Quarterly Review: Minsk, King Bison, Les Lekin, The Vintage Caravan, Jim Healey, Anu, Iron & Stone, Gorgantherron, Elephant Riders, Lend Me Your Underbelly

Posted in Reviews on July 1st, 2015 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk summer quarterly review

And so we cruise into day three. Not sure how you’re holding up, but I feel like I’m hanging in pretty well. We pass the halfway point today, which is significant, but of course there are still plenty of records to come. I’m not sure I have a favorite day — I tried to spread stuff around as best I could when I was planning the whole thing — but there are definitely a couple highlights today as well. No doubt the standouts will stand out as we make our way through.

Quarterly Review #21-30:

Minsk, The Crash and the Draw

minsk the crash and the draw

Six years after the release of their third album, With Echoes in the Movement of Stone (review here), the 75-minute breadth of The Crash and the Draw (on Relapse) marks a welcome resurgence for Illinois post-metallers Minsk. Only keyboardist/vocalist Timothy Mead and guitarist/vocalist Christopher Bennett (also of Lark’s Tongue) remain from what was a four-piece and is now five with Aaron Austin on guitar/vocals, Zachary Livingston on bass/vocals and Kevin Rendleman on drums, but Minsk’s cascading heft is well intact as they show immediately on 12-minute opener and longest cut (immediate points) “To the Initiate.” True enough one is bound to be initiated after it, but it hardly scratches the surface of the atmospheric sludge Minsk continue to develop over the course of the four-parter “Onward Procession,” the glorious later melodies of “The Way is Through,” or the tribal tension in the percussion-led “To You there is No End.” They cap with the 10-minute “When the Walls Fell” and find themselves standing after all else has crashed down. A sprawling and triumphant return.

Minsk on Thee Facebooks

Minsk at Relapse Records

King Bison, King Bison

king bison king bison

Not to be confused with New York’s King Buffalo, Michigan’s Bison Machine or any number of other large mammals in the well-populated fur-covered contingent of American heavy rockers, King Bison make their self-titled debut via Snake Charmer Coalition, comprising seven riffy bruisers owing a deep debt to Clutch and, in that, reminding a bit of their Pennsylvanian countrymen in Kingsnake. Songs like “One for the Money” and “March of the Sasquatch” signal a watch for stoner-roller grooves to come in “Queen of the South” and “Pariah,” the dudeliness of the proceedings practically oozing from the speakers in the gruff vocals of guitarist/vocalist Chris Wojcik, who’s joined in the trio by bassist Dean Herber and drummer Scott Carey. The penchant for booze and blues, ladies and US auto manufacturing holds firm in “Night Ride” and the slower “I’m Gone,” and while one might expect a closer called “Space Boogie” to flesh out a bit, King Bison instead reinforce the foundation they’ve laid all along of Southern-style heft, remaining light on pretense and heavy on riffs.

King Bison on Thee Facebooks

Snake Charmer Coalition

Les Lekin, All Black Rainbow Moon

les lekin all black rainbow moon

Originally issued digitally late last year, Salzburg, Austria, instrumental trio Les Lekin are set to give their debut long-player, All Black Rainbow Moon, a second look with a 180g vinyl pressing in Fall 2015. Comprised of six tracks, the record is a spacious 49 minutes, and the three-piece of guitarist Peter G., bassist Stefan W. and drummer Kerstin W. enact a fluid heavy psych groove, somewhat less dense in its fuzz than the post-Colour Haze sphere and following plotted courses throughout, whether it’s in the Arenna-esque “Solum,” which unfolds after the album’s wash of an intro, the efficient exploration of “Useless,” which seems to pack a 12-minute jam into a six-minute song, or the still-open-sounding bluesy stretchout of “Loom,” the longest inclusion here at 13:16. Familiar in aesthetic perhaps, the songs are nonetheless complex enough to represent the band’s beginnings well, the closer “Release” coming to a heavier apex that could perhaps foreshadow future expansions of the chiaroscuro elements at which the title of this debut is hinting.

Les Lekin on Thee Facebooks

Les Lekin on Bandcamp

The Vintage Caravan, Arrival

the-vintage-caravan-arrival

After releasing their 2012 debut, Voyage, on Nuclear Blast last year, young Icelandic trio The Vintage Caravan return in 2015 with their sophomore full-length, Arrival – the second record seeming by title to be an answer to the first. Maybe that’s the intention musically, but the 10 tracks/55 minutes comprising Arrival do well to stand on their own, with the impressive lead work of guitarist/vocalist Óskar Logi never too far from the fore on songs like the standout “Babylon” or “Sandwalker,” though backed capably by the rhythm section of bassist Alexander Örn (also backup vocals) and drummer Stefán Ari Stefánsson. While unquestionably a more mature outing than their debut and more accomplished in its chemistry and songwriting, Arrival still gives a sense of the progression to come, and it’s easy to worry that by the time the listener gets to the powerful closing trio of “Innerverse,” “Carousel” and “Winter Queen,” the dizzying play throughout will have dulled the senses past the point of full appreciation. Room to tighten? Perhaps, but still a strong second outing for a band loaded with potential.

The Vintage Caravan on Thee Facebooks

The Vintage Caravan at Nuclear Blast

Jim Healey, This is What the End Looked Like

jim healey this is what the end looked like

Guitarist/vocalist Jim Healey is known more for the aggressive edge he’s brought over the years to bands like We’re all Gonna Die, Black Thai and most recently Shatner, but his solo material brings a different look. Joined in this “solo” endeavor by guitarist/vocalist/organist Joe McMahon, cellist/backing vocalist Dana Fisher, drummer Kyle Rasmussen and accordionist/backing vocalist Bridget Nault, Healey’s songwriting is nonetheless front and center across the nine tracks of This is What the End Looked Like, memorable cuts like “A Whole Lot of Nothing,” the more subdued “Radio” (written by Eddy Llerena) and closer “World War Eight” fleshing out arrangements that could work and/or have worked just as well on solo acoustic guitar for Healey in live performances. Worth noting that for all the vocal and instrumental embellishments on the studio incarnations, the songs lose none of the heartfelt feel at their core, Healey’s voice remaining a lonely presence despite obviously keeping good company.

Jim Healey on Thee Facebooks

Jim Healey on Bandcamp

Anu, Nighthymns

ANU Nighthymns

Nighthymns marks a return for ANU and the band’s sole inhabitant Chad “Drathrul” Davis (Hour of 13/Night Magic, Tasha-Yar, The Sabbathian, and so many others) after a four-year absence following the release of 2011’s III EP. Offsetting blasting, ripping black metal on cuts like “Enter the Chasm” and “The Eternal Frost” with the ambient drones of “Risen within the Mist of Obscurity,” the longer “Winterfall” and the title-track, Nighthymns nonetheless gnashes its teeth in a dense blackened murk, screams far back in “Enter the Chasm” beneath programmed-sounding thud and full-on guitar squibblies. A project Davis has had going in one form or another since releasing a first demo in 1999, and likely before that, ANU’s slicing extremity and atmospherics rest well alongside each other, but neither is accessibility a remote concern. If you get it, you get it, and if you don’t, you don’t. Nighthymns is way more concerned with separating wheat from chaff than it is with making friends, and that plays much to its ultimate success.

Anu on Thee Facebooks

Wohrt Records

Iron and Stone, Old Man’s Doom

iron and stone old man's doom

Comprised of gruff-shouting vocalist Henning L., guitarists Christopher P. and Stephan M., bassist Matthias B. and drummer Torsten H., German riff idolizers Iron and Stone debuted in 2013 with an EP titled Maelstrom and Old Man’s Doom is a follow-up short release. Pressed to DIY cassettes, the three-tracker preaches loud and clear to the nod-ready converted in “Place in Hell” and “Into the Unknown,” big riffs lumbering out stone vibes, intertwining rhythms and leads in the latter as Henning works his shouting into a corresponding notation. “Into the Unknown” ends large and Sabbathy, but speedier closer “Bliss of Diversion” is a high point unto itself for the consistency of the tonal morass that the uptick in pace brings out of the guitar and bass, resulting in a kind of noisy, dense-in-the-low-end punk that suits Iron and Stone well despite operating in defiance of the EP’s title. New material reportedly in the works as well.

Iron and Stone on Thee Facebooks

Iron and Stone on Bandcamp

Gorgantherron, Second Sun

gorgantherron second sun

Their first album, Second Sun follows a 2012 self-titled EP from Indiana trio Gorgantherron, but is in a different league entirely. A well-set mix balance establishes itself on the opening title-track and develops throughout “Superliminial” and “Bookbinder” as they get rolling, and Gorgantherron – guitarist/vocalist Clint Logan, bassist/vocalist Toby Richardson and drummer Chris Flint – continue to foster grooving largesse over the nine tracks/47 minutes, veering skillfully between boogie and doom on “Pre-Warp Civilization” before airing out an atmospheric take on “Seventh Planet,” the rough-edged vocals prevalent in quieter surroundings. Richardson’s fuzz on “The Stone” ensures the song lives up to its name, and the soft guitar noodling that opens “Paranoia” brings a surprising touch of Colour Haze influence out of the blue before a count-in from Flint puts the band’s roll back on its appointed track. Closing duo “Entropy” and “Defy” offer some shuffle and chug, respectively, but by then the trio have already made the album’s primary impression in their heavy riffs, burl and more than capable execution.

Gorgantherron on Thee Facebooks

Gorgantherron on Bandcamp

Elephant Riders, Challenger

elephant riders challenger

The two cuts of Spanish trio Elephant RidersChallenger EP take Kyuss-style desert riffing and reset the context to something altogether less jammy. Tight and presented with a near-metallic crispness in their production, both “Challenger” – rerecorded from an earlier EP – and its more rolling B-side “Lone Wolf” push the line between heavy and hard rock, but riffs remain central to their purposes. Having released their debut full-length, Supernova, in 2014, they’re still getting settled into their sound, but a blend of heavy rock, grunge and metal impulses pervades these two songs, and when “Lone Wolf” shifts into a couple measures of start-stop fuzz riffing in its second half, they show off just a reminder nod for where they got their name. Two catchy tracks that maybe aren’t reinventing the stoner rock game, they nonetheless provide a quick sample of Elephant Rider’s songwriting development in progress and plant the seeds of future hooks to come.

Elephant Riders on Thee Facebooks

Elephant Riders on Bandcamp

Lend Me Your Underbelly, Hover

lend me your underbelly hover

When placed next to each other, the five one-word titles on Lend Me Your Underbelly’s Hover – either the project’s third or fourth full-length, depending on what you count – result in the phrase “Everything” “Was” “Deep” “Dark” “Green.” Whether or not that is of special significance to Netherlands-based multi-instrumentalist/sampler Christian Berends, I don’t know. The whole idea across these tracks seems to be experimentation and improvisation, so if the titles were grabbed from somewhere at random or carrying a rich emotional connection, either is just as likely. Not knowing turns out to be half the fun of Hover itself – not knowing that, not knowing what Berends is going to do around the next turn as each track builds, not knowing where all this noise is leading as the swirls and riffs of “Green” close out. Layers careen, appear and disappear throughout, but the wide open structures and creative sensibility remain consistent and tie Hover together as an intricate work of exploratory psychedelia.

Lend Me Your Underbelly on Thee Facebooks

Lend Me Your Underbelly on Bandcamp

 

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The Skull, Unorthodox and More to Play Vultures of Volume Fest this August

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 16th, 2014 by JJ Koczan

Frederick, Maryland, has doubled as a secondary Doom Capitol for some time now. For several years the home of the Stoner Hands of Doom festival, is just happens to be in a place central enough to pull bands from near-enough-by Baltimore, Virginia, and Pennsylvania. It has kind of an out-of-the-way feel, but for years there was a genuine scene around Krug’s Place on the outskirts of the town that was strong and true to the roots of doom, which in the US more or less began in that region as well. The first Vultures of Volume will bring a doom fest back to the town after a couple years’ absence, and has assembled a lineup worthy of showing up for, with Trouble offshoot The Skull and a rare Unorthodox reunion headlining and backup on the bill from the likes of Nagato, GorgantherronBlack Manta, Beelzefuzz, Blizaro, Ogre and Pale Divine.

Of those, I think Ogre might be traveling furthest — from Maine — but Indiana to Maryland is no picnic either in terms of road time, so Gorgantherron will put some miles on as well. Between Unorthodox, Nagato, Beelzefuzz and Black Manta, Maryland is also well represented.

Vultures of Volume is set for Aug. 30, 2014 at Cafe 611 in Frederick. Poster art by Brad Moore and info follow:

“VULTURES OF VOLUME FEST” SET TO DEBUT IN FREDERICK, MD THIS AUGUST

Mark your calendars for Saturday, August 30, 2014 for the debut of “Vultures of Volume”, a new annual festival coming to Cafe 611 in Frederick, MD.

“Vultures of Volume” promises to shine the spotlight on local and national acts that bring it loud, hard, and above all else, heavy! This first installment of “VoV” proudly presents the return of Maryland legends UNORTHODOX, featuring the 1995 “Balance of Power” lineup of Ronnie Kalimon (drums), Josh Hart (bass) and the legendary Dale Flood (guitar/vocals) for this one time only reunion! Not to be missed!

Also joining in on the worship of the riff will be Chicago’s THE SKULL, featuring original Trouble members Eric Wagner and Jeff ‘Oly’ Olson, as well as fellow Trouble alumni Ron Holzner (rounded out by guitarists Matt Goldsborough, formerly of Pentagram, and Lothar Keller). THE SKULL will commemorate the 30th anniversary of their classic 1984 debut album “Psalm 9” by performing it in its entirety at the inaugural “Vultures of Volume” fest!

As if that wasn’t enough, also performing will be a strong supporting roster of local and national heavy weights: Nagato (MD), Gorgantherron (IN), Black Manta (MD), Beelzefuzz (MD), Blizaro (NY) Pale Divine (PA) and Ogre (ME).

For more info including door times, full schedule, ticket prices, and sale dates, please visit the official “Vultures of Volume” event page at: www.facebook/pages/Vultures-of-Volume-FEST/578873918893964

Cafe 611: 611 N Market St, Frederick, MD 21701 Ph: (301) 631-1460

Unorthodox, “Lost in Tomorrow” from Balance of Power (1995)

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Here are 115 More Pics from Days of the Doomed III

Posted in Visual Evidence on June 25th, 2013 by JJ Koczan

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.

Pics start after the jump. Hope you enjoy:

Read more »

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Front to Back: Days of the Doomed III, Day Two

Posted in Features on June 22nd, 2013 by JJ Koczan

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:

Whaler

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.

Gorgantherron


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.

Beelzefuzz


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 Darin McCloskey 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.

Chowder


3:45PM: When I streamed a couple tracks from Chowder‘s Passion Rift full-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.

Spillage


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.

King Giant

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 Hollow LP 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 Within to 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.

Earthen Grave


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.

Pale Divine

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.

Dream Death


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.

In~Graved


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 Vision was. 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 Stormcrow EP, 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.

Thanks for reading.

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