Review of The Wretched of the Earth by Sickdeer

Band: Sickdeer
Album: The Wretched of the Earth
Release Date: 20 March 2017
Buy on CD ($10) or as digital files ($7) from: Bandcamp

Cover of The Wretched of the Earth by Sickdeer

You may have seen locals Sickdeer as they play out a lot! They seem to be one of the openers on many DIY metal shows in DC. In case you haven’t seen them yet, they’re playing a show at Slash Run tomorrow night (details here). Today we’re running a review of their debut album The Wretched of the Earth that they released this spring. As you might expect, DCHM writer Tal has a lot to say about this album. Be sure to stream it at the bottom of this post while you read.

I was truly surprised to hear of a band like Sickdeer in the DMV area. Usually, haunting black metal seeping with atmosphere seems to come from some far-off, mysterious place, like Eastern Europe or Russia, or at least Washington state or Utah. How could the urbanized and urbane (and sludge-choked) DC metropolitan area spawn something so atmospheric?

However it happened, I’m not complaining. Well, not a lot, anyway. I do have to say that the band’s name didn’t exactly scream “atmospheric black metal,” so it may not be the most effective marketing tool. Same for the album cover – with the black and white design and the medieval font, it channels Venom’s Black Metal pretty hard.

Once they got me in the door, though, I was quickly won over. “Retracting Accusations,” the first song on The Wretched of the Earth, starts off with an acoustic bit at the beginning, which sounds like it could have some Middle Eastern or Spanish influence. It seduces the listener into the album before the black metal barrage kicks in. Sickdeer is a bit more uptempo than your typical ABM band (which tend to have a more doomy tempo) but I’m going to stick with the atmospheric tag because of the sorrowful, cascading riffs that underpin every song.

They also have a strong groove to their music, especially in the second song, “Pitiful Ego.” It starts out slow but relentlessly driving, impossible to resist bobbing your head along to – at a nice measured pace. And then it picks up from time to time, including a little jackhammer death metal interlude in the middle.

That’s not the only death metal-ish thing about this album. The vocals are mostly a guttural roar, more like death metal vocals, only sometimes going into a raspy scream more typical of black metal. The vocals do get just a tad monotonous, but they do provide a nice contrast to the moodier, prettier atmospheric riffage.

Despite its dispirited title, “The Wretched of the Earth” might actually be the most beautiful song on the album, with a drawn-out, doomy melody. It also has the only annoying vocals. It’s pretty hard to annoy me with black metal vocals — I’m a sucker for the dirtiest, snarliest, gargliest black metal vocals out there — but there’s a part in the middle which sounds like a yowling cat which I don’t enjoy. That may be the point, of course, since some metal bands make a point to be unpleasant to the ears. And it may be that I’ll get used to it, as I have to countless other types of, ahem, unusual metal vocals.

Based on the song titles (I can’t make out most of the lyrics) the lyrical themes of the album seem to be typical black/death metal subject matter – how despicable we all are (“Pitiful Ego,” “The Wretched of the Earth”), how fleeting and doomed our existence (“Sand to Dust,” “Awaiting the Trench”). No nature or fantasy themes here. No clean vocals or choirs either.

I wonder if the band set out to create an “atmospheric black metal” album, or that’s just what The Wretched of the Earth ended up sounding like. Either way, it’s still a great gift to our local metal scene – a mysterious far-away place to lose ourselves in when the DC traffic and politics get to be too much.

Decibel Metal And Beer Fest in Philadelphia

I don’t usually cover things outside of the DC area but I’ll make an exception for the Decibel Metal & Beer Fest held at the Fillmore Philadelphia on April 22nd and 23rd. Metal and beer are two of my favorite things and Decibel did a great job of bringing together some excellent bands along with some quality breweries with heavy metal ties for a weekend that was pretty damn fun overall. I’ve been a rather sick since the fest so I’m behind on getting this post up, but there was some cool stuff going on at this fest that I wanted to make sure got covered here even if it is going up a bit late.

I’d never been to the Fillmore in Philadelphia before but I quickly realized that it is much larger than our Fillmore in Silver Spring, maybe about double the size. The doors opened at 5pm each day and bands were still setting up their merch booths as the doors opened. Things were a little disorganized, but considering this was the first fest of its kind it wasn’t that bad. One of Mikkeller‘s beers didn’t show up until the second day and the venue ran out of the small plastic beer sampling glasses rather quickly on the first day which lead to most people getting cups from the bar. Overall those weren’t major issues though and it was a lot of fun talking to the people that work for the various breweries about their beer and metal bands they are into.

Atlas Brew Works at Decibel Metal & Beer Fest

Atlas Brew Works representing DC

There were 17 breweries at the festival and each had a booth with at least two beers being poured. The booths were mostly on the ground floor lining the walls in the main concert room, however there were 4 upstairs and 3 in the main entry room, including the massive Unibroue booth. Along with the band merch and beer booths there were a few other merch vendors in the main entry room. Despite being in Philly, between all my beer friends and metal friends I felt like I kept running into someone whichever way I turned all weekend.

Dave Mustaine of Megadeth

Dave Mustaine pouring the A Tout Le Monde beer

The festival did a really good job of actually blending a metal fest with a beer fest. This wasn’t just a metal show with some beer vendors, or a beer fest with some metal bands playing. Decibel managed to bring together metal bands with ties to craft beer with breweries with ties to heavy metal. Burnt Hickory had a beer tap that looked like an Orange amp rig. Trve Brewing and Hammerheart Brewing both had brewers in bands that performed at the fest (Khemmis and Panopticon, respectively). Dave Mustaine was there on Saturday to pour samples of the Megadeth beer A Tout Le Monde at the Unibroue booth, he was certainly getting A-list celebrity treatment. I found Dan Lilker (of Anthrax, Nuclear Assault, and a ton of other bands over the years) pouring beer at the Mikkeller booth and taking photos with any fans that wanted one. I talked to him a bit and it turns out he’s really into craft beer and even knows some of the guys at the Danish brewery Mikkeller, which is how he ended up manning their booth. At one point I saw Municipal Waste drummer and craft beer connoisseur Dave Witte at the Cigar City Brewing booth, where the Municipal Waste beer Divine Blasphemer was being poured. And Richard Christy (of Death, Iced Earth and also the Howard Stern Show) was seen sipping the Charred Walls Of The Damned beer from Burnt Hickory.

Dan Lilker at the Mikkeller booth

Dan Lilker at the Mikkeller booth

And let’s not forget about the awesome bands! There was a wide range of metal in the line up. Grindcore, stoner, thrash, death metal, black metal, doom, the focus was certainly on the more underground sub genres. On the first day of the festival I was most excited to see Panopticon. Austin Lunn is the mastermind behind Panopticon and also a brewer at Hammerheart Brewing in Minnesota. Despite forming about 10 years ago, the band has only recently starting performing live. Their first live show ever was last summer at Migration Fest. This is because Panopticon is a one man band in studio and Austin gets other people to fill out the band for live shows. Panopticon is known for mixing black metal with Appalachian folk to create a truly unique sound, sometimes called “blackgrass” as a hybrid between bluegrass and black metal. Unfortunately they didn’t use a banjo live, and their mix wasn’t always great, but it was still pretty awesome getting to see Panopticon live as they have some very powerful and moving songs. I also found Austin’s Hammerheart brewery to be one of my favorites at the fest. They specialize in smoked beer (which is a personal favorite style of mine) and their rauchbier was my favorite beer of the entire fest. Apparently Austin apprenticed at a brewery in Norway for a while and upon returning to the US he moved from Kentucky to Minnesota to start Hammerheart Brewing. The brewery’s name is no coincidence, it is in fact named after the 1993 Bathory album.

Panopticon performing their song Black Soot And Red Blood at the Decibel Metal & Beer Fest!

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Immolation also played an intense set on Saturday, as they are typically known for. They may not do a lot on stage besides stand there and play their instruments but they do get people going with those crazy riffs. I thought I would see a lot more crowd surfers during Municipal Waste’s set. They were fun as always but I guess the fans were holding back because they went nuts for the night’s headliner. Agoraphobic Nosebleed headlined the first day with a great set. I wish Jay Randall had been there to perform with them, but the band still put on a great show and even played one of their sludgy songs from the Arc EP, “Not A Daughter.” As usual the Chicken Man was there leading the moshing and even got a shout out from ANb.

Agoraphobic Nosebleed at Decibel Metal & Beer Fest

Agoraphobic Nosebleed at Decibel Metal & Beer Fest

On the second day my favorite performance was probably Khemmis. The Denver based doom metal band put out one hell of an album in Hunted last year and I had yet to see them perform live. Their drummer, Zach Coleman, is also a brewer at the black metal themed Trve Brewing in Denver so their inclusion on the fest’s line up seemed like a no brainer. I had actually met Zach a few weeks before at my own metal show at Atlas Brew Works, and as fate would have it Trve’s booth was next to Atlas’s booth. Trve is best known for making excellent sour beers, though they only brought one sour to the fest, along with their Sleep inspired Nazareth IPA. Trve’s beers are very hard to come by on the East Coast, so this was a great opportunity to get your hands on some.

Zach Coleman of Trve Brewing and Khemmis

Zach Coleman at the Trve Brewing booth

Sleep headlined the final day of the Metal & Beer Fest and they put on a great show as always. Time seems to have no meaning when Sleep is playing live and although they didn’t play any parts of the song “Dopesmoker” like they usually do, they did play some rarities like “The Clarity” single they released on Adult Swim a few years back and “Sonic Titan,” the other song on the original release of Dopesmoker. Pig Destroyer was another highlight of Sunday’s line up. Their lighting was low and there was a lot of fog, less than optimal conditions for photography, but don’t let that make you think their set was anything but intense. They even brought out Dag Nasty vocalist Shawn Brown to perform with them when they covered the Void song, “Who Are You.”

Sleep at Decibel Metal & Beer Fest

Sleep at Decibel Metal & Beer Fest

Sleep at Decibel Metal & Beer Fest

In all the weekend was pretty great! Almost all the best metal related breweries were there, like Burial, Three Floyds, Trve, Holy Mountain and DC’s own Atlas. The only breweries I felt really should have been there but weren’t were Jester King from Austin and Oliver Ales from Baltimore. While Hammerheart’s Weltenwanderer rauschbier was my favorite beer of the weekend, there were other standouts as well such as Wigsplitter coffee stout from 3 Floyds, Ritualknife black braggot from Burial (a collab with Trve), Charred Walls Of The Damned Belgian quad cinnamon apple pie variant from Burnt Hickory, Twisted Doom New England style IPA from 18th Street and Cursed sour pale ale from Trve. I think the best brewery of the event has to go to Burnt Hickory from Kennesaw, Georgia. They were totally in the spirit with their Orange amp rig beer tap as well as bringing by far the most beers of any brewery to the event, including several rare variants of Charred Walls Of The Damned. I hope Decibel does this event again next year and I really hope more breweries get as into it as Burnt Hickory did!

Burnt Hickory Brewery's Orange beer tap

Burnt Hickory Brewery’s Orange beer tap

Thanks for reading to the end of my post. I had some help covering things in Philly from Metal Nick so be sure to check out more of his videos from this fest (and many, many other concerts) on his YouTube page here and more of his photos on his Flickr page here. Maryland Deathfest XV is just around the corner so stay tuned for our coverage leading up to our favorite local metal festival!

Metal and Beer collide!

I don’t know if you’ve noticed but lately the worlds of craft beer and heavy metal have really been colliding, even more than they usually do. Last week the Craft Brewers Conference (CBC) was held in DC. It’s a multi-day conference that is held in a different city each year and this year DC hosted it at the convention center. Craft brewers from around the country attend to take seminars and learn about new techniques and equipment they can brew with, as well as learn about how to better market their beer and other things like that. That’s great if you’re a brewer but for the rest of us CBC coming to town means a ton of side-events at bars and breweries in the area as our city hosts all these out of town brewers. Many breweries brought beers that normally aren’t distributed in our area but thanks to DC’s awesome beer distribution laws they can be sold in DC during the festival. That’s why so many bars had tap take overs from out of area breweries last week and so many of the specialty beer stores had beers from breweries that we never usually see around here.

Aside from exotic beers at Churchkey, Meridian Pint, Jack Rose and other places with CBC related events, there were a couple of metal shows during CBC week as well. DC Brau’s 6th anniversary happened to be during CBC week so they put together a one off show with Baroness at the 9:30 Club on Wednesday, April 12th. The band put on a great performance and played many old songs since 2017 is the 10th anniversary of their first album. I had a photo pass and got to take a few shots right up front and you can see them below. Click here to see the full set on Flickr. I even made a couple into animated gifs!

John Baizley of Baroness at the 9:30 Club

John Baizley of Baroness at the 9:30 Club

Pete Adams of Baroness at the 9:30 Club

Baroness at the 9:30 Club

John Baizley of Baroness at the 9:30 Club

The following night, Thursday the 13th of April, I put on another metal night with my partner in crime Brewer Will over at Atlas Brew Works. We had live metal bands, concert ticket give aways, a lot of great beer and a ton of fellow metal heads in attendance. The Denver based black metal themed brewery Trve had three guest beers on tap and Atlas had some of their most “metal” brews pouring as well including The Emprosator, a doppelbock named for a Russian Circles album, HaSaWoDo, a saison named after the Bongripper album Hail Satan Worship Doom, and their collaboration with Champion Brewing made for Decibel Magazine, the Decibeer DIPA. Lots of brewers from outside the area (in town for CBC of course) stopped by including the gang from Metal Monkey Brewing in Chicago and Jester King in Austin. Lord, Cavern and headliner King Giant all put on excellent performances and you can catch a bit of each of their sets, and hear the guys in Lord and King Giant talk about their gear and rigs, in the below video that Guitar Guru Network posted on YouTube, shot entirely at the event. If you just want to see to the parts of the video with the bands performing live then skip to when Lord starts at 16:20, Cavern at 24:11 and King Giant at 46:25.

When CBC ended the beer and metal collision continued! On Monday, April 17th, another metal show came to Atlas Brew Works. Canadian black metal band Thantifaxath headlined the venue with local support by Myopic and Sickdeer. After talking to one of the mysterious and anonymous members of the band, I came to find out that he was also a beer brewer by trade! It was a really good turn out for a Monday night and Thantifaxath put on a hell of a show too. Below is a short clip I shot of them at the show.

Had to get some footage of Thantifaxath playing The Bright White Nothing at the End of the Tunnel.

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However the biggest beer and metal event ever held is going to be in Philadelphia this weekend when Decibel Magazine holds their first ever Metal & Beer Fest! This isn’t just a fest with some metal bands and some random breweries, Decibel has done a really good job of finding metal bands with ties to beer and breweries with ties to metal for this festival. For instance you’ll notice Khemmis is on the bill. Their drummer, Zach Coleman, is a brewer at Trve, which also happens to be a brewery pouring at the fest. Then there’s Panopticon on the bill, a band that masterfully blends black metal with bluegrass and has only ever played live once before. The band’s sole member, Austin Lunn, is also a brewer at Hammerheart Brewing in Minnesota, which is named after the classic 1990 album by Bathory. Municipal Waste is also on the bill and their drummer, Dave Witte, while not a brewer does find employment at the Ardent Craft Ales brewery in Richmond. Cigar City Brewing will be at the fest pouring their beer Divine Blasphemer, a smoked porter named after a Municipal Waste song.

There will be plenty of other beers with tie ins to metal at this festival as well. DC’s own Atlas is bringing HaSaWoDo, the aforementioned Bongripper tied in beer. Three Floyds, a brewery that has made official beers for many metal bands including Amon Amarth, Municipal Waste, Cannibal Corpse and Obituary, will be bringing their Permanent Funeral pale ale, named for a song by Pig Destroyer. Burnt Hickory Brewery will have their beer Charred Walls Of The Damned with them, named after the metal super group of the same name. Mikkeller, a brewery from Denmark, will have their Mother Puncher beer with them, named after a song by Mastodon. Trve is bringing their Nazareth IPA, named after the lyric from the Sleep song “Jerusalem.” Dave Mustaine of Megadeth will be at the fest on Saturday pouring his A Tout Le Monde beer from Unibroue (specifically from 5pm to 6:30 and 8:45 to 10). As you’ll notice some of these bands, like Sleep, Municipal Waste and Pig Destroyer, are actually playing the fest! Along with the bands like Khemmis and Panopticon that actually have brewers in them, this fest really is something special. It’s not a metal fest with lots of beer. It’s not a craft beer fest with some bands playing. It truly is a beer AND metal fest. To say I’m excited is an understatement, this is a festival for my two favorite things! I’ll be attending the fest with a press pass so check back for my coverage after I recover from what I can only imagine will be the bangover of a lifetime. This is all thanks to Adem Tepedelen, the guy who writes the excellent column Brewtal Truth in Decibel that covers the intersection of beer and metal. He is one of the first to focus on the relationship between beer and heavy metal music and without him this fest would probably never have been conceived in the first place.

If you can’t make the fest don’t worry! There’s still a lot of metal and beer tie ins to come. DC Brau has announced that they’ll be brewing another batch of their Savor The Swill beer, brewed with the guys in local band Darkest Hour (and named after the DH song “Savor The Kill”) that will be re-released this summer, including at the Darkest Hour concert at the Rock & Roll Hotel on July 14th (details here). Also, Thou and Cloud Rat are playing a show at Atlas Brew Works on June 26th (details here). I’m not sure what else is to come but as the worlds of metal and beer become more intertwined you can bet on one thing: metal heads that are craft beer lovers have a lot of good things to look forward to!

Interview with Scott “Wino” Weinrich of The Obsessed

This week The Obsessed, one of the oldest metal bands from Washington DC, is releasing their first album in 23 years, Sacred. Needless to say I’m pretty excited about this so I got in contact with the band’s main man, Scott “Wino” Weinrich, and conducted this phone interview with him on Saint Patrick’s Day, March 17 of 2017. We talk about the new album and he has some great stories of being in a metal band during the hey day of the harDCore scene. The interview is a bit under 17 minutes long and you can stream it by clicking the orange play button below, you can download it as an mp3 here, or you can read the full transcription below. As always my words are in bold.

Scott “Wino” Weinrich has been in a lot of bands over the years: Saint Vitus, Spirit Caravan and Shrinebuilder to name a few. However he is currently leading the revived version of the Obsessed who are releasing their new album, Sacred, on Relapse Records on April 7th [get it here]. It is truly an honor to have one of the legends of not only doom metal but [also] of our area’s metal scene with me on the phone today. So to start things off Wino, can you tell me why you think the time is right for the Obsessed to release Sacred, the band’s first album in 23 years?

I’ve done some reunion shows over the years and I’ve been asked to do quite a few but nothing really felt right until me and Brian Costantino reconnected after 30 years. When we first met he was our friend and our drummer’s tech and he helped us drive on the road and stuff. After the original Obsessed folded way back when, I didn’t see him for 30 years. In that interim he learned how to play drums, quite proficiently I will add, and through one weird circumstance or another we got a chance to jam and when we got a chance to jam the magic happened and that’s when the Obsessed was truly reborn because finally the chemistry is just perfect. So really the fact that me and Brian reconnected is really fucking amazing and so I feel completely re-energized and very inspired.

Is there a reason you decided to go with Relapse to release Sacred?

They offered us a really kick ass deal. We got a really, really good deal from them. All the people at Relapse now are completely behind us. A lot of fans, a lot of friends and they offered us a slammin’ deal and they have treated us wonderfully. I’m totally, totally satisfied with the deal and I’m very excited to top off this release of Sacred they’re also re-releasing the first Obsessed record, the self titled, in a couple months and we put together a slammin’ package man. All this cool live stuff, some demos and a bunch of really cool pictures and such. I’m really happy with the label.

Cover of Sacred by The Obsessed

Cover of Sacred by The Obsessed

So how do you think the band’s sound has changed since the release of The Church Within in 1994?

Well to be honest with you, I think that Sacred is actually the best sounding record that I’ve ever done in my career thanks to Frank Marchand, he’s also known locally as the Punisher for his live sound work and stuff. But, believe it or not, the record is [recorded] all digital and I think that Frank has an amazing command of the digital realm but also the digital realm has increased to where it’s just phenomenal now. It’s a combination of the old and the new because the whole record was recorded digitally but we used a whole crazy lot of really cool old vintage equipment like, Frank had, and his studio had, an arsenal of old Les Pauls. I mean it was like an orgy of Les Pauls man. And then he also had like all these killer, old like boxes and boxes of vintage foot pedals and vintage effects pedals. He had a vintage rotating speaker and not to mention the drums. He had so many cool vintage snare drums, we picked a [different] snare drum basically for sound for the vibe. It was pretty amazing.

I saw you had that EGC guitar you pulled out, with the aluminum neck, in a few shows. Did you use that on Sacred at all?

I did use that quite a bit on Sacred actually. That was one of my favorite guitars but it’s also my go to guitar. That guitar is just nothing short of amazing. It’s completely aluminum, all the way, it’s neck through. That was given to me as a gift for some production work I did with my friends from Tennessee in a band called Navajo Witch and I must say that’s actually one of the finest gifts that I could have ever received. I love that guitar. It’s my go to guitar. That guitar has what I call a slutty neck, haha. Man I’m telling ya, I really like thin necks as far as like the depth goes. It’s got a radial neck actually. It changes a little bit as it goes along but I’d say that guitar is perfect. That guitar I nicknamed Heavy Mama because it’s actually, it’s broader and heavier than an actual real Les Paul. So I call that guitar Heavy Mama, haha.

Wino playing Heavy Mama

Wino playing Heavy Mama

Now I know the Obsessed has gone through a lot of line up change recently. What exactly is the line up on Sacred and is that also the band’s current line up?

No. God, let me tell you what’s happening to dispel any confusion. OK. We were doing Spirit Caravan for a minute, you know a year or two ago, and after we dissolved Spirit Caravan, that’s when me and Brian reconnected and we decided to call the band the Obsessed, OK. So Dave Sherman brought his gear over and basically that was the line up that we did for the Obsessed. It was me, Dave Sherman on bass and Brian Costantino on drums. Ok so that was the line up on Sacred, me Brian and Dave, right? And then OK, through the one reason or another, there’s some issues in the studio and also some issues live, we decided to part ways with Dave Sherman. So then I tried a little experiment where I re-enlisted the help of Bruce Falkinburg, the bass player from the Hidden Hand, and my fiancé at the time, Sara Seraphim, on bass and second guitar, respectively. And it was actually pretty cool, we did four or five shows that I thought were pretty fucking good but when the touring commitment came up, the reality of what a rock and roll band really is, people showed their true colors pretty quick and when Bruce asked us to replace him, Sara left. So basically, I then called my old friend Reid Raley, which is what I should have done in the first place because he’s a true road warrior and a great musician, and I’m telling you what, the chemistry right now is fantastic. The band is me, Brian Costantino and Reid Raley and that’s the way it’s going to stay. This is absolutely, in my opinion, the best line up of the Obsessed ever. The best chemistry and man I’m telling you what I’m fucking feeling psyched.

That’s great man. So who was on the album then exactly?

The album was me, Brian and Dave Sherman.

Ok cool.

But we parted ways with Dave and did our little experiment with a four piece but now we’re back to a three piece with me, Brian and Reid Raley. And Reid Raley played bass in a band called Rwake from Arkansas and he played in a band called Deadbird but then he also played with me [in the Obsessed] in 2013 and we did like four or five shows. We played Maryland Deathfest. We played Power Of The Riff in LA. We played a couple Scion showcase shows and another club show in LA so me and Reid actually have some history but he’s a fantastic bass player.

The Obsessed at Maryland Deathfest XI

The Obsessed at Maryland Deathfest XI

Ok thanks for clarifying that for me. One other question I have with the line ups is now that Dave Sherman is gone, are you guys still going to play any of the Spirit Caravan songs live or are you just going to stick to the Obsessed material?

We will eventually, probably be working in some of the Spirit Caravan material because, one thing I want to point out is, when the Obsessed was signed to Columbia Records in the 90s and we did The Church Within, we never got our second record. But the songs that were going to be on the second Obsessed record [for Columbia Records] were the songs that were the bulk of the material that became [the Spirit Caravan debut album] Jug Fulla Sun. “Lost Sun Dance,” “Melancholy Grey,” “Fear’s Machine,” “No Hope Goat Farm,” those were all Obsessed songs because of the fact that we didn’t get our second record, you know with Columbia that, when I put Spirit Caravan together those songs kind of pulled over. So we’ll be working those songs into the mix. Right now what we’re doing is our live set that’s coming up in April, we’re going to be playing about an hour and fifteen minutes and we’ll play like seven new songs of the new record and then the rest is old stuff but you can definitely count [on hearing] some Spirit Caravan stuff I mean, we’re going to be doing eventually. Eventually we’re going to be doing “Brainwashed,” “Lost Sun Dance,” “Dove-Tongued Aggressor,” and stuff like that.

The Obsessed formed in the DC area in the early 80s and I’m really curious, what was it like being in a metal band, particularly a doom/stonery kind of metal band, at the time when DC’s music scene was really dominated by the rise of the DIY punk scene.

Well it’s an interesting and good question. Right at that time that I gone down to this little club in DC called Beneath It All and pitched the manager there, he was like an outlaw biker, pitched him on the Obsessed and so we were down in this little hole in the wall in DC playing three sets a night OK? Now during that time, that’s when I met Sab Grey from Iron Cross, John Stabb from Government Issue, Ian MacKaye and Henry Rollins would all come down to see us. They loved our originals but they hated the fact that we were doing punk covers but I tried to explain to them, we had to play three 45 minute sets a night so you know, we were throwing in a couple of our favorite Dead Boys songs and shit like that to try to make up the time. The bottom line is, straight up, we had to prove ourselves. We had several high profile gigs where the Obsessed, actually we supported the Dead Boys on their first reunion tour, in DC. We supported the Bad Brains in the hey day of the green red ROIR tape. You know what man we really had to prove ourselves but I think we did. I can remember one stand out moment for me is when there was this punk rock hipster bar in DC in those days called Carmichael’s. And so there was a guy who ran a record store in town, he was a punk rock kid but he also came from a metal background, and me and him connected because he heard my song “Concrete Cancer” on Metal Massacre VI and he said, “oh man that song reminds me of Captain Beyond.” So me and him struck up a friendship and he was in a band called Lethal Intent. His name was Doug Caldwell. Unfortunately he’s passed away but Doug would always call me up to get the Obsessed on punk rock shows and so on any given day we were supporting the Exploited, I remember one time Dave Grohl’s band Mission Impossible supported us when they were all like skinhead kids. We played with Faith and we played with Scream a lot. But I remember like on this one occasion we were at this club called Carmichael’s trying to gig. We were supporting Iron Cross and the PA fails. So instead of stopping or crying, I just said “fuck it, let’s go” and I just screamed out the words with no PA and we just stepped everything up a notch a little bit pretty fast. That’s when you know the singer for Iron Cross came up to me and said, “Ok that’s when I knew you guys were real.” So we definitely had to prove ourselves. You know the way I looked back then I had more of a death/glam kind of look. At any given time I would be called Eddie Van Halen or take some shit but I’ll tell you what man I was there for the music and if somebody got in my face I was ready to fight. No problem.

Haha. Now I have heard a rumor that it was none other than Ian MacKaye of Minor Threat and Fugazi fame that put you in contact with the guys in Saint Vitus. Is that true? Did he actually introduce you to that band?

He didn’t actually introduce me to the band but he did mention them to me and put the seed in my head and so when they came through and played a little club called DC Space I went down to meet them and that sort of did set the ball in motion a little bit. There were some other circumstances but yeah. Ian MacKaye was very instrumental. He told me straight up, he goes, “there’s this band on SST called Saint Vitus. You’d love ’em,” and you know eventually I would join them. Ian MacKaye was the first person ever to use the term crossover. I remember he used to work at a record store called Yesterday Is Today and I used to go next door to get my hair cut all funky from this foxy ass hair cutter chick and then I’d have a couple brews probably and then I’d go next door to the record store you know. And Ian’d be in there working and the Obsessed first record had just come out and he said to me he goes, “man, you guys are really crossing over.” He said to me, he being a vegan, he goes, “man “”Forever Midnight”” man that song’s the meat and potatoes.” Coming from Ian MacKaye, to me, that was like the ultimate fucking honor.

Hahaha. That’s pretty cool.

Man I love that guy. I see him regularly. He’s a fantastic person. Ian MacKaye, I’ll tell you right now, has never wavered from his ideals once. Never once. All these other bands, you know all these other people I’ve seen them all falter but you know what? Ian MacKaye has never wavered from his core principles once and I have nothing but ultimate respect for him.

So this is in a different direction but is there any chance of any kind of Shrinebuilder reunion at any point? Do you think maybe new material or even just some live shows?

I told Al [Cisneros] and I also told Scott Kelly that I would always be up for it if they want. It’s really up to them. There’s a little bit of… ummm… there’s a little bit of bad blood that happened there for a minute, stupidly enough over money. One thing that I don’t really have much tolerance for [is] like arrogance or greed and I kind of think that with Shrinebuilder, I think that the desire to put money in one’s pocket kind of overruled what I thought should be the real core ethics of that band but that said I told both of those cats that I’m willing to do it if they are.

Cover art for Shrinebuilder and Adrift

Cover art for Shrinebuilder and Adrift

Back around 2010 I was actually going through some really tough times and your studio album Adrift actually really helped me a lot during a low point in my life so I’d like to say thank you for that.

Thank you very much. I appreciate that.

It meant a lot to me actually. Do you have any plans for any future solo releases?

Actually my main focus is totally on the Obsessed right now. I’m not in any other bands or anything. I’m not in Saint Vitus you know either, but I have been working on some acoustic stuff. I’ve actually got about four or five songs and hopefully in less than a year I would like to do another acoustic record actually. Yeah. Hopefully on Relapse but we’ll see. Hey listen, thank you very much for that though. I mean that’s to me, that was a very troubled point in my life too and Adrift was kind of me really letting off steam from some problems I was having and it’s way more rewarding to me to hear somebody say that the music helped them through than you know a bag of cash on the table you know what I mean? So I’m glad it helped you.

Yeah it really did. Now in 2004 another DC area guy had you guest on an album with him. You were on Dave Grohl’s Probot album on the song “The Emerald Law.” How exactly did that collaboration come about and did you know Dave already?

Yes. I knew Dave already and like I said before like, back in the early days Dave was in this killer punk rock band called Mission Impossible and we used to refer to Dave as the Kid. Everybody knew that the Kid was the premiere fucking drummer and he was fantastic man. But anyways, Spirit Caravan, I was on tour in Europe and I got a call from my wife at the time and she said, “Listen you know. Dave Grohl’s people just got in touch with me. They’re looking for you. He sent some music to you. He wants you to do something.” So I got back into town, I got the rough tracks for “The Emerald Law.” Ok it wasn’t titled, it was just the music. It was the basic tracks. It had a guitar track, drums and bass and basically then I talked to David and he said, “I’m doing a record with all my heroes,” and let me tell you I was very, very honored to be considered that and to be considered for the record. And as I listened to the song, it was right up my alley and he said he wanted me to title it, write words for it, sing it and play some leads. So basically, at the time I was deep into my research. I was really getting into some esoteric stuff about the Emerald Tablets of Thoth and stuff. So basically I put together the words and stuff and um, we were going to do it at Dave’s house with his studio but he left his studio machine on while he was on tour for six months by accident so [he] burned it out so he said, “hey let’s meet at Inner Ear,” the Dischord studio of legend you know where everybody recorded all their shit, all the DC bands. David came down with his producer friend and basically I showed him the lyrics that I had written for the song and the title “The Emerald Law” and he liked it. So I sang it and um, came time to play the solo and he was standing in the control room just going “more, more!” like that one part in “Emerald Law” I just hold that shrieking note you know. He’s like, “yeah! yeah! yeah!” He’s like totally enthusiastic right, but the end of the song there was just something missing at the beginning. So I suddenly realized, what I say at the very beginning of the song, the speaking thing. “I do not die but awaken to the dream I lived.” That is actually real, ancient Babylonian that was transferred from cuneiform by Zecharia Sitchin. I was reading a book by Zecharia Sitchin, one of the few people who could actually translate and read cuneiform, which is Babylonian writing on stones. So that’s an actual ancient Babylonian verse there that just fit so perfectly at the beginning. I get chills when I think about it man. So I was overjoyed to do that too, and honored. I really was.

So do you have any plans to tour or at least play in the DC area to support Sacred coming up?

Yes we start our tour on April 12th and we’re going to go from coast to coast and on the way back in May we are playing in Baltimore. The 20th we’re going to be in Baltimore. But we’re also doing a listening party for Sacred and I’m going to play a short acoustic set up in Philadelphia on the day after the release on Saturday, April 8th at Kung Fu Necktie where there’s going to be a DJ and then we’re going to listen to Sacred in its entirety and we’ll have a bunch of records to sell too. The new record and all and then I’m going to play acoustic guitar for 20 to 30 minutes and then we take off on our tour.

The Obsessed at the Ottobar

So are there any bands from like the DC area or this kind of region, maybe DC, Baltimore, Virginia area that you’re a fan of?

I really like that band Cavern. I like a local band from Thurmont [Maryland] called Faith In Jane. Of course I really like Clutch.

I’ve gone through just about all of my questions here and I do thank you for your time. I do appreciate it. I’ve been running the DC based metal site for about seven, seven and a half years now and you’re one of the guys I’ve always really wanted to interview on here. You really are one of the legends of our metal scene. It’s really cool to say that you’re from our area. So one other thing. Is there anything else you’d really like to say to the fans about this new album Sacred that the Obsessed is releasing on April 7th?

Well I’d like to say thank you very much to everybody who believes in, and who has supported not only my career but this style of music and I want to thank you man for carrying the torch. I mean it’s a really beautiful thing.

Alright well thanks a lot for your time and it’s really been an honor so thank you a lot.

Alright man. This was a fun interview. Thank you.

Alright have a good one.

Bye.

Baroness ticket give away

Baroness at the 9:30 Club

DC Brau is turning 6 this month and to celebrate they’re bringing Baroness to the 9:30 Club on Wednesday, April 12th! Not only is DC Brau one of my favorite local breweries but they’ve also got great taste when it comes to music! To help them celebrate we’re going give away not one but TWO pairs of tickets to this show to the readers of DCHM. To enter: just leave a comment on this post telling me what your favorite Baroness song is (you can see their discography here if you need help). Then this Thursday, April 6th, at 5pm EST two winners will be chosen at random (using Random.org) from all valid entries. Each winner will receive a pair of tickets to this awesome 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 Ticket Fly for $30 here.

Baroness is a band that puts out chromatically themed albums that are consistently full of great riffs. In 2012 they suffered a terrible bus crash while on tour in Europe and several of the band members were injured. Despite this the band has continued on and still puts out great music, not to mention their killer live performances. They were even nominated for a Grammy in the best metal performance category this year. This is a one off show that is not part of a tour and Baroness has no other shows this Spring. Openers Trans Am are a DC based band formed in the early 90s. They’ve changed styles many times over the years, once harDCore, once synth based, sometimes instrumental, but they’ve always kept things fresh with a high level of experimentation. Now check out these videos below and leave a comment on this post telling me what your favorite Baroness song is!

Baroness – Shock Me

Trans Am – Anthropocene

Inter Arma ticket give away

Inter Arma at DC9

This Friday, March 24th, one of Richmond’s best metal bands, Inter Arma, returns to the stage at DC9! We’re big fans of Inter Arma here at DCHM so we’re giving you readers a chance to win a free pair of tickets to the show. To enter this contest leave a comment on this post telling me what the best show you’ve seen in a small venue was. “Small venue” is loosely defined here but let’s leave festivals, arenas and massive pavilions out of it at least. At 5pm EST this Wednesday, March 22nd, a winner will be chosen at random (using Random.org) from all valid entries to win the pair of tickets. 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. Please note that this is an early show so if you can’t make it please don’t enter as I’d like to give the tickets to someone that can actually attend the show! 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 Ticket Fly for $12 here.

This show might be starting early but don’t think Inter Arma won’t be putting on a hell of a live show. Their intense live performances have become their trademark and earned them the right to tour with Carcass last fall. Now they’re back in DC headlining DC9 just off U Street. Sometimes their songs are intense and brutal while others are trippy and epic but they are all super moody. The opening act on this bill, Holy Mountain Top Removers, is an instrumental band that reminds me of a modern version of artists like the Ventures and Link Wray. Now go check out these videos below and tell me what your favorite concert in a small venue was!

Inter Arma – The Summer Drones

Holy Mountain Top Removers – The Ones Disappearing You

Sunn O))) ticket give away

Sunn O))) at the 9:30 Club

Sunn O))) (pronounced “sun”) is coming to the 9:30 Club on Sunday, March 12th, 2017 and we’re so excited to see the kings of drone metal play there that we’re giving away a pair of tickets to this very show! The band is named after the Sunn brand of guitar amps and as you might expect their live shows are very loud. So to enter this contest leave a comment on this post telling me what the loudest concert you’ve ever been to was. Just the band name and venue with at least an estimate of the date is ok, I don’t need the exact date if you don’t remember it. At 5pm EST this Friday, March 3rd, a winner will be chosen at random (using Random.org) from all valid entries to win the pair of tickets. 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 Ticket Fly for $35 here.

One of the things I’ve always loved about metal is how much diversity there is in the genre. People often think of ultra fast blast beats and masterfully technical guitar solos as defining aspects of heavy metal but Sunn O))) is on quite the other end of the spectrum. The band is known for playing incredibly slow, so slow it’s hard to say there are even any riffs in their music at all. The slow tempo combined with a very loud sound will literally let you feel the music and it will crush you in a completely different kind of way than those blazingly fast bands do. Be sure to bring and wear ear plugs, I witnessed a bottle of liquor vibrate off the shelf behind the bar and shatter when they played at the Black Cat in 2012. Continuing with the confusing band name punctuation theme is the opening act Big ‡ Brave. They’re a post-rock band from Montreal who are also on the Southern Lord record label. Now check out these videos below and let me know what the loudest concert you’ve ever been to was!

Sunn O))) – Kannon 1 Ones

Big ‡ Brave – Look At How The World Has Made A Change