Live Review: Maryland Doom Fest 2016 Night Three

Posted in Reviews on June 27th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

maryland doom fest poster

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:

Mangog

Mangog (Photo by JJ Koczan)

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.

Flummox

Flummox (Photo by JJ Koczan)

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 SkullsDoomstressShroud Eater and Order of the Owl, among many others, so clearly doing good work on multiple levels.

DopeRider

Doperider (Photo by JJ Koczan)

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.

Seasick Gladiator

Seasick Gladiator (Photo by JJ Koczan)

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.

Eternal Black

Eternal Black (Photo by JJ Koczan)

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.

Toke

Toke (Photo by JJ Koczan)

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 TimBronco 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

Foghound (Photo by JJ Koczan)

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.

Wasted Theory

Wasted Theory (Photo by JJ Koczan)

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.

King Giant

King Giant (Photo by JJ Koczan)

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

Karma to Burn (Photo by JJ Koczan)

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.

Mos Generator

Mos Generator (Photo by JJ Koczan)

“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.

Thanks for reading.

 

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King Giant Announce Shows with Pentagram

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 27th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

Virginian outfit King Giant are set to provide support for doom legends Pentagram in March for a handful of shows in their home state, Tennessee and North Carolina. The band currently have vinyl in the works for their third album, 2015’s Black Ocean Waves (review here), via Greek imprint Dia de Los Muertos and that’s set to release in Spring in multiple configurations. Opening for Pentagram‘s a pretty good way to lead up to that, and as of the last time I saw themKing Giant continued to straddle the line between dark Southern heavy rock and doom with the individualized moodiness that has pervaded their studio work, so all the better. They should do well in that spot.

Info off the PR wire:

king giant (Photo by Rev Jim Forrester)

KING GIANT To Support Pentagram On March Run; Vinyl Version Of Black Ocean Waves In Production

Northern Virginia’s doom metal marauders, KING GIANT, have been confirmed to support the mighty Pentagram on a run of live dates in March, while also announcing that the vinyl version of their latest album, Black Ocean Waves, is being prepared for release.

KING GIANT’s third LP, Black Ocean Waves, thunders with forty-five minutes of the band’s brooding, doom-drenched take on Southern metal, once again delivering gritty tales of regret, shame, revenge, and resolution. Recorded at Magpie Cage Studios in Baltimore, Maryland, the album was engineered by Jawbox architect, J. Robbins (Clutch, The Sword, Wino) who later mixed the album and supplied Hammond organ on the track “Blood Of The Lamb” and background vocals on “Trail Of Thorns.”

Following its initial CD and digital release in June 2015 through an alliance with the band and distributor The Path Less Traveled Records, Black Ocean Waves is now being prepared for release on vinyl. The wax is being handled by Greece-based Dia De Los Muertos Records – a subdivision of Smash Records – in a run of 300 copies; 100 copies each on black, beer, and purple/red color schemes. The album will see release in early Spring, with a final release date and order links to be available in the coming weeks.

Ahead of its vinyl release, March will see KING GIANT providing direct support for legendary doom kingpins, Pentagram. These performances are confirmed to take place in Virginia Beach, Richmond, Carborro and Knoxville, March 10th through 13th.

KING GIANT w/ Pentagram:
3/10/2016 Shaka’s Live­ – Virginia Beach, VA
3/11/2016 The Broadberry – Richmond, VA
3/12/2016 Cats Cradle – Carborro, NC
3/13/2016 The International – Knoxville, TN

http://www.kinggiant.com
http://kinggiant.bandcamp.com
http://www.facebook.com/kinggiantband
http://twitter.com/kinggiantrocks

King Giant, Black Ocean Waves (2015)

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Front to Back: Vultures of Volume II Day One in Hagerstown, MD, 09.04.15

Posted in Reviews on September 8th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

vultures of volume ii poster

Some farms, empty strip mall storefronts, a Confederate flag here and there, and you’ve pretty much got the story of Hagerstown, Maryland. Close to Frederick, which is where many of the bands featured at Vultures of Volume II either make their home or at least play on the regular, the Delmar Inn was a little bit further out of the way, a little less cops-are-likely-to-come-here, down a long stretch of road running along a hillside. Vibe was right on immediately.

Biker bar, and bigger inside than it looked from the parking lot. Near the front, a big bar with plenty of seating, tvs, and the like, and on the other side of a half-wall, a couple pool tables. Another room to the side had more pool tables and places to sit, and in the back where the show itself was held was the two-tier stage, full P.A., lighting rig and the whole nine. A pro shop. The walls were lined with banners of acts who’d been there before, the drop ceiling low but not ridiculously so, more tables in back for those who’d need a break, which by the end of the two-day/20-band Vultures of Volume II, was definitely me.

It was a long weekend of rock and roll, but I knew it would be going into it. It had been way, way too long since I’d last been able to pay a visit to the Maryland doom scene and its familiar and friendly faces. Used to be every year, year and a half or so, but living in Massachusetts adds another three-plus hours onto that trip — while we’re on the subject of the Bay State, I’ll say that the Delmar had its shit together more than every single venue in Boston of comparable size that I’ve been to — so it’s been a while. Felt good to be back.

Friday night’s lineup featured Bailjack, Faith in Jane, Kelly Carmichael, Pale Divine, King Giant, Solace and Spirit Caravan. Show got started at 7PM, and I was there early because I knew I didn’t want to miss a second of it:

Bailjack

bailjack 1 (Photo by JJ Koczan)

One thing you can always rely on at a fest like Vultures of Volume is that Maryland’s own particular brand of heavy — and for argument’s sake, I’ll note that Maryland’s heavy runs pretty much anywhere from Virginia to Pennsylvania, depending on what band we’re talking about — will be well represented. Following an intro from Wisconsin’s Mike Smith (he of the Days of the Doomed festival series), who was acting as the weekend’s M.C., dual-guitar four-piece took the stage to lead off the first night in deceptively intricate fashion. With three vocalists between guitarists Jason Barker and Blake Owens and bassist Ron “Fezz” McGinnis (also Pale Divine, Admiral Browning and about as bullshit-free an individual as you could hope to meet), and a distinctive split in style between the two guitars, Bailjack effectively divided their attention between freakout-led psych jamming and more classically progressive impulses, drummer Andy Myers holding the various changes together with Fezz‘s bass, which is about as much a staple of the MD scene at this point as riffs. No small feat to keep everything flowing, but they did it as arrangements tipped one way or another or they took off in this or that direction, only warming up more as they went, but though they ran a little late, Bailjack were a fitting leadoff for the night and a sure sign that we were underway.

Faith in Jane

Faith in Jane (Photo by JJ Koczan)

They came very highly recommended, and weren’t five minutes into their set before it was very apparent why. Faith in Jane tap into that classic heavy rock boogie and pull off fleet rhythmic turns essentially without sounding like they’re breaking a sweat to do it. An edge of blues here, a neo-stoner groove there, it’s easy to imagine them getting another release or two under their belt (they have a slew of digital and CD pressings from the last couple years) and catching the eye of a label like Tee Pee or Riding Easy, and they’re young enough that they still have time to develop the potential they showed. The locals obviously know it. Looking around at all the home-made Faith in Jane shirts, I was reminded of the vigilant manner in which Beelzefuzz was supported during their early days (the two acts have little sound-wise in common, but that also was a recommendation worth taking). Until Spirit Caravan played, Faith in Jane had the biggest and most responsive crowd of the night, and it was well earned in their swinging groove, tight execution of a stay-loose sound and nuances like guitarist/vocalist Dan Mize switching between finger-picking and strumming his guitar or bassist Brendan Winston tossing off a quick fill in classic rock fashion. Rounded out by drummer Alex Llewellyn, the MD natives aren’t without room to grow, but already they were a highlight of the weekend and definitely a band it will be well worth keeping an eye on going forward. Their closer, “Stormbringer,” was a beast.

Kelly Carmichael

Kelly Carmichael (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Only thing missing was a sample of John Cleese saying “And now for something completely different.” Kelly Carmichael is the former guitarist of Internal Void and also did a stint in Pentagram, but as traditional as doom gets, that’s really no match for his solo act, which dips back decades further to ’20s and ’30s-style acoustic roots blues. He covered both Robert Johnson and Leadbelly, doing “Preachin’ Blues (Up Jumped the Devil)” from the former and a prison worksong from the latter. It was a left-turn stylistically after Faith in Jane, but not at all a hard sell to the crowd that doom draws a line backward in time to the blues. People came and went, but Carmichael held a solid audience for the original “Salty Dog” from his 2009 Queen Fareena album, and had toes tapping all the while. An almost academic approach, but clearly driven by heartfelt passion for the style.

Pale Divine

pale divine 1 (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Hard to picture a setting in which Pale Divine could be more in their element than a fest like Vultures of Volume II. The stalwart Pennsylvania trio mark their 20th year in 2015, with original members Greg Diener (guitar/vocals) and Darin McCloskey (drums) joined for the last three by the aforementioned Ron “Fezz” McGinnis, who also adds backing vocals. Their 2013 demo “Curse the Shadows” (streamed here) was aired, as were “Black Coven” from 2012’s Painted Windows Black (review here) and the finale “Cemetery Earth,” from the prior 2007 outing of the same name. They’ve always been a solid band, but haven’t ever really gotten their due outside of the local area and the odd German doom fest, but with Diener‘s steady presence as a frontman and unflappable lead work, McCloskey‘s straightforward style and Fezz‘s rumble, they had nothing to prove to what’s essentially their home crowd, and that suited them. Two decades is a long time to do anything, and one hopes that with their impending fifth album, Pale Divine might be able to reap a bit of reward from the downtrodden, trad-doom they’ve been planting all these years. Fingers crossed for a 2016 release.

King Giant

King Giant (Photo by JJ Koczan)

First two words in my notes on Virginia five-piece King Giant? “So pro.” And they are. King Giant‘s slot at Vultures of Volume II came on the heels of their 2015 third album, Black Ocean Waves (review here), which was accordingly their focus. I’ve never seen them live that they didn’t nail their set, and this time was no exception, though part of me wonders if maybe the flawlessness of their delivery doesn’t in a way undercut what they’re doing. People being more used to Southern metal that’s loose, not necessarily with as much of an atmospheric focus as King Giant have with their prevailing darkness, and between how comfortably they sit right on the border between doom and metal and the clear effort they put into how they present themselves and their songs — “Red Skies” from the new record was a highlight — I think people almost have a hard time believing what they’re seeing is genuine. But it’s not like there’s any money to be in it for, and a band like King Giant wouldn’t exist in the first place if their hearts weren’t into it, because why bother? With vocalist Dave Hammerly out front, guitarists Todd “T.I.” Ingram (also Serpents of Secrecy) and David Kowalski, bassist Floyd Walters III and singly-named drummer Brooks filling up the Delmar stage, King Giant delivered one of the most professional-sounding sets of the weekend until their set either got cut short or cut itself short — I never quite found out which — as the show continued to run late.

Solace

Solace (Photo by JJ Koczan)

I was fortunate enough to have been there in Wisconsin in June 2012 when New Jersey heavy rockers Solace played what was then believed to be their last show at Days of the Doomed II. In the intervening three years, bassist Rob Hultz has joined Chicago doom legends Trouble and he and guitarists Tommy Southard and Justin Daniels have welcomed a new vocalist and a new drummer into Solace, with Justin Goins filling the frontman role and Tim Schoenleber behind the kit. I’ll admit that I didn’t know Solace had a (partially) new lineup until a few hours before they loaded in, and I’ll admit further that I had no shortage of sentimental attachment to their prior incarnation — in no small part reinforced by the absolute blowout that was their final set three years ago — but with Southard‘s unhinged guitar at the core, the newcomers Goins and Schoenleber (who’s an ex-bandmate of Southard‘s in Godspeed) more than held their own amidst the chaos surrounding. I went into the set wondering if it could even be done, if it would be Solace, and they proved that yes, it was still Solace, and that if they wanted to move forward — they had new material in tow, so presumably the answer there is also yes — they’ll be able to do that. As they started to wind down the set, Daniels teased they were going to do the last two songs and then take another three years off, which got a laugh, but it seemed pretty clear that’s not what they have in mind looking ahead. Another Solace record? The results were glorious, but it took them nine years to put out 2010’s A.D. (review here), and their bass player lives in Chicago, so I’m not going to hold my breath to have it materialize next month. But I wouldn’t be surprised if it did happen at some point, because only a fool would ever really count them out.

Spirit Caravan

Spirit Caravan (Photo by JJ Koczan)

I’d never seen Spirit Caravan. Again. I’d never seen Spirit Caravan. As far as I was concerned, having them atop the bill as headliners was a big part of what made the trip so necessary in the first place. They brought their own crew, with Darren Waters of Weed is Weed and someone who may well have been Chris Kozlowski helping out guitarist/vocalist Scott “Wino” Weinrich, bassist/backing vocalist Dave Sherman and drummer Ed Gulli — a former bandmate of Wino‘s in The Obsessed stepping into the post-reunion role filled previously by Henry Vasquez, still in Saint Vitus — set up their gear. Wino and Sherman both had new cabinets as a result of what seemed to be a recent endorsement, and there were some technical issues early on, but Sherman finally asked to put a microphone in front of his bass cab and that solved it. They barreled through the speedy new song “Be the Night” first, almost I think before most in attendance could pick up on what they just heard, and dipped into classics like “Courage” and “Melancholy Grey,” also working “Streetside” by The Obsessed into the mix. I know Spirit Caravan is widely considered a “Wino band,” and Wino‘s the frontman, and the dude’s a legend and as the guy who’s about to wrap up a 200-part series of Wino Wednesdays, I’m not going to argue, but if there’s a singular passion driving Spirit Caravan, it’s Sherman‘s all the way. It’s just as much a Sherman band. If Bobby Liebling was the architect, (and yes, I know Pentagram were from D.C., but stay with me), and Wino is its ambassador, then Dave Sherman is the beating heart of Maryland heavy, and after seeing him for years with Earthride, he looked at home and gladdest of all to be on that stage playing Spirit Caravan songs. Already the reunion has had its share of drama after a fallout with former drummer Gary Isom, but between watching Sherman stomp out his parts or watching Wino turn around and smile to Gulli as they made their way through “Lost Sun Dance” en route to a cover of The Animals‘ “Inside Looking Out,” it was apparent just how precious a thing Spirit Caravan is to those who are a part of it. The house lights came up during the latter cover, which though it was late I’ll say flat out was a load. That’s what 30 years of playing doom gets you: the lights turned on in front of what’s basically your hometown crowd while you headline. Rightly, they kept playing, and finished out an otherwise excellent night with a take on The Obsessed‘s “Neatz Brigade” that seemed all the more righteous for the defiant stance it represented.

By the time I actually left the Delmar parking lot, it was 2AM. I drove back to the hotel where I was staying with the gentlemen of Elder, who were looking to go swimming, and while I appreciated the invite, I knew it was time to crash out. Saturday was 13 bands in over 12 hours, so every minute of sleep I could get counted.

That Day Two wrap will be up tomorrow or the next day. Thanks for reading in the meantime.

More pics after the jump.

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Vultures of Volume II Adds King Giant, Ruby the Hatchet and Carousel

Posted in Whathaveyou on July 6th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

The Maryland-based festival Vultures of Volume II has continued to add to its already-righteous lineup. Actually, it started out on more than solid footing with the likes of Solace and Righteous Bloom, and it’s only really gotten better, mixing local Marylanders like Weed is Weed and Thousand Vision Mist and branching out up along the East Coast in bringing aboard Elder and Wasted Theory, while also exploring the Midwest with Wretch and Buzzard Canyon. A quickly expanding reach.

Latest adds? Well, they’re in the headline: Virginia’s King Giant, Philly’s Ruby the Hatchet and Pittsburghers Carousel. The latter two have records out on Tee Pee — or at least Carousel‘s will be out by the time the fest kicks off — and King Giant‘s third was recently issued on The Path Less Traveled.

Reportedly a few more acts still to come for the two-dayer, which is set for the Delmar Bar and Grill in Hagerstown, MD, Sept. 4-5. Here’s this announcement in the meantime:

vultures of volume ii

VULTURES OF VOLUME FEST Sept. 4th & 5th

Delmar Bar & Grill
16715 National Pike, Hagerstown, Maryland 21740

As if the mountain of heaviness representing at Vultures of Volume Fest II wasn’t already high enough… we’ve climbed higher!!!

Supporting their newly released third album “Black Ocean Waves”, we are proud to bring you Virginia’s southern tinged, doom-drenched anthems of KING GIANT!

Next, like a psychedelic, Hammond organ driven trip through the valley of the snake, you’ll want to hold on with both hands as the atmosphere changes right before your eyes… We give you Philadelphia’s own RUBY THE HATCHET!

Lastly, do you want hard rocking stoner jams full of soul and a touch of the blues? Good, ’cause we do, too! And nobody does it better than Pittsburgh’s CAROUSEL!

Stay tuned for the final acts to be announced very soon! Pre-sale tickets can be purchased right now at www.daysofthedoomed.com! We highly recommend getting your tickets early! It will save you money at the door and guarantee your place at the biggest and heaviest end of the summer party this year! Vultures of Volume II – September 4th and 5th at the Delmar Bar & Grill, Hagerstown, MD!

Elder – Ruby The Hatchet – Wretch – King Giant – Solace – Pale Divine – Weed is Weed – Carousel – Righteous Bloom – Foghound – Wizard Eye – Wasted Theory – Thousand Vision Mist – Faith in Jane – Witch Hazel – Buzzard Canyon – Bailjack

http://www.daysofthedoomed.com/#2840
https://www.facebook.com/events/1467154363582033/
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Vultures-of-Volume-FEST/578873918893964

Carousel, Live at Artisan Tattoo, Pittsburgh, PA


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Quarterly Review: Lucifer, Rosetta, Mantar, King Giant, Si Ombrellone, Grand Massive, Carlton Melton Meets Dr. Space, Shiggajon, Mount Hush, Labasheeda

Posted in Reviews on July 3rd, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

the obelisk summer quarterly review

The final day of the Quarterly Review is upon us. It has been one hell of a week, I don’t mind saying, but good and productive overall, if in a kind of cruel way. I hope that you’ve been able to find something in sifting through all these releases that you really dig. I have, for whatever that’s worth. Before we dig into the last batch, I just want to thank you for checking in and reading this week. If you’ve seen all five of these or if this is the first bunch you’ve come across, that you’re here at all is appreciated immensely.

Quarterly Review #41-50:

Lucifer, Lucifer I

lucifer lucifer i

Vocalist Johanna Sadonis, who burst into the international underground consciousness last year with The Oath, resurfaces following that band’s quick dissolution alongside former Cathedral guitarist and riffer-of-legend Gary “Gaz” Jennings in Lucifer, whose Lucifer I eight-song debut LP is released on Rise Above Records. Joined by bassist Dino Gollnick and drummer Andrew Prestidge, Sadonis and Jennings wind through varied but thoroughly doomed atmospheres across songs like opener “Abracadabra” – the outright silliness of the “magic word” kind of undercutting the cultish impression for which Lucifer are shooting – or early highlights “Purple Pyramid” and “Izrael.” A strong side A rounding out with “Sabbath,” Lucifer I can feel somewhat frontloaded, but on repeat listens, the layered chorus of “White Mountain,” “Morning Star”’s late-arriving chug, the classically echoing “Total Eclipse” and the atmospheric finish of “A Grave for Each One of Us” hold their own. After a strong showing from Lucifer’s debut single, the album doesn’t seem like it will do anything to stop the band’s already-in-progress ascent. Their real test will be in the live arena, but they sustain a thematic ambience across Lucifer I’s 44 minutes, and stand ready to follow Rise Above labelmates Ghost and Uncle Acid toward the forefront of modern doom.

Lucifer on Thee Facebooks

Rise Above Records

Rosetta, Quintessential Ephemera

rosetta quintessential ephemera

Drone-prone Philadelphia post-metallers Rosetta return with Quintessential Ephemera, the follow-up to 2013’s The Anaesthete and their fifth LP overall, which resounds in its ambience as a reinforcement of how little the band – now a five-piece with the inclusion of guitarist Eric Jernigan – need any hype or genre-push to sustain them. Through a titled intro, “After the Funeral,” through seven untitled tracks of varying oppressiveness and rounding out with the unabashedly pretty instrumental “Nothing in the Guise of Something,” they continue to plug away at their heady approach, relentless in their progression and answering the darker turns of their prior outing with a shift toward a more colorful atmosphere. At 52 minutes, Quintessential Ephemera isn’t a slight undertaking, but if you were expecting one you probably haven’t been paying attention to the last decade of Rosetta’s output. As ever, they are cerebral and contemplative while staying loyal to the need for an emotional crux behind what they do, and the album is both dutiful and forward-looking.

Rosetta on Thee Facebooks

Rosetta on Bandcamp

Golden Antenna Records

War Crime Recordings

Mantar, Death by Burning

mantar death by burning

Pressed up by Brutal Panda Records for Stateside issue following a 2014 release in Europe on Svart, Death by Burning is the debut full-length from sans-bass Hamburg duo Mantar – vocalist/guitarist Hanno, drummer/vocalist Erinc – and as much as it pummels and writhes across its thrash-prone 10 tracks, opener “Spit” setting a tone for the delivery throughout, there are flourishes of both character and groove to go with all the bludgeoning throughout standout cuts like “Cult Witness,” “The Huntsmen,” the explosive “White Nights,” “The Stoning” and the more lumbering instrumental closer “March of the Crows,” the two-piece seamlessly drawing together elements of doom, thrash and blackened rock and roll into a seething, tense concoction that’s tonally weighted enough to make one’s ears think they’re hearing bass strings alongside the guitar, but still overarchingly raw in a manner denoting some punk influence. Bonus points for the Tom G. Warrior-style “ough!” grunts that make their way into “The Stoning” and the rolling nod of “Astral Kannibal.” Nasty as hell, but more subtle than one might expect.

Mantar on Thee Facebooks

Svart Records

Brutal Panda Records

King Giant, Black Ocean Waves

king giant black ocean waves

Though it seems King Giant’s fate to be persistently underrated, the Virginian dual-guitar five-piece offer their most stylistically complex material to date on their third full-length, Black Ocean Waves (released on The Path Less Traveled Records and Graveyard Hill), recorded by J. Robbins (Clutch, Murder by Death, etc.) as the follow-up to 2012’s Dismal Hollow (streamed here). Still commanded by the vocal presence of frontman Dave Hammerly, the album also finds moments of flourish in the guitars of David Kowalski and Todd “T.I.” Ingram on opener “Mal de Mer,” the leads on “Requiem for a Drunkard” or the intro to extended finishing move “There Were Bells,” bassist Floyd Lee Walters III and drummer Keith Brooks holding down solid rhythms beneath the steady chug of “The One that God Forgot to Save” and “Blood of the Lamb.” Side A closer “Red Skies” might be where it all ties together most, but the full course of Black Ocean Waves’ eight tracks provides a satisfying reminder of the strength in King Giant’s craftsmanship.

King Giant on Thee Facebooks

The Path Less Traveled Records on Thee Facebooks

Si Ombrellone, Horns on the Same Goat

si ombrellone horns on the same goat

The 14 single-word-title tracks of Si Ombrellone’s Horns on the Same Goat were originally recorded in 2006, but for a 2015 release, Connecticut-based multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Simon Tuozzoli (Vestal Claret, King of Salem) took them back into his own UP Recording Studio for touch-ups and remastering. The endeavor is a solo outing for Tuozzoli, styled in a kind of post-grunge rock with Frank Picarazzi playing drums to give a full-band feel, and finds catchy, poppy songwriting coming forward in the layered vocals of “Innocence,” while later, “Forgiveness” and “Darkness” offset each other more in theme than sound, as “Love” and “Hate” had done earlier, the album sticking to its straightforward structures through to six-minute closer “Undone,” which boasts a more atmospheric take. It’s an ambitious project to collect 14 sometimes disparate emotional themes onto a single outing, never mind to do it (mostly) alone – one might write an entire record about “Trust,” say, or “Rage,” which opens – but Tuozzoli matches his craftsmanship with a sincerity that carries through each of these tracks.

Si Ombrellone on Thee Facebooks

Si Ombrellone album downloads

Grand Massive, 2

grand massive 2

Boasting a close relationship to Duster69 and Mother Misery and featuring in their ranks Daredevil Records owner Jochen Böllath, who plays guitar, German heavy rockers Grand Massive revel in commercial-grade Euro-style tonal heft bordering on metallic aggression. 2 is their aptly-titled second EP (on Daredevil) and it finds Böllath, lead guitarist Peter Wisenbacher, vocalist Alex Andronikos, bassist Toby Brandl and drummer Holger Stich running through six crisply-executed tracks of catchy, fist-pumping riffy drive, slowing a bit for the creepy ambience of the interlude “Woods” or the more lurching tension of “I am Atlas,” but most at home in the push of “Backseat Devil” and closer “My Own Sickness,” a mid-paced groove adding to the festival-ready weight Grand Massive conjure. Word is they’re already at work on a follow-up. Fair enough, but 2 has plenty to offer in the meantime in its tight presentation and darker vibes, Grand Massive having been through a wringer of lineup changes and emerged with their songwriting well intact.

Grand Massive on Thee Facebooks

Daredevil Records

Carlton Melton Meets Dr. Space, Live from Roadburn 2014

carlton-melton-meets-dr.-space-live-from-roadburn-festival-2014

If you guessed “spacey as hell” as regards this meeting between NorCal psych explorers Carlton Melton and Scott “Dr. Space” Heller of Danish jammers Øresund Space Collective, go ahead and give yourself the prize. Limited to 300 copies worldwide courtesy of Lay Bare Recordings and Space Rock Productions, Carlton Melton Meets Dr. Space’s Live from Roadburn 2014 is a consuming, near-100-minute unfolding, Heller joining Carlton Melton on stage for four of the total seven inclusions, adding his synthesized swirl to the swirling wash, already by then 26 minutes deep after the opening “Country Ways > Spiderwebs” establishes a heady sprawl that only continues to spread farther and farther as pieces unfold, making “Out to Sea” seem an even more appropriate title. It will simply be too much for some, but as somebody who stood and heard the sounds oozing from the stage at Cul de Sac in Tilburg, the Netherlands, as part of the Roadburn 2014 Afterburner event, I can say it was a special trip to behold. It remains so here.

Carlton Melton’s website

Øresund Space Collective on Thee Facebooks

Lay Bare Recordings

Shiggajon, Sela

shiggajon sela

According to El Paraiso Records, Sela was held up as so many releases have been owing to plant production having been overwhelmed by Record Store Day and will be out circa August. Fair enough. Consider this advance warning of Danish improve collective Shiggajon’s first outing for the Causa Sui-helmed imprint, then, and don’t be intimidated as we get closer to the release and people start talking about things like “free jazz” and dropping references to this or that Coltrane. The real deal with Shiggajon – central figures Mikkel Reher-Lanberg (percussion, drums, clarinet) and Nikolai Brix Vartenberg (sax) here joined by Emil Rothenborg (violin, double bass), Martin Aagaard Jensen (drums), Mikkel Elzer (drums, percussion, guitar), Sarah Lorraine Hepburn (vocals, flute, electronics, tingshaws) – is immersive and tipped over into music as the ritual itself. One might take on the two 18-minute halves of Sela with a similarly open mind as when approaching Montibus Communitas and be thrilled at the places the album carries you. I hope to have more to come, but again, heads up – this one is something special.

Shiggajon’s Blogspot

El Paraiso Records

Mount Hush, Low and Behold!

mount hush low and behold

“The Spell” proves right away that Alps-based heavy rockers Mount Hush (I love that they don’t specify a country) have the post-Queens of the Stone Age fuzz-thrust down pat on their debut EP Low and Behold, but the band also bring an element of heavy psychedelia to their guitar work and the vocals – forward in the mix – have a bluesier but not caricature-dudely edge, so even as they bounce through the “Come on pretty baby” hook of “The Spell,” they’re crafting their own sound. The subsequent “King Beyond” showcases how to have a Graveyard influence without simply pretending to sound like Graveyard, even going so far as to repurpose a classic rock reference – “Strange Days” by The Doors – in its pursuit, and the seven-minute “The Day She Stole the Sun” stretches out for a more psychedelic build. Most exciting of all on a conceptual level is closer “Levitations.” Drumless, it sets ethereal vocals and samples over a tonal swirl and airy, quieter strumming. Hardly adrenaline-soaked and not intended to be, but it shows Mount Hush have a genuine will to experiment, and it’s one I hope they continue to develop.

Mount Hush on Thee Facebooks

Mount Hush on Bandcamp

Labasheeda, Changing Lights

labasheeda changing lights

Joined for the first time by drummer Bas Snabilie (apparently since replaced by Aletta Verwoerd) Amsterdam heavy art rockers Labasheeda mark four full-length releases with Changing Lights on Presto Chango, the violin/viola of vocalist/guitarist Saskia van der Giessen and guitar/bass/keyboard of Arne Wolfswinkel carrying across an open but humble atmosphere, touching here on Sonic Youth’s dare-to-have-a-verse moments in “My Instincts” and pushing into more blown-out jarring with the slide-happy “Tightrope.” They bring indie edge to a cover of The Who’s “Circles,” and round out with a closing duo of the album’s only two tracks over five minutes, “Cold Water” and “Into the Wide,” van der Giessen’s croon carrying a sweetness into the second half of the former as the latter finishes Changing Lights with a rolling contrast of distortion and strings as engrossing as it is strange. Labasheeda will go right over a lot of heads, but approached with an open mind it can just as easily prove a treasure for its blatant refusal to be pinned to one style or another.

Labasheeda on Thee Facebooks

Labasheeda on Bandcamp

 

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King Giant to Release Black Ocean Waves this Spring

Posted in Whathaveyou on April 1st, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

king giant (Photo by Bobby Ross)

Well, they’re playing the release show for it on May 30 (a show at which guitarist Todd Ingram will pull double-duty, also playing in Sixty Watt Shaman), so I guess the album will have to be out sometime around then. King Giant‘s third, Black Ocean Waves, was recorded by J. Robbins (Clutch, Murder by Death, Clutch again, etc.) and it brings intrigue to see where the five-piece go after the dark Southern heavy of 2012’s appropriately-titled Southern Darkness (streamed here). It’s been three years since that album dropped — goodness time flies — but I wouldn’t expect the band’s penchant for catchy songs and doomly vibes to have diminished, what with song titles like “The One that God Forgot to Save” and “Trail of Thorns” and all. Doesn’t exactly sound like fodder for the feel good hit of the summer.

The PR wire brings art and info:

king giant black ocean waves

KING GIANT: Blues/Doom-Ridden Northern Virginia Quintet Completes Third LP; Album Trailer And Details Released

Celebrating their tenth year as a band in 2015, Northern Virginia-based KING GIANT has completed their thundering third LP, Black Ocean Waves, set for release this Spring, and today they unveil the full album details alongside a video trailer of the album’s recording process at Magpie Cage Studios with J. Robbins.

With their brooding, doom-drenched take on Southern rock/metal, KING GIANT has been rendering their woeful, rousing tales of heartfelt loss and ruthless resolution through their songcraft since 2005, and has built a solid reputation as a diehard internal workforce through handling the recording and releasing of their own gravelly anthems since their inception. Their 2006 Burden EP was followed by the self-released 2009 LP, Southern Darkness, which won over stoner/doom rockers everywhere with its vibrant approach to the genre. But it was the Dismal Hollow LP released in 2012 that launched the band into a more accessible, but more sinister territory, reaping critical acclaim from internationally based mags and webzines.

2015 brings KING GIANT’s third full-length album, proudly celebrating a decade in existence as they prepare to unleash the wayward grooves of Black Ocean Waves. Forty-five minutes of bold, ominous, organic, and accessible material pours fourth on Black Ocean Waves, the new opus surging with eight ebbing torrents of regret, shame, revenge, and reconciliation. KING GIANT recorded in July 2014 at Magpie Cage Studios in Baltimore, Maryland, the album engineered by Jawbox architect, J. Robbins (Clutch, The Sword, Wino) who later mixed the album. Robbins also performed Hammond organ on the track, “Blood Of The Lamb,” and background vocals on “Trail Of Thorns.”

The cover art for Black Ocean Waves, created by Misty Kilgore, the track listing, and a short visual trailer of KING GIANT’s recording experience (which includes audio excerpts from two tracks) have all been released. The band plans to independently release the album in June on CD, and digitally distribute again with The Path Less Traveled, with an LP version to follow.

The trailer for KING GIANT’s Black Ocean Waves is now playing RIGHT HERE.

Black Ocean Waves Track Listing:
1. Mal De Mer
2. The One That God Forgot To Save
3. Requiem For A Drunkard
4. Red Skies
5. Trail Of Thorns
6. Blood Of The Lamb
7. The Gentleman Carny
8. There Were Bells

KING GIANT has plans to unveil their new anthems, including a live local record release blowout in Springfield, Virginia alongside brethren Sixty Watt Shaman and Foghound on May 30th. Additional shows and tour plans will be posted shortly. Stand by for the final release date for Black Ocean Waves and whiskey-soaked tears of wounded redemption from the album to pour forth in the coming weeks.

KING GIANT Live:
5/30/2015 Empire – Springfield, VA – record release show w/ Sixty Watt Shaman, Foghound

http://www.kinggiant.com
http://kinggiant.bandcamp.com
http://www.facebook.com/kinggiantband
http://twitter.com/kinggiantrocks

King Giant, Black Ocean Waves album teaser

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Here are 115 More Pics from Days of the Doomed III

Posted in Visual Evidence on June 25th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

It was a really, really busy weekend. I’m glad to say I did actually get to stand still for a bit and watch each of the 19 acts performing at Days of the Doomed III at The Blue Pig in Cudahy, Wisconsin, but I was just as likely to be parking myself somewhere to pop open the laptop or back and forth in front of the stage taking pics.

At one point, one of the dudes working at the venue said to me while I had the computer open, “You’re supposed to be enjoying yourself, not working.”

And it occurred to me that this is how I enjoy myself.

A 20-minute break between each band didn’t leave much wriggle room to go searching for the perfect shot of each band and still give the actual set the clacky-clacky it deserved. As such, I wound up with a lot of photos, and since I wouldn’t have time to include them in the actual live-blog posts (day one and day two), it only seems fair to give them their own post.

Below — with setlists when I could get them — you’ll find pictures of Iron Man, Penance, Venomous Maximus, Kings Destroy, Lucertola, Moon Curse and Gravedirt from day one, and The Gates of Slumber, In~Graved, Dream Death, Pale Divine, Earthen Grave, Leather Nun America, King Giant, Spillage, Chowder, Beelzefuzz, Gorgantherron and Whaler from day two.

Pics start after the jump. Hope you enjoy:

Read more »

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Front to Back: Days of the Doomed III, Day Two

Posted in Features on June 22nd, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

06.22.13 — The Blue Pig — Cudahy, WI

11:41AM: Quiet start this morning at The Blue Pig for day two of Days of the Doomed III, but no doubt things will pick up shortly. Today is 12 bands in more than 13 hours, so it’s going to be a long one, a busy one and I expect by the end of it, a tired one, but that’s a long ways off, and after a hotel breakfast and a couple minutes respite before heading down to the venue, I’m feeling good and doing my best to ignore the prospect of the drive tomorrow morning. Much to do before I get there.

In about 20 minutes, Whaler from Michigan kick off the day, followed by Gorgantherron, Beelzefuzz, Spillage, King Giant, Leather Nun America, Earthen Grave, Pale Divine, Dream Death, In~Graved and The Gates of Slumber. It’s a powerful lineup, but they must have powerwashed the venue after last night, brought in a firehose or something, because it smells much better this morning than it did by the end of yesterday’s bands.

Last night was pretty riotous by the end of Penance and Iron Man, so I figure there’s a lot of attendees getting off to a slow start this morning, but if the kickoff is as righteous as yesterday’s — and I hear excellent things about Whaler — I’ll be glad I got here early.

Before I start, and since I don’t know if I’ll have the energy to point it out later, I just want to say a quick thanks to Mercyful Mike Smith for putting on Days of the Doomed III, and for the tremendous work he’s done assembling this lineup and getting the right crew in hand to make it run so smoothly.

Alright, here goes:

Whaler

12:37PM: Apparently, Michigan trio Whaler had something of a late night. They were not alone, but they nonetheless delivered a respectable set of roughed-up/burled-up Kyuss-style heavy rock and showcased a dynamic of their own within the semi-familiar riffing. Guitarist/vocalist Adam Lupo and bassist Eric Lomba had rich tones and drummer Adam Weiler, despite chasing his cowbell across his kit as it moved away from him, was adaptable either to the desert grooves of the material they played earlier or the thicker, Sleep-y vibes of their closing instrumental. Their debut LP, Deep Six, was self-released last December and I’ll see if they have any available. It probably wasn’t an ideal time to see them — noon after a hell of a Friday night — but they opened day two with smooth, rolling grooves and an engagingly bullshit-free atmosphere.

Gorgantherron


1:28PM: Imported from Indiana, the trio Gorgantherron clearly got more comfortable as their set went on and seemed more at home in their faster parts, rather than some of the more languid sections. All three members — Chris Flint (drums), Clint Logan (guitar), and Toby Richardson (bass) — contributed vocals, and that gave cuts like “Mothra” and the particularly memorable “Assimilate” a touch of flavor, which went down well with the crowd, still rolling in and wiping the crust from its collective eyes. Keeping holy the Sabbath, Gorgantherron hit on a few satisfying shuffles in their solo parts, Logan taking the fore with a smile to rip out blues leads while Richardson and Flint held down the solid grooves beneath. They weren’t trying for anything fancy, but there was some potential there, and they sat naturally between doom and heavy rock as only a band who doesn’t think there should be a line between them can.

Beelzefuzz


2:40PM: I don’t know what Beelzefuzz are ready for, but whatever it is, they’re ready for it. The Maryland bizarro doom trio had Days of the Doomed III more or less eating out of their hands 10 minutes before they went on, and it was readily apparent that they were the show-up point for a lot of people this afternoon. The band’s way of rewarding such loyalty? Well, they brought up Eric Wagner to cover “Ride the Sky” by Lucifer’s Friend, and that was pretty awesome, Wagner and guitarist/vocalist Dana Ortt trading off parts and laughing all the while. Beelzefuzz have a new record coming Aug. 9 on The Church Within, and I’ve yet to see them and not be impressed. I realized watching them that it had only been a couple months since I caught them in Delaware at The Eye of the Stoned Goat 2, but nothing here felt redundant or stale. Bassist Pug Kirby and drummer Darin McCloskey were dead on with slow, creeping grooves that gave Ortt plenty of space to weird out with vocal effects, organ-sounding guitar and all the rest. If their record captures even a fraction of what these guys have turned into in a live setting, it might just be the summer’s don’t miss for doom.

Chowder


3:45PM: When I streamed a couple tracks from Chowder‘s Passion Rift full-length last summer, I wondered how they’d be able to bring so many textures to a live setting. Now I know: They do it with their feet, and they do it very carefully. Maryland doom nobility Josh Hart (guitar; also bassist for Earthride) and John Brenner (bass; also guitarist/vocalist for Revelation) both had an array of foot-pedals at their disposal and they made liberal use of them to add to the instrumental progressive runs of their material. Early on, Hart blew out the Sunn head he was playing through — always a bummer, especially for someone who’s come a long way — but Al Morris from Iron Man‘s amp was brought in as a replacement, Chowder recovered and the three-piece rounded out by drummer Ronnie Kalimon (Unorthodox) had the room packed out by the time they were done. I don’t know if maybe they were playing doomier songs for the fest or if the tones were just different live, but they seemed thicker tonally than I recalled from the album and I didn’t hear any whining about it. Cool set, and where they seemed on paper like an odd fit, they made sense for the bill after all.

Spillage


4:42PM: Going by their name and how they worked on stage, Chicago-based Spillage would seem to be the brainchild of guitarist Tony Spillman, who’s pulling double-duty later in a set with Earthen Grave. Days of the Doomed III was their first show, and while it was the “featuring Bruce Franklin of Trouble” portion of the lineup that first drew my attention, the whole band was stellar. Really. And not just for a first show, either. They were tight, the songs were spot on, they covered “Devil Woman” by Cliff Richard, and had a great energy throughout their whole time on stage. They looked genuinely thrilled to be here, thanked the crowd, thanked Mercyful Mike Smith several times, and even though Spillman had a little technical difficulty, there was never any real loss of momentum as they settled into a killer set that ranks up there with Moon Curse yesterday as one of the weekend’s most pleasant surprises. With two guitars, keys, bass, drums and standalone vocals, they were crowded on the Blue Pig stage, but that only added to how together they were sonically. I haven’t the faintest idea what their plans as a band might be, when they’ll put material to tape, etc. — they have shirts for sale but no music — but as righteous and enjoyable as their set was, I’ll be keeping an eye out and hoping they can bring the same vitality to a studio recording. An awesome debut.

King Giant

5:58PM: There hasn’t been much Southern metal thus far into the fest, but if there was a quota, King Giant just met it. I was pretty familiar with their stuff after streaming their Dismal Hollow LP last year, and they were basically what I expected, just tighter and louder. In the case of vocalist Dave Hammerly, much louder. Of the two mics he had on stage, one cut through the Virginian five-piece’s thick riffing enough to border on abrasive, but they grooved out darkly nonetheless, here touching on Down, there nodding out a Clutch riff. It was burly stuff, and I think a lot of people unfamiliar with what they do decided it was a good time to grab a bite to eat — they love their own here, as everywhere — ahead of some of the evening’s headliners, but King Giant were professional and energetic, many-hatted (four out of five) and they made the most out of the time they had, playing to a tight group of their fans who seemed appreciative enough to make up for everyone else.

Leather Nun America


6:50PM: I’ll give it to Cali trio Leather Nun America (also stylized with a lowercase ‘a’ to start the last word), they know what they like. Tonally, guitarist/vocalist John Sarnie was straight-up Wino, and the band covered “To Protect and Serve” from The Obsessed‘s The Church Within to drive the point home. Bassist/backing vocalist Francis Roberts, his eyes rolled back, was a more unhinged presence than Sarnie, but it made the dynamic on stage more complex and, frankly, more satisfying. I was starting to drag ass a bit and so ordered a pizza (hasn’t arrived yet, but I’ll get to eat at some point) and had another bottle of water, but some of the people who were in and out during King Giant settled in for Leather Nun America and the band, despite being the only West Coast act on the bill, seemed right at home amongst the doomed.

Earthen Grave


8:22PM: I’ve seen Earthen Grave a few times now — here last year, at SHoD — and to my ears they’ve never sounded so good. Of course, nailing a cover of Rainbow‘s “Stargazer” with not one but two violins (Rachel Barton Pine and her younger sister dueling it out) helps, and bringing Victor Griffin up to take on Pentagram‘s “Relentless” (who better?) for a set closer helps as well, but even so, from the opener “Death is another Word” — the bonus track on the Ripple Music reissue of their self-titled debut — to the plodding aggression of “Dismal,” the Chicago outfit seemed to hit it just right this time around. Maybe they’ve coalesced more as a unit, or maybe I’m on some post-pizza energy boost — pizza gives you energy, right? — but they killed it, and placed where they were in the lineup, they more or less started off the evening’s headliners, with Pale Divine, Dream Death, In~Graved and The Gates of Slumber still to come. Things are about to get heavy and miserable, but I’m up for it, and judging by the howls of the crowd who just moved from in front of the stage being changed over to the tvs in the back which have the Blackhawks game on, the crowd is up for it, so what the hell? Let’s make an evening of it.

Pale Divine

9:39PM: With three new songs in tow, Pennsylvania/Maryland trio Pale Divine — drummer Darin McCloskey doubling up on the day after performing earlier with Beelzefuzz — sounded positively refreshed. Guitarist/vocalist Greg Diener and bassist/backing vocalist Ron McGinnis (aka Fez, also of Admiral Browning) have gelled tonally to the point where you’d swear the latter had always been in the band, and likewise, McGinnis brings a different personality with him that adds to the chemistry. I took it as a sign that they’ve already started to write a follow-up to last year’s Painted Windows Black — which, not to take away from it, was accomplished but hardly what I’d call refreshed — and for as gloomy and plodding as the material is, spirits seemed high straight through when they handed a mic into the crowd where it was picked up by Sanctus Bellum‘s Benjamin Yaker and shared with Butch Balich and Mercyful Mike Smith for a finale take on “Amplified” from Pale Divine‘s 2001 debut full-length, Thunder Perfect Mind. The Blue Pig is packed out (still watching hockey), and the mood is good, so with three bands left to go, the night is on a roll.

Dream Death


10:54PM: I’ve had my earplugs in for too long, can feel my right ear beginning an infection. Probably better that than dare to take on Dream Death unarmored. I knew when I missed them in April at Roadburn that I’d have seeing them at Days of the Doomed III to look forward to, and honestly, I’ve looked forward to it ever since. The Pittsburgh four-piece — all of whom played at one point or another during Penance‘s set last night — are something of a legendary act, and here, it felt like it. Fists pumped to “Divine Agony” and a slew of cuts from the band’s 2013 new album, Somnium Excessum, including “Feast” and “You’re Gonna Die up There.” The biggest response was saved, fittingly, for closer “Back from the Dead,” and if ever you wanted to see who in the crowd knew a song and who didn’t, you need look no further than who followed the on-a-dime time changes in “Back from the Dead,” raging Celtic Frost fast and dark, viciously primitive but still holding a potent tension after all these years. They were welcomed as liberators, and it’s hard to imagine it wasn’t gratifying for the band. When they were done, Mike Smith took the stage (he’s been introducing each act) and called the raffle. I didn’t win, despite my sure-bet tickets. Always next year. The good news is Dream Death were excellent and I got to pick up a copy of Somnium Excessum, which I’m looking forward to adding to my already considerable ride-home playlist for tomorrow. Right on.

In~Graved


12:24AM: Well, Victor Griffin wins tone again. He can take home his trophy from Days of the Doomed III and put it next to the similarly-shaped awards for tone he’s picked up at probably every show he’s played in the last 25 years. Much of the In-Graved set was familiar from Roadburn, but “Digital Critic” still made an effective opener and “Late for an Early Grave” seemed especially rousing. The lights went out for a minute, but were quickly restored, not that it stopped the band in the slightest. Bassist Dan Lively stepped in to fill the role Guy Pinhas had held for the European tour, and he, drummer “Minnesota” Pete Campbell and keyboardist Jeff “Oly” Olson meshed well, and the band had clearly gotten more cohesive over the course of their time in Europe, which ended a month ago now if I’ve got the dates right. Still. Ron Holzner came out for a song and Campbell broke all his drumsticks, so it was a loose vibe but a tight band, which is just as it should be. In~Graved rounded out with the Animals cover “Don’t Let Me be Misunderstood” into Place of Skulls‘ “Last Hit,” which if nothing else was a stirring reminder to me of just how good 2003’s With Vision was. I could go on a whole rant about it, but wow, it’s been a hell of a day. This is the proverbial home stretch though — or whatever the hockey equivalent is, in honor of the Blackhawks, who apparently won — and with The Gates of Slumber still to come, I know this is still the place to be. Feet sore, head sore, brain tired, but not done yet.

The Gates of Slumber


2:12AM: Just for kicks — also in the name of Science Bloody Science! — during The Gates of Slumber‘s set, I walked outside the venue and down the street to see how many houses I’d pass before I couldn’t hear the band anymore. I got six properties away from The Blue Pig, and I could still hear them, but it seemed reasonable to assume that the people inside the house couldn’t feel the vibrations of Jason McCash‘s bass, and that would have to do. I’d have kept going, maybe, but I wanted to see the band. It’s been a minute and I was hoping for some new material. They played “Death March” from their Scion-sponsored Stormcrow EP, which I also picked up off the merch table, and that sounded pretty vicious. The place was winding down on the quick, people giving drunkhugs and saying their “see you next year”s, but I wasn’t gonna split until they were done. Not that I didn’t think about cutting out and going back to the Best Western, but putting it to the scale of having been there for over 13 hours, another couple minutes to watch “The Scovrge ov Drvnkenness” or “Day of Farewell” — which is one of those songs I’m reminded of how much I dig every time I hear it — or the closer “Coven of Cain” didn’t seem unreasonable. It had been a long day, but The Gates of Slumber — McCash, guitarist/vocalist Karl Simon and drummer “Iron” Bob Fouts — were the downtrodden nail in Days of the Doomed III‘s coffin, and the fest would’ve been hard pressed to find someone more appropriate to close out after In-Graved and the many others preceding. By the time the house lights came up, it was clear the night was over.

 —

2:32AM: Back at the hotel now, listening to someone stomp the living shit out of the floor one level up, also known as the ceiling of this room. All the same, this chair seems absurdly comfortable. One more time, I just want to thank Mercyful Mike Smith for the effort and execution behind this fest. The whole crew at The Blue Pig ran this thing smoothly from front to back, kept the mood positive and kept the drinks flowing. Also special thanks to Postman Dan for generally being awesome and for specifically dealing with me running back and forth and taking out the laptop like a dork. It’s much appreciated.

There are a lot of others. A lot. I’d start to list them, but it’s getting on 3AM and I have the alarm set for just about four hours to get up and start the at-least-15-hour drive back to New Jersey. Gotta be to work on Monday. So I’m gonna get to bed and then get coffee. Lots and lots of coffee.

Thanks for reading.

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