For the 13th year, the inner harbor area of Baltimore is turned into what is known as Maryland Deathfest. This year being my first time, I went all out and made sure I was present for all 5 days/nights. After the hours upon hours of partying and headbanging, I had found an annual tradition that I almost feel obligated to return to year by year. Of course maybe not for everyday of the festival, but the experience alone is worth it.
Upon arriving in Baltimore Wednesday afternoon with a few friends, it did not take long to find all of the metal heads. Black t-shirts, denim vests, leather boots, jean shorts, and long-hair filled the streets and hotels. After unpacking in our rooms and wandering the streets, the Ottobar became filled with excited fans, ready to hear some great death metal from bands like Funerus, Drawn and Quartered, Massacre, and Incantation. The Ottobar had a bar tender just selling beers out of basins outside of the regular full bar. This served to be quiet convenient in between sets to go outside for fresh air then on the way back in, refill for the next band. Incantation certainly stole the night for me as I was able to see them for the first time a month earlier at New England Metal And Hardcore Festival, but on a very short set. Headlining at the Ottobar, this offered me another look at these death metal pioneers and I certainly enjoyed them more the second time around.
Devourment, by Hillarie Jason Photography
Origin, by Hillarie Jason Photography
Avoiding the first night parties, my pals and I woke up early and found a local diner for breakfast to consume as many carbs and cups of coffee as we could in preparation for the day ahead. The plan today was to watch some death metal over at The Baltimore Soundstage and then make our way over to Rams Head Live for late night doom. The Soundstage is a small, dim lit venue which I found to be perfect as this venue typically held the hardcore/grindcore bands for the festival. Merch tables and bars lined the outer walls which I am sure made a killing throughout the weekend. The lineup consisted of Mortal Decay, Origin, Internal Bleeding, Skinless, Devourment, and of course, Mobb Deep. One of my favorite moments from the Soundstage on this day was Jason Keyser of Origin/ex-Skinless jumped on stage with Skinless to perform one of the Keyser-era songs off of Trample the Weak, Hurtle the Dead. After a quick bite to eat in between Soundstage and Rams Head Live, I made my way into the back entrance of the venue. This venue was hidden away inside the building and actually had three floors with fans hanging over railings to get a view of the small stage up front. Just as I found a spot in the back on the railing of the second floor, the mighty Conan took to the stage and brought forth one of the heaviest guitar tones I have ever heard live. After getting through a trance inducing set from Ufomammut and a thunderous jam from YOB, it was time to head back to the hotel for some re-cooperation. The next day, we would get to venture to the Edison Lot.
Conan, by Hillarie Jason Photography
Ufomammut, by Hillarie Jason Photography
Yob, by Hillarie Jason Photography
Ides of Gemini have announced an upcoming West Coast tour with Clay Rendering. They are supporting their current album Old World New Wave, released last September via Neurot Recordings, as well as a special, limited Carthage/Strange Fruit seven-inch via Magic Bullet Records last month in honor of Record Store Day. They will employ the services of drummer Sash Popovic (Black Math Horseman), who will be filling in for Kelly Johnston-Gibson, who was injured on their last tour.
Guitarist J. Bennett stated:
“After the disappointment of having to drop off the Mountain Goats tour last month, we’re looking forward to getting out on the road again. Unfortunately, Kelly’s injury is still healing so she won’t be able to join us for the June shows with Oxbow and Demon Lung or our appearance at Cruficalfest in Salt Lake. The good news is that our friend Sash Popovic, formerly of [singer/bassist] Sera’s [Timms] old band, Black Math Horseman, will be filling in for those. He’s a killer drummer and a great guy, so we’re very thankful that he’s agreed to help us out. If all goes according to plan, Kelly should be back in action for the July run with Clay Rendering.”
Jun 05: Brick & Mortar – San Francisco, CA (w/ Oxbow) Jun 07: The Echo – Los Angeles, CA (w/ Oxbow) Jun 19: Crucialfest – Salt Lake City, UT Jun 20: Dive Bar – Las Vegas, NV (Demon Lung Record Release Show)
w/ Clay Rendering: Jul 14: Golden Bull – Oakland, CA Jul 15: Club 66 – Ashland, OR Jul 16: Wandering Goat – Eugene, OR Jul 17: Ash St Saloon – Portland, OR (w/ Jex Thoth, Atriarch, Barrowlands (no Clay Rendering) Jul 18: Media Club – Vancouver, BC Jul 19: Highline – Seattle, WA Jul 21: Press Club – Sacramento, CA Jul 22: Elbo Room – San Francisco, CA Jul 23: Sweet Springs – Los Osos, CA Jul 24: Complex – Glendale, CA
Long before the term ‘Occult Rock’ was a thing, there was Ancient VVisdom (a.k.a. AVV). News has come down that the band will release their third full-length album this fall on Magic Bullet Records, entitled Sacrificial. With an unorthodox style, enchanting songcraft, and poetic lyrics cloaked in dark rituals and emotion, the band has made an impact on record and in a live setting.
From The Press Release:
Cleveland, Ohio’s occult death rock conjurors, Ancient VVisdom, will release their third full-length, entitled Sacrificial, later this Fall via Magic Bullet Records.
On Sacrificial, Ancient VVisdom delivers ten tracks that continue to push the boundaries of both death rock and neo-folklore while retaining the memorable simplicity and melodic catchiness present on their previous, critically-lauded manifestations. Produced by founding vocalist Nathan Opposition, engineered by Travis Smith at The Diamond Factory Studios in Austin and mastered by Paul Logus (Anthrax, Clutch, Hellyeah, Shadows Fall et al) at Taloowa Mastering in New York, Sacrificialfuses all the prime qualities of the likes of Black Sabbath, Metallica, and Quicksand, into a wholly anthemic album of dark and light.
Thematically, Sacrificial delves further into singer Nathan Opposition’s personal ascent into the unanticipated enlightenment of exploring humanity’s universal darkness. Whereas traditional lore dealing with the occult, paganism, and Satan tends to be heavy-handed (and often synonymous with a proverbial descent away from any sort of positive self-affirmation), Sacrificial spins a slant wherein “down” becomes “up.” In Opposition’s world, confronting one’s own demons and humanity’s primordial penchant toward chaos and destructive ritual will ultimately pass each seeker through a threshold unto which deeper knowledge, sage wisdom, and self-realization envelop one’s consciousness.
Comments Opposition, “Where there is chaos you will find us. Where there is disorder, others find discomfort but I find salvation. Lead me not unto anything. I am my own.This album will enlighten the fools and give the enlightened something to listen to.”
Musically, Opposition and his brother, Michael the Dark Angel, continue to accomplish what countless musicians frustratingly attempt to conquer in their songwriting: simple, memorable riffs and melodies that stand the test of time. Each hymn comprising Sacrificial is hummable and infectious. Like the best practitioners in any field, the brothers make it look and sound easy to the point where everyone listening thinks they can do it (spoiler alert: very few can ever do it). New addition Mitch Keith Morris wastes no time in making his mark on Sacrificial, channeling deep primitive and tribal percussive influences into the empowering sound that is unmistakably Ancient VVisdom.
Sacrificial Tack Listing:
1. Rise Of An Ancient Evil 2. Chaos Will Reign 3. Blood Offering 4. Devils Work 5. Blind Leading The Blind 6. Worm Ridden Skull 7. I Am Your Sacrifice 8. City Of Stone 9. We Are Damnation 10. Higher Into The Black Flames
You knew it was going to be a killer night when for the first time I can recall for any show, the line to get in stretched around the block, over an hour before doors at this venue. Agalloch always draws a big crowd in the Boston area, what with our love of black metal and emo-style self-hatred overflowing at all times. All jokes aside, Agalloch on their first tour supporting the excellent new album The Serpent and The Sphere (Profound Lore) was a can’t miss proposition for this summer of metal shows so far. The venue was well sold out with people walking up for tickets turned away. I bumped into many of my friends in the scene and my photographer for the night, the exceptionally cool Hillarie Jason outside while I waited to get in. I wonder if selling out the House of Blues is next for this band, since every time they visit our city, the sell out yet another venue.
Growing local legends Obsidian Tongue opened tonight, following a brief, but successful mid-west run opening for this tour. Front man Brendan James Hayter has long had a relationship to Agalloch, written songs with them, and in general is in a mutual admiration society with them. All good, but playing in front of basically a sold-out hometown crowd had advantages too. Brendan, flanked by powerhouse drummer Greg Murphy just blew everyone in attendance away with their all too brief set. As always, their gut-wrenching, perfectly executed traditional USBM, captivates and kills. In addition to playing a brand new song that was nothing shot of epic at almost 14 minutes long, John Haughm himself joined the band for a closing rendition of “A Nest of Ravens in the Throat of Time”, of which Brendan remarked they will likely “never play this again.” One of the cooler moments of the night was meeting Brendan’s beaming parents, clad in their O.T. Shirts. Parents- you’re doing it right!
The BM-centric crowd was a little less forgiving the doom of Jex Thoth. For her part Jex was awesome, and in her own little world. She was nonplussed by the few mumbles in the room about them and their placement on this bill. Nevertheless her tight band blessed with her namesake blasted through a lengthy set of good songs. Caught up in the ritual, Jex wailed like the chanteuse that she is, connecting with the audience, but she was also on her own trip too. As my pal Mike Vargus commented later, she brought the sexiness to doom. Transformed by the process of the ritual, lost in the magic, she milked every bit of soul out of each note that escaped her throat. Her band was no afterthought either, they were present in the moment, right with her musically, especially guitarist Jason Hartman. Playing songs mostly from their 2013 album Blood Moon Rise (I Hate). At one point Jex jumped off the stage and into the crowd to get up close and personal with everyone. She sang, and danced and played with fire, burning some sage for effect. Maybe the beers and shots I had were fully kicking in by this time, but I was totally in her spell. She said little when their set was done, but they certainly made an impact.
There was a pretty fast change-over for Agalloch to come on. The sold-out crowd held their collective breath together while the band made their way to the stage. Not one note had played, but you felt something electric in the air. Everyone felt it actually, you could just tell. From the swell of the intro music, the wave just hit the eager crowd and a cheer went out. The opening notes of ‘The Astral Dialogue’ and the rollicking beat meant there would be no slow burn build up to start the show tonight. Nope, tonight had is moments of dynamic intensity, but Agalloch was full of hustle and power much more than in the past when I’ve seen them. It was an instant reminder that American black metal is the real deal now, and a band like this is the reason. Haughm’s economical playing style looks almost too easy, and his bleak vocals just crush. He is always note perfect and flawless live. I was immediately surprised by how much knuckle-headed moshing there was, more so than any show in memory for black metal in Boston. Perhaps it is a swell of new fans, but I was turned off by it, as was Haughm who joked about it later on.
The new ‘Vales Beyond Dimension’ was more typical fare I was used to for these Pacific Northwest giants. The fans seems to chill out for a minute and soak it all in. Always impressive, Aesop Dekker almost stole the show on this night with his tireless blasting behind the kit. I have seen him live many times with different acts, and this night was a performance we’d never seen from him before. Epic in scope, ‘Limbs’ was another killer early set highlight. Oh, so heartfelt and deep, I almost felt like a hippie for a second. Almost. John finally addressed the crowd, dissed the moshers, and generally welcomed all to the tour. Picking back up with ‘Ghosts of the Midwinter’s Fires’, we fell into the emotional abyss again. This is what Agalloch does best: toying with your soul and mind with their songs. There was a lot of singing along to this one, which made me smile. Other standout songs were the newer ‘Dark Matter Gods’, ‘Celestial Effigy’ and the mighty ‘Into the Painted Grey’.
Coming back on for an encore, Haughm thanked the openers, made more jokes about moshers and then just melted the place down with the stirring ‘Falling Snow’ and Plataeu of The Ages’. We were all left speechless and happy. What a great night!
Fascinated with the teachings and the hymns of Process Church of the Final Judgment, David Nuss founded Sabbath Assembly as a tribute to this underground, avant-garde, practically unknown sacred music. Since the Church worshiped both Christ and Lucifer equally, they were outcasted from society, even by other fringe religious movements, such as Scientology which they shared some history with. Because they were disbanded by the late 70s, the hymns were thought to be lost to antiquity until Nuss discovered them and interpreted them for his records. Ghost Cult scribe James Conway connected with Nuss for an interview and received an account of this history, a glimpse into their genius vision, and examined Sabbath Assembly’s new opus Quaternity (Svart) as well.
When did you first become aware of the Process Church of the Final Judgment?
In 2009 I met original Processian Timothy Wyllie who showed me an advance copy of his book Love Sex Fear Death about his time in the Process.
How did the music of the church first affect you when you first heard it?
There was no music to hear, only sheet music from the hymns. The hymns had never been recorded because they were thought of as liturgical, rather than commercial. So our idea is that these two could meet – not commercial in the sense that we’re raking in the dollars, but in that the songs could be presented in the public marketplace rather than exclusively.
Do you have any input from current members of the Church on the recording and writing process?
There are no ‘current members’ because the Church fell apart in the mid 70s, and most people who were members then are not very public about it now because of the negative press the Church received. Timothy Wyllie, who was in the Church from its inception til it morphed to be an entity called “The Foundation Faith,” was a kind of ‘spiritual advisor’ on our first album, Restored to One, as was Genesis P. Orridge on our second, Ye Are Gods. Then we started getting some critiques from a guy called Anthony D’Andrea who says he was in a Boston Chapter of the Church in the 70s. He said we weren’t playing the hymns ‘as they were’ back in the day’ – which I’m sure is true. We’re doing our interpretation! So he played a couple over the phone for us, and those became ‘Lucifer’ and ‘The Four Horsemen’ on our new album Quaternity.
Can you explain a little about the fourth element; the nature of evil and how it relates to the Christian Holy Trinity?
I don’t think it does relate to the Trinity exactly. The founding Church fathers (they were all men) deliberately left aspects out of the formation of the original Christian doctrines and creeds. These guys were not psychologists creating a balanced and healthy way for people to live; rather they were creating an autocratic government that needed a ‘spiritual’ component for validation of authority. Christianity was more multi-faceted before these guys starting decided who was a heretic and who wasn’t, creating a faux “Orthodoxy.” The idea of four elements is much more pagan, that is close to how nature actually works – solar/lunar, masculine/feminine, four directions, four elements (air water fire earth). The 4 is more about balance and natural reality, rather than political manipulation.
How did the recording of Quaternity come about and how does it relate to your previous two releases?
This is the second recording with Jamie Myers. How has she fit into the band and how does her approach differ from previous vocalist Jex Thoth? (If at all)
This recording was specifically crafted for Jamie’s voice. She came in a bit late in the game on the Ye Are Gods recordings cuz the songs were already done, so she had to fit what was there. This time we built our sound around her; we are so grateful to have her in the band. We took months making demos and sending them back and forth to her (between New York City and Texas where she lives), not rushing anything, so we could craft each track carefully, giving them each a unique voice.
Restored to One, the album with Jex, was much more experimental in that she and I had been working with a huge variety of musicians in developing the songs, and the recording of the album was almost improvised with a couple of last minute hired-gun jazz musicians. And Jex was eager to get back to her own project. Now, Jamie and I are in this for the long haul, so we’re really working on a true band dynamic.
There are many guest performances on Quaternity. Can you describe how some of these came about?
Daron Beck has been Jamie’s friend and neighbor since they were kids, and we have both been long time admirers of his voice and his band Pinkish Black. Mat and Marja from Hexvessel are total cohorts in the world of ‘holy rock n roll” so including them was an obvious choice, which led to our subsequent tour.
You have performed on stage with several metal bands despite your music having no obvious metallic sounds. What kind of reaction have you had from metal audiences?
Metalheads love Satan, so anytime we sing about Satan they are happy. And Jamie hates singing about Jesus so we don’t really do that much anymore, ha. Even though our music doesn’t sound metal exactly, she and our guitarist Kevin Hufnagel (Gorguts, Dysrhythmia) and I were all born and raised on distorted power chords and double bass, so we’d like to think the spirit of metal is in there. If you check out what’s “metal” going back the last nearly 40 years there’s a pretty big variety so we are thrilled to be part of it’s ongoing development.
Is there a limited number of hymns for you to adapt on further recordings or will you be able to continue Sabbath Assembly with music inspired by the Church or similar?
The next album is going to be all original tunes, inspired by our time working with the Church, but completely separate from it.
Do you have a dream artist or band to collaborate with, that you have yet to?
Honestly we’re done collaborating. Our unit is so tight right now that we don’t need any extra assistance.
What touring plans, if any do you have on tap for 2014?
We are touring Northern Europe in May, beginning at the Heavy Days of Doom Town fest in Copenhagen on May 4th. See you there!
Why should readers of Ghost Cult check out Sabbath Assembly?
Our goal is to create beautiful and uplifting music that supports all your angels and demons. The intention is to be affirming of wherever you’re at.
Scion AV’s annual free music fest, The Rock Fest returns to Pomona, CA after the last one in 2011, and turning the Glass House and Fox Theater into a mini music mecca for the day. The fest is held in a different city each year and bringing it back to Pomona with another strong lineup gave fans something to be excited about once again.
Four venues within the area (The Glass House, The Fox Theater, Sky Fox Lounge, and Acerogami) housed the bands who performed throughout the day. Wristbands for those who RSVP’d for the event were handed out in advance and arranged much better so attendees did not have to wait in long lines like the last time the event was held there.
Sky Fox Lounge and Acerogami were the two smaller venues which held some of the up and comers within the stoner rock, doom and experimental bands on the scene today. Much of the crowd in those venues preferred the intimate atmosphere of those two venues and the more underground vibe of the acts playing within those venues.
Sky Fox Lounge featured such acts as riff rock acts such as MOAB and Lord Dying, sludge/doom acts such as Black Sheep Wall, experimental acts such as Windhand and Jex Thoth, and extreme acts such as Japan’s Coffins, who made a rare US appearance. Fans who congregated at the venue definitely felt the vibe there, and were there to soak in sounds they would not normally get to see.
Acerogami’s lineup was largely lesser known stoner rock and hard rock acts who were making their first time appearances on the West Coast and gaining more exposure thanks to the help of Scion AV. Much of the bands within this room were coming from the stoner rock and doom realms, where bands like Pittsburgh based Pins of Light and San Francisco based Carousel both set the vibe and got the early comers with lots of cool riff sounds and lots of excitement overall. Another San Francisco based act Hot Lunch have quickly become a rising name within the genre circles and put on another strong performance, as did Nashville psychedelic rock act All Them Witches. of the French psychedelic rockers Aqua Nebula Oscillator drew some much curiosity from the attendees and became one of the much talked about acts of the night.
The Glass House held the punk and the experimental acts of the evening. Veteran acts BL’AST featured former Queens of the Stone Age rhythm section Nick Oliveri and Joey Castillo alongside frontman Clifford Dinsmore, blazing through their classic tunes with a mini-pit circling alongside the band. Veteran speed metal/punk outfit Midnight kept the momentum going with the same energy despite the crowd coming and going in between venues. Veteran Bay Area death freaks Exhumed made another one of their regular So Cal appearances and once again put on another powerful set. Power Trip and In Cold Blood both represented the classic crossover hardcore/thrash styles that sometimes get overlooked in the So Cal area. They both played strong sets and gave lessons to the crowd in the genre. Speed metallers Speedwolf and Nekrogoblikon rounded out of the day with early set calls and gave the early attendees a taste of metal that flying under the radar.
The Fox Theatre held the high profile names of the event, with King Buzzo of The Melvins opening with his acoustic set similar to what he previously performed a recent Scion AV event at LA’s Satellite. Big Business followed with a loud and powerful set who are no stranger to the Melvins world. Quite the opposite of King Buzzo’s set, but still made an impact and set the tone for the day.
Orchid’s classic riff rock stylings became the lead into a much anticipated Crowbar appearance, where they grabbed the attention of the crowd and never let down throughout their set. Red Fang followed with their usual set list of heavy riffing and a set full of energy that kept going from Crowbar. High On Fire put on their usually ear bleeding loud set of riff rock tune and also never let go of the crowd.
Headliners Machine Head did an unusually longer set list of songs that spanned across their history and more. Their newest song ‘Killers & Kings’ was featured within their set list, as well as a few songs from each of their albums. A good mix of old and new (and yes “Old” was one of them they played), Machine Head does not disappoint and a longer set from these guys is always a treat to witness.
Overall, Scion AV Rock Fest is a whole lot of music for free during a time when the music world is struggling to attract audiences towards live shows and buying music. Events like these should help attract fans of the genre towards newer bands and getting reacquainted with older bands they may have once enjoyed.