Rebreather, Lo-Pan, Vulture, The Ravenna Arsenal and More Playing Blackout Cookout IV

Posted in Whathaveyou on August 5th, 2013 by JJ Koczan

Generally notable for its sick lineup culling together some of Ohio’s best in heavy from the rarely-seen Rebreather on through Mockingbird and Venomin James, the roster of acts for The Blackout Cookout IV gains even more traction for being one of the last shows Pittsburgh’s Vulture will play prior to their recently-announced disbanding. Between that and reported bevvy of smoked meats, it doesn’t seem like there’s really any way to lose out. Blackout Cookout IV is set for Aug. 24 at The Outpost in Kent, Ohio.

The PR wire sends urgings:

Here we go again! It’s time for another drunken summer bash at The Outpost. We have some new comers to the lineup this year along with some bands returning to fuck shit up once again. Aaron Schultz (Schultzs Smokin Pit) will be BBQing a ton of food for all of us to eat. Presale entry is available at for $10.00 or at the door day of show for $13.00. You do not want to miss this show. Good times will be had by all. Get to the Post!!!

On August 24th in Kent, OH we will be throwing The Blackout Cookout IV. It is a party at The Outpost that has grown every year since its creation. Last year we had KEELHAUL and LO-PAN, VULTURE, and many other great sludge and doom bands.

This year we have LO-PAN returning along with REBREATHER, MOCKINGBIRD, THE UNCLEAN, THE RAVENNA ARSENAL, and VULTURE! What makes this year special is it is the first of VULTURE’s last two shows ever.

Schultzs Smokin Pit smokes meat all day to eat and 12 bands will be alternating on 2 stages. This year’s lineup is…LYCOSA, SUPER PREDATOR, SHOWBOY, VENOMIN JAMES, FULLY CONSUMED, DEATHCRAWL, VULTURE, THE RAVENNA ARSENAL, THE UNCLEAN, MOCKINGBIRD, LO-PAN, and REBREATHER.

Anyone from the area or anyone who would like to travel should come check out this great food and music. If not at least help spread the word.

The Ravenna Arsenal, Live at Blackout Cookout III, 2012

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Vulture Call it Quits

Posted in Whathaveyou on July 15th, 2013 by JJ Koczan

Vulture will be missed. Here’s a fun fact about the Pittsburgh sludgers who announced today they’re making their exit as a band: They were the first package I ever got sent for this site. It’s true. I still have the envelope sent by drummer Kelly Benson Gabany containing 2009’s self-released debut EP (review here). Their permanent vacation to Splittsville is a double-bummer though on account of last year’s Oblivious to Ruin (review here) seeming so much like the start of a new era of productivity.

Best of luck to the dudes and lady of Vulture. Hopefully it’s not too long before they sludge anew:

Vulture 2007-2013

After six years, Vulture has decided to call it a day. Over the last year or so it’s become increasingly difficult to get together due to schedules, distance to rehearsal, life, etc. We tried to make it work after our Winter’s Wake performance last February, but it just didn’t take.

We want to thank Innervenus for the last couple of years and releasing our record, Chris Smith for all of the amazing artwork, James Curl and Garret Costlow for the tireless work on our recordings, all the bands we’ve ever played with, the venues we’ve played, the promoters that booked us, the magazines/blogs that’s interviewed, reviewed and featured us, radio shows that played us, the friends we’ve made along the way and each and every one of you that has ever been to a show, bought a t-shirt, cd or supported us in any way.

With that said, we’ll be playing two final shows, the first being The Blackout Cookout IV on August 24th in Kent, Ohio and then a yet to be announced Pittsburgh show that will take place in November. More details as we get them.

Let’s party.

Vulture, “Oblivious to Ruin” from Oblivious to Ruin

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Six Dumb Questions with Vulture

Posted in Six Dumb Questions on May 31st, 2012 by JJ Koczan

I was legitimately surprised when Pittsburgh sludgers Vulture‘s full-length debut, Oblivious to Ruin, came across my desk. Not that they weren’t due for a follow-up to 2009’s self-titled EP, which was one of the first releases ever reviewed on this site, but because of how much the band had changed in the three years since that EP came out. Vulture had a doomly appeal to start with, but what Oblivious to Ruin (review here) brought to that was a low-down, dirty feel. A big part of that was the inclusion of new vocalist Justin Erb, whose raw-throated screams, shouts and growls added not only brutality but also character to Vulture‘s sound, now more professional and altogether more lethal.

That’s not to say the seven cuts present on Oblivious to Ruin aren’t without precedent — one finds Vulture culling influence from Sourvein, High on Fire and Down (in that order of prevalence) — but their blend is far more their own than it was a few short years ago, and what’s more, they seem to have hit a starting point for further growth and development, and so the record becomes an essential beginning step in that process, as well as a nasty-as-fuck slab of sludge. They’re having their cake and smashing it with buzzsaw guitar tone too, if you will.

As such, it seemed the perfect time to harass Mr. Erb for some info on his background in the abrasive arts and how he came to be a member of Vulture, and just what Oblivious to Ruin might be driving toward in terms of the overall trajectory of the band. Par for the course for this kind of thing, I also asked about some other stuff as well, like any Pittsburgher recommendations he might have and what’s coming next for Vulture, and he was forthcoming on that as well, as you can see below.

Vulture is Erb, guitarists Garrett Twardesky and Gene Fikhman, bassist Justin Bach and drummer Kelly Gabany. Please enjoy the following Six Dumb Questions:

1. Tell me about how you came to join Vulture. Did you know the rest of the band beforehand?

I met Vulture while jamming with my other band, Reduce to Ash. Our guitar player, Quinn Lukas, who also plays with Icarus Witch, is good friends with Vulture’s old singer, Buddy Smith. Every summer Quinn has a few huge yard parties, and during one of these parties we made plans with Buddy to do some shows together. Through those shows I ended up becoming good buddies with Garrett, Vulture’s riff master. Anytime Reduce would do shows, Garrett would try to make it out and we would end up outside getting high and rocking out some Sabbath in the parking lot. After a show at Marlene’s Corner Bar in Connellsville, PA, Garrett told me they were having trouble with their singer and were planning on sacking him. He just wasn’t on the same page, musically. I told Garrett that if they fired Buddy, I would be interested in auditioning. Turns out they were planning on approaching me for the gig. The funny thing is that from the first time I saw Vulture play, I imagined myself fronting that band. In Reduce to Ash, I play bass and split vocals with Tim Weir, the other guitarist, so I jumped at the chance to front a band without worrying about playing an instrument. Especially a band like Vulture, who I had a ton of respect for from day one.

2. What was the timeline of the material on Oblivious to Ruin? How much was written when you joined the band, and as the singer, how involved were you in structuring and putting the songs together?

The songs for Oblivious were written over a pretty long period of time. It’s kinda hazy as far as the exact timeline. I was working out of town a lot and the guys made me demos of basic arrangements of the songs. I wrote all the lyrics and rearranged some of the structures to fit my lyric ideas a little better. Most of the arrangements were perfect before I even put my stamp on them. When I joined the band, Garrett gave me a demo with three songs that needed lyrics. The first song ended up being “Prick of Misery,” which we recorded for the Innervenus Music Collective‘s compilation disc, Iron Atrocity Vol. 1. The second song was the title-track, “Oblivious to Ruin.” We jammed on the third song but never ended up using it.

3. How was the band’s time in the studio? The recording seems to capture the songs perfectly, sounding natural and nasty. How long were you at Calfax Alley, and what was the recording process like?

The band’s time in the studio was brief but awesome. All the instruments were recorded live. With a few punch-ins for guitar solos here and there. What you hear on the album is a live take of the band jamming out with my vocals recorded separately. All seven songs, instrumentally, were recorded in one day. The vocals took three sessions. Without incriminating ourselves too much, I will say that we did partake in some illicit substances to capture the right vibe while recording. We are all about the vibe and atmosphere.

4. This being your first outing with the band, and the band’s first full-length after the self-titled EP, how representative is it of the direction you guys want to go in? How do you see Vulture’s sound developing over the next couple records?

I think it is representative of our direction as far as the heaviness that is captured on the album. I don’t think we could lose that if we tried. I can see us keeping with the sludge but also adding more groove and melody. Maybe even some acoustic stuff. We want to record the next album on analog tape. Like some old ‘60s or ‘70s gear. If that’s even possible these days.

5. I know Pittsburgh has a few really killer heavy bands – Argus, Vulture, Sistered, etc. – but is there anyone you guys especially enjoy playing shows with? Any other bands from the area you’d recommend for outsiders to check out?

I love playing with Mockingbird. They are from Ohio, but they do play Pittsburgh from time to time. Fist Fight in the Parking Lot is a badass ‘Burgh band with some deep roots in the city. Molasses Barge are labelmates and good friends of ours. They groove it down and rip it up hard. Gene and Garrett have a band called Grisly Amputation. They may possibly be the fastest and heaviest band I can think of in Pittsburgh. Plus they have hands-down the coolest name.

6. Any other writing/recording in the works, show plans or closing word you want to mention?

We have a ton of shows coming up in and outside of Pittsburgh. Vulture is also planning on recording new songs for a split with Ohio’s DeathCrawl sometime in the near future. Check us out at for all the latest info.

I’m really excited about Gene and Garrett‘s Grisly Amputation full-length, which should be done very soon. My other band, Reduce to Ash, just laid down guitar tracks for our first full-length. It is going to crush.

Vulture on Thee Facebooks

Innervenus Music Collective

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Vulture, Oblivious to Ruin: Over Fire Seas

Posted in Reviews on May 3rd, 2012 by JJ Koczan

What a difference a couple years can make. Well, a couple years and a new singer, to be more precise about it. In the case of Pittsburgh double-guitar five-piece Vulture, they make the most of both. Three years ago, their 2009 self-titled debut EP (review here) charmed with its stoner-doom blend, hinting of better things to come. Listening now to Vulture’s first full-length, Oblivious to Ruin (Innervenus Music Collective), those original songs offer little in terms of preparation for the nastiness present in the new collection. Seven tracks put to tape and mixed by James Curl at Calfax Alley in Ohio over the course of four days in 2011, Oblivious to Ruin is sludge so nasty I had to check and make sure I wasn’t listening to Sourvein by mistake the first time I put it on. Part of that is new vocalist Justin Erb, who bears some sonic resemblance to Sourvein’s T-Roy Medlin, but even in terms of the grit in the guitar behind him, the viciousness of charge in Gene Fikhman and Garrett Twardesky’s playing, Vulture are in an entirely different league here. More assured of their aesthetic and willing to work their way into and out of various levels of abrasion comfortably, they even go so far as to let a song like “Dead Sea” offers a moment of solace before renewing one of the album’s most searing grooves. Erb is a screamer, and a mean one at that, but he doesn’t fail to bring personality to what he does. Along with Medlin, he seems on the title-track to be nodding at the drunken abandon Matt Pike has worked into some of High on Fire’s slower material over the course of their last couple records, and as the faster riff toward the end of “Coming Storm” basks in an early-Crowbar pummel, he follows suit, taking on a Kirk Windstein cadence with what sounds like natural ease.

Of course, what makes Oblivious to Ruin work is that fact that while these influences play out over the course of its 40 minutes, Vulture are putting them to use in service of a sound that’s their own. Indeed, I’d argue that the album’s greatest achievement is how much Vulture come of age on it – which, even three years after their first and now-nebulous-feeling EP, is an impressive feat on a debut full-length – but don’t let that somehow discount the quality of these songs or the fact that the band achieves what they set out here to do. No doubt Vulture had some of the malevolence found on sample-led opener and longest track “This Beautiful Infection” in mind when they got their start as a band, but the difference between then and now is they have the experience and the component viciousness to make it happen. Bassist Justin Bach and drummer Kelly Gabany underscore each filthy, stinking groove Oblivious to Ruin has to offer, and like a lot of sludge, it’s easy to lose sight of complexity because of superficial abrasiveness. Both the titular cut and “Dead Sea” play out marked changes in approach, and not just those already noted from Erb. Gabany’s toms cut through the morass of distortion excellently on the song “Oblivious to Ruin” and each hi-hat hit is excruciating, but the song gradually shifts to a faster groove and a more open-sounding riff that allows for more interplay between Twardesky and Fikhman before fading out and letting the sudden start of “Dead Sea” take hold, in effect reversing the course of tempo from fast to slow. These don’t sound like big changes, I know – slow to fast, fast to slow – but Vulture do it subtly and confidently, so that it almost happens before you’re aware. “Dead Sea” also has a quiet, guitar-led break after the halfway point that speaks to the band’s growing ability to convey an atmosphere… and then smash it to bits shortly thereafter.

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Vulture: Soaring on the Wings of Doom

Posted in Reviews on February 16th, 2009 by JJ Koczan

What do you suppose he's looking at?Pittsburgh troublemaking five-piece Vulture let loose their self-titled, self-released debut EP toward the end of last year, profering an avalanche of burly, angry doom building riff after riff of aggressive, balls-out metal. The five tracks run a gamut through modern doom, soaking up ’90s influences and spitting them out like a rain of Pipe Organ Pale Ale falling on the head of anyone who hears them. A given listen uncovers shades of Goatsnake, Melvins, Danzig, and even some Paradise Lost lurking in the growled vocals of Buddy Smith.

Guitarists Garrett Twardesky and Gene Fikhman practically beat you over the head as they lead the way through the songs with a tone both covered in fuzz and molasses thick. A well-presented crash cymbal from drummer Kelly Gabany keeps pace for eight-minute closer “Ill-Fitting Crown” as bassist Justin Bach demolishes the low end and Smith gurgles that he has become the night. Smith switches his approach readily with the music, perhaps manically at times, but whatever he’s doing, it’s never out of place in the song. The beauty of this kind of chaotic drunkard metal is that as a vocalist, he can either be the slurring, repentive crooner or the bottle-throwing, vomitous madman — it all works.

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