Maryland/DC Heavy Rock Underground
A few decades worth of music adequately summed up in one album is a huge task, which perfectly matches the Sysiphean nature of doom metal. Let’s go! There’s a blacksmokebelching rumble in the green hills!
An ultra-rare Clutch stormer called “Sea of Destruction” sets the tone for things, with heavy pylon riffs, jazzy drumming and a swing and swagger like nothing I’ve heard recently. This is the closest doom metal will come to being sexy. Yep, I said it. “Biker doom” enthusiasts Earthride contribute a new track that attempts an uneasy hybrid of early Motorhead and Suicide, resulting in a viscous sludge that’s as much bongwater and liquefied Sabbath vinyl as it is acrid highway rubber and cheap trucker speed. Former Vitus/Obsessed/Spirit Caravan fulcrum Scott “Wino” Weinrich kicks down the door with his new power trio The Hidden Hand, as “Rebellion” shows how Weinrich perfectly distills the latent paranoia inherent in doom metal into pure quicksilver dread with a voice more perfect than Ozzy himself, guitars that alternately shudder and crash like waves and a tight martial rhythm section.
Internal Void’s “Black Wings of Deceit” comes off like a blues-infected Pentagram. Particular praise goes to the contemptuous whine of vocalist J.D. Williams. Fabulous Van-Halen-on-Valium solo, too. Life Beyond, another band composed of local doom lifers, inhabit a strange limbo between total stoner freakout and bizarrely precise mathrock. Fascinating stuff. Nitroseed’s instrumental “Class War” sounds worryingly like Pearl Jam’s “Alive” for the first minute or so, and only then becomes a crushingly heavy mantra that stares at the same hazy sky that Spacemen 3 once did. Maryland veterans Unorthodox shimmy through “Lifeline” like a more drugged-out and adventurous (young) Soundgarden; there’s also some similarity with Spirit Caravan.
Countershaft are downtuned as all hell, minimalist, ultraprecise and relentlessly anguished. Consider them the Kraftwerk or even Neu! of the capitol doom scene, children of Pentagram’s grave (shit, guitarist Greg Turley was even in a later incarnation of Pentagram), hopelessly hooked on sonic downers. I think their “Black Sky” is fucking amazing. War Injun’s “Dangerous Prayer” pushes sludgy doom to the next level of direct confrontation and aggression. Lo-fi as shit, it’s a fucking gorgeous mess; it’s impossible to separate or detect any subtleties in the sonic tarpit. The rhythm section of Earthride seemingly bangs on steel boxes, guitarist Kenny Staubs summons storms of ebony sheetrock and choking coaldust and J.D. Williams appears again in a much more unhinged and enraged peformance.
Black Manta (points for the name) wretch forth “Days of Yore,” which reminds me of a more distorted (Angel Dust-era) Faith No More or an authoritarian Queens of the Stone Age; there’s some amazing high-end ambient guitar and distorted bass that simmers underneath. That sort of swinging and catchy dynamics, combined with guitar overkill. The sound’s fresh and confident enough to be pretty big.
Leviathan A.D.’s barely twitching “Breathing Rust” follows the bloodline of doom that’s dearer to my heart: Asphyx, Warhorse and Khanate. Overkill heaviness on all counts, that lethal buzzsaw guitar played at slugspeed combined with a deceptively restrained rhythm section, but then they inject a spacier vocal style that’s halfway between J. Spacemen and James Hetfield. Superb! More! The “Don’t follow me” coda/mantra is transcendent; sonic regret never sounded better. Carrion’s “Damned to Know” is fabulously snotty and negative and punkish with group shouted, raw-throated vocals and serrated riffs, and even disparate movements within one song, although slowed dowwwwwwn to the nth degree. The riffing is really fucking inventive, going from Misfits catchy to sheets of angular soundwave. There are a rush of influences coming to the fore here — I love it. These cats are really onto something very original. Put on repeat.
Los Tres Pisados, a supergroup, let’s be frank, with members of Clutch, Earthride/War Injun and Unorthodox all coming together just to fucking bash out music — always a worthy endeavor. It’s just a sludgy, bad trip of epic proportions that boogies along to the nearest roadhouse.
Done more for Maryland than their Chamber of Commerce could ever dream of doing. I’m setting my controls for the heart of Hagerstown, who’s coming with me?
Crucial Blast: www.crucialblast.net