Live Review: Backwoods Payback, Set Fire and Owl Maker in New London, CT, 07.21.18

Posted in Reviews on July 23rd, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Backwoods Payback (Photo JJ Koczan)

Right down the block from where the El ‘n’ Gee used to be — the space is still there, with a new name and a line outside waiting to get in — is 33 Golden St., a classic rock and roll basement bar that feels immediately like home. It’s not dirty in that hey-it’s-rock-and-roll-so-we-never-need-to-sweep kind of way, and the room is warm and welcoming and they play Sabbath over the P.A., so somebody clearly has their head on straight. My guess is that would be the owner, Craig, though I didn’t get to meet him to tell him so.

The occasion for the trip to New London was to see Backwoods Payback, who’d so recently laid waste to Maryland Doom Fest 2018 in Frederick, MD, as part of heralding their new album, Future Slum, and the purpose for the long weekender was much the same. Joining them on the intended bill were Set Fire from Boston and Southern Connecticut’s Owl Maker, as well as Witchkiss, who dropped off at the last minute owing to a family emergency. Without the fourth band, it was an easy atmosphere to the evening. Three bands, cool vibe, stage tucked into the corner at the end of the bar. The place reminded me of what O’Brien’s in Boston might be with a little upkeep.

Owl Maker led off and were not entirely unknown to me, having checked out their March 2018 EP, Paths of the Slain (review here), Owl Maker (Photo JJ Koczan)from which they played a couple songs including “Freya’s Chariot” and “99.” Led by guitarist/vocalist Simon Tuozzoli, also of Vestal Claret and UP Recording Studio, the trio was completed by the punch of Jessie May‘s bass and the metallic-style drumming of Chris Anderson.

Deadpan humor and NWOBHM-inspired riffing — also a more direct line, with a cover of Iron Maiden‘s “Wrathchild” — ensued, and he had a few good ones, but I think my favorite song intro from Tuozzoli might’ve been, in full metal voice, “This song is one less than 100. This is ’99’!” Good fun. Formed in 2016, they’re still feeling out where they want to be sonically, but their pursuit of that is well-directed and they played 33 Golden with a solid idea of who they are as a band and how they want to get where they’re going. They have a new collection on Bandcamp called Summer Singles and I’ll look forward to hearing what they do next.

A couple familiar faces in the trio Set Fire, who played next. Three, actually. Drummer Rob Davol was a bandmate of guitarist/vocalist Jim Healey‘s in the trio Shatner and used to play in drunken rockers Cocked ‘n’ LoadedHealey of course featured in Black Thai and We’re all Gonna Die in addition to Shatner and various others along with his resonant singer-songwriter solo work. And keyboardist/synthesist Jess Collins used to play in Mellow Bravo, so all three members have significant roots in Boston’s fertile if insular rock underground. Along with the bands, Healey also helps put together the Grub, Sweat and Beers festival, which was held this weekend, and which Set Fire and Backwoods Payback would both play the night after this show.

Got all that? Despite their incendiary moniker, which to my mind

Set Fire (Photo JJ Koczan)

seems to foretell harsher noise rock, Set Fire‘s style is dug deep into classic straightforward heavy, shades of Soundgarden — the second cover of the night there, in homage to Chris Cornell — and other ’90s acts coming through as filtered through the distinctive vocals of Healey and Collins, either of whom could easily front a band on their own. Together, they make Set Fire a melodic powerhouse, and Collins‘ keys and Korg and Healey‘s double-neck guitar filled out the space a bassist might otherwise occupy such that there was no loss of presence either in the low end or on stage in general. They were encouraging to watch and clearly enjoyed the collaboration between the three of them. I did likewise.

I’ve all but stopped wearing a watch, so my sense of time isn’t what it used to be, but I know it definitely wasn’t early when Backwoods Payback took the stage. Maybe 12:30? Something like that. The West Chester, Pennsylvania, three-piece are absolutely locked in. Brutally locked in. More locked in than they know, and they know they’re locked in. And a band like that, you want to see as much as you can. So while it’s been mere weeks, I knew I wanted to catch them at this gig. They’d had van trouble leaving Long Island after the show the night Backwoods Payback (Photo JJ Koczan)before and managed to catch the last ferry across the Long Island Sound to New London, so perhaps guitarist/vocalist Mike Cummings, bassist Jessica Baker and drummer Erik Larson were a bit harried, but though they brought the culprit component on stage with them and at one point hoisted it like a slain beast to show the room, tubes flailing this way and that, their actual performance didn’t suffer in the slightest.

The highlight was the short, grunge-derived roll of “Big Enough” from Future Slum, but anytime Backwoods Payback want to show up and play “You Don’t Move” from 2016’s Fire Not Reason (review here), you won’t hear me complain. Air tight and still dangerous, their dirt rock aesthetic has matured but is especially propulsive with Larson behind the kit, each player challenging the others to play better, be stronger on stage. The result is a kind of torrent that’s weighted emotionally as well as tonally. When it moves fast it absolutely burns, as on “Generals” from the new record, or “Snakes,” which closed out, and when it grooves, as on “Day to Day” or the ultra-catchy “Dirge” from the last album, it holds a tension and a nod that seems ready to break out at any second. They’re in utter control, however, and as much as Fire Not Reason showed the force of this Backwoods Payback (Photo JJ Koczan)lineup, Future Slum shows how remarkably well they can wield that force.

They didn’t start early, so they didn’t finish early either — funny how that works — but the ride home wasn’t nearly as bad as some I’ve had in my time, and the show was easily worth giving up a bit of my otherwise rigid schedule to see. I didn’t even wake up the baby when I got in, so bonus. Great night all the way around, from arriving at the venue for the (overdue) first time to hanging out after, and one all the more worth appreciating for the infrequency of its caliber.

More pics after the jump. Thanks for reading.

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Bedroom Rehab Corporation, Fortunate Some: Everything Looks Like Nails

Posted in Reviews on December 3rd, 2015 by JJ Koczan

bedroom-rehab-corporation-fortunate-some

First time I saw Connecticut duo Bedroom Rehab Corporation was Summer 2014. That doesn’t seem like that long ago, but it was far enough removed from 2013, when the New London bass/drum outfit released their debut full-length, Red over Red (review here), that I knew their next release was going to be one to watch for. Fortunate Some is a four-song EP, and on every level it is a step forward from the preceding release. In terms of the performances throughout of bassist/vocalist/pedal-board-wrangler Adam Wujtewicz and drummer and other noisemaker Meghan Killimade, most definitely.

I won’t discount the value of that album, because I enjoyed it plenty at the time and those songs continue to hold up live, but in the last two years Bedroom Rehab Corporation have clearly gained a firmer grasp on their sound, on the kind of band they want to be, on the atmospheres they want to convey and on the force with which they want to convey them. The fact that they returned to producer Justin Pizzoferrato, who also helmed Red over Red, and tracked at the same studio — Sonelab, in Easthampton, Massachusetts — only further conveys the progression they’ve made sound-wise. And in terms of presentation, Fortunate Some arrives as a pro-pressed 180g 12″ vinyl in gorgeous purple and gray swirl to match the Liz Walshak (Sea, ex-Rozamov) artwork’s weighted vibe. I like a CD as much as the next guy — probably more — but the uptick in professionalism all around is noteworthy, and since it comes coupled with the best songwriting Bedroom Rehab Corporation have yet proffered, it’s all the more welcome.

Aggression is a central factor in the band’s approach. Wujtewicz is a comfortable shouter, and slides easily into a post-Melvins gruffness that was raw the last time out, but is smartly mixed from the get-go here on opener “Riddles of Wind and Time,” pushed further back in the chorus of an already deep-running mix so that the bass tone around it sounds even larger. Couple that with an increased confidence in cleaner singing for the verses and “Riddles of Wind and Time” is barely past the minute-mark before it has effectively showcased some major elements of Bedroom Rehab Corporation‘s advancement. Killimade‘s drumming holds a tension efficiently via hi-hat in the verse and opens into crashing choruses, her snare punctuating the flood of fuzz as it cuts through, and the two move seamlessly into a fluid bridge before returning to the verse and riding the groove outward. Their propensity for roll was something Red over Red established well, but in keeping with the theme, they’ve upped their game there too. The catchiest hook of the four songs, “When all You’ve Got is a Hammer” opens likewise fuzzy and sets into an almost immediate nod.

bedroom rehab corporation (Photo by Sheree Sirpenski)

Structurally, it’s not all that different from the opener, with a quiet verse over a spacious foundation contrasted by a more intense, shouting chorus, but the difference is in the impression left by Wujtewicz‘s delivery of the lines, “When all you’ve got is a hammer/It becomes all you need/All I’ve got is this hammer/Everything looks like nails to me.” That chorus becomes a prevailing impression for Fortunate Some, ending side A with a fullness, thickness and meanness that builds on what the debut accomplished without casting the prior release entirely away. At over seven minutes, there’s room to explore, and the second half features a wash of noise that takes the spot a guitar solo might otherwise occupy, but here as well, Killimade and Wujtewicz skillfully make their way back into the chorus to finish.

Side B is immediately more ambient and/or noisy, but “Giants in the Ice” is ultimately more about a buzzing, rolling groove than experimental underpinnings, and it has that well in hand. Departing the back and forth of the first two tracks, “Giants in the Ice” is more linear in its energy, more consistent, but it does shift in its midsection to a quiet moment before surging ahead with more richly-toned fuzz, and Wujtewicz saves some especially vicious shouts for the end. That leaves only “The Serpent the Smiler” on the short release, and it’s the longest (8:28) and most ambitious inclusion on Fortunate Some, very much led by Killimade‘s tom work, which emerges over a bed of subdued noise and feedback only to be joined by the bassline shortly in a kind of not-quite-post-metal push (and better for that “not-quite”) of a verse that comes topped with cleaner vocals as the start of a build that will take Bedroom Rehab Corporation through the remainder of the runtime, that sense of atmosphere never lost on the patient, engaging but still near-manic thrust.

The release comes with a notification that, “There are no guitars or keyboards on this album!” and “The Serpent the Smiler” could easily be why, as the bass is pumped through whatever effect might make it sound like an organ in the chorus before a shift after six minutes to feedback introduces the progression on which Wujtewicz and Killimade will march out, a kind of instrumental hook, faster and almost low-end squibbly but infectious all the same. It is matched to a verse, Killimade swapping out cymbals all the while, and in kind with “Giants in the Ice,” it finishes intense, this time in pacing as well as vocals. The symmetry of the EP I suppose is another aspect one could look at as evidence of how far Bedroom Rehab Corporation have come in two years (they started in 2008, restarted in 2011, but still, thinking of the time since the debut’s release), but if anything, it’s a symptom of the larger refinement of focus on display across the board with Fortunate Some, which seems to build even as it tears down.

Bedroom Rehab Corporation, Fortunate Some (2015)

Bedroom Rehab Corporation on Thee Facebooks

Preorder Fortunate Some on Bandcamp

Bedroom Rehab Corporation on Twitter

Bedroom Rehab Corporation on Instagram

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Bedroom Rehab Corporation Finish Recording New Album

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 12th, 2015 by JJ Koczan

bedroom rehab corporation

A mastering process still lay ahead of them, but Connecticut duo Bedroom Rehab Corporation have completed recording their second album, Fortunate Some. Bassist/vocalist Adam Wujtewicz and drummer Meghan Killimade will release it sometime later this year either on their own or through a yet-to-be-announced label, and I guess that’s not really the news, since it’s not like they’d make the album and then not let anyone hear it — snatch it back all like “no way it’s ours!” — but the fact that they’re done tracking it is the part you’re supposed to focus on. Their 2013 debut, Red Over Red (review here), impressed with its variety and impact, but where the two-piece have continued to shine is on stage, so I’m interested to hear how they’ve translated their live ferocity to the upcoming Justin Pizzoferrato-recorded long-player.

They posted a couple studio updates during their time making Fortunate Some, the rest of which you can view at their website and the last of which follows here:

bedroom rehab corporation fortunate some

Studio Day 4

I couldn’t write about day 4 on day 4 because i was driving home and settling back in but as I listened to our reference mixes in my car last night or now on my home stereo I’m starting to realize what we’ve done. We spent all of day 4 mixing, re-amping and applying effects but mostly listening. When you’re critically listening like that you don’t get to take in the whole picture. Having now had time to do that it is apparent truly how far we have come since Red Over Red.

While we still love those songs and that album, Fortunate Some will be more than a step forward… it’s a short sprint ahead of Red Over Red. Needless to say Justin is a hugely responsible for this. The notes and suggestions he gave us as well as his ability to mic a room and mix sounds to make them more than a sum of their inputs has made this album so much bigger and better. Not only was he willing to let us get weird when we felt the need but he encouraged it and nurtured our weirdness and helped translate it to sound. So thank you Justin, you have once again made recording an enjoyable and enriching experience.

I’m not exactly sure what else to say here. The recording process is complete and mastering wil be taking place in around 3 weeks once again with Carl Saff. We still have to figure out art and things so don’t hold your breath but rest assured we are going to continue to work to get this album out to you. Be prepared for weirdness and some singing and a whole bunch of heavy and did I mention weirdness? Thanks for reading, keep your eyes peeled for more updates as they happen.

http://www.bedroomrehabcorp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/BedroomRehabCorporation
http://bedroomrehabcorporation.bandcamp.com/

Bedroom Rehab Corporation, Red Over Red (2013)

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Live Review: Clamfight and Thee Nosebleeds in Connecticut, 09.27.13

Posted in Reviews on September 30th, 2013 by JJ Koczan

I was on my way back north after seeing Vista Chino in New York the night before, embroiled in an all-too-familiar stretch of I-95. I’d left New Jersey following dinner with my mother and grandmother just past 8PM, and was hitting the 70s exits on the highway well after 10. It was right around then that my brain — clever devil — remembered Maple Forum alums Clamfight had a show in New London at The El ‘n’ Gee as the first of two nights they were doing with Philly rockers Thee Nosebleeds. New London is exit 83 headed northbound on I-95, and I remembered from Stoner Hands of Doom last year that The El ‘n’ Gee is about five minutes off the highway. I called Clamfight drummer/vocalist Andy Martin to ask him if they’d played yet. They hadn’t. Thee Nosebleeds were just going on. It looked like I’d make it.

Indeed, Thee Nosebleeds were on stage when I rolled into the club, hurried and haggard and my blood that specific kind of tense that comes from sitting in the car for a couple hours. At the door, I had to pay two dollars of the eight-dollar cover in quarters because I didn’t have that many singles, but it wouldn’t have made much difference in how much of Thee Nosebleeds I caught anyway. They were well into their set by the time I got there. In my experience, they’re a raw joy to watch once they’re warmed up, and that proved to be the case at The El ‘n’ Gee as well. The show wasn’t crowded, and there were four bands on the bill, but though my timing wasn’t perfect, I probably couldn’t have planned it better if I tried. Thee Nosebleeds are an underrated rager of a band. They don’t get out of Philly much — for that matter, neither do Clamfight; or at least not enough — but in the couple times I’ve seen them, they’ve impressed. I was glad I made it in time to catch their shots-of-something-brown toast at the end of “Crackula.” It was apparently the rhythm section’s birthday. Right on.

The two acts have done more shows together than I think either could be bothered to count — toss in Wizard Eye and you’ve rounded out a three-band bill of dude-on-dude appreciation whose match you’re not likely to find in that City of Bro’ly Love — but it was good to see as they heckled each other that the spark hasn’t gone out. Them Clams loaded onto the stage quickly and proceeded to play their first gig in several months, Martin having taken the summer off to embark on an archaeological dig in Scotland. Yes, that’s true. Rejoined with guitarists Sean McKee and Joel Harris and bassist Louis KobleClamfight proved as riotous as ever on the large stage of The El ‘n’ Gee, the sound echoing off the back walls of that cavernous space and creating an even more vicious wash of noise and distortion to go along with their heavy riffing through “Mountain” and “Sand Riders” from earlier-2013’s I vs. the Glacier. Even with Martin‘s ride cymbal winding up broken and looking like Cookie Monster took a bite out of it, they were plenty, plenty loud.

New song “Block Ship” was aired with its insistently nodding groove, and I vs. the Glacier finale “Stealing the Ghost Horse” was given an extended and classically rocking instrumental intro that brought a whole new feel to the track and gave McKee a chance to show off some of his growth as a lead player, able to affect swagger as much as belt out burly, chugging riffage. Dipping back to 2010’s aptly-titled debut full-length, Volume I, they broke out “Ghosts I Have Known,” with Martin pushing into cleaner singing as called for, but ultimately it was the hyper-aggro “Rabbit” that finished out the set, shouted out by Martin (ever the gentleman) to yours truly. That song goes a long way to portraying the central penchant for groove that makes Clamfight such a special act, and it’s interesting that it endures in their live sets where more immediate cuts like “Fuck Bulldozers” and “Viking Funeral” have been put to rest. I’m sure it doesn’t hurt the cause that it looks like they’re having so much fun playing it.

Empty Vessels were still to come in finishing out the night, but it was getting on midnight and I still had about two hours to go on my trip back to Massachusetts, so I rushed back to the car and back to I-95. As far as driving breaks go, however, I certainly won’t complain. I should be so lucky to have such satisfying detours every time I make that journey. Between this show and Vista Chino the prior evening, I had seen a lot of really good people in a short span of time and it was nice to be reminded that just because you leave a place doesn’t mean you don’t still have friends there.

More pics after the jump. Thanks for reading.

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The Obelisk Radio Add of the Week: Bedroom Rehab Corporation, Red Over Red

Posted in Radio on June 5th, 2013 by JJ Koczan

Some bands who take on a seafaring thematic prefer to embroil listeners in a tidal sway of overwhelming tone. Most, in fact. For New London, Connecticut, bass/drum duo Bedroom Rehab Corporation, however, the idea is different. The twosome’s self-released full-length debut, Red over Red, offers a more sonically diverse attack, far less beholden to genre and more driven by a nascent, still-coalescing individualized sensibility.

Take, for example, “S.O.S. (Son of Siren),” as it departs from the full-toned heavy rock push of the preceding “Basilosaurus” in favor of an ambient, wandering build that only gives some hint of the kick-in to come for how held together it is by drummer Meghan Killimade. Joined in the band by bassist/vocalist Adam Wujtewicz, Killimade proves no less able than her counterpart to affect a change in atmosphere across the course of the album. Whether it’s the repurposed Zeppelin stomp of “Caught in the Bite”‘s open-room feel or the ’90s-style crunch of the subsequent “Splice the Main Brace,” Red over Red works in a vaster array of colors than its title might indicate.

Recorded, mixed and mastered by Justin Pizzoferrato (Elder, Black Pyramid, Dinosaur Jr.), it’s still very much a first album, and one expects that through future songwriting the band’s sound will continue to build its cohesion from many of the elements cast out in this material, but even so, Bedroom Rehab Corporation construct a flow befitting their theme over the course of these 12 tracks that take listeners from “Low Tide” to “High Tide,” and the variety within winds up being one of the core appeals.

It’s with the thinking that someone might stumble on one of the cuts in the playlist and want to investigate further that I decided to make Bedroom Rehab Corporation the Add of the Week for The Obelisk Radio, though of course if you’re not feeling quite that spontaneous, you can just check Red over Red out on the player below, snagged from their Bandcamp page:

Bedroom Rehab Corporation, Red over Red (2013)

Bedroom Rehab Corporation’s website

Bedroom Rehab Corporation on Bandcamp

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Total Coverage: Stoner Hands of Doom XII (Day Three)

Posted in Features on September 1st, 2012 by JJ Koczan

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.

Akris

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.

Eerie

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.

Stasis

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-ache full-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.

Black Cowgirl


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.

Beelzefuzz

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.

Orodruin

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 Doom demo/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.

Admiral Browning

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.

Earthen Grave


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.

Pale Divine

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.

The Skull

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.

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Total Coverage: Stoner Hands of Doom XII (Night One)

Posted in Features on August 31st, 2012 by JJ Koczan

The ride to New London wasn’t bad. No real traffic or anything, but my stomach was tense with GPS jitters, riding up what seemed to me like the nether regions of I-95 in the state, deciduous trees hanging like a claustrophobic ceiling over the roadway. It was the first time I’d made the trip. I didn’t want to get lost, I didn’t want to delay. I expect by the time this weekend is out, I’ll be much more familiar with the route.

My soundtrack on the way there was the self-titled release from Ice Dragon side-project Tentacle, which was fitting, because like that band, everyone who played the opening night of SHoD XII tonight was from Massachusetts. Six bands. I’d have to check my official rulebook on the matter, but I think that might constitute a “takeover.” Fortunately, our Sox-worshiping overlords were benevolent and generous of riff.

On that subject, I don’t think I’ve ever been to a show in Connecticut that someone didn’t ask from the stage whether the audience were Yankees fans or Red Sox fans. As I stood and watched Rozamov‘s guitarist do so tonight, it dawned on me just how badly this state needs its own team. It wouldn’t be a problem anymore, though it was interesting to hear a few shouts of “Pirates!” from the back of the El ‘n’ Gee club, over in the bar area.

Well, that’s as good a segue as I’ve got, so let’s get to it. Here’s how it all went down:

Rozamov

In the end, I had no choice but to buy Boston rockers Rozamov‘s CD, because I couldn’t get it straight whether they were Rozamov (rhymes with “hose ’em off”) or Romazov (as in, “Rome is off, we’re not going”). Principally, they were young. Their first song had no shortage of post-High on Fire gallop, and the two-guitar four-piece only got more complex from there, adding some post-metal and sludge to the mix before rounding out with a song that, well, if it wasn’t “Blood From Zion,” it was darn close. The drummer looked bored, and yeah, they did inquire as to the crowd’s baseball allegiance, but they were young and figuring out what they want to do as a band, so I’m not about to rip into them for not being Sleep. They’re figuring it out. And their CDs were five bucks, so they were doing something right for sure.

Birch Hill Dam

Fact of the matter is I can’t even see this band’s name without thinking of the old Birch Hill nightclub in Jersey, which is bittersweet for all the shitty metal I watched there over the years. Speaking of metal, Birch Hill Dam‘s bassist (above) was most certainly that, with a Bonded by Blood shirt and five-string bass with those red strings that I keep hearing the kids talk about. To contrast, their guitarist wore a classic Unida shirt. I used to have the same one about 100 years and 100 pounds ago. His attire was more in line with the band’s sound for sure than the Exodus duds — nothing against the Bay Area thrashers. Birch Hill Dam released their slickly-produced Colossus album last year (video here), but live they sounded so much like Kyuss that I literally stood there and said, “Damn this sounds like Kyuss.” I’ll give them points for honesty in covering “Green Machine,” paying homage to the deserts of Fitchburg, Massachusetts. Whatever dude, I’ll take it, and singer Mike Nygard had his John Garcia working in full force. They had one false start, but were a pro job otherwise, complete with their album cover airbrushed onto screens in front of their amps. You know a band means business when they start in with that stuff.

Raw Radar War

I got to meet vocalist Jonah Jenkins before his band played and told him I vaguely remembered seeing Milligram at Solace guitarist Tommy Southard‘s wedding. He was as gracious about that as Raw Radar War was intense in their set, bringing out the kind of unfriendly, this-isn’t-a-joke-to-us pissed off fuckall that is a mark of their generation of hardcore and all but forgotten among the proverbial “kids these days.” Owning the stage in the process, Jenkins (who’s a bit of a New England legend) moved fluidly between cleaner shouts and Obituary-esque screams and the band behind him turned on a dime from D-beat sub-grind to chugging doom, but honestly, even the slow parts sounded fast, as intensely as they were played. Three bands and three Cottrell beers (a local ale the high alcohol content of which I was duly warned) in, I was feeling good about the prospects for the weekend. I didn’t drink any more than the three, but with three more bands still to go on the night, SHoD felt like it was really getting going, and Raw Radar War were a wake-up call of the kind of anger that dares you to match it, which of course, you can’t. I make no secret of the fact that I’m not a big hardcore guy, but I hadn’t heard Raw Radar War since their split with Deer Creek, and I was glad to encounter them again. Some shit just sounds mean.

Ichabod

The only other time I’d ever been to the El ‘n’ Gee was a show on a weekender tour with these Bostonian doomers. That was three years ago now, almost to the day. Ichabod were heralding the release of their still underrated 2012 full-length (review here), and the actual 2012 finds them a different band entirely, with second guitarist Jason Adam joining alongside founding six-stringer Dave Iverson and new vocalist John Fadden starting off the set with a quiet tension that soon paid off in a barrage of face-melting screams. Fadden, who had a persona to match his throat, cracked jokes from the stage, but Ichabod was deadly serious as they ran through material from their upcoming album, Dreamscapes from Dead Space.  “Huckleberry,” if I’ve got the title correct, was a highlight. They’ve always straddled various genre lines — stoner, doom, post-hardcore, post-metal — but as tight as they were, categories hardly figured into it as much as the crunch of tone and righteousness of riff. Bassist Greg Dellaria boasted the night’s only flying-V bass, and early into their set, one of the guitarists from Raw Radar War made his way to the front of the stage with five tallboy beers, because whatever else you can say about the city, Boston takes care of its own. That said, hopefully Ichabod get to do a few shows out of town once the new record drops. They deserve to be seen by as many people as possible.

Black Thai

Black Thai need to put an album out. The four-piece of guitarist/vocalist Jim Healey (We’re all Gonna Die), guitarist Scott O’Dowd (Cortez), intense bassist Cory Cocomazzi and drummer Jeremy Hemond (Roadsaw, Cortez) are too tight and too solid a band not to do it. So, uh, get on it, I guess. Hemond was the only drummer of the night to play on his own kit, setting up his Vistalites and high cymbals before they went on. Might as well, I guess, if you’re closing out the night in the last two bands and it’s not like anyone’s going on after you. I had a hard time believing it had been more than a year and a half since I saw Black Thai at Hank’s Saloon in Brooklyn, but the numbers don’t lie. On a stage roughly five times the size of that at Hank’s, the riff metal foursome tore through three of the songs from their Blood from on High EP (review here) and left room for a couple new songs as well, culminating in a progressively building churn of distorted crunch that made for a perfect ending to their set. Healey‘s vocals were a little rough — reportedly he was under the weather — but Black Thai is in Philly tonight and Boston tomorrow with Borracho, One Inch Giant and Fire Faithful. If you can see them at any point, it’s worth taking advantage of the opportunity. They’re even more in command of their sound now than they were when last our paths crossed, and with just Roadsaw to go, it seemed like the first night of SHoD was a success.

Roadsaw


So this is the part where the roof caves in and the crowd, sparse though it was by the end of the night, is crushed to death, myself included? Nah. Things ended no less smoothly than they’d ran all night. Thinking of prior shows, the last time I ran into the dudes from Roadsaw was at Desertfest in London. The El ‘n’ Gee wasn’t nearly so crowded as the Underworld had been, but the four-piece made the best of it anyway, Hemond making Popeye faces as he rounded out his double-duty on drums, Tim Catz holding together even the most ranging of jams which were surprise inclusions later into the set, guitarist Ian Ross leading those jams with both class and improvisational prowess, and vocalist Craig Riggs whirling his duct-taped microphone around him and running from one side of the stage to the other in his usual madman’s form. “Long in the Tooth,” “Thinking of Me” and “Weight in Gold” from the self-titled were highlights, but it was the later jams that really made it, as it’s not something you’d necessarily expect from Roadsaw at this point, who are so bolstered by the strength of their choruses and of their songwriting in general. Maybe they were just fucking around, but it was still cool. Ross killed it, and they showed by they’re the band to call if you’re looking for someone to close out a night of Massachusetts heavy. Riggs had forgotten the merch, so they didn’t have anything to sell (they laughed about it on stage), but whatever. It was good times anyway and Roadsaw did right by the fest closing out night one. It was apparently also the first time they’d ever played Connecticut in their 19 years as a band. Another notch in their belt.

It was nigh on one in the morning by the time I got back to where I’m staying, and I had a headlight out, so I was making the trip half-blind, which only made me gladder I’d limited my beer intake. Let’s see: Holiday weekend, out of state plates, one headlight. Uh, sir, I’m gonna have to ask you to step out of the car. No thanks. Today I’ll get that headlight replaced and I’ve got some work and other running around to do before I head back to the El ‘n’ Gee, but Stoner Hands of Doom XII is off to a cool start, and with When the Deadbolt Breaks, Wizard Eye, John Wilkes BoothFaces of BayonLord Fowl, Revelation and Pilgrim to come tonight, things are only going to get louder from here. I’ll take it.

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Here’s the Day-by-Day Lineup Breakdown for SHoD XII

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 22nd, 2012 by JJ Koczan

Not to get all New England about it or anything, but the lineup for this year’s Stoner Hands of Doom is wicked pissah. Having moved from its home in Frederick, Maryland, to the unfamiliar climes of the El ‘n’ Gee in New London, Connecticut, SHoD XII has grown into a massive four-day event featuring some of the best in doom, sludge and stoner that the Eastern Seaboard and beyond has to offer.

I was looking through the lineup yesterday, basically killing time while fantasizing about being somewhere other than at work, and looky looky what I saw on the SHoD site as well — an Obelisk logo! Turns out I’m kinda, sorta, a little bit helping maybe almost present the fest in some small way — apparently enough to get my logo on the page — and I’ll be having much more about it as we get closer, of course leading up to notes and pics from the fest when it takes place over Labor Day weekend.

Check out the day-by-day breakdown on the poster below:

This is a monster fucking fest. From SHoD veterans like Negative Reaction, Akris, Iron Man and Earthride, but though I know I’ve said it before, what really excites me about SHoD XII is how it branches out from it’s Maryland and Doom Capitol roots to bring in outsiders like Roadsaw, Elder, Black Pyramid. Both Connecticut acts, Curse the Son and Stone Titan were a thrill at the CT Fuzz Fest last summer, and When the Deadbolt Breaks have a new bassist and I hear they’re at their most crushing yet, so it’ll be great to catch them alongside bands like Borracho, Fire Faithful, and way-out-of-towners like Kin of Ettins, The Skull, Pilgrim and Gypsy Chief Goliath.

Way stoked all around, and I’ll have much more as we get closer to Labor Day. Can’t wait.

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