When they first got back together last year, Spirit Caravan started off their first US tour in more than a decade at the Metro Gallery in Baltimore. A more fitting setting would be hard to find. Baltimore, D.C., Virginia, the entire Doom Capitol region has been the center of Spirit Caravan‘s enduring influence, and for guitarist/vocalist Scott “Wino” Weinrich, bassist/vocalist Dave Sherman and drummer Henry Vasquez, it was more or less a homecoming, or at very least as close as they were going to get on a touring circuit. Granted, they could’ve gone back to Wootton High School and done the show there, if they’d wanted.
The night after Baltimore, they were in Richmond, Virginia. Playing in front of their classic banner to an enthusiastic crowd who obviously well appreciated being there, they took on the venerable Strange Matter with due vitality and ran through a set full of staples, landmark riffs of “Sea Legs,” “Dead Love/Jug Fulla Sun,” “Dove-Tongued Aggressor” and “Dreamwheel” carrying their original rolling vibes both to those who were there the first time around and those who’d come aboard in the 12 years since the band’s original run ended in 2002, their reputation bolstered all the more by Sherman‘s subsequent work in Earthride and Wino‘s in The Hidden Hand and the reunited Saint Vitus. I wasn’t there to see it, but it looks in the video below like it was one hell of a time.
Whoever TubeVision is, they’ve been taping shows in and around Virginia for well over a decade. They were there at Strange Matter and captured the full Spirit Caravan set, a genuine moment of heavy rock history marking their return in a heavy rock climate no doubt more welcoming than there had been the first time around, and for that alone, I’d shake his/her hand if presented with the opportunity. Spirit Caravan headline at this year’s inaugural Maryland Doom Fest this June with The Obsessed‘s Ed Gulli on drums (info here), filling in for Vasquez who’ll be on tour in Europe with Saint Vitus at the time, that band rejoined by original vocalist Scott Reagers.
One of my biggest questions as guitarist/vocalist Dana Ortt and drummer Darin McCloskey transition from Beelzefuzz into Righteous Bloom has been how their sound will shift with lead guitarist Greg Diener — also a bandmate of McCloskey‘s in Pale Divine — playing alongside Ortt‘s signature, organ-esque tone, and what that will bring to the classic prog vibe that underscored Beelzefuzz‘s doomly groove. That question, which remained even after the oft-revisited initial single “Of Sanctum and Solace” (stream here) arrived last September, sees further answer with the newly-revealed “Within Trance,” which the four-piece rounded out by bassist Bert Hall, also of Revelation/Against Nature, posted as a look into the solidification of their forthcoming first LP, set tentatively for release later this year via The Church Within Records, who also issued the self-titled debut from Beelzefuzz (review here) in 2013.
And the answer, I suppose, is they mesh pretty well. Diener certainly brings his own tone and spirit to the material — particularly in the solos — but Ortt retains his prevalent sonic personality too, and one imagines that with two guitars, it will be easier for the heft that showed itself on the Beelzefuzz record to come to life on stage as well, Diener having joined Beelzefuzz right near the dissolution of that band. The eerie hook that ensues on “Within Trance” feels like a logical next step and a fitting beginning point for Righteous Bloom as they look to establish their own course, separate from Ortt and McCloskey‘s work with their prior outfit, but still in league with it and grown out from its foundation. I was already looking forward to finding out what their debut had in store, and “Within Trance” is only fodder for more intrigue. I’ve got my fingers crossed that record shows up before the New Year.
Righteous Bloom play their first show at Cafe 611 in Frederick, Maryland, this Saturday, March 21, in the good company of Nagato, Admiral Browning and Faith in Jane. More info here.
Enjoy the track, with the announcement from the band after:
Rightous Bloom, “Within Trance”
Well, it’s been a very busy past few months for Righteous Bloom writing and recording the new album, but we’re finally seeing some light at the end of the tunnel! In appreciation for everyone’s patience and support we offer you “Within Trance” a brand new tune that will be on our forthcoming album on Church Within Recs.
“Within Trance” will also be one of the new songs we’re very excited to play for everyone this coming weekend, March 21st, at Club 611 in Frederick, MD.
Posted in Whathaveyou on March 4th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
It turns out Pull had to them-out (get it?) of the first-ever Maryland Doom Fest, but they’ve been replaced by reunited riffers Nagato, who got back together last year after a cessation of activity in 2012. Thick on vibe, they’ll add progressive atmospherics and gorgeous tone to the lineup of the fest, which takes place from June 26-28 at Cafe 611 in Frederick, Maryland. I’ve only been fortunate enough to see the four-piece once, at Stoner Hands of Doom XI in 2011 (review here), for which they also played on a Sunday, but that set left enough an impression that four years later I keep hoping I’ll hear some news about them putting out a record sooner or later.
They might get there. I know the members of Nagato are involved in a few other projects as well, so maybe their playing Maryland Doom Fest is enough for the moment. They’ve joined a killer lineup, for which the final schedule has just been announced.
And just so we have it all in one place, alphabetically, here’s the full lineup as of now (there are still a couple months to go, things can change) for the inaugural Maryland Doom Fest: Apostle of Solitude, Balam, Banned from H.E.L.L., Foehammer, Foghound, Into the Void, Iron Man, Lord, Mangog, Mind’s Eye, Nagato, Outside Truth, Primer Grey, Project Armageddon, Season of Arrows, Serpent Witch, Sixty Watt Shaman, Slaves B.C., Spirit Caravan, The Skull, Unorthodox, Valkyrie, Weed is Weed.
Poster by Audrey Mantel and running order follow, along with Nagato‘s return show last August:
The Maryland Doom Fest 1
June 26 – 28, 2015 Cafe 611, Frederick, MD
A weekend of doom metal in its purest form.
FRIDAY The Skull 1225-130 Sixty Watt Shaman 1115-1210 Unorthodox 1005-11 Weed Is Weed 855-950 Into The Void 755-840 Banned From H.E.L.L. 655-740 Primer Grey 6-640
SATURDAY Spirit Caravan 1215-130 Apostle of Solitude 1105-1200 Outside Truth 1010-1050 Valkyrie 910-955 Project Armageddon 815-855 Foghound 720-8 Balam 630-705 Slaves B.C. 540-615 Season of Arrows 445-525
SUNDAY Iron Man 1045-1215 Foehammmer 945-1030 Lord 845-930 Mind’s Eye 745-830 Nagato 650-730 Serpent Witch 655-735 Mangog 6-640
Posted in Whathaveyou on February 23rd, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
Warms my cold, cruel heart to see Iron Man getting out again. The long-running Maryland doom outfit founded by guitarist “Iron” Al Morris III released their latest album, 2013’s South of the Earth (review here), on Rise Above Records in the UK and Metal Blade in the States and since that time have been receiving an overdue comeuppance of attention. They played Rise Above‘s 25th anniversary party in London and made several other European appearances last year, and now they’ve announced an 11-date run that will take them up the East Coast before circling around to the Midwest and finishing in Ohio.
Of course, they’ve been here and there since first getting together in the late ’80s, but actual tours are rarer, and this Iron Man lineup — Morris, vocalist Dee Calhoun, bassist Louis Strachan and drummer Jason “Mot” Waldmann — have developed a marked chemistry on stage to go with Morris‘ classic riffing style and landmark tone. They take to the road as ambassadors for the righteousness of Maryland doom, and no doubt they’ll be greeted as liberators wherever they might happen to be on any given night.
Speaking of Maryland doom, Iron Man will take part in the first Maryland Doom Fest this June, alongside Spirit Caravan, The Skull and many more (info here). For this tour, they’re joined by D.C. metallers Yesterday’s Saints. Dates and links follow:
Iron Man / Yesterday’s Saints 2015 US Tour
3/12 Washington, DC The Pinch, 3548 14th St., NW, Washington, DC 202-722-4440 3/13 Allentown, PA Jabber Jaws, 1327 W. Chew St., Allentown, PA 484-426-9380 3/14 Philadelphia, PA Kung Fu Necktie, 1250 N. Front St., Philadelphia, PA 215-291-4919 3/15 Brooklyn, NY The Paper Box, 17 Meadow St., Brooklyn, NY 718-383-3815 3/16 Providence, RI Dusk, 301 Harris Ave., Providence, RI 401-714-0444 3/17 Salem, MA Koto, 90 Washington St., Salem. MA 978-594-8681 3/18 Buffalo, NY Broadway Joe’s, 3051 Main St., Buffalo, NY 716-833-7000 3/19 Ft. Wayne, IN Skeletunes (former Berlin Music Pub) 1201 West Main St., Ft. Wayne, IN 260-739-5671 3/20 Detroit, MI The Sanctuary (Yonka House) 1501 E. Outer Dr., Detroit, MI 3/21 Columbus, OH Ruby Tuesday Bar, 1978 Summit St., Columbus, OH 614-291-8313 3/22 Dayton, OH Courtyard Lounge, 320 W. National Blvd., Englewood, OH 937-836-9511
Posted in Whathaveyou on February 12th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
Maybe I’m missing something — it’s certainly possible — but if you’re Metal Blade, the label that issued Pentagram‘s 2011 comeback LP, Last Rites (review here), wouldn’t you try really, really hard to keep that band on your roster? Don’t get me wrong, there’s obviously a ton of stuff that could’ve gone on behind the scenes on this one, but after the success of the Bobby Liebling documentary, Last Days Here (review here), they’ve never been bigger. And they’ve done a bunch of legwork on top of that. They’re headlining Psycho California! Who wouldn’t want to put out that record?
And speaking as someone who quite literally saw them 20 times last year, the band are firing on all cylinders. True, they’ve just traded out drummer Sean Saley — if you’re worried about him, don’t be; he’s already joined The Skull to replace Jeff “Oly” Olson — but “Minnesota” Pete Campbell is a proven entity, having played with guitarist Victor Griffin in Place of Skulls and In~Graved. It’s downright curious, is all I’m saying. With the momentum that Pentagram have going into their next album, I’d think Metal Blade would be the ones putting it out.
Their loss is Peaceville‘s gain, I suppose. Pentagram‘s new album is slated to release this summer, and they’ll have a 2DVD out on March 31 (through Peaceville) called All Your Sins that documents live shows over a 30-year span.
PR wire info follows:
PENTAGRAM RE-SIGNS WITH PEACEVILLE RECORDS; NEW ALBUM DUE OUT THIS SUMMER
DVD collection “All Your Sins” out March 31 in North America
Peaceville Records is proud to announce the re-signing of U.S. metal legend, Pentagram, for its forthcoming studio album, set to be released summer 2015. The highly influential American heavy metal/doom act, fronted by the mysterious Bobby Liebling, formed in the early 1970s, though its debut album – now known as Relentless – didn’t see a release until 1985. Through four decades of adversity and triumph, Pentagram has become a legendary international act and has firmly stamped its name in the heavy metal history books.
Pentagram recently completed pre-production with Swedish producer, Mattias Nilsson, at studios in Baltimore, Md., D.C. and Va., with additional vocal and guitar production in Knoxville, Tenn. with Travis Wyrick. Wyrick is a Grammy Award-winning producer who produced the band’s previous album, Last Rites.
The band comments on the signing:
“Pentagram is happy to return to the label that helped relaunch interest in our debut album and introduce us to a new metal audience in the 1990s. Peaceville Records has been an ally to us throughout the past 20 years. We are happy to have them by our side once again as we record our fourth album under their banner. Never properly recorded songs written by Bobby in the 70s will be heard on the album as fresh as they were when they were written over 40 years ago. Brand new numbers by the core of Griffin, Turley and Liebling that were written this fall will appear along the old songs, and will produce an album that encompasses the true spirit of Pentagram. Doom is often mistaken as exclusively slow music. If you listen to our classic ‘doom’ album ‘Relentless,’ many of those doomed classics are quite fast. One of the magics of doom metal is to have a faster song seem much slower because of the sheer heaviness of the number. That’s what we are going for. The band will sound like they are as much from the street as they are from the Sabbath, because, well, we are.”
It has also been announced that Sean Saley has decided to step down from the drum throne. “Minnesota” Pete Campbell will step in to complete recording and touring duties throughout 2015. Campbell is best known for his drumming with Victor Griffin’s In-Graved, Place of Skulls and stoners Sixty Watt Shaman.
Preceding the still-to-be-titled opus is an extensive DVD release, All Your Sins, due out March 31 in North America. This first-ever official Pentagram video collection recovers, repairs and resurrects the earliest known footage of this doomed metal pioneer and more. Featuring two DVDs packed with priceless archive footage, as well as recent shows, All Your Sins – Video Vault unearths the rumored lost visual evidence pent up in the Ram Family vault for decades. This definitive collection contains over seven hours of footage from nine venues and numerous historical shows, including a charged performance at the legendary CBGB’s club in 1985 – a mass of classic renditions from the band’s catalogue finally gathered together for a live journey spanning over 30 years.
Disc 1: 1.1 Death Row Live at the Silver Fox – 1983 [01:29) 1.2 CBGBs – 1985 [00:28] 1.3 The Seagull Inn – 1985 [00:22] 1.4 The Hung Jury Pub – 1987 [00:39] 1.5 9:30 Club – 1993 [00:41]
Disc 2: 2.1 The Paragon – 1993 [01:02] 2.2 The End – 2010 [01:09] 2.3 John Dee, Oslo – 2012 [01:11] 2.4 The DNA Lounge – 2014 [00:06]
Although always a cult act with a strong and dedicated worldwide fan base, Pentagram has enjoyed a recent surge in interest due in part to the fly-on-the-wall 2011 documentary, Last Days Here, following the life, trials and tribulations of Bobby Liebling. The film gained international recognition, travelling the worldwide film festival circuit where it won several awards including “Best Music Documentary” at the International Documentary Film Festival in Amsterdam.
I know we’ve discussed it before — we’re more than three years deep now on Wino Wednesday, there’s not a lot that hasn’t been covered at one point or another — but I really do think that Place of Skulls‘ 2003 sophomore outing, With Vision, is one of the best American doom records of the last decade. Even putting aside the novelty of the collaboration between Scott “Wino” Weinrich and Victor Griffin, whose band it was, it was the songs themselves, the nuances and differences and similarities of craft between the two legendary guitarists, that made it such a special release. Of course, the collaboration didn’t last, but even as a one-time thing with Wino in and out of the band, With Vision was an integral meeting of masters of the form and the results were every bit as stunning as their pedigrees would suggest.
They trade off lead vocals throughout the album, and it’s easy enough to read the shifts in approach to riffing as indicative of who wrote which song. “Long Lost Grave,” for example, has Wino on vocals, and it sounds pretty much like a Wino song, at least until the soloing at the end. Much of With Vision plays out like this, with one or the other at the fore, but the tradeoffs give the record a vibrancy that Place of Skulls‘ subsequent two albums, 2006’s The Black is Never Far and 2010’s As a Dog Returns (review here), couldn’t match with Griffin as the lone songwriter. That’s not to knock him as a songwriter — through Death Row, Pentagram, Place of Skulls and most recently In~Graved, he’s proved a landmark craftsman of traditional doom — but he can’t be two people. It’s just all the more reason With Vision is essential listening.
Of course, the Griffin and Wino collaboration was short-lived, and to date there hasn’t been any hint that they might at some point work together again. It’s probably more likely than a second Shrinebuilder record, less likely than cities on Mars. So be it. With Vision still stands up 11 years after its release, so dig into “Long Lost Grave” and have an excellent Wino Wednesday:
It’s a quick two minutes and “Of Sanctum and Solace” is over. The song barely feels like it has a second verse (it does), but what it signals is the beginning for Righteous Bloom. The new band, announced earlier this month as a new vehicle for former Beelzefuzz members Dana Ortt (guitar/vocals), Greg Diener (lead guitar) and Darin McCloskey (drums), the latter two also of Pale Divine, are reportedly set to enter the studio to record a full-length debut for 2015. For “Of Sanctum and Solace,” that trio teamed up with Bert Hall of Revelation/Against Nature for the bassist role, and while there’s no word as to whether or not that partnership was a one-time thing or a permanent situation, it says a lot for what Beelzefuzz accomplished that Righteous Bloom would start out with the likes of Hall contributing, his own legacy in the sphere of Maryland doom not inconsiderable.
“Of Sanctum and Solace” also gives a taste — again, a brief one — of the interplay between Ortt and Diener‘s guitars. Those who caught Beelzefuzz at their final shows over the last two or three months probably had a leg-up in this regard, but Righteous Bloom will mark the first time they appear on a studio recording together, and while they’re distinct in tone — Ortt‘s guitar-as-organ experimentations having been so core to the approach of the prior outfit — you can also get a feel for how they complement each other now and might continue to do so moving forward. That’s more toward the end of the song, which seems to come to an early close in a way that makes me wonder if there isn’t more to come in a longer version of the track that will perhaps show up when Righteous Bloom‘s debut LP surfaces in the New Year via The Church Within Records.
We’ve got a while to go before we find out, I guess. Till then, here’s “Of Sanctum and Solace” for your enjoyment:
Posted in Whathaveyou on September 9th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
After five years and one full-length album, progressive doom outfit Beelzefuzz have officially called it a day. The announcement was made earlier via Thee Facebooks, in a post with no words and only their logo with “2009-2014″ across the bottom. At the time of this post, their reasons for disbanding aren’t known, nor is it known whether any explanation is forthcoming, but what really matters anyway is they’ve broken up, and that’s confirmed by the band itself.
Begun as a trio in 2009 with original drummer Rick Jenkins, with members Dana Ortt (vocals/guitar), Pug Kirby (bass) and Darin McCloskey (drums) — three players hailing from three different states: Maryland, Delaware and Pennsylvania — Beelzefuzz quickly became more than the sum of their parts. I was first tipped off to them by Sean McKee from Clamfight in 2011, but it would be a year after that when I first saw them, playing a set at Days of the Doomed II in 2012 abbreviated owing to car trouble. By the time they returned to the Wisconsin-based fest in 2013, they were conquering heroes, offering a take on doom that no one else in that very doomed lineup could bring to bear. They still had not yet released their debut album.
Beelzefuzz‘s Beelzefuzz(review here) arrived a few months later on The Church Within Records, a thick gatefold digipak, foldout poster lyric sheet and of course the songs themselves making it feel like the event it was. On that record, Ortt (interview here), Kirby and McCloskey conjured the most original stylization of Maryland doom I’ve heard in at least the last five years, fleshing out the sound of their earlier demos with a sense of poise that undercut the fact that it was their debut at the same time it spoke volumes of the potential for what they might do in the future. With cuts like “Reborn,” “All the Feeling Returns” and “Lonely Creatures” — the bizzaro stomp of which still echoes in my head frequently — it was one of 2013’s best, and will remain a special document by a group whose tenure was too short.
In fall 2013, they journeyed to Germany for a special slot at Hammer of Doom 8 in Wurzberg, and back home, they played Stoner Hands of Doom XIII in Virginia and, in Spring 2014, The Eye of the Stoned Goat 4 in Massachusetts. Shortly afterward, they added a second guitarist in Greg Diener, a longtime bandmate of McCloskey‘s in Pale Divine. Early last month, they were slated for a handful of dates alongside Kings Destroy and Eric Wagner‘s Blackfinger, but pulled out before the shows took place. Their final gig was Aug. 30 at the inaugural Vultures of Volume fest in New Castle, Delaware, alongside The Skull, Unorthodox, Pale Divine and many others.
Losing Beelzefuzz stings not just because they were a heavy band, or they wrote catchy songs, or had a fun stage presence — though all that was true — but because they had an immediately individual approach to their songwriting. Particularly in Ortt‘s tonal experimentation and the dynamic between the three players based around that, Beelzefuzz proved there was room for intricacy in doom’s well-trod paths, and though I’m glad I got to see them the several times I did, and I’m glad they got that record out, and glad there are videos and whatnot to enjoy, it’ll be some time before I manage to listen to Beelzefuzz again and not wonder what might have been.