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.

Metal Show Of The Week: Hush

Who? Hush
When? Saturday, October 19th
Where? Velvet Lounge (map)
How much? $8 cash at the door

This week’s pick for the metal show of the week goes to Hush at the Velvet Lounge on Saturday, Oct 19th. All of the bands on this bill are worth checking out in their own right even if you can’t make this show. I’m not just saying that to be nice either, it really is a stacked line up. First up the band Hush comes from Albany, New York and brings a dark and angry form of sludgy doom metal to town. If you’ve never heard them before then be sure to download their Untitled I album here (you name the price, even free). If you like slow and heavy metal then you’ll like these guys.

Hush is a good band, no doubt about it, and it’s definitely worth checking them out in a close up live setting like this, but this show has an excellent line up of local metal bands playing as well. The Osedax is a local atmospheric doom metal band and I can tell you these guys are an excellent live band. Their songs are doomy and yet leave you energized. You can download a song of theirs for free here. Also on the bill is Fortress, a local favorite of mine (if you count Hagerstown, MD as local). Their live show is Motörhead level loud but slow and heavy like lava oozing from a volcano. You can download their demo for free here but you’ve really got to see them live to truly experience the force of their sound (tip: bring ear plugs!). And let’s not forget local black metal band Thrain. The three piece has no bass player but they make up for it by not giving a shit about bass and writing some shredding dual guitar black metal anyways. Some of you may recognize the band’s ginger front man James Healy, the guy who fixes up guitars for metal heads around the area at Old Town Lutherie. You can also grab Thrain’s demo for free here.

In addition to the four bands the Philly based indie label Dullest Records will be setting up shop for the night so you vinyl collectors might want to bring a few extra dollars cash. In all, this is a great line up with a dark touring band and three excellent local bands, and it’s just $8! The Velvet Lounge is on U Street right around the corner from the 9:30 Club and as such it’s easily reachable by Metro. Doors open at 9pm and the first band goes on at 9:30. Please note that it is ages 21+ only. I hope to see some of you there, it’s going to be a hell of a dark show! Now check out these clips of the bands from YouTube, a couple of them are live recordings so you’ll have to excuse the low sound quality on those.

Saint Vitus ticket give away

Saint Vitus

Many years ago Scott “Wino” Weinrich was told, by Ian MacKaye (of Minor Threat and Fugazi fame), of a doom metal band out in LA called Saint Vitus. Wino ended up moving from the DC area to California to become the front man for Saint Vitus and doom metal history was made by this perfect matching. Now Wino and Saint Vitus are coming back to the area to play a show at Empire on Sunday, October 20th and we’ve got a free pair of tickets to give one of you lucky readers! To enter just leave a comment on this post telling me what song you’d like to hear Saint Vitus play live the most at this show. You can see their discography here if you need some help. At 5pm EST this Friday, October 11th, a winner will be chosen at random (using Random.org) from all valid entries to win the tickets. Be sure to use a valid email you check regularly so I can contact you if you win. Don’t worry, I won’t add you to any spam lists or sell your info or anything sleazy like that. If 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 Amped & Alive for $17 here.

Along with Saint Vitus on this tour there will be psychedelic sludge band Zoroaster performing as well as a high energy set by punk/metal/rock band The Hookers. Local support will be from DC’s stoner riff masters Borracho. In all that’s a damn solid line up! Now check out these songs below by the bands playing and tell me what song you want to hear Saint Vitus play live.

Review of Soma by Windhand

Band: Windhand
Album: Soma
Release Date: 17 September 2013
Label: Relapse Records
Buy from Bandcamp (digital) for $9.99: Here
Buy from Relapse (CD, vinyl) starting at $10.99: Here

Cover of Soma by Windhand

We’ve got a new album review by Grimy Grant and this time he’s writing about the new album by the Richond based doom metal band Windhand. I know, I know, Richmond isn’t technically within the area that DCHM covers however they’re too close, and too damn good, to just skip over. If you haven’t heard Windhand before be sure to stream the songs at the bottom of this post and give them a listen as you read the following review.

There is a murky world that is a little bit of our own but also belongs to some kind of secret, far-away dungeon where ghosts wail and guitars sing a sad, creeping harmony. This is what Windhand constructs in their albums with Soma being this year’s addition to the collection. A lot of the same great elements are here as in their full length from 2012. Dorthia Cottrell’s vocal work imbues each song with a haunting feel while Parker Chandler (also from Cough), Asechiah Bogdan, and Garrett Morris deliver consistent, Sabbath-y guitar licks that wash over you in waves. Meanwhile, Ryan Wolfe shudders the earth with slow, pounding beats from the drums. When I listen to their work I can almost sense the smoke and fog rising from the ground. It’s everything that a doom super-group should be but in the form of a few local creatives in nearby Richmond, Virginia.

While listening to Soma I couldn’t help thinking about their 2012 album, Windhand. Both have interesting sounds that add flavor to the album. Windhand opened with summer storms rolling in the background, cicadas buzzing in the air and only a single pair of footsteps tromping through an outdoor field. It then digresses a bit by breaking away from the occult drama and even featuring some laughter and unintelligible banter from the band at the start of one track. Soma, in comparison, is far more into the natural and occult roots of the band’s material. The focus seems to be more on the music in this album and lacks the casualness found in Windhand. The band, too, seems to bring more precision to their craft, both in the mixes of the songs and the tightness of their sound. It feels like a perfect second act in their catalog.

Soma lurks in the shadows and stares straight into the darkness, never once looking back and occasionally popping up briefly to rock out. There is more punch to each song than in Windhand, something that I appreciate a lot yet at the same time I strangely find myself missing some of the slower songs in their debut. “Woodbine” for example, starts off immediately in the middle of a strong, harmonizing guitar jam and chorus-like background vocals. Lyrically it’s mesmerizing – the vocals sound like a ghost drifting in and out to entice us to “Go on and love what you are”. By definition, a soma refers to all “non” parts of the body, the soul, the psyche and the mind, as well as an intoxicating drink used in Vedic rituals (Webster’s). “Woodbine” gets its name from a type of vine, also called Virginia Creeper, that blooms mostly in late summer and early fall. So there are intricate levels of metaphor, and symbolism that make “Woodbine” something I can go back to again and again. Like the layers of meaning and imagery for the song, the guitars, vocals, and percussion work together in a dark harmony.

As I already mentioned, the band sounds better on Soma. Embedded in the songs is the occasionally sighing, occasionally roaring voice of Dorthia Cottrell. Cottrell really shines on this album, like in the fourth track “Evergreen”, which breaks from the electrical buzz of guitars, transitioning into an almost all-acoustic folk song. Cottrell comes into focus in the sound mix with her voice sounding clearer than on any other song on the album. The mix on “Evergreen” produces a dual vocal harmony that is a beautiful, artistic edge that I hadn’t heard from Cottrell before and shows off her range. It’s a great change in the pace of the album that seems a bit hard to swallow at first but then gradually builds back into the doom-y feel from the rest of the album. Most stoner and doom albums I listen to now have brief acoustic breaks – such as Valkyrie’s “Wolf Hollow” from their debut full-length Valkyrie. “Evergreen” goes a step further by embracing the musical form of the ballad, giving it a voice as well as pretty acoustics. I found it an interesting choice although some might think it’s too different from the rest of Soma.

“Boleskine” wraps up the album with an ode to Aleister Crowley’s “Boleskine House” – a house in Scotland near Loch Ness where he wrote several books on occult rituals (a fun bit of trivia: it was also owned briefly by Jimmy Page). The song is the longest recorded by the band – going over 30 minutes and features theater-like sound effects accompanied by almost twangy, Western-ish guitar work. It’s long and seems to kind of go on without ending, though, and I didn’t like it as much as the rest of the album’s songs, but I still enjoyed how it took me to a different zone of the Windhand world. However if there’s something that I love the most about this album – and quite possibly the band – it’s the focus on nature and not just occultism. In fact, I should have put my cards on the table at the beginning of this review and mentioned that I am a huge fan of Windhand’s style of doom metal. There is something about Soma that is both mesmerizing and horribly frightening. There is something syrupy and obsidian flowing beneath the surface.

It’s a great moment to see a band such as Windhand evolve their craft into something superior. Stoner and psychedelic rock seem to be reaching an apex now with so many throwback and psychedelic bands coming to the fore. Valkyrie, Doomriders, Kadavar, Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats, Bloody Hammers, Saint Vitus, to name just a few, all released albums in the 2012 or 2013. This means there are good and bad albums as each group scrambles to put their hat in the ring. Windhand is releasing Soma almost a year after their previous self-titled debut yet it seems like they’ve spent a lot of time with it. Not only are they throwing down crushing notes, they are also building into their songs so much imagery that it’s almost overwhelming. I feel like this album has all the atmosphere of a good black metal album coupled with doom metal’s slow-motion pace. At the core is what I love the most about this album and Windhand: that they really seem to give it their all, even if that means depressing or scaring the rest of us.

Woodbine:

Orchard:

Pentagram ticket give away

Pentagram

Pentagram is one of the oldest doom metal bands not only from the DC area but in the history of metal and they’re playing at Empire (formerly Jaxx) in Springfield, Virginia on Saturday, August 3rd! DCHM is psyched to give away a pair of tickets to see these guys rock the stage the night after Black Sabbath plays to be the second half of an old school doom metal weekend. To enter just leave a comment on this post telling me what song you’d like to hear Pentagram play live the most at this show. You can see their discography here if you need some help. At 5pm EST this Friday, July 26th, a winner will be chosen at random (using Random.org) from all valid entries to win the tickets. Be sure to use a valid email you check regularly so I can contact you if you win. Don’t worry, I won’t add you to any spam lists or sell your info or anything sleazy like that. If 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 Amped & Alive for $20 here.

Along with Pentagram there will also be a performance by locals A Sound Of Thunder. I have a pretty good feeling they’ll be busting out some of their more Sabbathy stuff for this show and they’ve been known to cover some obscure Black Sabbath tunes too. Sons Of Eddie will be playing Iron Maiden cover songs at this show as well. And you’ll want to get there early to make sure you catch Virgina based Dirt Merchant‘s fuzzy guitars and Despite Charm who are coming down from Baltimore to play. Now check out some of these cool songs by Pentagram and A Sound Of Thunder below and tell me what song you want to hear Pentagram play live!

Review of 13 by Black Sabbath

Band: Black Sabbath
Album: 13
Release Date: 11 June 2013
Label: Vertigo Records (Universal)
Buy From Amazon: Here

Cover of 13 by Black Sabbath

DCHeavyMetal.com focuses on metal in the Washington DC, Baltimore and Virginia area, and usually I only do reviews of albums by bands from inside the area. However, I’d like to break one of my own rules today and post a review of the new Black Sabbath album, 13. They’re my favorite band and metal is about breaking rules anyways, right? So let me dive into Black Sabbath’s first album with Ozzy Osbourne since 1978…

If you’ve ever met me in person you might have noticed that I have O-Z-Z-Y tattooed on my left knuckles, my first tattoo back when I was 18. When Sabbath reunited with Ozzy Osbourne in the late 90s the first show of the US tour was at Nissan Pavilion (now known as Jiffy Lube Live). They had a tent there and people were waiting hours to get tattoos but when they heard I wanted Ozzy on my hand they rushed me right in. The people working the tent were taking pictures and shooting videos of me getting my tattoo, it was a fun experience. I figured if there was ever a day to get Ozzy tattooed on my hand that was it. I used to draw it on there with a ball point pen every day anyways so this saved me money on ink costs. Since it’s a visible tattoo people often ask if I ever regret it and I never have, though it’s funny when people ask if (or just assume that) my name is Ozzy, haha. Anyways, a lot of people have asked for my opinion on the new Black Sabbath album, 13, since I’m such a big Sabbath fan. Is it as good as the classic albums from the 70s?

No. I don’t think it realistically could be. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t a really good album. I think the track order (here) is poor and the better songs tend to be later in the album. I like the first two songs, both of which are over 8 minutes long, but I don’t think they were the best songs to get people into the album. Casual fans of the band, or people just interested in all the hype, may lose interest and not make it past that point. Also, the choice of the slow to build up second track, “God Is Dead?,” as the lead promotional song seems kind of dumb. I think the shorter song “Loner,” which has a catchy riff right from the start, would have been a better choice for drumming up early interest. The song “Zeitgeist” is my least favorite of the album. It’s basically a rehash of “Planet Caravan,” from their 1970 album Paranoid, but far less interesting and just not as good. That said, I think the band really starts to sound good on later tracks like “Age Of Reason” and my (current) favorite song from the album, “Damaged Soul.” The sad riff on “Damaged Soul” along with the use of a harmonica shows Black Sabbath still have their roots in the blues. “Live Forever” is another really solid song that I think should have been the album’s opening track. The closing song of the album, “Dear Father,” discusses the issues with priests hiding crimes by the clergy, though it isn’t as somber as you’d expect due to one of Tony Iommi’s signature heavy riffs.

Ozzy’s voice is heavily processed throughout 13 but that’s pretty typical these days for any older studio vocalist (hell even the younger ones can’t quit their Auto-Tune addictions). Even in the studio he doesn’t have the energy that he used to in his youth but this isn’t a band of 20 somethings anymore, they’re musicians that have been making music for over 40 years now. The Black Sabbath sound has matured and aged with the members and that’s not a bad thing. Tony Iommi’s riffs are as thick and heavy as ever, further proof to everyone that he’s still the Riff Master. Geezer Butler’s bass playing is excellent throughout 13 reminding us all that there is a place for bass guitar when mixing metal albums. As for the drums, well, Rage Against The Machine/Audioslave drummer Brad Wilk is probably the weakest link of the band. He isn’t really an official member but just did session work after contract disputes (thanks Sharon) left original Black Sabbath drummer Bill Ward out of the production of the new album. To put it bluntly, Brad Wilk’s drumming on 13 is just boring. It is so uninspired that they may as well have gotten a drum machine instead. This might not even be his fault though. With the Sabbath guys and producer Rick Ruben all running things in the studio, he was probably just told to keep things simple to have the focus on the three other musicians. This might work for newer fans of the band but to those more familiar with Ward’s work in Sabbath it just makes his absence even more apparent. I really hope that Tommy Clufetos does a better job playing live with Sabbath on tour this year than Wilk did in the studio.

The album closes with the fading sounds of rain, thunder and a church bell that is almost exactly like the intro to the song “Black Sabbath,” the first song on the band’s self titled debut album. But wait, there’s more! Four original bonus tracks not on the regular album can be found in various places. My favorites are the riff filled song “Pariah” and the faster paced “Naïveté In Black”. There’s also a live version of “Dirty Women” that was recorded at a show in Australia in April 2013, suggesting they might be playing the old song on their upcoming tour. Which, by the way, comes to town on Friday, August 2nd at Jiffy Lube Live (details here). In all this isn’t my favorite Black Sabbath album but it is the one we got in 2013 and I’ll be damned if I don’t play the hell out of it. New Sabbath fans might want to start with one of the first five albums, or maybe even the best hits collection We Sold Our Soul For Rock ‘N’ Roll, but long time fans shouldn’t have any gripes about adding this to their Sabbath collection. The most anticipated metal album of the year is here and it is definitely worth the listen.

Feel free to leave a comment telling me what you think of the new album. Did it exceed your expectations or do you think it was just a cash grab? Is it better than the 2009 Heaven And Hell album, The Devil You Know, with Tony, Geezer and vocals by the late Ronnie James Dio? If you think you could have written a better review check out this post and see if you’ve got what it takes to review albums here on DCHeavyMetal.com And of course, be sure to check out a few new songs from the album below that I picked to give you an even better idea of what’s on 13.

Track 6: Live Forever

Track 3: Loner

Track 7: Damaged Soul