Posted in Whathaveyou on October 1st, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
Last year’s nonetheless righteous Painted Windows Black (review here) seems now in hindsight like it caught the Pennsylvania traditional doomers at an in-between moment. Guitarist/vocalist Greg Diener and drummer Darin McCloskey (also of Beelzefuzz) were joined for that outing by bassist Jerry Bright, but in the time since, Admiral Browning‘s Ron “Fezz” McGinnis has taken over the role, and if performances at Eye of the Stoned Goat 2 and at Days of the Doomed III are anything to go by, he fits right in with the trio, who seem to have been waiting for an injection of energy since 2007′s soon-to-be-reissued Cemetery Earth.
Well, if the demo below for “Curse the Shadows” is anything to go by, they’ve gotten precisely that. Announcement came down yesterday that the three-piece has signed with Mercyful Mike Smith‘s — he of the Days of the Doomed fest — Mercyful Mike Management & Productions and continuing work on new material. It goes a little something like this:
I am extremely excited to announce the addition of Pennsylvania doom stalwarts PALE DIVINE to the Mercyful Mike Management & Productions roster!
With a career spanning back to 1995, Pale Divine has consistently churned out traditional doom metal with its own unique watermark, producing genre-defining albums such as “Thunder Perfect Mind” and “Cemetery Earth”. After a 5 year hiatus, Pale Divine unleashed “Painted Windows Black” in 2012 to high acclaim, landing the band on several yearend “best of” lists. 2012 also saw the recruitment of journeyman bassist Ron “Fezz” McGinnis (Admiral Browning/Trilogy) to the Pale Divine ranks, solidifying their lineup like never before. With momentum rolling in their favor, Pale Divine is gaining steam and showing no signs of slowing down.
Fast forward to Fall of 2013 and the trio of McGinnis, along with founding members Greg Diener (guitars) and Darin McCloskey (drums) are ready to give fans a sneak peek at what’s to come in the form of a new demo entitled “Curse the Shadows.” Infused with aggression and that signature Pale Divine sound, this tune is a sure fire indication that Pale Divine are once again poised, primed, and ready to storm the gates of doom… with a vengeance!
As if that’s not enough, Shadow Kingdom Records is putting the finishing touches on the reissue of 2007’s monumental slab “Cemetery Earth”. The album will be completely remastered, and include a bonus disc jammed full of demos and live tracks. Watch for it in early 2014!
It was a really, really busy weekend. I’m glad to say I did actually get to stand still for a bit and watch each of the 19 acts performing at Days of the Doomed III at The Blue Pig in Cudahy, Wisconsin, but I was just as likely to be parking myself somewhere to pop open the laptop or back and forth in front of the stage taking pics.
At one point, one of the dudes working at the venue said to me while I had the computer open, “You’re supposed to be enjoying yourself, not working.”
And it occurred to me that this is how I enjoy myself.
A 20-minute break between each band didn’t leave much wriggle room to go searching for the perfect shot of each band and still give the actual set the clacky-clacky it deserved. As such, I wound up with a lot of photos, and since I wouldn’t have time to include them in the actual live-blog posts (day one and day two), it only seems fair to give them their own post.
Below — with setlists when I could get them — you’ll find pictures of Iron Man, Penance, Venomous Maximus, Kings Destroy, Lucertola, Moon Curse and Gravedirt from day one, and The Gates of Slumber, In~Graved, Dream Death, Pale Divine, Earthen Grave, Leather Nun America, King Giant, Spillage, Chowder, Beelzefuzz, Gorgantherron and Whaler from day two.
Posted in Features on June 22nd, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
06.22.13 — The Blue Pig — Cudahy, WI
11:41AM: Quiet start this morning at The Blue Pig for day two of Days of the Doomed III, but no doubt things will pick up shortly. Today is 12 bands in more than 13 hours, so it’s going to be a long one, a busy one and I expect by the end of it, a tired one, but that’s a long ways off, and after a hotel breakfast and a couple minutes respite before heading down to the venue, I’m feeling good and doing my best to ignore the prospect of the drive tomorrow morning. Much to do before I get there.
In about 20 minutes, Whaler from Michigan kick off the day, followed by Gorgantherron, Beelzefuzz, Spillage, King Giant, Leather Nun America, Earthen Grave, Pale Divine, Dream Death, In~Graved and The Gates of Slumber. It’s a powerful lineup, but they must have powerwashed the venue after last night, brought in a firehose or something, because it smells much better this morning than it did by the end of yesterday’s bands.
Last night was pretty riotous by the end of Penance and Iron Man, so I figure there’s a lot of attendees getting off to a slow start this morning, but if the kickoff is as righteous as yesterday’s — and I hear excellent things about Whaler — I’ll be glad I got here early.
Before I start, and since I don’t know if I’ll have the energy to point it out later, I just want to say a quick thanks to Mercyful Mike Smith for putting on Days of the Doomed III, and for the tremendous work he’s done assembling this lineup and getting the right crew in hand to make it run so smoothly.
Alright, here goes:
12:37PM: Apparently, Michigan trio Whaler had something of a late night. They were not alone, but they nonetheless delivered a respectable set of roughed-up/burled-up Kyuss-style heavy rock and showcased a dynamic of their own within the semi-familiar riffing. Guitarist/vocalist Adam Lupo and bassist Eric Lomba had rich tones and drummer Adam Weiler, despite chasing his cowbell across his kit as it moved away from him, was adaptable either to the desert grooves of the material they played earlier or the thicker, Sleep-y vibes of their closing instrumental. Their debut LP, Deep Six, was self-released last December and I’ll see if they have any available. It probably wasn’t an ideal time to see them — noon after a hell of a Friday night — but they opened day two with smooth, rolling grooves and an engagingly bullshit-free atmosphere.
1:28PM: Imported from Indiana, the trio Gorgantherron clearly got more comfortable as their set went on and seemed more at home in their faster parts, rather than some of the more languid sections. All three members — Chris Flint (drums), Clint Logan (guitar), and Toby Richardson (bass) — contributed vocals, and that gave cuts like “Mothra” and the particularly memorable “Assimilate” a touch of flavor, which went down well with the crowd, still rolling in and wiping the crust from its collective eyes. Keeping holy the Sabbath, Gorgantherron hit on a few satisfying shuffles in their solo parts, Logan taking the fore with a smile to rip out blues leads while Richardson and Flint held down the solid grooves beneath. They weren’t trying for anything fancy, but there was some potential there, and they sat naturally between doom and heavy rock as only a band who doesn’t think there should be a line between them can.
2:40PM: I don’t know what Beelzefuzz are ready for, but whatever it is, they’re ready for it. The Maryland bizarro doom trio had Days of the Doomed III more or less eating out of their hands 10 minutes before they went on, and it was readily apparent that they were the show-up point for a lot of people this afternoon. The band’s way of rewarding such loyalty? Well, they brought up Eric Wagner to cover “Ride the Sky” by Lucifer’s Friend, and that was pretty awesome, Wagner and guitarist/vocalist Dana Ortt trading off parts and laughing all the while. Beelzefuzz have a new record coming Aug. 9 on The Church Within, and I’ve yet to see them and not be impressed. I realized watching them that it had only been a couple months since I caught them in Delaware at The Eye of the Stoned Goat 2, but nothing here felt redundant or stale. Bassist Pug Kirby and drummer DarinMcCloskey were dead on with slow, creeping grooves that gave Ortt plenty of space to weird out with vocal effects, organ-sounding guitar and all the rest. If their record captures even a fraction of what these guys have turned into in a live setting, it might just be the summer’s don’t miss for doom.
3:45PM: When I streamed a couple tracks from Chowder‘s Passion Riftfull-length last summer, I wondered how they’d be able to bring so many textures to a live setting. Now I know: They do it with their feet, and they do it very carefully. Maryland doom nobility Josh Hart (guitar; also bassist for Earthride) and John Brenner (bass; also guitarist/vocalist for Revelation) both had an array of foot-pedals at their disposal and they made liberal use of them to add to the instrumental progressive runs of their material. Early on, Hart blew out the Sunn head he was playing through — always a bummer, especially for someone who’s come a long way — but Al Morris from Iron Man‘s amp was brought in as a replacement, Chowder recovered and the three-piece rounded out by drummer Ronnie Kalimon (Unorthodox) had the room packed out by the time they were done. I don’t know if maybe they were playing doomier songs for the fest or if the tones were just different live, but they seemed thicker tonally than I recalled from the album and I didn’t hear any whining about it. Cool set, and where they seemed on paper like an odd fit, they made sense for the bill after all.
4:42PM: Going by their name and how they worked on stage, Chicago-based Spillage would seem to be the brainchild of guitarist Tony Spillman, who’s pulling double-duty later in a set with Earthen Grave. Days of the Doomed III was their first show, and while it was the “featuring Bruce Franklin of Trouble” portion of the lineup that first drew my attention, the whole band was stellar. Really. And not just for a first show, either. They were tight, the songs were spot on, they covered “Devil Woman” by Cliff Richard, and had a great energy throughout their whole time on stage. They looked genuinely thrilled to be here, thanked the crowd, thanked Mercyful Mike Smith several times, and even though Spillman had a little technical difficulty, there was never any real loss of momentum as they settled into a killer set that ranks up there with Moon Curse yesterday as one of the weekend’s most pleasant surprises. With two guitars, keys, bass, drums and standalone vocals, they were crowded on the Blue Pig stage, but that only added to how together they were sonically. I haven’t the faintest idea what their plans as a band might be, when they’ll put material to tape, etc. — they have shirts for sale but no music — but as righteous and enjoyable as their set was, I’ll be keeping an eye out and hoping they can bring the same vitality to a studio recording. An awesome debut.
5:58PM: There hasn’t been much Southern metal thus far into the fest, but if there was a quota, King Giant just met it. I was pretty familiar with their stuff after streaming their Dismal HollowLP last year, and they were basically what I expected, just tighter and louder. In the case of vocalist Dave Hammerly, much louder. Of the two mics he had on stage, one cut through the Virginian five-piece’s thick riffing enough to border on abrasive, but they grooved out darkly nonetheless, here touching on Down, there nodding out a Clutch riff. It was burly stuff, and I think a lot of people unfamiliar with what they do decided it was a good time to grab a bite to eat — they love their own here, as everywhere — ahead of some of the evening’s headliners, but King Giant were professional and energetic, many-hatted (four out of five) and they made the most out of the time they had, playing to a tight group of their fans who seemed appreciative enough to make up for everyone else.
Leather Nun America
6:50PM: I’ll give it to Cali trio Leather Nun America (also stylized with a lowercase ‘a’ to start the last word), they know what they like. Tonally, guitarist/vocalist John Sarnie was straight-up Wino, and the band covered “To Protect and Serve” from The Obsessed‘s The Church Withinto drive the point home. Bassist/backing vocalist Francis Roberts, his eyes rolled back, was a more unhinged presence than Sarnie, but it made the dynamic on stage more complex and, frankly, more satisfying. I was starting to drag ass a bit and so ordered a pizza (hasn’t arrived yet, but I’ll get to eat at some point) and had another bottle of water, but some of the people who were in and out during King Giant settled in for Leather Nun America and the band, despite being the only West Coast act on the bill, seemed right at home amongst the doomed.
8:22PM: I’ve seen Earthen Grave a few times now — here last year, at SHoD — and to my ears they’ve never sounded so good. Of course, nailing a cover of Rainbow‘s “Stargazer” with not one but two violins (Rachel Barton Pine and her younger sister dueling it out) helps, and bringing Victor Griffin up to take on Pentagram‘s “Relentless” (who better?) for a set closer helps as well, but even so, from the opener “Death is another Word” — the bonus track on the Ripple Music reissue of their self-titled debut — to the plodding aggression of “Dismal,” the Chicago outfit seemed to hit it just right this time around. Maybe they’ve coalesced more as a unit, or maybe I’m on some post-pizza energy boost — pizza gives you energy, right? – but they killed it, and placed where they were in the lineup, they more or less started off the evening’s headliners, with Pale Divine, Dream Death, In~Graved and The Gates of Slumber still to come. Things are about to get heavy and miserable, but I’m up for it, and judging by the howls of the crowd who just moved from in front of the stage being changed over to the tvs in the back which have the Blackhawks game on, the crowd is up for it, so what the hell? Let’s make an evening of it.
9:39PM: With three new songs in tow, Pennsylvania/Maryland trio Pale Divine — drummer Darin McCloskey doubling up on the day after performing earlier with Beelzefuzz — sounded positively refreshed. Guitarist/vocalist Greg Diener and bassist/backing vocalist Ron McGinnis (aka Fez, also of Admiral Browning) have gelled tonally to the point where you’d swear the latter had always been in the band, and likewise, McGinnis brings a different personality with him that adds to the chemistry. I took it as a sign that they’ve already started to write a follow-up to last year’s Painted Windows Black — which, not to take away from it, was accomplished but hardly what I’d call refreshed — and for as gloomy and plodding as the material is, spirits seemed high straight through when they handed a mic into the crowd where it was picked up by Sanctus Bellum‘s Benjamin Yaker and shared with Butch Balich and Mercyful Mike Smith for a finale take on “Amplified” from Pale Divine‘s 2001 debut full-length, Thunder Perfect Mind. The Blue Pig is packed out (still watching hockey), and the mood is good, so with three bands left to go, the night is on a roll.
10:54PM: I’ve had my earplugs in for too long, can feel my right ear beginning an infection. Probably better that than dare to take on Dream Death unarmored. I knew when I missed them in April at Roadburn that I’d have seeing them at Days of the Doomed III to look forward to, and honestly, I’ve looked forward to it ever since. The Pittsburgh four-piece — all of whom played at one point or another during Penance‘s set last night — are something of a legendary act, and here, it felt like it. Fists pumped to “Divine Agony” and a slew of cuts from the band’s 2013 new album, Somnium Excessum, including “Feast” and “You’re Gonna Die up There.” The biggest response was saved, fittingly, for closer “Back from the Dead,” and if ever you wanted to see who in the crowd knew a song and who didn’t, you need look no further than who followed the on-a-dime time changes in “Back from the Dead,” raging Celtic Frost fast and dark, viciously primitive but still holding a potent tension after all these years. They were welcomed as liberators, and it’s hard to imagine it wasn’t gratifying for the band. When they were done, Mike Smith took the stage (he’s been introducing each act) and called the raffle. I didn’t win, despite my sure-bet tickets. Always next year. The good news is Dream Death were excellent and I got to pick up a copy of Somnium Excessum, which I’m looking forward to adding to my already considerable ride-home playlist for tomorrow. Right on.
12:24AM: Well, Victor Griffin wins tone again. He can take home his trophy from Days of the Doomed III and put it next to the similarly-shaped awards for tone he’s picked up at probably every show he’s played in the last 25 years. Much of the In-Graved set was familiar from Roadburn, but “Digital Critic” still made an effective opener and “Late for an Early Grave” seemed especially rousing. The lights went out for a minute, but were quickly restored, not that it stopped the band in the slightest. Bassist Dan Lively stepped in to fill the role Guy Pinhas had held for the European tour, and he, drummer “Minnesota” Pete Campbell and keyboardist Jeff “Oly” Olson meshed well, and the band had clearly gotten more cohesive over the course of their time in Europe, which ended a month ago now if I’ve got the dates right. Still. Ron Holzner came out for a song and Campbell broke all his drumsticks, so it was a loose vibe but a tight band, which is just as it should be. In~Graved rounded out with the Animals cover “Don’t Let Me be Misunderstood” into Place of Skulls‘ “Last Hit,” which if nothing else was a stirring reminder to me of just how good 2003′s With Visionwas. I could go on a whole rant about it, but wow, it’s been a hell of a day. This is the proverbial home stretch though — or whatever the hockey equivalent is, in honor of the Blackhawks, who apparently won — and with The Gates of Slumber still to come, I know this is still the place to be. Feet sore, head sore, brain tired, but not done yet.
The Gates of Slumber
2:12AM: Just for kicks — also in the name of Science Bloody Science! — during The Gates of Slumber‘s set, I walked outside the venue and down the street to see how many houses I’d pass before I couldn’t hear the band anymore. I got six properties away from The Blue Pig, and I could still hear them, but it seemed reasonable to assume that the people inside the house couldn’t feel the vibrations of Jason McCash‘s bass, and that would have to do. I’d have kept going, maybe, but I wanted to see the band. It’s been a minute and I was hoping for some new material. They played “Death March” from their Scion-sponsored StormcrowEP, which I also picked up off the merch table, and that sounded pretty vicious. The place was winding down on the quick, people giving drunkhugs and saying their “see you next year”s, but I wasn’t gonna split until they were done. Not that I didn’t think about cutting out and going back to the Best Western, but putting it to the scale of having been there for over 13 hours, another couple minutes to watch “The Scovrge ov Drvnkenness” or “Day of Farewell” — which is one of those songs I’m reminded of how much I dig every time I hear it — or the closer “Coven of Cain” didn’t seem unreasonable. It had been a long day, but The Gates of Slumber – McCash, guitarist/vocalist Karl Simon and drummer “Iron” Bob Fouts — were the downtrodden nail in Days of the Doomed III‘s coffin, and the fest would’ve been hard pressed to find someone more appropriate to close out after In-Graved and the many others preceding. By the time the house lights came up, it was clear the night was over.
2:32AM: Back at the hotel now, listening to someone stomp the living shit out of the floor one level up, also known as the ceiling of this room. All the same, this chair seems absurdly comfortable. One more time, I just want to thank Mercyful Mike Smith for the effort and execution behind this fest. The whole crew at The Blue Pig ran this thing smoothly from front to back, kept the mood positive and kept the drinks flowing. Also special thanks to Postman Dan for generally being awesome and for specifically dealing with me running back and forth and taking out the laptop like a dork. It’s much appreciated.
There are a lot of others. A lot. I’d start to list them, but it’s getting on 3AM and I have the alarm set for just about four hours to get up and start the at-least-15-hour drive back to New Jersey. Gotta be to work on Monday. So I’m gonna get to bed and then get coffee. Lots and lots of coffee.
The lineup is set for the two-day Days of the Doomed III fest out at The Blue Pig in Cudahy, Wisconsin, and it’s looking to be fairly monstrous again in 2013. June is a ways off, so obviously anything can change at any time, but hell, pretty much pick any five of the bands on this list, put them on a bill together, and it’s a show worth making a trip to see. Dream Death and Orodruin within the span of 24 hours of each other? Penance leading into Iron Man? Well, I guess you’re just gonna have to sign me up for that one.
A new trailer, put together by Kathy Reeves, has surfaced for the fest that gives a glimpse at the lineup and sets the tunes to, what else?, old public domain car crash footage. Awesome. Enjoy and here’s looking forward:
Posted in Reviews on February 11th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
What was clear at the outset was that it was going to be a long night. With 10 bands in a matter of seven and a half hours, The Eye of the Stoned Goat 2 was going to have to be a well-oiled machine to keep itself running anything close to smoothly. I arrived in New Castle, Delaware, shortly before the 5:30 start time and readied myself for the tide of riffs to come. The acts, there were many, did not disappoint in this regard.
JB McGinnes was the venue, located in a strip mall along a stretch shortly off I-95. I was immediately reminded of Krug’s Place in Frederick, Maryland, though the layout was different — Krug‘s is two separate rooms where JB McGinnes is a bar up front with the surprisingly large stage in back and no partition between — but the vibe was roughly the same. Food service available, some decent-enough beers if you’re looking for them, and an unpretentious vibe, somewhere between local townie, Irish and sports bar; pool tables off to one side, the kitchen (and ice cream parlor?) off to another.
The lineup ranged as far north as Pennsylvania and as far south as Maryland, and with Delaware acts Blackhand and Wasted Theory, the First State had its representation as well. Very much a regional representation, and clearly intended to be that. Thee Nosebleeds, one of several acts from Philly, started off just about on time and like a schmuck, I took notes throughout the course of the night. Here’s how it all went down:
The West Philly trio got up to speed as their set went on, and I took it as a telling sign that two out of the three members wore shirts with Small Stone bands on them. Their music played out that grown-up punker sensibility, but the idea was heavy rock and it was an idea Thee Nosebleeds worked well within, playing songs that were strong in the chorus and straightforward without necessarily being boring. Vocalist/guitarist Kermit Lyman tore into several killer solos that immediately set a high standard for the night, and the band brought up Erik Caplan of Wizard Eye (a favor Caplan‘s unit would later return for Lyman) for a theremin guest spot that added some variety to the set. It was an energetic start, no frills and riffy, and in that way set the course for a lot of the evening to come.
Also a trio from Philly, but barely more than a month old and steeped in an entirely different kind of heaviness, Heavy Temple hit the stage quickly after Thee Nosebleeds wrapped. Acts shared backlined equipment all the way up until Iron Man however many hours later, but though they’re pretty clearly just starting out, Heavy Temple got their point across, blending thickened post-rock mysticism with rolling Sleep-style stoner groove. Bassist/vocalist Elyse Mitchell (ex-ChromeLord) donned a robe and black lipstick while guitarist Shawn Randles and drummer Andy Martin (the latter also of Clamfight) opted for more everyday costuming, but while they may have some presentation issues to work out, this being their first show, the songs seemed to be right where the band wanted them, and it was enough to make me look forward to how their organic tonality might develop. They had a different take than just about any other band on the bill, and the shift was welcome, if early.
Last seen with Truckfighters in their native Philadelphia, single-guitar foursome Skeleton Hands had the first standalone frontman of the night in Pete Hagen, who introduced the band with suitable burl in a rasp of “Skeleton Hands, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania!” before the testosterone-driven riffing began. Their set was tight, crisp and professional, heavy Southern metal guitar work with touches of Down or a much-less-Virginian Alabama Thunderpussy. That kind of thing doesn’t always work when yankees try it out — I didn’t even know Philadelphia had a bayou! — but Skeleton Hands were entertaining all the same and suited to the bigger stage at JB McGinnes. People were beginning to really file in as they played and they seemed to work quickly in getting a hook into the crowd, while also setting up a smooth transition into Blackhand to come, who shared a lot of their stylistic traits.
Newark, Delaware’s Blackhand (two “hand” bands in a row!) brought The Eye of the Stoned Goat 2 to its apex of burl. The chest-thumping, boot-stomping double-guitar man-metal was like a supplement ad on late-night tv, but like Skeleton Hands, it was also a tight, pro set. Blackhand went even further into the Down/Pepper Keenan school of riffing, the two axes only adding to the overarching metallicism of what they were doing, and though their influences weren’t that far off from what Skeleton Hands or Wasted Theory still to come were working with, Blackhand were nothing if not distinct, proffering heavy rock for those perhaps looking to transition off Black Label Society into something with a little more underground flair. They also drew and held a solid crowd and I imagine made some new friends among those in the marching path of frontman Bruce Marvel, who made use of his wireless mic to stand on the speaker cabinets in front of the stage and make a rousing call to arms.
Tone! Don’t get me wrong, I get the appeal of the whole dudeliness-for-dudeliness’-sake thing, but when Wizard Eye got going, I felt like I’d just come home. The Philly three-piece — Erik Caplan on guitar/vocals/theremin, Dave on bass/vocals and Scott on drums — were the fuzziest band of the night, with a heaviness not so much displayed through aggression, but through the weight of the music itself. Caplan and Dave traded back and forth vocals and brought Thee Nosebleeds‘ Lyman up for a guest spot fronting the band, which he did with vicious energy and a more decidedly hardcore punk presence. Wizard Eye were refreshing and just the first of several acts still to come who need to get a record out. Their sound is too cohesive and too developed to have a demo’s production do it justice. Low end for days.
Fun fact: It was Wasted Theory drummer Brendan Burns who put together the whole bill for The Eye of the Stoned Goat 2. The fest was clearly a labor of love for Burns, who moonlights as SnakeCharmer Booking, and there’s little more respectable than that. His band brought the fest past the 9PM line and found the event running smoothly and with a good crowd at JB McGinnes between rocker heads, curious locals and a couple pool players toward the front, and Wasted Theory shifted the vibe sonically back toward the straightforward heavy rock of Thee Nosebleeds earlier, if blended with elements out of the more C.O.C.-inspired camp. They weren’t quite as nascent as Heavy Temple, but for having been together for less than a year, they seemed to have the idea down and guitarist/vocalist Jackson answered back Blackhand‘s Marvel by jumping on the speaker cabinet and the drum riser. The gauntlet? Thrown down.
It’s worth giving the disclaimer at this point that there’s just about no way I can be impartial when it comes to Clamfight. Aside from the whole helping them release I Versus the Glacier thing, I just dig them too much to offer any kind of valid critique. And so, from where I stood, from Andy Martin‘s first roar (no sign of exhaustion from the double-duty he pulled in Heavy Temple) to Sean McKee‘s first shrieking solo (wow was he loud in the mix), Joel Harris‘ riffing two-step and Louis Koble‘s in-pocket fills, I was on board already. “Sandriders” and “The Eagle” were awesome, don’t get me wrong, but the surprise of the night might have been when they broke out the ultra-brutal “Rabbit” from the first album as a closer. Clamageddon! Clampocalypse Now! A Clamtastrophe! It wasn’t like they’d been lacking in heavy up to that point, because they hadn’t, but that brought it to a different level entirely, the scathing intensity in the culminating groove an entirely different kind of chest-thumping — namely that done by the volume coming out of their cabinets and the air pushed through Martin‘s kick drum. Again, I’m not impartial in saying so, but they were the heaviest thing I saw all night, and the scariest part about it was that I don’t think they’ve even begun to peak as a band yet. I could go on. I won’t. But I could.
Not living near them, I have too easy a time forgetting how good Beelzefuzz actually are. Conclusion? They need to get an album out. They had their 2012 demo for sale — along with some awesome-looking custom stash boxes that bassist Pug Kirby apparently crafted — and guitarist/vocalist Dana Ortt even mentioned the possibility of a new record on stage, citing the release date as, “eventually.” Bummer. Beelzefuzz have apparently hooked up with The Church Within Records, so I guess whenever it arrives, it’ll do so through that venerable imprint, but in the meantime, they had a killer set at Eye of the Stoned Goat much as they had at SHoD, and were greeted with due revelry by a host of the Maryland doom faithful who’d made the trip to New Castle. Ortt‘s guitar-as-organ and live multi-tracked vocals distinguished Beelzefuzz from everyone else in the lineup, and with Kirby and drummer Darin McCloskey‘s tight trad doom grooves, I just hope that when they finally get that album together, they manage to capture the depth of their approach as well as they carry it across live.
For the life of me, there needs to be a statue of “Iron” Al Morris III. Cast it in bronze and stick it right in the town center in Frederick, Maryland. I don’t know who you write to in order to make something like that happen, or even if Frederick has a town center, but seriously, Morris — 20 years on from putting out the first Iron Man CD — is worthy of inclusion in the discussion of Doom Capitol legends like Wino, Bobby Liebling and Dave Sherman. I mean that. The guy’s an icon and no one knows it, and he continues to press on with riff after riff, year after year. Frontman Dee Calhoun assured the crowd in a lengthy tuning break that the band would have a new full-length out this year — they’ve released two EPs since Calhoun joined — and the news was well met. Nothing against prior vocalist Joe Donnelly, but this being my second time seeing the band with Calhoun up front, his presence and singing style is a little more classic metal and it fits the band much better. The rhythm section of bassist Louis Strachan and drummer Jason “Mot” Waldmann made the rich grooves of “Groan” from the Dominance EP a highlight, but really, Iron Man‘s set just made me look forward to hearing what they’ll be able to do on their next record.
It was late and I was beat. I don’t mind saying it. I sat at one of the tables by the side of the bar — I’d kind of moved around all night as I took notes in one spot and the next — and looked up to notice that JB McGinnes had left the tvs on for the entirety of the fest. Pale Divine and Avon Cosmetics commercials make for some pretty strange bedfellows. No wonder they didn’t book that licensing gig. The Pennsylvanian trio featured their latest album, 2012′s Painted Windows Black (review here), with cuts like “The Prophet” and set-highlight “Angel of Mercy,” and essentially playing in the dark suited the mood of their doom overall. With McCloskey returning on drum duty after playing with Beelzefuzz, guitarist/vocalist Greg Diener and bassist/vocalist Ron “Fez” McGinnis (also of Admiral Browning) explored a wrenching emotionality set to classic and traditional downtrodden riffing. Diener‘s voice in my experience is never lacking in power and presence, and anytime you put McGinnis on bass, it’s only going to make your band stronger. As technically proficient as he is bearded (and he’s plenty bearded), he’s apt to put all six of his strings to work at any given moment, and where on paper, considering Admiral Browning‘s frantic progressive instrumentalism, it might not seem like a natural fit, in reality he’s a highly adaptable musician as much at home in Pale Divine as I expect he would be on any end of the heavy spectrum. Some dudes can just play. Between his prowess, the band’s pervasive melancholy and lurching heaviness, Pale Divine made for a suitable finish to Eye of the Stoned Goat 2 and those who stuck around long enough to find out seemed to agree.
It was getting on 1:30AM by the time I left and a two-hour drive and some late-night diner burgers with good friends later, finally crashed out around four to get up the next morning and finish the drive home. As I’d known from the start it would be, it was a hell of a night, but there was a lot to see and I’ve no regrets for making the trip.
Thanks to Brendan Burns, Dustin “D-Money” Davis, Pamela Wolfe-Lyman, Chris Jones, Lew Hambly, George Pierro, John Eager and everyone else I was fortunate enough to be able to meet and hang out with in New Castle. Here’s looking forward to doing it all again next time.
Posted in Whathaveyou on October 29th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
Don’t get me wrong, I was gonna go to Days of the Doomed III anyway, but adding a Penance reunion and Victor Griffin‘s new In~Graved project with Guy Pinhas from The Obsessed sure does make that 15-hour drive to Wisconsin seem shorter. Over the weekend, fest organizer Mercyful Mike Smith unveiled the two additions to the third annual event, set to take place June 21 and 22 next year, also noting that Pale Divine have joined on as well and that While Heaven Wept have had to back out owing to family concerns. As in, starting one, or at very least adding to it.
Here’s the announcement, followed by a video trailer. Something to look forward to:
I know you’ve all been waiting patiently for this announcement, myself included! We have a lot of ground to cover, so let’s get to it, shall we?
I am excited to say that my first announcement is actually breaking news, and this will be the first anyone has heard of it!!! It is with great honor that I announce Victor Griffin’s IN~GRAVED will taking part in Days Of The Doomed Fest III! Consisting of Victor Griffin (Pentagram/Place Of Skulls) on vocals/guitars, Guy Pinhas (The Obsessed/Goatsnake/Acid King) on bass, Pete Campbell (Place Of Skulls/Sixty Watt Shaman) on drums, and Derek Hall on keyboards, IN~GRAVED will be performing songs from their highly anticipated upcoming debut album due out early this spring, as well as a few choice Place Of Skulls tunes. Do not miss this opportunity to witness doom metal royalty and his brand new band! Victor Griffin’s IN~GRAVED will make believers of us all!
Next up, something I wasn’t sure was going to be possible to pull off, but through several conversations and a great line of communication, I am announcing to all of you today to brace yourselves for the return of PENANCE!!! Here is the official statement provided by the Penance camp:
“Not since vocalist Lee Smith sang with PENANCE in support of their 1993 European tour with CATHEDRAL & SLEEP have these two forces come together in a live setting. It has been nearly 20 years since PENANCE followed up that tour with their now legendary sophomore release Parallel Corners on Century Media records, long considered a classic record and the band’s strongest effort to date. Many consider it to be one of the greatest post Sabbath records of all time, including Fu Manchu who recently covered “Words To Live By”. With their rich lineage as pioneers of Doom firmly intact, the time is now right for the lineup of guitarist Terry Weston, bassist Rich Freund, and drummer Mike Smail to reunite with vocalist Lee Smith as PENANCE. Their exclusive appearance and only U.S. show will take place at Days Of The Doomed Fest III on the weekend of June 21st and 22nd, 2013 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. See you all there!” Parallel-fucking-Corners! That’s all I’m saying folks!
As if this isn’t enough, we’ll also be welcoming back another Days Of The Doomed Fest alumni… PALE DIVINE! We’re all familiar with their stellar back catalog, but next June, we’ll all be treated to some of the instant classics off of “Painted Windows Black”, undoubtedly one of the top releases of 2012. So get ready… PALE DIVINE IS BACK!
I’m also extremely happy to announce that Infernal Rock Radio will once again be sponsoring our Thursday night pre-show! Chicago’s SPYDERBONE is the first band to be announced for the pre-show, but others will be announced soon!
I also have some bitter-sweet news to report. WHILE HEAVEN WEPT has been forced to pull out of Days Of The Doomed Fest III, but for good reason! There will be a new addition to the WHILE HEAVEN WEPT family due right around the weekend of the fest next June! So obviously, this is a “family first” situation! I wish the band and family all the very best! Congrats!!!
The official Days Of The Doomed Fest website, www.daysofthedoomed.com, has been updated, and you will want to check out the “Lodging Options” link! Best Western Milwaukee and Super 8 Milwaukee are the exclusive hotels of Days Of The Doomed Fest!!! There are links to both hotels, and each one has a special “fest rate” for rooms!!! They also offer free shuttles to and from the airport, and we are working on setting up a shuttle to and from the fest! I encourage you to take advantage of this special offer!!! Both hotels are only a 5 minute drive to the venue!!!
I am also very proud to welcome back Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer as one of our main sponsors!!! Tallboy specials and PBR swag will once again be available at Days Of The Doomed Fest III!
I should also mention that I am working on setting up a shuttle bus from Chicago to Milwaukee and back to help out all of our Illinois friends who would like to attend the fest but may not want to drive. More info on this as it becomes available!
So get ready! Days Of The Doomed Fest III is returning to the Blue Pig Bar/Venue and is going to be the biggest one yet! Online ticket sales begin 12/1/12 – just in time for X-mas! Grab your tickets early and book your rooms! I am fully anticipating a sell out next year! Oh, and I’m not quite done yet… one more trick left up my sleeve! Big, massive, giant size bag of Ruffles goes to Kathy Reeves for creating our teaser trailer below! Cheers everyone!!! Happy Halloween!
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 February 27th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
It’s been 15 years since Eastern Pennsylvania doomers Pale Divine released their pivotal Crimson Tears demo in 1997. That release in many ways would come to define them, as they signed with Game Two Records to issue their also-stellar Thunder Perfect Mind debut in 2001 and shifted to Martyr Music Group for 2004’s follow-up, Eternity Revealed. Some three years later, Cemetery Earth on Shadow Kingdom – who also reissued Crimson Tears in 2008 – promised to be the band’s last album, and it was plain to see their formula had run its course. The record, like everything the band had done leading up to it, was American doom built directly from the traditional prototype, wrecked emotionally but still rooted in a heavy metal burliness that came through in the thick riffs of band mastermind Greg Diener (guitar/vocals). As Pale Divine marked their return with a set at 2011’s Days of the Doomed fest in Wisconsin and followed with one at Stoner Hands of Doom in Maryland in the fall, they seemed armed with a new energy and newfound enthusiasm for what is patently unenthusiastic. Diener and drummer Darin McCloskey (also of Beelzefuzz) teamed with Sinister Realm bassist John Gaffney for those shows, but on their awaited fourth album, Painted Windows Black (Shadow Kingdom), it’s Jerry Bright taking on low end duties for eight tracks packed with enough doom to account for the five years since the last Pale Divine offering.
A lot of what has always been true about Pale Divine remains so on the 68 minutes of Painted Windows Black, and one imagines the band wouldn’t have it any other way. They are doom for doomers, playing off the genre’s conventions even as they remold them in their own image, making what is inherently familiar about traditional doom sound fresh, or at very least newly-miserable. Diener’s vocals keep to a middle range, neither high nor especially low, but add melody nonetheless alongside his guitar despite sometimes moving to the other side of bottom-of-the-mouth post-Hetfield heavy metal conventionalities. Those same conventionalities, though, often work in Pale Divine’s favor, as the instrumental “Nocturne Dementia” opens Painted Windows Black with marked immediacy both in Diener’s guitar and in McCloskey’s capable drumming, which sustains double-kick bass remarkably well underneath layered guitar solos. At six and a half minutes, “Nocturne Dementia” has to be more than just an intro, but the function is the same, even if it works faster than most of the songs’ plod, it sets the tone nonetheless, and the strong opening salvo continues with “The Prophet” (the shortest and most straightforward track at 5:26) and “Angel of Mercy” (9:13), which has Painted Windows Black’s most memorable chorus. Fantastic lead play is near-constant with Diener at the fore, and the album is mixed well so that although he clearly dominates with lead play and is often backing himself with rhythm tracks as well as Bright’s bass, it’s not necessarily overbearing when it’s not trying to be.
Still, Painted Windows Black is clearly led by the guitar and makes no pretense otherwise. “Angel of Mercy” skillfully returns to the chorus following a long instrumental break (there’s room for it), and ends quietly, letting the opening riff of “End of Days” – one of the larger-sounding – add a grandeur to what’s already a well-crafted album. Pale Divine stick to the theme that riff presents for most of that song, letting it play out even under Diener’s solos, but there is some development to be found amid the nine and a half minute sprawl, and by the time the six-minute mark is passed, one is reminded just as much of Pepper Keenan as of Bruce Franklin. More than some of the cuts in the bottom half of the tracklisting, those on the first stand out individually. Their structures largely the same, they nonetheless show personality in their choruses and, bolstered by the lead work – again, Diener’s pretty much putting on a clinic on how to play doom guitar – the tab book would have to come in volumes – tap into what’s always made Pale Divine stand out among their morose peers: technical ability coupled with quality songwriting and a tight grasp on their influences. It’s a clarity of purpose that continues onto “Black Coven,” which works with an ethic similar to “The Prophet” in being a straightforward lead-in for lengthier indulgences to follow. Perhaps not as memorable as “The Prophet” itself, but no less accessible on a doomly level, its familiarity is nearly instant, so that by the end of the song, you already know it and are well grounded as Painted Black Windows moves into its longest and most atmospheric piece, “The Desolate.”
Posted in Features on August 14th, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster
Woke up this morning with not the worst headache ever, but certainly enough of one to get the job done. If you made me guess, I’d say I’d probably done some drinking. It was early, and I posted the notes from last night and crashed out some more before finally getting up around 10AM and deciding that a cure was needed. Fortunately, there’s a Waffle House attached to the Days Inn where I’m staying, and that shit is so greasy it’s like carpetbombing your hangover. Mission accomplished there, I made for CVS to buy earplugs, then to a coffee house to get that fix, and finally, to Krug’s Place for day two of Stoner Hands of Doom XI.
It’s already after 2AM again (funny how the timing of these things works out), so I’m going to stick with the note form from yesterday, and in all likelihood, I’ll again nod off before I finish and post it tomorrow. Not the end of the world. Part of me hopes so anyway. This afternoon and tonight, I saw 14 bands. Everyone who took the stage at Krug’s, I caught at least part of their set. In the immortal words of Nebula, “It’s been a long, long day.” Here’s how it went down:
The PB Army: They switched places with Ambition Burning, who were running late and played second. I didn’t know that at the time, and despite the fact that I’ve seen them before, they have a singing drummer in Keith Bergman, and the guitarist was wearing a Cleveland Cavaliers jersey, I still thought I was looking at Ambition Burning until Bergman announced who they were. I must have sat there for 15 minutes and it never even occurred to me. I actually slapped my forehead. When they got going, The PB Army ruled. Uptempo heavy rock to start the day. I also give them credit because, like me, they were there for the entire show. Not always in the room where the bands played — in fact, mostly at the bar from what I saw, drinking the PBR from which they take their name — but there nonetheless. Where most left, they stuck around. That should say something.
Ambition Burning: This was the first time today when I was really jealous of the scene down here. These guys are former members of two bands I’ve previously played with and dug: Durga Temple and VOG, and they were easily the most thrashing act of the day. They hit it fast and loud and came off like Gwar-meets-Lair of the Minotaur. Some riffy parts, but more head-down punk fury. It worked well, and their last song showed a weird progressive bent that’s never going to hurt them. Heavy stuff for heavy heads.
Sinister Realm: This Allentown, Pennsylvania, five-piece were also quite metal, but in a completely different way. I had to remind myself who they were by reading my review of their last album from 2009, and what I took away from that was that they were very metal, and so they were. Full-on oldschool metal, complete with Dio Sabbath riff complexity, Trouble‘s Marshall tones and Judas Priest fist-pumping rhythms. They have a new record out called The Crystal Eye, which I bought, and they played a couple songs from it, but what really caught my attention aside from the coordinated rocking among the string section was that bassist/backing vocalist John Gaffney (who also played in Pale Divine later) had written at least four print fanzines dedicated solely to Candlemass. Fucking awesome. Maybe the best seven dollars I spent today buying one of the issues.
Muffler Crunch: They were the surprise of the day. A male/female Canadian duo, guitarist/vocalist Luke Lavigne and drummer/lead vocalist Angie Neatby absolutely destroyed. Lavigne, armed with an acoustic guitar run through a Dual Rectifier, was a noisy, feedback-laden, ultra-distorted mess (and I mean that in the best way possible) and Neatby, through a headset microphone — which I’m usually not a fan of for singing drummers, because you hear every breath they take when they’re not singing — laid down blues righteousness like it was coming back in style. Things got really fascinating when they slammed on the breaks and went uber-doom, with Lavinge adding death growls. Trippy stuff. Definitely different, definitely dug it. Definitely a hard act to follow.
Iron Front: Straightforward heavy rock. Not really stoner, but probably digs on a Kyuss record every now and again. They covered Soundgarden, but did “Outshined,” which was kind of a bummer, since it’s not one of their best and it’s the kind of track you’re never going to be able to do as well as the original. Their original stuff was better, but like they didn’t really add anything to the cover, they also rested comfortably on a stylistic middle-ground that, particularly after Muffler Crunch, seemed like ground that had already been covered. Not bad — I wouldn’t be ready to count them out completely — but seemed to be just on the other side of what piques my interest. They pulled a good crowd though, so there’s that.
Electric Magma: Probably the band I saw the least of, owing to dinner. It was 6:30 by the time the Toronto trio went on, and while I most definitely enjoyed their fuzzy instrumentals from the next room, I’ll admit that it was the hot roast beef sandwich with fries as the foremost occupant of my attentions. I felt guilty and bought one of their records later on — the one I didn’t think I already owned, as it happens. Figured that’d probably be the way to go.
Lo-Pan: What the hell else is there to say about these dudes? At this point, I feel like even saying they were the tightest rock band playing tonight undersells it, because they go beyond that. Go see Lo-Pan. There. I put it in bold. In talking before (and after) their set, they were telling me about the Dude Locker III fest they’re putting on Sept. 10 in their native Columbus, Ohio. Apparently Chapstik is playing, along with 20 or so other bands on two stages. To hear them tell it, they’ll also be destroying a car. I might have to make the roadtrip for that. More details here. In the meantime, Lo-Pan slayed like Lo-Pan slays. They’re dominant live and they know it.
Admiral Browning: Another instance where I was jealous of the Maryland/surrounding-states scene. Admiral Browning‘s uniquely thick and riffy progressive instrumentals went over huge, and I’m always amazed that there’s a climate down here for this kind of thing. Back home in New Jersey, there’s nothing. Nothing. Fucking pop punk bands out the ass, and here’s Admiral Browning, brazenly exploring untested musical ground in a supportive community just 250 miles away. A boy could cry at the sight of it, much like a boy could cry at the sight of Admiral Browning‘s technical prowess, which they, as ever, presented at SHoD in a manner entirely void of pretense. It was the band’s 200th show, and beardly bassist Ron “Fez” McGinnis was doubling as the stage manager for the fest. He had the unenviable duty of corralling stoner rockers all night, which was a task he handled like a pro.
Pale Divine: I remembered seeing this Pennsylvanian trio with The Hidden Hand in Philly years back around when their second album, Eternity Revealed, came out in 2004. As I mentioned before, Candlemass-loving Sinister Realm bassist John Gaffney played here as well, and they were precisely the kind of heavy traditional doom one expects to find at SHoD. It’s a style that doesn’t go over everywhere, but goes over really well here. They were more than decently heavy if not necessarily the most exciting act of the night, but I had to make an escape for a bit. I came back to the hotel, changed out of my stinking shirt, threw on some deodorant (it had already been a sweaty day), and went back to Krug’s feeling like a new man.
War Injun: It was fortunate that I was feeling like a new man, because the energy War Injun brought to the stage was formidable. I’d also stopped drinking before Pale Divine went on, and was well on my way to sobered up — a status I’d keep for the rest of the night — and was glad for the lucidity that let me better appreciate drummer JB Matson‘s chest-rattling kick. Vocalist JD Williams (formerly of Internal Void) gave Earthride‘s Dave Sherman a run for his money as the most charismatic frontman of the evening, and it was clear that the double-guitar fivesome knew their way around Maryland doom. The audience they pulled in might have been the best of the night, which was only unfortunate because the room thinned out some when they were finished.
Blood Farmers: On sheer sound alone, they were the best doom band that played today. There was nothing showy about what they did, but the sound was perfect for them, Eli Brown‘s vocals were almost as heavy as his bass sound, and they ran through an excellent set of songs, dwarfing in my mind even their Roadburn 2011 Main Stage appearance. They were so tight, so troubled-sounding, it really seemed like a love of obscure/classic ’70s horrordelic film was in their songs. New song “Headless Eyes” was especially a highlight, but really, their pacing, their patient riffs and the precision with which they were executed made Blood Farmers high on the list of the day’s best sets. The only shame was that there wasn’t more people there to see it.
Earthride: They’re the kings of this scene. They went on after midnight, and so I don’t think all the native-types who were there for War Injun came back after the non-Old Line State Blood Farmers, but there were still plenty on hand for what certainly felt like the headlining set of the night. Dave Sherman was telling stories about being in Spirit Caravan and playing the first SHoD in 1999 before the set even started, and in a classy move, he and the band (which includes guitarist Kyle Van Steinberg, drummer Eric Little and new bassist Josh Hart) brought up Rob Levey to play air guitar and help sing the chorus of “Supernatural Illusion.” Scott “Wino” Weinrich does the guest spot on Earthride‘s latest album, Something Wicked, but the man behind SHoD gave a more than laudable showing of himself, and was treated to a fitting round of applause afterwards.
Negative Reaction: Kind of got screwed. Earthride had finished their set and then decided to do the “one more song” that was on their setlist the whole time in the form of “Vampire Circus.” Not a problem except for Dave Krug (of Krug’s Place fame) getting on stage between the bands and saying everyone needed to be out by 1:55AM. I looked at my watch and it was 1:15 and Negative Reaction — who were supposed to headline Friday night and didn’t because bassist Damon had a seizure and had to go to the hospital — were definitely going to have their set cut short. And so they did, although they also pushed it time-wise to the very last second, guitarist/vocalist Ken-E Bones bashing himself in the head with his guitar, throwing himself on the floor, playing with his teeth and crafting the weekend’s nastiest noise barrage. It was short, but they were furious, and it was among the strongest sets I’ve ever seen them play. Still a bummer to see them get stuck after not being able to do their set the night before, but they clearly made the most of what they had.
I can’t say enough how glad I am to have stopped drinking when I did (roughly six hours from when this post started). There’s still one day of Stoner Hands of Doom XI to go, and though I don’t think I’m going to be able to stay and see all of Sunday’s bill, there are more bands I’ve never seen in that lineup than even today, including Earthling, whom Jake Adams from Valkyrie personally recommended I check out. Though it had been years since I’d seen him, I’ll definitely take that recommendation and look forward to the set. All the same, the thought of going to work Monday morning is starting to press, but I was talking to a couple people today who had come from Rochester, New York, and from Kentucky, so I’m not the only one with a long drive. Stuff like this is worth traveling for.