Notes From SHoD XI Pt. 3: Sunday

Posted in Features on August 15th, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster

It was early when I pulled into the parking lot of the strip mall that houses Krug’s — around 1PM for a show that wouldn’t start for another hour. I nonetheless made my way inside, mostly to see if there had been any obvious schedule changes or anything like that, and on the way, passed the front door of the Baptist church next door, only to hear the songs and testimony happening inside. I stood there for a minute and listened. Seemed pretty exciting. Since stuff like SHoD is about as close as I get to religion, I felt like I could relate to all the yelling and singing. I’m pretty sure what I witnessed the crowd doing during Earthride‘s set last night counts as “testifying.”

Being early today, I decided rather than sit there by myself for the extra hour, I was going CD shopping. On my way to CD and Game Exchange in downtown Frederick — which is charming in the way that white people find expensive boutiques and wine bars charming — I passed a sign that read “Rock and Roll Graveyard” on E. Patrick St., and immediately parked my car in the next spot I could find. More to come on that later, but I’ll spill it now that it was a pleasurable way to pass that time. Here are the notes from when I got back to Krug’s Place:

Heavy Burner: I don’t know if the 2PM start time was to allow church to get out or what, but the last day of SHoD XI got off to a strong start with this Virginian trio. They were definitely of the scene, but the bass had thick fuzz to it that approached — especially in a couple jammed out parts which were complemented by subdued vocals — the Colour Haze-style low end I’ve been bemoaning the complete lack of in the American scene. Of course, the fact that Chris Kozlowski of Polar Bear Lair Studio had been handling sound for the whole weekend might have had something to do with it too. Everyone’s bass sounded good. The guy recorded the last Blue Cheer album! Of course the bass sounds good. Nonetheless, Heavy Burner had a good balance between jams and structure, and though I’m not sure it would be on a recording what it was live, I was disappointed they didn’t have CDs yet. In progress, reportedly.

Fire Faithful: First heard these guys when I reviewed their split with the revitalized Lord, and they were heavy Southern riff metal both then and now. More doom than stoner hands, but still definitely a Maryland band. Some harsh vocals from Brandon Malone reminded me of Alabama Thunderpussy‘s more metallic moments, set to some Pepper Keenan riffs, and it was a good fit. They brought their female companions (two of them, anyway) on stage to provide backing vocals on a song called “A Devil in London” that I had to strain to hear, but the song was catchy anyway, and they were clearly looking to impress whoever showed up early, even going so far as to break out their Orange cabinets instead of using the house Mesas. Growth to be had, but they fit right in.

Acid Queen: Were not at all what I expected. Totally thought they were going to be a super-fuzzed out stoner doom band, you know, like friggin’ Acid King. No dice. A four-piece hailing right from Frederick, they were entirely instrumental and played a thrash/NWOBHM hybrid that’s bound to go over well at the Defenders of the Old fest the bassist — who seemed to be in charge, or at very least was the one who had a mic for saying thanks — said they were playing with their original lineup. SHoD was also their last show with their current drummer, so there seemed to be a bit of upheaval in the band. On the most basic song level, their material sounded like it would benefit from a singer, so it wasn’t necessarily a surprise to find out they had one at some point. Whatever else happens, I hope they hold onto their young lead guitarist. Kid was a ripper.

Earthling: Following Jake from Valkyrie‘s recommendation yesterday, I was legitimately excited to check these guys out. They played a crusty Virginian blackthrash that sounded like their dads locked them in a closet with nothing for sustenance but what they could get from Motörhead, Darkthrone and Venom records — and if that’s the case, kudos to pops for raising them up right. They too were young, and pummeling. They had a couple slower parts and enough groove to keep the doom heads into it, but were coming from somewhere else entirely. Super heavy, and with the kind of urgency that can only come from a total lack of self-consciousness. Punk rock arrogance as filtered through thrashing fuckall and tectonic tonality. If they lived in Brooklyn, they’d be playing museums.

Demonaut: It was about time someone covered “Supernaut.” If you think about it, it was bound to happen. Demonaut stepped up to the plate for all of us, and with their two basses and lead guitar cutting through, they did the massive low-end heaviness of Master of Reality justice. Not a compliment easily earned: it did take them two bassists to do it. Between the two four strings and the three vocals (both bassists and the guitarist), Demonaut had a lot going on, but none of that was enough to distract me from the fact that drummer Dwayne had the deepest snare of the weekend, which he bought from a Texan high school marching band on eBay. Thing sounded huge, and where the lone guitar might have otherwise had a hard time standing up to the noise surrounding, a White Matamp and Rectifier labeled “Boogie” did the job quite nicely.

Wrath of Typhon: I was getting tired by the time they went on, and they had some radio-voice DJ from a Pennsylvanian metal show in a Fear Factory hat introduce them. The guy thanked everyone for coming out for the whole weekend, and yet I hadn’t seen him either Friday or Saturday, or even earlier this afternoon. Yeah, thanks for coming out. Anyway, soured though I was, Wrath of Typhon‘s upbeat semi-trad metal pulled a good response as the afternoon began to transition to the evening, but Cough had just shown up and a bunch of people went outside to hang out by their van, so that cut attendance inside somewhat. I went to my car and placed a call to The Patient Mrs. before going back in to catch the end of their set. They brought up a hooded Sickie Wifebeater, who’d been sitting behind the cabinets the whole time, for a song, and then the SHoDmaster himself, Rob Levey, took the stage for the second time of the weekend to lead vocal for an “Electric Funeral” cover. Two Sabbath covers right in a row. Someone really should’ve put in dibs beforehand. All the same, it was a rousing rendition of the song.

Nagato: Probably the most pleasant surprise of the day. They had also played SHoD X back in 2009, but I missed them then. More the fool I, because the West Virginian two-guitar four-piece played an unassuming kind of rock that was a reminder of how much a band can accomplish when they set out to be heavy in mood and not just volume. Nagato were easily the most subdued act of the day, and since Against Nature played Friday night, but there was no dip in heaviness or power in terms of the effect on the crowd. Their dark fuzz blues seemed an odd fit at first, ultimately showing what a guitarist can do when making the most of the mystic side of Orange reverb, and the songs were psychedelic not so much in swirls or overarching echo, but if you closed your eyes, the music wanted to take you somewhere. Exhausted as I was, I hadn’t expected to be blown away, but I was. They were a joy to watch, and it was a letdown that they didn’t have any music for sale. I’d have bought everything.

Cough: Death by volume. Quite a contrast coming off Nagato, and even before they went on, I was counting down the minutes until I could justify to myself getting in the car and starting the drive back to Jersey. They also looked like they were counting the minutes, and in the case of drummer Joseph Arcaro — who was the hardest-hitting percussionist of the weekend, hands down — it felt like minutes between each slamming of the toms toward the end of “Ritual Abuse.” Cough played two songs that I could discern, and I was surprised they didn’t have more of a crowd than they did, as they seem sonically to have transcended this scene and moved onto the touring market, but they were loud as fuck and doomed likewise, and they thanked Rob and Cheryl for doing another SHoD and plugged Lord‘s upcoming set, so rockstar assholes they weren’t. That’s more than you get from some returning heroes. Part of me had been hoping that, in the wake of Hour of 13‘s last-minute cancellation, that Cough would move into the headliner spot and Lord would play earlier, so I could leave sooner and start the trip north, but I was glad to have seen Cough without the hipster audience baggage they might otherwise be surrounded by.

Lord: And then it happened. The first song they played was typified by the chorus line “The wait is over,” and when Lord finally got going, that’s exactly how I felt. I basically stuck around today and tonight as long as I did just to see Lord. Everything else was gravy. I’ve been a fan of this band since 2005/2006, and I was stoked to learn they had gotten back together and started going again in the wake of Ol’ Scratch‘s demise. They were ridiculous in how heavy they were. I dug the hell out of it, I really did. I wish we could get bands like this up here. I wish people up here gave a shit. Fuck ‘em. I’ve driven four hours for a set like that before and I’m sure I’ll do it again. I didn’t stay the whole time, though — that was never the plan — but I did score a copy of their new record, which I’ll be reviewing in the coming weeks, once I manage to get my head around it. If the songs I saw them play at SHoD were any indicator, that might take a while. Heavier, louder, meaner. Lord is righteousness personified. I was ready to raise my hand up like the Baptists next door and give praise.

The ride back up, I nailed. I missed Backwoods Payback and Weed is Weed, but got back here just before 2AM (right around when I’d probably get to the hotel if I’d stayed at the show), and it’s 3:30 now. I listened to Tin House and Weed and then did a Sabbath trio of Sabotage, Heaven and Hell and Master of Reality, and by the time that was done, I’d arrived. I love driving when no one else is on the road. It was raining, and I don’t know how many 18 wheelers saw me pumping my fist to “Lady Evil” or “Children of the Grave,” but who gives a shit? I live for days like today, for weekends like this one. Much thanks to Rob and Cheryl Levey and Krug’s Place for their hospitality, to Ken-E Bones, Joe Wood and Andrew Jude Riotto, George Pierro, Jason Clemins, Kyle from Rochester, Tim Otis, Jake Adams, Fez McGinnis and everyone else down there for making Stoner Hands of Doom XI such a special experience for me and everyone else who was lucky enough to see it. Here’s to keeping doom doomed.

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Notes From SHoD XI Pt. 2: Saturday

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.

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Notes From SHoD XI Pt. 1: Friday

Posted in Features on August 13th, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster

Taking the day off work to get down here in time was the right choice. I sat in traffic on I-83 for long enough that, had I put in even the most temporary, in-and-out-type appearance at the office, I’d have been late. And the south side was just rubbernecking. There was an overturned 18-wheeler that had spilled whatever it was carrying on the northbound side, and it was closed off. They were redirecting traffic through wherever the hell it was, and it added an hour onto my trip, easy, but it could’ve been much worse. I could have been driving that truck.

Because it’s already two in the morning, and because I’m tired, and because there’s a lot to get to, I’m going to cover Stoner Hands of Doom XI in note form. That seems like the most direct line between point A (the show) and point B (the coverage). Tomorrow, pending sobriety and/or the requisite energy — both of which are in short supply at the moment — I might decide to do something completely different. I reserve that right. For now, here goes:

Borracho: After the ride down from NJ and the arrival at the Days Inn where I’m staying, I opened up the bottle of wine I brought with me, turned on the stream of the Yankees radio broadcast and tried to relax a bit before heading back out over to Krug’s Place. Needless to say, the “fuck it” demons were out in full force, but not missing Borracho was a big part of what got me off my ass and back in the car over to the venue. Really. They were even better tonight than they were with Truckfighters, and they basically started their set with the soundcheck. I guess it was kind of a stutter way to kick off the fest, but once they got going, they were locked in for sure. They still need to tighten up their presentation, but already they were too good for the early-showing crowd that caught them. I felt fortunate to be in that number.

Ancient Astronaught: I didn’t realize it until I talked with guitarist/vocalist Skipper (who identified himself as such) following their performance, but all three members of the Fairfax, Virginia, three-piece are formerly of Ol’ Scratch. Skipper was in the band in 2008 and toured with them, and some of the lessons he learned in that now-defunct outfit he’s obviously brought to Ancient Astronaught — most pivotally in tone. Theirs was the first of several truly sick Sunn tones throughout the night, and though their songs were basically vehicles for conveying riffs and shouts and the occasional bit of stonerdelia, I’ve zero complaints with that. They were loud as hell and I dug it as one of several instances tonight in which my earplugs were rendered useless.

Against Nature: They’re another one. Speaking of Sunn amps, Against Nature guitarist/vocalist John Brenner played pedal-less (quite a contrast to Skipper‘s setup during Ancient Astonaught; his pedal board literally lit up) through a Sunn Beta Lead, and it was one of the most gorgeous tones of the night. Bassist Bert Hall, Jr., also won out on the night’s best bass sound, as it was crisp and clear, but still full and totally fuzzed. Having been a fan of Against Nature‘s work for so long from the albums, it was excellent to finally see them live. The laid back air Brenner brings to the recordings was still intact, but they definitely had a vibrancy to their set as well. Killer to get some classic rock on the SHoD bill. I spent their whole set thinking about how much ass a tour of them and Stone Axe would kick.

Windhand: I’d seen their name forever, and they had the drummer from Facedowninshit (he might also be in The Might Could — and where the hell, might I ask, are those guys this weekend?), so I was excited to finally see Windhand in-person, and they didn’t disappoint. They laid it on thick and viscous with Electric Wizard-style riffing, and that was enjoyable enough, but their considerable noise element only made the whole affair heavier. Strange to have that kind of noise following Against Nature, but it worked. It was that kind of bill, and the people who were there were more than willing to go along for the ride. They were a lot of fun, and I tried to acquire a CD, asking both vocalist Dorothea Cottrell and guitarist Garrett Morris,  to no avail. The Richmond outfit continue to elude me, but they killed.

Apostle of Solitude: Here’s who I was at the show. I was the guy who, as Apostle of Solitude — now featuring Devil to Pay axeman Steve Janiak on second guitar/vocals alongside bassist “Iron” Bob Fouts, drummer Corey Webbb and guitarist/vocalist Chuck Brown — was setting up, yelled out “Celtic Frost!” I have zero regrets at having done so, especially since they wound up closing with “Procreation of the Wicked.” They played one or two new songs before getting there (I seem to recall one was called “Good Riddance” or something like that), and were generally awesome. I’d seen them in NYC a while back and they were good enough at that time for me to buy not one, but two, t-shirts, both of which I still wear on the regular. If they’d had a third to go with their SHoD set, I’d totally have picked it up. Their split CD with The Flight of Sleipnir and Rituals of the Oak would have to suffice, and as I’m sitting here in survival testimony, indeed it did.

Negative Reaction was supposed to headline tonight in place of The Gates of Slumber (Lord, also listed on the poster above, will play Sunday), but fest organizer Rob Levey got on stage as Apostle of Solitude were finishing what would have been their regular set to announce that a member of the band had an immediate medical emergency. Guitarist/vocalist Ken-E Bones and drummer John “Old” MacDonald were hanging out in the Krug’s parking lot, so pretty safe to assume it was bassist Damon who had the trouble. They’ll hopefully be able to round out the bill tomorrow.

 

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