Time was limited. It was Monday morning and I was supposed to go to work after all, but as I was in New England anyway, a quick run to Armageddon Shop in Providence didn’t seem all that unreasonable. I’ve never come out of there feeling less than satisfied, and even back in December at the Boston store, I was able to pick up a few winners. Plus, Armageddon‘s been on my mind lately with their handling the repress of Elder‘s Spires Burn EP and the release of Magic Circle‘s self-titled, for which I have a review pending. All that, coupled with my general desire to crane my neck before a CD rack, made the stop a necessity. Turned out work was still there when I finally showed up anyway. Go figure.
On the wall of my office is a post-it with albums I’ve been meaning to pick up — mostly review stuff that labels won’t send out physical copies of anymore that I’ll grudgingly buy and devalue the effort I put into writing about them while also diminishing my appreciation for the record out of the pervasive annoyance. It’s a vicious cycle. Anyway, most of what’s on it I couldn’t remember, but it was fine. I managed to find enough and then some, as you can see in the stack above. The new Bedemon (track stream here) and Seremonia (track stream here) records were a must, and I hadn’t actually gotten a CD of the last Enslaved (review here), so I figured if I was going to give someone the cash for it, at least I could feel good about it going to Armageddon. The rest was gravy.
The first Hooded Menace full-length, Fulfill theCurse,Orodruin‘s Claw Tower and Other Tales of Terror and the repress of Life Beyond‘s Ancient Worldswere cool finds, but I was even more stoked on the 2003 Cream Abdul Babar/Kylesa split on At a Loss. I think they came by their progression honestly and I think Spiral Shadow(review here) bears that out, but it’s easy to forget how blisteringly heavy that band was at one point, all noise and fury and potential. With the unbridled weirdness of Cream Abdul Babar to complement, that split was a killer. The punkish War and Wineby the UK’s The Dukes of Nothing was something I had my eye on for a while, with Orange Goblin‘s Chris Turner on drums, bassist Doug Dalziel (ex-Iron Monkey) and Stuart O’Hara (ex-Acrimony, current Sigiriya) as one of two guitars, and more on the hardcore end, the self-titled collection from Hard to Swallow was a pleasant surprise, spanning the short tenure of the outfit that featured Jim Rushby (Iron Monkey)on guitar and Justin Greaves (Iron Monkey and even later of Crippled Black Phoenix) on drums and a host of others from that sphere ripping out primitive, violent bursts in rapid succession.
With 13 tracks in 27 minutes, there’s little room for screwing around, so Hard to Swallow get right to it, blending raw riffage with extreme punk fuckall. The compilation was released on Armageddon‘s own label, and though it’s more hardcore than what I’ll generally grab, it’s a solid, intense listen. A secret track incorporating Sabbath‘s “Under the Sun” into a grind medley made a decent, meaner answer to The Dukes of Nothing‘s album on Tortuga, and the metallic outing from Enslaved and Seremonia‘s distinctly Finnish weirdness. More local to home, I grabbed Halfway to Gone‘s split with Alabama Thunderpussy, which I already own but figured for six bucks I’d take a double, and the 1997 debut from underrated Jersey-based psychedelic rockers, Lord Sterling.
Your Ghost Will Walkwas one of those albums I figured I’d probably never happen upon, perhaps even less so in Rhode Island. I haven’t been chasing it down for years and years or anything like that — a preliminary search can find copies out there — but neither was I going to pass up the chance to get a new one. The pressing is on Chainsaw Safety Records, may or may not be original, and for anyone who heard Lord Sterling‘s Weapon of Truth(2002, Rubric) or Today’s Song for Tomorrow(2004, Small Stone), the first one is a little more jagged, a little more post-hardcore, somewhat less psychedelic, though the ethereal garage via The Doors vibes of the later albums are definitely present in some nascent form. I always dug those guys, so it was cool to hear where they came from a little bit.
Because I can’t resist a CD on Man’s Ruin and because I’m forever a sucker for NYC noise, I impulse grabbed The Cuttroats 9‘s self-titled. The band had Chris Spencer and Dave Curran from Unsane in it, so I figured I couldn’t go wrong and I was right. It was a last-minute thing as I was looking through, but I’ve done way worse. All told, the haul was well-rounded and with a cup of coffee from the bakery down the street, I felt like the win was even more complete. About five hours later, I strolled into my office like I owned the place.
Posted in Features on September 1st, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
It’s a gorgeous Saturday morning in East Lyme, Connecticut. Why wouldn’t there be traffic on I-95? Seven hundred gajillion TARP funbucks later, I sat in a miles long line of cars weaving into and out of two exceedingly busy lanes. Much to the chagrin of the dude from Massachusetts next to me with a boat towed off the back of his pickup, I was barely paying attention to my drifting. Some of the sternest looks I’ve had in at least a week.
I managed to sneak in a quick to-go breakfast with The Patient Mrs., who is in the area, and then basically came right here. It’s about 10 to noon now, and I don’t know what time Akris is going to start — they’re setting up now — but when they do, it’ll be the launch of day three of Stoner Hands of Doom XII and the first of two massive all-day shows here at the El ‘n’ Gee in New London.
No doubt it’s going to be a long day, but hell, I’m here. I’ve got a deli sandwich in a cooler in the trunk of my car for later, and enough earplugs to last a month. My plan is basically to do the same as I did yesterday — but, you know, twice as much of it — with updates as the day goes on. Hopefully you enjoy keeping up as much as I do.
SHoD XII day three begins in just a bit. More to come.
UPDATE 12:46PM: Hope you like bass. Akris, the Virginian duo of bassist/vocalist Helena Goldberg and drummer Sam Lohman, fluidly blend thrash, doom and noise, but are also able to dive quickly into runs of progressive technicality. Goldberg played through three heads — Sunn Concert Master and Slave and an Earth Super Bass Producer — and should go without saying was assaultingly, feel-it-in-your-chest loud, and Lohman had his own kit set up toward the front of the stage and off to the site, turned sideways. If I wasn’t awake yet, Akris were loud enough to get the job done, but as overwhelming as it was in terms of volume, the tone wasn’t muddy. The vocals cut through the low end (duh) and I’m not sure whether Lohman‘s drums were actually coming through the P.A. or not — they were mic’ed up, but he looked to be crashing down hard enough to be heard down the street, so who knows — but there was no trouble hearing him either, and even when Goldberg was at her loudest and most raging, everything came through distinct. Their demo was cool and hopefully it’s not too long before they follow it up with either a full-length or an EP. I’d be interested to hear how the dynamic between them came across over the course of a whole album. In the meantime, they were a shot of energy to start the day. Much needed and much appreciated.
UPDATE 1:44PM: From the wilderness of New Hampshire, double-guitar doomly foursome Eerie were quick to align themselves with the extreme. In look and attitude, I half expected the band to bust out throat-ripping screams and searing blasts. Didn’t happen, but they weren’t lacking for grimness besides. Instead, they doomed out a wall of riffs and varied abrasive and clean vocals, relying on steady undulating riffs, not unfamiliar, but hard to place directly somewhere between Cathedral and the semi-psych tonality of earliest Zoroaster. One of the guitarists broke a string early into the set, but if it really affected the sound, I wouldn’t know it. The two guitars played well off each other, and if the broken string did anything, it was force him into a higher register and into starker contrast with his fellow six-stringer. They have a record that I’ll hope to pick up and check out further, but it’s high time New Hampshire’s untamed forests spawned a unit as dark as Eerie — who might need to take a different name for how well it actually describes them. They seemed to have common cause with Statis, who are on next, but what the alliance might be, I don’t know. Either way, if Akris were the stoner hands, Eerie were the doom. Doom like “we only use our first initials” kind of doom.
UPDATE 2:27PM: Well, mystery solved. Stasis‘ drummer — listed on their Thee Facebooks as the mysterious “TBA” — was the same dude who played guitar and handled vocals in Eerie. See? I know it’s precisely that kind of investigative reporting that keeps you coming back to The Obelisk. Anyway, a trio from Portland, Maine — where Revelation and Ogre will doom this very evening — they were more on the sludge end than Eerie before them, but while guitarist/vocalist Michael Leonard Maiewski wasn’t including the same kinds of Euro-doom derived ambient parts, there was still a decent cut of drama in what they were doing. Bassist Mindy Kern had a Warlock or some such bass — many interestingly shaped instruments this weekend — and I don’t know to say for sure, but I think the sound guy working the board here at the El ‘n’ Gee is about ready to hang it up and go get a real estate license. It’s a universal fallback plan. So far, the three bands that have played have been so loud that by the time Stasis were halfway through, he’d left, perhaps in pursuit of lunch, I don’t know for sure. Would require some more of that investigating. I’ll get with the budget office and see if we can swing it. Stasis threw down a little mud, but the wash of low end was obviously intended. Wouldn’t be sludge if it wasn’t dirty.
Curse the Son
UPDATE 3:20PM: Beardbanging all the while, guitarist/vocalist Ron Vanacore led Hamden, CT, trio Curse the Son down a long trail of smoke to the riff-filled land. Playing through a righteous custom Dunwich amp — they make ‘em pretty — Vanacore’s riffly plod was second to none I’ve heard so far over the course of this year’s SHoD, and with the rhythm section of bassist Cheech and drummer Mike Petrucci stomping away, the band gave a strong herald for their upcoming Psych-achefull-length. Most of what they played seemed new, but I did recognize a tune or two from the prior Klonopain(review here) long-player, but really, old material or new, it’s all about the riffs, and Curse the Son has that down. I’d like to see Vanacore (who’s fighting a sinus infection but didn’t let on on stage) in a beard-off with Ben McGuire from Black Cowgirl, who play later, but in the meantime, Kin of Ettins is on next, having come all the way from Texas for the show. Curse the Son gave them a good lead-in and the crowd seems to be right on board. There’s been a lot to dig about today so far, though it’s hard to believe we’re only four bands into the day.
Kin of Ettins
UPDATE 4:22PM: In a dark venue such as this, it’s kind of easy to lose track of time. Whenever someone opens a door to outside and the sunlight comes in, I’m surprised. It’s still daylight out. It’s four in the friggin’ afternoon. Obviously no one told doomly Dallas four-piece Kin of Ettins that. They rocked like it was well after 11PM, proffering a doom that wouldn’t have been at all out of place on Hellhound Records in the mid-’90s and delivering it with just a hint of Texan swagger and inflection. Bechapeaued guitarist/vocalist Jotun (above) made mention in thanking Rob Levey for putting this together that he and bassist Donar were at the first SHoD in 2001 in Dallas. Must be quite a trip 11 years later to play it in New England, but they did well, and with one hand, guitarist Teiwaz ripped into impressive leads, overcoming some early technical difficulties and making a song like “Snake Den Time,” the title-track of a reportedly coming full-length, a standout. They saved the best for last, however, with the cut “Echoes in the Deep,” which also ended the set on their Doomed in Dallas live EP (review here). Awesome to have them represent the fertile Texas scene at Stoner Hands of Doom, and I’m glad I got to see it.
UPDATE 5:13PM: It’s only been about a month since I saw Black Cowgirl in Philly with The Company Band, so they were pretty fresh in my consciousness, as much as anything is at this point. In that time, however, their self-titled full-length (comprised of two prior EPs put together) has seen its CD release, so they haven’t exactly been sitting still. They were much as they were at the Underground Arts, maybe drummer Mark Hanna was a little less inclined to stand up behind his kit, but beyond that, the two guitars of Ben McGuire and Nate Rosenzweig still worked well together and bassist Chris Casse held down the grooves ably without being overly showy. Someone put themselves in the spot in the bar area where I had been setting up the laptop, so I moved outside, and it’s apparently a pretty fantastic day out. Not quite enough to make me regret spending the whole thing inside the dark club, but still. The thing that stands out most about Black Cowgirl‘s set is the dynamics within the band’s approach. The performances were spot on, but even more than that, their songwriting is strong and varied and their ability to convey that in a live setting like this makes them that much stronger a band.
UPDATE: 6:12PM: Wonderfully monikered Maryland classic doom trio Beelzefuzz just wrapped their set with a cover of Lucifer’s Friend‘s “Ride in the Sky.” A pretty bold choice, given that Trouble did the same tune and The Skull is playing later tonight, but I’ll be damned if they didn’t pull it off, guitarist/vocalist Dana using his pedal board as much for his vocals as for his guitar. And I do mean “vocals,” plural. At several points in the set, he was doing live double-tracking, clicking on to add another of his voice and then clicking off. He got jumbled up doing it, but it was impressive nonetheless, as was his voice in general. Though I dug their demo, I’d only ever seen Beelzefuzz for two songs at Days of the Doomed II back in June, so a full set was welcome. Following the energy of Black Cowgirl, they were a calmer stage presence, but tight performance-wise, and usually if it’s going to be one or the other, I’ll take that. Dana‘s guitar magically became a Hammond organ at several intervals and that was awesome as well. The Maryland contingent — a big part of SHoD for the last couple years — will have further representation from Admiral Browning in a few hours, but Beelzefuzz were a welcome dash of Krug’s Place in the meantime, making me a little wistful for Frederick. New London’s been alright in the meantime, though.
One Inch Giant
UPDATE 7:14PM: This was the last stop on Swedish rockers One Inch Giant‘s US tour. I saw the first one earlier this week in Brooklyn. Pretty awesome of an underground band, relatively unknown, to get over here and do a week of shows like that. Unlike in Brooklyn, I watched their whole set this time around, though it seems I’d seen more of it than I thought last time. They sent out a building jam to the ladies, hit the blastbeats again — frontman Filip Åstrand warning the crowd beforehand by saying, “I know you like them slow, but this one’s fast” — and gave a solid, energetic showing of their straightforward European-style heavy rock. I couldn’t help but wonder if Åstrand washed his Morbid Angel shirt between the two shows, but as I couldn’t smell him while was taking pictures, I figure probably there was laundry done at some point during the week. Their stuff was straight ahead catchy, and I think maybe some of the ideas got lost in translation between the Euro and US markets, but for both the fact that they’re here and for what they actually did while they were on stage, it was more than respectable.
UPDATE 8:11PM: As good as some of the doom I’ve seen over the last couple days has been, I don’t know if anything tops Rochester, New York’s Orodruin. They haven’t put out an album since 2003′s Epicurean Mass, but here as at Days of the Doomed, they came on and promptly blew the crowd away. John Gallo doesn’t so much play riffs as he conjures them, summoning them from his guitar in some kind of doomly ceremonial rite. The band played as a four-piece tonight, with second guitarist (and if I’m wrong on the name, please correct me) Nick Tydelski joining the melee alongside bassist/vocalist Mike Puleo and drummer Mike Waske. As a four-piece, they were no less potent than as a trio, and they had what I think was the biggest crowd of the fest so far. I didn’t count heads or anything, but all the people I’ve seen milling about the El ‘n’ Gee today finally seemed to all be in the same place at the same time. Good reason, as Orodruin are hands down one of the best traditional doom acts I’ve ever encountered live, breathing new life into what in most hands is a genre based in no small part on retread. Not knocking that, just saying that these guys have something special. Their In Doomdemo/EP is here and on sale. I bought one in Wisconsin, but I’m almost tempted to pick up another, just to have it. Fucking a.
UPDATE: 9:10PM: Anything strike you as a little strange about the picture above of Ron “Fez” McGinnis of Maryland progressive noisemakers Admiral Browning. He’s singing! When their set first started, I said to myself, “Now why the hell would they leave a microphone on stage?” thinking maybe it was just so guitarist Matt LeGrow could say thanks or something, but then Fez had one too, and sure enough, vocals. Not just vocals though, harmonies too. Either these dudes just discovered they could do that stuff or they’ve been holding out. I’d always kind of thought of Admiral Browning‘s tech-minded approach as being too complicated as to allow for structuring into verses, but it worked and it worked well. They still had plenty of instrumental material on offer, but they’ve put themselves into a different echelon entirely by adding singing, all the more so for actually being able to pull it off. And of course, as LeGrow and McGinnis were belting out the songs, drummer Tim Otis was running a marathon across his kit behind them. Legitimately, I’d be surprised if he covered any less than 26.2 miles. They paid homage to Buddy Rich with “Traps” and, after a story of how they ran into Geraldo Rivera in Coney Island earlier today, shouted out “La Araña Lobo” in his mustachioed honor. My plan had been to run out to the car and grab my long-awaited turkey sandwich from the cooler in my trunk, but Admiral Browning kept me right in here. That might not sound like high praise, but there isn’t much that beats “turkey sandwich” in my book. Kudos, gentlemen.
UPDATE 10:10PM: Chicago’s Earthen Grave went sans violin for their set. I seem to recall Rachel Barton Pine, who usually handles that instrument, being either pregnant or recently a mother, and either way, I’d expect that to account for her absence from SHoD. It’s a valid enough excuse. The show went on, as I’m told the show must, and Earthen Grave delivered a crunchier-seeming set of traditional doom and metal. Vocalist Mark Weiner has hit himself in the head on purpose both times I’ve seen the band — here and at Days of the Doomed II — and so I guess he’s just that crazy. He had on a Church of Misery shirt and was happy to show it off along with his formidable pipes, but bassist Ron Holzner has “used to be in Trouble” on his side, and that’s always an attention-getter. The band was pretty crisp, even for lacking their violin, and the assembled heads dug in wholeheartedly as they kicked into a new song, the title of which I didn’t get. Good to know they have new stuff in the works though. I did run out and grab that turkey sandwich, eating half as I sat on the lip of the open trunk of my car — a doomer tailgate party of one — but when I came back, Earthen Grave made me think perhaps I should revisit their self-titled full-length, and covered Pentagram‘s “Relentless,” which is a bit of a coincidence, since that band is about to go on stage in Brooklyn playing that album in its entirety. Go figure.
Devil to Pay
UPDATE 11:12PM: No coincidence that Devil to Pay guitarist/vocalist Steve Janiak was representing the Ripple Music logo, as it was recently announced the Indianapolis four-piece had signed to that label for the release of their new album. Janiak said on stage that the record is due out in January — it’ll be their first since 2009′s Heavily Ever After– and they played a few songs from it, including the gloomy highlight “Yes, Master.” Devil to Pay are always pretty humble on stage, but they’re pretty clearly riding a high. They seemed confident and assured in their sound, guitarist Rob Hough breaking out the weekend’s first and only (to date) windmill headbang, and Janiak‘s tenure in the doomier Apostle of Solitude has brought a new dynamic to his vocals, which had a kind of post-Alice in Chains grunge feel. I had been looking forward to the new album already, but it’s good to have some affirmation for the anticipation. The night is starting to wind down, and with Pale Divine and The Skull still to go, things are about to get awfully doomed around here, but Devil to Pay‘s heavy rock was a great balance between the stoner and the doom, and Janiak is beginning to emerge as a genuine frontman presence. Cool to watch.
UPDATE 12:14AM: The funny thing about watching Pale Divine‘s set tonight was that for most of the contingent up front to see the band, they were local, like well-known, like married-to-them local. For me, seeing Pale Divine, who hail from Pennsylvania, is something exotic, something that doesn’t happen every day. It had me thinking about the bands that I feel that way about — Jersey acts like The Atomic Bitchwax or even a Long Island band like Negative Reaction — who I take for granted. My moment’s pondering didn’t last much longer than that, however, because I was astonished to see Fezzy from Admiral Browning was playing bass alongside guitarist/vocalist and band founder Greg Diener and drummer Darin McCloskey, who also played with Beelzefuzz tonight. Fez was a little punchy on the bass, but that dude’s the kind of player that could pretty much fit in anywhere so long as it’s heavy, and it was cool to see him in a more traditionally riffy context, playing off Diener‘s Wino-inspired riffs. A highlight was “Amplified,” the opening track of their first album, Thunder Perfect Mind, and when the whole thing was done, I won the Stoner Hands of Doom raffle! More on that later, as The Skull is about to go on.
UPDATE 1:40AM: You know what the difference is between The Skull and your Trouble cover band? First of all, you don’t have a Trouble cover band, but even if you did, chances are it wouldn’t have Ron Holzner playing bass in it or Eric Wagner singing, and as someone who saw Trouble proper on their tour with Kory Clarke fronting them, I can say first hand that that makes a big fucking difference. Seems frivolous to say “Psalm 9″ and “Bastards Will Pay” were high points — the whole set was a high point. Together with guitarists and a drummer culled from Chicago metallers Sacred Dawn, Wagner and Holzner ran through a set of classics that seemed utterly antithetical to the late hour. They killed, and the people that stuck around ate it up. Nobody even spoke in between songs. Everyone just stood there and waited to see what was coming next? How about “Revelation (Life and Death)?” Well, yeah, okay, right on. I guess the big difference between tonight and when I saw The Skull at Days of the Doomed is I’m not miserable piss drunk tonight, so I’ve got that working for me. When their set was finished, Wagner said he’d keep going if someone bought him a beer, so beer was acquired and they wound up closing with “At the End of My Daze,” which was incredible of course. The bar called a “get the fuck out” last call after they were actually done, so I’m writing this in the car in the parking lot outside, about to drive back to where I’ll crash out and get up tomorrow for the final day of Stoner Hands of Doom. Tonight was unreal.
Posted in Reviews on June 18th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
First, a note on the travel: There was a lot of it. Taking the day off work, I left early on Thursday morning, stopped in Toledo, Ohio, to hit Ramalama Records for the second time, and headed up to Lansing, Michigan, and find one Postman Dan, whose name will probably pop up a few times throughout this and the Day Two review to come and who I’m just going to assume you know if you’re reading this, because if you’ve ever been in the Midwest at a show or gone to fests like Emissions from the Monolith, Templars of Doom, Alehorn of Power, or if you were at this one, you probably do know him. He’s a pretty friendly guy, and he gets around.
Enough so that he invited me to crash at his place Thursday night, which I was happy to do. We went down the road a ways in Lansing and caught local Melvins aficionados BerT doing a new song in their rehearsal space — the band was kind enough to plug back in when we got there just after they’d finished practice; the new material sounded killer and they gave me a copy of their droning new split tape with Hordes and threatened an East Coast tour to come — before, during and after a few beers and in the morning, hit up Lansing’s Flat, Black and Circular record store for a batch of goodies the likes of which I’ve not acquired in a while. Needless to say, report to follow.
Soon it was off to Cudahy, Wisconsin, where just a few short blocks from the Milwaukee Airport, the second installment of the Days of the Doomed fest would be starting in no time. It was about 11 hours from Jersey to Lansing, and about five and a half from Lansing to Cudahy, but I was alright with the drive so long as I got there on time. Made it with an hour to spare and found a way more pro setup at The Blue Pig than I expected. A raised stage included a separate drum riser, professional lighting rig and a P.A. that seemed to frame the entire stage in speaker cabinets. The bar was around the corner from the open floor in front of the stage (it looked like two spaces that had a wall in the middle taken down to accommodate the stage area) and TVs in the back showed the Brewers and the Twins all weekend. The walls, as one might figure from the venue name, were blue.
Already, fest organizer Mercyful Mike Smith was running around engaged in that special kind of stress that I’ve only seen in those forced to corral large numbers of doomers to be in one place at one time. With time to eat before Snake Dance launched the shorter Friday lineup that also included Nebraskans Super Invader as well as Sanctus Bellum, Stone Magnum, Orodruin and Revelation (War Injun didn’t make it out), I made my way down the block to the cafe next door to The Blue Pig and had some Albanian sausages with feta and tomatoes and an order of fries to provide a foundation for a decent night’s drinking ahead.
It was news to me to find this out, but apparently what’s special about Albanian sausages is you taste them every time you burp for the rest of the night — and, perhaps, your life — but I ordered them because I’d never seen them before, and if it was an education I wanted, it was an education I got. Back at The Blue Pig, the home brew was a lighter-type beer called Spotted Cow, and I commenced pint-sized incremental suicide solutions at a moderate to slow pace, wanting to keep my head about me for the drive back to the hotel down the road and in general to remember what was happening because I knew it would be a while before I’d be able to write about it.
To that end, I took notes. I hate taking notes at shows. There’s no way to do it and not look like a complete dick (thanks to Eli Brown for visual evidence, and yes, I wore fucking sandals; funny, I don’t remember doom having a uniform when Istarted listening to it), but you can see the results at the top of this post, and clearly there was a lot to note, beginning just as soon as the Chicago two-guitar foursome Snake Dance got started. Introduced as most of the acts were by Smith himself, Snake Dance immediately commenced a straightforward at all costs hard rock that was vaguely adherent to punk the way Motörhead nods at The Stooges, but more or less disinterested with everything that came after a certain point in time. Hard to peg a year to it, but you can bet it’s before grunge hit.
Guitarist/vocalist Scott seemed to be in charge from the outset, and when he asked the still-arriving crowd, “Anybody like muscle cars?” before playing “426 Hemi Cuda,” he did so in a manner so irony-free, I was immediately reminded of Negative Reaction, similarly existing on a plane most people will never know or access and still reaching out to an audience to see who’s on board for the ride. Scott would soon shout out to Monster Magnet and C.O.C., and that only furthered the connection in my mind with that band’s more heavy rocking latter-day output, which weren’t bad for what they were, essentially a more punk-minded exploration of those influences.
And yeah, they were alright to open. Maybe having come a long way was a part of it, but sometimes I want a fest like this to have a headliner early to start things off, kind of like what Leif Edling was talking about in that recent interview — someone with more of a draw to lure people in early, get them drinking and really give the weekend a launch. I’ll say, however, that by the time Snake Dance were finished, the room was already pretty full, and it remained so for the duration of the night and the Saturday to follow, so what the hell do I know. Not like I’ve ever put one of these things on.
Solace/The Disease Concept guitarist Tommy Southard (there to close the fest out with the former band) recommended Super Invader, so I bought their two CDs on his word. The bassless three-piece came through fine for their lack of low end, though I wondered if they had some personal objection to it or just hadn’t yet found the right person, since it didn’t seem like it would hurt them. A few Church of Misery riffs here, a few Orange Goblin cadences there, but basically they were a stoner metal band with a light-box that shone every time pierced-septum vocalist Adam stomped on it and also seemed to contain a fog machine. Something to be said for that kind of novelty. It looked homemade and I respect that.
They covered Cavity‘s “Supercollider,” and I respect that too. In general, their riffs were better than their stage raps — taking a break from his throaty vocal approach, Adam at one point tried to shout out the Green Bay Packers and was met with doomly crickets – but with more stonerly grooves, they gradually won sympathy for their cause, and I didn’t regret buying the CD. Should be interesting to hear how the live sound translates when I get to listen, but either way, they gave a decent enough showing and guitarist Dustin had presence to back up his riffs and tone.
Two bands into the day’s total six, I still had yet to be overwhelmed, but the sort of workmanly beginning to Days of the Doomed II was fitting the kind of overall metallicism that seems to have triumphed in the Midwestern heavy underground — at least if this weekend’s sampling was anything to go by. Where on the East Coast, it seems to be a race to find out who can accumulate the most indie cred while also denying they’re a stoner rock or a doom band, the sense I got at The Blue Pig was more in line with a post-Pantera metal brotherliness. Not sure I feel more aligned with one or the other at this point — one bases its elitism vaguely on class/education and the other vaguely on gender/race, and each has its appeal musically despite being problematic on these levels — that’s not to mention the fashion requirements, which are a separate issue unto themselves — but for what it’s worth, it’s not like I caught shit at any point during the fest for sitting in the corner next to the classic arcade game and writing notes between and during the sets. And I very easily could have. I stole the bar’s pen.
Since everyone was playing through the same backline of cabinets, changeovers were quick and the show was running early almost as soon as it was running. I’d been specifically looking forward to seeing Houston-based Sanctus Bellum — last week’s Wino Wednesday featurees — and was glad to get a copy of their soon-to-be-reviewed second album, The Shining Path, from the band. They were super-solid, and among the more intricate of the acts in the lineup of the whole weekend, stylistically speaking. They straddle that very line in the previous paragraph between what is straightforward metal and what is doom and what is rock, and seemed on stage as they have on both their albums to have crafted a niche for themselves within that line.
In what I consider to be one of the weekend’s biggest personal victories, I waited until Saturday to nerd out to vocalist Justin Waggoner about his former band, Mr. Plow‘s final and Kurt Vonnegut-themed album, Asteroid 25399, but helping in that process was just how different Sanctus Bellum really is. In this context, his raw, lightly effected vocals (which produced several coughs between songs) come through with more in common with the moments in Acid Bath when Dax Riggs decided to be soulful than any kind of stoner rock, and the guitars were darker in tone and method alike. Their tone, though consistent with the albums, seemed to be coming through the P.A. thin, and when I looked and saw that both guitarists Jan Kimmel and Maurice Eggenschwiler were playing through Dime amps, I wasn’t necessarily surprised, remembering a similar issue when I saw Crowbar in Jersey late in 2010.
Still, their songs make complex ideas seem relatable, and bassist Ben Yaker and drummer Carl Cousins made for a plenty-strong rhythm section to fill out the two guitars in the five-piece. Waggoner didn’t front the band, per se, and instead, he, Yaker, Kimmel and Eggenschwiler stood in a line in front of the stage. When it came time for a cover of Pentagram‘s “The Sign of the Wolf” — one of the fest’s two Pentagram tributes — the vocalist stepped back and the band brought up guests out of the crowd, including Orodruin guitarist John Gallo and bassist Michael Puleo, who’d shortly kick more than a fair amount of ass after Indiana’s Stone Magnum got through with their leather ‘n’ chrome Judas Priest-style trad metal.
No disrespect to musically. They were among the tightest bands of the whole weekend had a crisp, clear idea of what they wanted to do and a pro presentation to match. They like their Trouble and I won’t fault them for that either. But the stage moves left me cold and the chrome cross on the mic stand felt like too much. The songs weren’t terrible, and in fact I’m usually on board for a totally unironic embrace of the cliche — the weekend had more of them than it had covers; Stone Magnum taking on Deep Purple‘s boogie rocking “Black Night” — but watching, found myself more enthralled that the Brewers and the Twins were tied 3-3 in the bottom of the sixth.
I spent a good portion of the rest of that evening trying to reason out why, too, because once Orodruin started, it’s not like they were high experimental art. On paper, what’s the difference between a “Locksmith of Misery” and a “Wicked Wizard?” that I should so much prefer the other to the one? They were both trad doom, just with vastly different takes on it, and where Stone Magnum were more schooled in how to be a metal band, Orodruin were unquestionably more schooled in the ethics that inspired that metal in the first place. One of Days of the Doomed II‘s most potent power trios and an act I’d never seen before, they absolutely fucking killed. Puleo was among the most effective vocalists in the whole fest lineup (and yes, Eric Wagner played Saturday), and of the more than several three-piece bands who played, their dynamic between the players seemed to have the biggest impact on the overall sound. Gallo proved to be a madman on guitar, his tone unmatched and his stage-faces framed by his oddly-shaped beard, and drummer Mike Waske was absolutely essential to their stomp and swagger.
My sense for what to expect from Sanctus Bellum was pretty good, but Orodruin surprised the hell out of me, and I was really glad to have picked up a copy of the limited-to-30 CDR In Doom, from which they played several songs, including set-highlight “Shipwrecked.” Low, slow and dark, they felt like a band people are missing out on, who should tour and sell out of their merch every show they play. They weren’t clean, but they were tight and their sound was diverse but unwaveringly natural and unforced, and for a band who lives some 11 and a half hours away in Rochester, NY, they made a home for themselves in Cudahy and got the best crowd response of the night, including from me. Claws were thrown.
Even guitarist/vocalist John Brenner of Revelation acknowledged Orodruin‘s having killed it in a break between songs, saying they were a tough act to follow. He was right. Brenner has a righteous tone of his own, bassist Bert Hall is a board certified badass, Steve Branagan somehow manages to make rock drumming sound intimate, and they’ve put out more albums between Revelation and their alter-ego band Against Nature in the last three years than most people do in a lifetime, but their stage presence is subdued, and watching them, it’s more about the emotional resonance of the music than it is about the classic horror awesomeness. Nonetheless, the Marylanders did not — could not, really — disappoint, though I was glad I’d seen Against Nature at SHoD last year so I had some idea of what to expect. I felt like that gave me some advantage over a lot of the Days of the Doomed crowd, which began to thin out as the trio wound down.
That said, the differences between seeing a Revelation set and an Against Nature set are marked. Sure, it’s the same people — in the crowd too; I recognized SHoD organizers Rob and Cheryl Levey and a host of other faces from Maryland — and a lot of the same kind of presentation, but the personalities of the songs are much different, and what sounds like humbleness in Against Nature is recast as a deep woe in Revelation. Still, there’s a classic rock influence in there that’s impossible to deny — Brenner said it came from, “Trying to play Rush wrong” — and that came across as well as the warmth in Hall and Brenner‘s tones.
It was not yet one in the morning when Revelation were done, but they’d played their full set and I was quick to get back to the hotel after a long enough day of driving, drinking and rocking (not at the same time, though I did rock and drive for a little bit there, listening to the new Witch Mountain with Postman Dan) with the prospect of Saturday still to go. I said a few quick goodnights, threw down a smoke bomb, and disappeared as mysteriously as I’d arrived.
Day Two to come tomorrow. More pics after the jump in the meantime. Thanks for reading.