Live Review: Maryland Doom Fest 2018 Night Three, 06.24.18

Posted in Features, Reviews on June 26th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

maryland-doom-fest-2018-night-three-poster

Before I get started on the last night of Maryland Doom Fest 2018, I want to thank JB Matson and Mark Cruikshank for the incredible work they’ve put into making this event something truly special. Think Maryland was ready for a festival to help define and codify its generations-spanning underground scene? Maryland Doom Fest has done so in four years’ time, and not only has it helped give an understanding to what Maryland doom is, but it’s working actively to broaden those horizons as well. And its reach is growing. Not only in bands. Last night the dude standing to my left was there with friends from Portland, Oregon, and to my right was a handful of folks from Albuquerque, New Mexico, all packed right at the front of the stage. It’s growing, and quickly.

But as Maryland Doom Fest enters what might be its Golden Age in presenting shows people will talk about years later — “ah yeah, were you at Doom Fest when Windhand played?”, etc. — the event has also kept its head on its shoulders about the work in progress. It’s a grounded experience, very much of its place, and a thrill to be able to return here and see it, especially after missing last year. I very much hope to be back to Frederick and back to Cafe 611 in 2019.

I don’t mind telling you I rolled into the venue in time to catch the first band feeling like I’d had my ass kicked up and down 6th St. already — because I had, two days running — but the momentum of the final day of Maryland Doom Fest 2018 was as thick as the riffs and it was a pleasure to be shoved along to a riotous finish.

Happened like this:

Gateway to Hell

Gateway to Hell (Photo JJ Koczan)

Baltimore natives Gateway to Hell started a few minutes late, which unless I’m mistaken resulted in a shortening of their set. If so, all the more a bummer, because when they were done, I wanted more. They made their debut last year with the EP, Clovers (review here), and though I had a more metallic impression of them in my mind from that going into their set opening the last day of Maryland Doom Fest 2018, with an orchestra of effects there was an experimentalist psych edge to the guitar work of Alex Briscoe that blended with straight-ahead rhythms from bassist Eric Responsible (who wins the weekend as regards surnames) and drummer Dan Petrucelli, all of which gave frontman Jerrod Bronson ground to belt out lyrics over top. They had intense moments to be sure, but I wondered if their next release might bring more of that weirdo sensibility to bear in their sound. Fingers crossed. It worked really well on stage.

Bedowyn

Bedowyn (Photo JJ Koczan)

Comprised of vocalist/guitarist Alex Traboulsi, guitarist Mark Peters, newcomer bassist Channing Azure and drummer Marc Campbell, Raleigh, North Carolina’s Bedowyn were about as close as Doom Fest got to black metal this year, and well, it was pretty close. Bedowyn, who got their start in 2011 and have an EP and full-length under their collective belt, blend that genre with a handful of others — thrash, classic metal, heavy rock, and so on — to conjure an aggressive but still poised sound, and Traboulsi‘s vocals turned from screams to sort of cleaner shouts while Campbell‘s drums held together all the part changes and stylistic turns. They went on early, so got an extra five minutes to play and made the most of it as a standout coming from someplace different than just about everything on the bill, which, again, was packed the whole way through. Also, if I remember right, I was told Campbell played drums with two broken fingers, thereby earning immeasurable bonus points. So there’s that too.

Saints and Winos

Saints and Winos (Photo JJ Koczan)

I guess everyone was on the 4:15 doombus to Frederick, because all of a sudden I turned around and the room was was pretty full for Saints and Winos from Rochester, New York. Mixing clean and harsh vocals, they tipped hats to more extreme and sludgy sounds, but had their basis in heavy rock and roll and a somewhat classic style, with plenty of low end fuzz and metallic swing very much in the spirit of the weekend in those terms and as regards general ease of pace. Their debut album, the all-caps WE RISE, came out late last year and featured three-part harmonies from guitarist Joe Dellaquila, bassist Amanda Rampe and drummer J.B. Rodgers on songs like “Great Wall,” and there was some of that on stage as well but it didn’t quite come through the house P.A. with the same kind of balance. Hazards of being the third band on the bill with complex arrangements. They were engaging enough to make me dig into the record anyway, and while there’s room to grow in their sound, it was plain to hear that potential during their set.

Book of Wyrms

Book of Wyrms (Photo JJ Koczan)

Look, I don’t want to say classic doom will never die, because let’s face it: everything fucking dies. Someday the ocean is going rise up and eat us all about 30 seconds before the asteroid hits and splits the planet in two, only to be later consumed by the sun, also dying, so yeah. Classic doom will die, but it sure as shit ain’t dead yet. Book of Wyrms made an intriguing opening statement with 2017’s Sci-Fi/Fantasy (review here), which came out via respected tonal specialists Twin Earth Records. The lineup of vocalist/effects-bringer Sarah Moore Lindsey, guitarists Kyle Lewis and Ben Coudriet, bassist Jay Lindsey and drummer Chris DeHaven dug into traditional stoner-doom vibes that were, indeed, a pleasure to witness, and their potential was writ large over their time on stage in much the same fashion as on the record. I don’t know if it’s the balance of samples vs. riffs or doomed aspects and more heavy rock roll and melody in Lindsey‘s vocals, but there’s something waiting to be tapped in their sound that, if they get there, will make all the difference for them. As it was, they carried the room with ease.

Sierra

Sierra (Photo JJ Koczan)

What a way to start a tour. And what a tour to start. Canadian three-piece Sierra obviously enjoyed launching a run of shows as they did last year at Maryland Doom Fest 2017, because they were doing the same thing all over again. This time, they’ll be out supporting fest-headliners Weedeater, and as they’ve been a steady presence on the Tone Deaf Touring circuit the last several years — they’ll also be at de facto sister fest Descendants of Crom in Pittsburgh this September — they’re tight enough in their delivery to have a professional sheen. They’re a tricky band as well, because it’s easy to watch them and say, “Okay, heavy rock, fair enough,” but that’s not it. There’s more just under the surface. To say Rush is a lazy comparison based on the simple fact of their northern origins, but they’re more prog than they let on, and they work smoothly in tipping that balance back and forth between the straightforward and the more complex. Of course, that makes them more exciting to watch, since they’re neither purely clinical nor just another collective bearing riffs, but instead offer something more varied between the two. It was my first time seeing them, and they were better than I knew, making a highlight of “Rainbows End” before finishing out with a cover of Black Sabbath‘s “Into the Void.”

Curse the Son

Curse the Son (Photo JJ Koczan)

However, I knew damn well that Curse the Son were going to be incredible. Perfect band for the setting, great slot, a room that would just bounce their volume off the walls. Yeah, it was gonna work out. And it did. It’s been a little bit — more than I’d prefer, certainly — since I last saw the Hamden, Connecticut, trio, and in that time, they’ve released their third album, Isolator (review here), signed to Ripple Music and brought in drummer Robert Ives alongside bassist/backing vocalist Brandon Keefe and founding guitarist/vocalist Ron Vanacore, so yeah, it’s been reasonably busy. Another band Maryland Doom Fest 2018 is sharing with Descendants of Crom, they also appeared at this Spring’s inaugural New England Stoner and Doom Fest, and as Vanacore announced from the stage, they’re working toward a new album for early 2019. “Huzzah” would be putting it mildly. They were the first band all weekend for whom I removed my earplugs and let go a little bit to headbang and really take in. A lot of Maryland doom resides in a mid-paced groove. Curse the Son play slower and lower, and that nod was exactly what my weary soul needed. With Vanacore‘s tonal morass and vocals cutting through, older cuts like “Spider Stole the Weed” and “Goodbye Henry Anslinger” were familiar and welcome, and though he had some rather significant shoes to fill, the swing and intensity Ives brought to the drums was a dead-on fit. They don’t really tour, but still, theirs was one of my favorite sets of the whole weekend, and if you’re reading this and you ever get the chance to see them live, do it.

Backwoods Payback

Backwoods Payback (Photo JJ Koczan)

Under general circumstances, I’m not one to gush, but I tell you know lie, I went up to each member of Backwoods Payback individually — to guitarist/vocalist Mike Cummings, bassist Jessica Baker and drummer Erik Larson, each separately — and told them how incredible their new album, Future Slum, is. I don’t even know how many times the word “awesome” left my mouth, but needless to say it was an embarrassing number. The thing about it is, they just absolutely nailed it. Same could easily be said of their set at Maryland Doom Fest 2018. Playing new material and old after opening with “You Don’t Move” from their most recent outing, 2016’s Fire Not Reason (review here), they absolutely laid waste to Cafe 611. And it’s for the same reason: everything has clicked. The songs, the lineup, the performance, the presence — it’s all in the same place and they’re experienced enough and smart enough to throw it at the audience in just the right way. And the conviction from all three of them. Plenty of bands this weekend meant what they were doing. To be blunt, nobody was phoning it in. But with Backwoods Payback, it was another level entirely, and when Cummings jumped off the stage toward the end of the set and shared the mic with a couple kids in the crowd who knew the words, it felt like a moment that encapsulated the band’s capacity to hit hard and still translate that their conviction into a meaningful experience. I’ll have more to say about the new record and I’ve already made plans to see them again next month, but this one was a landmark not to be forgotten anytime soon.

Caustic Casanova

Caustic Casanova (Photo JJ Koczan)

I knew Caustic Casanova were underrated, and seeing them for the first time, I guess I was interested to find out if I could find a reason why. Their sound is certainly accessible enough; the Washington, D.C./Frederick trio play a style of heavy rock that in part feels drawn from ’90s college/art rock weirdoism and part drawn from a desire to mash that against sonic pummel and punker drive, but they’re also a thoughtful band. Each part has its purpose, and even in their delivery live, there was a sense of focus that pervaded what they were doing. It was fun to watch, definitely, but there was a strong intent there — nothing felt like an accident, however experimental it may have been in the composition. One knows they’re Melvins fans because they did a cover of “Cow” on their latest 7″, but their style has much more to it than just post-Buzzo riffing and tryhard avant gardeship so often resulting from that influence. And if Caustic Casanova are underrated, the reason is precisely because they’re not easy to pin down. They’re a dynamic, complex trio given to deft rhythmic turns and an indie aspect to complement/contrast their heavier elements, and they don’t fit into any single genre tag necessarily beyond the blanket “progressive heavy rock,” which is a pale descriptor for the actual depth of character in the music they make.

Duel

Duel (Photo JJ Koczan)

The rest of the night would be given to riotousness, and Duel were the start of that. Up from their home in Austin, Texas, this would mark the largest tour they’ve undertaken in the US, but they come into it with multiple European stints on their CV. Recently also announced for Heavy Mash 2018 in October (info here), their latest release is actually a live album called Live at the Electric Church (review here) that Heavy Psych Sounds put out as a complement to their two to-date studio LPs, 2016’s Fears of the Dead (review here) and 2017’s Witchbanger (review here), and from that, I thought I had a pretty decent idea what to expect. What took me by surprise, though, was the energy behind what they were doing. They’re classic heavy rock in their stylistic root, but rather than present it as some staid relic to be showcased like a museum piece under glass, they instead break that glass with their bare hands, smear the blood over their faces and proceed to capture the dangerous spirit that drove the earliest days of riffery in the first place. Actually, they do more than just capture it. They make it their own, so that this sound so often associated with the past becomes something inextricably forward thinking. I dug the records, so wasn’t surprised to be into the live show, but the sheer vitality of it was staggering. They made it a celebration.

The Midnight Ghost Train

The Midnight Ghost Train (Photo JJ Koczan)

Their last show. Heavy rock and roll loses one of its most potent live acts in The Midnight Ghost Train, who made Maryland Doom Fest 2018 the occasion for their final gig. Ever? Maybe. One has learned time and again never to say never in rock and roll, but the band made it known in April they were calling it quits, and this was their version of going out with a bang. Did you ever get to see The Midnight Ghost Train? It’s a question I can see myself asking in conversation for years to come — they are a litmus test for music and performance as a kinetic force, and a comparison point to which few will be able to live up. Founded by guitarist/vocalist Steve Moss and ending with longtime drummer Brandon Burghart (I don’t know what else he’s got going, but I can’t imagine any band not wanting him in its lineup) and relative newcomer bassist Tyler Harper (also of Capra), they were fury incarnate with a bittersweet underpinning. I’ve watched The Midnight Ghost Train shows for a decade, and I tell you with no reservation that they’re among the most powerful heavy rock bands I’ve ever seen. Moss transforms into a shuffle-blues madman, Burghart‘s swing is nigh-unmatchable, and Harper stood toe-to-toe with the guitar, which is saying something. They will be missed. But they went out as they always were — on fire — and I stayed up front the whole time and felt fortunate to be there to see it, as I think did everyone else in the room. They were a big part of what made the day so special. And even if they get back together at some point, years down the line or whatever, the impact of this night, this set, stands as a monument to who they were as a group and Moss‘ realized vision of heavy, funky, bluesy righteousness.

Weedeater

Weedeater (Photo JJ Koczan)

Well, if one band over the course of the three-day event was going to ignite a genuine mosh, it might as well be Weedeater, whose tonal dominance was evident from soundcheck onward despite “Dixie” Dave Collins breaking a string on his bass. Years of near-constant touring have given North Carolina’s Weedeater a reputation that well precedes them, and though it had been years since I last caught them, I knew the lumbering sludge that was about to unfold as soon as they hit into “God Luck and Good Speed” to open their set, with guitarist Dave Shepherd and drummer Carlos Denogean doing no shortage of the heavy lifting when it came to rolling out massive, lumbering nod. I’m too old for that slam-dancing shit, so I hightailed it from the front of the stage on the quick, but Weedeater left no question as to why they were headlining. What the hell else could possibly follow them? They’ve made a career on sounding unhinged, and even down to Denogean wailing away at his kit, they lived up to that, but they’re long since veterans, too, so they’re not just fucking around. They’re professionally fucking around. Good work if you can get it. The crowd knew the set the whole way through, and though Weedeater are coming up on due for a follow-up to 2015’s Goliathan (review here), which they’ve basically been on tour supporting since it came out, their command of the stage wasn’t something that just happened. It was whittled down from the years of grinding on the road they’ve done. Worth it? You’d have to ask them, but watching them play for the first time in a long-enough while, they looked like a band that made themselves headliners the hard way, and who have earned every accolade, every top slot, every laudatory hyperbole they’ve gotten. Like so much of the festival that led up to them, they were the right band, right time.

I saw and met a lot of really wonderful people this weekend who had absurdly nice things to say about this site and whatnot, from the Horseburner guys to hanging out with Mike from Backwoods Payback and Leanne Ridgeway from Riff Relevant, to seeing Paul-forever-to-be-known-as-MadJohnShaft and talking about the various European fests he hits, Dave Benzotti, Erik Larson, Earl Walker Lundy, Ron Vanacore, Deanne Firkin, Billy from Philly and the gents from The Age of Truth, Mark and Pete from ZED, Uncle Fezzy, Darren Waters, Dee Calhoun, Shy Kennedy, Pat Harrington, the dudes from Bailjack, Steve Moss, Melanie Streko, Lisa Hass, Chuck Dukeheart and the Foghound gang, Mat from Castle, Doomstress Alexis, Mark Schaff, Justin from Molasses Barge, Brenna from Lightning Born, on and on and on.

Thank you is my point. People say incredible stuff about this site, and I can’t ever really let myself hear it, but I’m happy if someone feels positively about a thing that happens here. Every now and then I do too. This weekend was one of those times. Thank you for reading and being a part of it.

It was five and a half hours north in the car when I let out of the Super 8 in Frederick to get to Connecticut, which is how this review ended up being later than I’d prefer, but so it goes. Before I end the post, I need to send a special thanks to The Patient Mrs., whose management and running point on The Pecan the last few days made this trip possible in the first place. That’s a hard job, even more for her than for me, and I owe her eternally for her efforts in allowing me to pursue crazy ideas like, “so I’m gonna go to Frederick for a weekend and hit Doom Fest you got the baby okay cool thanks.” It means more to me than I can say.

More pics after the jump. Thanks again all.

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Live Review: Maryland Doom Fest 2018 Night Two, 06.23.18

Posted in Features, Reviews on June 24th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

maryland doom fest 2018 night two poster

This scene is staggering. In terms of enclaves of hard and heavy, Maryland doom might be rivaled only by Floridian death metal and New York hardcore for longevity, and I’m pretty sure neither of those dates back to the early ’70s. Think about that. For almost as long as there’s been an idea of “heavy,” there’s been Maryland doom. And the number of lifers in bands and out boggles the mind. At best, I’m an interloper here, and I’d never claim otherwise. Every year or two or three, I’m lucky enough to come down for a fest or something like that, poke my head around and be humbled by the spirit that lives in this place. To actually be a part of it? I can’t imagine.

Maryland Doom Fest has taken on the responsibility not only of representing its native creatives, but in providing the scene a bridge to the outside world as well. The second day of Maryland Doom Fest 2018 did like day one and branched out in geography and sound, the scope of the festival increasing each year even as it maintains its ties to the place whose banner it flies. There’d be plenty of doom, but noise and heavy rock as well, metal both tangible and intangible, and more besides. You bet your ass it’s overwhelming. Maryland Doom Fest comes but once a year. Gotta make it count.

Another rainy day in Frederick set the gray-sky tone for a bill that would start out dark and work its way to the murkiest finish of all with Windhand headlining. Here’s how it happened:

Electropathic

Electropathic (Photo JJ Koczan)

As with Unorthodox last night, the new band fronted by Gary Isom, guitarist in Weed is Weed and former drummer in Spirit Caravan, Pentagram, Valkyrie and others, is a cross-generational affair. Along with drummer Ronnie Kalimon (formerly of Asylum, Unorthodox, etc.), Electropathic features young bassist/backing vocalist Zak Suleri and lead guitarist Eli Watson, both of Et Mors, and with Isom in the frontman role, they ran through a set of classic Maryland doom. Defined in no small part by their lack of pretense, they seemed to still be feeling out where they were ultimately headed as a band. They formed in the back half of last year by all appearances, so while none of them is a stranger to the stage, they’re in the process of developing their chemistry and sound. Likewise, Isom was still internalizing his position at the fore — even in Weed is Weed, he’s off to the side of the stage. He held it down though and their riffs resounded like a clarion to the converted still making their way in — time to go to church, school, whatever. Just time to go.

Molasses Barge

Molasses Barge (Photo JJ Koczan)

Hailing and hauling from Pittsburgh, Molasses Barge reaffirmed the connection between Steel City and Maryland doom that’s been there since the days of Dream Death‘s original run and probably even before that. The five-piece released their self-titled album in 2017 on Blackseed Records and had songs from that and new material in tow, which frontman Brian “Butch” Balich announced from the stage saying drummer Wayne Massey “calls this one ‘Tin Snake,'” or something thereabouts (hard to read the notes, sorry if I’ve got the title wrong). Balich is a formidable presence on his own, as he’s proven over the years in Penance, Argus and most recently Arduini/Balich, and in Molasses Barge he sets his powerful voice the task of cutting through the low end tone rollout from guitarists Justin Gizzi and Chuck Forsythe and bassist Amy Bianco that, presumably is what gives the band its name. Classic heavy riffs and a touch of metal underpinning, they were unsurprisingly met with welcome by the early crowd, and brought out Iron Man frontman Dee Calhoun to co-front a cover of that band’s “On the Mountain” to pay righteous homage to founding guitarist “Iron” Alfred Morris III, who passed away earlier this year.

Shadow Witch

Shadow Witch (Photo JJ Koczan)

I said as much to vocalist Earl Walker Lundy after their set, but I’ve always sensed something a little weird in Shadow Witch. Across the Kingston, New York, four-piece’s two albums to-date, last year’s Disciples of the Crow (review here) and 2016’s Sun Killer (discussed here), there’s been an edge of something standing them out from the pack. Having now seen them live, I feel like I have a better sense of what it is. In no small part, it’s Lundy himself. He carries across his vocals with utmost conviction and purpose, and backed by bassist David Pannullo, guitarist Jeremy Hall and drummer Doug Thompson, he ran his voice through a range of effects and performed barefoot — a bravery in itself considering the amount of spillage I’ve seen on that stage over the last two days — as free in is movement physically as his voice was to carry across the songs. They dwell in a between-genre space and remaining excitingly difficult to classify, but what matters is they carried their passion over to the audience, who met it with welcome. Good band. Better band than people know. Better band than I knew.

Doomstress

Doomstress (Photo JJ Koczan)

Speaking of bands I should’ve seen already, I went into Doomstress‘ set with the distinct impression that their recorded material to-date has yet to do them proper justice. They tour regularly on week and week-plus runs and had been on the road for four nights already en route to Cafe 611, so it seemed likely the Houston four-piece would be on top of their game. Not to toot my own horn, but I was right. They’re a better band than they’ve shown on either of their short releases. It’s a question of balance in their sound. Not just between tonal heft and aggression/attitude or the commanding stage presence of Doomstress Alexis on bass and vocals with guitarists Brandon Johnson and Matt Taylor and drummer Buddy Hachar (also of Greenbeard), or of between the classic and the modern, but between the actual instruments themselves. The live wash of tone suits them, with Alexis‘ vocals cutting through, where on their recordings thus far there’s more separation of instruments. It’s dirtier live, and for the high quality riffs they play, that dirt fits really well. Especially coupled with the fact that their performance was so tight, it was like they were daring the crowd to match their energy level.

The Age of Truth

The Age of Truth (Photo JJ Koczan)

Another band it was my first time seeing (that’s five in a row!), Philly four-piece The Age of Truth had been hanging out all weekend and getting down with some shenanigans the first night of Maryland Doom Fest, but when they got on stage, it was all business. Well, mostly business. One seems to recall vocalist Kevin McNamara saying something before they went on about taking his shirt off and rubbing his nipples on the microphone — it didn’t happen, though it might’ve been an interesting bit of performance art; “what do those nipples signify?” and so on — but with the start of the set, he, guitarist Mike DiDonato, bassist Bill Miller and drummer Scott Fressetto launched into the most noise-rocking set the festival has thus far featured. Their blend of heavy rock groove and crunching tones and riffs made their Kozmik Artifactz-delivered debut, Threshold (review here), an aggro joy, and their live interpretation of those songs as well as the new cut “Palace of Rain” was all the more engaging for the ferocity of its realization. The slow-rolling-int0-quicker-shuffle of “Caroline” was a highlight, but I won’t take anything away from the impact of “Honey Pot” or anything else either. With an injection of melody into the newer stuff, they left some intrigue as to where they might be headed — a proper tease of something to watch for. It’ll be worth keeping an eye out.

Switchblade Jesus

Switchblade Jesus (Photo JJ Koczan)

Before Switchblade Jesus took the Cafe 611 stage, I was asked by Borgo Pass drummer and all-around-excellent-human-being Joe Wood what they sounded like. The first two words that came out of my mouth were “Texas” and “riffs.” To be fair, that’s not by any means all the three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Eric Calvert, bassist/vocalist Chris Black and drummer Jon Elizondo have to offer, but if you’ve never heard them before, it’s a start. They made an encouraging self-titled debut (review here) in 2013 and followed up last year with a contribution to Ripple Music‘s The Second Coming of Heavy split series (review here), which took the foundation of that initial offering and expanded it significantly, pulling back on some of the burl in favor of a more nuanced approach. Their set in Maryland? With Calvert and Black sharing vocal duties and Elizondo pounding away behind, they rose to the occasion. In front of the stage, the crowd headbanged and raised fists and dug in nearly as much as the band itself, whose set was flawless near as I could tell. I’ve seen them twice now, been impressed both times, and could only expect that trend to continue for the next round, whenever that might be.

Foghound

Foghound (Photo JJ Koczan)

The weekend’s emcee, Dave Benzotti, choked up in reading his intro to Foghound, which also served as a remembrance of those the Maryland doom scene has lost over the last year, including bassist Rev. Jim Forrester of Foghound (also Serpents of Secrecy, ex-Sixty Watt Shaman, etc.), and reasonably so given the tragedy of the circumstances of his passing. The inevitability of that loss working its way into the current chapter of Foghound‘s life as a band was thick as the Baltimore four-piece got going, but if they were working toward catharsis, they were doing so with volume and intensity as their means. Their third album, Awaken to Destroy,on which Forrester performs bass and new bassist Adam Heinzmann contributes vocals alongside those of drummer Chuck Dukeheart III and guitarists Dee Settar and Bob Sipes, is done and in the can, and they played material from it both during their own set — the title-track — and afterwards through the P.A., which went unnoticed by many by Dukeheart later explained was a way to get Forrester‘s playing heard even if people didn’t realize they were hearing it at the time. As they also played with a portrait of Forrester signed by many with messages of love (I didn’t have the courage), his presence and absence were both deeply felt by the room, but the music was a fitting tribute and a comfort alike.

Cavern

Cavern (Photo JJ Koczan)

Prog prog prog. Also, prog. It’s fun to watch a band who so delight in being bizarre or outside the norm, and while local instrumentalists Cavern were for sure the odd men out on the bill, that suited them remarkably well and I can only imagine it wasn’t the first time they’ve found themselves in that position. Drummer Stephen Schrock played a kit with his toms out flat before him while Zach Harkins ran his guitar through one of the most elaborate pedal boards I’ve seen this weekend and still had room on stage for a Moog to add atmosphere to the intricate and complex songs they played. Denizens of Grimoire Records, they were a perfectly timed departure. Following Foghound with another straight-up rock band would only be doing said band a disservice, but Cavern were coming from somewhere else completely, so there was no real comparing the two outfits. A jolt to the flow of the night that only served Cavern well, since with all their looped parts, woven-through noise and underlying groove, “jolt” seemed to be the whole idea. It would be all-go riffing from here on out, but whether one considers them on their own merits or in the context of the Maryland Doom Fest 2018 lineup, their efforts toward the bizarre were duly appreciated.

The Watchers

The Watchers (Photo JJ Koczan)

The second Ripple Music act on the bill to have made the trip from the Bay Area behind ZED, four-piece The Watchers delivered one of the most professional sets I’ve seen so far this weekend. I mean, The Obsessed were pro-shop, right? And so were ZED, since they’ve been mentioned, but The Watchers had it all down — from riffs to looks to delivery to vocalist Tim Narducci and guitarist Jeremy Epp working the crowd with natural showmanship while bassist Cornbread and drummer Carter Kennedy locked in groove after groove of rock-solid heavy rock, playing selections from this year’s Black Abyss (review here) as well as the preceding EP, Sabbath Highway (review here). They had a near-commercial level of catchiness, but since that’s not a thing that exists anymore, I’ll just note that as much clear effort as they put into their presentation, the accessibility of the songs came from the songs themselves and the quality of their construction. Were they up there selling it? Absolutely. And kicking ass while doing so, but if the material itself wasn’t so strong the whole thing would’ve fallen flat. The foundation of the entire show was the material itself, and accordingly that show was an utter joy to watch.

Earthride

Earthride (Photo JJ Koczan)

I actually went back and looked up the last time I saw Earthride. It was at Days of the Doomed in 2012 (review here). I also recalled seeing them in Brooklyn in 2011 sharing the stage with When the Deadbolt Breaks, which was a noteworthy coincidence since that band’s guitarist/vocalist, Aaron Lewis, happened to be playing bass in Earthride, having joined just prior to the Maryland band’s just-ended tour with The Skull. Still, six years (and eight days) of not seeing Earthride? Far too fucking long. Dave Sherman, who’d been hanging out all weekend, took the stage in celebration of the welcome-home party that their set was, and with Lewis, guitarist Greg Ball and drummer Eric Little behind him, he held court for what was an absolute highlight of the fest as a whole. I’d been thinking of them as headliners the whole day, and while they didn’t play last, there was definitely a main-event feel going into their set, which started out with “Earthride,” boasted the new single “Witch Gun” (discussed here), the title-track to 2010’s Something Wicked (review here) and capped with “Fighting the Devils Inside You” from 2005’s sophomore LP, Vampire Circus (discussed here). Sherman held the audience and never relinquished his grasp on their attention, and the crowd was as switched on as I’d seen the whole fest. Like I said, they weren’t the headliners in name, but really, they kind of were. And rightly so.

Castle

Castle (Photo JJ Koczan)

Man, I want to hear Castle‘s new album. So bad. The core duo of bassist/vocalist Elizabeth Blackwell and guitarist/vocalist Mat Davis will issue that long-player through a yet-to-be-announced label, but they’re a touring band at their core. They get out. In talking to Davis after their set, he called their current stint a “quick one.” To put that in perspective, it’s a cross-country tour with 12 dates. I’m assuming what he meant was that it was nothing like the weeks-long voyages that will invariably follow the new full-length’s release, and I guess that’s fair, but 12 dates isn’t nothing either. Last time I saw Castle was Maryland Doom Fest 2016 (review here) as they were marking the release of that year’s Welcome to the Graveyard (review here), and though I knew it was coming, I was still blindsided by their intensity. Thrash, doom, classic metal, heavy groove and delighted pummel. Think of them as extreme traditional metal. They bring a classic sound to bear in their material — a number of classic sounds, actually — but have a ferocity to their execution of that which sets them apart from anything that might be considered “retro.” Coupled with the willful eeriness of their atmospheres and cultish themes, they can be all over the place, but that only makes them harder to pin down, and thus, all the more a thrill to watch. As the penultimate act of the evening, they were a last-minute kick in the ass before things got as far out as they would go, and though it had been a long day by then, Castle revived the spirit even as they seemed to herald its demise.

Windhand

Windhand (Photo JJ Koczan)
Windhand were the night’s headliner. They could’ve slinked in late, hid themselves backstage, got on, done their set, collected whatever there was to collect afterward and been on their way. Instead, the Richmond, Virginia, four-piece, who are arguably the most successful East Coast doom band of their generation and whose influence only continues to spread — trying to come up with another name and can’t; if you have one, I’d love to talk it out — hung around all day. They were back and forth through the venue, watching bands, meeting people, this and that. They had the option to take part or not to take part and they took part. And for a group at their level, on Relapse, having toured the world, etc., that’s not nothing. When they finally got on stage and got going, their fog-drenched riffs were as overwhelming as I remembered, and even though they’ve pared down from a five-piece, there was no discernible gap in volume from vocalist Dorthia Cottrell, guitarist Garrett Morris, bassist Parker Chandler and drummer Ryan Wolfe, who produced a soulful, lurching onslaught the likes of which Maryland Doom Fest had not yet known. Their new album, Eternal Return, was announced in April and will be released by Relapse as the follow-up to 2015’s Grief’s Infernal Flower (review here). No doubt it’s one of the most anticipated doom records for the rest of 2018 and whenever it rears its head will be yet another grueling landmark in a catalog that, at this point, teems with them while also constantly showcasing Windhand‘s progression. It was late, but in front of the stage was a press of humanity, and Windhand justified the urgency with a wash of volume and low end that was on a level all its own. A headlining slot well earned.

It’s almost 1PM on Sunday as I wrap this up and I still need to sort photos, shower and change clothes before I head out from Sparks to Frederick, so I’ll turn you over quickly to the pics after the jump and just say thanks for reading.

Because really, thanks for reading. More tomorrow, if you can believe it.

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Live Review: Maryland Doom Fest 2018 Night One, 06.22.18

Posted in Features, Reviews on June 23rd, 2018 by JJ Koczan

maryland doom fest 2018 night one poster

Over the last four years since its inception, Maryland Doom Fest has become a defining force for its many-storied local scene and for the Eastern Seaboard at large. Its reach nowadays goes well beyond those imaginary borders, of course, but its lineup has always remained cognizant of its core inspiration and purpose — you’re always going to find some Maryland doom at Maryland Doom Fest. 2018’s roster of acts, which is the broadest in terms of style and geopgraphy to date, is no exception. With headliners The Obsessed, Windhand and Weedeater, Maryland Doom Fest 2018 reaffirms its commitment to the oldschool groove and its newer-school interpretations, even as acts like HorseburnerUnorthodoxCavern, DuelEarthrideCaustic Casanova, and many others with them, speak to the same meld of styles and origins.

I could go on all day about that, but as ever with festivals, there’s little time for musing amid the 15-minute set-changeovers and sheer onslaught of stuff to catch. Held as ever at Cafe 611 in Frederick, Maryland Doom Fest 2018 boasts a lineup of 32 bands — nine tonight, 12 tomorrow and 11 on Sunday. My goal? To see all of them. Front to back. Staring down the barrel at the outset it seems nigh-insurmountable, but the truth is it’s going to be a total blast and I know it.

Travel south to Maryland from Massachusetts, with an about-to-be-eight-month-old, is a days-long process, and I’m reminded that two years ago when I made the trip, I was bogged down by a car breakdown and about to start a new job the following Tuesday. It was insane. I’m sure 2018 will be much more relaxed. Ha.

Enough preamble. Let’s boogie:

Horseburner

Horseburner (Photo JJ Koczan)

I’m not sure the world knows it’s anxiously awaiting the third full-length from West Virginian progressive heavy rockers Horseburner, but it probably is. First band of the weekend and they had heads banging both onstage and off. They were exciting to watch, and their 2016 album, Dead Seeds, Barren Soil (review here) — which was reissued last year by Hellmistress Records; the vinyl was in the merch area to the side of the venue — remains a favorite in its manifestation of what might’ve happened had Mastodon become a heavy rock band while keeping their initial heft instead of going ultra-prog as they did. There were some technical difficulties in the drums, but no real delay, and the trio dynamic — could’ve sworn they used to be a four-piece — played well during the set, with no shortage of crunch in their tone but an overarching groove that they never seemed to relinquish. The record’s good, but they’re better live, with the melodies cutting through the push and a bit of hop-into-the-crowd interaction in the finale.

Geezer

Geezer (Photo JJ Koczan)

Back in January, New York psych-blues jammers Geezer announced they were working on a new album. Accordingly, the triumvirate of guitarist/vocalist Pat Harrington, bassist Richie Touseull and drummer Steve Markota shared three new songs for the Maryland Doom Fest 2018 crowd. I hounded Harrington after they finished for the titles: “Spiral Fires,” “Dig” and “Black Owl.” The latter provided some highlight low end work from Touseull, and it was “Dig” with a particularly fuzzed out guitar solo and a bit of cowbell from Markota that I’m dying to hear a studio version of. Supporting their latest release, Psychoriffadelia (review here), they also celebrated 2016 self-titled (review here) at the end of their set with the memorably catchy “Dust” and the spacious “Sun Gods.” Having made their debut in 2013, they’ve moved into veteran status and stage presence relatively quickly, and I took particular interest in a lack of slide guitar from Harrington, wondering if perhaps he put it down in order to focus on more intricate styles of playing in the newer songs. Seems like maybe an interview question to file away for later. In any case, they pulled a packed early crowd and were well known to them, playing out the story of a band whose potential is being realized at that very moment for all to see.

Bailjack

Bailjack (Photo JJ Koczan)

Double-guitar four-piece Bailjack had the distinction of being the first Maryland-based act at the festival. Based out of Boonsboro, they had four songs on the setlist, none of which seems to have stemmed from their 2016 debut, Show Me Your Heart. I’d been fortunate enough to see them once before down this way (review here), but they struck me all around as a tighter and more cohesive band. Guitarists Jason Barker and Blake Owens shared lead vocal duties effectively, changing up the soulful and classic heavy rock moods between them with support from Ron “Uncle Fezzy” McGinnis (also Pale DivineAdmiral Browning, Thonian Horde, etc.), which left drummer Alex Llewellyn as the only one without a mic. He kept plenty busy with the locked-in groove of “Predominantly Green,” though, which like just about everything else they played was deceptively complex in its execution, working around a straightforward groove with personality and depth. They were a fitting complement to Geezer‘s ultra-roll, and at one point while they played I looked around and couldn’t believe we were only three bands into the night. The vibe was so set and so thick in the room that it felt like everyone had been there for a day already. Awesome.

Lightning Born

Lightning Born (Photo JJ Koczan)

North Carolina’s Lightning Born played Maryland Doom Fest last year as well, but as they went public earlier this month about signing to Ripple Music for the release of their debut album this Fall, it seems only appropriate that they should make a return appearance. Their bassist, who just so happens to be Mike Dean of Corrosion of Conformity, just happened to be in France playing another festival — some little shindig called Hellfest or something like that; ha — so filling in was guitarist Erik Sugg‘s Demon Eye bandmate, Paul Walz. I don’t know if it was Walz‘s first time holding down bass duties in Lightning Born or what, but he obviously knew the songs well, and despite some hi-hat difficulties at the outset for drummer Doza Hawes (ex-Hour of 13), once they got going, they were locked in and clearheaded in their intent between heavy rock, doom and classic-style songcraft led by the powerful presence of frontwoman Brenna Leath (also of The Hell No). My first time seeing them and they did nothing but impress, and even putting the pedigree aside for a moment, it’s easy to see why Ripple — who already had a showing in Geezer and would have another before the night was out — would pick them up. Not only do they make the most of their members’ experience in terms of knowing what they want to do, but they obviously have the chemistry between them to make it happen. Would be interested to see them with Dean, and I won’t say he wasn’t missed — nothing against Walz‘s work, it just happens to be that that’s Mike fucking Dean we’re talking about and anytime you get to catch him play is a win — but Lightning Born might as well have named themselves Lightning in a Bottle, as that seems to be what they’ve got.

Disenchanter

Disenchanter (Photo JJ Koczan)

This was by no means Disenchanter‘s first trip to the East Coast — they’ll also be (relatively) back this way later this year for Descendants of Crom in Pittsburgh — but it was the first time I’ve been lucky enough to see the band play. Having toured from their home in from Portland, Oregon, over the last week, the trio sounded like it. Pro shop. Guitarist/vocalist Sabine Stangenberg expressed the band’s gratitude for being included in the lineup and sent out “Green Queen” to any pot smokers in attendance. There may have been one or two. She and bassist Joey DeMartini and drummer Huwy Kilgora Williams set forth a set that pushed even further into the doomed elements that Lightning Born featured in some of their riffs, but had a distinguishing factor that marked them out as a West Coast act nonetheless. I couldn’t quite figure out what it was; tempo? Melody? Rhythm? I actually kind of lost myself while they were playing trying to get an answer. They fit right in with the lineup in tone and influence, to be sure, but there was still some individualized edge to their approach that was a standout factor. Eventually I whittled my hypotheses down to the upbeat nature of their grooves and was willing to leave it at that and, oh, I don’t know, just enjoy the rest of their set, but whatever it was, it made them a highlight of the evening at Cafe 611. Glad I finally was able to watch them.

Thousand Vision Mist

Thousand Vision Mist (Photo JJ Koczan)

Statistically speaking, three out of the four top acts for the evening could be called locals, and Thousand Vision Mist, who also played Maryland Doom Fest 2016 (review here), and a fest-associated gig during last year’s edition, came supporting late-2017’s Journey to Ascension and the Loss of Tomorrow (review here), their debut album. Between that record and having seen them before, they were pretty familiar to me as well as to the assembled in front of the stage, but guitarist/vocalist Danny Kenyon, bassist/vocalist Tony Cormulada and drummer Chris Sebastian still had a few surprises up their collective sleeve in terms of the twists and turns of their material. By the time they started, it was clear just what a special night this was. The flow of bands was right on, each group pulling something different together from the one before while still making sense in the overall context of the night, and with Kenyon‘s roots in Life BeyondThousand Vision Mist maintained a Maryland doom feel despite not really playing doom so much as doom strung through a filter of progressive metal. Precise, driven and complex, they nonetheless had a central groove to tie it all together, and even when Kenyon broke a string, prompting an interlude from emcee Dave Benzotti, they were able to pick back up and end out as though nothing happened. The place was jammed in any figurative sense you want to think of it, and Thousand Vision Mist signaled a turn toward the headlining portion of the night. Right band, right slot.

Unorthodox

Unorthodox (Photo JJ Koczan)

A decade has passed since Unorthodox issued their last album, Awaken, via The Church Within Records, but if you want to be fair, that album came a full 14 years after 1994’s sophomore outing, Balance of Power, which was of course preceded by their 1992 debut, Asylum, but their set was still enough of an event that both Bobby Liebling of Pentagram and Dave Sherman of Earthride — pivotal figures in this scene if ever there were any — stood at the side of the stage to watch them. From their beginnings as Asylum, whose 1985 demo, The Earth is the Insane Asylum of the Universe, saw reissue via Shadow Kingdom in 2008 (review here), guitarist/vocalist Dale Flood has remained the sole founding presence, and as he’s now based in Nashville, Tennessee, he’s settled in with bassist/vocalist Blake Dellinger and drummer Alan Pfeifer, both also of the band Flummox, injecting a youthful vigor into the rhythm section that seemed to bring Unorthodox‘s classic downtrodden MD doom to life. They even had a new song, called “Horus,” that found Dellinger taking lead vocal duties, and Flood couldn’t help but smile as the set played out, the crowd eating up every single second of the rare live set. New album? Hell if I know. To my knowledge, Unorthodox played the first Maryland Doom Fest in 2015 and as I recall were going to play 2016 as well but didn’t end up making it, so I’m not sure I’d count this set as indicative of a full return to activity, whatever that would mean anyway, but if they wanted to build something from it, that vitality was right there in the band waiting to be harvested. They killed. End of story.

ZED

ZED (Photo JJ Koczan)

For my up-at-5AM-usually-asleep-by-nine ass, it was getting late, and I don’t mind saying so. Ibuprofen for a sore back; protein bar for stamina; water on the face for refreshing; water down the gullet for sheer survival — these are the essential tools of the sober weekend festival. One could simply pound six or 12 beers and none of it would matter, I suppose, and from the look of the dudes falling asleep in the side room of Cafe 611, some had clearly gone that route, but the truth was that ZED were all the shove I need to get through to the end of the evening. Everything else was overkill in comparison to their noise-tinged heavy rock, one riff after the next crunched out at max volume through the guitars of frontman Peter Sattari and Greg Lopez, the bass of Mark Aceves adding even further heft to be shoved forward at an impressive pace considering the mass of it by drummer Sean Boyles, who when the Bay Area outfit were done turned around and held up his hat to deliver the message “fuck everything” as plainly as possible. New song “Strippers” signaled a follow-up in progress to their 2016 third album, Trouble in Eden (review here), and one assumes that will arrive like its predecessor via Ripple Music, given how hard ZED were repping the label, from Lopez‘s beanie to Sattari‘s Freedom Hawk hat and Ripplefest shirt to Aceves‘ High Priestess tee. Gotta fly that flag, and they did it proud with a raucous delivery that lost nothing of its professionalism for its blanket electricity. Seemed like the crowd up front was pretty familiar with their stuff — at one point I also looked over and saw fest co-organizer JB Matson singing along stage-side — but I’d be willing to be they turned a few heads as well and made some new fans. It was that kind of set. If “fucking a rock” was a genre, that’s what ZED would be.

The Obsessed

The Obsessed (Photo JJ Koczan)

I don’t think there’s anywhere you could put The Obsessed on a Maryland Doom Fest bill except at the top. That’s where they were in 2016 and it’s where they deserved to be again. Would Maryland doom exist without them? Maybe, but certainly not in the form it has today. It’s been an eventful couple of years for guitarist/vocalist Scott “Wino” Weinrich and the outfit in which he cut his teeth beginning back in the late ’70s when they started under the moniker Warhorse, but with their first album in 23 years behind them in 2017’s Sacred (review here) on Relapse, the trio of Weinrich, bassist Reid Raley (see also: Rwake) and drummer Brian Costantino were as classic as one could ask and a reminder of just how much of a blueprint for the style The Obsessed have always been. Copious touring in support of Sacred has made them maddeningly tight, and with a blend of new material and old in the set, they spoke to where they are today as well as where they came from — perfectly on theme for the night and the weekend as a whole. As the last of the nine bands playing, they shut the place down and it’s hard to imagine there’s any more one could’ve asked for when they were done. The Obsessed, like basically Pentagram and no one else of the region (Black Sabbath being, of course, universal), are essential and foundational when it comes to Maryland doom. Maryland Doom Fest 2018 welcomed them accordingly, and honestly, I think if they played every year here for the next five headlining one of the nights, they wouldn’t meet with any complaints. From “Sacred” itself to “Neatz Brigade” and “Sodden Jackal,” they proved how hard the heart of this scene and this aesthetic continues to beat. Oh yeah, and they were unbelievably loud. Like, might-as-well-take-your-earplugs-out loud. So, you know, bonus.

After flailing toward a 24-hour gas station and a 90-minute ride back to the town of Sparks, where I’m staying, I crashed out around 2:30 and was up a tragically short time later. Still, first day was excellent and there’s nothing I could ask of a leadoff night that wasn’t delivered. Maryland Doom Fest 2018 day two kicks off in a couple hours and, hell’s bells, I need a shower, so I’m gonna get on that, but there are more pics after the jump if you’re interested.

Thanks for reading.

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Maryland Doom Fest 2018 Announces Full Lineup with The Obsessed, Windhand, Weedeater, Earthride and Many More

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 1st, 2017 by JJ Koczan

Invariably there will be some change between now and next June, and there’s the tradition of the pre-show to consider the night before, but right out of the gate, Maryland Doom Fest 2018 impresses with its scope of heavy rock and doom, cross-country reach and loyalty to its core mission. With The Obsessed, Windhand and Weedeater set to headline, the fourth edition of the fest curated by JB Matson and Mark Cruikshank will welcome return appearances from the likes of Castle, Earthride, Thousand Vision Mist and Foghound, while reaching out to bring first-timers from afar like Texas’ Doomstress and Duel and Switchblade Jesus, Kansas rockers The Midnight Ghost Train, Connecticut’s Curse the Son, New York’s Geezer, and — I believe traveling the farthest — Disenchanter, from Portland, Oregon.

It’s a killer assemblage, and I think the three headliners do a lot in summarizing the whole idea behind the fest in the first place: The Obsessed are among the founders of what we think of as “Maryland doom.” Windhand are the forerunners of the modern scene. And Weedeater bring a riotous sludge party like no one else on the planet. What more could you possibly ask of three bands in terms of expressing what Maryland Doom Fest 2018 is all about?

I’ll have updates as I see them, but in the meantime, mark your calendars for June 22, 23, and 24 at Cafe 611 in Frederick, MD, and I’ll do the same, because this looks absolutely awesome.

Dig it:

maryland doom fest 2018 poster

Maryand Doom Fest 2018

A 3 day weekend of Doom in its purest form.

June 22, 23, and 24

Cafe 611 Restaurant
611 North Market Street
Frederick, MD 21701

Full lineup:
The Obsessed, Windhand, Weedeater, Castle, Unorthodox, Duel, The Watchers, Zed, Switchblade Jesus, The Midnight Ghost Train, Lightning Born, Earthride, Geezer, Disenchanter, Bedowyn, Cavern, Doomstress, Caustic Casanova, Hawkeyes, Curse the Son, Las Cruces, Horseburner, Shadow Witch, Foghound, Witchhelm, Book of Wyrms, Thousand Vision Mist, Molasses Barge, Backwoods Payback, Bailjack, Electropathic, Gateway to Hell

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/the-maryland-doom-fest-2018-tickets-39468562533
https://www.facebook.com/MdDoomFest/
https://www.themarylanddoomfest.com/

The Obsessed, Live at Maryland Doom Fest 2016

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Maryland Doom Fest 2017 Adds Second Venue & Expands Lineup

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 7th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

Exciting news from Frederick as Maryland Doom Fest 2017 announces expansion into a second venue. Guido’s Speakeasy is about half a block down the street from Cafe 611 and a cool, tiny, back-room kind of place that’s a cool spot to catch bands. Last year, Akris and King Buffalo (among others) played while the fest was going on, and this year, MDDF seems just as content to fold the Guido’s doings for the night into its own busy schedule. Makes sense to me. The headliner for the show is an otherwise decent band with a shitty name who have a new record out, and the bottom of the lineup is perfect with Bailjack and Thousand Vision Mist both acts featuring recognizable veterans of the local scene. Good stuff all around. Except for that headliner’s name.

The fest is just a couple weeks away. I regret to inform that I won’t be attending or covering this year, as had been my intent. One’s grandmother only turns 102 once, and frankly, given the shape ol’ girl is in, I don’t dare miss it. Nonetheless I’d like to say out loud what an absolute fucking honor it’s been to be among the presenters for this year’s Maryland Doom Fest and how thrilling it is to see this fest emerge as a major presence in the epicenter of MD doom that is Frederick. It’s actually just what that spot needed in name and execution. Couldn’t be more perfect. I hope it all goes off without a hitch, and a personal thanks to JB Matson, Mark Cruikshank, and all involved for putting my logo on the poster. Again, it’s an honor.

Here’s the lineup and info for that side-show, and one more time, the schedule for the fest proper, just because it’s awesome:

maryland-doom-fest-2017-poster

The Maryland Doom Fest and Leftover Pizza Productions Presents

Saturday, June 24
Guido’s Speakeasy
543 N Market St, Frederick, Maryland 21701

[Five White Dudes in a Band Called] Black Pussy: 10:30- 11:30
Black Dominia: 9:30-10:15
Brother Ox: 8:30-9:15
Thousand Vision Mist: 7:45-8:15
Bailjack: 7-7:30

MARYLAND DOOM FEST 2017 LINEUP:

**PRE FEST PARTY THURS JUNE 22
• Valkyrie 1055 – 1155
• Beastmaker 1000 – 1045
• Borracho 915 – 950
• Weed Is Weed 830 – 905
• Sweet Heat 745 – 820
• Spillage 700 -735

FRIDAY JUNE 23
• Captain Beyond 1210 – 130
• Lo Pan 1110 – 1200
• Apostle of Solitude 1020 – 1100
• Faith In Jane 930 – 1010
• Beelzefuzz 840 – 920
• Wretch 750 – 830
• Demon Eye 705 –740
• Brimstone Coven 620 – 655
• Black Manta 535 – 610
• Sierra 445 – 525

SATURDAY JUNE 24
• The Skull 1215 – 130
• Bang 1110 – 1205
• Wo Fat 1020 – 1100
• Earthride 930 – 1010
• The Watchers 840 – 920
• Hollow Leg 755 – 830
• Serpents of Secrecy 710 – 745
• King Bison 625 – 700
• Heavy Temple 540 – 615
• The Well 455 – 530
• Witches of God 410 – 445
• Black Tar Prophet 325 – 400
• Conclave 235 – 315

SUNDAY JUNE 25
• [Headliner] 1140 – 1245
• The Atomic Bitchwax 1045 -1130
• Freedom Hawk 955 – 1035
• Lightning Born 905 – 945
• Lifetime Shitlist 815 – 855
• Akris 730 – 805
• Burn Thee Insects 645 – 720
• Thonian Horde 600 – 635
• Cavern 515 – 550
• Old Blood 430 – 505
• Horehound 345 – 420

https://www.facebook.com/events/254328948376115/
https://www.eventbrite.com/e/the-maryland-doom-fest-2017-weekend-passes-tickets-30207219607
https://www.facebook.com/MdDoomFest/
https://www.facebook.com/events/1794418777500202/

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Maryland Doom Fest 2017: Set Times Announced

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 14th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

So I guess we’re pretty much ready to roll on Maryland Doom Fest 2017, right? We’ve had the lineup announced, we’ve got the schedule now. Might be another couple weeks getting t-shirts together — and hoodies; should’ve gotten a hoodie this year, which admittedly is something that occurs to one way less at the end of June than in mid-November — but then I’d say we’re about good to go. No need to wait until next summer on it. Let’s do this thing.

Maybe that’s just me being excited at the prospect of that Friday night lineup, which seems particularly strong front to back — not to take away from any of the other days, but you know I dig me some Lo-Pan — but either way, if Maryland Doom Fest‘s now-three-year tenure has been marked by anything it’s a lack of bullshit. A fervent get-down-to-business-and-kick-as-doing-it mentality. It’s perhaps the most “Maryland doom” aspect to the whole event. Maryland Doom Fest 2017 is clearly no different. Here we are more than half a year from the event kicking off and I know what time I need to be there on Thursday to watch Spillage start the pre-party. This is information I’m glad to have.

If your calendar isn’t marked yet, you might want to get on that:

maryland-doom-fest-2017-poster

The Maryland Doom Fest 2017

June 23, 2017 – June 25, 2017

Cafe 611
611 N Market St, Frederick, Maryland 21701

ROSTER SLOT TIMES

**PRE FEST PARTY THURS JUNE 22
• Valkyrie 1150 – 1250
• Beastmaker 1055 – 1140
• Pilgrim 1000 – 1045
• Borracho 915 – 950
• Weed Is Weed 830 – 905
• Sweet Heat 745 – 820
• Spillage 700 -735

FRIDAY JUNE 23
• Captain Beyond 1240 – 150
• Lo-Pan 1140 – 1230
• Apostle of Solitude 1050 – 1130
• Earthride 1000 – 1040
• Beelzefuzz 910 – 950
• Wretch 820 – 900
• Demon Eye 735 –810
• Brimstone Coven 650 – 725
• Black Manta 605 – 640
• Sierra 515 – 555

SATURDAY JUNE 24
• The Skull 1245 – 150
• Bang! 1140 – 1235
• Wo Fat 1050 – 1130
• The Well 1000 – 1040
• The Watchers 910 – 950
• Hollow Leg 825 – 900
• Iron Man 740 – 815
• Dark Music Theory 655 – 730
• War Injun 610 – 645
• Thonian Horde 525 – 600
• Witches of God 440 – 515
• Black Tar Prophet 355 – 430
• Conclave 305 – 345

SUNDAY JUNE 25
• Headliner 1140 – 1245
• The Atomic Bitchwax 1045 -1130
• Serpents of Secrecy 955 – 1035
• Lightning Born 905 – 945
• Lifetime Shitlist 815 – 855
• Akris 730 – 805
• Burn Thee Insects 645 – 720
• Faith In Jane 600 – 635
• Cavern 515 – 550
• Old Blood 430 – 505
• Horehound 345 – 420

TICKET SALES START JAN 1st !!

https://www.facebook.com/The-maryland-DOOM-Fest-815331421863100/
https://www.facebook.com/events/1794418777500202/
http://www.themarylanddoomfest.com/

Earthride, Live at Jason McCash Benefit, 2014

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Maryland Doom Fest 2017 Announces Lineup: Captain Beyond, The Skull, Wretch, Borracho, Earthride & More to Play

Posted in Whathaveyou on October 31st, 2016 by JJ Koczan

Maryland Doom Fest 2017 has announced its initial lineup, with legendary classic heavy rockers Captain Beyond in the top spot and performances confirmed from The SkullBorracho, BangLo-Pan, Apostle of Solitude, Beezlefuzz, Wretch, The Atomic Bitchwax, The Well and many, many more. The third iteration of MDDF is set for June 23-25 at Cafe 611 in scenic downtown Frederick, MD — that’s not sarcasm; Frederick’s actually pretty nice these days — and as someone who was fortunate enough to attend the second fest earlier this year (reviews here), and who still considers himself fortunate to have been there even though I couldn’t stand up, my camera broke and the trip cost an extra $900 in auto repair and required an extra trip to MD to pick up said car the next weekend (that same car died the day of this site’s all-dayer, by the way), I’m gonna just tell you outright it’s a good time.

The 2016 lineup gave the Eastern Seaboard’s longest-running doom scene its due and began to step outside those geographic confines a bit as well, bringing in acts like Mos Generator and Atala from the West Coast, Hollow Leg up from Florida, Wizard Eye down from Philly, and so on.

In 2017, organizers JB Matson (also War Injun) and Mark Cruikshank once again up the Maryland Doom Fest‘s stakes, including a pre-show the night before with the Sweet Heat, BeastmakerPilgrimValkyrieWeed is Weed and Spillage. One has to imagine there will be some shifts between now and next June, but the initial lineup announcement has been made for MDDF17, and you’ll find it below, accompanied by this year’s poster. I hope to make it back down, and I hope to rent a car to get there.

Mark your calendar for doom:

maryland-doom-fest-2017-poster

The Maryland Doom Fest 2017

June 23, 2017 – June 25, 2017

Cafe 611
611 N Market St, Frederick, Maryland 21701

Captain Beyond
Borracho
Lo-Pan
Weed is Weed
Apostle of Solitude
Earthride
Beelzefuzz
Wretch
Demon Eye
Brimstone Coven
Black Manta
Sierra
The Skull
BANG!
Wo Fat
Lightning Born
The Watchers
Hollow Leg
Iron Man
Dark Music Theory
War Injun
Thonian Horde
Witches of God
Black Tar Prophet
Conclave
The Atomic Bitchwax
Serpents of Secrecy
The Well
Lifetime Shitlist
Cavern
Burn Thee Insects
Faith In Jane
Akris
Old Blood
Horehound
Place of Skulls
Valkyrie
Spillage
Beastmaker
Sweet Heat
Pilgrim

https://www.facebook.com/The-maryland-DOOM-Fest-815331421863100/
https://www.facebook.com/events/1794418777500202/
http://www.themarylanddoomfest.com/

The Obsessed, Live at Maryland Doom Fest 2016

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Live Review: Maryland Doom Fest 2016 Night Three

Posted in Reviews on June 27th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

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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