Posted in Whathaveyou on November 18th, 2016 by JJ Koczan
Preorders have been made available now for Mangog Awakens, the suitably-titled debut offering from oldschool Maryland doomers Mangog, who feature in their ranks Bert Hall, Jr. of Revelation and Beelzefuzz and drummer Mike Rix, formerly of Iron Man. Official release date is Jan. 9, 2017 — not nearly as far off as it sounds — and the album will be out via Argonauta Records, furthering that label’s ties to the Maryland doom scene as established earlier this year when it released the acoustic solo debut from Iron Man frontman Dee Calhoun.
I was fortunate enough to catch Mangog live this past summer at the third evening of Maryland Doom Fest 2016 (review here), and while I wouldn’t necessarily count on it to speak for the album as a whole, the track “Into Infamy” which you can stream below courtesy of the band actually speaks pretty well to the undercurrent of classic heavy metal that seems to run through their work. I guess what I’m saying is that one more or less expects them to doom out considerably at some point or another on Mangog Awakens, slow and low and all that — their live set certainly had those moments, as I remember it — but they’re very clearly not beholden solely to the doom of their region, at least as far as tempo goes. Metal’s always played a large part in the Maryland sound though, so perhaps it’s a question of where the balance ultimately lies on Mangog‘s debut.
We’ll find out after the New Year. Until then, Argonauta posted the art, the following info and the aforementioned stream of “Into Infamy.” Have at it:
MANGOG reveal cover artwork and new song
Baltimore based Doom masters MANGOG reveal cover artwork and first single from their highly anticipated new album.
The song “Into Infamy” is streaming here, a notably shorter and more up tempo example of MANGOG’s brand of doom.
“Mangog Awakens” will be released by ARGONAUTA Records in CD/DD and available from January 9th, 2017. This is a must have for all of you into IRON MAN, REVELATION and CANDLEMASS sonorities.
Posted in Whathaveyou on November 14th, 2016 by JJ Koczan
So I guess we’re pretty much ready to roll on Maryland Doom Fest 2017, right? We’ve had the lineup announced, we’ve got the schedule now. Might be another couple weeks getting t-shirts together — and hoodies; should’ve gotten a hoodie this year, which admittedly is something that occurs to one way less at the end of June than in mid-November — but then I’d say we’re about good to go. No need to wait until next summer on it. Let’s do this thing.
Maybe that’s just me being excited at the prospect of that Friday night lineup, which seems particularly strong front to back — not to take away from any of the other days, but you know I dig me some Lo-Pan — but either way, if Maryland Doom Fest‘s now-three-year tenure has been marked by anything it’s a lack of bullshit. A fervent get-down-to-business-and-kick-as-doing-it mentality. It’s perhaps the most “Maryland doom” aspect to the whole event. Maryland Doom Fest 2017 is clearly no different. Here we are more than half a year from the event kicking off and I know what time I need to be there on Thursday to watch Spillage start the pre-party. This is information I’m glad to have.
If your calendar isn’t marked yet, you might want to get on that:
The Maryland Doom Fest 2017
June 23, 2017 – June 25, 2017
611 N Market St, Frederick, Maryland 21701
SATURDAY JUNE 24 • The Skull 1245 – 150 • Bang! 1140 – 1235 • Wo Fat 1050 – 1130 • The Well 1000 – 1040 • The Watchers 910 – 950 • Hollow Leg 825 – 900 • Iron Man 740 – 815 • Dark Music Theory 655 – 730 • War Injun 610 – 645 • Thonian Horde 525 – 600 • Witches of God 440 – 515 • Black Tar Prophet 355 – 430 • Conclave 305 – 345
SUNDAY JUNE 25 • Headliner 1140 – 1245 • The Atomic Bitchwax 1045 -1130 • Serpents of Secrecy 955 – 1035 • Lightning Born 905 – 945 • Lifetime Shitlist 815 – 855 • Akris 730 – 805 • Burn Thee Insects 645 – 720 • Faith In Jane 600 – 635 • Cavern 515 – 550 • Old Blood 430 – 505 • Horehound 345 – 420
Posted in Whathaveyou on October 31st, 2016 by JJ Koczan
Maryland Doom Fest 2017 has announced its initial lineup, with legendary classic heavy rockers Captain Beyond in the top spot and performances confirmed from The Skull, Borracho, Bang, Lo-Pan, Apostle of Solitude, Beezlefuzz, Wretch, The Atomic Bitchwax, The Well and many, many more. The third iteration of MDDF is set for June 23-25 at Cafe 611 in scenic downtown Frederick, MD — that’s not sarcasm; Frederick’s actually pretty nice these days — and as someone who was fortunate enough to attend the second fest earlier this year (reviews here), and who still considers himself fortunate to have been there even though I couldn’t stand up, my camera broke and the trip cost an extra $900 in auto repair and required an extra trip to MD to pick up said car the next weekend (that same car died the day of this site’s all-dayer, by the way), I’m gonna just tell you outright it’s a good time.
The 2016 lineup gave the Eastern Seaboard’s longest-running doom scene its due and began to step outside those geographic confines a bit as well, bringing in acts like Mos Generator and Atala from the West Coast, Hollow Leg up from Florida, Wizard Eye down from Philly, and so on.
In 2017, organizers JB Matson (also War Injun) and Mark Cruikshank once again up the Maryland Doom Fest‘s stakes, including a pre-show the night before with the Sweet Heat, Beastmaker, Pilgrim, Valkyrie, Weed is Weed and Spillage. One has to imagine there will be some shifts between now and next June, but the initial lineup announcement has been made for MDDF17, and you’ll find it below, accompanied by this year’s poster. I hope to make it back down, and I hope to rent a car to get there.
Mark your calendar for doom:
The Maryland Doom Fest 2017
June 23, 2017 – June 25, 2017
611 N Market St, Frederick, Maryland 21701
Captain Beyond Borracho Lo-Pan Weed is Weed Apostle of Solitude Earthride Beelzefuzz Wretch Demon Eye Brimstone Coven Black Manta Sierra The Skull BANG! Wo Fat Lightning Born The Watchers Hollow Leg Iron Man Dark Music Theory War Injun Thonian Horde Witches of God Black Tar Prophet Conclave The Atomic Bitchwax Serpents of Secrecy The Well Lifetime Shitlist Cavern Burn Thee Insects Faith In Jane Akris Old Blood Horehound Place of Skulls Valkyrie Spillage Beastmaker Sweet Heat Pilgrim
The car died as I pulled it into the spot outside Cafe 611, and it was abundantly clear it would not start again sans professional assistance. Oh, and it’s The Patient Mrs.‘ car. So there’s that.
That puts the tally of busted shit at: my feet (I’ve been wearing a supportive boot cast all weekend, not sure if I’ve mentioned that yet), my camera, and my wife’s car. Maryland Doom Fest 2016, you have thoroughly kicked my ass.
None of that is the fest’s fault, of course. After an awesome two and a half weeks, I was due a couple hits, and if anything, yesterday, the third and final day of the festival with another 11 bands on the bill starting at 3PM, it was the music that kept my head up while I was flipping out about things like waiting for tow trucks, The Patient Mrs. never picking up her phone, how the fuck I’m going to get back to Massachusetts with a dead car so I can start my new job on Tuesday, and so on. I’m thankful for that. Not sure I’d have made it through the afternoon otherwise without spontaneously combusting.
Time to wrap this thing up. If you’ve checked out the reviews of night one or night two, thanks, and thanks for reading this one too.
One more time, hello Frederick:
I’ll admit it was somewhat strange to watch Bert Hall on stage holding a guitar. The longtime Maryland doomer has played bass through the years in Revelation and Against Nature and now is also handling thick strings and fuzzy-hat for Beelzefuzz, but in Mangog it’s guitar and backing vocals to complement those of Myke Wells. Completed by drummer Mike Rix (ex-Iron Man) and bassist Darby Cox, the four-piece announced this week that they’d signed to Argonauta Records for the early 2017 release of their debut album. Presumably most of what they played, whether it was “God” or “Into Infamy” or “Meld,” comes from that record, but they also played two of the three cuts — “Ab Intra” and the title-track — from their 2015 debut EP, Daydreams Within Nightmares. The band played their first show at Maryland Doom Fest last year, and are still finding themselves as a unit, but seemed to be on the right track with their aggressive blend of doom and metal. Wells was also the first frontman to stand on the P.A. speakers in front of the stage, so points there as well.
The first, but not the last. Bassist/vocalist Blake Dellinger of Flummox, in checked leotard regalia and with one eye blacked out, also got on that speaker, in addition to thrashing around just about everywhere else on the Cafe 611 stage as he, guitarist Drew Jones, and drummer/vocalist Jody Lester tore into their raucous stoner thrash, which it’s easy to imagine has been a highlight of the last couple years at house shows in their native Murfreesboro, Tennessee, as well as other haunts around the South lucky enough to book the band. Youth was on their side, sure, but they still delivered one of the weekend’s most energetic sets, and had the chemistry between them to stand up to the force of their delivery. They’re also reportedly responsible for the Tennessean Sludge Fest, which this August features Place of Skulls, Doomstress, Shroud Eater and Order of the Owl, among many others, so clearly doing good work on multiple levels.
Hailing from my beloved Garden State, sludge torquemongers DopeRider proffered massive tones offset by a couple stretches of ambience, putting them in league with the likes of Connecticut’s Sea of Bones or any number of crushers in the post-YOB sphere, and that is a compliment as far as I’m concerned. Their slow-churning, growling, thudding lumber wasn’t the first bout of extremity the weekend had seen — one still recalls Philly’s Black Urn starting off Friday — but it did speak to the expanding definition of what Maryland Doom Fest might continue to encompass. Uniformly brutal in their approach, DopeRider — who released a debut demo last year with the tracks “Drugged up Demonoid” (15:09) and “Fractal Resin” (6:07) — were thankful to the crowd, guitarist/vocalist MP saying that there wasn’t much like this in Jersey. I know from personal experience that’s 100 percent true, but little doubt DopeRider would’ve stood out on the bill whatever the context. Will keep an eye out for what they do next.
I’ll admit that for a decent portion of D.C. residents Seasick Gladiator‘s set, I was outside dealing with the tow truck driver from AAA. Actually he was the second, past the one who tried to jump the car to no avail, so yeah, it took a minute. What I saw of the instrumental outfit offered metallic doom marked out through the use of violin, adding a sense of drama to the material as strings invariably will. They had some progressive edge that didn’t necessarily feel showy or overly self-righteous, and from what I heard sounded pretty fluid. Meanwhile, outside, the car still refused to start — battery? alternator? — and had to be dragged onto the back of the flatbed and hauled off to some local garage. A genuine what the fuck moment, but like I said, the music kept me going. Somehow I doubt it will be the last opportunity to catch Seasick Gladiator, and from the glimpses I got and from watching the end of their set after the truck drove away, their appeal came through even despite distraction.
I’ll never pretend to even feign impartiality about any band Joe Wood is playing in. Aside from being a former bandmate, the Borgo Pass and Eternal Black drummer is among the nicest, most sincere individuals I’ve ever met — King of the Dudes — and whether he’s behind the kit or in the crowd, any day I get to see Joe is a good day, including this one. He is not, however, all that Eternal Black have working in their favor. Atop rolling The Obsessed-style riffs, the NY three-piece with Wood, guitarist/vocalist Ken Wohlrob and bassist Hal Miller, fit right in with the sphere of Maryland doom but had more than a touch of Northeastern intensity to their approach as well, particularly from Wohlrob‘s vocals. The same was true of their first demo (review here), which was released last year, but they had a host of new songs in the set — “Snake Oil and Coffin Nails” was a highlight, along with “Sea of Graves” — and announced plans to record this summer/fall for a debut full-length, which will be one to anticipate. Granted NYC is four to five hours from where I live depending on traffic, but I still felt I probably should’ve seen Eternal Black by now. Glad I got to in such a setting.
North Carolina’s Toke were the only band of the weekend to bring their own lights, and their focus on presentation likewise extended to how they carried themselves on stage, each of the three members putting his full body into the groove of their hard-hit, swinging riffs, seeming way more influenced by Sleep live than on their 2014 demo, High Friends in Low Places (review here), but still marked out on the harsher end of sludge by the vocals, which were on the more searing end of screams. Comprised of Tim, Bronco and Jeremy, they reminded some of Elder‘s Matt Couto in the drumming style, but were on an entirely different trip sonically, and for a band who doesn’t yet have an album out, they had steady command over the stage, the room, and their consuming tonal largesse. Very obviously a band who’s done some road time — they played Denver Electric Funeral Fest earlier this month — and one who’ve dug in hard to their practice space. They were high among the most pleasant surprises at Maryland Doom Fest 2016, all three days.
Foghound were not a surprise, true, but they were a joy to watch all the same. The Baltimore heavy rock kingpins are on the cusp of releasing their second album, The World Unseen (review forthcoming), on Ripple Music, and they absolutely blew me away last fall at Vultures of Volume II (review here), also in Maryland, but to hear those songs now and know them better, whether it’s the ultra-catchy “Rockin’ and Rollin'” or “Message in the Sky,” “Never Return,” “Above the Wake,” “Serpentine,” etc., was an entirely different experience, drummer Chuck Dukehart III and guitarists Bob Sipes and Dee Settar sharing vocal duties while bassist Jim Forrester held down the low end. Playing a set entirely comprised of new material only emphasized how far beyond 2013’s Quick, Dirty and High (review here) they’re ready to be, and like last time I was fortunate enough to catch them, they were air-tight musically, varied in the vocal arrangements and executed their set on a foundation of strong, waiting to be noticed songwriting. I know it kicks ass, but I’m eager to find out how The World Unseen catches on with listeners once it’s out, as I’m sure the band is as well.
Like Foghound before them (and several others), Delaware’s Wasted Theory brought a sampling of their next outing, which is set to be recorded this fall, reportedly, for a 2017 release. I was talking the other night to guitarist/vocalist Larry Jackson, Jr., about the next Wasted Theory and he asked what I’d want to hear on it. Basically what I’d be looking for is a step forward from 2014’s Death and Taxes (review here). I’d want to hear that the band — Jackson, guitarist Dave McMahon, bassist Rob Michael and drummer Brendan Burns — was pushing itself in terms of melody and songcraft. Hard to judge from one live airing, but they seemed to be headed in that direction, bringing a more aggressive edge to some of the Southern groove that on the last album was such a huge part of their take. They still had a definite update-the-’70s classic heavy rock vibe, and Jackson‘s gravely vocals added burl as ever, but that progression that one might hope to hear in their sound came through at Cafe 611. They still have to record the next LP, but hopefully it follows suit when it arrives.
I’ve seen dark Virginian rockers King Giant a handful of times now — three or four, maybe, most recently at the aforementioned Vultures of Volume II (review here) — and their sheer have-their-shit-together factor remains hugely impressive. Dudes know exactly what they want their songs to do, where they want to put that Todd Ingram solo, what the verse is moving toward, etc. Vocalist Dave Hammerly had two mics setup with various kinds of compression, and the double-guitar five-piece proceeded to do their thing, which is to offer up grooving slabs of moody Southern heavy, bordering on metal in their attitude but really more about atmosphere than aggression, or at least about toying with that balance. “Requiem for a Drunkard” from 2015’s Black Ocean Waves (review here) was a high point sonically if a particularly downer vibe, but really, King Giant are in league with the safer bets you might make when it comes to quality of craft and performance in their style. It’s not always what I’m looking for stylistically, but for as much as King Giant put into their band, it’s impossible not to respect them.
Karma to Burn
Kind of hard to believe it’s been nearly five years since the last time I saw Karma to Burn. Night and day. With the lineup of founding guitarist Will Mecum, bassist Eric Clutter and drummer Evan Devine the West Virginian instrumental powerhouse were in nothing but top form for their set. One might expect them to be on after having just done a month on the road with The Obsessed across the US, but propelled by Devine‘s crash, they rode Mecum‘s riffing with an energy I’ve never seen from them. The most recent cut they played was “57” from 2014’s Arch Stanton (review here) — though I thought I heard part of “62” as well — and of course their signature piece, “20” from 1999’s Wild Wonderful Purgatory was aired to a particularly fervent response. They were the only band of the weekend so far as I saw who elicited anything close to moshing, and it was well-earned. Just a killer show, front to back, and while I know Karma to Burn has a history of burning through rhythm sections, what Clutter and Devine bring to the band alongside Mecum isn’t to be understated. True power trio form, continually without compromise or bullshit.
“We’ve been here since eight o’clock,” said Mos Generator frontman Tony Reed, “and I’m drunk.” To be fair, it was long past eight by the time the Port Orchard, Washington, heavy rockers took the stage for their headlining/fest-closing set. My fingers were crossed they’d have copies of their new album, Abyssinia (review forthcoming), but no dice. Bought a shirt instead. Their set launched at a furious clip and did not relent, drummer Jon Garrett stepping up to righteously follow what Evan Devine brought to Karma to Burn as bassist Sean Booth served to anchor the material and bolster the impact of Reed‘s guitar. “Lonely One Kenobi” was an early highlight, followed by “There’s No Return from Nowhere” from the new record and “Breaker” and the title-track from 2014’s Electric Mountain Majesty (review here), Reed, of whom I’ll make no bones about being a fan, letting his vocals soar for the latter while completely owning the stage and bringing the room along with him. Hard not to smile watching him on stage — someone so obviously born to do what he’s doing who then set about working really, really hard at it for decades — and he kept the intensity of performance going until the house lights came up as they played “This is the Gift of Nature.” The room had thinned out somewhat by then, as it will, but after a full hour of go-go-go, there was zero slowdown whatsoever. Some bands just want to rock and roll, and Mos Generator do so with a pure reverence for the form that few would dare attempt to match. They were absolutely on fire.
As I write this, I’m on the road in a rental car, headed back north. I start my new job tomorrow. The Patient Mrs., who was visiting family elsewhere in the state, came and picked me up in a rental car and is currently driving me and Postman Dan, who came along for the trip, north. As there’s been no word from the mechanic that the car got towed to, I’ll have to drive back to Frederick on Friday to pick it up. Serves me right for something, I’m sure. Unanswered emails, perhaps.
Before I cut out, I want to thank JB Matson and Mark Cruikshank for having me on board as a sponsor and for having me down to cover Maryland Doom Fest 2016. I know these reviews have been somewhat fraught in their context, but Matson and Cruikshank put on a hell of a show over these three days, and should be commended both for the efforts and the results yielded. I can only hope they keep it going and hope they’ll have me involved again next year.
If they do, I think next time I might just fly in. But I always say that.
I don’t think it’s the record for how many bands I’ve seen in one day, but it has to be close. After a pummeling Day One at Cafe 611 (review here), Day Two of Maryland Doom Fest 2016 featured a whopping, nigh-on-overwhelming 12 acts, starting at 2:15PM and running until shortly before 2AM. Joy among joys, my camera continues to be non-functional, but I did the best I could with my phone and kept it at that. Not sure what I’m going to do about that one yet. Cry a little? Yeah, maybe. Maybe on the way home.
For now, as Jesse “The Body” Ventura once so eloquently put it, “I ain’t got time to bleed.” Day Three starts in a scant couple hours and after two days of marathon nonstop heavy, I’m ready to get back into the fray. Let’s do this thing.
Iron Man frontman Dee Calhoun recently released his debut solo record, Rotgut (review here), and provided a direct contrast in how the second day started at Maryland Doom Fest 2016 as compared to the first, which opened with Black Urn, who I think remain the most extreme sludge act of the weekend so far. “Screaming Mad Dee” played acoustic heavy metal blues, joined on semi-unplugged bass by Iron Man bandmate and all-around master of things low-end Louis Strachan, and started his set with the album-opener “Unapologetic,” which I suspect is something of a creedo for the singer. Maybe I should say singer/guitarist, since Calhoun proved his mettle on the latter throughout the set, bringing out his son, Rob Calhoun, for a particularly touching rendition of “Little Houn Daddy Houn” that was as genuinely heartwarming as anything I’ve ever seen at a heavy show, and closing out with a cover of Black Sabbath‘s “Snowblind,” the solo for which is a test for any guitar player. Bolstered by Strachan taking on Geezer Butler basslines — talk about “in your element” — Dee nailed it, and the filing-in early crowd, who caught on to shout “cocaine!” for the second verse, was glad to be along for the ride.
Thousand Vision Mist
Fronted by guitarist/vocalist Danny Kenyon and taking their name from the debut of his former band, Life Beyond, the three-piece Thousand Vision Mist offered one of the day’s most individualized takes on a doomed approach, their progressive turns enacted fluidly by the rhythm section of Tony Comulada (who’d also play later with War Injun) and drummer Chris Sebastian. It hasn’t been that long since I saw them for the first time last fall at Vultures of Volume II (review here), and the impression at MDDF wasn’t much different. People were still filing in as Kenyon and company made their way through the memorable “Darklight” and “Tears of the Moon,” the second of which also served as the centerpiece of their 2015 demo, which was available at the merch table and is their only release to-date so far as I know. They closed with another cut from that initial offering, “Heart String Wild Fire Blues,” finding a place for themselves between Rush and The Obsessed. Not at all bad territory to stake out.
Minnesota’s Wicked Inquisition said early into their set that this was “in all likelihood” their last show ever. The band formed in 2008 and released their self-titled debut (review here) last year after a demo and a couple EPs, blending oldschool thrash, classic metal and doom fluidly on cuts like “M.A.D.” and “Death of Man.” I don’t know for sure, but I’d assume part of the reason they’re calling it quits is that guitarist/vocalist Nate Towle has joined Virginia-based Satan’s Satyrs, and that’s a hell of a back and forth from MN to VA. Whether or not the breakup is permanent is of course up to the future, but Towle, guitarist Ben Stevens, bassist Jordan Anderson and drummer Jack McKoskey leaned toward doom as one of the weapons in their arsenal to be broken out when called for and otherwise kept their metallic tinge shining via some slow-Slayer dual-guitar to keep the crowd hooked. It worked. Cheers to Towle on getting the Satan’s Satyrs gig, which seems like a good one if you want to tour, and best of luck to everyone in Wicked Inquisition going forward. I’m glad I got to see them while I could.
Long-running Baltimorean outfit Ironboss are about to issue what may or may not be their first album in more than a decade in the form of Rock Fuck Fight, and their set brought the further intrigue of featuring Bruce Falkinburg — hardly recognizable with short-cropped hair from the last time I saw him, which admittedly was years ago when he was playing with The Hidden Hand — on guitar. The burly brand of heavy the five-piece elicited was much less sludge than I thought it would be, I couldn’t help but have a harsher impression thinking back to 2001’s Guns Don’t Kill People… Ironboss Does!!, but I guess that was 15 years ago and a different lineup. Granted, there was a touch of chaos in the atmosphere, almost punkish, but the songs resided in a mid-paced push, comfortable but still aggressive. They apparently just tracked six songs live with J. Robbins, so it would seem that Ironboss have returned to kill again.
Been a couple years and a 2015 self-titled debut since I saw Chicago’s Spillage make their stage debut at Days of the Doomed II in Wisconsin (review here), but my prevailing memories of the the band were still positive. Members of the Trouble family tree via founding guitarist Tony Spillman, who’s worked with that legendary Midwestern outfit for some untold number of years, and through Spillman‘s tenure in Earthen Grave, they for sure had that aspect to their sound, but the energy of their delivery and the classic metal vibe that guest-frontman Elvin Rodriguez brought with him in his Dio-style presentation was well suited to making an impression of their own. Along with album tracks like “In Hell,” opener “The Darkness” and “Land of Opportunity,” Spillage closed out with the Cliff Richard cover “Devil Woman,” which also appeared on the record and which they played when last I saw them as well. A staple, then. Hard to argue. After 12 bands, that swinging hook remained among the most prevalent on my mental jukebox.
What a joy it is to watch Wizard Eye play. The Philly trio roll heavy grooves beamed in from sonicstonersubspace and the obvious pleasure they take in doing so is infectious. Another act who played Vultures of Volume II last fall (review here), they’ve since released their self-titled 2015 sophomore album (review here), with its excellently crusted take on heavy vibes. Guitarist Erik Caplan had his theremin handy, as always, but along with the caveman shouts from bassist Dave Shahriari and the steady swing from drummer Mike Scarpone, what came through most to me this time around was how killer a guitar player Caplan is. With that theremin, he could easily drop out during solo sections and wail on the theremin, its squealing awesomeness taking the place of any guitar work. Instead, he absolutely shreds out leads and then lights up the theremin on a cut like “C.O.C.” from 2010’s Orbital Rites debut. So it’s adding to the sound, rather than compensating for something not there. It makes all the difference seeing them do a set, which I’m glad to do every single time I’m able.
Along with Holly Hunt, Shroud Eater and a couple others, Jacksonville’s Hollow Leg are among the principal reasons to be sad when the polar ice caps melt and Florida sinks under rising sea levels. The four-piece of vocalist Scott Angelacos, guitarist/vocalist Brent Lynch, bassist Tom Crowther and drummer Tim Creter have never failed in my experience to deliver lethal sludge like some fucked-up cousin of Sourvein, but as 2016’s Crown (review here) showcased, their sound has only grown richer over the years and they brought that feel to Maryland Doom Fest 2016 in “Seaquake,” “Electric Veil” and “Coils” along with the earlier digital single “God Eater” (posted here). With Lynch adding to Angelacos‘ dudely rasp, the vibe was even more unhinged as they played, and next to Wizard Eye they seemed only to build on the intensity of volume and heft while keeping the vicious push moving forward. Labelmates with Dee Calhoun on Argonauta Records, they’ve been on the road with Irata for the better part of a week and sounded tight enough to make one believe they were a few shows deep. Clearly too abrasive for some, but I thought they were right on.
I guess they went with the name War Injun because calling themselves “Maryland Doom Allstars” would sound too much like a softball team. Fronted by Internal Void‘s J.D. Williams, featuring, as noted, bassist Tony Comulada, along with guitarists Russ Strahan (ex-Pentagram, as well as Weed is Weed and many others) and Kenny Staubs (Outside Truth), and drummer JB Matson — one of the organizers of Maryland Doom Fest 2016 — it’s a formidable grouping nonetheless. Their groove was likewise formidable. Matson didn’t make it easy for his own outfit, putting them after Wizard Eye and Hollow Leg as a lead-in for Brimstone Coven, but War Injun not only pulled one of the night’s best crowds, they absolutely leveled the place. Williams, who’d performed the night before with Internal Void, remained a complete madman on stage, and the riffs from Staubs and Strahan were classic Maryland doom through and through, peppered with more aggressive push. Last time I saw them was Stoner Hands of Doom XI in 2011 (review here), and they hit even harder than I remembered.
Like Castle yesterday, I feel like I came out of Brimstone Coven‘s set with an entirely deeper appreciation for what the West Virginian outfit does. Next month, they hit the road for a handful of Midwestern dates with Castle, as it happens, and both bands are ones that you just have to see live to really understand. That’s not to take away from what Brimstone Coven — “Big John” Williams on vocals, Corey Roth on guitar/vocals, Andrew D’Cagna bass/vocals and Justin Wood on drums — were able to do on their 2016 debut LP, Black Magic (review here), but the impression they made on stage was on a different level, Williams, Roth and D’Cagna coming together to completely nail down vocal harmonies over weighted doom riffing, shedding some of the cult rock vibe of the record in favor of an almost progressive feel with moments of brash heavy rock for counterweight. It was the kind of set that made me want to go back and take another look at the album, the highlight being “Slow Death,” which seemed at first like a strange one for Williams to shout out “to the ladies,” but ultimately made sense in light of the lyrics. They were the day’s most pleasant surprise, though I probably shouldn’t have been surprised.
Of all the sets I’ve seen vocalist Eric Wagner perform — and at this point I’ve seen him perform a few — he always looks like he’s having the best time with Blackfinger. Granted, he was all smiles at Roadburn this year with The Skull as well, but there’s a level of appreciation for some of Blackfinger‘s more Beatlesian melancholy in tracks like “I am Jon” and “On Tuesday Morning,” both from their 2014 self-titled debut (review here), that comes through visually on stage and in the vibrant presentation of the material. Having Terry Weston of Penance/Dream Death on guitar doesn’t hurt either, but with guitarist Matthew Tuite, bassist Matthew Cross and drummer David Snyder, the lineup did justice to Wagner‘s legacy in Trouble as well as their own sonic persona. As always, Wagner‘s charisma as a frontman made him a focal point, but that’s nothing new for him, and he handled the room with his usual laid back flair. Somehow it wouldn’t seem like a doom fest if he didn’t show up in one outfit or another. He carries so much of the essence of the sound with him wherever he goes.
Place of Skulls
Once again, in the tonal battle of Victor Griffin vs. the universe, Victor Griffin wins by a landslide. It took Place of Skulls a while to get going — something with the guitar stack, I don’t know — but once the set started, the trio were among the highlights of the weekend so far. With the night’s biggest crowd at attention, Griffin held court alongside his Death Row bandmate Lee Abney on bass/backing vocals and drummer Russell Lee Padgett, but I could be wrong. It’s been six years since they released As A Dog Returns (review here) — though the 2013 self-titled debut from the short-lived In~Graved project (review here) seems to have been rebranded as a Place of Skulls release this year — and five years since last I saw them play, but for it being the first time in a while, Place of Skulls were very much still Place of Skulls, the band who released one of the best American doom records of all time in 2003’s With Vision, from which they aired the title-track, “The Monster,” “Long Lost Grave” and “Last Hit” along with a cover of The Animals‘ “Misunderstood” that has become a regular feature in Griffin-related sets, be it with In~Graved or Pentagram. Like Eric Wagner, Griffin takes a lot of who he is from band to band, and his mark on doom is unmistakable.
I’ve seen Bang play upwards of 15 times on two different continents in the last two or three years, and they’ve never been a letdown. Like the day started easing into the heavy with Dee Calhoun‘s acoustic set, Bang — who also had a new drummer — provided the sweet swing that would smooth the way out. The classic heavy rockers, playing to support reissues of their catalog on Svart Records, were given a rousing introduction by Dave Sherman of The Obsessed, who cited them as a major influence for Maryland doom as a whole and his career specifically. From there, Frankie Gilcken launched the opening riff of “Keep On,” and Bang were underway. Bassist/vocalist Frank Ferrara was in top form through “Lions… Christians,” “The Maze” and the ballad “Last Will and Testament,” which was given its usual intro. It was late and the room had dissipated somewhat, but Bang‘s tones were as warm and inviting as ever, and plenty of people held on until the finish, savoring every moment they could get. Again, not by any means my first time at the dance with these cats (except the drummer), but they remain something truly special to watch and are a testament to the enduring appeal of heavy’s essential formative years.
Within minutes of getting back to the Super 8 after the show, I was falling asleep. Still, I felt better after last night than Friday, and with 11 more bands playing tonight, that’s probably a good thing. First band starts in about two hours, and I need coffee, so I’m gonna take care of that as priority one and then go from there.
It was a hell of a ride, and by that I mean I sat in traffic from about 8:30 in the morning until I walked into Cafe 611 in Frederick, Maryland, just in time for the start of the first band at 5:15PM. I soon found that my plan to not wear the supportive boot for my continuing ankle pain was, let’s say, ambitious. Basically I couldn’t stand up for more than like five minutes at a time. Fortunately the boot was in the car. Then my camera broke.
This is the part where normally I’d say “some you win, some you lose,” but the quality of the first night of Maryland Doom Fest 2016 — the second edition of the festival put on by JB Matson and Mark Cruikshank; still kicking myself for missing it last year — was such that I couldn’t really feel too down about any of the above, except perhaps the camera, which served me well for half a decade and hopefully I’ll be able to have fixed in the near term, no doubt at significant cost. Not for this weekend, though. Bummer.
Well. Now that I think I’ve gotten all or at least most of the bitching out of the way, we can get down to business. Like I said, I watched from the first band on, as much as I was able, and got pictures on my phone after the camera went down. I did the best I could.
Alright, here goes:
Clearly a trial by fire for the room. Some fests might try to ease the audience into the event; Maryland Doom Fest 2016 not so much. Philadelphia’s Black Urn would wind up being the most extreme band of the night, digging their way into vicious sludge metal topped by growls and screams exclusively, proffered through two guitars finding balance in the mix with bass that seemed utterly dominant at first but soon enough evened out. That kind of stuff runs the risk of coming across as samey when you don’t know the songs — they have a 2015 demo and a 2016 EP, The Pangs of Our Covenant, out, but this was my first exposure to them — but Black Urn knew when to change the pace up, and their faster parts had a heavy rock edge to them that set well alongside the grueling brutalities they fostered otherwise. Plus vocalist John Jones wore an Iron Monkey t-shirt, and that’s just about always going to earn some extra points in my book.
The Californian heavy atmospheric doom rockers were a treat for anyone who showed up early, playing through a considerable investment portfolio of amplification, fresh-looking Oranges and Sunn for the guitar of Kyle Stratton and the bass of John Chavarria, while drummer Jeff Tedtaotao punctuated the massive rolling grooves elicited from them. They’d been on tour for about a week supporting the recently-released, Billy Anderson-produced Shaman’s Path of the Serpent (stream here; review here), and “Gravity” was a highlight of the set, which rightly focused on the new album and its ambient largesse, in which one can hear shades of anything from YOB to Neurosis to Deftones in Stratton‘s vocals to Tool in some of their quiet, winding parts. It’s a varied blend, and they can make it move as well when they want, but they were impressively fluid front to back, and seemed most at home with the three of them locked into any number of lumbering progressions, of which they offered plenty.
I’ve been watching Admiral Browning play shows for more than a decade. I say this not to brag about having seen the band a bunch of times, but to emphasize the point that when they take a given stage, I still don’t know what to expect. Oh, you can be sure that guitarist Matt LeGrow, bassist Ron “Fezz” McGinnis and drummer Tim Otis will offer dizzying technicality and frenetic groove, but just where they might take that is perpetually up in the air. Their 2015 tape EP, Corvette Summer (review here), found them experimenting further with incorporating vocals into their long-instrumentally-focused sound, and it worked. At Maryland Doom Fest 2016, it wasn’t a question. Both LeGrow and McGinnis had mics and used them liberally. I’ll admit it was a somewhat jarring sight — as I said, they were strictly instrumental for a long time — but they’ve developed relentlessly over their years together, and that process obviously continues unabated. Nothing new to say I’m looking forward to what they do next, but it’s true all the same. Way underappreciated band.
Probably should’ve seen these cats by now. Led by guitarist/vocalist Erik Sugg, North Carolina’s Demon Eye have been tearing it up on the Eastern Seaboard for the last couple years, also journeying west this past April to tour alongside Disenchanter in support of their second record, 2015’s Tempora Infernalia (review here), and after hearing such encouraging things about their stage presence, yeah, it felt overdue. Sugg was indeed very much in the lead position, bantering with the crowd between songs, headbanging and stomping in classic rock style, backed by drummer Bill Egan on vocals and lead guitarist Larry Burlison while Paul Walz‘s Rickenbacker tied it all together in the low end. They opened with “End of Days” and closed with “Sons of Man,” both from the new record, but “From Beyond” from 2014’s Leave the Light (review here) was a highlight as well, their songs upbeat. In my notes, it just says “ace songwriting,” so we’ll leave it at that, and while I’ll admit some of their cult themes leave me a little cold, both their craft and the energy of their performance are absolutely undeniable.
With guitarist/vocalist Greg Diener and drummer Darin McCloskey both now in Beelzefuzz and bassist/backing vocalist Ron “Fezz” McGinnis sharing his time with Admiral Browning and several other projects, Pale Divine has kind of become a part-time institution, but in all the years I’ve seen them — I think the first time was in Philly with The Hidden Hand, circa ’04 — they’ve never failed to deliver on their particular kind of woeful traditional doom. Though they’re not actually from the state, they were a perfect centerpiece for Maryland Doom Fest 2016’s first night, and the assembled crowd, younger and older, showed their appreciation duly. As I was dealing with my just-busted camera, I’ll admit my attention was somewhat divided, but Pale Divine don’t screw around on stage, and they closed their set playing something they’ve never played before. Diener gave the title but of course I missed it, in the back fumbling with the camera battery and lens as I was, sadly to no avail. The doom felt perhaps even more appropriate in such a context.
Ruby the Hatchet
Philly-region five-piece Ruby the Hatchet are on something of a mini-tour this week, up the Northeast in the formidable company of Black Mountain. Not at all their first run in support of last year’s way-right-on Valley of the Snake (review here), but they’ve also reissued their first record, Ouroboros, on vinyl through Tee Pee Records, and I’d imagine when the chance to do shows with a group like Black Mountain crops up, or to, say, play Maryland Doom Fest 2016 on the night The Obsessed are headlining, it’s a thing you do your best to make happen. Starting off their set with the memorable “Heavy Blanket” from Valley of the Snake, they jammed profusely and featured what I think might be the weekend’s only on-stage organ, so bonus points there. Vocalist Jillian Taylor was in firm command on stage, her vocals run through a close delay for a live-doubletracking effect that only made their cultistry seem more resonant. Taylor, together with bassist Lake Muir, guitarist John Scarperia, drummer Owen Stewart and organist Sean Hur, have pretty clearly mastered the post-Uncle Acid blend of hooks and bounce, and set about reshaping them to suit their own melodic purposes. One expects that will be a process that plays out over the next several years/albums, but they were impressively tight and for my first time seeing them, I was glad I finally did.
Speaking of bands I should’ve seen before — as I realize I have a couple times at this point — fucking Castle. The hard-touring San Francisco outfit sounded so much like a group used to being on the road. Some bands just develop that thing. They show up in a room, assess the place, the people, the sound, say, “Okay, we can kick ass here,” and then do. That’s exactly what Castle did. They’re the kind of band who could make you believe in heavy metal. A lot of what they played was new — they’re touring to herald the arrival of their new album, Welcome to the Graveyard, which is out July 12 on Ván Records — and their righteously individualized blend of thrash, traditional metal, doom, heavy rock and roll, etc., speaks to some mystical bygone era when metal was about not compromising, putting a fist in the air against expectation and going on tour forever. Castle were so deep into what they were doing that I think they could’ve been anywhere and it would’ve been the same, that trance taking hold early on as they locked in and holding sway for the duration of their set, which seemed short when it was over. They’ve made themselves pretty available for in-person experience over the years, and now I understand why. I don’t think it’s really possible to get them until you see them live. I’m late to the party on that one, I know, but they didn’t seem to care if it was somebody’s first time, fifth time, or however-manyeth time seeing them. Everyone got their ass handed to them equally.
Not to toot my own horn, but I said not too long ago that if you get the chance to see Internal Void, you should do it, and their hour-long set at Cafe 611 only affirmed the truth of that. The four-piece of vocalist J.D. Williams, guitarist Kelly Carmichael, bassist Adam Heinzmann and drummer Brian Goad packed out the room shoulder to shoulder and were clearly as glad to see the hometown crowd as the hometown crowd was to see them, even before Carmichael started shredding out solos, before Williams widened his eyes and loosed his gravely sneer, and before they brought out original drummer Eric Little to play a couple cuts from 1993’s Standing on the Sun, marking the first time that album’s full lineup had shared the stage in 23 years. With their own banner behind them, Internal Void epitomized Maryland doom. Their workingman’s grooves, classic edge and sans-bullshit delivery spoke to everything that has allowed the scene in and around Frederick to flourish for the last three decades to where it is now and where it’s headed in the future. Last time I saw Internal Void was at the Afterburner for Roadburn 2012, and several others remarked that it had been several years since they last played, so that might well have been their most recent show. Either way, they brought it hard for the Maryland Doom Fest 2016 crowd and were a joy to watch. If you get the chance to see them, do it. Don’t hesitate.
I’m not sure anyone would’ve been a better fit to headline Maryland Doom Fest than The Obsessed. I mean that wholeheartedly. Their legacy as a band — only more so now that guitarist/vocalist Scott “Wino” Weinrich has brought in his Spirit Caravan bandmate Dave Sherman (recent interview here) on bass/backing vocals, alongside new drummer Brian Costantino — is so tied to that of Maryland doom that you just don’t have the one without the other. Their set might be considered a victory lap for the month-long tour they just did with Karma to Burn (who also play this weekend) as much as a precursor to their hitting the studio with Frank “The Punisher” Marchand in a couple weeks to record their first album since 1994. In addition to The Obsessed staples “Neatz Brigade,” “Streamlined,” “Protect and Serve” and “Blind Lightning,” they worked in a couple Spirit Caravan cuts, among them “Retroman” and the ultra-rolling “Sea Legs.” It was late, and the room began to thin out some as they made their way toward the close of the evening with “Freedom,” but in giving a look at some newer material with the speedy “Be the Night” and the more expansive “Sacred” (which has been kicking around Spirit Caravan sets for a few years now and has older roots), The Obsessed looked ahead in addition to celebrating their legacy, and that seemed no less appropriate. Even after Internal Void, they held the room wrapt, and there was zero doubt to whom the night ultimately belonged.
Next show starts in a little over an hour, so I gotta get moving. No extra pics on account of the broken camera, but thanks for reading anyway.
After an initial foray into Maryland doom with the release of Iron Man frontman Dee Calhoun‘s solo record earlier this month, Italian imprint Argonauta Records has announced another pickup from that crabbiest of states — newcomer outfit Mangog. The group, which features bassist Bert Hall, also of Beelzefuzz and formerly of Revelation, and drummer Mike Rix, formerly of Iron Man, will make their full-length debut through the label early next year with the ominously-titled Mangog Awakens, a follow-up for their initial EP, Daydreams Within Nightmares.
Looking forward to getting a glimpse of these guys live at Maryland Doom Fest this weekend. The label sent the following background info along with word of the signing:
ARGONAUTA RECORDS – NEW SIGNING: MANGOG
Beyond proud to announce that US doomsters MANGOG are now part of our family!
Mangog is a doom metal band based out of Baltimore, Maryland. Formed by bassist Bert Hall Jr. (Revelation and Against Nature), Drummer Stephen Branagan (Revelation, Against Nature and Yet So Far), Major Company’s Bassist Darby Cox and Final Answer’s Vocalist Myke Wells. In February of 2015 Drummer Mike Rix (formally of doom legends IRON MAN) replaced Steve Branagan.
After a year of REVELATION and AGAINST NATURE being on hiatus, bassist Bert Hall Jr. (now on guitar and vocals) assembled a lineup to form a dark alliance founded on the copious use of punishingly heavy riffs, odd ball time signatures (13/8 anyone?) and dystopian lyrics. The band entered the studio in March 2015 and recorded their debut EP titled “Daydreams Within Nightmares”. One year later in 2016 the band completed recording its first full length CD “Mangog Awakens”, and was signed to Argonauta Records.
The band says: “Mangog would like to thank Gero for singing us to Argonauta Records, he has fastly become our fifth band member in a sense and we look forward to his expertise and guidance in our future collaboration with this great label.”
The album MANGOG AWAKENS will be released in CD/DD by early 2017.
MANGOG are: Myke Wells – Vocals Bert Hall Jr. – Guitars/Vocals Darby Cox – Bass Mike Rix – Drums
Admittedly, I’ve got Maryland doom on the brain. Next weekend is Maryland Doom Fest 2016 at Cafe 611 in Fredrick (info here), and as a part of a stellar lineup that reaches well outside genre confines, Internal Void will put in a rare appearance that includes a guest spot from former drummer Eric Little (see also Earthride and the most recent offering from Church of Misery), marking the first time the complete Standing on the Sun lineup will be on the same stage in nearly a quarter-century.
To listen now to Standing on the Sun, issued in 1993 through Germany’s Hellhound Records, it’s a prototype workingman’s doom that bands around the Frederick area continue to build on to this day. As did concurrent groups like The Obsessed, Revelation, Wretched, Unorthodox and Iron Man, Internal Void set themselves to the task of refining a Sabbathian ethic on sans-frills principles, rolling out bluesy grooves in songs like “Take a Look” after beginning the album with a foreboding chug on “Warhorse” and before creeping their way through the title-track and the acoustic melancholy of the later “Eclipsed.” It’s worth noting that all of the above-listed bands issued albums between 1991 and 1993 via Hellhound, as did Saint Vitus, Pigmy Love Circus, Lost Breed, Count Raven and Year Zero, among others, and though located on a different continent, that label’s contributions to this pivotal formative stage of Maryland doom aren’t to be understated. Internal Void‘s Standing on the Sun remains a prime example of the attitude and aesthetic of Maryland doom, and even 23 years later, its roughed-up-Candlemass vibes ring through loud and clear of a time when doom and metal were in many ways far more interchangeable than they are today.
In addition to Little on drums, the band at the time was comprised of vocalist J.D. Williams, guitarist Kelly Carmichael and bassist Adam Heinzmann. Williams also fronts War Injun, and Carmichael and Heinzmann have done the requisite stints in Pentagram, but Internal Void remains a standout from their contemporaries. After Standing on the Sun, it would be seven years before their second album, Unearthed, arrived in 2000, and four after that for the follow-up, Matricide. They reissued their 1991 Voyages demo in time to sell copies at Roadburn 2012, which was where I last saw them — by coincidence, The Obsessed also played and will be at Maryland Doom Fest 2016 as well — and I’ve seen no indication of future plans past this one-off appearance. The basic operating rule seems to be that if you can see Internal Void, see them, because you never know when the chance will come again.
Getting there will require a bit of travel on my part, but next week is also the Quarterly Review, so keep an eye out for that. 50 reviews between next Monday and Friday. I expect by the end of it I’ll be very much ready to get out and see a show. We start Monday. Have I started putting any of it together yet? No I have not. As I’m also going to New York tomorrow and New Jersey on Sunday, I expect it’s going to be quite a weekend.
I want to thank Diane Farris aka Diane Kamikaze for having me down to WFMU once again for an appearance on her show, The Kamikaze Fun Machine. It was a pleasure and an honor to share the airwaves with her once again for two hours, and thank you as well if you had the chance to tune in. If not, the show is archived and available to check out here: https://wfmu.org/playlists/DK.
Of course, the focus next week is the Quarterly Review and travel to Maryland, but also look out for new videos from Mars Red Sky (along with a cool announcement), Kadavar, Telstar Sound Drone and Soon A.D., and a bunch of other news as well that I’m already behind on. This was my second week of unemployment before I start my new job at Hasbro, and it was fantastic. Really, this entire period has just completely underscored how ready I am to retire. I mean that. I’m not even kidding.
Gonna go head to the farmer’s market in a bit and get my hair cut, then enjoy a quiet evening with The Patient Mrs. before tomorrow brings its own brand of chaos. I hope you have a great and safe weekend, and thank you for reading.