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.