Interview with Scott “Wino” Weinrich of The Obsessed

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

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

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

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

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

Cover of Sacred by The Obsessed

Cover of Sacred by The Obsessed

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

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

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

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

Wino playing Heavy Mama

Wino playing Heavy Mama

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

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

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

The album was me, Brian and Dave Sherman.

Ok cool.

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

The Obsessed at Maryland Deathfest XI

The Obsessed at Maryland Deathfest XI

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hahaha. That’s pretty cool.

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

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

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

Cover art for Shrinebuilder and Adrift

Cover art for Shrinebuilder and Adrift

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

Thank you very much. I appreciate that.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Obsessed at the Ottobar

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alright have a good one.

Bye.

Live photos of Electric Wizard

On Wednesday, April 1st of 2015, UK based stoner/doom metal band Electric Wizard played to a sold out crowd at the Baltimore Soundstage. The place was crowded, I’ve never seen it so packed before, but the band put on great show and played those super fuzzy riffs for about an hour and a half. The band had a video projection behind them for the entire show, which mostly showed clips from old exploitation films of nude blond women dancing around with psychedelic patterns superimposed. I didn’t get there in time to shoot locals Satan’s Satyrs, who are opening for the entire tour, but it was cool getting to see their bass player, Clayton Burgess, perform with Electric Wizard. The last time Electric Wizard played the US was also in Baltimore when they headlined Maryland Deathfest in 2012, and they didn’t tour the US around that show, it was a one off performance. Combine that with the fact that Electric Wizard hadn’t played in the US for many years prior to MDF due to problems getting visas, and people were hungry to see these guys in action. Considering that, it isn’t much surprise that their merch sold out very quickly, only a few Electric Wizard tote bags and black light posters remained by the end of their set and all of the t-shirts were long gone. They played a lot of their classics that night, like “Dopesmoker” and “Satanic Rites Of Drugula” and I think most people left pleased with the set list overall (you can see the entire thing here). Whether you got to attend this epic show or not, I hope you enjoy the photos I shot below. If you’d like to see more of them just go here.

Electric Wizard at the Baltimore Soundstage

Electric Wizard at the Baltimore Soundstage

Electric Wizard at the Baltimore Soundstage

Electric Wizard at the Baltimore Soundstage

Electric Wizard at the Baltimore Soundstage

Electric Wizard at the Baltimore Soundstage

Electric Wizard at the Baltimore Soundstage

Electric Wizard at the Baltimore Soundstage

Electric Wizard at the Baltimore Soundstage

Review of Foehammer by Foehammer

Band: Foehammer
Album: Foehammer
Release Date: 7 April 2015
Record Label: Grimoire Records
Buy digital or CD ($7) or cassette ($6) on Bandcamp: Here
Buy vinyl ($15) from Australopithecus: Here

Cover of Foehammer by Foehammer

This post is the debut piece from new DCHM contributor Buzzo Jr. Those of you that already know him can back me up that this guy is really passionate about his metal, and I think that he’ll do just fine here. In this post he’s writing about Foehammer, a new band in our area, though the members have been active in our metal scene for some time. Some of you may remember that they were the opening act at the DCHM Holiday Party last December at the Pinch. So take a few minutes to read his words about Foehammer’s debut and of course be sure to stream some of the tunes at the bottom of the post too.

One of the many things the DMV area is well known for is its fantastic doom metal scene. There is no short supply of bands worshipping at the altar of Tony Iommi with fuzz-fueled riffs in the area. One of the newest releases to do so is the self-titled EP from Foehammer, hailing from Annandale, Virginia. With only three songs on the album, each surpassing nine minutes and the final track at a whopping 14, these guys really know the meaning of slow, heavy doom.

First and foremost, the most important thing in all of doom is you’ve got to have solid riffs. And boy do Foehammer deliver. While very simple in structure, every single riff from Joe Cox’s guitar comes at you with full force, lingering on and setting the stage for the next. At some points the riffs sound almost trance-like, and influenced by drone bands such as Sunn O))). The basslines on the record are equally heavy, providing even more distortion to the already low and deep guitar tone. Many funeral doom acts tend to over-distort the bass in order to add to the overall “heaviness,” but end up sounding way too muddy. Foehammer fortunately avoids this misstep and keeps the bass at a perfect level of fuzz, the result being basslines that are clear and audible, but not overpowering the rest of the instruments. Another thing that sets Foehammer apart from other doom bands playing right now would be the vocals. Jay Cardinell’s vocals are not your typical doom vocals in the realm of Wino or Bobby Liebling, but are more reminiscent of death metal bands such as Incantation. The gurgling, low growls at times invoke images of a demonic cauldron, bubbling with an ominous mixture inside. Quite fitting for a band that takes its name from Gandalf’s sword from the “Lord of the Rings” series. Finally, Ben Blanton’s drumming on this record adds the final much needed element to the mix. Each time one of his sticks hit down they hit hard, creating a pounding procession of tribal-like grooves.

The songs, while limited in number, are all slow, heavy, and relentless; hardly ever straying from the set path of full on distortion-laden riffs and pounding drums. The only time the album does quiet down is during the halfway point of the song “Final Grail,” when a beautiful acoustic passage suddenly comes in. The contrast with the acoustic section demonstrates how crushingly heavy Foehammer’s sound actually is once the riffs come roaring back. A minor gripe I have with the album is that while the songs are great, the acoustic section in the first song is the only time the band seems to mix it up, with the rest of the songs not showing much variety in their structure or sound. Apart from that small issue, the album still delivers on what it intended to, and if you’re a fan of incredibly heavy doom in the realm of Samothrace, Conan, Buried At Sea, or even more melodic acts like Pallbearer, then I highly recommend this album.

Foehammer’s self titled debut is a great offering of slow, fuzzy funeral doom that’s bound to shake your speakers and probably your skeleton as well. You can pick it up on April 7 on CD, cassette, or digital download through Baltimore based record label Grimoire Records, or on vinyl through Australopithecus Records.

Electric Wizard ticket give away

Electric Wizard at Baltimore Soundstage

You may have heard that Electric Wizard is returning to Baltimore, this time to play at the Baltimore Soundstage on Wednesday, April 1st, 2015. And you may have heard that this show is already sold out. These things are true but we here at DCHM wanted to give everyone one last chance to get into this show so we’re giving away a pair of tickets to one of you lucky readers! To enter: just leave a comment on this post telling me what was the best sold out concert you’ve ever been to. At 5pm EST this Friday, March 20th, a winner will be chosen at random (using Random.org) from all valid entries to win the tickets. Be sure to enter using 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 within 24 hours another winner will be chosen at random. This is your last chance to get Electric Wizard tickets so don’t put it off!

Electric Wizard last played in Baltimore in 2012 as a headliner at that year’s Maryland Deathfest. It was the UK based stoner/doom metal band’s first time in the US in many years. They’ve finally put out a new album since then, last year’s Time To Die, and now they’re finally coming back to the US for a tour. This will be our area’s only stop for the tour and as you can imagine, it sold out pretty quick. The opening band for the tour is actually a local band from our area, Satan’s Satyrs. The throwback band has become a favorite of the guys in Electric Wizard, so much so that Satan’s Satyrs bass player Clayton Burgess is now also playing bass for Electric Wizard. If you’re looking for a night of down tuned fuzzy riffs then you don’t want to miss this concert! This show is going to seriously kick some ass so check out these videos by the bands playing and leave a comment below telling me what your favorite sold out concert was!

Electric Wizard – Satanic Rites Of Drugula

Electric Wizard – Black Mass

Satan’s Satyrs – One By One (They Die)

The Skull ticket give away will give you Trouble

The Skull at the Metro Gallery

The doom/stoner band Trouble has been cranking out the riffs since 1980 but now the band’s original vocalist, Eric Wagner, is back with Trouble’s original drummer, Jeff Olson, and long time bass player Ron Holzner not as Trouble but The Skull. They’ll be coming to the Metro Gallery in Baltimore on Friday, December 12th and they’ll be playing classic old Trouble songs as well as tracks from their killer new album For Those Which Are Asleep. We’re so excited about 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 metal album of the year has been. At 5pm EST this Wednesday, December 10th, a winner will be chosen at random (using Random.org) from all valid entries to win the tickets. Be sure to enter using 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 $17 here.

The Skull gets their name from the second Trouble album, sort of like how the later version of Black Sabbath with Dio was called Heaven And Hell. Eric Wagner still has that classic doom voice of his so you won’t want to miss this incredible set (and rumor has it the band has a special surprise for fans at this specific show). And if this wasn’t already enough doom for you there’s some great up and coming bands on this bill as well including Philadelphia’s Crypt Sermon and Conclave from Massachusetts. Be sure to get there early so you can catch locals Gateway To Hell as well (what a name!). Now help me find out which great albums I’ve missed listening to this year by telling me what your favorite metal album of the year is and be sure to check out these videos of the bands playing below.

The Skull – The Touch Of Reality

Crypt Sermon – Temple Doors

Conclave – Lifetime

Exclusive Stream of The Nothing by Fortress

Unto The Nothing by Fortress

Fortress is a doom metal trio from Hagerstown, Maryland, and while I love their three song demo I’ve been waiting for some new material to listen to between their earth shaking live shows and now the wait is FINALLY over! Go ahead and stream the new song “The Nothing” below and be sure to crank up that volume! No seriously, more than that, this is the kind of sludgy, slow motion doom metal you’ll want to blast loud enough to feel in your bones. Fans of bands like Pallbearer, Winter and Sunn O))) are going to love this dark album.

Fortress is now signed to Unholy Anarchy Records and their debut full length, Unto The Nothing will be released on December 2nd on CD and three styles of vinyl (each limited to 100 copies) including black, grey marble and clear with black splatter. Vinyl versions will also include a digital download of the album that contains a bonus track not available on other formats. You’ll be able to buy Unto The Nothing from Unholy Anarchy’s online store here (vinyl) and here (CD) or their Bandcamp here, or from the band at an upcoming live show. And did you see that sweet album art by Aeron Alfrey up there? Well you can click on it to see the creepy, full wrap around version of the art that will be on all versions of Unto The Nothing.

“The Nothing” is some hatred drenched, depressive doom metal so I hope you weren’t already having a great day because you’re about to get bummed out, but in the best way possible!

Review of South Of The Earth by Iron Man

Band: Iron Man
Album: South Of The Earth
Release Date: 30 September 2013
Record Label: Metal Blade / Rise Above
Buy from iTunes (digital) for $7.99: Here
Buy from Metal Blade (CD) for $11.99: Here

Cover of South Of The Earth by Iron Man

Maryland’s Iron Man has been cranking out doom metal for decades around here and they recently released their fifth studio album, South Of The Earth. DCHM writer Grimy Grant wrote the following review of it, I hope you all like reading it as much as I did. Be sure to find him on Twitter at @jgrantd and let him know what you think of Iron Man or any other metal bands. And be sure to check out the videos at the end of the review to give them a listen while you read.

One of the original badasses of doom metal in Maryland, Iron Man, are showing the kids how it’s done with their new album South of the Earth. Iron Man have experienced various hiatus in their career, their most recent break coming right after Generation Void was released in 1999. Since 1988 (according to Metal Archives), they’ve built themselves from being a Black Sabbath tribute band into artists worthy of note not just in our area but around the United States as well. Sleep bassist Al Cisneros said they were “one of the best local bands” from Maryland onstage at Maryland Deathfest this year, which I can only imagine gives you infinite cool factor points. In short, they’re touted as one of the more traditionally heavy bands out there as well as one of the longest-lasting.

South of the Earth is the band’s ode to both modern and traditional doom metal. There are deeper roots, obviously, to the traditional, Sabbath-like fuzz and bass sound in the guitars. This is really impressive on tracks such as the second track, “Hail to the Haze”, and the sixth track, appropriately titled “IISEOSEO (The Day of the Beast)”, where the guitars give off serious electric flair. At moments in South of the Earth, I felt like I was being transported sonically back to some low-lit, dank bar where Iron Man’s lead guitarist and founder, Alfred Morris III, is tripping out the audience of bikers and stoners with his sick riffs. Iron Man has added a new member recently, “Screaming Mad” Dee Calhoun, and he brings a tendency towards a southern-metal sound. This makes the vocals on some songs such as the title track, “South of the Earth”, sound more like southern metal. Dan Michalek’s vocals on 1999’s Generation Void were way more classic metal sounding, almost a mimic copy of Ozzy Osbourne. This isn’t to put Calhoun’s talent in a bad light – he has a wealth of talent as expressed in “The Ballad of Ray Garraty” where he starts the song off in a traditional, Dio-esque bass harmony. This doesn’t stop the fuzz coming from Morris and bass player Louis Strachan who are both dragging things back into that “classic heavy metal” sound. South of the Earth is the Bud-n-whiskey of the area’s metal: heavy metal that uses old-fashioned guitar chops, solid drums, and belting vocals.

“Hail to the Haze” is a song that honors that kind of heavy rock while also making some poetical thoughts on the subject of psychedelics. Calhoun opens by asking to “Hail to the hallucination – come here to placate/Slip into my mind where I’m confined and take me away.” Backed by fuzzy guitars, it’s easy to follow Calhoun’s words and get lost in the song, just as the singer is possibly getting lost in drugs. Then Calhoun brings a warning that repeats through the song “How much longer – how much longer/How much longer can they hold before they explode… How much longer inside can this monstrosity hide?” The song, like the guitars going back and forth in the beginning, is pulled between reality and escapism. The track ends with a “Hail to the chemicals – ingest my final escape/But how much longer … /How much longer in this state I’ll be awake?” A chilling question that asks whether dying or going fully into a drug-induced coma is better than facing what’s inside the singer.

Calhoun’s poetry makes a lot of the songs intriguing just because of the way the stage is set. “IISEOSEO (The Day of the Beast)” has a lot of that in it. Starting off with a jumbled-up series of guitar notes (no real studio tricks coming from the mix – just straight, old-school guitar noise, which I thought was cool) the song then launches into a ballad about Satan’s last days in paradise. What brought me to think of this song as significant are the choice of words to describe an angel’s descent: “The bracing of foot was a hope burned to soot”, and then: “In this year of the beast the sun dark in the east/With warmth that’s remembered by none/He sits there alone with a heart turned to stone.” It’s a vivid depiction that doesn’t need a whole lot of further interpretation for me. At the same time it could be argued that it’s almost too simplistic and a-typical of traditional metal. Singing about Satan is a go-to for almost any band such as Electric Wizard or Candlemass. Regardless, the way it’s worded shows a lot of thought and genius went into this song.

Classic metal, and I’m talking more specifically about Raven, Saxon, and Pentagram albums from the 1980s and early 90s, is more about listening to the power and might of the music in itself than being grossed out or blown away. That said, there are moments in the album where the music faded into the background of whatever I was doing. It’s only when I’m in the mood for good old-fashioned metal and really listening to everything that I really enjoy South of the Earth. Everything Iron Man does in the album is perfect, but it doesn’t always stand out that well. “Mot” Waldmann, drummer for the band since last year, has only a few moments of flair but otherwise the guitars and vocals take over each song. The rhythm is more similar to blues than anything else – with the drums lightly prodding on the band in the background and not providing as much intensity as in some bands. Sure, Morris and Strachan make up for this more than enough with wave after wave of sweet licks, but I wonder if there can’t be more pizazz from the whole band.

Overall, South of the Earth wowed me with music that sounds like it’s from the very beginnings of 70’s psychedelic rock and metal tradition, while being rooted in today’s metal scene. When it rocks, it really rocks but without blowing up a whole lot of new ground. There are some cool things in here, too – like the “Ballad of Ray Garraty” that talks about the Stephen King novel The Long Walk from the 70’s where teenagers walk to death. There’s another literary reference from H.P. Lovecraft in “Half-Face/Thy Brother’s Keeper.” These points are all very straight-forward despite the poetic writing. It’s as if the band just wants to put on the best show they can without bringing too many new things into the scene. Iron Man delivers exactly what it promises: a really good time listening to what sounds like classic beats from the era of early metal.