Review of Oculus by Borracho

Band: Borracho
Album: Oculus
Release Date: 18 July 2013
Label: Strange Magic Records
Buy From Bandcamp for $5: Here

Cover of Oculus by Borracho

Several weeks ago I put up a post asking if people would like to write album reviews of local metal bands on DCHM (read the post here). Please welcome Grimy Grant as the first of those submitters to get a post up on the site. You can follow him on Twitter at @jgrantd. I’m still taking submissions and for those who have inquired but haven’t heard back yet, I may still contact you. Borracho’s official release show for the album is this Friday night, the 19th of July, at the Rock & Roll Hotel and you can get all the details on that here. Now on to Grimy Grant’s review…

Slow, deep bass notes sound out in a bare, cavernous space. They are then joined by the equally slow but perfectly spacy guitar riffs. Atmospheric choir voices join in the mix and more layers are brought in – until the drums start to bring it down in a crushing blend of Southern Rock and advaitic chants. This is how the opening song “Empty” starts off Borracho’s second full-length album of their career, the ominously named Oculus. The rest of “Empty” goes on to develop a kind of overture to the story: A man is spurned by a friend/relative who “gets the girl and the glory”, loses the girl to the hero who, “Will come out better than you”. The album goes on through its brief but rocking set of five songs to describe the hero’s journey. I was impressed from the start by this kind of conceptualization – not something that I expected from a band named after the Spanish word for “Hammered” or “Lush”. Even the word oculus has layers: a reference to large openings in the domes of Pantheons where rain and sunlight could both cool, light, and heat inner places. They also represent openings into the otherworldly: the godly realm that looks down on us, and we up at “them”.

Oculus talks a lot about deep issues, starting with comparing the glory of one man with the depression of another as being similar to the distance between gods and humanity. At least that is what is conveyed through the epic sounds coming from Steve Fisher’s guitar and Tim Martin’s bass. Yet while that comes out musically the message doesn’t always sell very well for me through the album’s lyrics and vocals. Some of this may be due to the departure of their original singer and guitarist, Noah Greenberg. The vocals in “Empty” for example, felt a little too twangy for the psychedelic, sonically expanding opening of the song. There is so much musically being carried through in the opening – a kind of widening of the imagined space – a space that perhaps an actual oculus is punching a hole through. Wailing guitars bring up the rear in the grand chorus of slow, stoner noise. Then we’re greeted with a steady, regular stoner rock beat coupled with Fisher’s voice singing “This depression/Is killing me”. The words and emotions conveyed seem too cliche in comparison to the complex structures of the song.

Not to say there aren’t gems in the lyrics. Fisher sings a lot about “Family tree” and having to “cut [it] down to be free” in “Stockpile”. He goes on to talk about “Searching for lead” in order to exact his revenge on the story’s villain. We’re put in the shoes of someone who wants blood. This is where Fisher, the guitarist and vocalist for Borracho, shines for me, when he puts in the voice of a tough-as-brass, true hometown friend helping out in “Stockpile”. He sings about being “consigned to form a team” and:

“Make a stand, You know I’d like to help if you I can
Give it time, give yourself a chance, You know, Just because of circumstance,
You know I swallowed it all”

Fisher is also screaming against the person that tormented him through the album and who is now going to get the comeuppance they richly deserve. This blends perfectly with the heavy, pulsating riffs in the background that helped create a vision of the oncoming battle. We’re marching toward victory.

The last track, “I’ve Come for it All” follows a trippy riffage from the song “Eye”, a reference to the oculus looking in on us. Airy guitar noise coupled with the screams of Fisher going through what must be some kind of fight with his inner demons, or perhaps with the gods themselves. In the end, we’re presented with the conclusion in “I’ve Come for it All”, with Fisher calling out his opponent:

“Chosen path/Slippery slope … You wanted it all/Now it’s time to die”

Without shame I will say those words give me goosebumps, even though they may be a bit over-the-top. Fisher’s guitar licks carry a lot of power throughout the song as well, helping back up his intention to wreak havoc. I was really banging my head towards the middle point of the song’s breakdown.

Musically, Oculus knocks it out of the park. Far after listening to this album I found myself humming the tunes to myself. Borracho’s lineup is tight – it’s not easy to create so full a sound with a three-piece band. Still, it doesn’t really kick in until the last three songs of the album. The first two tracks feel out of place with the album as a whole. Metal Chris wrote previously about Black Sabbath’s 13 (here) and how the track listing can hurt an album and I feel that this may also be the case on Oculus. The first track, “Empty”, and the second track, “Know the Score”, do follow the overall head-banging structure of each of the other songs, but with such a small track list I wonder why they can’t flow together tightly like the other songs. “Empty” ends with a kind of hard stop. “Know the Score” starts strong with a steady beat but then quickly goes into focusing on the lyrics, which in that song are tad weak for my taste.

The third track, “Stockpile” is where things ramp up into a steady continuum and it is where Oculus seems to make a decision on the direction it is going. We’re lead through a sludgy, grim and down-tuned sonic realm into a fierce, upbeat fight in “I’ve Come for it All” – a fitting soundtrack for some serious ass-wompin’. “Stockpile” really expands musically with the album, bringing in maracas and tribal drums in the middle to add some spice to the song. I found this an interesting point in the song that made me pause and think a bit. Oculus has a lot of these interesting bits in the album – something that shows some maturity and exploration by Borracho.

There are many reasons that I love Oculus: the solid, straight-up rock that founded metal in the first place is alive and well here. However I feel that Borracho is relying a bit too much on that to carry the album. The lyrics feel like they’re slapped on to some of the songs – “Empty” in particular. This won’t stop me from playing it in the car on road trips, head-banging along I-95 – gawkers be damned. Oculus goes deep in many ways, particularly in trying to mature and change the sound of a band that’s been around for about 6 years. Experimentation is a great thing and hopefully it will bring forth a new era of drunken, crazy exploits from Borracho.

2011 Recap, 2012 Preview

2011 is coming to a close and it has been another great year for! The site has been growing and I’m glad I’ve made it through another calendar year of running this site and I have to say thanks for all the support I’ve gotten from the metal community here in DC. None of this would be worth doing if it wasn’t for all the awesome bands and fans in this area and you guys have made it so that after over two years I’m still as excited as ever to be running this site. This year I was lucky enough to see some of my work appear in other places online as well, including guest posts I wrote on and Heavy Uber Alles. I started writing about international metal on and I’ve had my photography appear in lots of places, including on NPR’s website and and I was also allowed to guest host an episode of the pirate radio show Inverted Umlaut and pick a play list made up of all local metal bands. Probably the coolest thing Apocalyptica during my Metal Marathonfor me was having the Washington Post Express do a small piece on me and the site back in May. I’ve also had a new shirt design made with art by Joshua Brettell, the drummer for local death/doom metal band Ilsa. Shirts are for sale now for $12, find me at an area show to get one. I should have a bunch for sale at the merch booth for the King Giant show at Jaxx on January 21st if nothing else. Back in March I had my Metal Marathon where I went to 11 metal concerts in 9 consecutive days, that was intense. And this year I went to over 100 concerts total, the first time I’ve ever done that in a single calendar year. I got to see a lot of great bands play and hang out with a lot of cool people at many venues all around the area. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to do 100 shows in a year again, but I can at least say I did it once in 2011!

This post isn’t just to review 2011 for my site though, there were a lot of interesting stories in local, national and international metal this year. One of the first that comes to mind is all the venue changes that have gone on in the area. The legendary Fillmore opened up a new 2,000 capacity venue in Silver Spring and they have already held a few metal shows. A new venue opened in the inner harbor area of Baltimore as well, the Baltimore SoundStage. The State Theatre in Falls Church has been expanding its upstairs balcony to hold more people, you can see a shot of the unfinished construction here. Jaxx in Springfield, Virginia, the long time metal stronghold in the DC area, has new owners taking over in 2012. They also recently purchased Alley Katz in Richmond, and have renamed that venue Kingdom after a renovation. They have remained quiet so far on their plans for Jaxx but you can expect to see some changes there in 2012. Don’t worry, I’ll keep you up to date on that. There were a couple closings as well, Bourbon Street in Baltimore closed, though the staff seems to have mostly moved to the new Baltimore SoundStage. In what is probably the most tragic venue closing of 2011, the Corpse Fortress in Silver Spring, Maryland was shut down after five years and the residents of this awesome DIY house were all evicted at the end of September. I saw a lot of great bands play there, touring and local, and it really is a blow to the local do it yourself music scene, metal or otherwise. So Addictive Lounge, which had been having weekly metal nights on Mondays in Herndon decided to turn into a full fledged gay bar seven days a week and so they no longer hold local metal shows. However there are a few venues that have started hosting metal shows as well. The DIY house Cellar Door in Annandale has been getting bands occasionally. There is also the unlikely venue Asefu’s, an Ethiopian bar in the U Street area of DC, which has been hosting some local metal shows lately. The Quarry House Tavern in Silver Spring has also held some matinee metal shows on the weekends. Old Firestation #3 in Fairfax City has been hosting a few metal shows as well. Golden West Cafe has also been getting some great doom and sludge bands coming through Baltimore. Of course this year we had that whole fiasco with Sonar in Baltimore ‘shutting down’ Steve Von Till of Neurosisabout three weeks before Maryland Deathfest was to be held there. Luckily it turned out to be just a big, and very public, management tantrum. The venue reopened in time for MDF but they sure looked bad. That wasn’t the only story involving Maryland Deathfest in 2011, which isn’t surprising considering the festival has become not only this area’s but also North America’s biggest non-touring metal festival. The Neurosis outdoor performance this year right after a thunderstorm that almost canceled their set was just incredible. And the mysterious Swedish band Ghost played their first ever US show as the final band on the final day of Maryland Deathfest this year. Sadly there was a bad situation that ended up with security guards spraying random people in attendance with pepper spray after their set which made the otherwise awesome festival end on a sour note. There were also issues with the video footage that had been shot at Maryland Deathfest, much of which is explained here, and apparently there will not be a Maryland Deathfest The Movie for the 2011 festival. However, there is a movie coming out that some of you old school metal heads in this area might find interesting. No, not a sequel to Heavy Metal Parking Lot, that already came out this year as Heavy Metal Picnic. The now defunct DC concert venue The Bayou has a documentary film about its history coming out soon and you can see the trailer for it here.

There were a lot of interesting stories in metal this year, from the hilarious to the bizarre to the downright tragic. We saw the big four of thrash metal hold their US shows, the closest one to us being the performance at Yankee Stadium in New York City that was so awesome that a guy in a wheelchair was crowd surfing. And way back in January of this year Jef Whitehead, aka Wrest, the man behind the one man US black metal bands Leviathan and Lurker Of Chalice, was arrested for criminal sexual assault and aggravated domestic battery for allegedly attacking his girlfriend, including sexually assaulting her with a tattoo gun (details here). He has denied all the charges and even put out a new Leviathan album that seems pretty obviously to be directing anger at her with the title True Traitor, True Whore. In January we also heard Jeff Hanneman and Kerry King of Slayerthat Slayer guitarist Jeff Hanneman became infected with a flesh eating bacteria, necrotizing fasciitis. He had to sit out most of Slayer’s shows this year because of it, including their big four shows. He seems to be making a full recovery though, because, as he put it, “Satan had my back.” In July the lead singer for Life Of Agony, Keith Caputo, announced that he was transitioning into life as a woman and should be referred to as Mina Caputo now. It takes a lot of strength to come out in the metal world, and while I’m not a fan of Life Of Agony’s music this did lead to another one of my favorite quotes in any interview this year when Mina stated, “just because I’m wearing a skirt doesn’t mean I don’t got big balls.” And who can forget the bizarre story of the bass player for Coheed And Cambria getting arrested for armed robbery after holding up a pharmacy in Boston just before the band performed there live (check it out here if you want the details). There were also two big stories this year about how people find and share music, including metal. Namely Spotify coming to the US and Google Music starting up, the latter of which has made it so any band, regardless of if they have a label or not, can get their music in the Android Marketplace for a one time fee of just $25 (info on that is here). There was also the story this year of the big Chaos In Tejas fest announcing their 2012 line up and afterwards people started noticing there were some bands with nazi or other racist ties on the bill, namely Nyogthaeblisz, Black Witchery and Disma (get more details on this here). This led to an uproar on the festival’s Facebook page and several other bands set to play the fest started threatening to pull out if those bands weren’t dropped from the festival. All three are now off of the fest, however it should be noted that both Black Witchery and Disma are on the lineup for Maryland Deathfest in 2012 and nobody seems to be saying a thing about that. In what has sadly becoming surprising, Metallica actually did something cool when they held four 30th anniversary concerts in San Francisco. They played some brand new tracks for fans as well as bring in a slew of guests to perform with them, including people like Glenn Danzig, King Diamond, Ozzy Osbourne and even Dave Mustaine, among others. It’s cool they did something for the fans for once. In 2010 it was announced that Nergal, the main man from the Polish blackened death metal band Behemoth, had been diagnosed with leukemia. He raised a lot of awareness for the need for bone marrow transplants, and in January 2011 he was released from the hospital after being the successful recipient of one. In October 2011 Behemoth even did a small tour in Poland, the band’s first live shows since Nergal was hospitalized.

Sadly not everyone in the metal world fared as well this year and some people were lost to us. Cory Smoot, the most recent person under the Flattus Maximius costume as a member of the gory shock metal band Gwar, had heart problems and passed away at the age of 34 while on tour with the band in early November. This story touched a lot of people in this area since Gwar are Richmond, Virginia natives and also because he left behind a pregnant wife. A benefit show is being held for them on January 7th in Richmond, info on that is here. There was also Seth Putnam, the main guy behind the always overly offensive grindcore band Anal Cunt, who died in June at the age of 43 due to heart failure. In March Mike Starr, the original Alice in Chains bassist, was found dead in his home at age 44, apparently due to a lethal combination of Xanax and alcohol. He had been on VH-1’s show Celebrity Rehab in 2010. There was also the death of Phil Vane, one of the original members of the English band Extreme Noise Terror. He died from a stroke at the age of 44 after being one of the founding members of not only ENT but of the entire crust sub genre. Just last week David Gold was killed in a car accident at age 31. He was the main guy behind the Canadian black/doom band Woods Of Ypres. I’m sure there are others I have forgotten to mention so feel free to make note of them in the comment section below if you’d like.

There were also some long running bands who broke up this past year as well. There was the above mentioned Anal Cunt and Woods Of Ypres of course. Also God Dethroned Henri Sattler of God Dethronedfrom the Netherlands decided to finish the band after 20 years, well they still have to play on the 70,000 Tons Of Metal cruise in January but that will be it for them. The Bay Area band Ludicra broke up just as they seemed to really be gathering steam which reminds me of Salome‘s demise last year. Long time Swedish death metal act Dismember broke up after 23 years in the scene. Back in May at Maryland Deathfest we got to see the New York based death metal band Skinless play their final live set ever after having been together since 1992. There were also some major line up changes in a few bands that didn’t break up, at least not yet. I think the biggest has to be K. K. Downing, guitar player and founding member of Judas Priest, leaving the band in April after over 40 years with the band. Also in April the Seattle based Nevermore announced that their guitar player, Jeff Loomis, was leaving the band as well as long time drummer Van Williams. Both had been in the band since the band’s first album and Nevermore is currently on hiatus though vocalist Warrel Dane insists they are not broken up. The Tampa, Florida based power metal band Iced Earth saw their lead singer, Matt Barlow, leave the band for a second time in March. However Iced Earth didn’t miss a beat and quickly recruited Into Eternity vocalist Stu Block into the band. Swedish black metal band Dark Funeral saw long time members B-Force, Dominator and Emperor Magus Caligula all leave the band in 2010 but it wasn’t until 2011 that the band started filling these gaps. Dominator decided to return on drums, Zornheym replaced B-Force on bass, and after 15 years with Magus on vocals the band has found a new vocalist in Nachtgarm from the band Negator.

This year there were a few bands who got back together as well. Those who Coroner at Maryland Deathfestattended the final day of this year’s Maryland Deathfest got to see Coroner play a headlining set. This was the Swiss technical thrash band’s first US show since reforming in 2010 after a 14 year break up period. After the fallout of the aforementioned Nevermore, Sanctuary has been reformed by the remaining members of Nevermore. There was also the two song performance by Swedish death metal band Bloodbath as an encore at the Opeth and Katatonia show in Baltimore back in early November. The so called super group only played at one show on that tour, and we were lucky that it was the one in Baltimore! Not really a reunion but his return to metal in general, we got a solo album by Demonaz who has pretty much been absent from the metal world in any major role since he left Immortal in 1997 due to tendinitis so bad that it prevented him from playing guitar. Another sort of return this year was ICS Vortex putting out a solo album as well after having been booted unceremoniously from Dimmu Borgir in 2009. Lets just say that album was a lot better than the last Dimmu album, though that’s not saying much. Also this year there was the return of Kyuss, who played both the 9:30 Club in Washington DC and Rams Head Live in Baltimore. The band has all the original members back, except for the glaring lack of Josh Homme on guitar. It’s not too surprising as I’m sure he is making much more money with the Eagles Of Death Metal, Them Crooked Vultures and Queens Of The Stone Age, though it’s a bit of a let down for the fans. There has also been news that Pepper Keenan has rejoined Corrosion Of Conformity, so I hope to hear him on a new album with them in 2012. This year we also saw the return of Polish death metal band Decapitated, sort of. In October 2007 Decapitated at Jaxxthey were in a horrible bus wreck while on tour which killed their drummer and put the vocalist into a coma. The band broke up but guitarist Vogg recruited all new members to reform Decapitated and this year they put out a new full length as well as went on tour, including a stop at Jaxx in October. Some musical returns are hardly worth noting but are too big of a flop to not mention, such as the first album by death metal legends Morbid Angel in 8 years, also their first album with David Vincent in the band since 1995. It was not what anyone expected, and not in a good way. I mean there are bad albums and then there are albums that make you just wonder who the hell heard this crap and thought it was worth putting out? I’m still not convinced it was the worst metal album of the year though. I mean, Lou Reed with Metallica‘s album Lulu is pretty damn awful as well, but I guess you sort of expected that before you heard it. Let’s just hope 2012 has nothing close to these two stinkers in store for the metal fans out there.

There were some good metal releases this year of course. I don’t write “top 10” album lists or whatever because I don’t really like ranking music (or art in general) as though it is a competition. However, I’d like to just note that we had new material by a lot of bands from this area (this isn’t a complete list but I tried to remember everyone!). DC’s doom legends Pentagram put out Last Rites, an album surprisingly good considering how long this band has been around. Mike Schleibaum of Darkest HourThere was The Human Romance, a new album by DC’s biggest metalcore band Darkest Hour. Deceased put out Surreal Overdose in 2011 to show that they’re still going strong for over 25 years. Dying Fetus put out an EP of mostly 90’s death metal band covers called History Repeats this year. Maryland’s most famous djent band, Periphery, also put out the Icarus EP this year to tide fans over until they release two full length albums in 2012 (more on that below). If you really like them I recommend checking out the instrumental Baltimore based band Balor’s Eye who put out their debut as a self titled EP this year. Aurora Borealis put out surprisingly good melodic black metal effort this year, even though it seems to have gone mostly overlooked for some reason. They’re even giving it away as a free download (here), what the hell else do you want people? On the more grindy side of things Drugs Of Faith put out a really good album, Corroded. Local death/doom band Ilsa put out a split with Sweden’s Hooded Menace this year as well, totally crushing. Local stoner act Borracho released their debut full length this year as well, titled Splitting Sky. And Polkadot Cadaver, made up of members of the broken up band Dog Fashion Disco, put out their second album this year and have started touring nationally to support it. Baltimore band Bet The Devil put Iris Divine at the State Theatreout their self titled debut as well in 2011. Death metal band Visceral Disgorge put out their debut album, Ingesting Putridity, in 2011. And last but not least there was the progressive band Iris Divine who put out a full length album this year. So if people think this area’s metal scene is dead or simply doesn’t exist they’re just not paying attention because that’s a hell of a lot of metal output there!

Well that’s my recap of what happened in 2011, and as if this post wasn’t long enough already, I’ll tell you some of the things you can look forward to in 2012. As far as this site itself goes, I’ve got some awesome new contests coming up where I’ll be giving away tickets to see Graveyard, Ghost, King Giant and Lamb Of God, and those are just in January! I’ll also be doing some interviews with some people I hope you guys find interesting. I’m going to try to keep this different than the typical ass-kissing promo interviews on every other music website but actually ask some questions people want to know the answers to. I also plan on revamping my venues page with even more info on each venue, and possibly even adding a section with contact info for various small venue promoters so you can get in contact with them to set up shows much more easily.

As egotistical as I’d like to be, there’s plenty more to be excited about in the world of metal in 2012 besides what is going on with my site. I think the biggest story of all has got to be that all four original members of Black Sabbath have reunited and announced not only a full world tour, but a new full length album as well. Rick Rubin is producing it, and while he has an extensive history of producing all kinds of music, he was behind the board for Slayer’s classic Reign In Blood album though more recently he has produced Metallica’s 2008 album Death Magnetic. It certainly has the potential to be a horrid album or a great one, and I’m sure no matter what there will be people who claim either side, but it’s still pretty amazing that they’re putting a new album together now after over 30 years. Another big story is that grind legends Terrorizer will be putting out a new album. However David Vincent has been added to the band’s line up and I really hope he doesn’t make them sound like modern Morbid Angel. Local grind act Pig Destroyer has been rather quiet since their 2007 album Phantom Limb, but I’ve heard that Misery Index drummer Adam Jarvis has been added to the line up so hopefully we’ll finally hear some new material from them in 2012. Locals King Giant have their King Giant at Jaxxsophomore album, Dismal Hollow, coming out in January and they’ll be holding a CD release show at Jaxx on the 21st for that. The line up for that show is great and I’m glad they’re going to be holding another contest on to help promote it. Djent band Periphery has announced that they’ll be putting out not one but two full length albums in 2012. The first is a concept album titled Juggernaut that is tentatively scheduled for release in May. Not much info has been told about the second album, however it has been announced that is it not a concept album and is scheduled for release in November. Baltimore’s Knives Out have an album scheduled for release in February titled Black Mass Hysteria. Local power metal act Nina Osegueda of A Sound Of ThunderA Sound Of Thunder is supposed to put out a full length this year, titled Out Of The Darkness, a follow up to their 2011 album Metal Renaissance, so keep an eye out for that. In what seems to be a bit strange, the band Control Denied, formed by Chuck Schuldiner of Death fame and broken up after his death in 2001, will have a second album released in 2012. It is to be titled When Man And Machine Collide. Apparently it is the album Chuck had been working on when he died so I’m not sure who ‘finished’ it and it sort of stinks of the kind of cash grab that is usually reserved for Elvis and 90s rap fans. Oh and remember how I mentioned above that I hoped there wouldn’t be an album as bad as either the latest Morbid Angel or Metallica efforts? Well, Morbid Angel has decided to put out a double album of dub step remixes of their 2010 album, Illud Divinum Insanus. Seriously, after all the backlash they got they thought THAT would be a good idea? There’s a couple tours coming in 2012 I’m already excited for. Lock Up, featuring members of bands At The Gates, Napalm Death, Dimmu Borgir and too many more to list, was supposed to make their US debut at Maryland Deathfest in 2011. They had last minute visa issues and so didn’t make it into the US. However they now have a full US tour scheduled and they’ll be playing in Baltimore in February. I’m also excited to see Hail!Hornet and Zoroaster play at the Black Cat in February the same night as a screening of a movie about heavy metal in the south, aptly titled Slow Southern Steel.

Well, thanks for getting to the end of the post, it’s been a damn long one and it took me what seems like forever to pull all these links together. 2011 has been a hell of a year and 2012 looks promising already. If you’ve got any suggestions for the site or you noticed something I totally overlooked that should have been mentioned above go ahead and mention it in the comment section below. Stay safe everyone and remember if you’re out partying this New Year’s Eve, the entire DC area (including the Maryland and Virginia suburbs) has free cabs from 10pm to 6am. Just call 1-800-200-TAXI or check out the Sober Ride program’s website here. Stay metal everyone, go out and see some metal shows and support the scene you’re a part of!

Recap of Clutch and Suplecs gigs

On Sunday the 18th of September I had two shows I was trying to catch live. The first was a special free show that the Frederick, Maryland based band Clutch was holding at the Red Palace. This show was listed as a special five song acoustic set that was part of a promotional “release party” for their own beer, Clutch Dark Sour Ale, from New Belgium Brewing. The show was originally scheduled for Monday August 29th but it was postponed due to Hurricane Irene. This night everything seemed to work out ok though. The people from the Colorado based craft brewery, most famous for their Fat Tire Amber Ale, were mingling in the audience who had gathered. I have bought a few of the Clutch beers already, and they’re actually pretty damn good. They’re dark but with a sour taste that builds up the further you get into the 22 oz bottle, sort of like how some spicy foods’ heat builds up with the more of it you eat. It’s not a fruity sour though and is not actually very sweet at all (which I think is a good thing). I recommend trying it if you can find yourself a bottle. At this concert however, they were selling the bottles for $20! I still had a bottle in my fridge at home that I bought for $7.99 at Total Wine so there was no way I was going to fork out that much cash just to drink one at the Red Palace. Hell, even Clutch’s Neil Fallon said on stage that he was drinking a competitor’s beer.

Clutch at the Red Palace

The show started with the one of the guys from New Belgium Brewing taking the mic on stage and introducing the band as well as presenting them with the bottle that had serial number 10001110101. That’s the name of one of the songs on Clutch’s 2005 album Robot Hive/Exodus. The guys then went into their setlist, starting off with and “acoustic” version of The Regulator. While guitarist Tim Sult played an acoustic guitar, they were all using pick ups, pedals and amps, so don’t think this performance was something like those old MTV Unplugged specials. What made the show cool was that the Red Palace only holds about 200 people, and Clutch is a band that usually plays much larger venues, they had just played at the HFStival the day before at Merriweather Post Pavilion. However this night the band played their five song set and pleased the crowd by having Tim plug in his regular guitar before playing a new song, apparently titled Newt. They played a few more songs, sort of a best hits style thing with songs covering their back catalog and ending with Elephant Riders. In all they played for about an hour and it was a fun show and a great chance to catch Clutch up close.

Clutch at the Red Palace

When Clutch had finished I didn’t linger around for too long since I had another show to catch at the Velvet Lounge. I made a stop at the 9:30 Club‘s basement bar for a quick bite to eat just before they closed their kitchen. Apparently they had some Mexican band playing upstairs named Molotov, but luckily the 9:30 Club has a separate door on the side of the building you can enter the bar at if you don’t want watch the show. The bartender down there was wearing a Clutch shirt and he said he was pissed he had to work that night because he had wanted to see the show at the Red Palace. Anyways, I had a nice panini and an organic oatmeal stout and then I walked around the corner to the Velvet Lounge.

The Velvet Lounge had a pretty sweet line up this evening. They haven’t been getting a lot of metal shows of note lately but this one definitely stood out on their calendar. The headliner was the New Orleans based sludge band Suplecs and they were touring with the Columbus, Ohio band Lo-Pan. Shows at the Velvet Lounge tend to run late but even so I missed the first band on the bill, Weed Is Weed from Maryland. The band has two former Spirit Caravan members in its ranks, Dave Sherman and Gary Isom. I hope to catch them another time. The first band I saw play at the Velvet Lounge that evening was Lo-Pan. I’ve never seen a band’s lead singer stand all the way to the back of the stage before. I mean way back, he was even behind the drummer. Despite their strange stage positions, they were pretty good live. They made for a good opener act on this kind of tour. They wrote their set list on pages torn out of some porno magazine, certainly the most graphic set list stationary of the night.

Lo-Pan at the Velvet Lounge

After Lo-Pan finished their set local act Nitroseed performed. Typically an instrumental band, they played several of their songs with lyrics at this show. I’d never seen them live before but I was very impressed, certainly worth checking out if you see them listed as an opener at an upcoming show. Also, it turns out their drummer, Phil Adler, also plays in the local doom band Wooly Mammoth. Their music had some good energy and they kept the momentum rolling forward throughout their set. They finished up and the last band of the night was next, Suplecs.

Nitroseed at the Velvet Lounge

Suplecs is from New Orleans and they mentioned many times between songs that they were excited to be playing in front of a DC audience as they were big fans of the DC doom metal scene. The band was good live, they had some high energy parts but also slowed it down for a few songs. Their songs really had a dynamic range to them that many sludge bands simply don’t have. This kept the show interesting and fresh throughout their set, which is a really good thing after watching three bands with a similar sound earlier in the evening. They mentioned that this was the first time they played their song Pissing In The Wind on the East Coast. They closed their set with a cover. After all their praise for DC’s metal scene I thought for sure they’d play a Pentagram or Spirit Caravan song, or something similar at least. Nope, they played Working Man by Rush. Totally out of left field if you ask me. It was ok but really didn’t seem to fit into their set that well. Regardless, I will definitely go see them again if they come through the area another time, and you should too!

Suplecs at the Velvet Lounge

If you’d like to see more images from the bands I saw that night you can see them on my Flickr page here. And be sure to check out all the videos below of Clutch, Nitroseed and Suplecs. The first four are Clutch. The first one is acoustic and the second is their new song. The last two videos are of Suplecs, the last of which is their Rush cover. Thanks to the guys in King Giant for the beers and thanks to you for reading all of this. Stay metal everyone!

Clutch acoustic:

Clutch’s new song:

Clutch with extended drum solo:

Clutch with guitar solo:



Suplecs covering Rush:

2010 Recap, 2011 Preview

2010 has been a hell of a year here for this blog. It’s been the first full year I’ve had this site going, and it’s been getting bigger and better! I’ve reviewed 32 area concerts this year, all with pics and videos. I got a new camera this fall and am finally shooting with a Nikon DSLR to get better pics on This December I’ve held the site’s first two contests, giving away tickets to a couple metal shows at the 9:30 Club. There will be another in February giving away tickets to see Apocalyptica for their stop there in March. I tried getting two interviews on the site, but apparently I’m not good at getting people to talk to me when they say they will. Maybe I shall try this again in 2011. I did manage to get the Downloads page up and running, lots of free local metal there for anyone to try listening to. I also had one of my posts picked up on Blabbermouth (and a few other news sites). I had Ozzy post the link to one of my videos on his Facebook and Twitter pages, and even found myself quoted on Wikipedia. Most of all, I have gotten a hell of a lot more support from people than I ever thought I would, and the readers of this site have kept me motivated to keep working on it. I do everything on here myself, writing reviews, shooting photographs and video, buying concert tickets, updating the calendar and other pages, but it’s all worth it to help support the metal scene in the area here.

Speaking of which, the metal scene here has also had a great year! The first Blood & Fire Fest really kicked off a wave interest in local metal acts in the area. Many venues are holding regular metal nights, the State Theatre in Falls Church, Balls Bluff Tavern in Leesburg, So Addictive Lounge in Herndon, the Ottobar in Baltimore, and we’re also starting to see more and more metal shows at venues that never really had them before. The Velvet Lounge has been hosting more metal gigs, often of local acts. Cannibal Corpse, Dying Fetus, Vital Remains and Devourment played the Rock & Roll Hotel for what was by far that venue’s heaviest concert ever. Bourbon Street in Baltimore has been booking a lot more metal acts, and I saw Slayer and Megadeth at the 1st Mariner Arena, their most metal show in a long time. Hell, even Ozzy showed up on the National Mall for the Rally To Restore Sanity And/Or Fear. There’s also been a few local acts that are really starting to get noticed outside of the area, Salome and Periphery both had very good years by putting out great releases that have really gotten them widespread attention. Also, Ilsa was recommended by Fenriz of Darkthrone on his metal blog (here) this year too. All these things show that metal is on the upswing in general and in the DC area in particular. Sadly, it wasn’t ALL great news though. The very talented local doom band Ol’ Scratch broke up, which sucks. There was that rather ridiculous incident at Maryland Deathfest where the bass player for D.R.I. got on stage during Watain‘s set and was swiftly taken down by the members of the band, mid-song. And for some reason when local grindcore act Magrudergrind had a free album put out that was sponsored by Scion, everyone called them corporate sell outs and they seemed to get a lot of heat for that. Not really sure why people are complaining about getting something for free, who gives a shit if a car company put their logo on it, it doesn’t change the music. There was also the incident at DC9 after an Agnostic Front concert this autumn that left someone dead, allegedly at the hands of DC9 staff. I’m not sure what happened there at all, the police seemed to have announced information to the press before it was even verified, and that seemed to put the Ethiopian community into a frenzy. I just hope the best for the club and the family of the victim. Lets hope nothing like that happens in DC again in 2011. On a more positive note, we did see the merging of the two venues The Red & The Black with The Palace Of Wonders to create the new Red Palace. This new space has really opened up and is a great place to see a show, hopefully they’ll book more metal gigs too.

In the overall, non-local metal scene, there were a lot of great albums, too many for me to even attempt to get into all of that here. And I don’t do those year end best of lists because they’re arbitrary and you can make up your own mind about what albums kicked ass this year. However, there were some interesting stories in the world of metal in 2010. I think the biggest story was that the big four of thrash, Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth and Anthrax, shared the stage together for the first time. Unfortunately, these concerts were all at festivals in Europe. It would be cool if they toured the US together, though Slayer Megadeth and Anthrax already did in 2010. There were several bands who released their first album in a long time this year, some being better than others. Fear Factory released their first album in 5 years, Mechanize, after an awkward break up period. The Crown got back together and put out their first album in 7 years, Doomsday King. October Tide put out A Thin Shell, their first album in 11 years. Atheist, who has been reunited and touring for a couple years now finally put out their first album in 17 years titled Jupiter. And of course there was the Autopsy reunion at Maryland Deathfest in May. This lead to their first release in 15 years, an EP titled The Tomb Within. It’s pretty awesome and has everyone excited about the full length that is supposed to be coming out in 2011. We also saw Decapitated tour the US again this past year, the first time since their awful bus wreck in 2007, though the band has only one of the members from before the accident left. There were two albums put out by so called black metal super groups this year, The Underworld Regime by Ov Hell as well as the excellent Monument To End Time by Twilight. There were several bands who called it quits this year, I think most notably Isis, Abscess and Xasthur. There are probably more that I’m not thinking of though. Unfortunately there were some deaths in the metal family this year, I believe the most notable were that of Ronnie James Dio and Peter Steele. There was also the story about Nergal of Behemoth‘s fight with leukemia and his successful attempt at finding a bone marrow donor match (more info here). It was pretty amazing to see how much he spread awareness of the need for bone marrow donors with his situation. If you told me a year ago that metal’s most heartwarming story of 2010 would involve Nergal I’d have called you an idiot, but here we are. I hope he has a swift and full recovery. There was also some overly dramatic bullshit that played out in the metal press, I think the biggest story in that category this year has to go to Mike Portnoy quitting Dream Theater to play drums in the unlikely choice of a band Avenged Sevenfold (later to be booted from A7X, ask for his DT job back and be turned down, more info here).

Looking ahead to 2011, I don’t know what the biggest stories will be, the best albums and tours, but I do know the biggest metal event in the area, hell all of North America, will be Maryland Deathfest IX in Baltimore in May. This year it expands to four days! Some of the highlights for that will be sets by Neurosis and Exhumed as well as the reunion of Coroner and rare appearances by various metal bands from around the world and from almost every metal sub-genre. There’s also Immortal coming to Sonar in February, their first area appearance in many years. The Black Cat will be hosting two metal shows in January, headlined by Jucifer and Kylesa. Pretty cool for a venue known for indie, punk and alternative music. The State Theatre in Falls Church will be hosting it’s first ever metal concert that’s not part of the regularly occurring Mandatory Metal series. That show will be King Giant headlining with Death Penalty and Throwdown Syndicate opening. The Flight Of The Valkyries Festival will be in Baltimore again some time in the fall and there should be the 2nd annual Blood & Fire Festival at some point this year too. Local doom legends Pentagram just signed with Metal Blade records and considering they were playing some new tunes the last time I saw them, they’ll probably have a new album out in 2011. So there are already a lot of things to look forward to in 2011 if you’re a metal head in the DC area.

Now I’d like to thank a few of the people who have helped me out and been especially supportive to me this year. Marie and Dave and Jaxx Nightclub, Alan Margazano and the State Theatre, Leila Regan-Porter of Ticket Alternative, TI and the guys in King Giant, Steve Miller of Loculus, all the guys in Apothys, Leah Potok at the 9:30 Club, Lars from Inverted Umlaut, and especially my mom, who not only helped me out with the new camera but has been really supportive of the site from the beginning. Check out her cool photography and Photoshop blog (here) if you’re into that stuff. And most of all thanks to all the readers of this site, the bands who have played shows and/or helped me spread the word, anyone who has bought a shirt or asked for a sticker or told a friend about or bought me a beer at a gig. It’s you guys that have helped this site and this metal scene grow and that’s great because it’s you who the site is for. I probably forgot some people so don’t get pissy with me if you weren’t mentioned. This post took forever to put all these links in, so I hope you click a few you find interesting. I added a few of my favorite pictures (not used in previous posts) and videos from 2010 for your viewing pleasure. I’m hoping that 2011 will be an even better year for the blog and heavy metal in the greater Washington DC and Baltimore area as well, and I have a good feeling that it will.

Ozzy live from the 10th row! I always love seeing Ozzy.

First Autopsy gig in 15 years!

I shot the first footage of this brand new song by DK, first new song since 1986!

Entombed singer rips up a bible on stage in this one.

Incantation covering Black Sabbath in tribute to RJD

This was the first time Fear Factory ever played this song live

Division shredding out a killer Metallica classic at the State Theatre

Final song of the tour, the bands got crazy on this one

Apothys at Blood And Fire Festival, killer!

First US concert ever for Melechesh, I waited years to see them live!

Review of Cynic gig at Rock And Roll Hotel

Wow, this was one of the best concerts I’ve been to in a while. Sunday the 8th of August 2010 was a hot day, and while I know lots of people were down at Jiffy Lube Live for the Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival, I decided to stay cool and head over to the Rock And Roll Hotel for a killer line up of progressive metal. I’m really glad I did, this concert was just great. Cynic was the headliner, but I wanted to check out the opening acts, Intronaut and Dysrhythmia also so I got there a bit early.

I got there a couple minutes after 7:30 and the opening band, Dysrhythmia was already playing their first song. They were great when I saw them play at the Velvet Lounge in February 2009 so I knew I wanted to get to the Rock & Roll Hotel in time to catch their set. If you’ve never heard them before, they’re an instrumental three piece from New York City that just shreds live. The bass player, Colin Marston is a member of the band Krallice and he also plays in the current version of Gorguts with Dysrhythmia’s guitarist, Kevin Hufnagel. Dysrhythmia’s songs twist and turn all over the place and rarely do they come back to playing the same riff again, instead their songs are constantly moving forward and evolving. That combined with the fast tempos that makes the music just really fun to listen to live. There are no words and really none are necessary as the music is totally engaging on it’s own. Really my biggest complaint with their set was the short length, but they were the first of three bands so it wasn’t really that surprising. They were a great way to start off this concert though.

Next up was Intronaut. They’re a band from LA that I’m not as familiar with as the other two bands. I’ve heard their 2008 album Prehistorisms and while I do enjoy it, I wouldn’t call it life changing progressive metal. They have a new album coming out soon and they played a couple songs from that live. They aren’t bad live and their rhythm section really kept the songs moving with groovy beats you don’t always get so much of in this metal sub genre. I was certainly impressed by their drummer, Danny Walker, in the live setting too, he really killed it back there. While their music is pretty interesting, they were pretty laid back on stage. Towards the end of their set the lead singer/guitarist, Sacha Dunable, asked the audience if anyone had any weed or whiskey before the Cynic set started. At the end of the song someone had brought shots to the stage for them, haha. Their final song of the night, Any Port, saw the other guitarist, Dave Timnick, put down his guitar at the beginning of the song to pick up a couple of mallets and pound on some upright (conga?) drums. He slung his guitar back on and continued to play the bulk of the song until he joined in at the end for the song’s drum solo. The rest of the band walked off the stage while he and Danny put on a rhythmic drum show that sort of reminded me of that old Sepultura song Kiowas, tho not so tribal sounding. It was a cool way to close out a good set, and I’m definitely going to check out their new album when it comes out. They certainly had left the audience warmed up and ready for the main act who was due up next, Cynic.

When I came from the downstairs bar to watch Cynic the stage looked different. They had their backdrop lit up and they put up a couple of circle shaped screens. They started projecting trippy videos onto these and they turned on some funky lights. One could have mistaken it for a Pink Floyd cover band setting up, but this was much better than that. I’d never seen Cynic before, but everyone has told me they’re good live. They weren’t kidding, what followed was a fantastic set. Definitely one the best concerts I’ve seen in a long time, maybe the best show I’ve seen this year in fact. Cynic formed in Florida in the late 80s during the time the state’s legendary death metal scene was forming. Due to delays caused by two of the members touring with Death and then hurricane Andrew destroying their practice space as well as most of the state, the band only ever released one full length album, the classic Focus, before breaking up in 1994. One of the draws of this tour is that Cynic would be playing that album in its entirety. Since reforming they’ve put out another full length album and an EP, both of which I also highly recommend. For a band that started over 20 years ago they have a very small catalog of songs, which in their case I think worked as an advantage here. Since they have so many really good songs on those releases, the audience was treated to hearing most of Cynic’s songs live, instead of the standard “pick a song or two from each album” approach most older bands must do for their live shows. They started the show off with Veil Of Maya and continued through the excellent Focus album in almost top form. Guitarist Tymon Kruidenier apologized that he had lost his voice earlier that day so was having trouble keeping up with some of the growling. Luckily it’s heavy metal and the vocals are generally not the most important aspect of the music, certainly not in Cynic’s case. On top of that all the clean vocals (sung through a vocoder) were done by Paul Masvidal. Otherwise, the band was spot on. They obviously had played these songs enough to have completely mastered them for the live setting, guitars, bass and drums. Added with the cool light effects, this show was just mesmerizing. After playing Focus straight through, the rest of the band left the stage as Paul pulled out a nylon string acoustic guitar and played the song Integral off their latest EP, Re-Traced. This was a nice little interlude for the fans and a good divider for the rest of the show. When the band returned they played a nice mix of their newer material, and they even threw into the setlist the song Cosmos, which was un-released until it became a bonus track on the 2004 reissue of Focus. You couldn’t have asked for a better setlist for this show, and if you had a favorite song you were hoping they would play, they probably did. At one point Paul had everyone in the audience do a yoga stretch. A bit new age but I’ve got to admit that’s something I never thought I’d see at a metal show, everyone doing yoga. Overall Cynic put on a dazzling display of technical progressive heavy metal and showed that not only are they one of the genre’s older influential bands, but they’re also one of the current leading bands of the genre, even if they took off a dozen years.

I really had a great time at this show. I talked with a fan of this blog, Josh, for a bit between sets which is always cool. It always surprises me when people come up to me and recognize me from the site, I’m glad some of you seem to be enjoying it. I also pulled a promo poster off the wall that I got all of the guys in Cynic to sign for me after the show. I’m not usually a big fan of autographs but I wanted something to remember the show by that was a bit more distinct than a t-shirt (I did buy the sticker pack too). This show was just what I needed, after a few let downs (the cancellation of the Enthroned concert last week as well as the mediocre Iron Maiden show last month) this show really hit the spot. All three bands were excellent and I’m glad I got to be there. Now on to the videos. They’re a bit dark but the sound is decent in them. The first is Dysrhythmia, the next two are Intronaut and the rest are Cynic, enjoy.

Review of Isis gig at 9:30 Club

Well, last night, Wednesday 16 June 2010, I headed over to the 9:30 Club in Washington DC to check out the Melvins and Isis. I was a bit torn as a band some of my friends are in, the Chance, were playing the Rock & Roll Hotel the same night, but since this was the farewell tour for Isis, I figured I’d better see them while I had um, the chance. They announced on their blog (here) in May that after this tour the band was going to break up. They didn’t really give a real answer as to why they are breaking up, sticking to the standard “artistic integrity” statement. I’d imagine there’s more to it than that though, probably starting to have families and don’t like touring, or maybe they feel their music is starting to get stagnant and they’re out of new ideas and feel it’s getting boring. Regardless, I have a feeling they’ll be back for a reunion tour in 5-15 years, after they realize real jobs suck and/or their new musical projects aren’t making near the amount of money they did in Isis. Who knows though, and for now this show will be known as their last in Washington DC.

I got off of work and headed straight to the venue, but since I work late the Melvins were starting their set when I walked in. That means I totally missed the Totimoshi band, but I don’t really know who they are anyways so I wasn’t that upset. Plus everyone I talked to said they had a shitty mix and that the venue didn’t really do them justice because of it. Anyways, the Melvins came on and played a long set. This was their first DC show since October 2007 at the Black Cat, though they’ve played Baltimore a few times more recently. I’d never seen the Melvins live before so I wasn’t sure what to expect, and it was an interesting show. They had two drummers on stage, which I’m not sure if that was really necessary or just more of a gimmick. They didn’t do anything that was too crazy that it really needed two drummers, though they did some cool little seamless switch offs where they’d both suddenly switch and start playing the other drummer’s part and if you weren’t watching them you probably wouldn’t even notice. There were some parts that were very percussion heavy that sorta reminded me of that old Sepultura song Kaiowas. Their songs went through a variety of paces, from very slow to more rocking mid tempo stuff. There were some moments of dissonance and the distortion on the guitars added a rough, unpolished feel to the mix. They of course had some strange and even abrupt time changes, and a few tricks for the audience, like suddenly switching to a strange Caribbean sounding beat to throw off the people in the mosh pit. Buzz Osbourne was waving his famous mop of hair around, and Jared Warren was wearing some goofy fake armor outfit with a sparkling cape. Sort of looked like a kid who dressed himself up in some sort of half assed gladiator costume or something. It was a fun set to watch but seemed to drag on after a bit. I noticed they played longer than was expected, though I think this was because they were originally intended to be the headliners on this tour, before Isis made their aforementioned announcement that this was their final set of shows.

When the lights came on after their set I could see the place wasn’t totally full, which is nice. The last few shows I’ve been to at the 9:30 Club have been sell outs and that is not really fun seeing a band like that. It’s hard to find a good view in those situations and if you do get a good spot you better not want to smoke, drink or go to the restroom at any point cause it’ll be gone in seconds. The 9:30 Club isn’t really a venue I enjoy too much in general, but I do find myself there fairly often to see bands with larger followings than most of what I enjoy. Their beer is very overpriced so I don’t even bother drinking there any more, and they are totally nazis about camera policies, which change from concert to concert. It is nice that they have 3 levels to view the show from, helps to find a spot with a decent view. I think I’ll be back again in early August to catch Boris and Russian Circles. You can find more info on that on my upcoming concerts page. Anyways, after talking to some friends during the set up for Isis, the lights dimmed and the headliner was on.

Isis came out and didn’t say a word. Atfter a short intro, they just started into their first song, I think it was Threshold Of Transformation. I shot a few pics during this song, but they must have said something to the lighting guy after that song, because it was DARK in there for the rest of the set. This resulted in me not getting any great pics since flash photography had been banned by “artist request”. Of course nobody said anything to the guys in the Melvins who I saw shooting pics with their flashes on during Isis’ set from the backstage balcony. The video I shot of Holy Tears at the concert (see below) is pretty damn dark too. Not the end of the world, as I had to really hide that I was shooting a video since they’re always hard core about that there so it’s not centered that well on the band anyways. The audio is decent in it though. Isis didn’t really address the audience at all, I suppose just letting their music do the talking. They did say a few words before the final song of the regular set (aka before the encore) and dedicated a song to the Melvins as well as thanking the opening act. They were a lot of fun to watch, though I’ve got to say the second half of their show was the most exciting to me. They seemed to really be on and you could see the crowd was reacting more too. Well, half the audience at least. Looking down at the people on the floor you could see that those standing on the right side of the stage were having a blast, moshing, clapping their hands over their heads and even occasionally crowd surfing. The people to the left of the stage down there seemed like the typical DC zombie audience stereotype. It was really weird seeing such a division of the audience like this, right down the middle. At some points in the set, keyboard player Bryant Clifford Meyer played a 3rd guitar, which wasn’t something I expected. After playing So Did We, Isis left the stage briefly for the pre-planned encore that I always find so tacky, but the songs they came back to play were a lot of fun to watch. They seemed to have more intensity and energy, even in the slower parts, than the rest of the show. By the end of the final song, The Beginning And The End, the bass player, Jeff Caxide, was laying on the floor and singer/guitarist, Aaron Turner, was playing on his knees. They got up and Aaron said goodbye into the microphone and they all left the stage for the final time of the night. The crowd seemed pretty thin by the end of their set, maybe more people were there to see the Melvins and left? Sucks for them cause the best part was the second half! It was a good show and I’m glad I decided to go, especially since this was likely the final Isis show in DC.