Goatsnake ticket give away

Goatsnake at the Black Cat

Metal fans are not going to want to miss Goatsnake when they make a rare East Coast appearance at the Black Cat on Wednesday, October 14th, 2015. We’re so excited for this show that we’re going to be giving away a free pair of tickets to this show to one of you loyal DC Heavy Metal readers! To enter: just leave a comment on this post telling me what your favorite stoner, doom or sludge metal band is. At 5pm EST this Friday, October 9th, a winner will be chosen at random (using Random.org) from all valid entries to receive two tickets to the show! Be sure to use a valid email you check regularly so I can contact you if you win. Don’t worry, I won’t add you to any spam lists or sell your info or anything sleazy like that. If I haven’t heard back from the winner in 24 hours another winner will be chosen at random. If you can’t wait to see if you win, or the contest is already over when you read this, then you can get tickets from right now for $15 from Ticket Fly here.

Goatsnake is from Los Angeles and features members of bands like The Obsessed and Sunn O))). Goatsnake have made a name for themselves with their blend of southern rock and doom metal and this summer they released their first album in 15 years, Black Age Blues, and it rips! They have a high energy live show but they rarely make it to the East Coast to play live so you don’t want to miss this rare chance to see them right here in Washington, DC, one of just three of their East Coast dates. Also on the bill is YDi (pronounced Why Die), a reformed old school hardcore band that started in Philadelphia in the 80s. The opener is Big ‡ Brave from Montreal, Canada, and they play a strange experimental style of metal. Now check out these videos of the bands playing the show and let me know what your favorite doom, sludge or stoner metal band is in the comments!

Goatsnake – Elevated Man

YDi – Black Dust

Big ‡ Brave – On The By – And – By And Thereon

Review of Ghost at the Fillmore Silver Spring

Ghost at the Fillmore Silver Spring

On Tuesday, September 22nd of 2015, Ghost kicked off the first show of their US tour when they played the Fillmore Silver Spring, coincidentally the same day that the pope arrived in Washington DC. The mysterious Swedish band is always a spectacle to see live with their elaborate unholy church theme. While their catchy songs are on the lighter side of the metal spectrum, their live show has always been the main attraction for this band.

The only opening act at this show was Purson, a London based psychedelic rock band. I only caught the end of their set (there was a huge line to get into the show) but I wasn’t too impressed by what I did hear. The music was fairly standard for the style and not really that interesting to me. Vocalist/guitarist Rosalie Cunningham was wearing an extremely low cut, skin tight catsuit that certainly got her lots of attention for anything but her music. I couldn’t help feeling like I’d just seen the same shtick when Lucifer opened for High On Fire and Pallbearer at the Baltimore Soundstage last month.

Ghost is known for their stage set up which resembles the inside of a cathedral complete with an imitation stained glass backdrop. The band is anonymous so they all wear masks to hide their identities, a gimmick that has led to much speculation about who the band members actually are. The instruments in Ghost are all played by the “Nameless Ghouls” who were wearing metallic masks with devil horns and no mouths. The vocals are handled by Papa Emeritus III, an unholy pope with a skull painted mask on his face, long papal robes with upside crosses adorning them, and even a mitre (what most people call a “pope hat”) with the band’s logo emblazoned on it.

Ghost played for about an hour and a half, but that time went by pretty quick since they are so entertaining. They played eight songs off their newest album, Meliora (see the entire set list here). The songs have kitschy but fun openly satanic lyrics for the most part, and the entire audience sang along for most of the entire show. The music itself isn’t anything revolutionary, it’s fairly simple and straightforward but they do have some cool riffs in there and Ghost is really catchy overall.

The performance can best be described as broken up into two halves, the first half had five songs from the first album Ghost album, Opus Eponymous, and was the typical unholy church mass you might expect. For some reason they started the show off with the song “Spirit,” the rather lackluster first track off of Meliora. An odd choice since just two songs later they played “Ritual,” a song which has one of the best openings to get a crowd into a show that a band could hope for. Even the second song they played, “From The Pinnacle To The Pit,” would have been a better opener. There was also a short drum solo in the first half of the set, which was ok I guess but to a metal head that has seen some absolutely incredible live drum solos over the years it wasn’t anything that wowed me. If you have seen Ghost prior to this tour then you probably knew what you were getting for the first half of the show.

The second half of the show was a bit different than the first, and caused some controversy among the band’s older fans. There were still plenty of songs from Meliora in this part of the set, but no more tunes from the debut were played. Several from the second album, Infestissumam, were performed in the second half of the show though. The really defining thing that separated the first and second halves of the show was when Papa Emeritus III changed costume. He ditched the robes and mitre and came out in a much more form fitting jacket that looked like something a naval commander in the days of wooden ships might wear. I can understand the idea of trying to update and evolve the character of Papa Emeritus to keep it from getting stale, but I think the execution here was a miss. An evil twist on a more traditionally religious costume might have gone over better and kept with the unholy church theme. Papa’s voice also seemed to have more trouble in the second half of the show, he missed a few notes here and there, though he tended to recover quite well. There was a cool section that featured two songs being played acoustically. I rather enjoyed this as I had to miss their recent acoustic performance at the Sound Garden in Baltimore. At one point the Nameless Ghoul on keyboard duty stepped into the spotlight for a brief keytar solo, which was a bit ridiculous yet seemed to fit right in with the campy Ghost performance. There was an encore which featured several songs, including “Ghuleh/Zombie Queen,” a highlight of the show, and even “If You Have Ghosts” a track off their covers album. The 19th and final song of the set was “Monstrance Clock,” a catchy song that had the entire audience singing along to the chorus.

In all the show was a lot of fun. The first half was a more traditional Ghost show while the second half was a more modern take, even if didn’t quite hit the mark at times. Still, it’s good to see the band trying new things to stay fresh and relevant in a time where music fans have such short attention spans. Ghost is still a great band to get the uninitiated into metal concerts because they’re just so much fun live and that’s something both new and old metal fans can agree on.

The following photos were all shot by Metal Nick at the show, the first of hopefully many collaborations between Metal Nick and Metal Chris!


Purson at the Fillmore Silver Spring

Purson at the Fillmore Silver Spring

Purson at the Fillmore Silver Spring

Purson at the Fillmore Silver Spring

Purson at the Fillmore Silver Spring


Ghost at the Fillmore Silver Spring

Ghost at the Fillmore Silver Spring

Ghost at the Fillmore Silver Spring

Ghost at the Fillmore Silver Spring

Ghost at the Fillmore Silver Spring

Ghost at the Fillmore Silver Spring

Ghost at the Fillmore Silver Spring

Interview with Marty Friedman

Last week I was given the opportunity to interview Marty Friedman. Marty is probably best known for playing guitar in Megadeth through the 90s although since then he relocated to Japan and has played in many bands there since then, including his eponymous solo project. I asked him a lot about his latest solo record, his upcoming tour and even his time living in the DMV area, but unfortunately he didn’t want to talk much about Megadeth and quickly ended the interview when I started asking about it. So I didn’t get to ask everything I wanted to (including lots more non-Megadeth stuff too) but there’s still some interesting info in this eight minute interview and you can stream it by pressing the orange play button below, download it as an 18mb mp3 here, or read the transcription below. As usual, my words are in bold.

Hello this is Metal Chris from DCHeavyMetal.com and I’m talking to the legendary guitarist Marty Friedman via Skype from Japan right now. Marty released a solo album in 2014 titled Inferno and he’ll be kicking off his US tour in our area at the Baltimore Soundstage on September 9th. Now Marty, you have eleven solo albums to choose material from and songs from other bands as well that you’ve been in. So what kind of set list can fans expect to see on this tour?

It’s going to have a little bit of everything in there. Obviously it’s a lot of stuff to choose from. There’s only about two hours to play. I think we’re shooting for like a two hour show, give or take a few minutes either way but there’s going to be a lot of surprises, a lot of things that people don’t expect. The stuff that’s worked best live in the past and the stuff that I’ve been wanting to play from my new album Inferno is going to get the most air time during the concerts.

So can fans expect anything from your older bands like Cacophony or Megadeth or Metal Clone X or anything like that?

Hahaha. Um, Metal Clone X maybe. Yeah I wouldn’t expect anything from the other bands really. I’ve got twelve albums of solo stuff to choose from. Yeah I really wouldn’t expect stuff from other bands. It could happen but I wouldn’t go counting on it.

So are you going to have a vocalist for these shows on this tour?

No, but there might be vocals anyway.

So maybe a couple guests might come out or something?

That could happen. There could be guests. There could be a surprise vocal by myself or someone else from the band. [There is] going to be a lot of different things that you wouldn’t really expect but the main focus is probably going to be on overall adrenaline and overall, wow I can’t believe it was this intense you know, and kind of surprise. That’s the kind of reaction that I think we’re going to get.

Marty Friedman

In May of 2014 you released Inferno and that is your first solo album to be released in the US in I think a decade or so here. Is there a reason you didn’t release anything to us in the US here for so long?

Yeah I’ve been really pretty much tied up in Japan with my activities over here and I’ve released several albums here in Japan. It was just a, you know, too much… I didn’t have the time or ability to cultivate the world outside of Japan so much and to do stuff like that right you really have to spend a lot of time touring and doing press and stuff like that and there just wasn’t enough hours in the day because I was so incredibly busy in Japan with everything here that I couldn’t give the albums the, you know, cultivation that they deserved outside of Japan. And then Prosthetic Records came up with the idea of reissuing all of my Japan only albums in America and topping it off with a new worldwide release called Inferno. I thought that was a fantastic idea and it allowed me to reissue my old stuff, not really old but my stuff that was only in Japan, and also let people see what I’m doing exactly right now all around the world so I really have to thank Prosthetic for that.

So is this going to lead to more releases here in the West and more touring?

Definitely. Definitely. This first tour is really just to kind of get my feet wet and introduce my Japanese band to people in America and I think they’re going to think it’s super fresh. It’s really exciting and it’s different you know. I really don’t know what to expect from the audiences in America as I haven’t played there in forever. But that’s the whole thing you know. The album got wonderful attention in America. Fantastic reviews in places like Rolling Stone and Grammy.com and Billboard. Places that usually completely ignore anything I do. It seemed to be a good sign to take it to America and go on tour. We’re already talking about a second leg of this thing in America and we haven’t even started the first one yet so that’s a good sign. It’s my home country and especially Baltimore is my hometown so I’m really super excited to kick off the tour there.

Why exactly did you name the album Inferno? Are you a Dante fan or does it have some other meaning to you?

Haha. Actually I wanted to have kind of a cliché heavy metal title. I had the concept for the cover way before I really had finished all the music. I wanted people to know that it was a heavy record and I wanted a really super cliché heavy metal word. But I wanted the photo, or the graphics on the cover to be like really artistic and non-cliché. So I wanted that kind of a opposite contrast. I wanted a super, almost corny title, but you know it’s metal. But I wanted to have the front cover, the whole entire cover, look like a gorgeous piece of art. Not a terribly typical heavy metal cover at all. That’s kind of where the title came from.

Cover of Inferno by Marty Friedman

Now like you said before, you used to live in this area. You lived in Laurel, Maryland then I think right?

That’s right. Yep, Laurel.

So when exactly was that and were you in any local metal bands here or anything?

Yeah I grew up in Laurel all the way through my teens and I was in a band called Deuce. We were uh, I don’t know if you’d call it metal but maybe metal, punk, rock and roll. And we played in the area. We played as far as New York and Delaware and Virginia and DC and all that kind of stuff. Really intense, kind of punk, kind of metal.

So did you ever go to Hammerjacks or some of the other venues around here back then?

Where did we play? We played at Louie’s Rock City. Is that even still there?

No. Most of the older venues are gone. 9:30 Club is still around.

We didn’t play there.

Black Cat, but a lot of the older ones they’ve gone under or moved or whatever. There’s new ones that have taken a lot of their places too.

Yeah, I really wouldn’t… it’s been a while man, it’s been a while. But it was absolutely great times and a lot of the guys from the band are hopefully going to be at this Baltimore show and we’re going to have a good time.

So why did you end up leaving the area?

My dad got transferred. His job got transferred to Hawaii. And which I loved going to Hawaii but it sucked leaving my band and it sucks for music in Hawaii so it was a double edged sword type of thing.

At some point though you ended up out in the San Francisco Bay Area or something right?

Right, that’s right.

Is that when you started Cacophony?

Yeah that’s where we put that together.

Cool, cool. Now how did you end up going from Cacophony to Megadeth? They were a fairly obscure band, to a much bigger name band?

Yeah you know what we’re going to, we’re going to have to like end this interview really quickly because the next one is up so if you have like one last final question you want to ask I can get to that but the next one is already on the line here so I’m already holding him on.

Marty Friedman at the Baltimore Soundstage

Alright I was told I had 15 minutes but alright um… why did you decide to move to Japan?

The Japan thing happened completely because I just got way into Japanese domestic music, or J-pop so to speak, which sounds like pop but it really includes rock and metal and dance music and electro music and everything. I just started listening to it 100% of the time and I’m like, you know this is where I want to make music so it was really that simple.

Alright now are there any songs or albums in your career that you would say that you’re the most proud of?

Definitely Inferno. I mean, hey it’s a common question but like if you can’t say your most recent album, if you have to say well I like my first album or my third album the best then you’re doing something wrong. Of course I like everything I’ve done but you know I wouldn’t bother releasing something if I didn’t think it was the best I could possibly do ever so I would have to say Inferno and we’ll play a lot of that at the show in Baltimore.

Cool. Well is there anything else you’d like to say to your metal fans in the DC/Baltimore, Maryland area?

I can’t wait to see what [the] DC/Baltimore area is like now. I haven’t been there in a long time and that’s where I grew up so I can’t wait to get back.

We’ve got a lot of metal heads and I know a lot of people are excited for this show.

Thank you very much. It’s so nice talking to you Chris.

Alright, thank you so much for your time.

Cool, take care.

Ghost ticket give away

Ghost at the Fillmore Silver Spring

Papa Emeritus and his band of Nameless Ghouls will be playing at the Fillmore Silver Spring on Tuesday, September 22nd as Ghost returns to the DC area. This week we’re giving away a pair of tickets to this show to get you as excited about this show as we are! To enter: leave a comment on this post telling me what your favorite Ghost song is. If you need help you can find their discography listed here. At 5pm EST this Friday, September 4th, a winner will be chosen at random (using Random.org) from all valid entries to receive two tickets to the show! Be sure to use a valid email you check regularly so I can contact you if you win. Don’t worry, I won’t add you to any spam lists or sell your info or anything sleazy like that. If I haven’t heard back from the winner in 24 hours another winner will be chosen at random. If you can’t wait to see if you win, or the contest is already over when you read this, then you can get tickets from right now for $33 from Live Nation here.

The anonymous Swedes of Ghost have their true identities shrouded in mystery but one thing is for sure, they know how to put on a killer live show. From their costumes, stage backdrops and lighting to their super catchy riffs and chorus lines Ghost is quite the musical spectacle to behold. They’ll also be playing with Purson, a psychedelic band from London, who should be great at setting the stage for Ghost. Now check out these killer tunes by Ghost and Purson and tell me what your favorite Ghost song is in the comments!

Ghost – Cirice

Ghost – Year Zero

Purson – The Contract

Review of Maryland Folk Fest

Metal Chris here. In the past I’ve written all the concert reviews on DCHM and usually I shoot all of the live photos as well. For this post we’re trying something new as long time DCHM album reviewer Tal went to the first Maryland Folk Fest last weekend and put together this review. I wasn’t able to attend so I had to ask for photos from those who attended, so big thanks to Tigran Kapinos and the Dogs And Day Drinkers photographer Aubreii Dove for letting us use their images in this post. And as usual, you can read more of Tal’s writing on his blog In My Winter Castle. Now, on to this in depth review and recap of Maryland Folk Fest!

Earlier this year, Paganfest America announced that their gigantic folk metal tour would not be happening in 2015. Folk metal fans all over North America were distraught – and Sarah Stepanik, fiddler and vocalist of Sekengard, decided to do something about it. With the help of other local metalheads, she pulled together this mini-festival of East Coast folk metal (and folk metal-ish) bands at Metro Gallery in Baltimore on Saturday, August 22nd. And Maryland Folk Fest was phenomenal.

Maryland Folk Fest

Metro Gallery seemed like a small place to hold a festival, but then again maybe they weren’t expecting a huge turnout, and Metro Gallery’s capacity is 240 (which sounds like it’d be jam-packed!). At the peak of the festival, the place was comfortably full – there was enough room that you weren’t right up against your neighbor, but there wasn’t much empty space, either.

When I went in, I handed my ID to the guy at the door and said half-jokingly, “Don’t judge me” — because the name and photo on my ID don’t match my look nowadays (although this was the last time dealing with that because I received the legal document changing my name two days after the show). He said, “No judging here. This is a Safer Space.” And he pointed to a sign in the window (I think it was this one). So that was awesome. While I feel pretty comfortable as an LGBT person in the DC area metal scene, it was still nice to know that respect and decency are codified in the venue’s policy.

I got into the venue about 6:45; I thought I was late, but the show wasn’t actually starting till 7. There were maybe 30 or 40 people there then. I figured most of them were band members and their significant others.

Around 7, Heimdall, a band from Lynchburg, VA got started. I haven’t had any spare brain cells for months, so I didn’t have a chance to check out the bands I didn’t know ahead of time, and so I knew nothing about these guys before the show. They played a fast and furious mix of thrash and death metal, with vocals ranging from a Black Dahlia Murder-esque scream to low growls, some thundering thrash riffs and some groovy or churning death metal parts. They looked very young, and rather 80’s/thrashy, with battle vests and wavy chest length hair. There were maybe 50 people standing around during their set. This was definitely not a thrash crowd — the floor was practically still. There was no pit nor even any vigorous headbanging, just a few bobbing heads. Then again, the singer didn’t ask for a pit; based on later events, people might have obliged if he had. He didn’t really interact with the crowd at all, just growled the names of songs, but I have no idea what he said. The band seemed tight and professional though, and sounded good. If I were into thrash or traditional death metal, I would follow them. I was not sure why they were on the bill, though, since the only folk things about them seemed to be their band name and rune-ish looking logo.

Heimdall at Maryland Folk Fest

Heimdall at Maryland Folk Fest by Tigran Kapinos

Heimdall at Maryland Folk Fest

Heimdall at Maryland Folk Fest by Tigran Kapinos

Isenmor was the first of the four bands on the bill that I was familiar with ahead of time. Isenmor was just formed about a year ago in the lovely, tiny town of Savage, MD, and released an EP this past June, which I recently reviewed for DC Heavy Metal. At the fest, they played all the original songs from their EP (though not in order), a cover of Eluveitie‘s “Havoc,” and some new original songs. At least one of these new songs, “Furor Teutonicus,” I’d heard them play last month when they were supposed to open for California’s Helsott at Cafe 611 and unexpectedly got to play a long set when Helsott walked out. This time at Metro Gallery, the sound for Isenmor was clearer, so I was able to get a better feel for the song. It started with a furious barrage of buzzing notes on the two violins, and kept up the fast pace with a volley of harsh vocals. The song I enjoyed most, though, was my favorite from the EP, “So Willingly Deceived” — even though they seemed a little out of synch at first, and the violins sounded a bit out of tune at the end. It’s a slow song, but very grand and melodic. The crowd had grown, and there was a five-person pit during one of the new songs. But the fun was short-lived, because someone got hurt, possibly broke a leg and had be helped out of the pit (and I later found out she was taken away in an ambulance). That put a damper on the moshing for a while. Toward the end of the set, Nick called for a circle pit during “Death is a Fine Companion,” and one started up again, this time with a few more people – maybe seven :P Isenmor made a big finish, and the crowd cheered enthusiastically. They’d be a hard act to follow, I thought.

Isenmor at Maryland Folk Fest

Isenmor at Maryland Folk Fest by Luna Rose Photography

Isenmor at Maryland Folk Fest

Isenmor at Maryland Folk Fest by Luna Rose Photography

The next band on the bill was Dogs And Day Drinkers, hailing from the Eastern Shore of Maryland. I’ve seen this band numerous times over the past few years, and they’ve really come far. They seem to have finally hit their stride and found their sound, maybe partly due to their new vocalist, who seems to have a stronger voice than their previous singer. At times the band sounds like early A Sound Of Thunder — the charging heavy metal riffs, the powerful female vocals. But Ashley Marie’s voice isn’t exactly same as that of Nina Osegueda of A Sound Of Thunder (of course); Ashley’s voice has more edge to it, and the band’s overall sound is more straight-ahead heavy metal than A Sound Of Thunder ever was. One thing they do share are blazing guitar solos, although Dan Wise’s are more shred and not bluesy like those by A Sound Of Thunder guitarist Josh Schwartz. The band played a new song that they’d never played before, which Ashley said that people wouldn’t like, but it was actually was one of their best songs. It started off with a very “Barracuda”-like riff and then got more creative. Another song was introduced as “that one folk metal song we wrote one time,” and it had a much more epic, Viking-metal sound. They closed with “Battle Hymn,” whose chorus (“We march, we die, leave the bodies where they lie”) has been getting stuck in my head the last few times I’ve seen the band. The floor emptied a bit during their set, with a lot of people sitting down, which was unfortunate since they’re getting pretty good.

Dogs And Day Drinkers at Maryland Folk Fest

Dogs And Day Drinkers at Maryland Folk Fest by Luna Rose Photography

Dogs And Day Drinkers at Maryland Folk Fest

Dogs And Day Drinkers at Maryland Folk Fest by Luna Rose Photography

Next up was another band I had never heard of before, Yonder Realm from Long Island. They reminded me of Eluveitie at first, with a strong death metal flavor to their sound under the folky touches of keyboard and violin and a similar style of harsh vocals, but they also sometimes used lower growls (surprisingly low for the willowy vocalist) or core-y choruses. Their recordings feature a flute as well, which adds to the Eluveitie vibe. Live, they were quite heavy on the guitars, and the keyboard (and I think also a backing track of other folky instruments) was drowned out by the guitars at first. This was fixed after the second song, but then the keyboard was kind of loud and overwhelmed the rest of the band, making the guitars just background noise. The whole band sounded their best when keyboardist Dana Lengel switched to the violin — at that point the acoustic violin balanced nicely with with the other, electric strings. In keeping with the two following bands, the vocalist/guitarist Jesse McGunnigle was a bit of a jokester — he said one song was about “eating all the bitches” (when actually it was called “Pillars of Creation”) and later joked about the fact that there were two “Realm” bands on the bill: “We’re thinking of changing our name to Yonder Aether, or maybe Realm Realm.” The last song they played, “Moonbeam Road,” was very cool, with a dreamy atmospheric beginning before going into epic melodic riffs and then a frenzied fast section in the middle. I was very impressed with the band, and picked up both their album and EP.

Yonder Realm at Maryland Folk Fest

Yonder Realm at Maryland Folk Fest by Luna Rose Photography

Yonder Realm at Maryland Folk Fest

Yonder Realm at Maryland Folk Fest by Luna Rose Photography

Sekengard was in the second slot, but probably played the longest, and liveliest, set of the night. They started off with a polka and invited the crowd to dance — so we obliged! They had the most energetic crowd, with lots of dancing and moshing, and about tied with Isenmor for size of crowd. I believe they also played everything from their recent EP, again not in order though. In addition, vocalist/violinist Sarah Stepanik sang “Where did You Sleep Last Night,” which she introduced as an Appalachian folk song that was covered by Nirvana, and I realized that she can really sing! She started out with a sweet voice, but pretty soon she was belting and snarling the words, giving the song quite a creepy feel. The instruments gradually built up while she was singing, and the band launched right into “Striped Paladin” after the Appalachian song. In between other songs, mandolin and guitar player Dan Paytas made us groan with bad jokes. Sekengard ended with their “two craziest songs,” inviting the crowd to mosh. First was “Howling of the Fen,” so I guessed that “Time Flies When You’re Having Rum,” a song originally performed by Dan and Sarah’s other band Pirates For Sail, was going to be the last one, and so I saved myself for that one (I had already taken a blow to the ribs that knocked the wind out of me early in the set, so I didn’t want to push myself too hard). I was right, and the floor went wild with dancing, spinning and moshing for this rousing and fast-paced song. I think we ended the song with a jig line, and the crowd was wildly appreciative when the band finished.

Sekengard at Maryland Folk Fest

Sekengard at Maryland Folk Fest by Tigran Kapinos

Sekengard at Maryland Folk Fest

Sekengard at Maryland Folk Fest by Tigran Kapinos

Sekengard at Maryland Folk Fest

Sekengard at Maryland Folk Fest by Tigran Kapinos

I can’t remember if this happened before or after Sekengard’s set, but in further silliness that night, Sarah introduced us to the Maryland folk scene’s signature drink: When you combine Sekengard and Isenmor, you get — Isengard. And Sekengard sells shot glasses and Isenmor sells pint glasses, so if you fill one with spiced rum and the other with dark beer, and drop the first into the second, you get — “Taking the Hobbit to Isengard.”

Closing out the night was the other “Realm” band, Aether Realm from North Carolina. Like Yonder Realm, they have a melodeath-ish sound, but theirs is somewhere between Ensiferum and Amon Amarth. I think their time might have been shorter than planned, as they only played about five songs. They were heavy and brutal to rival the first band, and unlike the other bands, turned off the stage lights so they were in darkness, lit only by colorful flashes of light like constant rainbow lightning, which heightened the atmosphere. They started with the single they released this spring, “The Chariot,” which has a catchy melody and chorus. For “Swamp Witch,” they had a guest vocalist, Stormblood of Distoriam, who did even more extreme harsh vocals – lower and growlier – making it even more brutal (video footage of that song is posted here). Aether Realm vocalist/bassist Vincent “Jake” Jones opined that Distoriam ought to have been on the lineup. Another impressive song was “One Chosen By the Gods,” which was very dramatic. It was a massively heavy show, but didn’t show off their melodic side well since it was so loud and distorted that the melodies were mostly lost. The crowd thinned considerably during their set (it was after midnight), but there were still a solid fifty or so people for them, including the other bands. They had Jon Teachey from Wilderun filling in on drums because their drummer had family obligations, but with the noisy sound, I couldn’t hear any difference. Jake said that after a show in September, they were going to take a break from performing for a while since they want to concentrate on writing another album.

Aether Realm at Maryland Folk Fest

Aether Realm at Maryland Folk Fest by Tigran Kapinos

Aether Realm at Maryland Folk Fest

Aether Realm at Maryland Folk Fest by Tigran Kapinos

Aether Realm at Maryland Folk Fest

Aether Realm at Maryland Folk Fest by Tigran Kapinos

With six bands including two unknowns, I had worried there might be some duds or dull moments during the evening, but such a thing never happened. Some sound issues aside, every band delivered an excellent, captivating performance. Before Aether Realm’s set, Sarah gave a little speech thanking everyone, especially the rest of her band and local promoter Bobbie Dickerson, and promised that this will possibly, no, definitely happen again next year. If folk fest were to become a Maryland tradition (à la our other yearly metal festival), this was an awesome start. At least from a fan’s perspective, this first Maryland Folk Fest was an unequivocal success. There is very little I would change — maybe only things I would add, like a food vendor (although that’s perhaps not necessary with all the excellent options outside, and it’s good to support local businesses), and vendors selling folk related stuff. The biggest question of course is, what will next year’s line-up be?

Review of Land Of The Setting Sun by Isenmor

Band: Isenmor
Album: Land of the Setting Sun
Release Date: 21 June 2015
Buy CD ($7) or digital ($5) from: Bandcamp

Land of the Setting Sun by Isenmor

Folk metal is starting to get a foothold in our area. European folk bands have been coming through on their tours for years but we’re starting to see some local folk metal bands pop up. DCHM writer Tal has put together this thorough review of the debut release by one of these bands, Isenmor. You can stream a few tracks at the bottom of this post and listen while you read. You can also check out Tal’s blog In My Winter Castle for more of his writing.

Isenmor, of Savage, Maryland, is the second folk metal band to spring up in the greater DC area in recent years (after Baltimore’s Sekengard). On June 21, Isenmor released a surprisingly mature debut EP (considering that the band was formed a little over a year prior) titled Land of the Setting Sun.

The album title refers to the band’s “Vinlandic” identity. What grounds could a band in the “New World” have for performing European folk music? Well, the Vikings once sailed west into the setting sun and explored the place we now call North America; they called it Vinland. Isenmor takes their inspiration from this to perform Old World music mixed with modern metal, using Viking and Germanic themes. The band’s name, Isenmor, means “iron wasteland” in Old English, and according to vocalist and violinist Nick Schneider, refers to the aftermath of battle, with broken and discarded weapons strewn all about. And I guess that’s fitting since the first two songs on the EP are about the results of battle – death, and the funeral pyre. The lyrics draw on a mix of Germanic and Norse inspirations — while they sing about Wodan and Donar instead of their Norse counterparts Odin and Thor, they also quote from the Viking poem Hávamál (“cattle die, kinsmen die…”). Their sound, meanwhile, is dominated by the two violins (and a viola, according to the credits), which weave folky melodies with English and Celtic inspirations.

The violin-playing is probably the most proficient and appealing part of the EP. The rest of it is enthusiastic and interesting enough, but can’t help sounding a bit amateurish — there’s an unpolished feel to the clean vocals, and a kind of fuzzy sound to the guitars. Of course, this is the self-produced first release of a new band, so an unrefined sound can be forgiven. And some of the roughness may also be purposeful, such as the sawing and scraping of the violin in many parts – a sound which I actually find not unpleasant. Korpiklaani has a similarly scratchy sound to the violin on their first album, Spirit of the Forest, and it gives that album a coarse, earthy feel, which seems fitting for the genre. It makes it really feel like folk, the music of the people.

It took me a few listens to get into Isenmor’s album, possibly partly due to the unpolished sound, but now I love this release. Beneath the violins, there’s a good deal of black metal sound and influence — waves of atmospheric, tremolo-y guitar, screamed vocals delivered at high speed by Nick Schneider. That isn’t all, though; there are also chugging death metal riffs in “Land of the Setting Sun,” thick, heavy-hearted doomy guitar in “So Willingly Deceived,” and furious riffage à la Swedish melodeath in “The Old Mead Hall.” The vocals on the album are also highly varied — besides the screamed vocals, there are also clean vocals by several different band members, grandiose choruses sung by almost the whole band together, and raspy harsh vocals done by Tim Regan (who is also the guitarist). The album begins aggressively, with an energetic violin melody, blastbeats, and an extended scream starting the furious first song, “Death is a Fine Companion,” but most of the album goes at a much slower pace.

My favorite song is one of the slow ones, actually: “So Willingly Deceived,” which is about the conversion of the heathens to Christianity. I have to admit, I probably connected to this song so strongly because it reminded me of the Saxon Stories books by Bernard Cornwell, whose protagonist, Uhtred of Bebbanburg, is a Saxon lord in 9th century England who resists being converted to Christianity. That connection made the sorrowful keyboard and violin melody especially poignant, the verses praising the pagan gods more grandiose, and the anguish of the verses about those who were “willingly deceived” more real. The melody and vocals are underpinned by doomy guitar, long distorted tones during the verses and disconsolate chugging during the violin bridges, which heightens the sense of nostalgia. I really like the clean vocals in this song, which are performed by Nick — while he sounds untrained, he has a commanding voice which further reminds me of Uhtred of Bebbanburg. The lyrics of the song take surprisingly pointed (for folk metal) jabs at Christianity with lines like “You gladly pledge yourselves/ to a tyrant’s bastard son” and “a poorly conceived lie/ of a coward’s paradise.” Along with the first two songs, this song gives the album a decidedly serious feel, so much so that the drinking song that follows it, “The Old Mead Hall,” sounds a bit silly (it is a fun song, though).

After the five original songs on Land of the Setting Sun are two covers drawn from among the best international folk metal bands out there. The first one, a cover of Eluveitie’s “Havoc,” is enjoyable if not novel – it basically sounds like a rough-hewn version of the original. The warmer and simpler sound of the violins in Isenmor’s version, as opposed to the violin, tin whistle, and hurdy-gurdy that Eluveitie use for the furious folk barrages of the song, gives the cover a homelier sound than the tight, clear sound of the original.

The second cover is Ensiferum’s “In My Sword I Trust.” I was initially disappointed in this choice of cover song. It’s not that Isenmor did a bad job; but I don’t like this song or the album it’s from, 2012’s Unsung Heroes, in general. It’s just not up to the high standard and unique style of previous Ensiferum. (This year’s One Man Army redeemed Ensiferum, in my opinion, but I digress…) While “In My Sword I Trust” isn’t a good song for Ensiferum, it is pretty decent as a generic folk metal song, and Isenmor actually sounds really good playing it. Like the rest of the album, it took me a few listens to get into, but now I actually enjoy their rendition of it, certainly more than the original. Isenmor’s violin sounds much more strident playing the melody than the keyboard in the original – especially when both Nick and Miles are playing. The vocals are a bit gruffer, and after the solo (which is carried by the violin rather than the guitar in Isenmor’s cover), when the guitar and growled vocals hammer down on us, the band actually sounds pretty brutal. While not as polished in technique or recording quality, Isenmor’s cover is a lot more interesting than when Ensiferum plays this song.

And that’s not all. You get more than your money’s worth and then some with this EP, as the two covers are followed by acoustic versions of “Pyre” and “So Willingly Deceived.” I won’t deceive you; when I first picked up this album, I groaned inwardly upon seeing two acoustic versions, figuring they wouldn’t hold my interest. I couldn’t have been more wrong. They’re not boring, seeing as the violin melodies, which are a key element of the music, are still there, and with acoustic guitar, bass, and drums added to that, the acoustic songs are even a bit heavy in their own right. The acoustic songs give us more of a chance to appreciate the violins and hear the lyrics a bit better, and so they actually enhanced my appreciation of the metal versions. My opinion here is helped, of course, by the fact that I enjoy just plain folk music as well as folk metal, but I’m pretty sure that most folk metal fans are in the same Viking longship with me there.

Last but not least, the album is further enhanced by the artwork. The cover, showing a small silhouette of a helmeted man with a spear standing on a crag before the sea, in front of a turbulent dark orange sky that dominates the picture, is an oil painting by 19th century Norwegian painter Knud Andreassen Baade, “Scene from the era of Norwegian Sagas.” The CD is printed with “The Ride of the Valkyrs,” an illustration by John Charles Dollman from an early 20th century book of Norse mythology, showing Valkyries in their winged helmets riding horses that seem to leap over the viewer, the gray color and muscular figures making them look like statues. It was pretty clever of the band to use some great public domain artwork for their album – it looks very professional, and really cool to boot, and also fits the nostalgic, history-oriented tone of their album. They should put that cover image on a T-shirt, because I, for one, would give them money for it.

All in all, Isenmor is off to a very strong start with this EP. I’m excited to see where they go — at a live show in Frederick on July 11, they played some new songs which seem to indicate they’re charging full speed ahead with faster and heavier songs. This bodes very well for the folk metal scene in the DC area, as does the Maryland Folk Fest happening at Metro Gallery on August 22, featuring Isenmor, Sekengard, and other folk metal bands from up and down the east coast. We’re becoming a bastion for folk metal, and with Land of the Setting Sun, Isenmor joins the front ranks of this fledgling scene.

Review of B.C.G.C. by Clay Davis

Band: Clay Davis
Album: B.C.G.C.
Release Date: 11 August 2015
Record Label: Grimoire Records
Buy cassette ($5) or digital ($4) from: Bandcamp
Buy 7″ vinyl ($6) from: Fake Crab Records

B.C.G.C. by Clay Davis

Next week there’s another new release coming from local label Grimoire Records! DCHM writer Buzzo Jr got his hands on a copy and reviewed it, though you can stream the release at the bottom of this post. It comes in a few different formats (listed above) and all are pretty cheap so if you dig it then send them a few bucks and get your very own copy.

Taking their name from the corrupt, profanity spewing senator from The Wire, Baltimore powerviolence two-piece Clay Davis make their full length debut with “B.C.G.C.” As the name of the genre may suggest, powerviolence is a genre that is built upon a foundation of tumultuous anger, furious noise, and relentless aggression, much like the similar genre of grindcore. Clay Davis fully deliver on all of these fronts, putting forth what is one of the best local releases this year so far.

It’s become almost standard nowadays for powerviolence and grindcore bands to either bury the bass in the mix or reject the idea of having a bassist altogether, opting for a drum and guitar setup. Clay Davis does the reverse of this, and instead goes without a guitar and lets the bass do the work. The lack of a guitarist doesn’t hold the sound back at all, with Thor Buntin’s monstrous bass lines and thick sludgy tone pummeling through and doling out incredibly intimidating riffs. The drumming is fantastic, with Mike Barth’s explosive blasts and hyperspeed fills giving a frenzied feel to the songs. Mike also switches up his style on the songs “Hit with a Brick” and “Construct of Ruin,” playing at a much slower pace. These tracks may not be as fast as the the others, but don’t let that fool you into thinking they’re any less intense. If the faster tracks are a series of stab wounds from a butterfly knife, then these slower tracks are a blow to the face with a steel toed boot. Thor and Mike’s alternating vocals go between belted hardcore-style shouting, pained, high pitched shrieking, and deep deathgrind style growls. The variety in the vocal styles keeps the flow going, and prevents the tracks from blending together.

A good description for “B.C.G.C” is that it’s the sonic equivalent of getting beaten down in a seedy alleyway. It’s grimy, filthy, and pissed off. While some listeners may be left wanting more due to the short running time, I personally feel that the short length is what makes it so effective. At only ten minutes long, with tracks averaging just under a minute, this album kicks you square in the teeth and leaves you wondering what the hell just happened. I probably listened to this in full four times back to back, loving it more and more each time. The majority of the tracks on “B.C.G.C” whiz by at an incredibly fast pace, offering the listener little to no room to catch their breath and prepare for the next round of chaos. A track that definitely stood out to me was the humorously titled “Poser Disposer,” which starts out with a great breakdown and then erupts into a full speed barrage of crushing riffs and insane blast beats.

I definitely recommend you pick up this record if you’re a fan powerviolence and grindcore similar to Weekend Nachos and DC’s own Magrudergrind (who are now based out of Brooklyn). Clay Davis’ “B.C.G.C” does not mess around. This album is gritty, vitriolic, and straight up angry. Look no further than right here when you need a soundtrack to getting jumped for your wallet and shoes in Pigtown. There’s a pretty good chance that the first thing out of your mouth upon hearing this record will be senator Davis’s favorite exclamation.


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