Bobby Liebling and The Rivetheads: Pentagram Frontman Announces Texas Solo Shows

Posted in Whathaveyou on December 28th, 2022 by JJ Koczan

After celebrating five decades of Pentagram with a short stint of shows earlier in 2022, the band’s founding frontman, Bobby Liebling, will head to Texas in January to join forces with members of Sanctus Bellum, Blues FuneralDoomstress — and a ton of other bands those dudes are in; Haserot in the case of bassist Ben Yaker and guitarist Maurice EggenschwilerJames Rivera’s Metalwave in the case of Eggenschwiler and fellow guitarist Jan KimmelThe Scourge in the case of drummer Alex Erhardt, etc. — under the banner of Bobby Liebling and The Rivetheads, playing rare Pentagram and Bedemon tunes and who even knows what else.

Liebling is an ever-divisive figure at this point, but someone without whose influence American doom wouldn’t be what it is. Interestingly he seems to have taken more of a reputation-tarnishing from punching his mom than the allegations of sexual harassment on tour, but any way you look at it, the story isn’t pretty. Nonetheless, dude’s lived at least eight lifetimes in his one, and with the likes of Fostermother, Stone Nomads, Mr. Plow and Bridge Farmers in opening slots for these two shows, it seems like good times will be had one way or the other. I’m not justifying anybody’s behavior or saying I support it in any way, but 50 years in doom later, Bobby Liebling is still relevant to the genre and there aren’t a lot of people you can say that about.

Announcement comes courtesy of the PR wire:

bobby liebling texas shows

Pentagram’s Bobby Liebling to Play Solo Shows Highlighting Rare Material

Pentagram frontman Bobby Liebling announces two solo shows in Texas this January. Playing under the name Bobby Liebling and the Rivetheads, the singer will play a set of deep cuts and rare gems from throughout his storied career, including songs from both the Pentagram and Bedemon catalogs. Most of these songs have rarely, if ever, been played live previously. Joining Liebling for these shows will be a Houston-based backing band featuring members of Doomstress, Sanctus Bellum, and Blues Funeral. These shows promise to be an event that fans in attendance will not soon forget.

Bobby Liebling and the Rivetheads

Fri. Jan 27, 2023 – Houston, TX, Black Magic Social Club
Feat. Fostermother, Mr. Plow, Stone Nomads
Event page:

Sat. Jan 28, 2023 – Austin, TX, The Lost Well
Feat. Bridgefarmers, 1 more TBA
Event page:

Bobby Liebling and The Rivetheads:
Bobby Liebling – Vocals
Jan Kimmel – Guitar
Maurice Eggenschwiler – Guitar
Ben Yaker – Bass
Alex Erhardt – Drums

Sanctus Bellum w/ Bobby Liebling, “The Bees” Live in Houston

Bobby Liebling & Dave Sherman Basement Chronicles, Nite Owl (2021)

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Bayou Doom Fest III Full Lineup Announced

Posted in Whathaveyou on July 9th, 2015 by JJ Koczan

One thing Texas always has an ample supply of is heavy. Actually, Texas has all kinds of things, but riffs are definitely in there as well. To wit, the newly-announced lineup for Bayou Doom Fest III in Houston next month is a Texas-centric all-dayer with the varied likes of Las CrucesProject ArmageddonSwitchblade JesusFuneral HorseKin of Ettins and more that pretty much looks like it should be a two-day event with such a packed lineup, but nope. That’s just how they roll down there.

Helstar will headline, as you can see in the announcement below that came down the PR wire:

bayou doom fest iii

Helstar to Headline Third Installment of Bayou Doom Fest

The Houston Doom Brigade is pleased to announce that this year’s edition the Bayou Doom Fest will be headlined by none other than Houston legends Helstar. Bayou Doom Fest III will take place on August 8th at Fitzgerald’s in Houston, TX. In addition to Helstar, the fest will feature Century Media’s newest signees, Oceans of Slumber, plus Las Cruces, Sanctus Bellum, Project Armageddon, Funeral Horse, and many more.

Speaking on the festival, Helstar vocalist James Rivera stated “Although most people wouldn’t consider us to be a doom band in the traditional sense, doom is a style of music that is very near and dear to our hearts and it’s one that’s been a big influence on us. Doom metal has a darkness to it that we incorporate into our sound as well. In honor of the occasion, we’ve got a very special set planned that will showcase some of our doomiest tracks. We’ve also got some surprises planned around the theme of the late, great Christopher Lee as Dracula. Godfathers of Doom and Nosferatu anyone?”

Houston Doom Brigade co-founder Doomstress Alexis commented “There’s been no bigger friend to the doom scene in Texas than Helstar. Though they may a somewhat unorthodox choice as headliner, there’s not a doom fan in the state that isn’t a big fan of Helstar. That makes them a great fit for the fest.”

Now in its 3rd year, Bayou Doom Fest has showcased the best talent that the Gulf Coast region has to offer. Festival alumni include Venomous Maximus, Warbeast, Wo Fat, Cauldron (ex-Gammacide), Mothership, and Destroyer of Light.

Bayou Doom Fest III
August 8th, 2015 Doors at 5PM, Show at 5:30PM
Fitzgerald’s, Houston Texas
$13, all ages

Oceans of Slumber
Las Cruces
Sanctus Bellum
Project Armageddon
Switchblade Jesus
Funeral Horse
Dirty Seeds
Kin of Ettins
Funeral Shroud
Dead Hawke

Sanctus Bellum, “Parallax” Live at Bayou Doom Fest I

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Blackfinger, The Mighty Nimbus, Wasted Theory and More Announced for Days of the Doomed IV

Posted in Whathaveyou on December 23rd, 2013 by JJ Koczan

Apparently at some point between when Days of the Doomed III was held there this year and now, Cudahy, Wisconsin’s The Blue Pig venue was renamed The Metal Grill. It was pretty metal before, at least the two times I’ve been there for prior installments of this fest, but I guess if nothing else, a metal grill fits with the metal radio and a metal deli. All very metal. I’d like to try a turkey sandwich from the metal deli. Somehow I think it would have to include hot peppers.

More pivotal than my lunch order is the fact that Days of the Doomed IV will return the festival to that building, which by any other name is still a cool place to see a show, and that the beginnings of a lineup are coagulating. Looks like nifty stuff, what with Eric Wagner‘s Blackfinger taking part, and the likes of Orodruin and Las Cruces and Sanctus Bellum making return appearances while Delaware’s Wasted Theory head out to bring some East Coast heavy rock to the mix and The Mighty Nimbus make a long-overdue reunion a reality. I saw those dudes with Entombedone time. They were heavy as all anything and should have no trouble standing up to the various metallurgical standards of the weekend.

Days of the Doomed IV is set for June 20-21, 2014, at The Metal Grill in Cudahy, WI. More to come. This for now:

Back for its fourth installment June 20th & 21st, 2014! Days Of The Doomed Fest IV promises to bring the heavy! Bands will be announced over the next several months, so stay tuned! Tickets on sale starting 1/1/14 at!

Just to bring you up to speed! Confirmed: The Mighty Nimbus, Blackfinger, Stasis, Wasted Theory, Las Cruces, Brimstone Coven, Sanctus Bellum, Witchden, and Orodruin have all been confirmed for Days Of The Doomed Fest IV! No more announcements until after X-mas, but there are more great bands to reveal! All killer, no filler!

Las Cruces, “Behemoth” Live at Days of the Doomed, 2011

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

First-Ever Bayou Doom Fest Set for Next Weekend

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 1st, 2013 by JJ Koczan

We’re just 10 days out from the fist-ever Bayou Doom Fest, set to take place May 11 in Houston, Texas, with a killer lineup of native and regional acts who run a gamut of heaviness from the thrashing Warbeast all the way to the heavy rock of Orthodox Fuzz with no shortage of doom in between. I know Las Cruces have been working on new material — they’ll also play Doom in June 3 in a couple weeks — so maybe they’ll have something on tap for the setlist, and with Wo Fat just back from Europe and Mothership just off the road with Gypsyhawk, you know these guys are going to deliver an awesome night.

Details came down the PR wire:

Warbeast and Venomous Maximus to Headline Inaugural Bayou Doom Fest

Presented by the Houston Doom Brigade, the inaugural Bayou Doom Fest, to be held at Fitzgerald’s in Houston, TX on May 11, 2013, will be headlined by DFW thrash-masters Warbeast and Houston’s occult metal kings, Venomous Maximus.  The show marks the first time that Warbeast and Venomous Maximus have shared the stage since a run of shows in January supporting the legendary Down.  The show will also be Warbeast’s first since returning from a successful tour supporting GWAR and Venomous Maximus’ first hometown appearance since signing to Napalm Records.  Making the festival even more special is the fact that it will be a free event for those 21 and up ($10 under 21).

Joining Warbeast and Venomous Maximus on the bill are psychedelic fuzz rockers Wo Fat (fresh off appearances at Roadburn and Desertfest), Maligno (Mexico), Sanctus Bellum (Houston), Mothership (DFW), Las Cruces (San Antonio), Project Armageddon (Houston), Orthodox Fuzz (DFW), and Serpent Sun (Houston).

Houston Doom Brigade Presents:  Bayou Doom Fest I
Saturday, May 11, 2013
2706 White Oak, Houston, TX
Doors, 5:00 – Show 5:15
Free for 21+ (under 21: $10)

Warbeast (Housecore Records)
Venomous Maximus (Napalm Records)
Wo Fat (Small Stone Records)
Mothership (Ripple Music)
Las Cruces (Brainticket Records)
Sanctus Bellum
Project Armageddon
Orthodox Fuzz
Serpent Sun

Las Cruces, “Cocaine Wizard Woman”

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Sanctus Bellum’s El Birthday Metal Fest II Set for this Weekend

Posted in Whathaveyou on December 20th, 2012 by JJ Koczan

I’ve never been big on birthdays — something about a complete lack of self worth — but apparently the dudes in Houston dark metal outfit Sanctus Bellum have no such reservations. In celebration of the shared birthday of guitarist Jan Kimmel and bassist Ben Yaker, Sanctus Bellum have gone so far as to import Bobby Liebling for a set of Pentagram classics and James Rivera of Helstar for a round of heavy ’70s rock gems, pulling a bit of triple-duty with a set of their own material as well on a bill that also includes Serpent Sun, Cauldron, H.R.A. and Owl Witch.

The show is set for this Saturday at Rudyard’s British Pub in Houston, and if you’re in the neighborhood, it sounds like it’s going to be a blast. Check it out:

Pentagram’s Bobby Liebling and Sanctus Bellum’s Ben Yaker Interviewed on Upcoming Collaborative Performance

Bobby Liebling of doom metal legends Pentagram and Ben Yaker of Houston’s Sanctus Bellum have been interviewed by Free Press Houston in preparation for their upcoming collaborative performance at The El Birthday Metal Fest II on Saturday, Dec. 22.

At the festival, which takes place at Rudyard’s British Pub in Houston, TX, Liebling will take the stage with members of Sanctus Bellum (collaboratively styled as Sanctus Bellum Sanctuary) to perform a one-time-only set of classic 70s Pentagram songs, many of which have not been performed since the 1970s, and some of which have never been performed live at all.

In the interview, which can be read in its entirety here:, Yaker states “…Not only do I get to essentially be in my favorite band for the night, but I get to hand pick the set list. These are my favorite, unheralded Pentagram songs–songs that I always wish would have gotten more play. I would always go to Pentagram shows, hoping to get them to play some of these songs, knowing it would never happen, but now I can make it happen.”

Speaking on the set, Liebling says “We’ll be doing songs I haven’t played in close to 40 years, most of ‘em. They decided to pick a lot of off the wall ones [laughs]… You know, the bands I used to listen to, I would have given anything to have gotten to do a set with Mountain or Grand Funk or Cactus. I’m very happy to do this show with them.”

The El Birthday Metal Fest II also features a set of classic metal covers performed by Sanctus Bellum and James Rivera of Houston metal legends Helstar (styled Sanctus Bellum Sanctus), in addition to sets by Sanctus Bellum, H.R.A., Owl Witch, and Serpent Sun.

The festival, which is 21+, is scheduled to begin promptly at 6:00 pm.  Admission is $15.  Advance tickets and commemorative posters can be purchased at

Tags: , , , ,

Bobby Liebling to Perform with Members of Sanctus Bellum at El Birthday Metal Fest II

Posted in Whathaveyou on October 17th, 2012 by JJ Koczan

Legendary Pentagram frontman Bobby Liebling will be hitting the stage with Houston’s own Sanctus Bellum on Dec. 22 at Rudyard’s British Pub, playing a set of ’70s Pentagram classics. Also joining Sanctus Bellum for a set will be James Rivera of Helstar, and while that means Sanctus Bellum bassist Ben Yaker and guitarist Jan Kimmel will be performing a staggering triple-duty night on their shared birthday, something in me doubts they’ll mind, given the circumstances.

Pretty badass way to celebrate your birthday, if you’re into that kind of thing. Here’s all the info and charm-tastic poster with art by Will Broadbent:

Members of Pentagram and Helstar to Perform One-of-a-Kind Sets with Sanctus Bellum in Houston, TX

Bobby Liebling of Pentagram and James Rivera of Helstar will perform special one-time-only sets with members of Sanctus Bellum at The El Birthday Metal Fest II on December 22, 2012 at Rudyard’s British Pub in Houston, TX.  The sets with Liebling and Rivera, styled Sanctus Bellum Sanctuary and Sanctus Bellum Sanctus respectively, will see the heavy metal icons performing songs that they have rarely, if ever, performed previously during their lengthy careers.

For the Sanctus Bellum Sanctus set with Rivera, the band will perform a set of classic metal covers reflecting Sanctus Bellum and James Rivera’s shared influences.  The set will include material by both well-known and comparatively underground bands and is sure to please fans of Rivera’s extensive body of work.

For the Sanctus Bellum Sanctuary set with Bobby Liebling, the band will perform a full set of 70s Pentagram classics, most of which have not been performed live in decades and some of which have never been performed live at all.  Speaking on the Sanctus Bellum Sanctuary set, Sanctus Bellum bassist Ben Yaker stated that “anyone who knows me knows that I’ve been a huge Pentagram fan for years and that my favorite incarnation of the band is the 70s lineup.  This show has given me the opportunity to select some of my favorite, but often overlooked, Pentagram tracks that I’ve always wanted to hear Bobby perform live.  It’s an incredible honor to be able to share the stage with Bobby, who’s been the driving force behind my all-time favorite band, Pentagram, and with James, who’s helmed the most significant metal band ever to come out of Houston.”

The festival, which will also feature performances by Sanctus Bellum, Cauldron (ex-Gammacide), H.R.A., Owl Witch and Serpent Sun, celebrates the birthdays of Yaker and Sanctus Bellum guitarist Jan Kimmel.  Artwork for the event by Will Broadbent Illustration, which will be available as a full color 24×36 poster at the show, features the members of Sanctus Bellum, along with Liebling and Rivera, animated as members of the Legion of Doom.

Advance tickets are available at

The El Birthday Metal Fest II
Saturday, December 22nd, 2012, 5pm
Rudyard’s British Pub
2010 Waugh, Houston, TX 77006
$15, 21+

Sanctus Bellum Sanctuary (Members of Sanctus Bellum with Bobby Liebling of Pentagram)
Sanctus Bellum Sanctus (Members of Sanctus Bellum with James Rivera of Helstar)
Sanctus Bellum
Cauldron (ex-Gammacide)
Owl Witch
Serpent Sun

Sanctus Bellum’s most recent album, The Shining Path, was released on June 12, 2012.

Tags: , , , ,

Sanctus Bellum, The Shining Path: A Matchstick in the Inferno

Posted in Reviews on August 2nd, 2012 by JJ Koczan

It’s not easy to tell where the focus is for Sanctus Bellum on their second self-released full-length, The Shining Path. Upon pulling the disc out of its eight-panel digipak (preceded, of course by a few moments to admire the Santos Illustration artwork adorning the cover), you’ll see that Jan Kimmel is listed as contributing “lead, rhythm, slide and classical guitar” as well as Hammond, and that Maurice Eggenschwiler handles “lead, rhythm and classical guitar,” as opposed to, say, Ben Yaker, who plays “bass,” Cory Cousins, who plays “drums” and Justin Waggoner, whose “vocals” could easily have a few more modifiers attached to them, “gruff and melodic” being two that come to mind. Eggenschwiler, a live-only guitarist for Sanctus Bellum when they released their 2010 debut, Return to Dust (review here), has since (well) earned a permanent place in the band, and while they were guitar-heavy to start with, it’s clearly made a difference in the overall sound of The Shining Path. He and Kimmel trade solos back and forth on more than one occasion – who’s playing where is marked in the liner notes along with the lyrics Waggoner is singing and presumably wrote (a reference to Billy Pilgrim from Slaughterhouse Five in the opening title-track is a tell) – and if that’s following a tradition of classic metal, it’s only one of Sanctus Bellum’s signs of allegiance to it. The album, comprised of six mostly extended tracks (the shortest being “Vessel” at 6:16 and the longest the immediately following “Dumb Luck Divinity” at 10:06) and totaling out at a manageable, relatively concise 46:38, never seems to settle completely into one style of heavy or another. Cousins and Yaker offer no shortage of groove in the rhythm section, and Kimmel and Eggenschwiler have an obvious awareness of classic doom, but their tones are distorted, not fuzzed, and they also shred, and Waggoner’s voice is more brooding and grungier than it’s ever sounded before, either with this band or his prior outfit, Mr. Plow, so it’s a challenge to get a sense of just where Sanctus Bellum are coming from for the first couple listens.

Obviously that’s the idea. You’re not supposed to listen to The Shining Path as it launches with its nine-minute titular cut and say definitively, “this is doom” or “this is metal.” “The Shining Path” has elements of both and more, Yaker honing in on a creepy bassline as Waggoner shoots references off of Vonnegut and the Bible prior to the guitars taking over for a barrage of leads that set the tone for what the rest of the album has to offer. “The Shining Path” has one of the strongest choruses of any of these songs, and so makes an excellent opener, but the shorter “Spiral Jacobs” (6:47) follows up with affirmation of the dreary, metallic atmosphere, and as the song cycles through its opening progression a second time, the parts establish a kind of familiarity for themselves before a break after 3:45 leads, feedback-soaked into the second movement. Eggenschwiler busts out formidable leads and, following another four-line verse, Kimmel answers with some of his own, and as becomes the pattern for the songs, it’s Waggoner who gets the last word. Nonetheless, an uptick in the guitar presence has clearly served the band well, and even moments of flourish like that at the end of “Spiral Jacobs” show an increase in confidence in the malleability of the songs. “Vessel,” appropriately, opens with a lead from Eggenschwiler, but finds its culmination later in its chorus. Running at a faster pace, it’s all the more appropriate for Waggoner to throw in a few screams at the end of bridge lines, and though it’s the shortest track, it’s also the most lyric-heavy on the whole of The Shining Path, that chorus of “I don’t aim the gun/I am the gun/Make me the vessel/The deed is done” coming around for a second time before the ending churn thrashes its way to a Slayer comparison.

Read more »

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Live Review: Days of the Doomed II (Day One), Cudahy, WI, 06.15.12

Posted in Reviews on June 18th, 2012 by JJ Koczan

First, a note on the travel: There was a lot of it. Taking the day off work, I left early on Thursday morning, stopped in Toledo, Ohio, to hit Ramalama Records for the second time, and headed up to Lansing, Michigan, and find one Postman Dan, whose name will probably pop up a few times throughout this and the Day Two review to come and who I’m just going to assume you know if you’re reading this, because if you’ve ever been in the Midwest at a show or gone to fests like Emissions from the Monolith, Templars of Doom, Alehorn of Power, or if you were at this one, you probably do know him. He’s a pretty friendly guy, and he gets around.

Enough so that he invited me to crash at his place Thursday night, which I was happy to do. We went down the road a ways in Lansing and caught local Melvins aficionados BerT doing a new song in their rehearsal space — the band was kind enough to plug back in when we got there just after they’d finished practice; the new material sounded killer and they gave me a copy of their droning new split tape with Hordes and threatened an East Coast tour to come — before, during and after a few beers and in the morning, hit up Lansing’s Flat, Black and Circular record store for a batch of goodies the likes of which I’ve not acquired in a while. Needless to say, report to follow.

Soon it was off to Cudahy, Wisconsin, where just a few short blocks from the Milwaukee Airport, the second installment of the Days of the Doomed fest would be starting in no time. It was about 11 hours from Jersey to Lansing, and about five and a half from Lansing to Cudahy, but I was alright with the drive so long as I got there on time. Made it with an hour to spare and found a way more pro setup at The Blue Pig than I expected. A raised stage included a separate drum riser, professional lighting rig and a P.A. that seemed to frame the entire stage in speaker cabinets. The bar was around the corner from the open floor in front of the stage (it looked like two spaces that had a wall in the middle taken down to accommodate the stage area) and TVs in the back showed the Brewers and the Twins all weekend. The walls, as one might figure from the venue name, were blue.

Already, fest organizer Mercyful Mike Smith was running around engaged in that special kind of stress that I’ve only seen in those forced to corral large numbers of doomers to be in one place at one time. With time to eat before Snake Dance launched the shorter Friday lineup that also included Nebraskans Super Invader as well as Sanctus Bellum, Stone Magnum, Orodruin and Revelation (War Injun didn’t make it out), I made my way down the block to the cafe next door to The Blue Pig and had some Albanian sausages with feta and tomatoes and an order of fries to provide a foundation for a decent night’s drinking ahead.

It was news to me to find this out, but apparently what’s special about Albanian sausages is you taste them every time you burp for the rest of the night — and, perhaps, your life — but I ordered them because I’d never seen them before, and if it was an education I wanted, it was an education I got. Back at The Blue Pig, the home brew was a lighter-type beer called Spotted Cow, and I commenced pint-sized incremental suicide solutions at a moderate to slow pace, wanting to keep my head about me for the drive back to the hotel down the road and in general to remember what was happening because I knew it would be a while before I’d be able to write about it.

To that end, I took notes. I hate taking notes at shows. There’s no way to do it and not look like a complete dick (thanks to Eli Brown for visual evidence, and yes, I wore fucking sandals; funny, I don’t remember doom having a uniform when I started listening to it), but you can see the results at the top of this post, and clearly there was a lot to note, beginning just as soon as the Chicago two-guitar foursome Snake Dance got started. Introduced as most of the acts were by Smith himself, Snake Dance immediately commenced a straightforward at all costs hard rock that was vaguely adherent to punk the way Motörhead nods at The Stooges, but more or less disinterested with everything that came after a certain point in time. Hard to peg a year to it, but you can bet it’s before grunge hit.

Guitarist/vocalist Scott seemed to be in charge from the outset, and when he asked the still-arriving crowd, “Anybody like muscle cars?” before playing “426 Hemi Cuda,” he did so in a manner so irony-free, I was immediately reminded of Negative Reaction, similarly existing on a plane most people will never know or access and still reaching out to an audience to see who’s on board for the ride. Scott would soon shout out to Monster Magnet and C.O.C., and that only furthered the connection in my mind with that band’s more heavy rocking latter-day output, which weren’t bad for what they were, essentially a more punk-minded exploration of those influences.

And yeah, they were alright to open. Maybe having come a long way was a part of it, but sometimes I want a fest like this to have a headliner early to start things off, kind of like what Leif Edling was talking about in that recent interview — someone with more of a draw to lure people in early, get them drinking and really give the weekend a launch. I’ll say, however, that by the time Snake Dance were finished, the room was already pretty full, and it remained so for the duration of the night and the Saturday to follow, so what the hell do I know. Not like I’ve ever put one of these things on.

Solace/The Disease Concept guitarist Tommy Southard (there to close the fest out with the former band) recommended Super Invader, so I bought their two CDs on his word. The bassless three-piece came through fine for their lack of low end, though I wondered if they had some personal objection to it or just hadn’t yet found the right person, since it didn’t seem like it would hurt them. A few Church of Misery riffs here, a few Orange Goblin cadences there, but basically they were a stoner metal band with a light-box that shone every time pierced-septum vocalist Adam stomped on it and also seemed to contain a fog machine. Something to be said for that kind of novelty. It looked homemade and I respect that.

They covered Cavity‘s “Supercollider,” and I respect that too. In general, their riffs were better than their stage raps — taking a break from his throaty vocal approach, Adam at one point tried to shout out the Green Bay Packers and was met with doomly crickets — but with more stonerly grooves, they gradually won sympathy for their cause, and I didn’t regret buying the CD. Should be interesting to hear how the live sound translates when I get to listen, but either way, they gave a decent enough showing and guitarist Dustin had presence to back up his riffs and tone.

Two bands into the day’s total six, I still had yet to be overwhelmed, but the sort of workmanly beginning to Days of the Doomed II was fitting the kind of overall metallicism that seems to have triumphed in the Midwestern heavy underground — at least if this weekend’s sampling was anything to go by. Where on the East Coast, it seems to be a race to find out who can accumulate the most indie cred while also denying they’re a stoner rock or a doom band, the sense I got at The Blue Pig was more in line with a post-Pantera metal brotherliness. Not sure I feel more aligned with one or the other at this point — one bases its elitism vaguely on class/education and the other vaguely on gender/race, and each has its appeal musically despite being problematic on these levels — that’s not to mention the fashion requirements, which are a separate issue unto themselves — but for what it’s worth, it’s not like I caught shit at any point during the fest for sitting in the corner next to the classic arcade game and writing notes between and during the sets. And I very easily could have. I stole the bar’s pen.

Since everyone was playing through the same backline of cabinets, changeovers were quick and the show was running early almost as soon as it was running. I’d been specifically looking forward to seeing Houston-based Sanctus Bellum — last week’s Wino Wednesday featurees — and was glad to get a copy of their soon-to-be-reviewed second album, The Shining Path, from the band. They were super-solid, and among the more intricate of the acts in the lineup of the whole weekend, stylistically speaking. They straddle that very line in the previous paragraph between what is straightforward metal and what is doom and what is rock, and seemed on stage as they have on both their albums to have crafted a niche for themselves within that line.

In what I consider to be one of the weekend’s biggest personal victories, I waited until Saturday to nerd out to vocalist Justin Waggoner about his former band, Mr. Plow‘s final and Kurt Vonnegut-themed album, Asteroid 25399, but helping in that process was just how different Sanctus Bellum really is. In this context, his raw, lightly effected vocals (which produced several coughs between songs) come through with more in common with the moments in Acid Bath when Dax Riggs decided to be soulful than any kind of stoner rock, and the guitars were darker in tone and method alike. Their tone, though consistent with the albums, seemed to be coming through the P.A. thin, and when I looked and saw that both guitarists Jan Kimmel and Maurice Eggenschwiler were playing through Dime amps, I wasn’t necessarily surprised, remembering a similar issue when I saw Crowbar in Jersey late in 2010.

Still, their songs make complex ideas seem relatable, and bassist Ben Yaker and drummer Carl Cousins made for a plenty-strong rhythm section to fill out the two guitars in the five-piece. Waggoner didn’t front the band, per se, and instead, he, Yaker, Kimmel and Eggenschwiler stood in a line in front of the stage. When it came time for a cover of Pentagram‘s “The Sign of the Wolf” — one of the fest’s two Pentagram tributes — the vocalist stepped back and the band brought up guests out of the crowd, including Orodruin guitarist John Gallo and bassist Michael Puleo, who’d shortly kick more than a fair amount of ass after Indiana’s Stone Magnum got through with their leather ‘n’ chrome Judas Priest-style trad metal.

No disrespect to musically. They were among the tightest bands of the whole weekend had a crisp, clear idea of what they wanted to do and a pro presentation to match. They like their Trouble and I won’t fault them for that either. But the stage moves left me cold and the chrome cross on the mic stand felt like too much. The songs weren’t terrible, and in fact I’m usually on board for a totally unironic embrace of the cliche — the weekend had more of them than it had covers; Stone Magnum taking on Deep Purple‘s boogie rocking “Black Night”  — but watching, found myself more enthralled that the Brewers and the Twins were tied 3-3 in the bottom of the sixth.

I spent a good portion of the rest of that evening trying to reason out why, too, because once Orodruin started, it’s not like they were high experimental art. On paper, what’s the difference between a “Locksmith of Misery” and a “Wicked Wizard?” that I should so much prefer the other to the one? They were both trad doom, just with vastly different takes on it, and where Stone Magnum were more schooled in how to be a metal band, Orodruin were unquestionably more schooled in the ethics that inspired that metal in the first place. One of Days of the Doomed II‘s most potent power trios and an act I’d never seen before, they absolutely fucking killed. Puleo was among the most effective vocalists in the whole fest lineup (and yes, Eric Wagner played Saturday), and of the more than several three-piece bands who played, their dynamic between the players seemed to have the biggest impact on the overall sound. Gallo proved to be a madman on guitar, his tone unmatched and his stage-faces framed by his oddly-shaped beard, and drummer Mike Waske was absolutely essential to their stomp and swagger.

My sense for what to expect from Sanctus Bellum was pretty good, but Orodruin surprised the hell out of me, and I was really glad to have picked up a copy of the limited-to-30 CDR In Doom, from which they played several songs, including set-highlight “Shipwrecked.” Low, slow and dark, they felt like a band people are missing out on, who should tour and sell out of their merch every show they play. They weren’t clean, but they were tight and their sound was diverse but unwaveringly natural and unforced, and for a band who lives some 11 and a half hours away in Rochester, NY, they made a home for themselves in Cudahy and got the best crowd response of the night, including from me. Claws were thrown.

Even guitarist/vocalist John Brenner of Revelation acknowledged Orodruin‘s having killed it in a break between songs, saying they were a tough act to follow. He was right. Brenner has a righteous tone of his own, bassist Bert Hall is a board certified badass, Steve Branagan somehow manages to make rock drumming sound intimate, and they’ve put out more albums between Revelation and their alter-ego band Against Nature in the last three years than most people do in a lifetime, but their stage presence is subdued, and watching them, it’s more about the emotional resonance of the music than it is about the classic horror awesomeness. Nonetheless, the Marylanders did not — could not, really — disappoint, though I was glad I’d seen Against Nature at SHoD last year so I had some idea of what to expect. I felt like that gave me some advantage over a lot of the Days of the Doomed crowd, which began to thin out as the trio wound down.

That said, the differences between seeing a Revelation set and an Against Nature set are marked. Sure, it’s the same people — in the crowd too; I recognized SHoD organizers Rob and Cheryl Levey and a host of other faces from Maryland — and a lot of the same kind of presentation, but the personalities of the songs are much different, and what sounds like humbleness in Against Nature is recast as a deep woe in Revelation. Still, there’s a classic rock influence in there that’s impossible to deny — Brenner said it came from, “Trying to play Rush wrong” — and that came across as well as the warmth in Hall and Brenner‘s tones.

It was not yet one in the morning when Revelation were done, but they’d played their full set and I was quick to get back to the hotel after a long enough day of driving, drinking and rocking (not at the same time, though I did rock and drive for a little bit there, listening to the new Witch Mountain with Postman Dan) with the prospect of Saturday still to go. I said a few quick goodnights, threw down a smoke bomb, and disappeared as mysteriously as I’d arrived.

Day Two to come tomorrow. More pics after the jump in the meantime. Thanks for reading.

Read more »

Tags: , , , , , , , ,