DAYS OF THE DOOMED II
The Blue Pig, Cudahy, WI
June 15, 2012
By Dr. Abner Mality
I was happier than Gerry Sandusky at a Boy Scout jamboree when I heard there was going to be a second edition of Days of the Doomed in Wisconsin. I really enjoyed the initial festival in 2011, which was full of many great moments such as 3 out of 5 members of the legendary Trouble jamming "The Tempter" and mind-blowing sets from Black Pyramid and Iron Man. Unfortunately, the fest was sparsely attended and I wondered if fest organizer Mercyful Mike Smith would take a second plunge into the waters of doom.
Apparently he did or you wouldn't be reading this. His perseverance might lead to this becoming America's biggest doom metal festival some day. Mike's hospitality to the bands is second to none and this year the event moved from the Polish Veteran's Hall in Kenosha to the more metal-friendly Blue Pig in nearby Cudahy. The Blue Pig was known for years as Vnuk's, probably the #1 metal bar in the Milwaukee area.
Like last year, I could only attend one day of the fest. I chose the Friday edition, mostly because it featured bands I hadn't seen before. Saturday was headlined by The Skull, the Trouble offshoot we saw formed at the 2011 DOTD. You shall be seeing more of that band here at Wormwood, but I made a strategic decision to opt for Friday.
The Blue Pig is only a couple of blocks up the street from On The Limiter, site of this year's NYDM Spring Bash, so it was no trouble to get to. The bright red BLATZ sign outside was an indicator of pure quality that I found very comforting and I was greeted almost immediately by Mike upon entering the establishment.
First band for the evening was Snakedance, who were unknown to me and likely most attending the festival. They got things off to a pretty rousing start with a selection of heavily fuzzed out and Fu Manchu influenced stoner rock. One thing was clear right away and that was that the sound was a big step up from last year. In fact, this might have been the best sound I ever heard inside a club. You could tell it was top notch because there was a conspicuous lack of bands yelling "check, check" or asking for more monitor. Things went amazingly smoothly all Friday night.
Back to Snakedance. I enjoyed the thick, simple riffing but felt they relied a bit too much on repetition. Everybody enjoys a good stoner riff but sometimes you can beat it into the ground. I would have liked to hear more lead soloing, because what lead I did hear was pretty good. This is a band that has some room to grow and I hope they do just that.
Next up was Super Invader, coming all the way from Nebraska, and if Snakedance was obviously inspired by Fu Manchu, then these guys were Southern sludge and groove all the way, bringing up echoes of Weedeater, Sourvein, Down and even Pantera. No surprises from these guys...they just brought the hammer down on everyone. Their long haired singer spent most of the set on top of a box while the guitarist grinded away with a lot of those gooey Southern-fried riffs. Super Invader suffered for the lack of a bass player...they had singer, guitarist and drummer only. In the doom line of work, a band needs a bass player just like a ship needs an anchor. You have got to have that bottom end to make things work. There was a lot of catchy riffing going on from these cats and they played with a lot of energy, but a bass player is something they sorely need.
Fans of traditional doom metal in Candlemass style got a real treat when Texas' Sanctus Bellum next took the stage. Those frustrated by the sparse output of Solitude Aeturnus should definitely check these guys out, because they do that mournful, refined style of doom very well. Got to mention once more the superb sound quality of the gig...the great guitar soloing of this band came across loud and clear. Song titles did not stick in my head but the music itself surely did. These guys mixed truly ponderous and sad riffs with more up-tempo, even thrashy bits as well as exhibitions of pure melody, usually utilizing twin guitar harmonies. The baseball capped vocalist was earnest and austere...I cannot say he is in the realm of Robert Lowe of Candlemass/Solitude Aeturnus, but then, who is? Sanctus Bellum wrapped their set up with a jamming version of Pentagram's "Sign of the Wolf", made even more memorable by having members of Orodruin and Stone Magnum join in with them on vocals. I was very impressed by these Lone Star troubadors and suggest you keep an eye out for them.
The band I was most curious to see was up next...Indiana's Stone Magnum. All I can say after watching their set is WOW! If Sanctus Bellum was great, these guys did them one better and put on a show that would shame many more well known bands. The main vocal point has got to be new vocalist Nick Hernandez, who is nothing less than mind-blowing with his commanding stage presence and vocal range which surely brings the likes of Messiah Marcolin and Geoff Tate to mind. Honestly, I hear Candlemass is looking for a new vocalist and this guy would surely be in the running if he submitted a tape. He has a very sinister look and style to him, which guitarist Dean Tavernier told me comes from his formerly heading up a black metal band. When you see Hernandez live, you will realize that this is no hype...if anything, I'm probably under-selling his abilities.
The band also has the knack of mixing up their tunes. Many like "Locksmith of Misery" and "Grave of Cryptic Sorrows" are predominantly slow, Gothic tinged doom but with bursts of thrashing speed and an occasional NWOBHM drive. Guitarists Dean Tavernier and Jim Brucks are excellent players as well and trade hot licks with the best of them. To show their roots, the band lit into a cover of Purple's "Black Night" and made it their own. Fests like DOTD are great place to find new talent and I hit a motherlode with Stone Magnum. You will certainly hear much more from these gentlemen.
If Stone Magnum was a bit of an X factor, Orodruin were more like old friends. They played the first edition last year and the response was so favorable they were asked back. That was lucky for us, because I thought this year's set easily trumped what they did in 2011. The better acoustics of the Blue Pig were a big help and Orodruin also benefitted from a longer slot. The band War Injun had to unfortunately cancel out in the last week and instead of roping in another band, Mercyful Mike just gave Orodruin and headliners Revelation more time to play.
It seemed to me like this mournful trio enjoyed playing a lot more this year. If there's anybody in doom metal who digs playing live more than guitarist John Gallo, I'd like to know who it is. This guy is a ton of fun to watch, pulling crazy faces and stomping around the stage like a crazy Amish biker. Not to mention, this fucker burns the strings like nobody's business...he can do bluesy doom ala the Deity Tony Iommi, more classically oriented stuff and finally just titanic fuzzy riffs that squash your brain like a rotten tomato. Singer/bassist Mike Puleo is also very entertaining and almost matched his guitarist in the wacky moves department. I almost didn't recognize him with his new short haircut and moustache, but his excellent Ozzy style wailing remains intact. Orodruin played for damn near an hour, covering great doom classics like "Wicked Wizard", "Shipwrecked" and "Epicurean Mass". Disaster almost struck when drummer Mike Waske's cymbal disintegrated on him, but Gallo held everybody's interest with a solo while necessary repairs were made. It would sure be great if Orodruin got half as much attention as the latest "occult rock" or "70's retro rock" flash in the pan band.
Revelation are regarded as one of the great doom bands and they've been churning out dolorous ditties since the dawn of the 90's. Despite that, I'm ashamed to say I have very little familiarity with them or their material. No problem, I got a big time lesson tonight. Just looking at these guys, you can see 10,000 miles of road in their faces. That experience can't be surpassed. Although there were other truly epic doom bands like Orodruin and Stone Magnum playing tonight, there was a certain atmosphere in Revelation's set that couldn't be touched. They didn't bother to play around with any stylistic twists but concentrated on pure DOOM, in the tradition of early Trouble, Pentagram and Candlemass. There was also something very sad about their music...a lifetime of disappointment was transmitted through the slow and tragic songs they played. Visually, you couldn't say they were all that exciting to watch, but the quality of their music kept you riveted. A classic set from these masters. I sorely need to catch up on older Revelation material.
After that, it was back home. In the interest of completeness, here was the line-up for Day 2 of the Fest:
BLIZARO (John Gallo's odd ambient/horror/doom project)
APOSTLE OF SOLITUDE
BLACKFINGER ( with ex-Trouble vocalist Eric Wagner)
THE SKULL (former Trouble members Wagner and Ron Holzner)
Unless some total disaster struck, I have no doubt that Day 2 was at least the equal of Day 1, if not superior. I kind of get the feeling that maybe Days of the Doomed got over the hump this year and is now safely on the way to becoming a yearly tradition. If that is so, chalk it up to the hard work of Mike Smith and family.
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