It was early when I pulled into the parking lot of the strip mall that houses Krug’s — around 1PM for a show that wouldn’t start for another hour. I nonetheless made my way inside, mostly to see if there had been any obvious schedule changes or anything like that, and on the way, passed the front door of the Baptist church next door, only to hear the songs and testimony happening inside. I stood there for a minute and listened. Seemed pretty exciting. Since stuff like SHoD is about as close as I get to religion, I felt like I could relate to all the yelling and singing. I’m pretty sure what I witnessed the crowd doing during Earthride‘s set last night counts as “testifying.”
Being early today, I decided rather than sit there by myself for the extra hour, I was going CD shopping. On my way to CD and Game Exchange in downtown Frederick — which is charming in the way that white people find expensive boutiques and wine bars charming — I passed a sign that read “Rock and Roll Graveyard” on E. Patrick St., and immediately parked my car in the next spot I could find. More to come on that later, but I’ll spill it now that it was a pleasurable way to pass that time. Here are the notes from when I got back to Krug’s Place:
Heavy Burner: I don’t know if the 2PM start time was to allow church to get out or what, but the last day of SHoD XI got off to a strong start with this Virginian trio. They were definitely of the scene, but the bass had thick fuzz to it that approached — especially in a couple jammed out parts which were complemented by subdued vocals — the Colour Haze-style low end I’ve been bemoaning the complete lack of in the American scene. Of course, the fact that Chris Kozlowski of Polar Bear Lair Studio had been handling sound for the whole weekend might have had something to do with it too. Everyone’s bass sounded good. The guy recorded the last Blue Cheer album! Of course the bass sounds good. Nonetheless, Heavy Burner had a good balance between jams and structure, and though I’m not sure it would be on a recording what it was live, I was disappointed they didn’t have CDs yet. In progress, reportedly.
Fire Faithful: First heard these guys when I reviewed their split with the revitalized Lord, and they were heavy Southern riff metal both then and now. More doom than stoner hands, but still definitely a Maryland band. Some harsh vocals from Brandon Malone reminded me of Alabama Thunderpussy‘s more metallic moments, set to some Pepper Keenan riffs, and it was a good fit. They brought their female companions (two of them, anyway) on stage to provide backing vocals on a song called “A Devil in London” that I had to strain to hear, but the song was catchy anyway, and they were clearly looking to impress whoever showed up early, even going so far as to break out their Orange cabinets instead of using the house Mesas. Growth to be had, but they fit right in.
Acid Queen: Were not at all what I expected. Totally thought they were going to be a super-fuzzed out stoner doom band, you know, like friggin’ Acid King. No dice. A four-piece hailing right from Frederick, they were entirely instrumental and played a thrash/NWOBHM hybrid that’s bound to go over well at the Defenders of the Old fest the bassist — who seemed to be in charge, or at very least was the one who had a mic for saying thanks — said they were playing with their original lineup. SHoD was also their last show with their current drummer, so there seemed to be a bit of upheaval in the band. On the most basic song level, their material sounded like it would benefit from a singer, so it wasn’t necessarily a surprise to find out they had one at some point. Whatever else happens, I hope they hold onto their young lead guitarist. Kid was a ripper.
Earthling: Following Jake from Valkyrie‘s recommendation yesterday, I was legitimately excited to check these guys out. They played a crusty Virginian blackthrash that sounded like their dads locked them in a closet with nothing for sustenance but what they could get from Motörhead, Darkthrone and Venom records — and if that’s the case, kudos to pops for raising them up right. They too were young, and pummeling. They had a couple slower parts and enough groove to keep the doom heads into it, but were coming from somewhere else entirely. Super heavy, and with the kind of urgency that can only come from a total lack of self-consciousness. Punk rock arrogance as filtered through thrashing fuckall and tectonic tonality. If they lived in Brooklyn, they’d be playing museums.
Demonaut: It was about time someone covered “Supernaut.” If you think about it, it was bound to happen. Demonaut stepped up to the plate for all of us, and with their two basses and lead guitar cutting through, they did the massive low-end heaviness of Master of Reality justice. Not a compliment easily earned: it did take them two bassists to do it. Between the two four strings and the three vocals (both bassists and the guitarist), Demonaut had a lot going on, but none of that was enough to distract me from the fact that drummer Dwayne had the deepest snare of the weekend, which he bought from a Texan high school marching band on eBay. Thing sounded huge, and where the lone guitar might have otherwise had a hard time standing up to the noise surrounding, a White Matamp and Rectifier labeled “Boogie” did the job quite nicely.
Wrath of Typhon: I was getting tired by the time they went on, and they had some radio-voice DJ from a Pennsylvanian metal show in a Fear Factory hat introduce them. The guy thanked everyone for coming out for the whole weekend, and yet I hadn’t seen him either Friday or Saturday, or even earlier this afternoon. Yeah, thanks for coming out. Anyway, soured though I was, Wrath of Typhon‘s upbeat semi-trad metal pulled a good response as the afternoon began to transition to the evening, but Cough had just shown up and a bunch of people went outside to hang out by their van, so that cut attendance inside somewhat. I went to my car and placed a call to The Patient Mrs. before going back in to catch the end of their set. They brought up a hooded Sickie Wifebeater, who’d been sitting behind the cabinets the whole time, for a song, and then the SHoDmaster himself, Rob Levey, took the stage for the second time of the weekend to lead vocal for an “Electric Funeral” cover. Two Sabbath covers right in a row. Someone really should’ve put in dibs beforehand. All the same, it was a rousing rendition of the song.
Nagato: Probably the most pleasant surprise of the day. They had also played SHoD X back in 2009, but I missed them then. More the fool I, because the West Virginian two-guitar four-piece played an unassuming kind of rock that was a reminder of how much a band can accomplish when they set out to be heavy in mood and not just volume. Nagato were easily the most subdued act of the day, and since Against Nature played Friday night, but there was no dip in heaviness or power in terms of the effect on the crowd. Their dark fuzz blues seemed an odd fit at first, ultimately showing what a guitarist can do when making the most of the mystic side of Orange reverb, and the songs were psychedelic not so much in swirls or overarching echo, but if you closed your eyes, the music wanted to take you somewhere. Exhausted as I was, I hadn’t expected to be blown away, but I was. They were a joy to watch, and it was a letdown that they didn’t have any music for sale. I’d have bought everything.
Cough: Death by volume. Quite a contrast coming off Nagato, and even before they went on, I was counting down the minutes until I could justify to myself getting in the car and starting the drive back to Jersey. They also looked like they were counting the minutes, and in the case of drummer Joseph Arcaro — who was the hardest-hitting percussionist of the weekend, hands down — it felt like minutes between each slamming of the toms toward the end of “Ritual Abuse.” Cough played two songs that I could discern, and I was surprised they didn’t have more of a crowd than they did, as they seem sonically to have transcended this scene and moved onto the touring market, but they were loud as fuck and doomed likewise, and they thanked Rob and Cheryl for doing another SHoD and plugged Lord‘s upcoming set, so rockstar assholes they weren’t. That’s more than you get from some returning heroes. Part of me had been hoping that, in the wake of Hour of 13‘s last-minute cancellation, that Cough would move into the headliner spot and Lord would play earlier, so I could leave sooner and start the trip north, but I was glad to have seen Cough without the hipster audience baggage they might otherwise be surrounded by.
Lord: And then it happened. The first song they played was typified by the chorus line “The wait is over,” and when Lord finally got going, that’s exactly how I felt. I basically stuck around today and tonight as long as I did just to see Lord. Everything else was gravy. I’ve been a fan of this band since 2005/2006, and I was stoked to learn they had gotten back together and started going again in the wake of Ol’ Scratch‘s demise. They were ridiculous in how heavy they were. I dug the hell out of it, I really did. I wish we could get bands like this up here. I wish people up here gave a shit. Fuck ’em. I’ve driven four hours for a set like that before and I’m sure I’ll do it again. I didn’t stay the whole time, though — that was never the plan — but I did score a copy of their new record, which I’ll be reviewing in the coming weeks, once I manage to get my head around it. If the songs I saw them play at SHoD were any indicator, that might take a while. Heavier, louder, meaner. Lord is righteousness personified. I was ready to raise my hand up like the Baptists next door and give praise.
The ride back up, I nailed. I missed Backwoods Payback and Weed is Weed, but got back here just before 2AM (right around when I’d probably get to the hotel if I’d stayed at the show), and it’s 3:30 now. I listened to Tin House and Weed and then did a Sabbath trio of Sabotage, Heaven and Hell and Master of Reality, and by the time that was done, I’d arrived. I love driving when no one else is on the road. It was raining, and I don’t know how many 18 wheelers saw me pumping my fist to “Lady Evil” or “Children of the Grave,” but who gives a shit? I live for days like today, for weekends like this one. Much thanks to Rob and Cheryl Levey and Krug’s Place for their hospitality, to Ken-E Bones, Joe Wood and Andrew Jude Riotto, George Pierro, Jason Clemins, Kyle from Rochester, Tim Otis, Jake Adams, Fez McGinnis and everyone else down there for making Stoner Hands of Doom XI such a special experience for me and everyone else who was lucky enough to see it. Here’s to keeping doom doomed.