Interview with Matt Pike of Sleep and High on Fire

On Thursday, July 5th, I got the opportunity to interview famed guitarist Matt Pike of the bands Sleep and High on Fire. In this 28 minute interview we cover topics such as Sleep’s upcoming shows at the 9:30 Club, the stories behind various Sleep songs, details about the next High on Fire album and other songs that were supposed to be on the Dopesmoker album. You can download the entire interview as an mp3 for free here, stream it by clicking the orange play button below or read the full transcription under that. As always my words are in bold.

This is Metal Chris of DCHeavyMetal.com and today I’ve got Matt Pike of the bands Sleep and High on Fire on the phone with me. Sleep has 2 upcoming shows at the 9:30 Club right now. The first is going to be on Sunday, July 22nd and the second is the following night, Monday, July 23rd. The Sunday night show is already sold out however tickets are still available (here) for the Monday night show that was added recently. To start things off Matt, can you tell me what will be different about the set Monday night?

We’re playing Holy Mountain which, that’s always a great thing. We do it every great while someone will ask this but we can do it. I just gotta rent and acoustic [guitar]. Yeah, the difference is it’s shorter but we’re playing a pretty arcane album. It’s old music that we know very well cause we played it over a million times but yeah, I love playing that album and Al [Cisneros, bass/vocals of Sleep] and Jay [Jason Roeder, drummer of Sleep] do too. It’s kind of easy for us actually. Haha. So we’re good at it. If you know Holy Mountain you know that it’s before we got too weird.

Will you be playing any songs from The Sciences or anything else during that set on Monday night?

I’m not sure. The set’s probably about 50 minutes. The shortest Sleep usually plays is like an hour and that’s at a festival and then this is not a festival it’s our show so we’ll probably add something else but I don’t want to ruin the surprise if it’s something weird. It’s gonna be a full set is what I’m saying, hahaha.

Matt Pike

Matt Pike photo by Jason Roeder

Ok, cool. Alright now back in April on 4/20 actually, Sleep released their first album in 15 or 20 years, depending on when you count Dopesmoker as actually having been released. The album is titled The Sciences and it really lived up to expectations to both fans and critics. On it we finally have studio versions of songs like “Sonic Titan” and “Antarcticans Thawed” and those are songs that you’ve played live for some time since you reformed in 2009. Were there other songs that were older on this album or was the rest of it written more recently?

Well what we did, it’s a reprise of music that Al and I had but we had to restructure and work with Jason. Obviously Jason’s a different drummer than Chris [Hakius, Sleep’s drummer in the 90’s] so the only drums we ever had on the songs that we were playing were Chris Hakius’s versions and we had to retime it, figure out BPMs, figure out time signatures. We basically recreated something that we did twenty years ago. That’s only for some of the songs. Some of them are brand new and original and some of them we took skeletons of what we had and redid them. Made them brand new for us just because I think we’re a little more experienced than we were when we were just kids which you lose some of the magic from when you were a kid but at the same time you actually understand things like timing and what you’re doing music theory wise. So it was a big chore for us to go through but we had been playing some of those songs live for a long time and I think it helped us kind of rewrite them just having that in our muscle memory or whatnot. I don’t know how to explain it but if you’ve been playing a song for a long time you’re all “ok let’s get serious. We’re going to record this. Maybe we should think about all the little things in it.” If that explains anything. I’m sorry. I’m just waking up having coffee.

Haha no, no, it does. So what’s an example of one of the songs on The Sciences that’s actually a new song that was written for this album?

Oh I wrote “The Sciences” for this album. That’s my version of a Vietnam vet meltdown, heh heh heh, and I was thinking of like Jimi Hendrix, haha, and I didn’t want make it a lead at all. I just wanted to make it a rhythm solo which it’s just so fucking weird, hahaha.

I actually like it a lot. That’s one song I put on to people, I’m like, you can listen to this and I’m like, if you like stoner metal you will like this and if you do not you will not like this, haha.

Yeah, no, yeah, haha. It definitely critiques towards a certain type of person, hahaha.

Well in 2014 Sleep released the song “The Clarity” through the Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim summer singles series and this was the fist new Sleep song, at least to be studio recorded and released to the public, after the 2009 reformation of the band. How did this song come about? Was it one of the old songs that you had from the 90’s or something and kind of redid like some of these other songs or was this a new thing you did specifically for the Adult Swim release?

Well since we had the opportunity to write a new song, “The Clarity” was us putting together new music and seeing if we could do it without killing each other. All of us are in other bands that write. We hadn’t put together charts and things of that nature and truly tried to arrange something, and then Al just sent us the intro to the song which is just like “wah wah, wah wah, wah wah.” It’s like a horrible keyboard. Well that’s how Al wrote the riff and sent it to me and Jason. Me and Jason were looking at each other and just laughing like, what the fuck?

Haha.

What the fuck are we gonna do with this? But if you know anything about Al, if he sends you something like that there’s method to it, so me and Jay are staring at each other like trying to figure out how to make a riff out of this thing but we knew that Al had already fucking thought the whole thing through. He’s a chess player so if he does something like that it’s thought through it’s just the presentation was that horrible keyboard part at the beginning that we rock out to and hahaha, there’s a derogatory thing to that. It’s like, this is how it was presented and then we made a song around it you know and then when the song kicks in you understand. It’s kind of like how “Dopesmoker” was too. It’s like, what the fuck is this guitar intro and then when everything comes in it makes sense. So that was Al just getting stuff started with a riff that was recorded like, horrifying, hahaha, and then we decided to keep it cause that was the beginning of it and then we all just added onto it. Since Al had it planned out he left space for me to write a riff and left space for Jason to do things with and yeah, that was the first thing we really wrote together since we had gotten back together. It’s a special song. I love playing that thing. It’s fun. It was one of those things where we were forced to write together and it’s the first time we did it and it was successful cause we did it in like a weekend which is unheard of for the three of us. We’re all so picky and anal and weird, and me included. I’m not talking shit. I’m saying, it’s kind of amazing how that band puts its stuff together and what we do. It was the first time we had written something just off the cuff from scratch. It’s like we’re making a pie from scratch and it worked really fast and yeah, I’m in love with that song. It’s really cool. There’s never a dull moment when you’re playing with those guys and you’re Matt Pike I guess but I hope they would say the same about me, heh heh heh.

Well you guys also recorded and released another song with Adult Swim recently that’s called “Leagues Beneath.” It really sounds like it really fit in with the rest of The Sciences and in fact when I usually play The Sciences digitally on my computer I actually edited the ID tags to make it like a bonus track basically, to the album. Was this recorded at the same time or was this another one that you guys kind of wrote together just for the Adult Swim release?

No it was just for the Adult Swim. It turned out really cool. That one is the craziest. I’m glad I learned it in the 1990’s. Me and Al had that song, which, of course Al, he wrote most of the intro to that whole thing and I remember [saying] you know, “Ok Al, we gotta turn it into a song where you sing now.” You know?

Hahaha.

The whole intro you’re just picturing this barge on huge hurricane seas with stuff going over the side. Then it’s all, “Ok, where do we go from there?” At the time we were really influenced by [Black] Sabbath. We’re always really influenced by Sabbath, but it’s just all kick drum. You hit every odd note in between the kick drum to make the riff and then when the riff comes in it makes sense so it’s another Al… I don’t know. That guy’s pretty amazing, man. And it’s not like I don’t contribute it’s just he thinks differently than most people you ever met. It’s pretty crazy, hahaha. But yeah that song turned out amazing too. It’s one of those things where, when we get together and write all this magic shit happens cause everybody’s so fucking pissed off at the world that you get all these weird things. And that one though we did have the whole intro and we had the main body of the riff and then other than that we had a couple other parts and then my job in Sleep is to kind of add weird details but then have Jay time ideas I have because if I don’t have timing I’ll just wank so that band tries to teach me how to be patient, heh heh heh. So I’m learning how to be patient and wait for my part to come up. It’s hard to explain unless you’re in the room. It’s weird but we had that song for fucking I swear to god twenty years. That should have been on Dopesmoker and it just never happened like that and the same thing with “Antarcticans Thawed.” It should have been on Dopesmoker. Those two songs were written about the same time but then we just changed the tuning and Al wanted to use a five string so I had to figure out the theory behind– I am not going to buy a seven string guitar cause I think that’s fucking lame. I figured out a drop tuning that would keep up with him in B, which means I actually have to tune every other string up a half step and then drop my tuning. It was weird but it’s cool experimenting like that cause we get used to something too long and then we try something different [and] sometimes it works out.

So another thing I wanted to ask about was the whole issue with Dopesmoker like you were saying, which was originally released in ’98 as Jerusalem and had been kind of chopped up into different parts by the label and I know the band wasn’t really pleased with that version.

No. I took action cause Al was missing in action. He took like eight years off of music altogether. Chris went into the mountains and wasn’t doing anything. I got together with Al and Chris for the first time in like eight years and I was like, “hey dudes, we have a chance to get this back and release Jerusalem as Dopesmoker how we intended it with different masters and a different version” cause Al had one that had desert lyrics and Al had one that had space lyrics and so we went with the desert theme on the second release but the first one was chopped up because at that point in time there was not downloads, there wasn’t streaming, there was barely internet and they needed a radio version and that’s what they were trying to sell it as. “You just aren’t seeing the future here” and so we had to go into hiding before people discovered that it was a piece of work.

It reminds me a lot of what Rush said happened [to them] around the recording of their 2112 album.

Yeah well they were looking to drop us too and they did. They shelved it and I was like, “what a waste of a good piece of music” so I was pushing to get it out but then one dude wanted to bootleg and I’m like, “that’s on you, man. If you get sued or something like that, that’s on you, that’s not on us” but he tried to pay us or whatever and that got shut down. And then we finally got back together, got a lawyer [and] got the rights to that record back and then we could release it with Southern Lord properly. So that was all done legally, you know? Before that, that record label went bankrupt so no one knew anything about anything.

One thing you said though, it got released properly but then you said earlier that “Leagues Beneath” and “Antarcticans Thawed” should have been on that album too. Were there other recordings of these?

We tried but I just think all of us were smoking too much weed and it was hard enough to get the one 72 minute version of Jerusalem done, you know what I mean? It was hard enough to get that song done. It was the first time I think a band tried to do something that long that wasn’t improv. We had it written and it took us four years to write and having that much information in your head and then trying to do other songs, that wasn’t even doable. That’s too much to ask anybody to fucking memorize. After that whole album happened we were all kind of burnt on being around each other or anything. Me and Al weren’t but I think Al and Chris, that separated them for a minute and then they got back together and they started playing music together again. That’s where Om came from and then [I] think Chris just decided that he would rather hide in the woods and not be on tour, which I don’t blame him. [It] takes a special kind of person to be on tour and deal with all that kind of stuff and so I think the evolution of Sleep has happened properly the way that it should have. It just takes time. It’s a very patient band and it waits for its members to be ready to do things and it’s a special band. It’s definitely different. We got our own thing going on.

After the break up around then you went off and did the High on Fire thing, Al and Chris did the Om thing and it’s always kind of made me wonder what led you guys to come back around 2009?

Well cause we got offered one show that was in England. Or it was actually two nights and it was with Jesus Lizard and I just think that the band grew while we were taking a hiatus and when we saw the reaction to us walking out on stage after that long of [a] period of time, none of us had played together in that long and we played some pretty good shows. The two sets we did were amazing and then I think all of us realized that when we were kids we had a lot of magic but then we’re getting older and there’s something to all this. People love it. We have a cult following and it was like, oh wow, man, we can do something with this and all of us enjoy playing with each other but Chris didn’t want to be on tour and Jason, we grew up, me and Al, just kind of worshiped Neurosis [Jason’s other band] and the Melvins and like all the shows we’d go to in Berkeley. That was Gilman’s Street and that’s where we grew up as kids just tripping out on all these crazy bands like Nomeansno and Nausea and Glycine Max and Neurosis and the Melvins and all the good shit that was going on there so Jason knew us since we were little kids like that and Jason just knows all our music because, shit, quite frankly Sleep wouldn’t have ever done anything without Neurosis taking us out and believing in us so they’re like family to us cause we’ve known them our them our whole lives.

That’s pretty cool.

Yeah, yeah.

Sleep reunion shows poster

Sleep 2009 reunion shows poster art by Malleus

You were talking about that show in London which I think was the All Tomorrow’s Parties festival.

Yeah it wasn’t in London though. It was out on the Southwest coast and it was at the place, Butlin’s. And Butlin’s was a place for English working class families to go while dad gambles, mom gambles, and the kids run around and there’s like an amusement park for pasty, white English people that don’t have anywhere else to go. It’s cold and wet and it’s weird, heh heh heh. I think that’s where werewolves came from, I don’t know.

Well I know that show is pretty much the only one, or the shows there that you played, were the only ones with Chris back on drums since the reunion, right? After that Jason I think took over everything.

Yeah well cause Chris didn’t want to really do it. He was real hesitant and although he had been touring with Al but I think Chris just isn’t cut out to tour. He’s a great drummer. He doesn’t like the limelight. He doesn’t want to be famous. It takes a certain type of person. Like Al and I for myself, we really care about what we do. We want to leave a legacy a little bit. It’s not like we’re narcissists or something like that we just want to leave a legacy because we care about our playing and we spend a lot of time getting good at what we do and Jay has just known us since we were little kids so he totally understands why Sleep does what it does and ever did what it did. It’s about amplifiers and tone and loud and fucking with people because we got that from Neurosis and the Melvins. Fucking with people through music is like a great thing. Whether it’s derogatory, funny or very serious, we cover all those aspects. I mean I can improv all day with those dudes but then when it comes down to serious arrangements, we don’t want it to be what people expect. We want it to fuck with people’s heads a little bit. Like why? Why did they do that that way? Fuck, why do I like that? You know, question why they like what they’re listening to. That approach works for us.

So do you think you’ll ever play again with Chris? Even like a one off or a festival somewhere?

With respect for Jason, if Chris wanted to do a weird set with us or something, I wouldn’t be opposed. I love Chris Hakius but I love Jay too and Jason’s like our main dude so with respect if Jason said, “yeah, you should do a show with Chris” I’d be like, “dude I’m not opposed to playing with anyone.” It’s like the old jazz blues bands. Everybody moonlighted in between each other’s bands so I’m not opposed to anything. I just enjoy playing. I try to leave politics and head trips out of what we do.

High on Fire

Alright so shifting gears a little I would like to talk to you about your other band a little bit and one thing I’d like to know is, how did you form High on Fire? Like how did you find the other members and kind of pull that all together after Sleep was kind of on hiatus there?

Well I got out of Sleep and I had a bunch of fucking songs that I wrote that I was going to show them to Al or whatever if he ever got out of being depressed about music, which he ended up doing. I knew it would happen. So the first song I wrote I was actually just trying to start a band with anybody so I got a friend of mine, Karl [Larson], who was more of a Soundgarden-y guitar player, and later on I figured out I don’t work with other guitar players well usually, unless they’re my bass player, so yeah, I started a band and I met Karl and he had some stuff to contribute but I had all these riffs that were kind of Sleep-ish riffs and then I met Des Kensel who’s an East Coast hardcore drummer. And then when I started trying to play some of the Sleep riffs to the hardcore drummer it like clicked. We were like married and then Des didn’t like another guitar player either. Even though I love Karl who started that band with me, we moved on and we had a friend of mine, George Rice, come down to start singing. I thought he sucked at singing but he’s a great guitar player/bass player, so he just started playing bass and I started singing. I was a shitty singer for like ten years and then I started figuring it out. Started going my way a little bit more but it’s cause I met this total little super drummer, but he was very different than what I was used to. But I always liked thrash metal. I love my like Black Flag, Circle Jerks, that sort of thing so it works. So basically High on Fire is a metal band but it’s a weird metal band. It’s just strange what we do. But I just finished doing an album which is coming out in September.

Yeah I wanted to ask you about that. Do you have any other details? You said it’s going to be out in September. Do you know the album title yet?

Yeah it’s called Electric Messiah.

Cool.

Yeah and it’s the best album we’ve ever done, by far. It’s ridiculous. And I’m really proud of that. So to do Sleep The Sciences and that album, between 2017 [and] 2018 that’s two albums that I’m really fucking proud of in one year. I’ve been working hard. I haven’t had any time to myself til recently. This is my month off and then pretty much I’m on tour all the way up til next year. And then I’m sure I’ll be making plans for next year in the next week here or something. It is by far the best High on Fire record ever which is hard to believe but it’s fucking bad ass, heh heh heh.

That’s cool man. I can’t wait to hear it. How many tracks?

I think there’s ten tracks, eleven tracks. It depends cause there’s a bunch of songs, like I wrote a Sumerian anunnaki rock opera that actually is two songs but they’re separate tracks. And then there’s a lot of slash songs. There’s a lot of songs that– you know [how] Opeth will have like one song but it makes like three songs if you really think about it?

Yeah, yep.

It’s kind of a bunch of shit like that because we’ve had this conscious stream of riffs and we put it together. I like when I do High on Fire records to have a lot of interludes and weird shit going on so you never lose focus but it’s constantly changing. It’s a lot like, Death Is This Communion is like that. There’s tracks that don’t have names but, they’re there. It’s just one stream of High on Fire consciousness and it’s fucking good, that’s all. I’m really stoked on that record.

So I suppose you’ll be touring to support that at some point, probably in the fall or something?

I think we’re going to be on tour with Municipal Waste. Cause we’ve been kind of beating a dead horse, dead in the water for a while so we’re doing a co-headline [tour]. Municipal Waste dudes are our good friends so we figured we’ll just punch the country together, swap spots and no one gets tired and all that stuff and yeah, it should be good. I want to get High on Fire rolling again so it’s full throttle. We took a lot of time to write this record, really make it good.

I’ve always kind of wondered, which band do you like performing with more, Sleep or High on Fire?

They’re apples and oranges. It’s so different and so the same. It’s weird but the common link between High on Fire and Sleep is obviously my guitar playing. I like having my own voice and being able to sing my lyrics. High on Fire is my baby like that. But Sleep definitely, I am a third of that thing’s heart and I get to express myself in different ways that I don’t get to in High on Fire. It’s very visceral. It’s super tight and visceral and very detailed but it has its own soul and I can do different things. Sleep’s like a weird science experiment because I learn about tones. You know if I used my rig from Sleep for High on Fire you wouldn’t even be able to tell what we were playing. It’s too fast, heh heh heh. Sleep’s one of those bands you’re supposed to play loud because you hit one note every fucking five minutes, you know.

Hahaha.

It’s a tone experiment and High on Fire I have to be very, very– both of them I have to be very careful about the controlability of my rig. But I like singing too so that’s the other part of it that I love High on Fire for is I like singing. It’s like a part of my playing. It’s fun to see what I can pull off and between Jeff [Matz, current High on Fire bass player] and Des, they’re constantly pushing me to be able to sing and play more shit than James Hetfield would when Metallica came out. It’s hard, heh heh heh. And it being hard is a good thing for me cause I like challenges and I usually like rising to the occasion.

Matt Pike for president

Alright well, this is Washington, D.C. and so I really want to make sure I ask you about all these Matt Pike for President stickers that I’ve seen around [get them here]. Do you think you might actually run for president in 2020?

I’ll run for president, I don’t give a shit, if you guys really want. You know I think I’d be more popular than Trump instantly.

Hahaha.

I’d be a great diplomat. I am so unorganized and I have ADD so bad I think I’d either be a awesome president by luck or a horrible president that has a lot of resistance, you know?

Heh heh.

Hahaha. No I’d be a great diplomat. I think I could bring world peace but I think I’d fuck up our infrastructure. I have no idea how that would go but I hear it at every show and it was like a gimmick and the fantasy of being president in some sort of alternate universe, I’d like to see that on film just to see what [would] really happen. Hahaha. It’s a funny notion. That was a great idea. Shit, I don’t even get money from that or anything. I didn’t do that. It’s just some kid made something funny up and it just started going ape shit. And they did it for Frank Zappa and Ozzy Osbourne in the 80’s so I felt kind of flattered I guess.

Well I think we all know that Tony Iommi and Black Sabbath are major influences on you but I’d like to know some of the other bands and musicians that are also influences on you.

Well, kind of everything. You know second to Tony Iommi I always loved David Gilmour from Pink Floyd. I always loved John McLaughlin you know in Mahavishnu Orchestra and just everything that guy’s done. He’s just [an] amazing guitar player. And I’m influenced by a lot of early punk. I grew up in the 80’s and I was exposed to the Dead Kennedys and the Exploited and Black Flag, all the classic punk shit when I was a really little kid cause I had a babysitter that, she’d just do bong hits and show me punk rock music. And when Mötley Crüe came out, MTV came out and I always liked ZZ Top. I always liked, you know all the classic stuff. I love W.A.S.P. I love a bunch of cheesy ass shit and I like so much stuff in my playing. I went to school for– I never went to like Juilliard or something. I went to a community college cause I felt that I needed to learn music theory and my art a lot better. I actually went to college for jazz for a couple years so I learned jazz improv and I always played blues, I always played classical so, I could play guitar very well before I even knew what I was doing. You know what I mean? I just have an ear for it. And then, as I went through that, it just kind of made me better and better so my influences come from all over the map. I love fucking Angus Young and Malcolm Young [of AC/DC]. I love K.K. Downing and Glenn Tipton [of Judas Priest]. I love Slayer. I love all the things that I got to grow up on and I was spoiled with.

Well D.C. is known for its harDCore scene as well and we also are known for a lot of the doom bands that came out of here. Are there bands from the D.C. area that you would say are influences to you at all?

Oh dude yeah. Fucking Alfred Morris III [of Iron Man], rest in peace. Bless his heart. Me and Al loved the shit out of that guy. He was the greatest fucking guitar player. It’s a shame that his death had to come. Sleep had Iron Man play a couple different shows when we were in your area with us because we were big fans of that. Wino is from out of that thing. I really love the Spirit Caravan thing. You know I kind of knew Wino before that with the Obsessed but then the Spirit Caravan, he was doing that and High on Fire was raging about that time so I got to know that dude around then. There’s a lot that comes out of there and it is definitely doom. Yeah Washington D.C. has definitely got a doom thing to it.

[Do] you like Clutch at all?

Oh yeah dude. I’ve been on tour with them. They took High on Fire out for a bunch. They have one of the coolest crowds ever. Those are some of the better tours that High on Fire had cause they were really cool to us. And that drummer, fucking J.P. is fucking retarded. It’s so good, hahaha. And I like anything with [Clutch vocalist Neil] Fallon.

Are there any new bands or albums that you’ve been listening to lately?

Well I’ve been so wrapped up in trying to get the masters done for Sleep and High on Fire [that] all I’ve listened to is my own band for a while and then, haha, I have a girlfriend who’s substantially younger than me so I get all my new bands through her. She’s an artist and she’ll just sit here– she’s also a musician but she’ll sit here and draw and then put on weird shit and occasionally I’ll walk through. I’ll be all, “what the fuck is this?” she’s all “you mean you never heard Portal?” Portal’s fucking awesome, hahahahahaha, but it’s so fucking dramatic and extreme I love the shit. I really like Lana Del Rey cause she’s creepy. I don’t know. I listen to all sorts of shit that comes my way. It just depends. I don’t listen to metal all day but when I do like metal I go deep. I get into like obscure metal quarterly because I have a millennial girlfriend that knows about it, you know.

Hahaha.

Hahaha.

Sleep at the 9:30 Club

Alright well, that’s about the end of my questions here. I thank you a lot for taking the time out to do this interview with me. I’m pretty excited about the show you’re going to be playing here with Sleep– the two shows on July 22nd and 23rd. Those should both be pretty cool and it’s cool you’re playing different sets each night so people can go to both and see something different each night.

Thank you for trying to sell tickets for us man. I appreciate it. And yeah, I’ll see you at the show huh? Come up and say hi. I’m pretty approachable.

Yeah, sure man.

You have a great day and thank you for the interview. I appreciate it.

Yeah no problem man. Thank you.

Alright man, have a good one.

Alright, bye.

Sleep ticket give away

Sleep at 9:30 Club

Stoner metal gods Sleep have sold out the 9:30 Club yet again for their performance there on July 22nd, however a second Sleep performance has been added for the following night, Monday, July 23rd! For the Monday night show Sleep will be performing a different set, namely the album Sleep’s Holy Mountain in its entirety! We’re so excited about this second Sleep show being added that we’re going to give away a pair of tickets to it to one of you lucky DCHM readers. To enter just leave a comment on this post telling me what your all time favorite stoner metal album is. Then this Friday, June 8th at 5pm EST the contest will close and a winner will be chosen at random (using Random.org) from all valid entries. The winner will get two free tickets the show! Be sure to enter using an email address 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, I hate spam too. If I haven’t heard back from the winner within 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 (they go on sale 6/7/18 at 10am EST).

On 4/20 this year Sleep released The Sciences, their first full length album of new material in 20 years! They also recently released a new 16 minute song titled “Leagues Beneath” on Adult Swim’s singles series. Of course Sleep will be playing their classic album Sleep’s Holy Mountain for the newly added second show on 7/23. The support band is Dylan Carlson, the solo project of the main man behind the innovative drone band Earth. Now check out these tunes by Sleep and Dylan Carlson and leave a comment telling me what your favorite stoner metal album of all time is.

Sleep – Leagues Beneath

Sleep’s Holy Mountain full album

Dylan Carlson – Conquistador full album

Metal show at Oliver Brewing in Baltimore

Black Lung at Oliver Brewing

This Friday, March 16th of 2018, the Oliver Brewing Company in Baltimore is hosting their first “real” metal show when Black Lung, Sierra and Caustic Casanova perform there. Oliver has had some bands play there before but they’ve usually been matinee shows tied in to beer releases. This will be their first night time metal show. The show was put together with help from the guys that run the Maryland Doom Fest so as you’d expect the bands are along the lines of doom and stoner. Oliver is a good place for this because the head brewer at Oliver is quite the metal head. Oliver makes a line of special release IPAs that are tie ins with various stoner and doom bands that he loves. They also make an officially licensed beer for The Sword and will be releasing a beer for Integrity at the Decibel Metal & Beer Fest later this month in Philadelphia. There have been some awesome shows coming to Atlas Brew Works in Washington DC lately and I’m hoping that Oliver can become something similar in Baltimore. Time will tell but hopefully a lot of people come out and support this first gig to show that this kind of thing can work in Baltimore too! You can get more info in the show’s Facebook event page here. Now a little about the bands…

Black Lung is a local Baltimore based band and they play a psychedelic style of rock that is drenched in distortion.

Sierra is a band from Kitchener in Ontario, Canada (a little west of Toronto). They play some moody stoner rock/metal and this is a rare chance to catch them down in our area.

Caustic Casanova is from Washington DC and plays some really catchy stoner jams and they’re the perfect opener for this show.

Earthless ticket give away

Earthless at Rock & Roll Hotel

Earthless is a psychedelic stoner band from San Diego, California and they’re coming to the Rock & Roll Hotel on Tuesday, March 20th, 2018. They’re a favorite of mine to see live so I’m very excited that one of you lucky DCHM readers will be going to the show for free with a friend. To enter: just leave a comment on this post telling me who your favorite band from California is. From Metallica to Mötley Crüe and Slayer to Fu Manchu, all bands from California will count as valid entries. Then this Friday, March 16th at 5pm EST the contest will close and a winner will be chosen at random (using Random.org) from all valid entries. The winner will get two free tickets the show! Be sure to enter using an email address 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, I hate spam too. 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 $20 here.

Earthless is known for their long songs (several are over 20 minutes long!), most of which are instrumental. The band’s new album, Black Heaven is coming out Friday, March 16th on Nuclear Blast Records. Black Heaven is different than previous Earthless albums because guitarist Isaiah Mitchell sings on several of the songs. This doesn’t extremely alter their sound though because band still finds plenty of time to jam out between verses. While the studio songs sound great the band is really incredible live and their drummer, Mario Rubalcaba, is one of the best drummers I’ve ever seen live that isn’t in some elite death metal band. The guy is simply a beast behind the kit and he brings an energy to their live shows that many stoner bands lack. Also on the bill is Kikagaku Moyo, a Japanese psychedelic band, and JJUUJJUU is a trippy experimental/drone band from Los Angeles. Now enjoy these tunes by the bands playing this show and leave a comment telling me who your favorite band from California is!

Earthless – Gifted By The Wind (with vocals)

Earthless – Black Heaven (instrumental)

Kikagaku Moyo – Kodama

JJUUJJUU – Bleck

Weedeater ticket give away

Weedeater at Rock & Roll Hotel

“Dixie” Dave Collins is bringing his stoner doom metal band Weedeater to the Rock And Roll Hotel this Saturday, June 10th! We’re so psyched for this show here at DCHM that we’re going to give away a pair of tickets to one of you lucky readers. To enter: just leave a comment on this post telling me what your favorite stoner metal song is. Then this Wednesday, June 7th, at 5pm EST a winner will be chosen at random (using Random.org) from all valid entries. The 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 $20 here.

Weedeater was formed in North Carolina when bass player “Dixie” Dave Collins needed a new musical outlet following the break up of Buzzov•en in the late 90s. Also on the bill is Black Wizard, a stoner/doom band from the Vancouver, Canada area, and Serial Hawk, a Seattle based band who play, you guessed it, stoner/doom. That’s a pretty great line up of stoner metal you don’t want to miss! Now check out these videos below of the bands playing and let me know what your favorite stoner metal song is in the comments!

Weedeater – Mancoon

Black Wizard – Eliminator

Serial Hawk – Lying In Wait

Maryland Deathfest XV Non-Survival Guide

MDF XV Pre Fest at Metro Gallery

OK guys I’m not doing the normal MDF survival guide this year, so now it’s the non-survival guide. Since there are no outdoor stages this year and the fest will only be at Rams Head Live and the Baltimore Soundstage I figure you guys don’t really need things like a map and tips on how to get around and such. If you really want to you can check last year’s post for that kind stuff (here). That said, there’s still a ton of info you may want to know, and I’ve also picked several bands at each venue on each day to write about at the end of this post, almost all of them have some material to stream to give you an idea of what they sound like or just help get you in the mood for this year’s MDF! First up, here’s some quick links you may want handy.

Official Maryland Deathfest:
website
Facebook
Facebook event page
Pre-Fest Party Facebook event page
Instagram

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.

Schedules

Tap/click on them to see them larger.

MDF XV Thursday schedule

MDF XV Friday schedule

MDF XV Saturday schedule

MDF XV Sunday schedule

Getting Tickets

Tickets are still available and there are VIP tickets available as well. VIP tickets do not get you in the door, they are an extra ticket you buy in addition to your regular ticket. A VIP ticket gets you access to a sectioned off area to the side of the stage at Rams Head Live, access to the VIP bar, and will receive a voucher for a festival T-shirt of your choice. VIP does not have any benefit at Baltimore Soundstage. You can still get regular or VIP tickets from Eventbrite (here) or help the makers of the documentary “Welcome To Deathfest” in their crowdfuning endeavor by purchasing tickets from them at a discounted price here. They have both single day and multiple day tickets available in the “incentives” column on the right.

Tips

As always, I highly recommend bringing and wearing earplugs! Tinnitus isn’t cool or fun and even if you’re just going to one day of the fest that’s still a ton of bands hammering your ears all day. If you’re going multiple days you might want to even bring a bunch of extra ear plugs because they’re gonna get gross after a while.

You will be able to get your 4-day pass wristband at the entrance of Rams Head Live starting at 2pm on Thursday. You will not be able to get your wristband at the pre-fest show this year.

If you’re on Instagram I highly recommend following the official account @deathfests as local photographer Josh Sisk will be taking over the account during MDF again this year and he posts incredible great shots of the bands while the fest is going on.

While you’re at it, follow me on Instagram as well as I’ll be posting photos and videos throughout the weekend too. Find me at @DCMetalChris on Instagram!

Rams Head Live does not allow backpacks, but you can check them at the coat check for a couple bucks. Baltimore Soundstage will search your backpack and/or purse, and usually pat you down as well.

Merch and Vendors

There are no food vendors this year. Bummer, I know, but there are plenty of restaurants within walking distance. I highly recommend Pratt Street Ale House who has great food, a wide variety of excellent craft beers, and MDF attendees get 10% off their entire bill (just show them your wristband). Their address is 206 W Pratt St, Baltimore, MD 21201.

There will be merch vendors inside both venues and also just outside of Rams Head Live in the Powerplant Area. Here’s the list of merch vendors: ChopoBrujos, DabLizard, Dark Descent Records, Decibel Magazine, Dave’s Metal, Horror Pain Gore Death (HPGD is at Soundstage on Friday only), Indie Merch, JSR Merchandising, Mexico Steel, Pizza Party Printing, Relapse Records, Sabi, Season of Mist, Sevared Records, Speed Clothes, Utterly Somber and Vienna Music Exchange.

Bands will arrive and leave throughout the weekend so if you see band merch you like one day don’t hesitate to buy it, it may be gone before the fest is over as not every band stays for the entire fest, or even more than their 1 day there. Guess what, they take their merch with them. Most of these guys will want cash so I suggest bringing a good amount to avoid ATM fees. Some bands won’t have their own merch guy and will instead opt to sell their merch at the official MDF booth so be sure to check back there often. Speaking of which…

MDF XV tshirt

The official MDF merch booth will be inside Rams Head Live. It will have t-shirts, hoodies and posters as well as metal keychains, pins and Zippo lighters. There will be no preorders for posters and shirts this year. It looks like the shirts come in two different designs and three colors: black, white and red. The posters feature artwork by Lucas Ruggieri and are limited to 150. You can see the poster image at the very top of this post. The custom made Deathvests (seen below) by Kylla Custom Rock Wear will be for sale for $200 at the MDF booth as well.

Announcing our 2017 Maryland #Deathvests – our official festival merchandise collaboration with #MarylandDeathfest @deathfests this year! We have #handmade a limited edition 10 high quality distressed #genuineleather #studded vests in sizes S – XL (2 S, 2 M, 3 L, 3 XL) which will be at the festival merchandise booth Thurs-Sun! We are also taking ONLINE PREORDERS for these, for in-person pickup from me at the fest! Once they are gone no more will ever be made! Extremely high quality durable #leather- each varies slightly in appearance due to the distressing process! $200 each – send your size! Paypal or credit card for preorder: http://www.paypal.me/kylla/200 (or email kyllacustomrockwear@gmail.com for credit card) #KyllaCustomRockWear #MDF #extrememetal #bikervest #motorcyclevest #blackmetal #deathmetal #smallbusiness #metalfashion #metalclothing #deathfest

A post shared by Kim Dylla / Kylla Custom Wear (@kyllacustomrockwear) on

The official MDF Pre-Fest Party is at a different venue this year, the Metro Gallery. It is headlined by Ruinous, a death metal band featuring Immolation guitarist Alex Bouks. Tickets are $15 advance, $17 at the door and available here. Sorry kids, it’s ages 18+ only and doors open at 7pm. Note that MDF wristbands will not be available at the Pre-Fest show this year. For more info visit the Pre-Fest Party’s Facebook event page here.

MDF XV Pre-Fest Party

This year I decided to write about certain bands, several at each venue on each day. Hopefully this sheds some light on bands you might not know about before you get to see them at the fest. This isn’t a “favorites” list or something, some bands I just didn’t feel like writing about and it isn’t because they’re not good, it’s because I only have so much free time. Check out what I’ve written about bands for the days/venues you have tickets for below, and stream some of their songs to get ready for Maryland Deathfest XV!

Thursday at Rams Head Live

The Thursday of Maryland Deathfest at Rams Head Live tends to focus on stoner and doom bands the past few years and this year is no exception.

Samothrace at 5:50 – This Seattle based doom band plays very long and very slow songs, though their sound can evolve into faster paced segments as well. If you’re into stuff like Winter, Grief and Bell Witch, you’ll want to check them out.

Dopethrone at 6:55 – Dopethrone, named after the Electric Wizard album, is a stoner/sludge band from Montreal. They were originally supposed to play MDF last year but for whatever reason they canceled.

SubRosa at 8:00 – This stoner band from Salt Lake City that blends stoner rock with post rock. Three women form the core of this ethereal sounding band which includes a violin player.

Conan at 9:05 – Definitely more barbarian than O’Brien, Conan is a stoner/doom band from Liverpool, England, making a rare appearance stateside at MDF. These guys are crushing live, perfectly blending huge riffs and stomping rhythms.

Acid King at 10:10 – Acid King is a stoner band from San Francisco that has only in the past couple years become active again. They play some Sabbath worshipping riffs but with the beautiful vocals of Lori Steinberg soaring over their fuzzy riffs.

Tiamat at 11:25 – I’m honestly not sure what to expect of a Tiamat set at MDF. They headliners of the first night at Rams Head Live have changed their sound many times over the years, at this point they haven’t put out an album since 2012. They might play a set more focused on the death/doom metal style of their early years or the soft and moody Wildhoney era material or the more polished gothic metal style they eventually ended up with, or maybe play things from various eras.

Thursday at Baltimore Soundstage

While in the past MDF tended to use the Baltimore Soundstage to host mostly hardcore and grind bands that seems to have changed a lot this year since there are no outdoor stages. The first day at BSS has a lot of death metal this year.

Malignancy at 8:15 – From Yonkers, New York, Malignancy has been around since the early 90s. They play an old school style of brutal death metal reminiscent of older bands from the era like Suffocation and Monstrosity.

Decrepit Birth at 10:30 – Decrepit Birth is heavily influenced by the later era of the band Death. They haven’t released an album in 7 years though they have a new one, Axis Mundi, coming out in July so I expect to hear some new material from these guys.

Cryptopsy at 11:55 – Montreal’s Cryptopsy was once one of the best death metal bands in the underground, until in 2008 they decided to completely change their sound, image and line up to become a metalcore band. When that didn’t pan out they went back to being a death metal band to mixed reception. However for this headlining performance at Maryland Deathfest XV Cryptopsy will be playing their 1996 classic album None So Vile in its entirety. And be sure to check out their drummer Flo Mounier, still one of the best drummers in all of metal.

Friday at Rams Head Live

The RHL line up for Friday is pretty death metal heavy, awesome!

Nordjevel at 5:00 – Every year MDF seems to book at least one trve Norwegian black metal. This year that band is Nordjevel, whose name translates to Northern Devil. Reminiscent of the 2nd wave of black metal bands, the band has only released one full length and one EP since forming in 2015, but they’ve quickly become a buzz band in the black metal underground. Fans of bands like 1349 and Gorgoroth are going to want to check out Nordjevel.

Brodequin at 6:00 – Brodequin is a very brutal death metal band from Knoxville, Tennessee. Between 2000 and 2004 they released 3 intense albums, then basically disappeared. This is something of a reunion show for Brodequin, though not their first show since reforming. Their name translates to “boot” from French, however they get their name from a medieval torture device.

GosT at 9:10 – Maryland Deathfest always seems to have one weird band that doesn’t really fit with everyone else and this year it’s GosT. GosT isn’t a metal band but a DJ and the music reminds me more of old Nintendo game soundtracks than anything else. I guess GosT’s genre is called synthwave. I’m not going to lie, I’m not particularly interested in seeing GosT hit play, er… perform live at MDF, but they are strange enough I figure they warrant mention here.

Macabre at 10:15 – An all time favorite of mine, Macabre is a three piece from Chicago that truly lives up to their name. By blending traditional songs and even nursery rhymes with death metal and grind, they have created a sound all their own. In fact, they call it Murder Metal since all of their songs are about true crime and serial killers. They even tell stories between songs about these killers and tyrants, highly recommended!

Vader at 11:20 – Before Behemoth, Decapitated and Mgla there was Vader, the true fathers of underground metal in Poland. Due to tape trading they were one of the first bands from Eastern Europe to break through the iron curtain to be heard in the West before the Berlin Wall fell. And rightly so, their intensely fast style of death metal has made them death metal legends to this day.

Friday at Baltimore Soundstage

An eclectic mix of bands play Friday at Baltimore Soundstage.

Chepang at 4:15 – Chepang is a grindcore band that is originally from Nepal though now they live in the US. They perform with two drummers. Don’t expect a long set from them, their only release consists of 8 songs clocking in at under 12 minutes total!

Occultist at 5:05 – This Richmond based band is everything that makes underground metal fun. They’re some sort of mix of black, speed, crust and death metal and exploding with energy. Their front woman, Kerry Zylstra, can scream with the best of them.

Stormtroopers Of Beer at 9:25 – Stormtroopers Of Beer is a Stormtroopers Of Death (aka S.O.D.) cover band that actually includes original S.O.D. member Dan Lilker. Adde Mitroulis (of Birdflesh, General Surgery) handles the drums while Jocke Carlsson (of General Surgery) plays guitar and guest vocals will be courtesy of Matt Harvey (of Exhumed, Gruesome). Old school metal heads will remember their song “Milano Mosh” as the theme music for MTV’s Headbanger’s Ball.

Noothgrush at 10:35 – Noothgrush is doom/sludge band from the Bay Area. Their name stems from a Dr Seuss character in the book There’s a Wocket in My Pocket so as you might have guessed these guys have probably never gotten high. They seem a bit out of place on the bill here and would probably have fit better on Thursday’s line up at Rams Head, but hey, good doom puts you in a good mood no matter when they play.

Siege at 11:50 – Headlining Baltimore Soundstage on Friday night is Massachusetts based hardcore band Siege. Despite releasing only about 20 minutes of material before breaking up in 1985 they became popular to bootleg traders and were very influential to the grindcore subgenre. They had a brief reunion in the early 90s with Seth Putnam of Anal Cunt on vocals and now they have reformed again, giving MDF attendees a rare chance to catch these underground legends perform live.

Saturday at Rams Head Live

There’s a lot of death metal at Rams Head Live on Saturday, headlined by one of the biggest names in the genre.

Embalmer at 3:50 – Embalmer is from Cleveland, Ohio, and plays gore obsessed death metal that fans of bands like Mortician and Impetigo will appreciate. In 1995 they released the excellent EP There Was Blood Everywhere and it wasn’t until after a long hiatus that they finally released a full length album, 13 Faces Of Death in 2006. Another lengthy hiatus ended when their second full length, Emanations from the Crypt, was finally released in 2016. This band seems to be very on again, off again so be sure to check them out at MDF while they’re still around, it might be another decade before you get another chance!

Necropsy at 4:45 – The Metal Archives lists 21 different bands with the name Necropsy, making this one of the most over used names in heavy metal. The version playing MDF XV is the one from Finland. They’re a death metal band that released several well received demos in the early 90s before dissolving only to reform earlier this decade. Part of me kind of hopes the guys from local band Noisem will join them on stage for a song, since they were once called Necropsy as well.

Exhumed at 7:50 – Exhumed is a death metal band from San Jose, California, that basically sounds like Carcass around the Necroticism era. Except faster, and with even more hooks. Look, I know there’s a lot of Carcass clones out there but these guys really do it best.

Exumer at 8:55 – I applaud the MDF organizers for hilariously putting Exumer after Exhumed. Despite the similar names the two bands don’t sound too much alike. Exumer is one of the old German thrash bands of the 80s. While never becoming as famous as German thrash contemporaries Kreator, Destruction and Sodom, they did put out some solid records in the late 80s. After disappearing like most thrash bands did when the grunge wave hit, they reformed about a decade ago and have continued to put out some solid thrash albums, including last year’s The Raging Tides.

Root at 10:05 – Root, formed in 1987 in the Czech Republic, is one of the original 1st wave black metal bands, predating the 2nd wave bands from Norway. They have moved to a clean vocal style but their vocalist, Big Boss, has a pretty incredible voice that has held up remarkably well considering he’s the sole original member still in the band. He’s also known for founding the Czech branch of the Church Of Satan. I’m not sure how better to describe them than maybe, they sound like what Ghost would probably sound like if they weren’t a gimmick band.

Grave at 11:15 – Lead by guitarist and vocalist Ola Lindgren, Grave is one of the last remaining of those early Swedish death metal bands (such as Entombed, Unleashed and Dismember) that is still active and has kept their old school “buzz saw” sound. There are many newer bands now that imitate this style, like Black Breath and Gatecreeper, but this is a rare chance to one of the originals of that old Swedish death metal sound perform live.

Morbid Angel at 12:25 – Morbid Angel is back at Maryland Deathfest but after the disaster that was Illud Divinum Insanus they’ve ejected David Vincent and once again added Steve Tucker to the band. They have stated that they will only be playing songs from the Steve Tucker era of the band, which are from the albums Formulas Fatal To The Flesh, Gateways to Annihilation and Heretic, although they have a new album on the horizon so hopefully we’ll hear some new songs too.

Saturday at Baltimore Soundstage

The Saturday schedule at Baltimore Soundstage is dominated by grind with the once in a lifetime chance to see Agoraphobic Nosebleed and Insect Warfare back to back.

Myxoma at 4:40 – Myxoma is a recently formed goregrind band. I don’t know a ton about them other than one of the Maryland Deathfest organizers, Evan Harting, is in the band, I would guess as the vocalist.

Meth Leppard at 8:00 – Meth Leppard is just like Def Leppard but on crystal meth! Ok not really, but they are a pretty sick grind band from Australia.

Agoraphobic Nosebleed at 10:45 – ANb is the spawn of Pig Destroyer guitarist Scott Hull. Their long awaited first live show ever was at Maryland Deathfest XIII and this year they’re back as part of Saturday night’s insane one-two punch of grindcore legends at Baltimore Soundstage. I mean seriously, ANb and Insect Warfare playing back to back? It doesn’t get much better than that for grind fans.

Insect Warfare at 11:50 – Closing out Saturday night at Baltimore Soundstage is one of the legends of grind, Insect Warfare, making a rare live appearance. Their only full length, World Extermination, was an instant classic and now that the band has stated that they will be breaking up soon this will be one of their final shows. You don’t want to miss the chance to see them headline this night! Still not convinced? Then check out our recent write up about IW here.

Sunday at Rams Head Live

Black metal seems to be the dominant style on Sunday at Rams Head Live, though doom legends Candlemass headline.

Encoffination at 3:00 – Sunday starts off at Rams Head with Encoffination, an Atlanta, Georgia, based death/doom band. Both members of this two piece are also in death metal band Father Befouled (who are playing the previous day at RHL).

October Tide at 4:45 – Swedish death/doom metal band October Tide once was a side project of Katatonia vocalist Jonas Renkse. The other founding member, Fredrik Norrman, ended up joining Katatonia and the band went on hiatus for a while. When Fredrik left Katatonia he reformed October Tide. Alexander Högbom is the vocalist now, who has also recently become the vocalist of Demonical. Despite having harsh vocals, it makes sense that October Tide would play on the same night as Candlemass so if you’re a Candlemass fan and not sure who else to check out on this day’s line up, don’t miss October Tide. Check out our recent review of their 2016 album Winged Waltz here.

Acheron at 6:45 – Often considered a black metal band, Acheron is really a death metal band that spawned from the infamous Tampa, Florida, death metal scene of the late 80s/early 90s, though they are now based out of Ohio. The band is lead by Vincent Crowley, a former reverend in the Church Of Satan. Acheron has stated that they will be playing their 1996 album Anti-God, Anti-Christ from start to finish at MDF and that they will be breaking up in 2018.

Oranssi Pazuzu at 8:55 – This is one of the bands I’m most excited to see this year at MDF. Oranssi Pazuzu is from Finland and have somehow created a psychedelic style of black metal that actually works incredibly well. The band has somehow managed to attract fans of both stoner metal and black metal to their very unique take on metal.

In The Woods… at 10:05 – In The Woods… is one of the first bands to call their music pagan metal. They began more black metal but over the years have shifted to more of a dark prog rock style. The Norwegian band is a spin off of Green Carnation.

Akercocke at 11:15 – Akercocke is from London, England, and haven’t put out an album since 2007. They recently became active again though so this is something of a return for the death metal band. They became known as the “satanists in suits” for wearing suits when performing live.

Candlemass at 12:25 – Swedish epic doom metal band Candlemass returns to MDF as the final band to perform this year. The band is fronted by the excellent Mats Levén these days and they will be performing their 1987 album Nightfall in its entirety at MDF. A bit of trivia: the classic album’s cover art is a painting by Thomas Cole from 1842 that is on permanent display at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC.

Sunday at Baltimore Soundstage

Grind, grind, grind closes out the final day of MDF XV at Baltimore Soundstage.

Genocide Pact at 4:40 – Washington DC’s own Genocide Pact plays Maryland Deathfest this year! These guys blend death, grind and crust very well and if you want to check out and support a local at MDF do not miss these guys! They have a new album due out soon so maybe we’ll get to hear some new material too.

Iron Lung at 10:45 – Iron Lung is a powerviolence band originally from Reno, Nevada though they have now relocated to Seattle, Washington. The band members also run Iron Lung Records which releases material by other grind and powerviolence bands as well. Their experimental style includes fast bursts typical of powerviolence along with some much slower, almost doom like segments.

Terrorizer at 11:50 – Terrorizer created one of the most influential grindcore albums of all time when they released World Downfall in 1989. They’ll be playing that album in its entirety when they headline Sunday night at the Baltimore Soundstage. It will be weird seeing Pete Sandoval drum for Terrorizer yet not play with Morbid Angel the night prior.

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.

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!