Live Review: Ode to Doom with Leather Lung, Mother Iron Horse, Somnuri & Grandpa Jack, 09.18.19

Posted in Reviews on September 19th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

Leather Lung (Photo by JJ Koczan)

The third anniversary celebration of NYC-based curated show series Ode to Doom was a special occasion. The bands knew it, the venue knew it, and the people who showed up knew it. Everyone who played had new material and was excited to share. Everyone said thanks. The vibe was chill from before the show even started, and even as heavy and as raucous as things got as the bluesy opening Grandpa Jack delivered gave way to the noisier likes of Somnuri, Mother Iron Horse and Leather Lung, it stayed chill for the duration. For being what Somnuri guitarist/vocalist Justin Sherrell referred to as, “a school night” — can’t argue with facts — it was also a welcome escape from midweek blues; all parties involved seemed happy to shed the uphill slump from their shoulders, or maybe that’s just me projecting.

One way or the other, it was the best argument I’ve encountered in a while for sitting in workday-evening traffic. The air was crisp but not bitingly cold. When I signed on three years ago to have The Obelisk be among the presenters for Ode to Doom, which is run with clear dedication by Claudia Crespo at Arlene’s Grocery with input from indomitable entrepreneur Vadim Dyadyuk of Made in Brooklyn Silkscreeners, who’s done merch for this site and will again — new colors coming for the holiday season, plus did I hear you asking for Obelisk sweatpants? no? well they’re happening anyway — part of the appeal for me was nostalgic. I remembered great times at Precious Metal in the basement at Lit Lounge and other Manhattan-based shows. I don’t think it’s a bad thing that it’s all moved to Brooklyn over the last generation and now is headed to Queens, but someone keeping the flame of a Manhattan underground alive felt like an idea well worth preserving. Turns out I was right.

Suitably enough given my recent move, the unstated theme for the evening was NY-meets-MA, with Brooklyn’s Grandpa Jack and Somnuri getting started and Salem, Mass, heavybringers Mother Iron Horse and Boston’s Leather Lung closing the night. If you don’t know Grandpa Jack — and I’ll admit I didn’t hear their self-titled debut LP last year; my loss — give it time. You will. The three-piece turned classic heavy rock shades of doomly purple with vintage tone emanating from the finger-picked guitar of Johnny Strom, who also shared vocal duties with drummer Matt C. White while Jared Schapker provided warm and engrossing low end to suit their blues-infused spirit. Their periodic dips into melody on vocals were welcome and hopefully telling of things to come, and the languid pace of their material brought to mind Radio Moscow played at two-thirds speed, with jammy intent. They were a more than welcome start to the proceedings.

I hadn’t seen Somnuri yet, but was excited to. having so thoroughly dug their late-2017 self-titled debut (discussed here) and subsequent split with fellow purveyors-o’-noise Godmaker (review here). They’ve got a new album mastered as of earlier this month and will cover “Dirt” on Magnetic Eye‘s upcoming Alice in Chains redux (presumably that’s what the cover they posted a snippet of on social media is for, unless they’re just going rogue with it, which might be fun too), and the aforementioned Sherrell, bassist Philippe Arman (also of Tower) and drummer Phil SanGiacomo both brought and demolished the evening’s crowd. The new material had more melody in a post-grunge, still-volatile kind of way that made me really excited to hear it in recorded form, but there was plenty of crushing going on as well, and as wheelhouses go, that’s a good one to be in. I’ll go out on a limb and say that barring disaster this won’t be the last time I see them play, but knowing that and knowing there’s a new record in the offing only made me enjoy their set more. Until next time.

There was time for a quick walk around the block between bands, which beat staring at the baby monitor on my phone — did it? — so I walked out of the venue for a minute to get some air, made it back well in time for Mother Iron Horse, who released their debut, The Lesser Key, in May and who seem primed to get picked up by some label or another if they haven’t yet. Their energy built on what Somnuri had been doing, but their sound was more rock-based, and the double-guitar riffing was complemented by right-on classic-style lead work and excursions into more uproarious stretches. Comprised of Adam Luca, Marco Medina, Devin Fields and Chris Kobialka, they made it easy to get into what they were doing in cuts like “Gehenna” and “Scepter of Ice” from the album, and as they’re on tour with Leather Lung — they’ll play Montclair, NJ’s The Meatlocker tonight, of course with Dutchguts — they started off that run in top form with what was still a good crowd who stuck around after Somnuri‘s set. Another band I’d never seen before, another one I’ll try to see again. That’s three for three on the night so far at Ode to Doom.

By contrast, I had seen Leather Lung before, but it was upwards of four years ago in Boston and they’ve got a new record out through Magnetic Eye called Lonesome, On’ry and Evil that produced the set-highlight “Miscreant,” which perfectly summarized the band’s approach rooted in mosh-ready riffs and massive aggro-sludge tones. Coming out to the familiar strains of Waylon Jennings, frontman Mike Vickers had apparently busted his arm and had it in a sling. He left the audience to guess how he’d done it, so insert here whatever pulled-a-ligament hyperbole you’d like to about him lifting the riffs of guitarist Zach and lumbering bass of Jesse — whose backing vocals also added a sense of extremity throughout the set. Set to the crash of drummer Ben, Leather Lung‘s willfully lunkheaded sludge metal was nothing short of a hit on a Wednesday night in Manhattan, which if that doesn’t sound like an accomplishment absolutely was one. Dudes up front lost their mind, and even standing in the back, beat as I was, the groove was palpable. And by “palpable” I mean shaking the floor. They’re going to kill at Descendants of Crom this weekend in Pittsburgh.

So what did we learn? I hadn’t planned on sticking around through the entirety of Leather Lung‘s set, as I’d been up since 4AM and knew I still had the drive back to my ancestral homestead ahead of me, but I did, and so did a lot of others who no doubt had trains, Ubers, hoverboards or Citibikes to catch. And I won’t take away from what Leather Lung were doing, but the vibe of the whole night was a big part of what kept me there. It felt like I had showed up to a party three years late and still been welcomed. That’s a rare thing.

More pics after the jump. Thanks for reading.

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