Live Review: Reign of Zaius and Gasoline Therapy in Massachusetts, 07.31.15

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

Reign of Zaius (Photo by JJ Koczan)

It had been just over two months since I last saw a show. Two months. I cannot remember the last time I actually let it go that long. Combination of things: Frustration with local venues, fatigue from going back to work, wanting to spend what time I have with Us History Regents Essay Help - Instead of worrying about essay writing get the needed assistance here Essays & researches written by professional writers. Use this The Patient Mrs., seeing family and so on. I’ll be honest and say I barely had this one in me, but after work Friday, I was heading to Connecticut and a loop through Worcester to catch Brooklyn’s We provide Ant Colony Optimization Phd Thesis for almost all individuals. We cater to professionals, politicians, and individuals who want to deliver effective Reign of Zaius worked out enough timing-wise that I felt like I could make it happen. I was sort of right.

Gasoline Therapy (Photo by JJ Koczan)I know I’ve said this before, but go now Term papers are normally written at the end of a semester in case of a student, or at the end of a course in case of an academic Ralph’s Rock Diner is a fucking treasure. Best venue I’ve been to in the state of Massachusetts, and that includes every single room of comparable size in Boston. Great sound, great lights, great vibe, good stage. It’s a comfortable, creative space that doesn’t feel like it was set up in 1992 and left for dead, as do so, so, so many other places. The town of Worcester itself? Not so great, but Round-the-clock http://www.cleode.fr/en/?written-term-paper is at SameDayEssay.com. Order top-quality paper by our experts. Look at the samples to be assured of our professionalism Ralph’s is where it’s at. Not many people know it, but I was glad to see a few heads hanging around the show, at least drinking and spending money if not actually upstairs checking out the bands.

There were four on the bill. Looking for Essay homework help? Our competent essay writers offer essay help that remove your all worries. Get discount on all orders! Insano Vision and Hire essay writers online from the best Do Politics And Religion Mix Essay company! Special November Discount. Price starts at per page! Limited October Offer! King Bison, from Connecticut and Pennsylvania, respectively, Paid essay writing jobs available right now. You can get this website and earn up to 00 monthly working from home! Reign of Zaius and CT’s Welcome to leading platform of paper writing services. Get term paper, essay writing help, dissertation writing and all kind of check it outs. Gasoline Therapy, who opened sometime shortly after 9:30PM, the room still mostly empty save for the other bands, myself and a few others. They played a familiar kind of melodically-conscious heavy rock, the sort that continues to populate New England in a post- Are you seeking best Dissertation On Leadership And Management in the UK, so that you can write a custom coursework solution to submit to your college or university? We Milligram/ essay writing process Dissertation Writing For Payment Help Uk dissertation medizin lmu custom writing industry Roadsaw wave and a sound to which Get a whopping 20% (FIRST TIMER'S) Discount when you order our write my essay for me service. http://moroz-spb.ru/?argumentive-essay-ideas with an authentic UK essay writing service in 2017. Cortez and a few others have managed to bring an individual edge to go with the catchy songwriting that is a staple of the genre. A dual-guitar approach and standalone vocals showcased Gasoline Therapy (Photo by JJ Koczan)roots between punk and metal, but the overall affect was unpretentious and not really looking for anything other than a good time.

Whether or not they got it, I’m not sure, since they looked kind of bummed out about the lack of crowd, but they played well anyway, the title-track from their upcoming Thesis Service Deliverys provides you the best in class, plagiarism free and value for money essay at your convenient time from expert essay writers. Judas Goat full-length appearing late in the set before “Consumed” closed out, kind of balancing a moody atmosphere on top of more straightforward rhythms. It was a nice night, so I cut outside when they were done and as We find more infos that help you make the best out of your time. We are not saying that knowing where to find the best essay writer and reliable service Reign of Zaius loaded onto the stage to sit in the open air for a while. The venue was playing Our Lord Of The Flies Essays Law Orderer is considered the best online service in US,UK and Australia. So,stop searching help my college assignment and hire Sabbath and people talking about other people they know and whatever else — things from which I’d likely have felt distant even if I hadn’t kept my earplugs in — but it looked like a good time anyway in the way that always does if you can actually hold down a conversation with somebody. Not a skill I have. When it was time, I sort of lumbered my way back upstairs to the big room to watch Introducing The Number One visit Service. At eWritingService.com, we pride ourselves in offering the highest quality research paper Reign of Zaius.

Just earlier in the day, I had checked out their new single “Power Hitter,” that marks their first recorded output with vocalist Leon Chase fronting the band. It had been well over two years since I last saw them play, so it would also be the first time I’d caught them with guitarist Mike O’Neil alongside bassist Davis and drummer Brian Neri. They had, perhaps unsurprisingly, much more than one song to offer, though “Power Hitter” was aired as well. This was the second night in a weekender trip, following a gig the night before at Bar Matchless in their native borough and to be followed by a stop at 33 Golden St. in Reign of Zaius (Photo by JJ Koczan)New London, CT, where Gasoline Therapy would also play.

As I watched them get started, I couldn’t help but wonder how Neri managed to put together a “Rowdy” Roddy Piper outfit so quickly. I’d only seen news of the former pro-wrestler’s death that afternoon, and I know only too well that it’s at least a four-hour trip from New York to Worcester, so let’s say they got there around eight to load in, they probably would’ve left Brooklyn at 4PM, maybe, what, an hour or two after the news broke? Did Neri just happen to have a kilt and sleeveless “Hot Rod” t-shirt laying around? Entirely possible, I suppose, since the foursome would also pay the fallen Piper homage with the song “They Live,” taking the “consume” and “obey” that appear in block letters in the 1988 John Carpenter illuminati masterpiece of the same name and turning them into a punker’s chorus, Davis shouting into his own mic to back up the wide-eyed Chase, who also managed to work a reference to sunglasses into the verse.

Fair enough. Reign of Zaius were still fairly raw in their presentation, Chase pacing back and forth and jerking his head this way and that while keeping an unnerving and unblinking stare over the reign of zaius 3 (Photo by JJ Koczan)audience. They Live would not be the only referential material either, as “This Man this Monster” was announced as being about the Fantastic Four and finale “A Farewell to Arms” was a clever take on 1987’s Evil Dead 2, complete with repetitions of “I’ll swallow your soul” and mentions by name for both Henrietta and Linda. Clearly the late ’80s was a pivotal cinematic time for somebody in Reign of Zaius, though by then the Planet of the Apes franchise from which they actually take their moniker and, presumably the thematic content for set-opener “Heston,” was long over. Until the remake, reboot, etc.

I’ll continue to keep an eye out for new stuff from them — one assumes “Power Hitter” won’t be their only recorded output, and though there were still two bands to come on the bill, I had to cut out and head south, so I made my way out past the assembled sorts outside and was gone on the quick, as though if I walked faster I-395 wouldn’t be under nighttime construction. At least I had plenty of time to appreciate the blue moon.

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Live Review: Second Grave, Lord Fowl, Wasted Theory and Birch Hill Dam in Worcester, MA, 04.02.15

Posted in Reviews on April 6th, 2015 by JJ Koczan

second grave 1 (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Ralph’s Rock Diner had the lights on, which has been the case consistently enough to make it far and away my favorite room of its size in the state of Massachusetts. In all seriousness, the place is a godsend. Killer, huge, professionally-run sound that seems to adjust quickly to the strengths of the band playing, a good-size stage with enough room to backline as need be, space to stand, a long bar with seats if you want them, food and a whole other bar downstairs, and lighting enough so that if you want to take a picture of the band you come out with more than a red blur. If it was in Boston, it would embarrass the venues surrounding (likely it wouldn’t have nearly parking space either, but that’s a different story), but tucked away in post-industrial, heroin-plagued Worcester, it’s a secret kept mostly to locals and those passing through on self-booked tours. So it was with Delaware’s Wasted Theory, stopping in with MA natives Second Grave and Birch Hill Dam and bringing up Connecticut firebrands Lord Fowl for a front-to-back four-band bill of the kind that might incite someone like myself to drive the requisite 90 minutes to get there.

Right bands, right place, right time, it was all the makings of a solid night — kind of a mini-Stoned Goat fest, actually — and that’s pretty much how it worked out. Here’s the rundown:

Birch Hill Dam

Birch Hill Dam (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Though they hit with formidable thud either way, Birch Hill Dam are a bit warmer in tone live than on record, and that has proven to make a big difference in the couple of times I’ve caught them at shows. A double-guitar five-piece, they skirt the line between heavy rock and Southern metal, Down-style riffing delivered with Nor’easter aggression, vocalist Mike Nygard tossing in occasional screams to drive the point of a metallic underpinning home as guitarists Sam Barrett and Alex Sepe, bassist Pete Gelles and drummer Matt Neely nail down lockstep nodding grooves. “Defenders of the Cross” and “Balance” from their late-2014 outing, Reservoir, were hard-hitting highlights, but they dipped back to 2011’s Colossus for a run through the title-track and, with a little extra time on their hands, closed out their set with “Boozehound” from their 2009 self-titled debut, a chorus that has been a landmark for them over the years since meeting a culmination that, true to the sense of humor underlying a lot of what they do, ended with a growling “shave and a haircut — two bits.” Charm has, in my experience, always been one of Birch Hill Dam‘s assets, on the list with riffs, songwriting and intensity, and they did well to emphasize all of the above as they kicked off the show.

Wasted Theory

Wasted Theory (Photo by JJ Koczan)

I give credit to Wasted Theory on this one. After apparently sampling one of New England’s myriad existential delicacies — its traffic — the four-piece from Delaware showed up during Birch Hill Dam‘s set, and as they were playing second, had to roll their gear in, set up on the quick and basically go from zero to 100 with little-to-no mental preparation or squaring up. They seemed to catch their breath and hit their stride at once in the second or third song, which was to be expected, guitarists Dave McMahon and Larry Jackson (the latter also vocals), bassist Jonathan Charles and drummer Brendan Burns tapping into a style of heavy that coincided well with what Birch Hill Dam had offered up, cuts like “Hellfire Ritual” from last year’s Death and Taxes (review here) reminding of their blend of boogie and groove. Jackson introduced the band as being from “the Mason-Dixon,” which probably sounds more exciting than “Delaware” so long as you don’t think too hard about what that border actually did, and led the way into another solid hook on “Skeleton Crew,” a bonus track from a forthcoming vinyl release for Death and Taxes, due out May 10. Last I’d seen Wasted Theory was July 2013 in Brooklyn at The Eye of the Stoned Goat 3, organized by Burns, which meant this was the first I’d caught them with their current lineup, McMahon having stepped in on guitar in the interim. The sound at Ralph’s certainly didn’t hurt, but the band itself was fluid onstage even as they were getting their feet under them, and “Black Widow Liquor Run” made as suitable a closer for their set as it did for Death and Taxes. Hell of a way for them to start their three-night weekender with Birch Hill Dam and Lord Fowl, but they made the most of it in the end.

Lord Fowl

Lord Fowl (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Apparently at some point in the last couple years, at some show, Lord Fowl guitarist/vocalist Vechel Jaynes said something to me in passing about having a cold, it wound up in the subsequent review of that gig. Whoops. When he saw me Thursday, it was, “Oh no, I’m not even talking to you,” which is fair. Good to see him and the rest of Lord Fowl — guitarist/vocalist Mike Pellegrino, bassist John Conine and recently-added drummer Mike Petrucci, also of Curse the Son, King of Salem, and so on — anyhow, the band having also hit Ralph’s in May 2014 at day one of The Eye of the Stoned Goat 4 (review here). They always deliver a tight, energetic set, so to have that be the case this time around wasn’t really a surprise, but it was welcome all the same. My understanding is they’re working on new material over the next couple months, piecing together and finalizing songs before they actually get down to recording a follow-up to their excellent 2012 sophomore LP and Small Stone debut, Moon Queen (review here), but in the meantime, they dipped back to throw in “Bird of Good Omen” and opener “Cheetah” from their 2008 debut, Endless Dynamite. Both were right on, again unsurprisingly, but the one-two finale punch of “Quicksand” and “Pluto” from the second album were hard to beat, though when one gets down to talking about a Lord Fowl set, picking highlights is kind of missing the point. The whole thing is the highlight. Sit back and enjoy it. Though they’re still pretty clearly working on tightening the dynamic with Petrucci on drums — they’ll get there and when they do, watch out — Lord Fowl delivered the kind of quality stomp and roll, the brazen hooks and the onstage vitality that has become their hallmark. Seems redundant to say I’m looking forward to their next record, but I am, anyway.

Second Grave

Second Grave (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Since moving to Massachusetts almost two years ago, I’ve managed to see Second Grave three times — this show, day one of last year’s Stoned Goat (review here) and with Elder in Allston (review here) — and this was easily the best of the bunch. Of the four songs they played — “17 Days,” “Death March,” “Bloodletting” and “Afraid of the Dark,” according to the setlist — none to my knowledge has yet appeared on an official release, neither 2012’s self-titled EP (review here) or its 2013 follow-up, Antithesis (review here), and while it was also my first show seeing them with bassist Maureen Murphy (ex-Dimentianon) in place of Dave Gein, the shift in their approach seems more than one member’s difference might cause. Their new material is a little bit faster, yes, but also more cohesive, more integrated in its influences, less morose and switching off between heavy parts and quiet parts and more about rolling, swinging, sludgy grooves. It suited them well and was the most fun I’ve seen guitarist/vocalist Krista Van Guider, guitarist Chris Drzal, and drummer Chuck Ferreira have onstage, and Murphy‘s inclusion into that dynamic was seamless. And they were still very, very heavy. “Death March” lived up to its name, though “Afraid of the Dark” had a march of its own, but built to a rocking groove emblematic of what seemed to be a stylistic shift in progress, Van Guilder continuing to work in a blend of screams and clean vocals with equal command. Their material remained dark, but was less theatrical about it, and as they seemed to be allowing themselves to have a good time, they did. Their four songs was a complete set, and the blend of chugging nod and viciousness seemed to find new life in the new songs. I don’t know what their recording plans might be, but I left Ralph’s newly resolved to keep an eye out for word of whatever they do next.

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Live Review: Faces of Bayon, Clamfight, Wizard Eye, Bedroom Rehab Corporation and Conclave in Massachusetts, 10.18.14

Posted in Reviews on October 20th, 2014 by JJ Koczan

clamfight 1 (Photo by JJ Koczan)

It was madness, I tell you. Utter madness. Madness from which there was no escape, unless you went outside, which if you were me you didn’t want to do. A five-band Saturday night bill at Ralph’s Rock Diner in Worcester with Faces of Bayon — who as I understand it don’t literally run the place, but show up there often enough that one might get that impression — Clamfight and Wizard Eye up from Philly and Conclave, who as they put it were a “new band with the same old guys” opening, it was an evening to settle in and just let the steamroller run you down because, quite frankly, it was going to whether you wanted or not. GwarLife of Agony and a bunch of other bands were playing at The Palladium down the way, and that probably had some impact on the overall draw, but people came upstairs and milled about the venue throughout the night, a birthday party downstairs and balloons with “Over The Hill” on them getting a chuckle out of me on my way by.

Ralph’s at this point I consider to be a pretty well kept secret. I’ve yet to see a band there and not have the sound hold up. The room is open, the ceiling high enough to let amps breathe, the stage is the right height for it. There are stools at the bar if you want to take a load off for a minute, and the lighting — though it can change from band to band — is better than every room I’ve been to in Boston save perhaps for the Middle East Downstairs, which is also a venue that holds at least three times as many people. Were Worcester a more major urban center, Ralph’s is probably the kind of place people from elsewhere would’ve heard of, a spot that could be in league with Brooklyn’s The Acheron if not the Vitus bar, or someplace like Johnny Brenda‘s in Philly, minus the balcony. I dig it, in other words, and enjoy seeing bands there. For being maybe 75 minutes from me where Boston is about an hour and Providence about 45 minutes, I’ve so far found it’s worth the trip.

The flyer said five bucks for five bands. I paid seven as the door and it should’ve cost more than twice that. Here’s how this one went down:

Conclave

conclave 1 (Photo by JJ Koczan)

As I understand it, it was Conclave‘s second show, but true to their “same old guys” declaration, the members of the band have been around. Bassist/vocalist Jerry Orne counts the due-for-a-reunion Warhorse in his pedigree, and guitarist Jeremy Kibort is his bandmate in once-and-again death metallers Desolate. Completed by drummer Dan BlomquistConclave played doom like death metallers often do. Even before you get to harsh vocals or anything like that, you can hear it in the precision of the changes, in some of the angularity of their approach. Blomquist‘s kit and Kibort‘s guitar were a dead giveaway, but for being a new band, they clearly knew their way around a doom riff, and it was easy to get a sense of the balance of harshness and groove they were shooting for, the lack of pretense at the heart of their presentation, and their penchant for periodically working in faster tempo shifts, as on “Walk the Earth (No Longer)” or the set closer “Black Lines,” which seems likely to also feature on their forthcoming debut EP, Breaking Ground. And so they were.

Bedroom Rehab Corporation

bedroom rehab corporation 1 (Photo by JJ Koczan)

I wondered if it had been a month since the last time I saw Connecticut’s Bedroom Rehab Corporation while bassist/vocalist Adam Wujtewicz and drummer Meghan Killimade set up their gear. Yes, it had — just over a month, in fact. Still close enough that they were fresh on the brain, though. Their set had a couple new songs to go with “Basilosaurus” from their Red over Red debut long-player (review here). They’ll record in January, and I’ll look forward to what comes out of that for 2015, but the primary impression in watching them at Ralph’s, which is also where I first saw them over the summer, was much the same, in how completely their live show outclasses their studio material. They’ve got their work cut out for them in translating the energy they bring to the stage — the consuming, noisy sensibility in both of their approaches, the variety of tone and gruff vocals of Wujtewicz — but Justin Pizzoferrato, who also helmed the debut, should be able to capture it with the right balance of rawness and clarity. At Ralph’s, they were playing the second night of an NY/MA weekender with Clamfight and Wizard Eye, and it was clear the company they were keeping was pushing them to give it their all on stage.

Wizard Eye

wizard eye 1 (Photo by JJ Koczan)
Sometimes there’s a band — and I’m talking about Wizard Eye here — and they’re the right band for their time and place. They fit right in there. That was Wizard Eye as the centerpiece act in the lineup of five in Worcester. Their grooves smoother than Bedroom Rehab Corporation, more stoned out than even the newer Clamfight material — give me a minute, I’ll get there — the Philly trio rolled out fuzz and heavy with the assured vibe of seasoned veterans. They’re not a new band, formed in 2007, but with one record out it would be easy to walk into a Wizard Eye set and be surprised at how much they have their shit together on stage. I knew what was coming, but new songs “Flying/Falling,” “Phase Return” and “Drowning Day” set in well with the promise of a follow-up to 2010’s Orbital Rites, from which “C.O.C.,” “Psychonaut” and “Gravebreath” were aired, guitarist/vocalist Erik Caplan trading out guitar solos for theremin, which added noisy edge to the Iommic groove and stoner-because-stoner vibe the three-piece got across. That second album may yet be a little ways off, but from what I’ve heard it’ll be worth the wait.

Clamfight

clamfight 2 (Photo by JJ Koczan)
There are few things I’ll argue with less than watching Clamfight play. Up from Philly and sharing what I’m sure was a mightily dudely van with the Wizard Eye cats, Clamfight were primed to destroy as always, but opening and closing with new songs, they pulled away from the riffy thrash with which I tend to associate them, driving toward a more classic-rocking — and, pivotally, more dynamic — take. I knew they were growing, but they brought into relief just how far their progression was pushing them, or vice versa, and as satisfying as it was to see them tear into the title-track from their second record, I vs. the Glacier, with drummer Andy Martin roaring while lead guitarist Sean McKee tried to shake his cranium loose by headbanging it off while alternately facing and not facing the crowd, guitarist Joel Harris locked into a swaggering kind of waltz and bassist Louis Koble nestled into foundational grooves behind, it was even better to watch them come out from behind all that assault and volume and still have both the performance and songwriting hold up as they branched out. I anxiously await the chance to hear their new stuff properly recorded.

Faces of Bayon

faces of bayon 1 (Photo by JJ Koczan)
It did not seem to me that Faces of Bayon had a particularly easy task in following Clamfight, but ultimately the Fitchburg trio were on such a different wavelength that by the time they were about 30 seconds into their set, it was apples and oranges. It’s been over two years since the last (and first) time I saw guitarist/vocalist Matt Smith, bassist Ron Miles and drummer Mike Lenihan. Smith threatened a second album that night to follow-up 2011’s debut, Heart of the Fire (review here), but one has yet to surface. It wasn’t mentioned at Ralph’s that I heard, but Faces of Bayon‘s blend of stoner and death-doom impulses was a stirring reminder of why I’d been looking forward to such a thing. Riffs came slow and patient, Miles subdued on the right side of the stage while Lenihan throttled his skull-covered drums and Smith — also a former member of Warhorse — gurgled out tales of woe. Some clean singing added Euro-style drama to the proceedings, and they finished with a deathly cover of Pentagram‘s “All Your Sins,” which was shouted out to photographer Hillarie Jason, who had rolled in presumably after the Gwar show ended. By then, it was well past 1AM, but some riffs get better the later they come.

The highways were basically clear on the way home, a couple cops pulling over a couple out-of-state-plate types as I streamed past with “Oh yeah I’ve been there” empathy. Got in a little before 3AM and called it a night on the quick, once again reveling in how overjustified the trip had been.

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Live Review: Kind and Stone Titan in Massachusetts, 08.29.14

Posted in Reviews on September 2nd, 2014 by JJ Koczan

kind photo by jj koczan

It was the lineup for Kind that drew me off the Fabled Couch of Self-Pity™ and out to Worcester on Friday night. A drummer of unstoppable swing in Elder‘s Matt Couto and a bassist of raw metallic power in Rozamov‘s Tom Corino meeting with a tripping-out Darryl Shepard (Black Pyramid, The Scimitar, so many others) on guitar and vocalist Craig Riggs of Roadsaw topping it off? This gig at Ralph’s Rock Diner was their second show — they’ll go down to New York in October on a weekender alongside The Golden Grass — but still, I knew it was something I wanted to see. Turns out I was right.

Kind (Photo by JJ Koczan)I’ve been hearing about Kind since before they had a name, Darryl mentioning to me somewhere along the line that he and Matt had been jamming. Both were excited about the project, and I was particularly interested when the focus seemed to be on effects, psychedelics and really exploring parts and where they might go. I wasn’t sure how Riggs was going to fit in, but figured it was at least worth showing up to see the band in a formative stage. They shared the bill with Connecticut sludgers Stone Titan, Worcester native death thrashers Xatatax and Maine’s Eastern Spell who dealt out doomly punishment to close the night, and though they’re a new act, I was still somewhat surprised when I rolled into Ralph’s — slowly through that dirt parking lot, always — and found they were going on first.

As advertised, the vibe was psychedelic. Shepard‘s guitar was a jam-leading wash right from the start. Song titles were a mystery, but Riggs had jotted down a lyric sheet as a reminder for certain parts, and there was a lot of line repetition and atmospheric vocalizing from him as well, adding to the melody and liberal soloing from Darryl over the more than solid foundation created by Couto and Corino in the rhythm section, the bass adding a few choice runs of its own to the mix. They were louder than the size of their amps Kind (Photo by JJ Koczan)would have indicated, coming through the Ralph’s P.A. — that place has good sound and a guy running it whose passion is obvious — but even more important to me than the volume was the tone, which was organic and full and made lush at times through an assortment of reverb, wah and loops.

In BlackwolfgoatShepard explores a wide range of effects and drones and experiments, but in actual groups, he’s always been a rock player and a rock songwriter. Even Hackman, which had plenty of far-out moments, was hardly a psychedelic band. For his guitar work specifically, Kind seemed to be the marrying of those two sides — loops, echoes, space leads trailing away endlessly meeting with driving riffs and forward movement. Couto, who at any point you might see him seems like he’s just two sticks away from jamming, set a varied pace throughout their set, tempo changes ultimately playing a role in mood as well as songs came to bigger finishes. For his part, Riggs held back the impulse to sing over everything, which is a trap a less experienced vocalist undoubtedly wouldn’t know to avoid, and gave the music plenty of room to develop and move on its own. Like Shepard, he’s more known for straightforward Stone Titan (Photo by JJ Koczan)work — Roadsaw get down to business, live and on record — but he ran his voice through a range of effects and added to the ambience rather than pulled away from it.

Their last jam particularly started out with a softer echoing guitar line that reminded of YOB, but took a different evolutionary course, almost entirely instrumental by the end so that Riggs stood on the side of the stage with a bottle of beer and watched the trio finish it off in grand style. They were clearly still getting established and getting used to each other on stage — Riggs and Shepard used to play together in Roadsaw, but that was a while ago at this point — but what I was able to see from watching them was that they have a pretty clear idea of how open they want their sound to be and that they’re headed in that direction. When they record, it will be interesting to hear how much these jams turn into songs, and more, how much they don’t.

Three summers ago, I saw Stone Titan in Wallingford, Connecticut, opening a varied five-band a lineup dubbed Fuzz Fest (review here), and though they were young, they left an impression withXatatax (Photo by JJ Koczan) their raw take on sludge groove. At Ralph’s, they showed that the time since last I saw them has been put to use defining a more individual sound. There was still some Eyehategod in there, and they had that whole we-play-sludge-so-we-don’t-give-a-fuck-about-anything attitude down pat, but for the most part, their take was meaner, tighter and more cohesive than it had been. Three more years of playing will do that — at least you’d hope so — but I know they’ve had some road time as well over that time and it showed. I’m not sure they’re done growing, but I was impressed with the progression all the same.

Between each band, I went outside to my car. The Patient Mrs. was away for most of last week on one of her I’m-brilliant-so-I-do-awesome-things field trips, and I had brought the little dog Dio with me to the show, knowing she’d rather stay in the car for a couple hours with me checking in than be home alone. Worcester’s own Xatatax were on next, with SET guitarist/vocalist Mountain Jeff on drums, and I knew I wanted to see that, having run into a couple of their songs once at O’Brien’s in Allston. When the went on, they were aggressive and probably way more death metal than I was looking for, but as crisp and sharp as one would hope, with lots of Slayer in the guitars and some slow/fast tradeoffs that deepened the groove.Eastern Spell (Photo by JJ Koczan)

I wound up staying through Xatatax‘s whole set, but cut out during the five-piece Eastern Spell, who were lethal in a metallic sense but still more geared toward doom than Xatatax. They had multiple split 7″ with Maine countrymen Sylvia for sale — or one with multiple covers, maybe — and made a point of bludgeoning with riffs and metal-born aggro style. Mosh doom, I was calling it by the time I started to think about making my way out of Ralph’s. Like Xatatax, they were viciously tight, I just felt like it was time to go. The room still had plenty of heads left in it after I was left.

A bit of an investigative purpose — I wasn’t going so much to rock out as I was to see what Kind actually sounded like — but a solid evening all the same, and I was relieved to find the couch still waiting for us when the little dog and I returned.

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Live Review: Deville, Ichabod, Bedroom Rehab Corporation and Four Speed Fury in MA, 06.12.14

Posted in Reviews on June 13th, 2014 by JJ Koczan

Swedish four-piece Deville had played in Boston on Tuesday night, but having such a favorable impression of Ralph’s Rock Diner in Worcester from this year’s Eye of the Stoned Goat fest, I decided to see them there instead. An extra 40 minutes or so on the road, but they were playing with Ichabod and Connecticut’s Bedroom Rehab Corporation, so I was up for it. Ralph’s runs what it calls “Metal Thursdays” that, from what I’ve seen and been told, are usually way more metal, and some of the crowd at this show had that look. I figured them for Thursday night regulars, playing the safe bet they’d get to show up and see something heavy. Fair enough.

It was a four-act bill, with Hanson-based (which is a town I know because it’s five minutes from me) newcomers Four Speed Fury opening. Fronted by former Ichabod vocalist Kenneth MacKay, it was their third show, second with the same five-piece lineup, so one adjusted expectations accordingly. To their credit, they didn’t say as much from the stage, I heard it in the crowd — bands making excuses is perennially lame, and really, they had nothing to make excuses for. While they were clearly getting their bearings in that post-Milligram/Roadsaw balance of groove and aggression, the band named after a car and suitably motoring, they still presented the beginnings of a solid songwriting process, particularly on “Stranger,” which closed and found them at their most comfortable. Comprised of MacKay, guitarists Robb Lioy and Keith Genest, bassist Bruce Wahl and drummer Shawn McIverthey found room in their set for a take on KISS‘ “God of Thunder” and were a decent start to a night of bruising rock.

Connecticut duo Bedroom Rehab Corporation followed. I recalled the work of bassist/vocalist Adam Wujtewicz and drummer Meghan Killimade from their 2013 full-length Red Over Red (review here), and I had been impressed last year with the variety the duo brought to their recorded output, but frankly, I was caught off guard by how cohesive and commanding they were live. In front of Wujtewicz on stage was a sprawling pedal array that turned his bass — pumped through an Orange Terror Bass head; those things are adorable — into a fuzzed-out echo buzzsaw or a wash of noisy feedback, and the set was impeccably constructed for maximum impact. His dynamic with Killimade impressed, and both players impressed individually as well, Killimade singing along with the songs as she stomped her way through them.

Their grooving instrumental “All Hands” made an excellent centerpiece before the more brooding “S.O.S. (Son of Siren),” and the starts and stops in “No Payment for the Boatman” only underscored how much more tonally creative and full-sounding Bedroom Rehab Corporation were, Wujtewicz showboating a bit on vocals but selling it well. There was a point at which I had to step back and tell myself that if they keep going the way they are in five years they’ll be completely unfuckwithable. Flourishes of Melvins-style weirdness that didn’t come through on the record made them seem all the more volatile, and that only worked in their favor. They’ll play Boston in the fall as well and I expect I’ll look forward to seeing them again.

I’ve seen Ichabod three times now in three months (reviews here and here), so I kind of knew what to expect, but “Baba Yaga” and “Huckleberry” from 2012’s Dreamscapes from Dead Space made an enticing opening salvo, guitarists Dave Iverson and Jason Adam, bassist Greg Dellaria, vocalist John Fadden and drummer Phil MacKay wasting little time in brutalizing the assembled post-burger Ralph’s masses with their riffy extremity and Fadden‘s vicious screams. Any day that dude opens his mouth is “Metal Thursday,” I don’t care if it’s Sunday afternoon. Later into the set, they brought up Ken MacKay — also Phil‘s brother — to guest on “Sleeping Giants,” the opening track from 2009’s 2012, on which he originally sang, and he and Fadden traded parts while the band loosed various furies behind, closing out — fittingly — with the newer “Squall” from the forthcoming Merrimack LP and reserving perhaps their most brutal moment for last, an atmospheric jam providing momentary respite from an onslaught for which my respect only seems to increase.

By then it had already been a long night. It was after midnight as Deville got on stage, but the four-piece came all the way from Malmö to play, and even if they hadn’t crashed with The Patient Mrs. and I the night before, sticking around seemed like the bare minimum effort to make. A big part of why I wanted to see them in Ralph’s was for the good lighting, and I had my “well of course” moment when guitarist/vocalist Andreas Bengtsson asked the sound guy to turn the lights down and put them in red. The full O’Brien’s experience, only further away. Fortunately, Deville‘s set itself was a reminder of how killer professional-grade heavy rock can be, the double-Andreas/double-Markus lineup of Bengtsson , fellow guitarist/backing vocalist Andreas Wulkan, bassist Markus Åkesson and drummer Markus Nilsson building an irresistible momentum as they ran through cuts from their 2013 Small Stone debut, Hydra (review here), like “The Knife,” “Lava” and the savagely catchy “Iron Fed,” all of them weightier in tone live — Wulkan joined the band after Hydra was released as well, so that could be a factor — and delivered with energy that spoke to a genuine sense of performance. They could’ve been on stage at a European festival, from the look of them, and carried themselves just as well.

That level of professionalism, again, can be heard on Hydra, but the active engaging of the crowd and the four-piece’s vigor in conveying the material went a long way. Deville were seven shows into their first US tour, and coming from having an off day on Wednesday, so I expected they’d be pretty tight, but they outdid my expectations with apparent ease, and reminded me of what I dig so much about European heavy rock and particularly Swedish heavy rock: that a band can be so heavy and so raging and still craft a quality song. The largesse of the riff in set-closer “Rise Above” — also the cap to their 2007 debut, Come Heavy Sleep, recently reissued by Heavy Psych Sounds (bought the vinyl) — was among the most satisfying I’ve heard since Wooly Mammoth’s “Mammoth Bones” and they took it for everything it was worth, jamming it out to give the show a huge finish that brought the audience all the way forward and extended even the reissue’s newly-recorded version’s eight-minute runtime.

During that finale, I had a moment where it suddenly didn’t seem that unreasonable to drive two hours to see them again tonight in New Haven, and while I don’t think that’ll actually happen, the impulse was there. For a band like Deville to come and try to break ground with a US audience is an undertaking of considerable personal sacrifice, but aside from being admirable on that level, they absolutely killed it on stage, and my only hope is that this tour proves worth their while enough for them to plan another one at some point. We’ll have to wait and see, I guess. The rest of the dates are here. They didn’t make it easy on themselves, but as they showed on stage last night, hey’re obviously willing to put in some effort.

More pics after the jump. Thanks for reading.

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Front to Back: The Eye of the Stoned Goat 4 in Worcester, MA, 05.04.14

Posted in Reviews on May 6th, 2014 by JJ Koczan

You learn the same lessons over and over at a festival. Bring ibuprofen. Hydrate. If you’re going to be somewhere all day, know the spots to stand, to lean, to sit if you’re lucky, and if you want to sit early, do it for an investment in standing later. No one wants to bum out while the headliner’s on and the days are long. You do these things because it’s what you love to do. You’re not young anymore, you get tired. Your head aches. Your back aches. You smell. You’re in people’s way when you stand up front. Minimize that if you can. Be mobile. Enjoy yourself. This is where life gets good, after all.

There are cavernous potholes in the unpaved parking lot of Ralph’s Rock Diner. I kicked up dust even at crawling speed to park for Day Two of the Eye of the Stoned Goat 4, making sure I was plenty early to catch Skrogg lead off a day that also included Geezer, Foghound, Clamfight, Rozamov, Ichabod, Volume IV, Curse the Son, The Scimitar and Order of the Owl. Had enough time to sit at the counter in the dining car, watch a little bit of the original Star Trek on the tv there and have a cup of coffee, which I was warned against ordering from one of the guys who wasn’t working that day for fear of being yelled at. I’d have to laugh at someone getting pissed at a patron ordering coffee in what claims to be a diner, but I’m glad to have avoided the issue altogether. Two bucks and about 15 minutes later and I was back upstairs and dug in for the start of the show.

A Sunday vibe is different from a Saturday vibe. You know this. Plague of hangovers, plus Monday’s looming threat of the return to real life — these things bleed in, even if subconsciously. Eye of the Stoned Goat came prepared for such an eventuality:

Skrogg

New Hampshire heavy-toned rockers Skrogg were a hair-of-the-dog start to Day Two and they knew it. The ink is barely dry on their later-2013 outing, Blooze (review here), but they’ve got a follow-up in the works called Done a Bad, Bad Thing and they aired the single “Wheels, Women and Whiskey” from that, as well as a slower, wah-loaded jam that would provide the prevailing impression of their set in laid back, weeded-out evil-woman boozer blues grit. If I hadn’t actually heard guitarist/vocalist Jeff Maxfield speak in the same voice with which he sings, I’d likely swear up and down his “whiskey-soaked” vocals were an affectation, but no, that’s how he sounds, and with the chemistry between him, bassist Jason Lawrence and drummer Felix Starr — who traded out the house kit in favor of his own, much larger set — what struck me most about Skrogg was how well they jammed. Last time I saw them, at Stoner Hands of Doom XII in 2012, they didn’t come across nearly as comfortable on stage. They were supporting their Raw Heat demo/EP (review here) then, so obviously the intervening two years haven’t been misspent on their part. I wondered what they’d do with more time to maybe elongate their songs and really stretch out and improvise. In hindsight, Blooze had some of that going in “Born to Blooze.” Hopefully they keep developing that side with their new one.

Geezer

If Skrogg were the first shot of the day, Geezer were a fitting chaser. The New York trio were jamming before they even started. Their soundcheck was a jam, and a good one. They opened with “Ghost Rider Solar Plexus,” and between that and “Ancient Song,” also from the 2013 Gage EP (review here) which has a vinyl issue impending on STB Records, they offered a support lesson in the importance of chemistry for a three-piece to work. Guitarist/vocalist Pat Harrington gets a lot of the attention in the band, between his Electric Beard of Doom podcast, gravelly voice and accompanying facial hair, but bassist Freddy Villano and drummer Chris Turco carried the psych-blues jams on which Harrington spaced out, and it was a classic dynamic made that much stronger by how well particularly Harrington and Villano know each other on stage, having played together for some time in Gaggle of Cocks in addition to developing Geezer‘s bluesier take over the last couple years. One of just two acts alongside Lord Fowl to carry over from 2013’s Eye of the Stoned Goat 3 in Brooklyn, Geezer rounded out with “Pony” from 2013’s Electrically Recorded Handmade Heavy Blues debut full-length and drew the early crowd in like moths to a lightbulb with the song’s quirky stoner bounce and nod-ready groove. Easy to dig these guys, and they’ve only gotten better the couple times I’ve seen them. If ESG needed a house band, they’d be a good bet.

Foghound

The second appearance in two days for Sixty Watt Shaman drummer Chuck Dukehart III, Foghound were a much different band. I don’t know if they planned their set to highlight the fact that all four members — Dukehart, guitarists Dee Settar and Bob Sipes, bassist Geoffrey Freeman IV — also contribute vocals, but it worked out that way and it was a major distinguishing factor not only between Foghound and Sixty Watt — who of course had a completely different presence anyway with one guitar and a standalone frontman who only sometimes added guitar — but between Foghound and the vast majority of the Eye of the Stoned Goat 4 bill. And not only did everyone sing, but they all could. Foghound‘s late-2013 Quick, Dirty and High debut CD (review here) boasted the same elements, but of course it’s different seeing it play out on stage. Underlying that was a swing that was among the weekend’s finest as Foghound pulled more toward the heavy rock end from Day Two’s bluesy beginning, the standout “Resurrect the Throwaways” from the album reminding of Foghound‘s potential to land a hook when they need to and the new song “Truth Revealed” finding Dukehart taking the lead vocal on drums for yet another driving groove. They seem to be getting their approach together quickly, and as impressive as they already were, I wouldn’t be surprised to find Foghound even more solidified when next I’m fortunate enough to see them play.

Clamfight

Like the marauding bastards they are, Clamfight rolled into Ralph’s, set up, destroyed the place, and were gone. I’m obviously biased as regards the double-guitar foursome split between Jersey and Philly, but if the day had a quota of thrash, Clamfight met it head on and then some, kicking out “Sand Riders,” “Age of Reptiles” and staple closer “Stealing the Ghost Horse” from 2013’s Maple Forum release, I vs. the Glacier in addition to “Block Ship” and a new song called “Selkie” (or was that “Selfie?”) that will reportedly be on their next album. Perhaps the highlight of their whole set was watching lead guitarist Sean McKee shred his was through solos in the intro to “Stealing the Ghost Horse,” but there’s some stiff competition in that regard. I’ve been watching Clamfight play for the better part of eight years now and they have never been so good. I mean it. They’ve become an absolutely devastating live act, and their brutal groove has become a signature that’s their own much more than derived from any influence. Between McKee and Joel Harris‘ guitars, Louis Koble‘s bass and Andy Martin thud ‘n’ roar on drums and vocals, Clamfight barely stopped to let Eye of the Stoned Goat 4 catch its breath before their next round of pummeling began. Unreasonably heavy — and immediate. Barely half an hour off I-95, they locked into “Sand Riders” and didn’t look back. I can’t wait to hear their new stuff recorded.

Rozamov


Five bands in, it was pretty easy to see fest-organizer Brendan Burns‘ logic in how Day Two of Eye of the Stoned Goat 4 was going to flow, from the blues-styled start to more rock-minded push and into heavier, more thrashing terrain. In that regard, Boston’s Rozamov would take the evening to its most bludgeoning, darkest place. The trio of guitarist/vocalist Matt Iacovelli, bassist/vocalist Tom Corino and drummer Will Hendrix — who also earned my vote for best shirt of the weekend with his Maggot Brain tee — have some riff-minded aspects to what they do, but on the whole, their sound is much more rooted in the extreme. They were a step further into the abyss after Clamfight, impressively tight as a trio after scaling down from a four-piece since I saw them last fall (review here). Likewise, they seemed to have a fair amount of new material in tow, but “Famine” from last year’s Of Gods and Flesh EP was insistent and violent in kind, and no matter where the songs took them, Rozamov remained in control of their course, alternately blasting and bleeding out thickened and ferocious thrashing grooves, Iacovelli and Corino coming together periodically for dual screams that only added to the extremity at hand. I don’t know what their plans are for putting their new stuff together and getting it out, but they carried the songs across with such urgency that I had to stop and remind myself of how far the day had come since its start still just a short time before.

Ichabod

Mean, volatile and given to fits of utter sonic cruelty, Ichabod were nonetheless a pullback toward heavy rock from Rozamov‘s assault. Also native to Boston, the double-guitar five-piece were the band on the Stoned Goat bill I’d seen most recently, back in in late-March in Allston, but of course the setting and compulsion toward a half-hour set between Rozamov and Volume IV — not to mention the sound and lighting at Ralph’s, which, again, are among the finest I’ve found since moving to Massachusetts — gave this go a different context. Vocalist John Fadden, guitarists Dave Iverson and Jason Adam, bassist Greg Dellaria and drummer Phil MacKay have reportedly finished work on the follow-up to 2012’s Dreamscapes from Dead Space, titled Merrimack, and as last time, some new material was showed off prior to Dreamscapes cuts like “Baba Yaga” — introduced as a “stoner rock song” — and “Hollow God,” which seems to take a similar angst-fueled approach to Boston’s Irish Catholicism that a lot of Southeast heavy takes to the Southern Baptist Church, Fadden‘s screams proving particularly visceral on the lines “Your god is irrelevant,” driving home a passionate if somewhat familiar argument, reminding of just how devastated the cultural landscape of this region has been by corruption in its religious institutions. That’s the kind of thing one might think of seeing the band twice in little more than a month, but the bulk of the room seemed more consumed with the general nastiness in Ichabod‘s sound. Justifiably so.

Volume IV

Building on the more rock side of Ichabod‘s sound, Atlanta natives Volume IV steered the fest back toward crisp, pro-grade heavy. A somewhat odd pairing in all but geography, they arrived at the Eye of the Stoned Goat 4 on tour with Order of the Owl having played in New York the night before, supporting their Ripple Music debut, Long in the Tooth (review/stream here). A solid, cohesive trio, and particularly interesting to watch after Sixty Watt Shaman in giving a modern look at how similar influences have developed in the time since the Day One headliners’ first run. Their being from Atlanta, it was tempting to try and read some measure of Mastodon influence into Volume IV‘s approach, but apart from some eye-squinting on the part of guitarist Joe Carpenter while he delivered his vocals, there was next to nothing in common. Both bands use guitars, if you want to reach that far. Songs were straightforward in their structure and well executed, and whether it was the chug of “Awake the Dreamer” or the ZZ Top-style motoring of “Locust Have No King,” they made a more effective presentation than I had expected. Set closer “Iron Fist” would be the first of two Motörhead covers for the evening, and Volume IV Carpenter, bassist/vocalist Blake Parris and drummer Troy King — took one of classic metal’s most recognizable hooks and made it their own much the same way they added an individual sense to Southern heavy in the material from Long in the Tooth. I was into the record well enough, but they were better live without question.

Curse the Son

In a word: Tone. Playing in front of two full-stacks topped with custom heads from Dunwich Amplifiers that glowed from inside through a clear front with the word “weed” etched on it, guitarist/vocalist Ron Vanacore of Hamden, Connecticut, trio Curse the Son had thickest guitar sound of the entire two-day festival. Order of the Owl would outdo them for volume, but in terms of the sheer viscosity of their sound — which, as Vanacore joked in reference to his amps, was “brought to you by the power of weed” — Curse the Son was an overdose of righteously engrossing fuzz. Bassist Richard “Cheech” Weeden made the sound even fatter, and with Mike Petrucci (also of Vestal Claret) bringing subtle touches of complexity to the drums, cuts like “Goodbye Henry Anslinger” and the particularly catchy “Spider Stole the Weed” were rolling-groove high points of the day, the “whoa”s in the chorus of the latter seeming to come in layers even though Vanacore was the only one with a mic. Their 2012 full-length, Psychache (review here) is set to come out on STB Records vinyl any day now, and while it was “Pulsotar Bringer” from 2011’s Klonopain (review here) that closed out the set, the nod was constant throughout the room in Ralph’s as Curse the Son built successive walls of distortion. They’re a pretty well-kept secret at this point, though with that LP version of Psychache coming, I can’t help but wonder how much longer that will be the case. Tetrahydrocannabinolic riff worship of the highest order, and since the last time I saw the band play on all their own gear was 2011, it seems I’m about due for a trip to New Haven.

The Scimitar

No doubt Boston will miss Gein‘s gallop. The bassist’s technique has been a key element in Black Pyramid‘s warmongering, in Second Grave‘s explorations of the melancholic and in The Scimitar‘s still-nascent branching off from Black Pyramid‘s roots, but Eye of the Stoned Goat 4 Day Two brought the second and final of his last shows. Guitarist/vocalist Darryl Shepard, who has said he’ll continue to make music in this vein under his own name after the release of The Scimitar‘s debut and likely only full-length, Doomsayer, noted it as The Scimitar‘s last gig with Gein “for a while,” and it’s true you never know what’ll happen, but Los Angeles is a long way from Ralph’s Rock Diner, so yeah, a while indeed. I noted that drummer Brian Banfield cut his hair since the last time I saw The Scimitar, which at least meant we didn’t look so much alike, but more of a focal point was how well The Scimitar carried across the songs from Doomsayer, “World Unreal,” “Babylon” and even the night’s second Motörhead cover, “Metropolis,” leading to the longer album-closer “Crucifer,” which seemed like it was going to be their last song until they added “Forever and Ever and Ever.” The show was running early, and they started early as well, so there was plenty of time to spare, and that hook was worth including one way or another, Gein as ever reliably riding a foundational groove in the low end. He’ll make a good SoCal surfer. There wasn’t any grand farewell or anything like that when The Scimitar were done — he has always had a calm, collected stage presence — but it was still no doubt an emotional set for the bassist, who again, will be missed around these parts.

Order of the Owl


Imagine volume as a weapon. You knew some serious noise was about to be doled out when Atlanta’s Order of the Owl loaded no fewer than six Orange cabinets onto the stage, but I don’t think even the actual sight of such things prepared the room at Ralph’s for what was coming. To see that many dollars’ worth of amps in a single band, you know the parties involved have made a life choice. There had been a few instances throughout the day when I could feel my earplugs vibrate in my head — during Clamfight, during Curse the Son — but Order of the Owl went further and just rendered them useless from the start. Feedback proved no less essential to the sound than the trio’s riffs and lumbering grooves, but basically, Order of the Owl came through as a wash of noise. Bassist/vocalist Brent Anderson, formerly of Zoroaster, brought some of his ethic (not to mention his posture as he bent way over to the low microphone) from that band to this one, but with guitarist Casey Yarbrough and drummer Joe Sweat, Order of the Owl had a personality of their own carved from the massive tones emanating from that impressive backline. To Sweat‘s credit, the drums cut through, which Anderson‘s vocals didn’t — even a place with decent sound like Ralph’s can only put so much power into the P.A. before the lights shut off — and even in the back of the room was consumed by the overload. I couldn’t tell you what they played, but clearly the intent wasn’t so much to dazzle with individual songs or ideas so much as create a whole of such overwhelming push, and Anderson, Yarbrough and Sweat clearly had that working in their favor. Again, they seemed like a strange fit to hit the road with Volume IV, but they made a suitable closer for Eye of the Stoned Goat 4, giving the festival one final dose of ultra-heavy that nobody in their right mind would want to follow anyway. Their new album is probably finished being recorded at this point. One shutters to think of the devastation that awaits.

My ears were ringing fairly hard by the time I left Ralph’s. Sunday was an earlier night than Saturday had been anyway, and the last few bands had run short anyway, so it wasn’t yet midnight, but after running the full front-to-back of 20 bands over the two days, I’d hardly say I was up for more action than I got. The Masspike and news stories of Cinco de Mayo lime shortages carried me home and I’m not sure I’ve woken up since.

Thanks to Brendan Burns for his diligent efforts putting together The Eye of the Stoned Goat 4. Thanks as well to Derek and Jenn Bradshaw, Bill Kole, Ray Dickman, Jaki Cunha, Mark, everybody else who stuck it out for the weekend, and of course you for reading.

More pics after the jump.

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Front to Back: Eye of the Stoned Goat 4 in Worcester, MA, 05.03.14

Posted in Reviews on May 5th, 2014 by JJ Koczan

It was a 20-band bill spread out evenly across two days, so right away, The Eye of the Stoned Goat 4 was going to be a considerable undertaking. Fortunately for me, it was close. Worcester is precisely 75 minutes from where I live. I’ve driven further to see three bands, let alone 20, so a trip down the Masspike and there I was, back in Worcester. It had been a decade-plus since the last time I was in that town — famed in metal circles most probably for the New England Metal and Hardcore Festival held at the Palladium — and it was way less of a dump than it was back then, though with much to see in Ralph’s Rock Diner, I obviously wasn’t taking a tour of the local infrastructure. Ralph’s had plenty to catch the eye anyway, even apart from the Saturday lineup with Birch Hill Dam, SET, John Wilkes Booth, Second Grave, Beelzefuzz, Lord Fowl, Ogre, Kings Destroy, Cortez and Sixty Watt Shaman.

There is, sure enough, a classic-style dining car when you walk in, and building that’s sort of sprouted up out of it, the way one tree grows out of another. Turn a corner, you’re in a bar, tv on, pool table, etc., but find your way up a flight of stairs and you’re in the venue itself. Decent-size stage, bar in back along the side wall with plenty of room for merch, a little side-stage area for equipment, and the best lighting I’ve seen since I moved to this state last year — this being my first time at Ralph’s, I was immediately relieved at the quality of the place. Very, very cool room, and sound to match. It made a fitting home for Eye of the Stoned Goat, which last nestled itself into Brooklyn’s The Acheron in July 2013 (review here) and this year was expanded to two days for the first time, organizer Brendan Burns of Snakecharmer Booking and the band Wasted Theory pulling out the stops in mixing locals and out-of-towners, which I’ve found is a balance one should be careful to maintain around these parts. Fortunately there’s no shortage of quality acts.

A 5PM start got underway on time with Birch Hill Dam leading off, and there was no turning back from there:

Birch Hill Dam

As I made my way through the downstairs part of the venue and bought my weekend pass, I was handed a copy of Birch Hill Dam‘s 2011 CD, Colossus, which the MA natives had donated as a door giveaway. A nice touch. I had known I wanted to see them anyway — been more or less waiting to run into Birch Hill Dam again since I moved here — but even if I hadn’t, that would certainly make me more inclined to check them out. My last experience with the band was in 2012 at Stoner Hands of Doom XII in Connecticut, and my prevailing impression was a Kyuss influence. That was far less the case this time around. With some Down/C.O.C. chug in their thick-toned riffs and some double-guitar antics featured later on in the set, Birch Hill Dam were way further into their own sound than when last we met. Frontman Mike Nygard was one of the weekend’s few standalone vocalists (six out of the 20 bands, most of them on Saturday), and he held down his position well with unforced throatiness and just a hint of metal underneath all that rock. They played a decent amount of new material along with “2600” and finale “Boozehound,” both culled from Colossus, and as slick as that album was, I’ll be fascinated to hear the direction their new stuff takes in the studio.

SET

There were two bands on the Saturday bill I’d never seen before — Worcester’s SET (which they seem to prefer written all-caps) and headliners Sixty Watt Shaman — and SET were the surprise of the weekend. Part of that owes to the fact that in my head, I had imagined they were a completely different band, but to find their newer-class doom tempered with thrash and even some crusty black metal, I was blown away by the quality and cohesion in what they were doing, and how natural they made it sound. A two-guitar, two-vocal four-piece, they seemed to have clearly worked on their tone and presentation, and if it had been the West Coast instead of the East, I’d call the results “gnarly.” They were tight, worked fluidly in moving between fast and slower tempos, and looked to be working from a fairly wide swath of influences. They had tapes for sale in the back at $3 each, but I missed my shot at one. Still, I’ll look forward to seeing them again and knowing a little bit more of what I’m getting when they kick into the badass roll of “Wolves behind the Sheep,” taken from their Valley of the Stone debut long-player, apparently set to release on vinyl this summer. I don’t know if they tour, but they should.

John Wilkes Booth


Among the few things I’ll never argue against is a chance to catch John Wilkes Booth live. The house band of Mr. Beery’s out on Long Island and I go way back at this point, but they were another one I hadn’t seen since SHoD in Connecticut, so I felt somewhat overdue. They were doing their thing, which is fine by me since they’re good at it. They had a fair amount of what seemed to me to be newer material, and as he stood in front of the weekend’s most elaborate pedal board, vocalist Kerry Merkle plugged a new EP in the works that would BE done “as soon as [they] get [their] shit together.” I had thought that was going to be a full-length, but it’s been long enough at this point that I’d take whatever came. I’ve seen them burn rooms to the ground with brash riffing, thick groove and megaphoned-incantations, but this was a somewhat moodier set, more exploratory feeling, and that suited them just as well, as they managed to maintain their underlying crunch. I’ve said it of the Booth before that they’re a ’90s NYC noise rock band and they just don’t know it, and I got that vibe again at Ralph’s, but they showed a brooding side to complement, and that made the heavier parts land that much harder in comparison. Made me wonder where their EP might be headed.

Second Grave


Eye of the Stoned Goat 4 marked two last shows, both of them for Massachusetts’ own David Gein. The now-former Black Pyramid four-stringer was playing his final (never say never in rock and roll, but at least for the time being) gigs with Second Grave on Saturday and with The Scimitar on Sunday ahead of a move to the West Coast, so it was twice the occasion. I don’t know if you could really call anything Second Grave do “celebratory,” however, unless you’re celebrating slow, plodding and every now and again viciously extreme metal — which, now that I think about it, is fun to do — but the four-piece did justice to their bass player in delivering a crisp, tight-wound set, the clean vocals and apex-topping screams of guitarist Krista Van Guilder cutting through a morass of tonal bite courtesy of her own and Chris Drzal‘s guitars and Gein‘s bass while drummer Chuck Ferreira shoved the lumbering progressions forward. During their last song — was it “Mountains of Madness?” — the lights went blood red and the visual change helped put their final payoff over the top. I’m not sure how, being in a band that can be so utterly ruthless, they resist the temptation to be that way all the time, but Second Grave‘s restraint, however momentary it may or may not be in a given track, is part of why the band works so well.

Beelzefuzz

Maryland trio Beelzefuzz released one of 2013’s best in the form of their self-titled debut (review here), and having spent so much time with that material since the record came out last August, I felt like I was seeing them in a different context than before. I wasn’t the only one in the crowd who knew the songs, whether it was “Hard Luck Melody,” or “Hypnotized” and “All the Feeling Returns” from the album, they got a welcoming response from the ESG4 crowd. Between Dana Ortt‘s guitar tone, bassist Pug Kirby‘s trancelike-state stage presence and the classy, carefully-understated drumming of Darin McCloskey (also of Pale Divine), Beelzefuzz took the stage at Ralph’s well in command of their sound and bizarre, progressive take on traditional doom. Ortt thanked the audience for being so “cool,” and mentioned he’d taken some pills before going on — Claritin, for hay fever — but if he was under the weather, there was little sign of it as they tackled “Ride the Sky” by Lucifer’s Friend to close out. I couldn’t help but think of their taking on the same song last year at Days of the Doomed III in Wisconsin with Trouble‘s Eric Wagner joining in on vocals, but they handled it well on their own as well, though I’m not sure if that was as much a highlight as “Reborn” from the self-titled, which would remain stuck in my head for the rest of the evening.

Lord Fowl

Granted, after Beelzefuzz just about anything is a left turn, but I was curious to see how Connecticut’s Lord Fowl — who, if you’ve never seen them, are a boot to the ass; an absolutely kinetic live band — would follow their more languid predecessors. I’m not sure what I was hung up on, but about two seconds into Lord Fowl‘s set, they had the crowd on their side, and they had no trouble keeping them there for the duration of their all-too-short half-hour set. It hasn’t quite been a year since the last Stoned Goat fest, which the two-guitar foursome also played, but I would’ve hoped to see them again before this weekend, fantastic as they are on stage. I was glad to see them get a response when they kicked into the title-track from 2012’s excellent Small Stone debut, Moon Queen (review here), with guitarists Vechel Jaynes and Mike Pellegrino trading vocals back and forth in the chorus while bassist John Conine and drummer Don Freeman thrashed suitably on the Ralph’s stage. For an act who puts so much effort into their shows, it’s worth noting that Lord Fowl don’t come across as forced, or like they’re trying to cloy their way into fan-appreciation. It’s just a good time, and that goes even more for the boogie-fied new jam they locked into. Still instrumental and formative though it was, it was also plain to see why they’d want to break it out.

Ogre

The Portland, Maine, trio were pretty fresh on my mind, having seen them in March at the release show for their fourth album, The Last Neanderthal (review here), but a quick check-in was cool by me, particularly with “Nine Princes in Amber” as the opening song — that hook was among the day’s most irresistible. They dipped back to their 2003 Dawn of the Proto-Men debut for “The Jaded Beast,” and “Dogmen (of Planet Earth)” from 2006’s Seven Hells was time well spent, but as had been the case last time, it was the new stuff that had them excited, the raw Sabbathery of “Bad Trip” and the classic metal of “Warpath” coming through with what felt like an especially fervent delivery. For Ogre to emerge as the most singularly indebted to Sabbath on a fest like this is saying something — and they did, at least for Day One if not for both — but the closing cover of The Bags‘ “Naked Lady” which they once again squeezed in the few remaining minutes of their time found them in a higher gear distinct from some of the doomy wanderings of “Bad Trip” and “The Jaded Beast,” formidable as the impressions those tracks left were, particularly “The Jaded Beast” with bassist Ed Cunningham moving into and out of screams in the chorus while guitarist Ross Markonish belted out a steady series of solos and drummer Will Broadbent stomped away behind.

Kings Destroy

I had missed hearing “Embers.” After being so lucky to accompany Kings Destroy on their West Coast run earlier this Spring, I guess I had been spoiled hearing their new material each night, but I took out my earplugs for song on the first day of Eye of the Stoned Goat 4, and that was for “Embers,” from the New York five-piece’s reportedly-recorded but as-yet-untitled third album. Aside from being good to see them, as people, I was delighted to catch them on stage for the eighth time this year. All the more for the new songs “W2” and “Smokey Robinson,” which I hadn’t heard yet, as well as opener “Old Yeller,” and the closing whallop of “Blood of Recompense” — another one I’d missed — and “Turul,” which is so wonderfully strange that I almost enjoy watching people hear it as much as hearing it myself. Probably goes without saying that the follow-up to 2013’s A Time of Hunting is among my most anticipated releases for the rest of 2014, but I’ll say it anyway and add to that how fortunate I feel to have seen this band come into their own over the last few years. They’ve hit the point where their sound is utterly separate from what one might classify it genre-wise, and the weirder they go into their blend of slow, mournful heavy, brash confrontationalism and dead-on rock — watch out for “Mr. O.” when the album hits — the more righteous they become. There’s not a lot about New York that I miss, but I miss Kings Destroy.

Cortez

When the weekend was over, it would be Cortez who pulled the best crowd. Massachusetts’ reputation for loving its own is well earned, but even more than that, the four-turned-fivesome legitimately rocked the pants off of Ralph’s, guitarists Scott O’Dowd and Alasdair Swan trading leads as the set progressed with a completely fluid charge, bassist Jay Furlo joining vocalist Matt Harrington on vocals in a chorus here and there all the while sticks tossing into the air behind from drummer Jeremy Hemond. Putting Cortez in the context of outfits like Roadsaw and Lamont, they’re just about everything right in Boston’s brand of heavy rock. They opened with “Johnny” from their 2012 self-titled debut (review here), which Darryl Shepard and I agreed should be the closer, and offered new material in “Vanishing Point” from their split 7″ with Borracho (discussed here) and “Keeping Up,” which carried no shortage of swagger. It was “Monolith” that finished out their time in grand fashion, and propelled by Hemond‘s cymbal wash, theirs was as big a big-rock-finish as the two days of Eye of the Stoned Goat 4 would boast. They played the veterans they are despite only having one LP out, and that’s my polite way of saying they should do more. Frankly, they’re a better band than most people know. Fortunately, the crowd at Ralph’s seemed reasonably well informed.

Sixty Watt Shaman

Before they went on, Sixty Watt Shaman drummer Chuck Dukehart III — who’d pull double-duty on Sunday in Foghound — had the room cracking up with some classic Paul Stanley stage rants: “Do you people like the taste of AL-CO-HOL?” “Alright listen,” and so on. Fucking great. The reunited Maryland (etc.) bruisers were in a rough spot following Cortez and starting after midnight as the headliners, and while they started out to a packed house, by the time they were done much of the evening was as well. Still, for a band who haven’t played more than a handful of shows in the last decade, it was hard to argue with what Sixty Watt Shaman — bassist Rev. Jim Forrester (interview here), Dukehart, guitarist Todd Ingram (also of King Giant) and vocalist Daniel Soren — were getting up to with a barrage of dudely grooves that only underscored the influence they’ve had on Maryland and Southern heavy rock in general over the last 10-plus years. Though still newly-reactivated, they were tight and fresh from the London and Berlin Desertfest‘s as well as Dukehart‘s own Moving the Earth festival in Baltimore (go O’s!) prior. The title-track from 2000’s Seed of Decades was a highlight for me, though neither “Cactus Mexicali,” “Southern Gentleman” nor “Pull the Strings” from 1998’s Ultra Electric prompted argument. As they’d have to, they closed out with “Red Colony” from Seed of Decades and capped a day full of heavy with some of its burliest groove. Some bands you don’t expect to ever get the chance to see, and given the limited nature of their doings as of now — two shows in Europe, two in the US, this being one — I felt lucky to see them and they were fitting closer for a raucous night.

I pulled out of the Ralph’s Rock Diner parking lot at 1:30AM, having left shortly after Sixty Watt Shaman finished. The ride home was uneventful, which is probably for the best, and I managed to knock two or three minutes off the trip. That doesn’t seem like much now, but as I crashed out in anticipation of waking up and making my way back to Worcester for Day Two of Eye of the Stoned Goat 4, I knew every little bit was going to count.

Day Two coverage tomorrow, and more pics after the jump. Thanks for reading.

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