I know for a fact that bassist Pat Bruders and drummer Henry Vasquez had a hand in writing some of the material on Saint Vitus’ second self-titled LP, and yet the album so much bears the indelible mark of guitarist Dave Chandler that it’s hard not to think of it all as his. The album marked their first release with original singer Scott Reagers since 1995’s Die Healing (discussed here) and featured among their trademark low-tuned slog, an actual punk song, which showed the grinning glee that underlies all they do. Four decades on, Saint Vitus sound like they’re having fun. How is that not a win?

25. Ealdor Bealu, Spirit of the Lonely Places

ealdor bealu spirit of the lonely places

Self-released. Reviewed July 10.

Woodsy Rocky Mountain psychedelia abounded on Boise foursome Ealdor Bealu’s second full-length, and their blend of landscape meditations and grounded heavy progressive melodicism made Spirit of the Lonely Places as much about impact as about space, though of course the real joy was the experience of the entirety. Very much a sophomore album, it learned lessons from 2017’s Dark Water at the Foot of the Mountain (review here) that one only hopes the band will continue to push forward in scope as they so gracefully did here.

24. Yatra, Death Ritual

yatra death ritual

Released through Grimoire Records. Discussed Nov. 13, 2018..

Though hard- and to-date quick-working Maryland trio Yatra have already moved on and are looking ahead to releasing their second album, Blood of the Night (review here), their Grimoire-delivered debut, Death Ritual, is impossible to ignore for the impact it had on reminding listeners of the impact that primeval extreme sludge can have. Another couple tours and some bigger label — Relapse, Prosthetic, eOne, Season of Mist, whoever — will decide they’re “ready,” whatever that means, and then sign them and I won’t be cool enough to do track premieres for them anymore, but as far as accolades go, Yatra earn whatever they get and Death Ritual stands among 2019’s most landmark debuts. They’ve already outdone it, but it’s a stunner just the same.

23. Ecstatic Vision, For the Masses

ecstatic vision for the masses

Released by Heavy Psych Sounds. Reviewed Sept. 17.

Ecstatic Vision frontman Doug Sabolik has cast himself in the mold of Arthur Brown or Dave Wyndorf or probably seven or eight dudes who were in Hawkwind at some point as a manic-but-stoned space rock preacher with as he and his band behind him plunge headfirst-or-feetfirst-it-doesn’t-matter-because-your-body-is-an-illusion-man into the molten multicolor void. For the Masses. The ‘masses,’ such as they are, should be so lucky, but the double-meaning is the real tell for where the Philly unit are coming from. Their shows are the masses — gatherings of spirit and song to give praise to the willful expansion of mind. If you can’t get behind that, you might as well go get a job or something. This ain’t no lightweight party for squares and dabblers. This is a high-potency happening for werewolves on motorcycles and freaks of all stripes. Get weird stay weird. Ecstatic Vision are one mostly-mellow 15-minute “Spine of God”-style psych-epic away from perfection.

22. Beastwars, IV

beastwars iv

Released by Destroy Records. Reviewed June 27.

But for the circumstances that brought it about — i.e. Beastwars vocalist Matt Hyde’s cancer — the unexpected fourth installment in the Beastwars trilogy was nothing if not welcome. An grand-feeling sense of largesse was nothing new to the New Zealand four-piece, but after breaking up and getting back together to make the album, the grim sincerity with which they presented this exploration of mortality and betrayal by one’s own body was no less palpable than the undulating riffs that threatened, as ever, to consume all in their path. I don’t know their future plans in terms of continuing to write and/or record, but there are reports of touring beyond Aus/NZ for 2020, so one way or another, stay tuned for more from them. Whether or not they do anything else, IV was a triumph in spirit and execution.

21. Eternal Black, Slow Burn Suicide

eternal black slow burn suicide

Self-released. Reviewed June 7.

With the nine songs of Slow Burn Suicide, Brooklyn’s Eternal Black began to unveil the true depth of their project. Their 2017 debut, Bleed the Days (review here), was well received, and rightly so, but operated more in a straight-ahead doom sphere. The second outing, by contrast, delved into a particular vision of the style informed by the crunch of peak-era New York noise and crossover hardcore, and it succeeded not just because it did this, but because it did so around a conjuration of memorable riffs and tracks building on accomplishments carried over from its predecessor. Is this an awaited arrival of next-generation ‘New York doom’? Will theirs be a blueprint others will follow? It’s impossible to know now, and their next album will be telling either way, but the course they’ve set is significant.

20. Candlemass, The Door to Doom

candlemass the door to doom

Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed Feb. 22.

It may have been the Tony Iommi guest appearance that got Swedish doom legends Candlemass — the world’s earliest and foremost purveyors of doom both classic and epic — their recent Grammy nomination, but it was the long-overdue reunion with original vocalist Johan Längquist that made the album as a whole as powerful as it was. Pairing Längquist’s theatrical and vital approach with founding bassist Leif Edling’s second-to-none doomcraft, The Door to Doom was a catapult not to the bygone days of the band’s landmark debut, 1986’s Epicus Doomicus Metallicus, but an inspired look at not just what might’ve been had Längquist remained with the band longer, but what might still be if he does this time around. Candlemass have been through their share of singers, but as fresh as The Door to Doom sounded, it’s hard not to hope for something more than a one-off with he who got there first. The songs, the spirit, the sheer heart poured into Candlemass’ doom some 35 years past the band’s start only emphasizes how special they have always been.

19. Nebula, Holy Shit

nebula holy shit

Released by Heavy Psych Sounds. Reviewed June 13.

Anyone who might’ve predicted Nebula getting into the studio and making a new album was either in the room when it happened or talking out their ass. And speaking of, was Nebula’s Holy Shit named for the shock one might’ve felt at its existence, or the surprise at how good it actually sounded when you put it on? I don’t know. I probably won’t ever know. It was the best title I saw all year, but more than that, it was a Nebula record, fueled by the classic riffing and unmitigated desert punk soul of founding/guitarist Eddie Glass, whose absence from the heavy underground for the last decade left a void only too many others whiffed on filling. Holy Shit showed just how singular a player Glass was and is, and how much character there is in his style, particularly in solos, but also in rhythmic changes, and so on. I won’t discount the work of bassist Tom Davies and drummer Mike Amster in making Nebula what they are in this incarnation — they’re essential, obviously — but there’s simply no denying that presence at the band’s core.

18. Valley of the Sun, Old Gods

valley of the sun old gods

Released by Fuzzorama Records. Reviewed May 21.

This was a heavy rock record that had everything. Everything. It had songs, style, ups, down, purples, greens, ins, outs, all kinds of whathaveyou. Riffs forever. Valley of the Sun should keep their eyes on Sasquatch, because if they want it, that path is theirs. I know the Cincinnati outfit have had trouble keeping lineups together, but if they can hold onto one, and maybe after their next record start touring more, domestically and abroad — not at all a minor ask, I know — then people will catch on. Old Gods is evidence of the fact that they genuinely have something to offer, and frankly, it’s not at all the first such effective case they’ve made in their career. But they’ve never put anything out that wasn’t a step forward, and yet they’ve never lost sight of the roots of their initial inspiration. And they’ve never sacrificed the song for the riff, which so many do. They’ve only ever gotten better. Let Old Gods be a step toward them getting attention they’ve long since deserved.

17. Kadavar, For the Dead Travel Fast

Kadavar For the Dead Travel Fast

Released by Nuclear Blast. Reviewed Oct. 28.

In style and production, For the Dead Travel Fast is the most vintage-sounding offering Berlin trio Kadavar have made in over a half decade, yet neither is it looking backward wistfully toward 2013’s Abra Kadavar (review here) or giving up the modern clarity of 2017’s Rough Times (review here) or 2015’s Berlin (review here). Instead, it strikes a balance with a more sinister edge à la Uncle Acid in songs like “Children of the Night” and “Demons in My Mind” — both singles — and makes a home for itself between proto-metal and garage doom. Whatever genre tag you want to give it — and that might vary from track to track, mind you — it’s unmistakably Kadavar, with the signature hooks and memorable craftsmanship that have made them one of the decade’s most pivotal heavy bands. The real challenge at this point in their career is not to take for granted that Kadavar will produce material of such quality, because, frankly, that’s all they’ve ever done.

16. Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard, Yn Ol I Annwn

mammoth weed wizard bastard yn ol i annwn

Released by New Heavy Sounds. Reviewed Feb. 7.

Welsh sci-fi cosmic doomers Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard billed Yn Ol I Annwn as the final installment of a trilogy that includes their two prior LPs, 2015’s Noeth Ac Anoeth (review here) and 2016’s Y Proffwyd Dwyll (review here), and while that may be true thematically, there’s also no question the third is a marked step forward from anything they’ve done before. They’re one foot out of the airlock and into space as their synth-laden longform riffing and melodies take them to places they’ve not yet gone, explorations of sight as much as sound, aural translation of colors humans aren’t gifted to see. Their songs across the 65-minute span unfold with the grace of a gravity spiral, pulling the listener deeper into the proceedings with each new phase that emerges until, what, obliteration? Stellar genesis? I’m not sure. They’ve reportedly got one more record to make and then they’re done. If that’s true, they’ll be missed then they’re gone.

15. Magic Circle, Departed Souls

magic circle departed souls

Released by 20 Buck Spin. Reviewed April 3.

They’ve found their way to die, and it’s upon an altar of classic metal and doom. And honestly, they make a pretty good case for it. Departed Souls is the third full-length from the Boston unit and their most stylistically realized work yet, with vocalist Brendan Radigan giving a standout performance alongside the guitars of Chris Corry and Renato Montenegro, the bass of Justin DeTore and Michael “Q” Quartulli’s drums, as the entire band taps into vibes from mid-’70s Black Sabbath and brings them to bear with an energy that is unlike anything in Magic Circle’s history. 2015’s Journey Blind (review here) brought in NWOBHM flash in the guitar work, sure enough, but Departed Souls doesn’t so much carry the torch of classic metal as it does use it to burn down the whole village and rebuild it in the five-piece’s image. From their doomed beginnings on their 2013 self-titled debut (review here) to now, they’re an act who’ve genuinely earned cult status. If you can find a backpatch, buy it.

14. Spaceslug, Reign of the Orion

Spaceslug Reign of the Orion cover

Released by BSFD Records. Reviewed Nov. 22.

Controversy! Drama! Well, probably not, but at very least some respectful disagreement on my part. You see, Poland’s Spaceslug have stated publicly that their latest release, the late-2019 surprise Reign of the Orion is an EP. Their albums regularly top 50 minutes, and at 36 minutes, I guess relative to that, you can see where they’re coming from. However, with the flow of these five songs and the ease with which they carry the listener from front-to-back through the listening experience, I’m sticking to my guns and calling Reign of the Orion an album. Sorry guys. True, it’s shorter than the other full-lengths, but it’s got everything you could ask an album to have in terms of how tracks like “Spacerunner” and the shouty “Half-Moon Burns” play into each other, and the fluidity of the outing on the whole is inarguable. An LP by any other name? Whatever you or they want to call it, there’s no question in my mind Reign of the Orion is one of 2019’s best records. If they insist on it being an EP, then it’s the best one of the year, but I still say it belongs in another category altogether, so here it is.

13. Green Lung, Woodland Rites

green lung woodland rites

Released by Kozmik Artifactz. Reviewed Jan. 28.

As hyper-crowded as London is with bands at this moment in history, there continue to be acts who sneak through with an individualized and intriguing perspective on doom and heavy rock, and Green Lung are a perfect example, learning from fellow Brits like Alunah and Elephant Tree and incorporating folk and forest goth vibes to their debut album, Woodland Rites. Laced with organ and stuck-in-the-head choruses like “Let the Devil In” and the creeper “Templar Dawn,” the record also pushed into drifting verses on “Into the Wild,” setting up future experimentation with atmospheric variety and genre manipulation. If part of any first album’s appeal is the potential it represents, Green Lung’s offers plenty, but wherever their subsequent course may or may not take them, their accomplishments here shouldn’t be overlooked. Woodland Rites is nothing less than the heavy rock debut album of the year, and though they emerge from a packed field, the work they do to stand themselves out already carries their mark and an apparent will toward progression. They’re on their way.

12. Lo-Pan, Subtle

lo-pan subtle

Released by Aqualamb Records. Reviewed May 9.

My head immediately goes to the hooks of “Ten Days” and “Ascension Day” and “Savage Heart,” but the up-down surges of guitar in “Old News/New Fire” and the midtempo soulfulness in “A Thousand Miles” are no less resonant when it comes to the actual listening experience of the fifth Lo-Pan LP. Subtle, when it came to living up to its name, as much wasn’t as it was. Flourishes of harmony in the vocals of Jeff Martin, the pops in Jesse Bartz’s snare punctuating and propelling in kind, turns in Scott Thompson’s bass work twisting around the guitar of Chris Thompson, a relative newcomer to the fold making his debut with the band and showing no apparent trouble fitting in. I don’t imagine Lo-Pan is an easy band to join, especially at this point. They thrive on personality clash and, through years of touring, have a chemistry they’ve built between them that comes through even on their recordings. Nonetheless, Subtle is their clearest, sharpest-edged work yet, and as tight as their songwriting has become, they still groove and groove mightily. They are a treasure of American heavy rock and roll. Believe it.

11. Roadsaw, Tinnitus the Night

roadsaw tinnitus the night

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed June 12.

While members of Roadsaw have spent the intervening years in projects like Kind, White Dynomite, Sasquatch and Murcielago, the Boston heavy rock kingpins have indeed been missed, and Tinnitus the Night works quickly to show why. It’s been well over 20 years since their first LP — hell, it’s been eight since they put out their 2011 self-titled (review here) — but their craft is at its own level, and Tinnitus the Night comes barreling through with “Shake” and “Along for the Ride” and “Final Phase” before opening up to broader fare on side B with “Find What You Need,” “Under the Devil’s Thumb” and “Midazolam” ahead of the subdued finale “Silence,” and the result is nothing less than a classic heavy rock LP structure as befitting what is itself a classic heavy rock LP. What’s Roadsaw’s future? I don’t know. It took them the better part of a decade to make this one happen, so take from that what you will, but to me, all it says is there’s even more reason to be grateful they got it done and out. To say the songs deserve that is putting it mildly.

10. Worshipper, Light in the Wire

worshipper light in the wire

Released by Tee Pee Records. Reviewed April 24.

I’m not doing a ‘song of the year’ post, but if I was, Worshipper’s “Coming Through” might be it. The opening track from the Boston four-piece’s second album, Light in the Wire, marries classic pop drama in its melody with careening progressive riffing, and sets the tone for a record that is of both future and past, twistingly complex and yet immediately accessible, immersive as an entirety and still comprised of standout moments. These aren’t contradictions in Worshipper’s skillful hands, but the stuff of what’s already becoming their own take on rock. Tied together through melody, skillful rhythmic intricacy and solid structural foundations, “Light in the Wires,” “Visions from Beyond,” “Wither on the Vine” and others throughout post their own triumphs en route to enhancing the album as a whole, while “Nobody Else” and closer “Arise” underscore the emotive basis from which the perspective of the whole LP emanates. There are a lot of “next-gen” heavy rock bands out there weaving prog elements and traditional riffing together to some degree or other. Few, if any, can write a song like Worshipper can. I mean it. This band is something special.

9. Solace, The Brink

solace the brink

Released by Blues Funeral Recordings. Reviewed Nov. 21.

What is there to say about Solace? A band who, nine years after revealing the expectation-slaughtering masterpiece A.D. (review here), return with three-fifths of a swapped-out lineup and simply do it again? This band is explosive. Really. Like, they might explode at any minute. It’s a miracle The Brink ever happened. I’ll be honest, I had my doubts. But Solace are a force like nothing else I’ve ever encountered in music. They take metallic aggression, hardcore’s sense of self-righteousness and heavy rock’s groove, set it all to a doomly swing and they play it in such a way as to leave you utterly dumbfounded by what you just experienced. Here’s a challenge though, for the band personally. From me to them. Do another one. Go ahead. Put out another album. You don’t even have to do it in 2020. Do it 2021. Write the songs and give me a no-holds-barred 45-minute LP of the tightest, meanest shit you’ve ever written. Because massive as the accomplishments are on The Brink, it’s the potential to build from them that resonates most here. So do it, guys. Step up and take advantage of the moment. Call me greedy if you want, I don’t care. Give me another Solace record. I dare you.

8. Brume, Rabbits

brume rabbits

Released by Doom Stew Records & DHU Records. Reviewed Nov. 6.

Simply a case of a band wildly outdoing themselves. Easy story, yeah? In some ways, maybe, but the truth of what Brume achieve on Rabbits. Their second long-player behind 2017’s Rooster (review here), the five-track offering sees the San Francisco three-piece of vocalist/bassist Susie McMullan, guitarist/vocalist Jamie McCathie and drummer Jordan Perkins-Lewis working with producer Billy Anderson to bring theatricality and emotionalism together in a flowing post-heavy context that’s neither derivative nor working at cross purposes. Instead, it is a gorgeous and blooming undertaking across its 43-minute span, working in its own light/dark spectrum and bringing not just the sense of trapped fragility evoked by the cover art, but a corresponding sureness of intent to its ascendant heavy surges. Like Rooster before it, it is loaded with potential, but in “Scurry” and “Lament” and “Despondence” and “Blue Jay and “Autocrat’s Fool,” there’s a patience and command that absolutely does not waver. So yes, a band outdoing themselves. But so much more too.

7. Mars Red Sky, The Task Eternal

mars red sky the task eternal

Released by Listenable Records. Reviewed Sept. 20.

This may forever be known as the Mars Red Sky album they wrote in a cave, but the Bordeaux three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Julien Pras and bassist/vocalist Jimmy Kinast and drummer Matieu “Matgaz” Gazeau nonetheless plunged forward along the progressive course they charted back on 2014’s sophomore outing, Stranded in Arcadia (review here), and continued to manifest in 2016’s Apex III (Praise for the Burning Soul) (review here). Their blend of melody and tonal heft has become a hallmark of their work to this stage in their career, but The Task Eternal continues to add a sense of breadth to the proceedings, giving their sound a full three-dimensional pull that feels tailor-made for headphones and is consuming in its entirety. With experiments in structure like the pairing of “Recast” and “Reacts,” and the rushing sweep of melody in “Hollow King,” Mars Red Sky’s latest is, as ever, their finest. Outdoing themselves would seem to be the task from which the record derives its title. Fine. Just keep going. Please.

6. Kings Destroy, Fantasma Nera

Kings Destroy Fantasma Nera

Released by Svart Records. Reviewed March 15.

Every time I think I understand where Kings Destroy want to go as a band, they pull the rug out. That’s what Fantasma Nera is. After their 2015 self-titled (review here) third LP seemed to declare them once and for all in a space between doom and noise rooted in their respective hardcore pasts, the Brooklynite five-piece hooked up with producer David Bottrill (Tool, etc.) and composed a rock album. A real live rock album! With progressive undertones in the guitar work and the most accomplished melodicism of their career, Kings Destroy put everything they had into making Fantasma Nera and one need look no further than the title-track to hear the result of that monumental effort. It is the realization of a band challenging themselves to go so far out of their comfort zone as to be only recognizable in the most rudimentary of ways, and to say it as plainly as I can, “Dead Before” on its own is enough of an accomplishment — and enough of a full-length, at all of 4:25 — to make this list on its own, whatever surrounds it. Song of the year. I’ll say every time I’m a Kings Destroy fan, but I’ve never been gladder to say it than I am in talking about Fantasma Nera.

5. Colour Haze, We Are

colour haze we are

Released by Elektrohasch Schallplatten. Reviewed Dec. 3.

If you’re saying to yourself, “Ah come on, Colour Haze are always on the list when they put out records,” I have two answers. One, you’re right, and two, if you have a problem with that, blow it out your ass. The Munich forefathers of the European heavy psychedelic underground — yup — marked their 25th anniversary this year, and did so not just by putting out an album, but by putting out We Are, which introduces a full-fledged fourth member to what’s been a three-piece since 1998. Granted, it’s not the first time guitarist/vocalist Stefan Koglek, bassist Philipp Rasthofer and drummer Manfred Merwald have worked with organist/keyboardist/synthesist Jan Faszbender, but never has the presence of keys been so integral to their work, and never has the dynamic between players shifted in the way it does on tracks like “The Real” and “Life” and “I’m With You,” with keys fleshing out melodies and enriching the bass and guitar. Add to that the Spanish-style guitar on centerpiece “Material Drive” or the operatic flash in the penultimate “Be With Me,” and it’s one more example of one of the best bands on earth refusing to rest on their laurels. Which, as it happens, is why they’re one of the best bands on earth. So hell yes, they’re on all my lists. Fact is my lists are lucky to have them.

4. Blackwater Holylight, Veils of Winter

blackwater holylight veils of winter

Released by RidingEasy Records. Reviewed Sept. 26.

Like nothing else I heard in 2019, Veils of Winter had repeat listenability. It was the album that, most often, when I was choosing something I actually wanted to hear, I went back to time and again. Its dark, moody psychedelic and heavy vibe stands alone among the year’s releases, and is a stylistic milestone that one only hopes other artists will pick up on. Toying with pop melodies on tracks like “Death Realms” and bringing hypnosis and clarity in kind to the subtly traditionalist winding riff of “Moonlit” — would it have been out of place on the first Witchcraft LP? — the Portland, Oregon, five-piece worked on a speedy turnaround and squashed even the significant expectations I had after their self-titled debut (review here) last year. They’ve begun to tour, so I don’t know if another full-length is in the works for 2020, but their craft is enviable in its flow and their songs are shimmering in tone and cohesion alike. Given how bold a step forward Veils of Winter is, I hear nothing in their material to this point to make me think their momentum won’t continue to carry them forward. But, you know, if not, I’d also take about six or seven records just like this one. That’d be fine too. Whatever they want, really.

3. Slomatics, Canyons

Slomatics Canyons

Released by Black Bow Records. Reviewed May 15.

Belfast, Northern Ireland, three-piece Slomatics — guitarists David Marjury and Chris Couzens and drummer/vocalist/synthesist Marty Harvey — finished a narrative trilogy with 2016’s Future Echo Returns (review here), and though the storyline was always vague throughout that and the preceding two offerings, the question of how they would proceed nonetheless hung over Canyons prior to its release. The answer is in the songs themselves. From the sci-fi majesty of lumbering, rolling groove in opener and longest track “Gears of Despair” — oh, they grind — through the mega-stomp of “Telemachus, My Son” and the righteously synth-laden wash that consumes “Mind Fortresses on Theia,” Slomatics bring together concept and execution with a readiness that highlights the fact of their 15th anniversary. They are mature in their approach, yes, but the fact is their approach is so much their own and so given to their particular mode of progression that it almost can’t help but feel fresh. How could something so utterly crushing also feel rejuvenating? As they plod through finale “Organic Caverns II” ending with more waves of synth and tectonic guitar — no bass, remember — they are as restorative as they are punishing, and they stand astride that duality with neither mercy nor pretense. Canyons, whether it’s setting up a new story, building from the old, or doing something completely different, stands on its own.

2. Year of the Cobra, Ash and Dust

year of the cobra ash and dust

Released by Prophecy Productions. Reviewed Oct. 24.

My anticipation for and expectations of Year of the Cobra’s second long-player were high most especially after 2017’s Burn Your Dead EP (review here), which along with the dead, set alight the notion that the Seattle duo of bassist/vocalist Amy Tung Barrysmith and drummer Jon Barrysmith were simply a heavy/doom band. With elements of post-punk, psych wash, minimalist stretches and propulsive gallop, Ash and Dust cast itself out over an aesthetic range that set a new standard not just for Year of the Cobra, but for anyone who’d dare match them at their own game — and that list will grow with time, absolutely. As their first outing through Prophecy Productions, Ash and Dust threw itself into the very melting pot of its own ambition and emerged with songs that didn’t just bring together disparate ideas, but made them flourish and engage and challenge the listener while still proving consistent in tone and underlying groove. For a two-person, two-instrument outfit (not counting voice, though I should), they proved more malleable than many with more than twice the number of hands on deck, and pushed the notion of what heavy rock is and does forward without stopping to look back or ask for permission. They just did it, and maybe Ash and Dust is the aftermath of all that burning.

2019 Album of the Year

1. Monolord, No Comfort

monolord no comfort

Released by Relapse Records. Reviewed Sept. 12.

Look back over the course of this list, and you will find no shortage of bands and releases that surpassed the group in question’s past work. With Gothenburg, Sweden’s Monolord, it wasn’t just about No Comfort — their debut on Relapse, fourth full-length overall — being better than 2017’s Rust (review here), because that was pretty jolly gosh darn enjoyable, but about the band reaching a moment of transcendence to which Rust and all their prior work across 2015’s Vænir (review here) and 2014’s Empress Rising has been leading. With the six tracks of No Comfort, guitarist/vocalist Thomas Jäger, bassist Mika Häkki and drummer Esben Willems not only overcome the influences that launched them — taking full ownership of their sound and defending that claim with the sheer quality of their songwriting — and they not only become as identifiable as those influences themselves, but they overcome themselves. No Comfort means no comfort. Monolord take the simplicity that once fueled their riffing, the willful primitivism of their earliest work, and with songs like “Larvae” and “The Bastard Son” and the closing title-track use it as the foundation it was apparently always intended to be. Monolord have toured plenty and certainly their studio output has shown an increasing complexity from one LP to the next, so progression isn’t unexpected, but the manner in which Monolord have executed that progression has been. Even on “The Last Leaf,” which is arguably the most straightforward fare on the album, one hears it as them rather than the manifestation of the acts that inspired them. The same holds for “Skywards” later on, and for the immersion that takes hold as the mournful “Alone Together” plays into “No Comfort” itself. Monolord take their place among the best bands on the planet, and deliver an Album of the Year for 2019 that, like the absolute best, will have an impact lasting much longer than any period of 12 months might convey.

The Top 50 Albums of 2019: Honorable Mention

You didn’t think we’d stop at 50, did you? Come on. You know me better than that. The fact is that the list itself, humongous as it is, is just the start of the tip of an iceberg attached to a glacier that’s somewhere on an entire planet constructed of ice.

Honorable mentions, you say? Yeah, a few. Here they are in no order whatsoever:

Lord Vicar, Goatess, The Lord Weird Slough Feg, Zone Six, Lykantropi, Earth, White Manna, Atala, Tia Carrera, Merlin, WEEED, Híbrido, Cities of Mars, Stone Machine Electric, Bretus, Blackwolfgoat, The Black Wizards, Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell, Alunah, V, Pale Grey Lore, Leeds Point, Sons of Alpha Centauri, Spidergawd, Bus, Death Hawks, BBF, Vessel of Light, Crypt Trip, The Pilgrim, Uffe Lorenzen, Brant Bjork, Doomstress, Black Lung, Kandodo3, Monkey3, Bask, Horseburner, Zed, Bright Curse, Spillage, Sigils, Papir, Dune Sea, Destroyer of Light, Mastiff, Warp, Centrum, Varego, Lord Dying, Volcano, Saint Karloff, Firebreather, High Reeper, Bible of the Devil, Obsidian Sea, Torche, Motorpsycho, Sunn O))), Deadbird, Russian Circles, El Supremo, Pyramidal, Holy Serpent, Elizabeth Colour Wheel, Demon Head, Red Beard Wall, Onhou, Kamchatka, Iguana, Arrowhead, The Whims of the Great Magnet, Serial Hawk, Scissorfight, Monte Luna, Lingua Ignota, Valborg, Sageness, Ruff Majik, The Giraffes, High Fighter, Comacozer, Burning Gloom, Swan Valley Heights, Mark Deutrom, Cable, AVER, Superlynx, The Munsens, No Man’s Valley, Old Mexico, Skraeckoedlan, Godsleep, Øresund Space Collective Meets Black Moon Circle.

Seems cruel to leave it to you to sort through those, but I’m tempted to do just that. You might notice some bigger names there in bands like Earth, Russian Circles, Torche and Sunn O))). Nothing against those bands, but I think we’re seeing a moment where a different group of artists are taking point in terms of innovating heavy styles across an entire swath of microgenres. Either way it’s not a slight that something is here instead of above. And of course, there are plenty of up and coming groups here as well, with Ruff Majik, Elizabeth Colour Wheel — who I’m sure would be a top 30 if I knew the record better than I do — Pale Grey Lore, Monte Luna, Papir, Destroyer of Light, The Munsens, No Man’s Valley, Skraeckoedlan, and so on, but hell’s bells, there’s already a list of 50 and I’m only one man. How high is the list supposed to go and still be a list?

Bottom line: Music is as endless as space and has as much beauty in it for those willing to hear. Do more digging.

The Top 20 Debut Albums of 2019

green lung woodland rites

1. Green Lung, Woodland Rites
2. Yatra, Death Ritual
3. Howling Giant, The Space Between Worlds
4. Thunderbird Divine, Magnasonic
5. SÂVER, They Came with Sunlight
6. Lightning Born, Lightning Born
7. Elizabeth Colour Wheel, Nocebo
8. The Pilgrim, Walking into the Forest
9. Sigils, You Build the Altar You Lit the Leaves
10. E-L-R, Maenad
11. Hey Zeus, X
12. Bellrope, You Must Relax
13. Asthma Castle, Mount Crushmore
14. Thronehammer, Usurper of Oaken Throne
15. Inner Altar, Vol. III
16. Infinity Forms of Yellow Remember, Infinity Forms of Yellow Remember
17. Hippie Death Cult, 111
18. Faerie Ring, The Clearing
19. Gone Cosmic, Sideways in Time
20. Haze Mage, Chronicles

Honorable Mention: Warp, Pelegrin, Lucy in Blue, Volcano, The Sabbathian, Red Eye Tales, Dune Sea, Dury Dava, Pharlee, Giant Dwarf, Ghost:Hello, Surya, Workshed, Children of the Sün, Burning Gloom, Temple of the Fuzz Witch.

Notes: As ever, I consider a band’s debut album something unique and separate from everything else they’ll ever do, and so worthy of highlighting in its own category. It’s a different standard in my mind, one that takes into account what a group might accomplish going forward as well as what they do on the record itself. Plus, putting out an album is hard. Getting two, three, four, five or more people to agree on anything is an accomplishment. Making a cohesive album? Come on. So yes. We see some crossover from the main list above, but I want to draw attention to Howling Giant, Thunderbird Divine and SÂVER particularly here. There’s a swath of genres represented and I feel like a couple of these releases — Sigils, Bellrope, Thronehammer, Inner Altar, Faerie Ring, Infinity Forms of Yellow Remember — didn’t get their due attention. It’s a busy year, I get it. But if you’re skimming through looking for stuff to check out, DON’T IGNORE THIS LIST. Aside from whatever line about the best of tomorrow you want to trot out, there’s important work being done by these acts today. As somebody who’s constantly behind the times, I urge you not to

The Top 20 Short Releases of 2019

geezer spiral fires

1. Geezer, Spiral Fires
2. Ufomammut, XX
3. All Them Witches, 1×1
4. Mount Saturn, Mount Saturn
5. Dopelord, Weedpecker, Major Kong & Spaceslug, 4-Way Split
6. Horehound, Weight
7. Molasses, Mourning Haze
8. Saint Karloff & Devil’s Witches, Split
9. Here Lies Man, No Ground to Walk Upon
10. The Golden Grass, 100 Arrows
11. Mount Atlas, Mistress
12. Midas, Solid Gold Heavy Metal
13. Glory in the Shadows, Glory in the Shadows
14. Hot Breath, Hot Breath
15. Crystal Spiders, Demo
16. Red Wizard, Ogami
17. Thermic Boogie, Fracture
18. Pinto Graham, Dos
19. High Priest, Sanctum
20. Set Fire, Traya
21. Seedium, Awake

Honorable Mention: Love Gang & Smokey Mirror Split, Forebode, Land Mammal, Very Paranoia, Plague of Carcosa, Daal Dazed, Komodor, Mourn the Light & Oxblood Forge Split, High on Fire, Mount Soma.

Notes: This is probably the least complete of the lists, because it’s the hardest category for me to keep up with. EPs, singles, demos, splits and basically anything else that isn’t an album, all lumped together. Still, I stand by the picks here, and I don’t think anyone who takes on any of them will regret doing so, whether it’s All Them Witches’ surprisingly weighted first single as a trio, Mount Saturn’s debut release, or Geezer’s cosmic jams. Felt a little like cheating putting Ufomammut on there, since technically XX wasn’t new material so much as reworked stuff captured live, but if you want to call me out on it, my own listening habits also factor in, and I’ve spent plenty of time with those reimagined tracks. But anyway, I’m sure there’s a ton of stuff that hasn’t been included here, so please feel free to let me know in the comments and I’ll work accordingly.

Postwax

I haven’t felt comfortable with the idea of writing about it editorially, since I’ve been involved in discussions about it since before it came together and since I did the liner notes for each of the six releases (plus one to come), but I wanted to take a moment to acknowledge the incredible work done on the Postwax vinyl subscription series by Blues Funeral Recordings. Label head Jadd Shickler and design specialist Peder Bergstrand (also of Lowrider) put together six offerings that came out in the span of this year and when you hold the LPs in your hand, you can feel the passion that went into making them, from the artists in question to those curating the series in the first place. I hear tell there’s going to be a Postwax Year Two, and I don’t know if I’ll be involved or not, but I’m proud of my miniscule part in the work that went into making these and wanted to bring them to your particular attention. They are something special for those who got to partake:

  • Elder, The Gold and Silver Sessions
  • Daxma, Ruins Upon Ruins
  • Besvärjelsen, Frost
  • Big Scenic Nowhere, Dying on the Mountain
  • Domkraft, Slow Fidelity
  • Lowrider, Refractions

And while we’re talking about projects I was proud to be involved with, I also did liner notes for Acrimony’s The Chronicles of Wode box set from Burning World Records and was honored to do so. Thanks to any and everyone in question for having me involved and dealing with me blowing past deadlines one after the next. It is humbling.

Looking Ahead to 2020

A few names and nothing more about what definitely is and/or might be in the works for next year. Woefully incomplete, so feel free to add to it:

1000mods, Wolves in the Throne Room, Deathwhite, Mondo Drag, Drug Cult, Ocean Chief, Soldati, Sergio Ch., Mitochondrial Sun, Geezer, Mirror Queen, Mondo Generator, The Otolith, Asteroid, Yatra, Vestal Claret, Farer, Ryte, Shadow Witch, Six Organs of Admittance, Naxatras, Wolftooth, Snail, Elder, Pale Divine, Grey Skies Fallen, Ruby the Hatchet, Yuri Gagarin, Sasquatch, Godthrymm, Wo Fat, Red Mesa, CB3, Onsegen Ensemble, Insect Ark, Acid Mammoth, Ritual King, Ulls, Om.

Thank You

Thank you for reading, and please, if you have a thought or something you want to share in the comments, please remember to be kind to each other. We are all human beings behind our phones and keyboards, and while we’ll disagree, often in some ways and some cases, a basic level of respect is always appreciated. At least by me.

I am not so deluded as to think anyone might still be reading, but I want it on record how much I appreciate you being a part of this site and a part of my experience in making it. I’ve been ruminating all year since marking the 10th anniversary back in January about how much The Obelisk has become a part of who I am, and it’s utterly essential to my every day. The way I continue to think about it — and myself, as it happens — is a work in progress, and that would not be possible without you. One more time. Thank you. Always. Always thank you. Thank you.

More to come.

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Doomstress Southeastern Tour Starts This Week; Playing Slaughter Que and More

Posted in Whathaveyou on September 17th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

doomstress

As you can see on the list of dates below, it’s a well-tagged tour upon which Doomstress will embark later this week, heading out from their home in Houston, Texas, in order to make a stop in Atlanta for the Slaughter Que festival, where they’ll join the very metal likes of Exhorder, Exodus, Kataklysm, Krisiun and copious others whose names either do or don’t begin with the letters ‘e’ and ‘k.’ I believe that in itself is enough to qualify as “metal AF” in social media parlance, but it’s not at all the only show Domstress have lined up, as they’ll make two stops in Louisiana beforehand and hit North Carolina, Florida and Mississippi before they’re done.

Over the last couple years, Doomstress have mastered this method of getting out for a week or so and carving up the US by region, hitting this or that part of the country on kind of a longform overarching tour. All the better for them to do so now that they have their 2019 debut album, Sleep Among the Dead (review here), out on Ripple Music and DHU Records to support.

You’ve heard it, I know, but you can stream the album at the bottom of this post just in case, and tell your friends to go see Doomstress even if you’re not somewhere they’ll be. You have friends everywhere, even if you don’t know it.

Dates follow:

doomstress coastal slaughter tour

Texas metal rockers Doomstress just back from 2 recent northern tours based around Ohio Doomed & Stoned Fest (Canton, OH) and Ancient Futures Fest (Madison, WI) prepare to embark on a southeastern run to play Slaughter-Que Fest in Atlanta, GA on September 21st w/ Exodus, Kataklysm, Battlecross, Exhorder, Hatchet and many more!

Doomstress returns to Atlanta GA September 21st for SlaughterQue Fest at Masquerade ATL.

Doomstress recently released their debut full length record “Sleep Among the Dead” in May on Ripple Music and DHU Records.

9/19 Lafayette LA @freetown_boomboomroom w/@sexlord_band_official & @high_horse_band
9/20 New Orleans LA @goatneworleans w/@nolapious & #Smoke
9/21 Atlanta GA @masquerade_atl #SlaughterQue Fest w/@exodusbandofficial @exhordernola @kataklysmband @battlecrossmetal @hatchet_official @krisiun & more
9/23 Raleigh NC @slims_tagrams w/@kultikon & @doomsday_profit
9/26 Jacksonville FL @jackrabbitslive w/@luna_cruise_music & #deadscrolls
9/27 Tampa FL @brassmugnights w/@beerwolfsucks &
9/28 Hattiesburg MS @ #MoMos w/#AstroTrain & #WitchDance

Doomstress is:
Doomstress Alexis – Bass/Vocals
Brandon Johnson – Guitar
Matt Taylor – Guitar
Tomasz Scull – Drums

www.doomstress.com
www.doomstress.bandcamp.com
www.doomstress.bigcartel.com
https://www.facebook.com/DoomstressBand/
instagram.com/Doomstress_band
www.darkhedonisticunion.bigcartel.com
https://www.facebook.com/DHURecords/
https://www.facebook.com/theripplemusic/
https://ripplemusic.bandcamp.com/
http://www.ripple-music.com/

Doomstress, Sleep Among the Dead (2019)

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Women of Doom Compilation Beats Kickstarter; Set to Feature SubRosa, Year of the Cobra Members and More

Posted in Whathaveyou on August 15th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

The basic mission of Women of Doom — celebrating women as a traditionally in recognition of being a marginalized group both within bands and as groundbreaking artists in general — is noble enough, but I have to think it was the personnel involved in this particular project from Desert Records and Blues Funeral Recordings that led to it trouncing the Kickstarter funding goal well ahead of the end date. New music from ex-SubRosa members, from Year of the Cobra‘s Amy Tung Barrysmith, but Frayle and others — hell, I just saw on Thee Facebooks a bit ago that Laura Pleasants (ex-Kylesa) had finished recording a new song for a yet-to-be-revealed compilation with her band The Discussion; that could easily fit here — and more announcements to come seems like an excellent start and I’ve no doubt the end result will be a comp that’s forward thinking in more than just its approach to issues of gender.

And whatever the inherent politics of the thing, I’m looking forward to seeing who else gets confirmed and how the songs sound when it’s all put together. There’s certainly a wide enough aesthetic sphere to draw from.

Info from the PR wire:

avarice

Ambitious WOMEN OF DOOM Project Announced, feat. Members of SUBROSA, YEAR OF THE COBRA, FRAYLE, DOOMSTRESS and DEATHBELL

Kickstarter for project celebrating female heavy artists surpasses goal easily, with more artist announcements to come during last 12 days

Albuquerque, New Mexico’s Desert Records, in collaboration with Blues Funeral Recordings, has announced the concept for its forthcoming Women of Doom album project.

The carefully-curated release will feature new songs from female heavy/stoner/doom/riff/psych solo artists and bands with prominent female members, with the specific goal of spotlighting their immense talent and massive artistic contributions to all things heavy.

Women of Doom was announced via Kickstarter and social media on July 26th, and, after being singled out by Kickstarter as a project it loves, has already surpassed the initial funding goal with about half of the campaign duration left to go.

Some of the artists announced as participating with brand-new performances are:

Kim Cordray and Sarah Pendleton of the renowned and recently laid-to-rest SubRosa, collaborating with their new experimental project Avarice
Amy Tung of Year of the Cobra with a solo composition
Deathbell, featuring Irish doom siren Lauren Gaynor
Rebecca Vernon, also of SubRosa, with the first appearance of her new project The Keening
Alexis Hollada of Texas metal institution Doomstress
Frayle, featuring the spellbinding vocals of Gwyn Strang
More to come

Discussing the project’s genesis, Desert Records founder Brad Frye says:

“I started Women of Doom with the idea to highlight and celebrate the heavy music that female artists have brought us through the years. These are some of my favorite musicians, and I hope that heavy music fans around the world will discover their own new favorite musicians and bands through this one-of-kind project!”

With support and advisement from female music industry empowerment group Women in Vinyl, Desert Records and Blues Funeral will finalize the lineup on the project by end of Summer, with finished songs submissions already starting to come in.

The collaborative release is planned for arrival early next year, with a possible Women of Doom stage at a May 2020 festival being considered as well.

Further info and background on the project as well as personal video clips from some of the participating artists can be viewed on the Kickstarter, which runs through August 25th at this location: kck.st/2Y4RdE3

facebook.com/desertrecordslabel/
instagram.com/desertrecords/
facebook.com/bluesfuneral/
instagram.com/blues.funeral/
facebook.com/womeninvinyl/
instagram.com/womeninvinyl/

Deathbell, With the Beyond (2018)

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Doomstress Premiere “Burning Lotus” from Sleep Among the Dead out May 10

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on May 1st, 2019 by JJ Koczan

doomstress (Photo by thepassionoftherice)

Texas four-piece Doomstress make their full-length debut with Sleep Among the Dead on May 10 through DHU Records (LP) and Ripple Music (CD), and if it feels like it’s been an extra-long wait for the album’s arrival, that’s probably a result of all the touring the band has done since getting together in 2016. To the best of my recollection they haven’t gone out for two months at a time or anything like that, but there’s been a steady chipping away at various Stateside regions that’s kept momentum well on their side as they’ve issued engaging-if-frustratingly-not-an-LP releases like 2017’s The Second Rite (discussed here) and 2016’s Supernatural Kvlt Sounds (discussed here) EPs, and along with slots at fests like Descendants of Crom and Maryland Doom FestSXSW and others, they’ve done a lot of the kind of preliminary work that would go into supporting a record before even having the record to support. Sleep Among the Dead, obviously, flips that scenario, and arrives not late but right on time with seven tracks and 41 minutes of right on Lone Star doom rock that shows the band’s foundations in acts like Well of Souls and Project Armageddon in its early riffing on “Bitter Plea” or “Burning Lotus” and uses that uptempo initial thrust to launch a more varied exploration of mood and impact. As their lineup has solidified with bassist/vocalist Doomstress Alexis, guitarists Brandon Johnson and Matt Taylor, and drummer Tomasz Scull (Sparrowmilk, ex-Venomin James), the band has clearly grown more confident in their approach, as can be heard in the tempo drawback of “Dreaming Spider,” which follows the opening one-two punch and begins to introduce the breadth of the album’s full scope.

So be it. Band has worked. Band has album. Great. When it comes to what distinguishes Doomstress from the multitudes who also might fit that generalized description, one doesn’t have to look far. The guitar work on “Bitter Plea” and even more on “Burning Lotus” might take a listen or two to sink in, but ultimately serves as the heart of Sleep Among the Dead, and in kind with Alexis‘ voice — itself more assured and melodic than it’s yet been on a recording and a vital instrument doomstress sleep among the deadput to welcome use here — the guitars drive the songs forward. That’s not to take away from Scull‘s drumming or Alexis‘ bass work, obviously, but there’s a willingness to engage with heavy metal in the melodic sensibility that is purely Texan throughout, and it’s introduced early, but manifests even in the later leads of centerpiece “Your God is Blind” and the righteously grandiose hook of “Bones and Rust,” even as the title line is delivered at the end in harmonized layers that should be taken by the band as a blueprint for future intent — I don’t usually say shit like that, but it works really well and is not an idea to be left alone. This amalgam of doom, heavy rock and metal isn’t necessarily revolutionary, but it’s more than enough to give Sleep Among the Dead an identity of its own and leave the lasting impression of being what the EPs and steady touring were building toward — the album itself something of a payoff, never mind the chugging apex in the 7:53 penultimate cut “Apathetic Existence,” with a Sabbath-via-C.O.C. swing brought to bear after a doomly opening worthy of reminder that Doomstress‘ home state once produced Solitude Aeturnus.

As “Bitter Plea” and “Burning Lotus” set Sleep Among the Dead forth with uptempo thrust and a fervent rocking vibe, “Apathetic Existence” and the subsequent closing title-track bring the record down, way down, to its darker finish. There’s still plenty of guitar theatrics, and the chug in both songs ties them together effectively, but Doomstress leave little question about their intent that the record should push further into the ground as it goes, perhaps living up to its title in its realization through the listening process. That atmosphere is a further example of the real takeaway from Sleep Among the Dead as a whole, which is that Doomstress are not screwing around. Their level of craft, in terms of construction of this material and its execution, is well beyond the “first record” expectation of a band getting their feet wet or figuring out their sound. Doomstress are past that, and they took the hard way around, honing their approach on tour. That’s admirable, but the record would still need to stand up on its own, and so it’s doubly fortunate that Sleep Among the Dead does precisely that, answering the anticipation of its landing with a collection that’s dramatic without pretense, showy without indulgence and that despite the simmering performances throughout, still puts the songs first. Will Doomstress go on to outclass it? Maybe. They’ll have their work cut out for them in that regard, but that hasn’t stopped them yet. What’s more important for the time being is that Doomstress set themselves up for a big moment of arrival with their full-length debut, and Sleep Among the Dead lives up to that and then some.

My pleasure today to host the premiere of “Burning Lotus.” Please dig in on the player below.

And enjoy:

Doomstress Alexis on “Burning Lotus”:

“This was a rad one to work out in the studio, Tomasz really crushed it with that drum pattern and how it builds into the verse when the vocals kick in! It’s just a ripper of a track and top it all off with killer solos by Matt and special guest solo by Kent Stump of Wo Fat.”

Order Link: https://ripplemusic.bandcamp.com/album/sleep-among-the-dead

Order Link: https://darkhedonisticunionrecords.bigcartel.com/product/doomstress-sleep-among-the-dead

Doomstress is:
Doomstress Alexis – Bass/Vocals
Brandon Johnson – Guitar
Matt Taylor – Guitar
Tomasz Scull – Drums

Doomstress website

Doomstress on Bandcamp

Doomstress webstore

Doomstress on Thee Facebooks

Doomstress on Instagram

DHU Records webstore

DHU Records on Thee Facebooks

Ripple Music on Thee Facebooks

Ripple Music on Bandcamp

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Doomstress to Release Sleep Among the Dead LP April 30

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 20th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

doomstress

Fair enough to call Doomstress‘ debut album awaited since their second EP, The Second Rite (discussed here) came out in 2017 and they were already touring hard at that point. They stopped at some point last year long enough to record Sleep Among the Dead, however, and DHU Records and Ripple Music will have it out on vinyl and CD this Spring, respectively. Preorders for the LPs start on March 29, which is astonishingly not that long from now, and I wouldn’t be surprised if a song or two surfaced before the album itself shows up a month later. The art comes courtesy of Goatess Doomwych, and the tracklisting has been unveiled as well — you’ll note “Bitter Plea” included from the 2017 EP — and it seems like only a matter of time before the four-piece get back out on the road to support it, so stay tuned.

Info from the PR wire:

doomstress sleep among the dead

Doomstress to release debut full length album “Sleep Among the Dead” April 30th Walpurgisnacht

After releasing a 7″ in 2016 and a Split with Cleveland’s Sparrowmilk on DHU Records in 2017, the time has come for Doomstress to release their full length debut album titled “Sleep Among the Dead” on Limited Edition vinyl through DHU Records and on CD through Ripple Music respectively in this, The New Year of Heavy MMXIX.

“Sleep Among the Dead” was recorded amid the hectic and tense live touring schedule in 2018, and that intensity and raw energy you will hear and feel as you press play on this bad mother.

Musically and lyrically drawing from many wells of the dark side of life, personal experiences and the ever present doomed real world events, making this a deep seated Heavy Metal Doom monster from start to finish, mark my words!

Artwork for “Sleep Among the Dead” is done by the ever great Goatess Doomwych who also did the artwork for the Split with Sparrowmilk, side Doomstress, and it is a powerful piece.

Pre orders for the Doomstress – “Sleep Among the Dead” Limited Edition vinyl will go live Friday March 29th at 7PM CET

Official release date April 30th Walpurgisnacht

Available in following Editions:

-Burning Lotus Edition
(DHU Exclusive)
Limited to 90 copies
Single sleeve w/ 3mm spine
Flooded in black
Black polylined innersleeves
Double sided full color inlay
Artwork by Goatess Doomwych
Hand numbered DHU Exclusive card
Comes on Green/White Cornetto effect w/ Purple and Black Splatter 12″ vinyl

-Bones & Rust Edition
Limited to 150 copies
Single sleeve w/ 3mm spine
Flooded in black
Black polylined innersleeves
Double sided full color inlay
Artwork by Goatess Doomwych
Comes on Oxblood w/ Silver Splatter 12″ vinyl

-Test Press
Limited to 10 copies
Single sleeve w/ 3mm spine
Alternate artwork by Goatess Doomwych
White polylined innersleeves
Hand numbered
Hand stamped
Deluxe PVC sleeve
Black 12″ vinyl

Doomstress – Sleep Among the Dead (DHU032)

Side A
A1. Bitter Plea
A2. Burning Lotus
A3. Dreaming Spider
A4. Your God is Blind

Side B
B1. Bones and Rust
B2. Apathetic Existence
B3. Sleep Among the Dead

Doomstress is:
Doomstress Alexis – Bass/Vocals
Brandon Johnson – Guitar
Matt Taylor – Guitar
Tomasz Scull – Drums

www.doomstress.com
www.doomstress.bandcamp.com
www.doomstress.bigcartel.com
https://www.facebook.com/DoomstressBand/
instagram.com/Doomstress_band
twitter.com/Doomstress
www.darkhedonisticunion.bigcartel.com
https://www.facebook.com/DHURecords/
https://twitter.com/dhu_records
https://www.facebook.com/theripplemusic/
https://twitter.com/RippleMusic
https://ripplemusic.bandcamp.com/
http://www.ripple-music.com/

Doomstress, “Bitter Plea” official video

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Doomstress Touring to Descendants of Crom, Doomed & Stoned and Heavy Mash Fests

Posted in Whathaveyou on September 21st, 2018 by JJ Koczan

doomstress

Science tells us that if you’ve got three festival appearances in the span of about two weeks, you should probably just make a tour of it. Accordingly, Texas heavybringers Doomstress are setting out on Sept. 25 for a round of shows that will take them to Descendants of Crom in Pittsburgh, Doomed and Stoned in Indianapolis and Heavy Mash in their home state. They’ll start out in Connecticut on the run and head into the Midwest for gigs in Michigan and Wisconsin and Missouri en route to finishing Oct. 13 in Arlington. Having had the chance earlier this year to see them at Maryland Doom Fest (review here), I’ll confirm they put on a killer set, though to be honest with the amount of touring they’ve put in at this point for a band who don’t yet have a full-length out, they damn well better.

And speaking of — Hey Doomstress, how ’bout a record, one of these days?

Maybe we’ll get there in 2019. Until then, there are fests to hit:

doomstress tour dates

Doomstress fall tour run will see the band playing 3 fests as well as dates w/Windhand, Satan’s Satyrs, Come to Grief & Sierra. The band continues to expand their tour reach and will play their 1st shows in the upper northeast.

Doomstress is also officially announcing the inclusion of touring guitarist Matt Taylor as a full member of the band on this tour and the trio will be joined by Spike the Percussionist (of Fiddle Witch & the Demons of Doom) handling drum duties for this tour.

9/25 New London, CT @ 33 Golden St.
9/27 Scranton, PA w/ Come to Grief & Curse the Son
9/28 Pittsburgh, PA @ Descendants of Crom Fest
9/29 Detroit, MI @ w/Sierra & Lucid Furs
9/30 Grand Rapids, MI @ w/Sierra
10/2 Milwaukee, WS @ Cactus Club
10/4 St. Louis, MO @ The Sinkhole
10/5 Indianapolis, IN @ Doomed & Stoned Fest 3
10/10 Houston, TX @ White Oak Music Hall w/Windhand & Satan’s Satyrs
10/13 Arlington, TX @ Division Brewing – Heavy Mash Fest

www.doomstress.com
www.doomstress.bandcamp.com
www.doomstress.bigcartel.com
https://www.facebook.com/DoomstressBand/
instagram.com/Doomstress_band
twitter.com/Doomstress
www.darkhedonisticunion.bigcartel.com
https://www.facebook.com/DHURecords/
https://twitter.com/dhu_records

Doomstress, “Bitter Plea” official video

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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.

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