Review of Dunsmuir by Dunsmuir

Band: Dunsmuir
Album: Dunsmuir
Release Date: 22 July 2016
Record Label: Hall Of Records
Buy on vinyl with signed lithograph ($24) from: Indie Merch
Buy as mp3 ($8.99) from: Bandcamp or iTunes

Cover of s/t by Dunsmuir

Dunsmuir is releasing their debut album this Friday. While the band’s talented line up has been getting a lot of attention, Dunsmuir stands up strong on its own merits. The concept album is a great launching point for the band. We lucked into getting an advance copy of the full album and I got DCHM writer Buzzo Jr to write the following review. Be sure to stream a couple tunes at the bottom of the post while you read it.

Dunsmuir is a newly formed heavy metal band whose self titled debut will be landing this week. While not an entirely local act, Neil Fallon, the frontman of Maryland’s own Clutch, is teaming up with legendary drummer Vinny Appice, formerly of Black Sabbath and Dio. Rounding out the lineup is Brad Davis of the desert rock band Fu Manchu on bass and Dave Bone of The Company Band on guitar. Having been in the works since 2013, Dunsmuir’s self titled debut is an ode to classic heavy metal, along with being a concept album about the fates of the survivors of a 19th century shipwreck.

Upon the first few notes of the album’s opening track, “Hung On the Rocks,” listeners can tell that they’re in for one hell of a good time. The main thing one will take note of here is that the tunes on this record are filled with a much more of traditional metal influence than vocalist Neil Fallon’s other outings like Clutch or the Company Band; both of which feature a heavy blues/punk/stoner rock vibe to them. This is by no means a negative however, as it’s always a pleasure to hear Neil’s amazing vocals regardless of the music around it. Vinny Appice’s drumming is the main star of the following track “Our Only Master,” with his hard hitting beats driving the head banging grooves onward, and at some points hearkening back to his tenure in the Dio era of Black Sabbath. The band’s traditional heavy metal influence becomes even more prevalent in my personal favorite track on the album, “The Bats are Hungry Tonight;” a grooving track that has guitarist Dave Bone playing Iron Maiden-esque galloping riffs and driving melodies backed up by Neil’s powerful voice. It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of Neil’s vocals, (as mentioned in my review of Clutch’s previous album, Psychic Warfare) and his instantly recognizable bellows are in part what gives Dunsmuir, and any other band he works with, a unique element that sets them apart from other rock and metal bands. The fast galloping pace of “The Bats are Hungry Tonight” soon give way to the slower “What Matter of Bliss,” a track oozing with doomy riffage and Black Sabbath worship. The slow eerie riffs soon speed up once again on “Deceiver;” a track that combines a great amount of Judas Priest inspired metallic riffs and an infectious chorus.

The grooves keep on coming with the tracks “…And Madness” and “Orb of Empire.” Neil delivers his trademark bluesy shouts and ruff barks alongside Vinny’s bombastic drumming and Dave Bone’s fuzz drenched riffs. The tempo comes slowing down once more for the album’s longest track, “Church of the Tooth.” Dave plays at a crawling pace, interspersing the dark atmosphere of the track with melodic guitar licks and is backed up perfectly by Brad Davis’s bass lines. The penultimate track “The Gate” is a great mid paced track full of hard rocking rhythms. The album comes to an end with “Crawling Chaos!,” which is by far the most sinister sounding track on the album. Neil finds himself switching between his usual melodic croons to an angry growl; all the while telling tales of Lovecraftian deities from another dimension. Lyrics such as “They rise from the desert, from the mountains, and waves, to swallow the sun, cast down their chains, they open their mouths and fill up their lungs, speak the unspeakable, with their terrible tongues” evoke a sense of mystery and wonder, as Neil’s cryptic lyricism often does. Neil’s shouts combine excellently with the bombastic drumming and the grooving riffs, bringing the album to a slow and steady close.

While it’s relatively short run time of 35 minutes may leave you wanting more, Dunsmuir’s debut album is not one you want to miss. Those of you who are fans of Clutch and Dio era Black Sabbath will love this record although they may miss Dio’s signature wails. Here’s hoping that a tour is in the works soon, because I’d love to hear these tracks played in a live setting.

The Bats Are Hungry Tonight:

Crawling Chaos!:

Metal Night at Atlas Brew Works

Metal Night at Atlas Brew Works

What? Metal Night at Atlas Brew Works
When? 7pm to midnight, Friday, July 15th
Where? 2052 West Virginia Ave NE #102, Washington, DC 20002 (map)
More Info: Facebook Event

My buddy Brewer Will has gained employ at another brewery, now he’s working at Atlas Brew Works in Washington DC! We decided we’d take over Atlas on Friday, July 15th, for our next Metal Night event! Come hang out with other metal heads as we blast metal songs in the brewery all night, drink craft beer and, for one night at least, have a place to hang out with other metal heads outside of concerts.

Local band Borracho will be on hand to debut their new full length album and Will has even brewed a special batch of the Borracho beer, Oculus Smoked Brown Ale, just for the occasion. In addition I’ll be giving away tickets to a ton of upcoming metal shows around the area (see the full list at the end of this post). There’s no cover charge and no purchase necessary, all you have to do to enter to win tickets is show up! The event is open to all ages but of course you must be 21 or over to drink. There will be coffee, soda, and water for non-drinkers and DDs as well. The brewery has plenty of free street parking along West Virginia Avenue and it’s less than two miles from both the NoMa/Gallaudet and Rhode Island Avenue metro stations on the red line. If you’ve got any questions or just want to know more then check out the Facebook event page we have created here.

Feel free to send us some requests of songs you want to hear at Metal Night! It can be an old classic, a new favorite, or even your own band! As long as it is metal we’ll play it (ok maybe not super long songs like Sleep’s Dopesmoker but you get the idea). Send your requests to Will via email at Brewmetalwill@gmail.com

Here’s the list of tickets that I’ll be giving away (in pairs) at this event:

  • Summer Slaughter Tour (with Cannibal Corpse, Nile, Suffocation and more) at Rams Head Live on 7/27
  • Carcass at Baltimore Soundstage on 8/1
  • Zakk Wylde at Rams Head Live on 8/2
  • Ne Obliviscaris at Baltimore Soundstage on 8/2
  • Boris & Earth at the 9:30 Club on 8/4
  • Baroness at the Howard Theatre on 8/12
  • Marduk & Rotting Christ at Baltimore Soundstage on 9/5
  • Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats at the Howard Theatre on 9/8
  • Tribulation at the Rock & Roll Hotel on 9/11
  • Devin Townsend Project at the Fillmore on 9/13
  • Gojira at the Fillmore on 9/21
  • Opeth & The Sword at the Fillmore on 9/30
  • Brujeria at Baltimore Soundstage on 10/1

Review of Desolate by Musket Hawk

Band: Musket Hawk
Album: Desolate
Release Date: 6 May 2016
Record Label: Unholy Anarchy Records
Buy on CD ($9.99) from: Unholy Anarchy
Buy as mp3 ($9.99) from: iTunes

Desolate by Musket Hawk

Baltimore’s Musket Hawk put out a a full length in May titled Desolate, despite the quite vibrant colors in cover art. DCHM reviewer Buzzo Jr spent some time with the album and wrote the following review of it. Be sure to stream a few songs at the end of the post as well!

Baltimore’s own sludge/grind trio Musket Hawk are back with Desolate; their second full length album since their self released debut, The Form of Disgust, from three years prior. On their newest release, the dudes in Musket Hawk go full throttle with an intense mixture of sludge, grindcore, and stoner metal.

Sludge and grindcore are two of my favorite subgenres of metal, so it’s always great when more bands successfully merge the two together. Musket Hawk’s Desolate is a perfect example of this fusion of genres done right. The album starts off at a speedy pace with the first two tracks “Pollute Your Throat” and “Reluctant Punk;” both filled with fast, heavy riffs and rapid blast beats interspersed with slower sludge based sections. The next two tracks “Jeweler” and “The Grove” are more mid paced tracks, with “Jeweler” being centered around a grooving breakdown while “The Grove” opens up with a great deal of black metal influence in its riffing structure. Marty Spiro’s guitar work on here is superb, laying down thick riffs that intertwine with Gary Fry’s fuzzy basslines. One of the standout elements of this album are the dual vocals of Gary and Marty; interchanging between deep low gutturals and sharp high pitched screeches. While more grind oriented in nature, the vocals also lend themselves to the more sludge based sections of the albums as well. At times they almost sounded like the frantic cries of a wounded animal; perfectly adding to the grimy atmosphere that the riffs already provide.

While the first four tracks on the album were much more crusty and murky, the second half of Desolate begins to flirt a bit more with melody and stoner rock influences. The B-side begins with “Connois Sewer,” a track that opens with some melodic guitar lines before exploding back into the heavy riffs of previous tracks, although a good deal of melodic undertone is layered into the remainder of the song. “Space Ray Houska” soon comes up next, a track that showcases some post rock elements at its mid way point. Jason Goodman’s drumming on this track is great, transitioning between mid paced d-beats, to slow primal thuds, to all out blast beats. While the drumming is great from a technical standpoint, they did seem to sound a tad wooden when it came to the bass pedal’s sound, but other than that I can’t find any issue with them. My favorite track on Desolate is the seventh track, “Tweed After Dark;” another faster paced track that has an epic melodic line coursing through the song along with the pummeling riffs, giving it an almost Iron Maiden meets High On Fire type vibe. The album comes to a close with the six minute “Candidate For a Knife”; a massive slab of sludgy riffage that goes from a slow doomy dirge, to hyperspeed grind and back again.

Musket Hawk’s newest album is a brilliant fusion of some of the most abrasive genres in modern metal, and at the same time is an album that has a great deal of amazing melody at its forefront. Definitely give this album a listen if you are a fan of grimey, dark sludge and grindcore, and be sure to catch Musket Hawk on the 22nd of July when they play with the legendary Belgian band Agathocles at the Windup Space in Baltimore (details here).

Tweed After Dark:

Space-Ray Houska:

Inter Arma ticket give away

Inter Arma at DC9

Inter Arma is one of the best bands to come out of that awesome Richmond metal scene. On Tuesday, July 5th they’re kicking off their new tour with a show at DC9 and we’re giving away a pair of tickets to the show to one of you lucky DCHM readers! To enter leave a comment on this post telling me what your favorite metal album of the summer is (so far). It can be a brand new release or an old favorite you’ve been playing more for whatever reason. At 5pm EST this Friday, June 17th, 2016, the contest will close and I’ll pick a winner at random (using Random.org) from all valid entries to win the 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 $12 here.

Inter Arma is hard to place into a genre, I generally tell people they sound kind of like if Neurosis was super pissed off. They always put on an intense live show but this should be a special one. Inter Arma’s new album, Paradise Gallows, is being released by Relapse Records on July 8th and since this is the first date on their tour supporting the album, we’ll be among the first to hear some of these new tunes, and in a live setting no less! Support on this tour is provided by Withered, a black/death band from Atlanta, Georgia. They’ve also got a new album, Grief Relic, that was just released on Season Of Mist. Now check out these videos of the bands below (including a sick new Inter Arma track!) and let me know what your favorite metal album of the summer is!

Inter Arma – Transfiguration

Withered – Feeble Gasp

Maryland Deathfest XIV Survival Guide

This Thursday is the start of another Maryland Deathfest! This is the fourteenth year running for the festival and it continues to expand and evolve. This post will help you get through MDF XIV as you navigate through all the bands, stages, venues and vendors and I’ll be updating it with info like food prices and photos of exclusive band merch once the fest actually gets going. You can skip to the updates by going here. To start off, here’s some info and links you will find useful if you’re attending Maryland Deathfest XIV.

Maryland Deathfest’s official website: Deathfests.com
MDF’s official Facebook: Facebook.com/MarylandDeathfest
MDF’s official Facebook event page: here
MDF’s official Instagram: @deathfests

I put together the below handy schedules and band running orders for each day of the fest (they load quick so bookmark them on your phone). Unlike the schedules on the MDF site and the one’s they’ll hand out at the entrance, these have the bands listed by start time so it will be easy to figure out exactly which bands are playing at any given time during the fest. They have the door times listed too. Note that you can pick up a multi day wrist band at the Pre-Fest show OR starting at 1pm on Thursday at Rams Head Live.

Thursday: http://bit.ly/mdfthursday
Friday: http://bit.ly/mdffriday
Saturday: http://bit.ly/mdfsaturday
Sunday: http://bit.ly/mdfsunday

MDF has made an iCal feed for the schedule that will work in Google Calendar, iCloud or Outlook calendar that you can get here. You can find instructions for adding to Google Calendar here, instructions for adding it to Outlook here, and instructions for adding it to iCloud here.

Baltimore Yellow Cab: 410-685-1212 (website)
Both Uber and Lyft operate in Baltimore. They’re usually cheaper than a cab and you can download their apps for free from your app store.

MDF Edison Lot entrance address: 545 N High St, Baltimore, MD 21202
Baltimore SoundStage address: 124 Market Pl, Baltimore, MD 21202
Rams Head Live Thurs & Sun address: 20 Market Pl, Baltimore, MD 21202
Rams Head Live Fri & Sat address: 7 Frederick St, Baltimore, MD 21202
Sidebar address: 218 E Lexington St, Baltimore, MD 21202
Ottobar address: 2549 N Howard St, Baltimore, MD 21218 (Pre-Fest and Post-Fest shows only)

Note that Rams Head Live will be using the back entrance on Friday and Saturday. This is because the front entrance to Rams Head Live is inside the Power Plant area and it will have its own cover charge on Friday and Saturday night. To avoid that fee, use the back entrance to (address listed above) to enter Rams Head Live on those nights. On Thursday and Sunday you can use either entrance without fees.

I put together this custom Google map that will show you all kinds of info such as all the venues involved, local record stores of note and where to get beer, cigarettes and food while you’re in Baltimore too. Just click the map image below to use the map and use the menu on the left side to select and toggle different locations. This is pretty much the same one that I posted last year with a few changes.

Tickets

Friday, Saturday and Sunday at the Edison Lot (where the main stages are) will have tickets available at the door all through the weekend, the Edison Lot will not sell out. You can get tickets at the door or order them online (and pick them up at will call) by going here. There are still 3-day Edison Lot only passes available as well (discounted to $182 vs $195 if you bought them all individually) and there are 4-day all venue passes available still as well (as of this writing). There are still tickets available to Thursday, Friday and Sunday at the Baltimore Soundstage and for Friday and Sunday at Rams Head Live (for now at least). Note that the Edison Lot has an earlier curfew since it is outdoors and the final bands each night will be at Rams Head Live, with the Soundstage bands ending just a little earlier.

Thursday and Saturday at Rams Head, and Saturday at the Soundstage are sold out. If you’re determined to find tickets to these sold out parts of MDF, or need to sell your tickets last minute in a pinch, I highly recommend using the Maryland Deathfest official forum’s ticket exchange thread which you can find here. If that doesn’t work you can try looking at the official Facebook event page (here) for people posting about in the “discussion” section about tickets there as well.

New Info For This Year

The set up for this year’s Maryland Deathfest should be pretty similar to couple of years, though there are some changes.

There will be no official program for this year’s Maryland Deathfest.

One thing to note regarding the weather, it has rained a lot around here lately. The forecasts of Baltimore that I’ve seen have most of the MDF days looking alright though Sunday looks like it might rain. I highly suggest you bring a waterproof parka or other rain gear if you’re going to be at the Edison Lot that day and you don’t want to get drenched, there isn’t a lot of cover around the main stages.

There is an official Deathfest ale that will be sold at the Edison lot again this year. However a different brewery is making it, Evolution, who is from Maryland. This year’s Deathfest Ale will be a golden pale ale.

The custom MDF vests won’t be available this year at the official MDF merch booth, however there will be some custom high end hoodies with studs and embroidery that are different than the ones MDF has listed in their merch pre-orders. There will be only 10 made, sizes S – XL, available at the Edison Lot only, starting Friday. They are made by Kylla Custom Rock Wear (find them here) and I’m sure they could make you one for delivery at a later date if they’re sold out by the time you get there. Here’s a photo of one.

I heard that the infamous Chicken Man will only be attending Thursday of Maryland Deathfest this year. The Edison lot just won’t be the same without him.

They haven’t really been advertised much by MDF itself but there are shows going on Thursday through Sunday nights at the Sidebar that are part of MDF as well. The venue is small, it only fits about 100 people, but it’s a cool little place and it’s really close to the Edison Lot. If you’re looking for a place to get away from the rain or just avoid the big crowds, this might be a cool place for you to stop by. The shows at Sidebar were free last year but this year they’re $5 each. You can get line up and other info on each one’s respective Facebook event pages here: Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday.

Good To Know For Every Year

BRING AND WEAR EAR PLUGS

Re-entry is OK once you get your wristband. Wear comfortable shoes, sunglasses and try to bring a cheap parka in case it rains (as I mentioned above, it looks likely that it will on Sunday). You’ll be doing a lot of standing and walking so dress accordingly. Maryland can get very hot and humid this time of year so be careful wearing all black and drinking and moshing in the sun all day, stay hydrated. Also, bring some sunscreen, not only will it keep you from getting burnt but you want to keep those tattoos from getting sun faded! Crowd surfing is very much tolerated at MDF so if you don’t like being kicked in the head repeatedly, don’t get up front. People tend to go wild and pretty much every band will start a mosh pit, even more “laid back” bands that you wouldn’t expect this from like say Paradise Lost and Bongzilla. Cameras, including DSLR cameras, are permitted and you can shoot video too, however be aware that the closer you get to the stage the more rowdy the crowd can get, including moshing, circle pits and crowd surfers. You can bring in bags and backpacks, but they are subject to search. Note that if you bring a backpack to Rams Head Live they will have you check it at the coat check, which will probably cost you $5 or less. There are picnic tables in a shaded area that you can rest in at the Edison Lot. Note that there is not a public Wi-Fi at Maryland Deathfest. You may want to bring an extra battery for your cell phone if you plan on being at the fest all day because there’s not a lot of places to charge your phone there.

Artwork by Lucas Ruggieri

Merchandise

Bring cash! There will be many vendors with tons of rare and obscure vinyl, CDs, merch, patches and all kinds of other stuff. Some of them have Square card readers but some will not. There will be ATMs on site but I’m sure they will have long lines and shitty service fees so stop by the bank before you head up to save yourself some time and money. Some of the stuff you’ll see will be Maryland Deathfest exclusives, and some of it will just be so rare you’ll probably never find it anywhere again anyways. If you see something you want don’t hesitate, items often sell out so buy it when you see if it you want to make sure you go home with it.

Maryland Deathfest will have a booth with its own merch for sale at all festival venues (see MDF’s merch here) including t-shirts, pullover hoodies and women’s tanks. There will be a limited to 200 copies silk screened poster available for purchase at the MDF merch booth as well. Some of the bands playing the fest will have their merch for sale at the official Maryland Deathfest booth, some will have merch available at their record label’s booth (assuming their label has a booth) and some bands will have their own merch booths set up in the tent at the end of the row of merchants. Different bands will set up merch at different times, there is no schedule for this, and the MDF booth will have different band merch on different days as bands arrive and leave the festival throughout the weekend. I saw a post from Salvation Distro showing two exclusive Secrets Of The Moon shirts they’ll have at their booth at Maryland Deathfest that you can see here. Gruesome will have some exclusive merch at the JSR Direct booth, which you can take a look at here.

This years list of vendors is: Acid Queen Jewelry, Adult Swim, Black Mess, Charm City Animal Rescue, ChopoBrujos, Crucial Blast Records, DabLizard, Dave’s Metal, Decibel Magazine, Deepsend Records, Digger’s Leatherwork, Five Point Records, Forever Plagued Records, Gilead Media, Give Praise Records, Graphic Noise, Grimoire Records, Hell’s Headbangers, IndieMerch, JSR Direct, Lock N Shock, Lost Apparitions Records, Mexico Steel, Necronomicharm, Pizza Party Printing, Relapse Records, Rusty Knuckles, Sabi, Salvation Distro, Season of Mist, Sevared Records, Swisher Sweets Cigars, Thrash Corner Records, Unholy Anarchy Records, Utterly Somber, Vienna Music Exchange, Warlord Clothing and Western Evil.

Here’s a video trailer that Relapse Records made for their booth at MDF.

Food & Drinks

There is plenty of on-site food at Maryland Deathfest. this year the on site food vendors include: Maui Wowi Hawaiian Smoothies & Coffees, Appetizers on the Run, Smokerhead BBQ, Avalache Sno-Balls, Pork Lord Tacos, Red Emmas (Vegan/vegetarian), E-San Food & Drink (Asian food), HeadBangin HotDogs (Vegan), Humpty’s Dumplings, Nader’s Bistro (Greek & Italian), Tropical Island Concessions (Gyro’s, Burgers, etc). If that’s not enough food options for you then be sure to check the custom Google map I made (at the top of this post) which includes stuff outside the festival grounds like restaurants, record stores, liquor stores and convenience stores.

It should be noted that the Pratt Street Ale House, which is walking distance from most of the downtown hotels, is doing a special for anyone attending Maryland Deathfest this weekend (just show your wristband when you mention it). The special is $4 16oz pours of Winter’s Wolves regular draft or nitro draft. Also for $4 you can get The Wolf Pack Flight: three 5oz pours (one each) of wine barrel aged, nitro and regular Winter’s Wolves. If you don’t know, Winter’s Wolves is an officially licensed tribute to The Sword. I highly recommend this place as they have some great food and some killer beers any beer snob or casual drinker will be excited about and they’re very metal head friendly.

There’s a liquor store (has beer and wine too) called Urban Cellars that is walking distance from the main Edison lot of MDF, they usually have specials going on for MDF attendees too. It should be noted that while their store is usually closed on Sunday, they do open the Sunday of Deathfest every year.

As for beer at the festival, there will be Deathfest Ale which this year is a golden blond ale by Evolution Brewing, Sierra Nevada, Stella Artois, Brooklyn Brown, Budweiser, Magic Hat #9, Magic Hat Electric Pilsner and Guinness. There will be whiskey, rum and vodka and various mixed drinks available as well.

Please note that Rams Head Live and the Baltimore Soundstage will have their own food and drink menus. I’ll try to take photos of those and add them to the Updates section once I see them.

Updates

I’ll be adding updates to this post throughout the fest once it starts. Expect to see photos of food vendor prices as well as images of exclusive merch. Be sure to check back here before you head to Maryland Deathfest to help you get an idea of what to expect, and of course you can follow me on Facebook, MetalChris on Twitter, DCMetalChris on Instagram, dcmetalchris on Snapchat and MetalChris on Periscope, all of which I’ll be (probably) be updating/using from my phone.

Thanks for reading to the end, you get a gold star! If you’d like to read some more Maryland Deathefest related posts check out our latest posts about Hellbringer and Novembers Doom. Each year I let my album reviews pick a couple bands playing MDF that aren’t as well known as some of the others and let them write an album review attempting to convince others to check out these great bands. The Hellbringer review by Buzzo Jr is posted here, and Tal’s post about Novembers Doom is posted here. Both have songs that you can stream at the end of the post so you can give them a listen.

Here is some merch at the Maryland Deathfest merch booth that wasn’t available for pre-order on the MDF website. A beanie hat, a baseball cap and a tote bag.

Friday at Edison they also brought out all the embroidered patches, some koozies and rubber coasters.

There is also an official MDF XIV hot sauce at one of the vendors (who also has some other metal hot sauces like Eyehategod and Goatwhore).

There are Maryland Deathfest branded exclusive shirts from the following bands. I saw Venom, Novembers Doom, Sinister (who had to drop), Gruesome, The Haunted, Paradise Lost, Demolition Hammer and Hail Of Bullets. Some are at the MDF merch booth, some are at other booths.

Beer list at Baltimore Soundstage (click it to see it larger). I think the Deathfest ale they are selling is the left overs from last year or something because it is not the pale ale that is at Edison Lot. You can also get a free cup of water at the front bar, you don’t have to pay $3 to drink water.

Food menu at Baltimore Soundstage for Deathfest.

Review of The Pale Haunt Departure by Novembers Doom

Band: Novembers Doom
Album: The Pale Haunt Departure
Release Date: 8 March 2005
Record Label: The End Records
Performing at Maryland Deathfest XIV: 4:10 Friday at Edison Lot B

The Pale Haunt Departure by Novembers Doom

This review of an 11 year old album is part of our ongoing coverage leading up to Maryland Deathfest XIV. I let my writers pick an album by a band that isn’t as popular as some of the bigger names at the fest and write about it in the hopes of getting some more people interested in seeing them at MDF. DCHM writer Tal put together this thoughtful piece on Novembers Doom. You can see DCHM writer Buzzo Jr’s MDF pick here. Stay tuned as I’ll be posting the Maryland Deathfest XIV Survival Guide in just a few hours!

Although I love Novembers Doom, I find it really hard to listen to The Pale Haunt Departure, the Chicago based band’s fifth full-length album which came out in 2005. Pioneers of the death/doom genre, they actually started as a death-thrash band called Laceration in 1989, but by the 1995 release of their first full-length, Amid Its Hallowed Mirth, they had renamed themselves and changed to a trudging doomy sound, sometimes melodic but always dripping with despair. In the early 2000s they reincorporated a more energetic death metal sound, and now their current sound ranges from heavy riffs and growled vocals that sound surprisingly like Swedish melodeath, to lamenting clean vocals, morose guitar melodies and thick doomy riffs characteristic of their early albums. In terms of sound, I actually prefer 2007’s The Novella Reservoir, where they perfect the melodeath sound that they brought in on The Pale Haunt Departure. But The Pale Haunt Departure strikes an emotional chord for me which is hard to escape, no matter how painful.

The first Novembers Doom song I heard was “Autumn Reflection,” which remains one of their most popular songs to this day (all these years later, it’s still the third result in a YouTube search for Novembers Doom, with over 630,000 views as of this writing). I first heard this song when I was just starting my (still ongoing) recovery from post-partum depression, and my relationship with my young daughter was in shambles. The chorus cut me to me core:

I thank the heavens above
For the angel beside me today
The guardian of my sanity
The one who will save my soul

I thought, Damn. This is it. If I don’t get this right, the rest of life isn’t worth a thing. It hurt like hell but it also inspired me to keep picking myself up out of the mayhem and trying to be a better parent, when it was the hardest thing I could possibly do. When I found out in an interview that vocalist Paul Kuhr wrote the song about his own daughter, that only made it more poignant. I can’t believe he says he “catches shit” for writing this “weak” song, by the way. Emotionally I find it quite heavy, and it does have some musical heaviness too.

“Autumn Reflection” is probably the slowest song on the album, though, with no harsh vocals. It does feature some very distorted and heavy guitars during the chorus, a stark contrast to Paul Kuhr’s haunted vocal delivery. There’s nothing weak about those thick guitar riffs, which create a wall of gloom that Paul’s hopeful vocals try to surmount. Toward the end of the song, as Paul sings, “I am stronger now, since you came to my life,” the hopeful feeling prevails (mostly) with a melodic guitar bridge and piano segment that are at once sad and uplifting.

The song after this on the album, “Dark World Burden,” is quite a change, with fast, groovy melodeath riffage. As I alluded to before, The Pale Haunt Departure was the album where Novembers Doom added more of a death metal sound to their previous ponderous and contemplative doom sound. The album starts with this crisp, fast drumbeat and a churning, energetic riff—the eponymous first song is more death than doom, also featuring growled vocals throughout. Novembers Doom used harsh vocals earlier, but they were extra-low and drawn out doom vocals, whereas these are faster and more aggressive melodeath harsh vocals.

The second song, “Swallowed by the Moon,” has more of a slow moody sound with dramatic spoken vocals, although there are also commanding death metal growls. This is another song that seems to deal with failure in parent-child relationships:

Will you remember that I tried my best?
Will you remember the father I was?
Once again the daylight fades, and I’m swallowed by the moon
Will you look back and smile for me?
Will you remember me when I have gone?

The song isn’t completely slow, though–it’s more a mix of melodeath bits, growls and moments of faster heavier guitars, and doomy bits, a mixture that characterizes most of the album.

Prior to The Pale Haunt Departure, Novembers Doom had a lot of line-up changes, but around the time TPHD was released, things started to stabilize. They’ve since changed drummers and bassists, but the guitarists Larry Roberts and Vito Marchese have been with Paul, the only remaining original member, since the early 2000’s. Actually, according to another interview, Larry Roberts was apparently the driving force behind the band’s shift to a more death metal sound.

Most of the other songs on The Pale Haunt Departure have a strong death metal vibe, with fast heavy riffs and growled vocals, but they also have their doomy moments—ominous or despairing spoken vocals, darkly churning or melancholic or dreamy melodic guitars, the crushing but ponderous pace of “The Dead Leaf Echo.” Failure in relationships continues to be a theme, as shown by the chorus from that song:

All I can do, is look the other way, and pretend that your face held a smile.
Not to see your sullen eyes, staring past my soul, into the darkness of night.
I feel I’ve failed you, when we both know, I never had the chance, to say hello.

It’s not easy listening—for me personally, many of the lyrics on this album bring back the time when I was left alone with my daughter, the sinister specter of depression and the strain it has put on our relationship. But I think it would be worse to forget these things—to forget about the angel by my side, how far I have come and the work I still have left to do. I may have lost the paradise of my innocence, but salvation may still be possible. I hear it in the thick and doomy yet uplifting guitars in the last song on the album, “Collapse of the Falling Throe.” The lyrics, however, are much darker than the music would suggest.

And in spite my emotional turmoil, I’m stoked to see Novembers Doom at MDF, where they’re playing Friday at 4:10pm in the Edison Lot. Metal is not an easy listening genre; sometimes it can be quite horrendous. This wouldn’t be the first time that I’ve been at a show and had difficult emotions come up. But the very reason doom appeals to so many people, the unique mix of heaviness and sadness that made Novembers Doom one of the foremost U.S. death/doom bands, is the cathartic feeling of facing your inner demon and being able to set it aside. Also, after years of fandom I’m stoked to finally get this chance to see the band live. Despite being from Chicago, Novembers Doom doesn’t seem to tour the U.S. much – they’re bigger in Europe and seem to spend more time performing there. If you’re a fan of heavy music with deep feeling then this is an opportunity not to be missed.

Autumn Reflection:

The Pale Haunt Departure:

Dark World Burden live:

Review of Dominion Of Darkness by Hellbringer

Band: Hellbringer
Album: Dominion Of Darkness
Release Date: 28 September 2012
Record Label: High Roller Records
Performing at Maryland Deathfest XIV: 9:50 Sunday at Edison Lot B

Dominion Of Darkness by Hellbringer

Welcome to the start of our Maryland Deathfest XIV coverage! Usually we only review releases by local bands on DCHM but there are some exceptions, and MDF is one of them. Every year I ask my album reviewers to pick a lesser known band on the Deathfest bill and review their latest album (even if it’s a few years old) in the hopes of getting people to check out one of the great bands on Deathfest that isn’t as well known as the headliners. DCHM writer Buzzo Jr. picked the band Hellbringer, the first band playing on Saturday at the Edison lot. Be sure to give a listen to the songs at the end of this post too.

Hellbringer is a thrash/speed metal band that was formed in Canberra, Australia. The three piece was originally founded in 2007 under the name Forgery by bassist/vocalist Luke Bennett and his brother Josh, who is the drummer, along with Tim Sheppard on guitar. In 2010, following the release of their EP, Tim was replaced by James Lewis and the band changed their name to Hellbringer. The trio soon released their debut full length Dominion of Darkness on High Roller Records in 2012, and will now be playing some of their first ever shows in the United States on their Darkness Over North America Tour; the final show being their first ever appearance at Maryland Deathfest. Hellbringer will be the first band to take the stage on Saturday, playing the B stage at the Edison lot at 12:15 PM.

The mid 2000’s saw an influx in newer thrash metal bands attempting to revitalize the genre that had previously lost most of its mainstream appeal in the 90’s. Modern thrash bands like Havok and Violator were a dime a dozen, but a large amount of these bands suffered from the fact that they all sounded like a 2000’s era band attempting to play Exodus or Megadeth riffs with much cleaner production. This is not the case with Hellbringer’s Dominion of Darkness. This record doesn’t simply sound like a few guys trying to emulate old school thrash metal; no, this is music that if you heard today you would swear it was recorded at the tail end of 1984. A large amount of the bands that emerged in the modern thrash revival mostly relied on emulating the party-thrash style of the classic crossover thrash bands like DRI and Cryptic Slaughter, or the more aggressive and serious sounding social commentary of Megadeth and Metallica. While there are a few exceptions, there are very few modern thrash bands that are able to sound truly evil. Taking an indisputable amount of influence from Slayer’s Hell Awaits record, Dominion of Darkness accomplishes just that. Luke’s reverb soaked vocals are akin to the cries of a demonic hell-beast. Comparisons to Slayer’s Tom Araya are inevitable, but Luke makes these vocals his own, and they work extremely well alongside the crushing riffs that are delivered from James Lewis. The riffs on this album are absolutely vicious; forming a whirlwind of teutonic, blackened vileness, and creating a hellish atmosphere that brings visions of demons inhabiting an otherworldly realm filled with nothing but pain and fear. The crushing riffs are interspersed with solos that are melodic yet at the same time absolutely chaotic. While not as technically impressive as the guitar and vocal work, the bass guitar and drumming on the album also play their part brilliantly. The grooving bass lines supply additional weight to the main guitar riffs, while the d-beat style drum beats serve to make sure that there is never a sense of empty space in the album; varying the tempo of the fills and double bass when needed. While some listeners may be seeking more technical and progressive thrash metal in the realm of Vektor, I definitely think it’s one of the best thrash albums to come out it a long time.

If you’re a fan of old school satanic thrash metal, then give this record a listen as well as heading to the Edison lot early on Saturday to catch Hellbringer’s set. These tracks are bound to get everyone’s heads banging from the get go. Hellbringer will also be releasing their second full length record Awakened From The Abyss this August, so make sure to keep an eye out for it!

Sermon Of Death:

Demon’s Blood:

Hellbringer live:

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