Doom Hawg Day 2020: Galactic Cross, Faith in Jane, Bailjack & More to Play

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 2nd, 2020 by JJ Koczan

maryland doom fest doom hawg day 2020 logo

Just what the hell is a Doom Hawg? Show up in Frederick for Doom Hawg Day 2020 and find out. Plus see a bunch of bands. So, win all around.

The burgeoning February one-dayer was started last year by the same crew that puts together Maryland Doom Fest, headed by Knoxxville‘s own JB Matson, and it very much carries the MDDF feel. For one thing, it’s in the same place. Also, it’s got a few of the same bands. Bailjack, Faith in Jane, Knoxxville and The Age of Truth are veterans of the venerable June event, and Strange Highways, Cavern, Galactic Cross and Wrath of Typhon have been announced for the 2020 lineup — so yes, very much on-brand for Maryland Doom Fest. One expects that will lead to a big ol’ zero amount of complaints, however. Loyalty runs deep in Frederick, and a fest like this becomes as much of a family gathering as it does a rock show. The fact that you don’t necessarily have to have been to them since the beginning of time to become a part of that family is a considerable appeal unto itself. Especially, I’d expect, for first-timers.

And compared to MDDF proper, which is expanding again this year with the addition of Old Mother Brewing Company taking the place of Guidos Speakeasy as a second venue — it looks like a bigger room, so that’s a plus — Doom Hawg Day 2020 is downright manageable. Starts at four, probably ends late, but whatever. It’s one night and killer bands. Kind of a no-brainer.

Worth noting that Bailjack and Galactic Cross will both have new records out by the time February rolls around as well, which is bound to add to the celebratory vibe that will surely counteract the six more weeks of winter decreed by that shitheel marmot in Pennsylvania.

From the social medias:

maryland doom fest doom hawg day 2020

MDDF Doom Hawg Day 2020

Saturday, February 1, 2020 at 4 PM
Cafe 611
611 N Market St, Frederick, Maryland

We are pleased to present the MDDF DOOM HAWG DAY 2020 lineup!!!

Artwork by our very own Bill Kole!!

Faith in Jane
Bailjack
Galactic Cross
Wrath of Typhon
Cavern
Knoxxville
Strange Highways
The Age of Truth
Et Mors

https://www.facebook.com/events/509386783257850/
https://www.facebook.com/MdDoomFest/
https://www.instagram.com/marylanddoomfest/
www.marylanddoomfest.com

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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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Galactic Cross Announce Self-Titled Debut LP Release Show for Jan. 31

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 13th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

galactic cross

I’m not actually sure how far back the roots of Galactic Cross stretch, but I could’ve sworn I saw somewhere on the social medias that their first live appearance was like 30 years in the making? If that’s the case, then I have no doubt it will have proven more than enough time to get a setlist together. The three-piece with none other than Dave Sherman (EarthrideWeed is Weed, etc.) on vocals and bass will make this live debut on Jan. 31, 2020, at Atlas Brew House in Washington, D.C., on what seems to be an evening of Frederick, Maryland, exports, with Mangog (featuring Bert Hall, Jr., of Revelation, and of an always masterful hat) and Spiral Grave, which is the new band from former members of Iron Man and Virginia’s Lord.

And though Spiral Grave‘s debut is also expected out sometime next year, it’s Galactic Cross for whom the show will serve as the release gig, as their self-titled debut long-player sees its vinyl issue, also awaited. I’m interested to hear it, as some of the studio clips have been intriguing to say the least.

Here’s the info from the event page:

galactic cross show poster.jp

Galactic Cross Vinyl Release Party

Friday, January 31, 2020 at Atlas Brew Works
2052 West Virginia Avenue North East, Washington, D.C.

Please come out and help celebrate Galactic Cross, as they release their debut, self titled album, and take the stage with friends, and local doom favorites Spiral Grave and Mangog.

Galactic Cross put their own blood, sweat, and tears into the making of this vinyl, and the proof can be heard in the finished product. Special thanks goes out to Brad Divens for mastering the material, and giving his special twist, that allowed it to be become the gem it transformed into.

Dave Davidson will be running sound for the event, and we hope to see you there.

Set Times:
Mangog – 8:00 – 8:45
Spiral Grave – 9:00 – 10:00
Galactic Cross – 10:15 – 11:45

https://www.facebook.com/MangogOfficial/

https://www.facebook.com/SpiralGrave/

https://www.facebook.com/galacticcross/

There will be a $10 cover at the door, and Galactic Cross will have vinyl, and logo tees onhand at the event.

Galactic Cross is:
Tony Saunders – Drums
Brian Virts – Guitar
Dave Sherman – Bass/vocals

https://www.facebook.com/events/2227404090890196/
https://www.facebook.com/galacticcross/

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Maryland Doom Fest 2020 Announces Full Lineup

Posted in Whathaveyou on October 31st, 2019 by JJ Koczan

maryland doom fest 2020 banner

In the immortal words of one Peter Steele: Happy Halloween, baby. Those playing along at home know that today means one thing to the realms of doom, and it’s that it’s time for Maryland Doom Fest to unveil next year’s lineup. Maryland Doom Fest 2020 has some significant shoes to fill in following up this year’s, which of course was held in June in Frederick, Maryland, and they’ve lined up a full four-dayer onslaught to make a go of it.

Headlining sets from Cirith UngolBlood CeremonySpeedealer and Mondo Generator, with direct killage from The SkullVictor Griffin‘s Death Row Assembly (this will be incredible, especially there), Witch Mountain and Sorcerer, the fest is pretty much blowing its own prior reach out of the water. I’ll especially look forward to Arduini/Balich and hope that this performance accompanies a new album, but return appearances from The Age of TruthBailjackEarthride (yes!), Shadow WitchSpiral GraveKnoxxville and Helgamite will be awesome as well, and I’ve no doubt the likes of Vessel of Light, Galactic Cross (with Dave Sherman of Earthride), YatraBlack LungPlainrideCavernMolasses BargeAdmiral BrowningBlack RoadPoobahOmen Stones and Crystal Spiders will be made to feel welcome into the MDDF family vibe, at least those who aren’t already a part of it. I guess particularly in the case of Admiral Browning, it’s more like family reunion.

Keeping with the festival’s no-dragged-out-staggered-announcements spirit, I’ll be up front about this: it’s gonna be a good ‘un. You should do whatever you need to do to make it happen.

Check it:

maryland doom fest 2020 poster

MARYLAND DOOM FEST Announces 2020 Lineup: June 18-21 – Feat. CIRITH UNGOL, BLOOD CEREMONY, MONDO GENERATOR, SPEEDEALER + MORE! EarlyBird Sales Start Dec. 17!

The Maryland Doom Fest celebrates its 6th anniversary next June and today brings you its confirmed roster of over 50 of today’s heaviest bands to hit its stages in 2020.

Maryland Doom Fest brings both U.S. and international artists from all over the map into Frederick, MD for a full four days of mayhem, featuring the legendary Cirith Ungol and Blood Ceremony, to Speedealer and Mondo Generator set to headline the four nights of top shelf doom metal and heavy underground sounds! This year includes more than fifty bands to cover every dark and dank corner of metal subgenres across every inch of the stage from start to finish each night.

A few words from JB Matson, founder and organizer of The Maryland Doom Fest:

“I simply could not be more excited about the fifty-plus band roster for the Maryland Doom Fest’s 6th annual show in 2020!! This will be a splendid #4daysofdoom!!!”

We invite all to become part of the family at the Maryland Doom Fest 2020 weekend events! Please support the Doom and Heavy Music scene and come share in this epic event with us. We will see you at #4daysofdoom!!

THE MARYLAND DOOM FEST 2020

CIRITH UNGOL + BLOOD CEREMONY + SPEEDEALER + MONDO GENERATOR

THE SKULL + SORCERER + DEATH ROW ASSEMBLY + WITCH MOUNTAIN

Ol’ Time Moonshine + Arduini/Balich + Dirt Eater + Switchblade Jesus
Doperider + Condenados + Cultic + Yatra + Bailjack + Poobah
Earthride + Black Lung + Jake The Hawk + Black Road + Warmask
Admiral Browning + Sourpuss + Molasses Barge + Thunderbird Divine
Dust Prophet + Wolftooth + Vessel Of Light + Wrath Of Typhon + Spiral Grave
Plainride + Mangog + Cavern + Galactic Cross + Shadow Witch + Burgan
Akris + Plague Wielder + The Age Of Truth + Knoxxville + The Astral Void
Serpents Of Secrecy + Omen Stones + Crystal Spiders + Helgamite
VRSA + Conclave + Et Mors + Strange Highways + Alms + Dyerwulf

June 18th – 21st, 2020 + Frederick, MD

www.marylanddoomfest.com

Early Bird Discount tickets are available from December 17th through 31st.

Standard ticket sales start January 2020.

RSVP: https://www.facebook.com/events/827407774319811/

https://www.facebook.com/events/827407774319811/
https://www.facebook.com/MdDoomFest/
https://www.instagram.com/marylanddoomfest/
www.marylanddoomfest.com

Cirith Ungol, “I’m Alive” live at Up the Hammers Festival 2017

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The Obsessed Cancel European Tour; Playing Descendants of Crom III This Weekend

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

the obsessed (photo by David Torrence)

Come on, Norway. You could let Wino in at this point. It’s been five years. Considering it as a punitive measure, I can’t even imagine how much the loss of European touring income would be in terms of paying a fine. Certainly enough for however much drugs it was he got busted with at the border. Shit happens. Dude took the hit, so maybe time to move on?

It’s a bummer that The Obsessed‘s return trip to the Schengen countries and greater Europe has been nixed on account of ongoing fallout from that arrest, but the band, who also toured earlier this year in the States with C.O.C. and Crowbar, will appear this coming weekend at Descendants of Crom III in Pittsburgh, so the news isn’t all bad. They’ll be more than welcome I’m sure as they take the place of ASG on that bill and join the ranks of Solace, Foghound, Valkyrie and hometown heroes Argus, among many others. That’s pretty much a guaranteed good time.

Wino posted the following through the social medias:

the obsessed descendants of crom iii

Hello to all our fans and friends .

We are saddened to say that all European Obsessed shows in fall have been cancelled .

The facts are: After an arrest in Norway I was banned from Norway and all the Schengen countries for five years. Its been five years . Recently we found out, only by chance, that the Norwegian govt was not only deceptive about the ability to enter other countries by visa but also intentionally delayed filing my appeal that I filed in a timely manner in accordance with Norwegian law. This added an extra year to the ban consequently keeping THE OBSESSED from being able to play in Europe (UK is not included in the ban).

I feel I have been wronged by these events. I have accepted responsibility for my actions initially but now our hands are tied. Knowledge of these actions by the Norwegian govt only came to light when i arrived in Berlin to play acoustic set at Desertfest earlier this year. After being detained 10 hours i was luckily granted a temporary three day visa, but advised by the German border police of the extended ban etc. We are seeking legal recourse now and will be over to play as soon as we can. Our most sincere apologies.

We will be playing in Pittsburgh Saturday September 21st at the Descendants of Crom III festival. Great lineup….. it’s going to be a kick ass night. See you there.

Thanks to all who believe.
WINO – THE OBSESSED

https://www.facebook.com/TheObsessedOfficial
http://relapse.com/the-obsessed-sacred/
https://theobsessed.bandcamp.com/
http://www.relapse.com
http://www.relapserecords.bandcamp.com
http://www.facebook.com/RelapseRecords

The Obsessed, Sacred (2017)

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Galactic Cross Working on Debut Vinyl Release

Posted in Whathaveyou on August 28th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

Galactic Cross are a new power trio formed in the cradle of Maryland heavy by bassist/vocalist Dave Sherman of Earthride and Spirit Caravan and Weed is Weed with Brian Virts on guitar and drummer Tony Saunders (Minds Eye, ex-Internal Void). They got their start last year though obviously are likely to have known each other longer, and have been working toward putting together a self-titled debut that they’ll hope to offer up on vinyl as soon as possible.

The recordings are being helmed by Kenny Eaton at Mystery Ton Studios — not pictured below — in Monrovia, MD, and I’ve had the chance to hear a rough version of a song (at least tentatively) called “Spellbound.” Those familiar with Sherman‘s vocals will find a pretty clean approach at least in part compared to Earthride‘s earlier days and in fuzz tone and its mix of insistent and laid back grooves, Galactic Cross seem to be setting up an array of heavy spheres in which to operate. Taken in kind with some of the hard-edged fare in their practice videos it all bodes well for the vinyl to come, whether it arrives this year or next.

An assessment from William Goode approved by the band read as follows:

galactic cross

Galactic Cross update

The final days of recording for the new upcoming vinyl are only a few short weeks away.

All signs point to a late 2019 release.

The hard work, and bullnose determination are sure to shine through the material.

Each song takes you for a ride, and breaks away from the normal cookie-cutter mold.

The music re-invents Doom / Stoner Rock as we know it, and takes you on a heavy, but comfortable trip.

It’s proof of what can be done when lifelong friends find a way to reconnect with the same common goal.

Stay tuned for more regarding merch releases and tour dates in the upcoming weeks/months.

Galactic Cross are:
Dave Sherman – Bass/Vocals
Brian Virts – Guitar
Tony Saunders – Drums

https://www.facebook.com/galacticcross
https://www.facebook.com/MysteryTonStudios/

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Stream Rehearsal Jam from Gaster, Morton, Papadopoulos; Members of Clutch, Lamb of God & Stinking Lizaveta

Posted in audiObelisk on August 14th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

yanni mark morton jp gaster

About two months ago, I was lucky enough to stream a jam-room recording from Stinking Lizaveta called ‘The Odor of Corruption’ (posted here) after being hit up by the Philly-based doom jazz trio’s founding guitarist, Yanni Papadopoulos. Late last week, another note came in from Papadopoulos — did I want to hear a jam he played bass on with Jean-Paul Gaster of Clutch drumming and Mark Morton from Lamb of God on guitar?

Easy question.

The jam from what’s being called Gaster, Morton, Papadopoulos was hosted by the drummer in Frederick, Maryland — where else? — and has been dubbed “Blues to Infinity,” which about sums up the vibe. Morton, who released the solo album Anasthetic earlier this year, leads the way on guitar through the easy-flowing sub-four-minute snippet, starting off with a bluesy bounce over Gaster‘s groove, while Papadopoulos helps drive the subtle linear build even as he anchors the central progression beneath the guitar solo to come. If that level of blues hits infinite anywhere in the song — let me get my tape measure — it’s in that solo, but the the way jam kind of sways into its crescendo afterward is where it’s at one way or the other, and even after the guitar cuts out, the drums and bass seem ready to keep the vibe going in case there’s another pickup.

Doesn’t happen this time, but something tells me this might not be the only time we hear from Gaster, Morton, Papadopoulos. True enough that their schedules aren’t exactly empty as it is, but if this is the kind of work they’re doing off-the-cuff whenever their respective planets happen to align, there’s simply too much chemistry and too much potential here to leave it alone. And I mean, you know, if they wanted to send some jams off to Per Wiberg to put some keys on there too, I wouldn’t complain. Just a thought.

Whether or not that actually happens, here’s hoping for more from these three.

Enjoy the jam. Some quick comment from Morton follows:

Mark Morton on “Blues to Infinity”:

“There’s totally a cool anxious tightrope feel… like it could fall apart at any second but never does. My lead sounds frustrated and hurt… because I was. This is a real one for sure.”

Stinking Lizaveta on Thee Facebooks

Mark Morton on Thee Facebooks

Clutch on Thee Facebooks

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Live Review: Maryland Doom Fest 2019 Night Three, 06.23.19

Posted in Reviews on June 24th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

maryland doom fest 2019 night three poster

It’s about quarter to two in the morning, and I walked into the AirBNB where I’m staying a little bit ago, and have been doing that thing where you dick around on social media because you feel like you want to be doing something else but you’re not so you just lose yourself in the scrolling. Waste of time. I’d rather do this.

The end of Maryland Doom Fest 2019 is bittersweet. This one felt good, and I’m tired, but I’m sorry to see it done. The bands were great, of course — always — but more than that, it’s the people. People so generous with their time, open, kind. Incredible people. Hew-mons.

I was walking out of the venue after Conan and got down the road and I just sat on a step in front of some shop for a couple minutes and put my head between my knees — crash position — to try and process it. I didn’t succeed. I only got up when a roach walked past, otherwise I’d probably still be there, trying to hold on a little bit to tonight, to not resign it to the vapor of my memory. Sets were good, but it was the experience of being here, feeling for a few minutes as much as I’ve ever felt like a part of a thing. It’s beautiful, and raw, and it doesn’t come easily to me. Thank you. In the past, I’ve felt like an interloper in this scene. A tourist. Sitting in this room by myself now, I feel stunned. I feel like I got hit by the best train ever.

In the literal sense of amazement, amazed.

My plan is to get up tomorrow (later today) and get out of here and at some point write about the last day of the fest, which was today — have fun with that math — but I don’t know when or how or where that’s happening. And I reserve the right to delete this entire thing and replace it with some staid bullshit if I so choose, but as slapdash as my consciousness is right now, I wouldn’t trust my judgment on the matter enough to decide.

Thanks for everything. It was so real.

— Morning now. Let’s hit it:

Witchkiss

Witchkiss (Photo by JJ Koczan)

My first time seeing Witchkiss, and I hope not my last. The NY-based founding duo of drummer/vocalist Amber Burns and guitarist/vocalist Scott Prater were operating as a two-piece for a minute there, but they’ve brought in bassist Tyler Irish, and though I hadn’t seen them before, it was hard to argue with the result of their doing so. They were less an assault with volume than a gradual unfolding, and presumably because it was early it took a song or so for them to really dig into what they were doing, but they got there, and the atmosphere wasn’t lost for the weight of tone, with Burns‘ headset mic cutting through that morass and Prater‘s growls adding to the post-sludge feel as they progressed. Their 2018 debut, The Austere Curtains of Our Eyes (review here), made a splash, and rightly so, but they’ve announced intentions toward a follow-up for next year, and they seem to be ready to move forward, both in terms of sound and in the fact that they’re touring with Conan and very obviously putting work in to get their name out. I expect if they come back Maryland Doom Fest at some point, they’ll be playing in a well-earned later slot.

Shadow Witch

Shadow Witch (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Barefoot showman/shaman/frontman Earl Walker Lundy said from the stage that Shadow Witch‘s next long-player won’t arrive until 2020, which is fair when one takes into account the busy schedule of their label, Italy’s Argonauta Records, but they played two new songs in “Witches of Aendor” — which is neither to be confused with Endor, from Star Wars, or Andor, from Star Trek — and “Shifter,” and both sounded right on coming out of the recognizable strains of “Beneath the Veil” from late-2017’s Disciples of the Crow (review here). Lundy, dancing, kinetic, probably in need of a good foot-wash, is very much a focal point for Shadow Witch‘s live presentation — and yeah, he’s the singer, so that happens — but guitarist Jeremy Hall, bassist David Pannullo and drummer Justin Zipperle are ultimately responsible for the niche Shadow Witch have carved for themselves in a kind of dark heavy rock vein, sometimes aggressive, but not metal, sometimes doomed, but not doom. It would suit a narrative to say it was true of the new songs, but it was true of the old as well that Shadow Witch revel in that individuality of purpose, and as much Lundy becomes the personification of it, it’s the whole band making it work.

Faith in Jane

Faith in Jane (Photo by JJ Koczan)

The Thurmont, Maryland, power trio have been this scene’s best kept secret for the last few years at least. They’ve put out records at a good clip since 2012 — last year’s Countryside (review here) is their fifth; recording live helps — and legitimately at this point are a band who should be bigger than they are, stretching their legs on tour, opening for national acts coming through, and so on. Watching them on stage at Cafe 611, my impression wasn’t all that different than when I saw them here in MD four years ago: they have a shit-ton of potential. The difference is now they kind of need to decide what to do with it, how they’re going to dig into the heavy grunge vibes and push forward with maybe more straightforward songwriting of songs like “Mountain Lore,” which closed the set, meandering into and out of jams along the way. Figuring out where they want to be. As it was, when they were done, I went to their merch table and bought a copy of every CD they had for sale. I’m pretty sure I already own Countryside and 2016’s Rhythm of Elevation, but screw it, I wasn’t taking the chance. Next time Earthless rolls through Baltimore, Faith in Jane should be opening. Then they should spend the next three years solid on the road and become the best heavy band that Maryland ever produced.

Horehound

Horehound (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Faith in Jane were on a different trip, but neither Shadow Witch nor Witchkiss were wanting for atmosphere. Pittsburgh’s Horehound took that to a different level. I’ve lost track at this point how many labels the four-piece have worked with between 2018’s Holocene (review here) and their 2016 self-titled debut (review here), but it’s definitely enough to be called “several,” including frontwoman Shy Kennedy‘s own Blackseed Records. The band are all the more ambassadors for the Steel City underground for the fact that Kennedy runs the Descendants of Crom fest there — while we’re giving a CV, she also did a t-shirt design for this site — and they excelled in that role, honing the most immersive sound I would hear all weekend. It’s not just that it was a wash, but their balance of hypnosis and bash was something I felt fortunate to behold in person and gave new character to the growl-laced “L’Appel du Vide” from Holocene, as guitarist Brendan Parrish, bassist Nick Kopco and drummer JD Dauer dug into a combination of lurch and semi-angular progressions, always seeming to wind their way back to the right spot to start again. They were striking in their patience as well, unwilling to let go of the mood they worked so hard to craft, even when at their most pummeling.

Thousand Vision Mist

Thousand Vision Mist (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Guitarist/vocalist Danny Kenyon (ex-Life Beyond), bassist/vocalist Tony Cormulada and drummer Chris Sebastian also played Maryland Doom Fest in 2018 (review here) and 2016 (review here), so it’s more than fair to call them veterans at this point. Their sound is a dug-in form of heavy progressive rock, managing to hold to a lack of pretense even as Kenyon‘s guitar wanders off to parts unknown only to snap the crowd back into consciousness as he rejoins Cormulada and Sebastian in the underlying groove. They’re not a band trying to take over the world, which kind of put them in direct contrast with Toke, who followed, but they pulled a good amount of the local faithful and had three new songs on offer alongside “Prince of Grace” from their debut album, 2017’s Journey to Ascension and the Loss of Tomorrow (review here), and “Tears of the Moon” from their prior 2015 demo. In my experience, they’ve never been anything but solid live, and a check-in annually works just fine by me. I have to wonder though at some of their themes, if somebody in the band is a pilot. “We Flew too High,” “Tears of the Moon” or “Final Flight of Fall” and “Skybound and Beyond” from the album. Someone writing this stuff would seem to spend an awful lot of time in the sky.

Toke

Toke (Photo by JJ Koczan)

The reigning princes of North Carolinian sludge took the stage at Cafe 611 like they owned the place and then went on to prove that, indeed, they did. Their second album, 2017’s Orange (discussed here), continues to shit hot fire on the weed-worshiping social-media-word-of-mouth contingent, which is nifty, and the band — in addition to providing a recent lesson on PR crisis management by getting out in front of a sexual harassment claim against their now-former drummer — with guitarist Tim Bryan and bassist/vocalist Jason “Bronco” Pierce as the remaining founders will do shows later this year with Black Label Society, have already been out with Church of Misery this year and continue to build a reputation based on ultra-stoned, crusty-jeans riffs. They had plenty on offer for the willing nodders at Maryland Doom Fest — which was basically everybody in the place — and they tapped their inner Sourvein in order to coat the assembled in moss-coated weedian groove. I think of them at this point kind of where Monolord were a few years back. They’re a band tapping into something primal, breaking their ass in every way possible to reach as many people as possible with it, and there’s no real perceptible limit to how far they can go with it. I don’t know if anyone has signed them for their next record yet or what, but they probably should.

Kings Destroy

Kings Destroy (Photo by JJ Koczan)

This marked the third time I’ve seen Kings Destroy in the last couple months playing material from this year’s excellent Fantasma Nera (review here), and while they didn’t have their we’re-on-tour-thousand-yard-staredown — because yes, in that scenario, they’re staring down everything within that thousand-yard omnidirectional radius — they still did thorough justice to their most rock-based collection of songs to-date. Citing “Unmake It” as their “doom song” — compared to “Barbarossa” or “Bleed Down the Sun,” maybe — they followed with “Seven Billion Drones” and a near-constant sense of melody between the guitars of Carl Porcaro and Chris Skowronski and the vocals of Steve Murphy, a duty he shared more with bassist Aaron Bumpus than even this Spring. As I recall it, the only song Bumpus didn’t step up to the mic for was the speedy “Mr. O” from their 2015 self-titled (review here), and it was easy to hear where the harmony might’ve fit if he had. I won’t take away from their delivery of that cut or any other, the propulsion in Rob Sefcik‘s drums able to slash pace in half at a measure’s notice and still not lose the thread, and the finale of “Yonkers Ceiling Collapse” once again provided the riff-based hook that tied the entire set together and gave it a sense of movement that has been the band’s own all along, whatever styles they’ve been fitting into and not fitting into — mostly the latter — over the last decade.

Zed

Zed (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Before San Francisco’s Zed went on, webernets metal radio guru and regular Doom Fest master of ceremonies Dave Benzotti led the band, the crowd, and pretty much everyone in the place in a sing-along of Journey‘s “Lights.” And I mean, the place kind of went off. Belting it out. They play that at sports events and such in San Francisco — I guess it would be like playing anything by Springsteen, or, you know, Journey, in New Jersey — so alright, but more importantly, when Zed took the stage, they did so at an immediate sprint that swept the Cafe 611 along with it, and once they started moving, they did not stop, save for a quick tune-up before the next max-intensity forward thrust. I haven’t had the pleasure of hearing their new album, Volume, yet — it’s out next month on Ripple — but I feel like I got to know it a bit anyhow as they played songs like “The Other Kind,” “The End,” “Wings of the Angel,” “Poison Tree” and “Chingus,” so that was welcome. They were clearly known to the bulk of people in front of the stage but even for those who wouldn’t have seen them last year, Zed made a readily convincing argument in their own favor, the energy of their performance serving as an infectious final shot of adrenaline to hold a long-weekend crowd over until the bludgeoning soon enough to come. All this and Journey too. Sometimes life is genuinely weird, but it works.

Conan

Conan (Photo by JJ Koczan)

You know, Conan headlining Maryland Doom Fest is a big fucking deal, and it’s worth recognizing that. They’re a UK band. They played Sunday night, having just on Friday took stage before 8,000 people at Hellfest in Clisson, France — and much to their credit, come to the venue on Saturday night just to hang out and get the lay of the land — and not only are they among the planet’s most crushing live acts, but they’re a legitimate international enterprise. They might be the biggest band who’ve ever played the festival, and their involvement is emblematic of the growth of Maryland Doom Fest as a whole over the last five years and most especially in 2019. Also helping Conan‘s case? They. Fucking. Killed. I’ll be honest, once the moshing started behind me while I was taking pictures up front, I was gonna check out before the set was done, try and sneak in some work before crashing, but I stayed through the entire set (not up front), and they were nothing less than spellbinding. Cafe 611 was probably the smallest room I’ve seen Conan play since the first time I saw them in 2012, and it was like their tonal onslaught had nowhere to go, so the vibrations from Jon Davis‘ guitar and Chris Fielding‘s bass and the thud of Johnny King‘s drums just kept bouncing off the walls and looping back on themselves. Earplugs? Useless. Why bother. There was no getting away. I stood to the side and watched the pit go and go, a couple dedicated crowdsurfers carried here and there and back again, but Conan were unbelievable. Davis‘ guitar cut out early in the first song, but they got it worked out and there was no letup from there. “Foehammer” into “Battle in the Swamp” into “Paincantation” into “Satsumo.” It was that kind of evening. The perfect blowout sendoff for Maryland Doom Fest 2019 and a reinforcement of Conan‘s long-established dominance over damn near everything.

That’s it, it’s done. You already know what I did after the show last night — I went and held my head and then wrote the intro above, if you missed it — and that was that. I was up at six this morning to start writing and sorting pictures having finally keyed down enough to sleep a little before three. Take that, brain. Ya jerk.

Before I do the “more pics after the jump” thing and sign off, I want to thank JB Matson for the incredible work he does in putting this festival together. What’s he’s built has become something truly special, and the future only seems to get brighter as he goes. All the best for 2020 and I hope to be able to be back in town for it. Lineup announcement on Halloween, maybe? I’ll keep an eye out.

And I want to thank The Patient Mrs. for taking over full-on childcare duties to allow me to go and blow off some steam in Frederick and get my head right and hear all the nice things people said about the site and see killer bands and not eat, and not sleep, and wear silly-ass pants and have a good time. Thank you.

And thank you for reading. You guessed it: more pics after the jump.

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