The Obsessed have announced a massive round of tour dates for April and May to support their first album in more than 20 years, Sacred, which is out April 7 on Relapse Records. Direct support on the run will come from Karma to Burn (with whom The Obsessed also toured last year), and Fatso Jetson and Lo-Pan will trade off for the West Coast and East Coast portions, respectively. In addition, a record release party will be held in Philly on April 8 at Kung Fu Necktie, at which The Obsessed legendary founding guitarist/vocalist Scott “Wino” Weinrich will perform acoustic.
By way of a spoiler, I interviewed Wino yesterday about the new album — which rules — and he’s stoked to take it on the road. More to come on that as soon as I get the conversation transcribed.
Meantime, without further ado here are the dates from the PR wire:
THE OBSESSED Announce Headlining US Tour Dates
Maryland doom legends THE OBSESSED have announced a full US tour in support of the forthcoming album Sacred. The tour commences on April 12th in Pittsburgh, PA and runs through May 20th in Baltimore, MD. Karma To Burn will provide direct support on all dates while Fatso Jetson (April 17 – May 1) and Lo-Pan (May 3 – May 20) will provide additional support on select dates. THE OBSESSED will also join Weedeater and label-mates Primitive Man on five West Coast shows during the run (April 27 – May 1). All confirmed tour dates below.
Additionally, THE OBSESSED will hold a record release show for Sacred on April 8th at Kung Fu Necktie in Philadelphia, PA. The band will also perform at this year’s Berserker Fest IV in Detroit, Michigan the weekend of April 14-15. Stay tuned for further tour announcements in the future!
April 7, 2017 will see the worldwide release of Sacred via Relapse Records on CD/LP/DLX. 2xLP/Digital. Physical pre-order and bundles are available via Relapse.com HERE and digital downloads can be pre-ordered by Bandcamp AT THIS LOCATION. The Deluxe 2xLP bundle includes an enamel logo pin, signed art print and two bonus tracks!
With renewed energy and purpose, THE OBSESSED sounds heavier and more relevant than ever before. On Sacred, the band doubles down on enormous, heaving riffs and pummeling low-end across 12 tracks of eternal doom. Rounded out by Wino’s lyrical honesty and iconic throaty vocals, Sacred is an album that further pushes THE OBSESSED into the annals of heavy metal history, well worth the two-plus decade wait. The band will perform once again as three piece featuring Wino, Reid Raley and Brian Costantino.
THE OBSESSED Tour Dates: Apr 08 Philadelphia, PA Kung Fu Necktie *Record Release Party/Acoustic Wino Set* — All Dates Apr 12 – May 20 With Karma To Burn — Apr 12 Pittsburgh, PA Cattive Apr 14 Cleveland, OH Grog Shop Apr 15 Pontiac, MI Berserker IV (The Crofoot) & Apr 17 Indianapolis, IN 5th Quarter + Apr 18 Kansas City, MO Riot Room + Apr 19 Chicago, IL Bottom Lounge + Apr 20 St. Louis, MO Fubar + Apr 21 Rock Island, IL Rock Island Brewing Co. + Apr 23 Denver, CO Hi-Dive + Apr 24 Salt Lake City, UT Metro Music Hall + Apr 25 Boise, ID Neurolux + Apr 26 Bellingham, WA Shakedown + Apr 27 Seattle, WA Highline ** + Apr 28 Portland, OR Star Theater ** + Apr 29 Sacramento, CA Starlite ** + Apr 30 San Francisco, CA DNA Lounge ** + May 01 Los Angeles, CA Regent Theater ** + May 02 Mesa, AZ Club Red May 03 Albuquerque, NM Launchpad # May 04 Dallas, TX Three Links # May 05 Austin, TX Grizzly Hall # May 07 San Antonio, TX Korova # May 08 New Orleans, LA Siberia # May 09 Savannah, GA The Jinx # May 10 Johnson City, TN Hideaway # May 11 Atlanta, GA EARL # May 12 Miami, FL Gramps # May 13 Spartanburg, SC Ground Zero # May 14 Raleigh, NC Pour House # May 16 Philadelphia, PA Kung Fu Necktie # May 17 Boston, MA ONCE Ballroom # May 18 Brooklyn, NY Saint Vitus # May 19 New Hanover, CT The Ballroom at Outer Space # May 20 Baltimore, MD Otto Bar #
& No Karma To Burn ** W/ Weedeater + Primitive Man + W/ Fatso Jetson # W/ Lo-Pan
Posted in Whathaveyou on February 7th, 2017 by JJ Koczan
Been waiting for news on this one. The first album from The Obsessed in 23 years, Sacred, will be out April 7 on Relapse Records. They have a new song streaming now that you can hear below. It’s called “Razor Wire,” and though the lineup of the band that crafted it is already defunct, founding guitarist/vocalist Scott “Wino” Weinrich having assembled a four-piece incarnation of the group that may or may not still be active — you’ll note a lineup mentioned below with Reid Raley of Rwake as well as that four-piece version; I’m not going to pretend to know which is current, if not both — one can hear the renewed vitality of The Obsessed in the track. It sounds fantastic, to be blunt about it, and I can only look forward to hearing more when the time comes. April 7. Calendar is marked.
Just in from the PR wire:
THE OBSESSED Announces New Album Sacred; Band Premieres “Razor Wire”
Sacred coming April 7th via Relapse Records
Maryland doom legends THE OBSESSED will unleash Sacred, the band’s first studio album in over twenty years, this April via Relapse Records.
Guitarist Scott “Wino” Weinrich comments on the new album: “I can honestly say, I think this is the best sounding recording of my career, and I am excited to release it on Relapse. This song ‘Razor Wire,’ I have been carrying around the title concept and main riff in my pocket for a couple years. The full song was born after applying real life experiences, with a little wishful thinking! Fuck control.”
April 7th, 2017 will see the worldwide release of Sacred via Relapse Records on CD, LP, deluxe double LP, and digital formats. Physical preorders and bundles are available via Relapse.com HERE and digital downloads can be preordered by Bandcamp at THIS LOCATION. The deluxe 2xLP bundle includes an enamel logo pin, signed art print, and two bonus tracks.
With renewed energy and purpose, THE OBSESSED sounds heavier and more relevant than ever before. On Sacred, the band doubles down on enormous, heaving riffs and pummeling low-end across twelve tracks of eternal doom. Rounded out by Wino’s lyrical honesty and iconic throaty vocals, Sacred is an album that further pushes THE OBSESSED into the annals of heavy metal history, well worth the two-plus decade wait. The band will perform once again as a three-piece featuring Wino, Reid Raley, and Brian Costantino.
Sacred Track Listing: 1. Sodden Jackal 2. Punk Crusher 3. Sacred 4. Haywire 5. Perseverance Of Futility 6. It’s Only Money 7. Cold Blood 8. Stranger Things 9. Razor Wire 10. My Daughter My Son 11. Be The Night 12. Interlude 13. On So Long (Bonus) 14. Crossroader Blues (Bonus)
Additionally, THE OBSESSED will perform at this year’s Berserker Fest IV in Detroit, Michigan the weekend of April 14th-15th. Stay tuned for further tour announcements in the future.
THE OBSESSED: 4/14-15/2017 Berserker Fest IV – Detroit, MI w/ GWAR, Eyehategod, OFF!, Weedeater, Brain Tentacles, more
Wino announced the full-time return of THE OBSESSED in March 2016 and the band’s official signing to Relapse Records to record the follow up to The Church Within. The new lineup originally consisted of Spirit Caravan bassist Dave Sherman and Wino’s longtime friend and former road crew member. drummer Brian Costantino. On October 31st, 2016, Wino announced the lineup for THE OBSESSED, included bassist Bruce Falkinburg and guitarist Seraphim, making that the first time the band had been a four piece in over thirty-five years. Now in 2017, THE OBSESSED will unleash Sacred, the band’s first studio album in over two decades.
Posted in Whathaveyou on January 24th, 2017 by JJ Koczan
I’ll admit I had to look up which Klingon it was that Captain Kirk told to ‘go to the devil.’ It was Kang. As I recall it was a censorship thing, because in 1968, when that episode of the original Star Trek aired, you couldn’t tell someone to go to hell on network television. I don’t know if Iron Man frontman Dee Calhoun had Trek specifically in mind when he picked Go to the Devil as the working title of his soon-to-be-recorded second solo full-length, but it was certainly where my brain went in terms of the reference. Not everyone will have the same response, I suppose.
Whatever it’s ultimately called, Calhoun‘s sophomore outing, which as noted below will also feature Iron Man bassist Louis Strachan, will arrive at a quick turnaround from last year’s Rotgut (review here). That record was among 2016’s best debuts, so it’s only fair to say the follow-up will arrive with some anticipation behind it. After seeing the two perform together at Maryland Doom Fest last year (review here), I’ll look forward to hearing what Strachan brings to the studio material as well.
I could go on. Here’s the news:
DEE CALHOUN announces second solo album; to include Louis Strachan (Iron Man)
Argonauta Records is happy to announce that Iron Man frontman Dee Calhoun will soon begin production on his sophomore solo album, the follow-up to 2016’s “Rotgut.” Recording will commence in late winter, mostly at Dee’s home studio The Dustbuster.
“The response to ‘Rotgut’ was so amazing, much more than I had ever hoped for,” Dee said. “People identified with the album’s honest simplicity, the honest messages within each song. Those good vibes kept the creativity flowing, and this follow-up will be the result.”
On this album, tentatively titled “Go to the Devil,” Dee will be joined by his Iron Man bandmate Louis Strachan, who will be handling bass guitar duties. “Lou is such a positive force, and has been such a great addition to live shows, it is a no-brainer to have him play on this CD” Dee said. “The material will still have the raw, stripped-down feel that the songs on ‘Rotgut’ had, only with the addition of those great, bouncy bass lines underneath.” Dee also indicates that the album’s themes will continue to follow his “I write what I feel” approach, mixed in with some storytelling elements.
“Go to the Devil” (again, the tentative title) is targeted for a late 2017 release.
It’s more than a little amazing to think that Pentagram are 45 years into their career. 45 years! Of course, vocalist Bobby Liebling is the sole remaining original member and they’ve had a near-Hawkwindian amount of lineup changes at this point, but still, for even the name to last that long is impressive, let alone the fact that in 2016, they’re probably bigger than they’ve ever been. Recent controversies aside — and whether or not they should be put aside is a matter for internet thinkpieces to sort out — the band’s reach has only expanded over the last several years, and the release of Curious Volume (review here) in 2015 confirmed them as one of the most pivotal American doom acts on the circuit.
That they’ve never had a music video before this new one for the title-track is more trivia than landmark — as I recall it also took Saint Vitus a long time to get their first video out — but certainly noteworthy in any case. “Curious Volume” would seem to live up to the occasion by emphasizing Pentagram as they are today rather than who they were four-plus decades ago. Shot on their Spring European tour, which included a stop at Roadburn 2016, where they slayed, the video finds Pentagram compiles and manipulates performance footage, bringing the vibrancy of their stage show to bear in a well-edited four-minute package delivered in advance of their appearance next month at Psycho Las Vegas.
Check it out below, followed by some comment from Liebling via the PR wire:
Pentagram, “Curious Volume” official video
45 years into its career, Pentagram is ecstatic to announce its first ever promotional video for the title track from the acclaimed album Curious Volume.
The video for “Curious Volume” was produced by David Hall (Uneasysleeper.com), known for his work with The Melvins, Pig Destroyer, Phillip H. Anselmo and the Illegals, Venom, Brutal Truth, Ken Mode and more, with the live footage shot on tour March – April 2016 by Jerry Moore, Chris Navarro, Joe Shuerger and Dan Lively.
Pentagram frontman Bobby Liebling said of the video: “We wanted our first ever video to, in-a-way, be a connection to the past as well as the present. The song can be interpreted as a personal and collective journey that we’ve been on for close to half a decade. It’s a trip that’s both physical and mental and I feel that Dave’s end result illustrates that for us and everyone. The video stands as both an escape and an introduction to us as artists and people. You can feel the rigors and rewards of tour life through the visuals. We love the stardust and psychedelics as well as the raw rock-n-roll energy felt throughout the song and video alike. We hope you connect with it like we do.”
Pentagram is: Bobby Liebling – vocals Victor Griffin – guitar Greg Turley – bass Pete Campbell – drums
I don’t think it’s the record for how many bands I’ve seen in one day, but it has to be close. After a pummeling Day One at Cafe 611 (review here), Day Two of Maryland Doom Fest 2016 featured a whopping, nigh-on-overwhelming 12 acts, starting at 2:15PM and running until shortly before 2AM. Joy among joys, my camera continues to be non-functional, but I did the best I could with my phone and kept it at that. Not sure what I’m going to do about that one yet. Cry a little? Yeah, maybe. Maybe on the way home.
For now, as Jesse “The Body” Ventura once so eloquently put it, “I ain’t got time to bleed.” Day Three starts in a scant couple hours and after two days of marathon nonstop heavy, I’m ready to get back into the fray. Let’s do this thing.
Iron Man frontman Dee Calhoun recently released his debut solo record, Rotgut (review here), and provided a direct contrast in how the second day started at Maryland Doom Fest 2016 as compared to the first, which opened with Black Urn, who I think remain the most extreme sludge act of the weekend so far. “Screaming Mad Dee” played acoustic heavy metal blues, joined on semi-unplugged bass by Iron Man bandmate and all-around master of things low-end Louis Strachan, and started his set with the album-opener “Unapologetic,” which I suspect is something of a creedo for the singer. Maybe I should say singer/guitarist, since Calhoun proved his mettle on the latter throughout the set, bringing out his son, Rob Calhoun, for a particularly touching rendition of “Little Houn Daddy Houn” that was as genuinely heartwarming as anything I’ve ever seen at a heavy show, and closing out with a cover of Black Sabbath‘s “Snowblind,” the solo for which is a test for any guitar player. Bolstered by Strachan taking on Geezer Butler basslines — talk about “in your element” — Dee nailed it, and the filing-in early crowd, who caught on to shout “cocaine!” for the second verse, was glad to be along for the ride.
Thousand Vision Mist
Fronted by guitarist/vocalist Danny Kenyon and taking their name from the debut of his former band, Life Beyond, the three-piece Thousand Vision Mist offered one of the day’s most individualized takes on a doomed approach, their progressive turns enacted fluidly by the rhythm section of Tony Comulada (who’d also play later with War Injun) and drummer Chris Sebastian. It hasn’t been that long since I saw them for the first time last fall at Vultures of Volume II (review here), and the impression at MDDF wasn’t much different. People were still filing in as Kenyon and company made their way through the memorable “Darklight” and “Tears of the Moon,” the second of which also served as the centerpiece of their 2015 demo, which was available at the merch table and is their only release to-date so far as I know. They closed with another cut from that initial offering, “Heart String Wild Fire Blues,” finding a place for themselves between Rush and The Obsessed. Not at all bad territory to stake out.
Minnesota’s Wicked Inquisition said early into their set that this was “in all likelihood” their last show ever. The band formed in 2008 and released their self-titled debut (review here) last year after a demo and a couple EPs, blending oldschool thrash, classic metal and doom fluidly on cuts like “M.A.D.” and “Death of Man.” I don’t know for sure, but I’d assume part of the reason they’re calling it quits is that guitarist/vocalist Nate Towle has joined Virginia-based Satan’s Satyrs, and that’s a hell of a back and forth from MN to VA. Whether or not the breakup is permanent is of course up to the future, but Towle, guitarist Ben Stevens, bassist Jordan Anderson and drummer Jack McKoskey leaned toward doom as one of the weapons in their arsenal to be broken out when called for and otherwise kept their metallic tinge shining via some slow-Slayer dual-guitar to keep the crowd hooked. It worked. Cheers to Towle on getting the Satan’s Satyrs gig, which seems like a good one if you want to tour, and best of luck to everyone in Wicked Inquisition going forward. I’m glad I got to see them while I could.
Long-running Baltimorean outfit Ironboss are about to issue what may or may not be their first album in more than a decade in the form of Rock Fuck Fight, and their set brought the further intrigue of featuring Bruce Falkinburg — hardly recognizable with short-cropped hair from the last time I saw him, which admittedly was years ago when he was playing with The Hidden Hand — on guitar. The burly brand of heavy the five-piece elicited was much less sludge than I thought it would be, I couldn’t help but have a harsher impression thinking back to 2001’s Guns Don’t Kill People… Ironboss Does!!, but I guess that was 15 years ago and a different lineup. Granted, there was a touch of chaos in the atmosphere, almost punkish, but the songs resided in a mid-paced push, comfortable but still aggressive. They apparently just tracked six songs live with J. Robbins, so it would seem that Ironboss have returned to kill again.
Been a couple years and a 2015 self-titled debut since I saw Chicago’s Spillage make their stage debut at Days of the Doomed II in Wisconsin (review here), but my prevailing memories of the the band were still positive. Members of the Trouble family tree via founding guitarist Tony Spillman, who’s worked with that legendary Midwestern outfit for some untold number of years, and through Spillman‘s tenure in Earthen Grave, they for sure had that aspect to their sound, but the energy of their delivery and the classic metal vibe that guest-frontman Elvin Rodriguez brought with him in his Dio-style presentation was well suited to making an impression of their own. Along with album tracks like “In Hell,” opener “The Darkness” and “Land of Opportunity,” Spillage closed out with the Cliff Richard cover “Devil Woman,” which also appeared on the record and which they played when last I saw them as well. A staple, then. Hard to argue. After 12 bands, that swinging hook remained among the most prevalent on my mental jukebox.
What a joy it is to watch Wizard Eye play. The Philly trio roll heavy grooves beamed in from sonicstonersubspace and the obvious pleasure they take in doing so is infectious. Another act who played Vultures of Volume II last fall (review here), they’ve since released their self-titled 2015 sophomore album (review here), with its excellently crusted take on heavy vibes. Guitarist Erik Caplan had his theremin handy, as always, but along with the caveman shouts from bassist Dave Shahriari and the steady swing from drummer Mike Scarpone, what came through most to me this time around was how killer a guitar player Caplan is. With that theremin, he could easily drop out during solo sections and wail on the theremin, its squealing awesomeness taking the place of any guitar work. Instead, he absolutely shreds out leads and then lights up the theremin on a cut like “C.O.C.” from 2010’s Orbital Rites debut. So it’s adding to the sound, rather than compensating for something not there. It makes all the difference seeing them do a set, which I’m glad to do every single time I’m able.
Along with Holly Hunt, Shroud Eater and a couple others, Jacksonville’s Hollow Leg are among the principal reasons to be sad when the polar ice caps melt and Florida sinks under rising sea levels. The four-piece of vocalist Scott Angelacos, guitarist/vocalist Brent Lynch, bassist Tom Crowther and drummer Tim Creter have never failed in my experience to deliver lethal sludge like some fucked-up cousin of Sourvein, but as 2016’s Crown (review here) showcased, their sound has only grown richer over the years and they brought that feel to Maryland Doom Fest 2016 in “Seaquake,” “Electric Veil” and “Coils” along with the earlier digital single “God Eater” (posted here). With Lynch adding to Angelacos‘ dudely rasp, the vibe was even more unhinged as they played, and next to Wizard Eye they seemed only to build on the intensity of volume and heft while keeping the vicious push moving forward. Labelmates with Dee Calhoun on Argonauta Records, they’ve been on the road with Irata for the better part of a week and sounded tight enough to make one believe they were a few shows deep. Clearly too abrasive for some, but I thought they were right on.
I guess they went with the name War Injun because calling themselves “Maryland Doom Allstars” would sound too much like a softball team. Fronted by Internal Void‘s J.D. Williams, featuring, as noted, bassist Tony Comulada, along with guitarists Russ Strahan (ex-Pentagram, as well as Weed is Weed and many others) and Kenny Staubs (Outside Truth), and drummer JB Matson — one of the organizers of Maryland Doom Fest 2016 — it’s a formidable grouping nonetheless. Their groove was likewise formidable. Matson didn’t make it easy for his own outfit, putting them after Wizard Eye and Hollow Leg as a lead-in for Brimstone Coven, but War Injun not only pulled one of the night’s best crowds, they absolutely leveled the place. Williams, who’d performed the night before with Internal Void, remained a complete madman on stage, and the riffs from Staubs and Strahan were classic Maryland doom through and through, peppered with more aggressive push. Last time I saw them was Stoner Hands of Doom XI in 2011 (review here), and they hit even harder than I remembered.
Like Castle yesterday, I feel like I came out of Brimstone Coven‘s set with an entirely deeper appreciation for what the West Virginian outfit does. Next month, they hit the road for a handful of Midwestern dates with Castle, as it happens, and both bands are ones that you just have to see live to really understand. That’s not to take away from what Brimstone Coven — “Big John” Williams on vocals, Corey Roth on guitar/vocals, Andrew D’Cagna bass/vocals and Justin Wood on drums — were able to do on their 2016 debut LP, Black Magic (review here), but the impression they made on stage was on a different level, Williams, Roth and D’Cagna coming together to completely nail down vocal harmonies over weighted doom riffing, shedding some of the cult rock vibe of the record in favor of an almost progressive feel with moments of brash heavy rock for counterweight. It was the kind of set that made me want to go back and take another look at the album, the highlight being “Slow Death,” which seemed at first like a strange one for Williams to shout out “to the ladies,” but ultimately made sense in light of the lyrics. They were the day’s most pleasant surprise, though I probably shouldn’t have been surprised.
Of all the sets I’ve seen vocalist Eric Wagner perform — and at this point I’ve seen him perform a few — he always looks like he’s having the best time with Blackfinger. Granted, he was all smiles at Roadburn this year with The Skull as well, but there’s a level of appreciation for some of Blackfinger‘s more Beatlesian melancholy in tracks like “I am Jon” and “On Tuesday Morning,” both from their 2014 self-titled debut (review here), that comes through visually on stage and in the vibrant presentation of the material. Having Terry Weston of Penance/Dream Death on guitar doesn’t hurt either, but with guitarist Matthew Tuite, bassist Matthew Cross and drummer David Snyder, the lineup did justice to Wagner‘s legacy in Trouble as well as their own sonic persona. As always, Wagner‘s charisma as a frontman made him a focal point, but that’s nothing new for him, and he handled the room with his usual laid back flair. Somehow it wouldn’t seem like a doom fest if he didn’t show up in one outfit or another. He carries so much of the essence of the sound with him wherever he goes.
Place of Skulls
Once again, in the tonal battle of Victor Griffin vs. the universe, Victor Griffin wins by a landslide. It took Place of Skulls a while to get going — something with the guitar stack, I don’t know — but once the set started, the trio were among the highlights of the weekend so far. With the night’s biggest crowd at attention, Griffin held court alongside his Death Row bandmate Lee Abney on bass/backing vocals and drummer Russell Lee Padgett, but I could be wrong. It’s been six years since they released As A Dog Returns (review here) — though the 2013 self-titled debut from the short-lived In~Graved project (review here) seems to have been rebranded as a Place of Skulls release this year — and five years since last I saw them play, but for it being the first time in a while, Place of Skulls were very much still Place of Skulls, the band who released one of the best American doom records of all time in 2003’s With Vision, from which they aired the title-track, “The Monster,” “Long Lost Grave” and “Last Hit” along with a cover of The Animals‘ “Misunderstood” that has become a regular feature in Griffin-related sets, be it with In~Graved or Pentagram. Like Eric Wagner, Griffin takes a lot of who he is from band to band, and his mark on doom is unmistakable.
I’ve seen Bang play upwards of 15 times on two different continents in the last two or three years, and they’ve never been a letdown. Like the day started easing into the heavy with Dee Calhoun‘s acoustic set, Bang — who also had a new drummer — provided the sweet swing that would smooth the way out. The classic heavy rockers, playing to support reissues of their catalog on Svart Records, were given a rousing introduction by Dave Sherman of The Obsessed, who cited them as a major influence for Maryland doom as a whole and his career specifically. From there, Frankie Gilcken launched the opening riff of “Keep On,” and Bang were underway. Bassist/vocalist Frank Ferrara was in top form through “Lions… Christians,” “The Maze” and the ballad “Last Will and Testament,” which was given its usual intro. It was late and the room had dissipated somewhat, but Bang‘s tones were as warm and inviting as ever, and plenty of people held on until the finish, savoring every moment they could get. Again, not by any means my first time at the dance with these cats (except the drummer), but they remain something truly special to watch and are a testament to the enduring appeal of heavy’s essential formative years.
Within minutes of getting back to the Super 8 after the show, I was falling asleep. Still, I felt better after last night than Friday, and with 11 more bands playing tonight, that’s probably a good thing. First band starts in about two hours, and I need coffee, so I’m gonna take care of that as priority one and then go from there.
It was a hell of a ride, and by that I mean I sat in traffic from about 8:30 in the morning until I walked into Cafe 611 in Frederick, Maryland, just in time for the start of the first band at 5:15PM. I soon found that my plan to not wear the supportive boot for my continuing ankle pain was, let’s say, ambitious. Basically I couldn’t stand up for more than like five minutes at a time. Fortunately the boot was in the car. Then my camera broke.
This is the part where normally I’d say “some you win, some you lose,” but the quality of the first night of Maryland Doom Fest 2016 — the second edition of the festival put on by JB Matson and Mark Cruikshank; still kicking myself for missing it last year — was such that I couldn’t really feel too down about any of the above, except perhaps the camera, which served me well for half a decade and hopefully I’ll be able to have fixed in the near term, no doubt at significant cost. Not for this weekend, though. Bummer.
Well. Now that I think I’ve gotten all or at least most of the bitching out of the way, we can get down to business. Like I said, I watched from the first band on, as much as I was able, and got pictures on my phone after the camera went down. I did the best I could.
Alright, here goes:
Clearly a trial by fire for the room. Some fests might try to ease the audience into the event; Maryland Doom Fest 2016 not so much. Philadelphia’s Black Urn would wind up being the most extreme band of the night, digging their way into vicious sludge metal topped by growls and screams exclusively, proffered through two guitars finding balance in the mix with bass that seemed utterly dominant at first but soon enough evened out. That kind of stuff runs the risk of coming across as samey when you don’t know the songs — they have a 2015 demo and a 2016 EP, The Pangs of Our Covenant, out, but this was my first exposure to them — but Black Urn knew when to change the pace up, and their faster parts had a heavy rock edge to them that set well alongside the grueling brutalities they fostered otherwise. Plus vocalist John Jones wore an Iron Monkey t-shirt, and that’s just about always going to earn some extra points in my book.
The Californian heavy atmospheric doom rockers were a treat for anyone who showed up early, playing through a considerable investment portfolio of amplification, fresh-looking Oranges and Sunn for the guitar of Kyle Stratton and the bass of John Chavarria, while drummer Jeff Tedtaotao punctuated the massive rolling grooves elicited from them. They’d been on tour for about a week supporting the recently-released, Billy Anderson-produced Shaman’s Path of the Serpent (stream here; review here), and “Gravity” was a highlight of the set, which rightly focused on the new album and its ambient largesse, in which one can hear shades of anything from YOB to Neurosis to Deftones in Stratton‘s vocals to Tool in some of their quiet, winding parts. It’s a varied blend, and they can make it move as well when they want, but they were impressively fluid front to back, and seemed most at home with the three of them locked into any number of lumbering progressions, of which they offered plenty.
I’ve been watching Admiral Browning play shows for more than a decade. I say this not to brag about having seen the band a bunch of times, but to emphasize the point that when they take a given stage, I still don’t know what to expect. Oh, you can be sure that guitarist Matt LeGrow, bassist Ron “Fezz” McGinnis and drummer Tim Otis will offer dizzying technicality and frenetic groove, but just where they might take that is perpetually up in the air. Their 2015 tape EP, Corvette Summer (review here), found them experimenting further with incorporating vocals into their long-instrumentally-focused sound, and it worked. At Maryland Doom Fest 2016, it wasn’t a question. Both LeGrow and McGinnis had mics and used them liberally. I’ll admit it was a somewhat jarring sight — as I said, they were strictly instrumental for a long time — but they’ve developed relentlessly over their years together, and that process obviously continues unabated. Nothing new to say I’m looking forward to what they do next, but it’s true all the same. Way underappreciated band.
Probably should’ve seen these cats by now. Led by guitarist/vocalist Erik Sugg, North Carolina’s Demon Eye have been tearing it up on the Eastern Seaboard for the last couple years, also journeying west this past April to tour alongside Disenchanter in support of their second record, 2015’s Tempora Infernalia (review here), and after hearing such encouraging things about their stage presence, yeah, it felt overdue. Sugg was indeed very much in the lead position, bantering with the crowd between songs, headbanging and stomping in classic rock style, backed by drummer Bill Egan on vocals and lead guitarist Larry Burlison while Paul Walz‘s Rickenbacker tied it all together in the low end. They opened with “End of Days” and closed with “Sons of Man,” both from the new record, but “From Beyond” from 2014’s Leave the Light (review here) was a highlight as well, their songs upbeat. In my notes, it just says “ace songwriting,” so we’ll leave it at that, and while I’ll admit some of their cult themes leave me a little cold, both their craft and the energy of their performance are absolutely undeniable.
With guitarist/vocalist Greg Diener and drummer Darin McCloskey both now in Beelzefuzz and bassist/backing vocalist Ron “Fezz” McGinnis sharing his time with Admiral Browning and several other projects, Pale Divine has kind of become a part-time institution, but in all the years I’ve seen them — I think the first time was in Philly with The Hidden Hand, circa ’04 — they’ve never failed to deliver on their particular kind of woeful traditional doom. Though they’re not actually from the state, they were a perfect centerpiece for Maryland Doom Fest 2016’s first night, and the assembled crowd, younger and older, showed their appreciation duly. As I was dealing with my just-busted camera, I’ll admit my attention was somewhat divided, but Pale Divine don’t screw around on stage, and they closed their set playing something they’ve never played before. Diener gave the title but of course I missed it, in the back fumbling with the camera battery and lens as I was, sadly to no avail. The doom felt perhaps even more appropriate in such a context.
Ruby the Hatchet
Philly-region five-piece Ruby the Hatchet are on something of a mini-tour this week, up the Northeast in the formidable company of Black Mountain. Not at all their first run in support of last year’s way-right-on Valley of the Snake (review here), but they’ve also reissued their first record, Ouroboros, on vinyl through Tee Pee Records, and I’d imagine when the chance to do shows with a group like Black Mountain crops up, or to, say, play Maryland Doom Fest 2016 on the night The Obsessed are headlining, it’s a thing you do your best to make happen. Starting off their set with the memorable “Heavy Blanket” from Valley of the Snake, they jammed profusely and featured what I think might be the weekend’s only on-stage organ, so bonus points there. Vocalist Jillian Taylor was in firm command on stage, her vocals run through a close delay for a live-doubletracking effect that only made their cultistry seem more resonant. Taylor, together with bassist Lake Muir, guitarist John Scarperia, drummer Owen Stewart and organist Sean Hur, have pretty clearly mastered the post-Uncle Acid blend of hooks and bounce, and set about reshaping them to suit their own melodic purposes. One expects that will be a process that plays out over the next several years/albums, but they were impressively tight and for my first time seeing them, I was glad I finally did.
Speaking of bands I should’ve seen before — as I realize I have a couple times at this point — fucking Castle. The hard-touring San Francisco outfit sounded so much like a group used to being on the road. Some bands just develop that thing. They show up in a room, assess the place, the people, the sound, say, “Okay, we can kick ass here,” and then do. That’s exactly what Castle did. They’re the kind of band who could make you believe in heavy metal. A lot of what they played was new — they’re touring to herald the arrival of their new album, Welcome to the Graveyard, which is out July 12 on Ván Records — and their righteously individualized blend of thrash, traditional metal, doom, heavy rock and roll, etc., speaks to some mystical bygone era when metal was about not compromising, putting a fist in the air against expectation and going on tour forever. Castle were so deep into what they were doing that I think they could’ve been anywhere and it would’ve been the same, that trance taking hold early on as they locked in and holding sway for the duration of their set, which seemed short when it was over. They’ve made themselves pretty available for in-person experience over the years, and now I understand why. I don’t think it’s really possible to get them until you see them live. I’m late to the party on that one, I know, but they didn’t seem to care if it was somebody’s first time, fifth time, or however-manyeth time seeing them. Everyone got their ass handed to them equally.
Not to toot my own horn, but I said not too long ago that if you get the chance to see Internal Void, you should do it, and their hour-long set at Cafe 611 only affirmed the truth of that. The four-piece of vocalist J.D. Williams, guitarist Kelly Carmichael, bassist Adam Heinzmann and drummer Brian Goad packed out the room shoulder to shoulder and were clearly as glad to see the hometown crowd as the hometown crowd was to see them, even before Carmichael started shredding out solos, before Williams widened his eyes and loosed his gravely sneer, and before they brought out original drummer Eric Little to play a couple cuts from 1993’s Standing on the Sun, marking the first time that album’s full lineup had shared the stage in 23 years. With their own banner behind them, Internal Void epitomized Maryland doom. Their workingman’s grooves, classic edge and sans-bullshit delivery spoke to everything that has allowed the scene in and around Frederick to flourish for the last three decades to where it is now and where it’s headed in the future. Last time I saw Internal Void was at the Afterburner for Roadburn 2012, and several others remarked that it had been several years since they last played, so that might well have been their most recent show. Either way, they brought it hard for the Maryland Doom Fest 2016 crowd and were a joy to watch. If you get the chance to see them, do it. Don’t hesitate.
I’m not sure anyone would’ve been a better fit to headline Maryland Doom Fest than The Obsessed. I mean that wholeheartedly. Their legacy as a band — only more so now that guitarist/vocalist Scott “Wino” Weinrich has brought in his Spirit Caravan bandmate Dave Sherman (recent interview here) on bass/backing vocals, alongside new drummer Brian Costantino — is so tied to that of Maryland doom that you just don’t have the one without the other. Their set might be considered a victory lap for the month-long tour they just did with Karma to Burn (who also play this weekend) as much as a precursor to their hitting the studio with Frank “The Punisher” Marchand in a couple weeks to record their first album since 1994. In addition to The Obsessed staples “Neatz Brigade,” “Streamlined,” “Protect and Serve” and “Blind Lightning,” they worked in a couple Spirit Caravan cuts, among them “Retroman” and the ultra-rolling “Sea Legs.” It was late, and the room began to thin out some as they made their way toward the close of the evening with “Freedom,” but in giving a look at some newer material with the speedy “Be the Night” and the more expansive “Sacred” (which has been kicking around Spirit Caravan sets for a few years now and has older roots), The Obsessed looked ahead in addition to celebrating their legacy, and that seemed no less appropriate. Even after Internal Void, they held the room wrapt, and there was zero doubt to whom the night ultimately belonged.
Next show starts in a little over an hour, so I gotta get moving. No extra pics on account of the broken camera, but thanks for reading anyway.
Admittedly, I’ve got Maryland doom on the brain. Next weekend is Maryland Doom Fest 2016 at Cafe 611 in Fredrick (info here), and as a part of a stellar lineup that reaches well outside genre confines, Internal Void will put in a rare appearance that includes a guest spot from former drummer Eric Little (see also Earthride and the most recent offering from Church of Misery), marking the first time the complete Standing on the Sun lineup will be on the same stage in nearly a quarter-century.
To listen now to Standing on the Sun, issued in 1993 through Germany’s Hellhound Records, it’s a prototype workingman’s doom that bands around the Frederick area continue to build on to this day. As did concurrent groups like The Obsessed, Revelation, Wretched, Unorthodox and Iron Man, Internal Void set themselves to the task of refining a Sabbathian ethic on sans-frills principles, rolling out bluesy grooves in songs like “Take a Look” after beginning the album with a foreboding chug on “Warhorse” and before creeping their way through the title-track and the acoustic melancholy of the later “Eclipsed.” It’s worth noting that all of the above-listed bands issued albums between 1991 and 1993 via Hellhound, as did Saint Vitus, Pigmy Love Circus, Lost Breed, Count Raven and Year Zero, among others, and though located on a different continent, that label’s contributions to this pivotal formative stage of Maryland doom aren’t to be understated. Internal Void‘s Standing on the Sun remains a prime example of the attitude and aesthetic of Maryland doom, and even 23 years later, its roughed-up-Candlemass vibes ring through loud and clear of a time when doom and metal were in many ways far more interchangeable than they are today.
In addition to Little on drums, the band at the time was comprised of vocalist J.D. Williams, guitarist Kelly Carmichael and bassist Adam Heinzmann. Williams also fronts War Injun, and Carmichael and Heinzmann have done the requisite stints in Pentagram, but Internal Void remains a standout from their contemporaries. After Standing on the Sun, it would be seven years before their second album, Unearthed, arrived in 2000, and four after that for the follow-up, Matricide. They reissued their 1991 Voyages demo in time to sell copies at Roadburn 2012, which was where I last saw them — by coincidence, The Obsessed also played and will be at Maryland Doom Fest 2016 as well — and I’ve seen no indication of future plans past this one-off appearance. The basic operating rule seems to be that if you can see Internal Void, see them, because you never know when the chance will come again.
Getting there will require a bit of travel on my part, but next week is also the Quarterly Review, so keep an eye out for that. 50 reviews between next Monday and Friday. I expect by the end of it I’ll be very much ready to get out and see a show. We start Monday. Have I started putting any of it together yet? No I have not. As I’m also going to New York tomorrow and New Jersey on Sunday, I expect it’s going to be quite a weekend.
I want to thank Diane Farris aka Diane Kamikaze for having me down to WFMU once again for an appearance on her show, The Kamikaze Fun Machine. It was a pleasure and an honor to share the airwaves with her once again for two hours, and thank you as well if you had the chance to tune in. If not, the show is archived and available to check out here: https://wfmu.org/playlists/DK.
Of course, the focus next week is the Quarterly Review and travel to Maryland, but also look out for new videos from Mars Red Sky (along with a cool announcement), Kadavar, Telstar Sound Drone and Soon A.D., and a bunch of other news as well that I’m already behind on. This was my second week of unemployment before I start my new job at Hasbro, and it was fantastic. Really, this entire period has just completely underscored how ready I am to retire. I mean that. I’m not even kidding.
Gonna go head to the farmer’s market in a bit and get my hair cut, then enjoy a quiet evening with The Patient Mrs. before tomorrow brings its own brand of chaos. I hope you have a great and safe weekend, and thank you for reading.
Posted in Features on June 17th, 2016 by JJ Koczan
In the interview that follows, The Obsessed bassist Dave Sherman talks about his bandmate, guitarist/vocalist Scott ‘Wino’ Weinrich, as one of the principal figures in doom. And no doubt he is. But what Sherman leaves out of that equation for the most part are his own contributions to the style. In his attitude and in decades of music in Wretched, Spirit Caravan, Earthride, Weed is Weed, King Valley and a slew of others, Sherman has come to embody the relentless pursuit at the heart of Maryland doom. Approachable, good natured and a lifer in his commitment to the heavy, he is no less a figurehead for that scene than Wino, Bobby Liebling of Pentagram, or anyone else. Maryland doom simply wouldn’t be what it is today without him.
Next week, The Obsessed — Sherman, Wino and drummer Brian Constantino — headline the second annual Maryland Doom Fest alongside Bang and Mos Generator. They just wrapped a full US tour with Karma to Burn and The Atomic Bitchwax (who cut their portion short due to injury and were replaced by Sierra), and announced along the way that they’ve signed to Relapse Records for the release of the first full-length by The Obsessed in more than two decades, tentatively-titled Sacred. It’s been a long, crooked road getting Wino and Sherman together as The Obsessed, even counting just from The Obsessed starting their reunion at Roadburn 2012 (review here), then dropping that to get back together and tour as Spirit Caravan before swapping one moniker for the other earlier this year, but to hear Sherman tell it, the journey seems to have been no less satisfying than it was complicated.
When we spoke a couple weeks ago, The Obsessed were getting ready to head into the final portion of the aforementioned tour, and were camped out in San Francisco waiting to go soundcheck at Slim’s. It was a relatively brief conversation, but in it Sherman talks about working with Frank “The Punisher” Marchand and Rob Queen on the new recordings — Queen also helmed the recently-unveiled “Be the Night” demo (posted here) — the signing to Relapse, the band’s place in doom history and more.