Review of The Felon’s Claw by Ilsa

Band: Ilsa
Album: The Felon’s Claw
Release Date: 5 May 2015
Record Label: A389 Recordings
Buy digital ($5) or CD ($8.99) or 2x 12″ vinyl ($29.99) on Bandcamp: Here
Buy various bundles with merch from A389’s web store: Here

Cover of The Felon's Claw by Ilsa

Washington DC based crusty death/doom band Ilsa has a new album coming out on Baltimore based label A389. DCHM writer Buzzo Jr has written the following review of The Felon’s Claw to give you all the details about the new full length from one of my favorite area bands. As usual we’ve got a couple of songs streaming at the end of the post so give them a listen while you read!

Lets get this out of the way quick: No, you’re not the only person who is immediately reminded of Spinal Tap’s infamous and fictional Smell the Glove album when looking at the cover art for The Felon’s Claw. However, the fourth full length from DC’s Ilsa sounds nothing like everyone’s favorite fake British band, but is instead full of Ilsa’s signature crust soaked doom metal.

Ilsa is well known for mixing death/doom, with crust punk and d-beat; their previous outputs often alternating between slow doomy passages with one song and then going into frantic punk influenced tracks for the next one. On The Felon’s Claw however, the faster punk influenced tracks are more rare, with only “Oubilette,” “Buried in the Bedrock and Concrete of Our Cities,” and “Armstrong’s Mixture” venturing into full on crust punk territory. The remaining 7 songs are all sludgy doom tracks, with “Katabasis” clocking in at almost 9 minutes. The slow, sinister mood and heavy riffs in these tracks combined with the harsh, high range vocals are sometimes reminiscent of Salome; another great doom band from the DMV area that unfortunately broke up in 2011. I find that I like Ilsa’s faster tracks a bit more than the slower paced songs on this album, since they are packed with much more aggression and energy. Their death metal influences are also more prevalent on the faster tracks, blending perfectly with the punk inspired d-beat drumming. Not to say that the slower tracks aren’t any good; quite the contrary actually. What they lack in speed they greatly make up for in crushing heaviness. A favorite of mine among these slower tracks is “Pandolpho,” which is actually a reimagining of a hymn written by Robert Parsons back in 1572. On this track, the band puts their crust and doom influence into a single song; starting off at a slow steady pace and then erupting into a much faster section in the middle, and finally slowing back down to a dirge-like speed at the end.

Tim Moyer and Brendan Griffiths’ guitar work on the album is great; their mammoth tone establishing the murky atmosphere of the album and their grimy riffs chugging away, hammering the listener into submission. Large amounts of harsh feedback flows in the background, following the example of sludge bands like Eyehategod and Acid Bath. Sharad Satsangi’s basslines follow the guitars perfectly, adding even more power and filth to the mix and chugging in unison with the twin axes. Orion Peter’s vocals are as intense as they’ve ever been as well, with his tortured, painful howls penetrating through the riffs and feedback to create a sense of misanthropy and hopelessness. Orion utilizes his harsh vocals perfectly, causing a great contrast between the low end riffs and his higher range screams. Josh Brettel’s drums unfortunately don’t sound as thick and powerful as the rest of the instruments do, which is a pity seeing as they are incredibly heavy and pounding when Ilsa perform live. That being said, Josh’s drums do get the job done providing thudding beats to complement the riffs and vocals, at some points overcoming the lesser production and sounding utterly bombastic on some of the much slower tracks such as “Smoke is the Ghost of Fire.”

Ilsa’s newest offering is a filthy chunk of crusty death/doom, packed full of great riffs and screams. If you’re looking for a record to play in your dingy basement for a seedy get-together with various lowlives, you won’t find a better one than this.

Metal Show Of The Week: Repulsion

Who? Repulsion
When? Saturday, April 25th
Where? MGC Tavern (on the American University campus) (map)
How much? $25 at the door (online ticket sales now closed)

This is one hell of a show that’s coming to the Mary Graydon Center Tavern at American University. Repulsion, along with Napalm Death and Terrorizer, is one of the founding pillars of grindcore. While they’ve played at Maryland Deathfest a few times over the years this will be their first show in Washington DC ever! Repulsion is also credited with the invention of the blast beat and their 1989 album Horrified is a classic of the genre. While they’ve gone through drummers over the years guitarist Matt Olivo and vocalist/bass player Scott Carlson are still with the band (and both were briefly members of Death back in the 80s). This Michigan based grind band is still destroying ear drums and DC area fans of extreme heavy metal do not want to miss this chance to see them here in a small venue.

If all that wasn’t enough to convince you to come out, maybe the incredible line up of local support will! Direct support will be DC/Baltimore’s own Pig Destroyer, the biggest name in grindcore in our region (but you probably already knew that). If you missed their wild, sold out show at Hardywood Brewery in Richmond then you gotta see them with Repulsion! There will also be a set by DC’s masters of crusty death/doom, Ilsa. They’ve got a new album coming out May 5th, titled The Felon’s Claw, but they’ll have CD copies of it for sale early at this show (they won’t have vinyl yet though). There’s also going to be a set by Ilsa’s A389 label mates Noisem, a young, high energy, early 90s death/thrash throwback band that also has a new album coming out soon. The opening act, Left Cross, is one I’m not too familiar with. I know they’re from Richmond but that’s about it, so it should be interesting checking them out.

The fun starts when doors open at 7pm and the first band begins at 8pm. This is a dry show so no alcohol will be served nor permitted (don’t worry, there will still be other nights to drink). If you’d like more info you can go to the official Facebook event page here. The American University Independent Arts Collective has really put together a high quality, and very rare, DIY line up for this one, don’t be a sucker and miss it! Now give a listen to these tunes below by bands that will be playing.

Repulsion – Black Breath / Maggots In Your Coffin:

Pig Destroyer – The Diplomat:

Ilsa – Frostthrower:

Noisem – Split From The Inside Out:

Metal Show Of The Week: Obliteration

Who? Obliteration
When? Thursday, March 20th
Where? Metro Gallery (map) in Baltimore
How much? $14 cash at the door or $14.50 from Mission Tix

This week’s pick for Metal Show Of The Week goes to a gig up in Baltimore but if you’re down in DC or NoVA it’s definitely worth driving up for, even on a week night, and I’ll explain why. The headliner is a death metal band from Norway called Obliteration. They’re playing a string of shows while they’re in the US for SXSW and the Metro Gallery in Baltimore is going to be their only stop in our area. The chance to catch these guys live in the US is pretty rare, you might never get to see them on this side of the ocean ever again. And while Obliteration is from Norway they’re straight up death metal, not black metal, and not the breakdown laden slam-core style of death metal that has become so popular of late. No, Obliteration has an old school sound that isn’t far off from early recordings by bands like Darkthrone and Sepultura. Their raw, aggressive sound is surprisingly clean on their third album, Black Death Horizon, which was released by Relapse Records late last year. You can stream the entire album on Bandcamp here or just scroll down to the end of this post to check out the second track, “Goat Skull Crown.”

There’s more than just a rare chance to see a killer Norwegian death metal band in their prime at this show though. Also playing will be Northless, a heavy sludge band from Milwaukee, Wisconsin that has a dark, foreboding sound not far off from bands like Rwake and Czar. They aren’t on tour with Obliteration, we’re just lucky that they’re both playing Baltimore the same night and their shows were combined. And let’s not forget the killer locals on this show including DC’s Ilsa, a crusty death/doom band that is heavy as fuck and always leaves the audience floored by the end of their sets. Baltimore’s own Cemetery Piss brings their blackened thrash to the stage as well and the opening band will be Putrisect, a death metal band from Baltimore. This is one hell of an all ages bill for under $15 at a venue with good sound and a solid beer selection too. Still not convinced? Then jam out to the following tunes by the bands playing and get ready to head out to the Metro Gallery this Thursday!

Obliteration – Goat Skull Crown:

Northless – Communion:

Ilsa – Frostthrower:

Cemetery Piss – Such The Vulture’s Love

Review of Morbid Saint at American University

Last Friday, the 31st of January 2014, was a good night for the area’s metal heads. Attila sold out Empire in Springfield and Amon Amarth, Enslaved and Skeletonwitch played the Fillmore Silver Spring. However I decided to skip both of those shows for the rare chance to catch Morbid Saint play a DIY show on the campus of American University. So who the hell is Morbid Saint?

Well they were a thrash metal band from Wisconsin that in 1988 put out their only album, the underground classic Spectrum Of Death. They were a frequent opener on Death’s tours in those days but unfortunately broke up in the 90s. In 2010 they reformed and if you went to Maryland Deathfest X in 2012 then you got to see them play Spectrum Of Death from start to finish on one of the big outdoor stages there. That was a pretty great performance in the midst of many at MDF X but last Friday’s show at the Kay Spiritual Life Center at American University was something else altogether. There was no lighting rig, no barrier between the bands and fans, no big stage, hell there wasn’t even a stage. The room was small, packed, and hot and you couldn’t hope for a better DIY setting to see an old school thrash band in. Most of those old thrash bands from the 80s have either blown up like Slayer and Megadeth, disbanded after the rise of grunge, or regularly come through the area to places like Empire promoting whatever new album they may have. Those shows are all good but this show wasn’t like any of them and I knew it going in. Basically, I couldn’t let myself miss this show!

I showed up a bit late but apparently there had been an issue with the electrical box at the start of the night and everything got delayed. The show was sold out when I arrived but I had ordered tickets online ahead of time cause I knew it would. The room was basically a big oval with merch tucked into a small room on the side opposite the venue entrance. Normally it is used as an on campus religious center for any religious denomination that wants to use it but this night it would become a place to worship metal! When I got there the first band, Genocide Pact, was still playing. Genocide Pact features members of another local band, Disciples Of Christ, but isn’t quite as grindy as D.O.C. is and instead has more focus on the death metal sound. They were fun but since the room was already packed I didn’t get up front to see them. The next band up was Baltimore’s Noisem, formerly known as Necropsy. These guys are young but ever since getting signed to A389 Recordings they’ve really started to garner attention, and not just locally. They opened on a run of 22 shows for The Black Dahlia Murder and Skeletonwitch last fall and they’ll be the opening act on the entire upcoming Decibel tour with Carcass headlining. They’re definitely getting better in the live setting, that showed even when performing at a DIY show with no stage. Their high energy death/thrash really got the audience into the show and the pits got pretty intense a few times. Next up was another A389 band, the (mostly) DC based Ilsa. They play a crusty style of death/doom that is full of mosh friendly riffs and very heavy slower parts as well. It has been a little while since I’ve seen Ilsa live and in that time they’ve replaced one of their guitar players with a guy who used to play with several of them in a band called Time Of The Wolf that was a precursor to Ilsa’s formation. Their set was heavy but I do wish the band members would face the audience more. Most of the show they formed a circle facing inward at each other, aside from vocalist Orion who looked all around the room with his vice grip on the mic he was screaming into.

Finally it was time for Morbid Saint to play and after the delay and several sets you could tell the audience was getting a little restless. The audience wouldn’t settle for a bad performance from the headliner at this point and Morbid Saint delivered. The crowd erupted into a mosh pit from the first note played and frontman Pat Lind really kept the intensity up the entire show despite the heat that was becoming overwhelming. The band did not play Spectrum Of Death start to finish as they had at MDF but instead kept the set list pretty varied, they even played songs off their never officially released 1992 demo Destruction System and some other obscure material as well. They had a few extended pauses between songs because the drummer was overheating but they mostly played songs back to back to back. There were crowd surfers and people flying in and out of the mosh pit the entire set with the intensity reaching its apex when Morbid Saint played “Lock Up Your Children.” Maybe I’m just getting old but by the time it was over I was feeling pretty drained and headed straight to the water fountains. A big thanks goes out to Mariana and the AU Independent Arts Collective for making this show happen. I hope they put on more awesome metal shows in the future. Getting the chance to see one of the classic old thrash bands up close in a small, sweaty, sold out room was like stepping into a time machine back to the days of Heavy Metal Parking Lot and despite the other options that night, there’s nowhere else I’d have rather been.

Noisem:

Noisem at American University

Noisem at American University

Noisem at American University

Ilsa:

Ilsa at American University

Ilsa at American University

Ilsa at American University

Morbid Saint:

Morbid Saint at American University

Morbid Saint at American University

Morbid Saint at American University

Morbid Saint at American University

Morbid Saint at American University

Morbid Saint at American University

Metal Show Of The Week: Morbid Saint

Who? Morbid Saint
When? Friday, January 31st
Where? Kay Spiritual Life Center (map)
How much? $12 cash at the door (online sales already closed)

This Friday old school thrashers Morbid Saint are coming to DC and they’re playing a really tiny venue on the campus of American University. The band is from Wisconsin and while they used to open for Death on tours in the late 80s they only ever released one proper full length album, the 1988 cult classic Spectrum Of Death. They broke up in the early 90s (like many smaller thrash bands did after the rise of grunge) but recently they’ve reunited and starting playing shows again. They made their only area appearance since reforming at the 2012 Maryland Deathfest where they played Spectrum Of Death from start to finish. This show will be a much more intimate setting than the large outdoor stage at MDF and since time won’t be as much of an issue hopefully they’ll also play some songs from their 1992 demo Destruction System.

The show is at the Kay Spiritual Life Center which is basically a small non-denominational church/mosque/whatever-religion building on American University’s campus. Online ticket sales have already ended so you’ll want to be sure to get there early if you want to get in as this show will most likely sell out. Luckily the local opening support is pretty excellent! First will be Genocide Pact, a local death metal band featuring members of D.O.C. followed by Baltimore’s Noisem, a young death/thrash band that will be opening for Carcass on their upcoming US tour. Direct support will be from Ilsa, a DC based crusty death/doom that never disappoints live. You couldn’t ask for a better line up for just $12! This Friday night this show will be a mosh friendly, sweaty and intense night for all in attendance and it’s going to be awesome! If you’re unfamiliar with any of the bands on this bill be sure to check them out by streaming the songs below.

Pig Destroyer at the Ottobar

On Friday the 19th of October 2012 I headed up to the Ottobar in Baltimore to see Pig Destroyer perform at their album release show. Their new album, Book Burner, is their first full length release in over 5 years and anticipation for the album has been high not only in the DC area, which the band is from, but in the overall world of metal fandom. I missed the opening act, Wargames, though they’re a Baltimore based hardcore band so they’ll probably be playing in the area again soon. Royal Thunder was the first band I saw play. They’re a slow paced hard rock/metal band from Atlanta and while I didn’t think they were all that bad, they were certainly out of place on this bill. The crowd who showed up to see a spastic grindcore band wasn’t really interested in seeing a drowsy southern rock band with clean vocals. Royal Thunder, along with Pig Destroyer, is signed to Relapse. I guess they were just trying to get Royal Thunder more exposure by adding them to this line up but they really sucked the energy out of the place. Luckily the next band, Baltimore natives Necropsy, came to the rescue with their set and got the mosh pits started. They play some catchy death/thrash and they are really fun to watch live. They’re all pretty young, I’m not sure if any of them are over 21, but they are certainly worth checking out if you haven’t seen them yet. They’ll be opening the first day of Maryland Deathfest next May. The next band to play was Washington DC’s own Ilsa. I’ve seen them a ton of times and as always they brought the heavy, chugging riffage doused in crusty filth. They started their performance off by throwing stripper glitter on the people standing close to the stage and I have to say that was rather unexpected. Just when you think you’ve seen it all at a metal concert… Anyways, Ilsa was in really good form, mostly playing songs from their upcoming album Intoxicantations which is due out on Black Friday (Nov 23rd) from A389 Records. I’ve got the set list posted here if you’d like to see it. They didn’t play the song Frostthrower, a personal favorite of mine, but it didn’t matter, they’ve got a lot of great songs and you could tell the audience agreed. They were loving the weight of the band’s sound and I’m sure Ilsa won some new fans with their performance.

After Ilsa’s killer set it was time for Pig Destroyer. They don’t play a lot of shows in the area and there was a good sized crowd out for this rare appearance by the local grindcore legends. Vocalist JR Hayes (who I recently interviewed here) was rather jovial between songs then like a light switch he would just turn on his pent up rage and funnel it through his throat. He was like a caged wild animal suddenly set free into the confusing world with his microphone as his only weapon. Guitarist Scott Hull stayed pretty cool on the left side of the stage, grinding out his bizarrely unique riffs as the songs jarringly started and stopped. This was the first time I had seen Pig Destroyer with with their new drummer, Adam Jarvis (also of Misery Index) and apparently it was his birthday as well. Even after taking birthday whiskey shots on stage he still ripped through those crazy Pig Destroyer songs with total precision. The band doesn’t have a bass player but they do have Blake Harrison who basically “plays” some sort of DJ console making noises and adding clips and samples to their songs. Since a lot of what Blake does is basically prerecorded he spends a lot of time on stage essentially acting as a hype man by helping pump up the crowd and keep them into the show. There were also a few guest appearances during the set. Kat Katz (vocalist for the now defunct DC doom band Salome) performed vox on a few songs and the Grindfather, aka Richard Johnson of Drugs Of Faith, did some guest vocals as well. Pig Destroyer’s set list didn’t include a whole lot from the new album though they did play a cover of a Void song. You can see their full set list here. Overall it was a great performance by one of DC’s biggest bands and it was awesome to see them in a local venue. During Pig Destroyer’s set I was up front trying to get some photos and videos and, unsurprisingly, the crowd was wild, hyper and just violent overall. I’m lucky I didn’t damage my camera but I think it was worth it to get some straight on, close up shots from this rare show. The videos are all the way at the end, I hope you enjoy them. Until next time, stay metal everyone and support the scene you’re a part of!

Royal Thunder:

Mlny Parsonz of Royal Thunder

Royal Thunder at the Ottobar

Necropsy:

Tyler Carnes of Necropsy

Travis Stone of Necropsy

Necropsy at the Ottobar

Sebastian Phillips of Necropsy

Sebastian Phillips of Necropsy

Ilsa:

Ilsa at the Ottobar

Ilsa at the Ottobar

Ilsa at the Ottobar

Garrett of Ilsa

Ilsa at the Ottobar

Orion of Ilsa

Pig Destroyer:

Scott Hull of Pig Destroyer

Pig Destroyer at the Ottobar

J.R. Hayes of Pig Destroyer

Pig Destroyer at the Ottobar

Pig Destroyer at the Ottobar

Scott Hull of Pig Destroyer

J.R. Hayes of Pig Destroyer

Review of Windhand at St. Stephen’s

On Saturday the 3rd of March 2012 I headed over to Saint Stephen’s Church in the Columbia Heights neighborhood of Washington DC to catch a great line up of metal bands. And while drinking wasn’t allowed at the venue this wasn’t some sort of Christian rock concert, upside down crosses and other metal standards were on display on stage throughout the night. The excellent Richmond, Virginia based doom band Windhand was touring with Natur and Pilgrim and this was the DC stop. To make the show even better DC’s own death/doom masters Ilsa were on the bill as well. Midnight Eye was supposed to open the show but they had to drop off and were replaced by Satan’s Satyrs, a Northern Virginia based sludge/stoner type of band. $10 for 5 bands is normally a pretty good deal on most nights, but this was a killer line up that gave back a lot of quality metal for your buck. That was $10 well spent!

Satan’s Satyrs was the first band up. The crowd was pretty sparse during their set but people were still coming in. The trio were decked out in bell bottoms and played a throwback style of stoner/sludge metal though it had quite a bit of energy as well. The problems with the PA system were a recurring issue throughout the evening and their set was no different. They were loud in the large square rec room space though the faster parts of their songs sounded pretty muddy. This wasn’t the band’s fault, the sound just wasn’t great that night. However it wasn’t bad enough to ruin the music overall and their performance was still entertaining, especially for a last minute add on.
Satan's Satyrs

The next band to play was Pilgrim, a three piece doom band from Rhode Island. I was unfamiliar with them but they were pretty good live. They were very heavy and most of their songs were slow paced. They weren’t very flashy but they played some quality tunes, often times just slowly grinding along. They finished their set with a faster paced song that was pretty cool as well. Apparently this was their first tour and this was a good showing.
Pilgrim

The next band to hit the stage was Natur, a sort of thrashy metal band from New York City. They had a lot of energy on stage and I was really blown away by how well the executed live. Lots of catchy memorable riffs and wailing guitar solos with some solid song structures that tied it all together. I couldn’t hear the vocals for most of their performance from where I was standing. However things seemed to get sorted out a little bit by the end of their set and honestly they were so fun live the poor sound quality didn’t come close to ruining it for me. I was very impressed by these guys to say the least.
Natur

Next on stage was Windhand, one of my favorite underground bands from Richmond. They are a really heavy doom band with a woman on vocals but this is no girl power gimmicky band. I’ve seen them perform a few times before but this was certainly the biggest of those shows as far as attendance is concerned. The whole of Windhand were in great form for this show. Their sludgy doom even brought a few onlookers from the square dance event going on in another section of the church. My only complaint was that the set seemed too short, and judging by all of the applause I’m sure I wasn’t the only one wishing they had played longer.

Windhand

Locals Ilsa played last. They’re one of the leading bands in Washington DC’s underground metal scene and they were spotlighted in an article in the City Paper last week (here). They play a very crusty style of death/doom metal that isn’t particularly technical but is incredibly crushing. Their sound is dirty and full of great riffs and they got the biggest mosh pits of the night during their set. Ilsa plays pretty regularly around the area and they seem to always put on a good live show. This time they mixed up the playlist a bit and I think this is the first time I’ve ever seen Ilsa where they didn’t play their song Frostthrower. It’s usually a staple and often their closer. I’m glad they aren’t happy just staying put with what they have already done so well and they’re willing to keep moving forward and keep things fresh. The vocals were basically inaudible from where I was standing in the front but the songs are still pretty awesome on their own anyways.
Ilsa

In all this was a great show with a lot of quality bands. It sucks that you can’t drink or order food there, but it also makes it so that some of the younger fans who can’t get into the 21+ shows can get out and see killer line ups like this when they happen. The sound left a lot to be desired but really, I’ve heard worse at plenty of local “professional” venues as well. The lack of any real back stage means the members of the bands are out in the audience (or behind the merch table) most of the night which means anyone can go up and talk to them, which I think is pretty cool not only for the fans but also to help build up a band’s fan base on a more personal level. This wasn’t the first show I’ve been to at St. Stephen’s and if you hear of a good show coming there you shouldn’t hesitate to go, just be sure you eat before you get there. Thanks for reading all of this, and while the winter has been a bit slow around here I hope to have more concert reviews up this spring and summer. Also, be sure to check out (here) the newest contest running on DCHM right now where you can win quality seated tickets to Rammstein in Baltimore AND Iron Maiden/Alice Cooper in Northern Virginia and tomorrow I will be posting a new ticket contest as well. I do love giving away stuff to the readers of this site. Stay metal everyone and remember, support the scene you’re a part of!