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Don’t piss off Krampus: go to Krampusnacht show Dec. 5 at Sidebar

Friday, Dec. 5 Metallomusikum hosts a Krampusnacht concert of black metal blasphemy at The Sidebar. Bands include Dweller in the Valley (Frederick, MD); Ravn (Richmond, VA); Death Shroud (Radford, VA), Archael (Fredericksburg, VA) and Athame (Hagerstown, MD/Falling Waters WV). Check out the event page here.

Don’t know what a Krampus is? Perhaps you don’t really want to know.

square dec 5Krampus is a pre-Xian era concept of a goat-like beast that has become known as an entity that punishes bad children. When the Xians came along, they turned him into the sidekick of St. Nicholas. Children who were good got presents. Bad children were beaten with a birch branch and stuffed into a sack and taken off to who-knows-where. In heathen times the Krampus may have been a symbol for an initiation rite. Perhaps today’s youth could use a good dose of Krampus fear in their lives.

The legend of Krampus pervades in many forms throughout Europe, and it is starting to catch on in the US, which of course turned it into an excuse to drink and run through the streets. There are some more pagan-style Krampus celebrations, such as the Krampuslauf in Philadelphia. For the most part though, I think Americans see it as a chance for second-Halloween.

Either way, the bands playing Krampusnacht are the best at what they do or I would not have booked them for my little Xmas Devil gathering. Check out some tunes below and make your way to 218 E. Lexington St. Baltimore by 8 p.m. on Friday. If you don’t, you-know-who will be waiting in the alley with a sack to carry you off.


Album reviews: Myopic, Iris Divine, Dweller in the Valley

Recently, Derek and I attempted to record a podcast reviewing three albums. from regional bands The recording was done in a hurry and the gain was too high, so the sound is pretty bad. We sound completely adorable and not too drunk, but I won’t force you to suffer through listening to it because of the quality.  (If you really want to hear it, the link is here, but it will not be included on MixCloud podcast stream.) We did want you to at least be aware of some of our comments on these recordings. The drink of the evening was vodka and Taco Bell limeades.

Dweller in the Valley bones. Photo by Mary Spiro

Dweller in the Valley bones. Photo by Mary Spiro

The idea behind these this reviews is that we listen to the albums and give our immediate first impressions. Of course, we may go back and listen to these albums again in the future, but, in general, first impressions are the most important, so that’s what we are going with

Myopic – Beyond the Mirror’s Edge (Grimoire Records); three-piece from Takoma Park, MD. 

Listen here.

Derek’s comments:

  • “It started out kind of sludgey but they hit all kinds of things in four songs. Really seemed to be exploratory and all over the map …”
  • “Last song started out good but I don’t remember much about the rest of it, went in weird directions.”

Mary’s comments:

  • “Lot of hardcore and post rock/metal elements”
  • “Felt like the first song was kind of a weak start but liked the second track much better.”
  • “Hate it when I band starts a song with feedback…that’s becoming cliche to me.”
  • “Iron Towers was good. Backstitch had a lot of cool parts but seemed a little too long.”
  • “Last song had what we call a ‘circus breakdown’ but overall pretty good.”

We both liked the album overall and would like to see this band live.

Iris Divine -demo (self-released); three-piece from Centreville, VA. 

Listen here.

Derek’s comments:

  • “It’s not for me, because I didn’t like it.”
  • “It has a very nice production value.”
  • “It was very proggy, sing-songy, that kind of thing.”
  • “I lot of people will really like this recording, so I don’t really feel bad saying that I do not.”

Mary’s comments:

  • “I felt like it was Dream Theater worship.”
  • “There are people in the metal community that love this kind of stuff, but I find the vocals cloying…too sweet.”
  • “Give Iris Divine a shot, but it’s not our thing. Buy it or don’t.”

We have seen Iris Divine live at The Sidebar. While it is not our favorite genre of music, we recognize that this is a well recorded, well executed work.”

Dweller in the Valley- Breath of the Void (Black Mess/Grimoire Records); trio from Frederick, MD.

Listen here.

Derek’s comments:

  • “I liked it.”
  • ” I have no input other than I can’t wait to see them live.”

(Poor Derek, I realize I barely gave him a chance to talk about this band!)

Mary’s comments:

  • “I hear a little bit of hardcore influence but this is definitely black metal.”
  • ” I feel like this is a live band. Dane Olds is really angry when he sings. Maybe his is not an angry young man, but he just comes off that way and the music is incredibly aggressive…righteous indignation.”

I have seen this band live, but Derek has not. The goal is to get him out to see Dweller, where the drummer is also the vocalist.

Visit us again soon for more random record reviews.

‘Tis the season of thankfulness for black metal

Four of my favorite regional black metal bands gathered at The Sidebar Tavern November 15 for what I’d like to call my own personal “kvltsgiving”. The show merged the tail end of the two-week “No Souls, No Minds” tour of Pittsburgh’s blackened avant-grinders Dendritic Arbor and Philadelphia’s ritualistic Haethen with Baltimore’s black metal practitioners Xeukatre and Frederick’s aggressors Dweller in the Valley. I call it a “kvltsgiving” because seeing all these people that I love in one place to play music that I love trumps any  meal-based “thanksgiving” I could imagine. This was a feast for my ears and my mind. And this is the month for giving thanks, is it not?

Black metal is an extreme subgenre of a genre of music that in itself is considered somewhat extreme. Few people understand black metal, or care to, and this is probably how it should be. Black metal is not for you. In fact it is against you. I don’t think that is the reason this musical style appeals to me so much, as I don’t really seek out things that are intrinsically obscure. I haven’t signed the hipster oath just yet. But I know what I like and I know what moves me, and this music, especially this particular line up of these bands, was not something I was going to miss.

Dweller in the Valley, an aggressive trio from Frederick with a drummer/vocalist, began the evening in usual ritual style. Drummer Dane Olds adorns his kit with a herd of horned animal skulls of various sizes. Their style is forthright and filled with agony.  I can’t understand Dane’s lyrics, but he sure looks pissed. The effect is very cathartic for me (and possibly for that drunk girl in the audience). I am looking forward to hearing their forthcoming recording of new music…..whenever that drops. You can download their demo for free—name your own price.

Of the four, I have been aware of Haethen the longest. They performed at Satan’s Unholy Abomination Fest I in December 2012, and I have followed them since. Their music is melodic, yet raw, anti-life, blast-beat driven ambient black metal. They are probably my favorite among the four, because they play the style of black metal my ear gravitates toward. (There are substyles of the subgenre! It never ends!!) Check out the video for a taste.

I heard about Dendritic Arbor earlier this year. They write songs with a pro-mother earth theme. Apparently, they used to perform shrouded in robes but I’ve never seen them play like that. Their music can best be described as certainly black metal but with definite experimental grindcore and avant garde underpinnings. Three of the four members are singing. It’s like a chorus of chaos. Dendritic Arbor is among the most challenging bands you are going to listen to as the music can be just as chaotic as the vocals. Most of their songs are short, except for the massive “Drifting,” which will fuck with your head after one listen.

Visually, Xeukatre  presents black metal the way it looked in the 90’s, complete with bullet belts and corpse paint. Musically, their style is raw and unpretentious,  a sort of what-you-see-is-what-you-get approach to black metal. I appreciate their aesthetic and am always entertained when they play. They will perform again next week with Demonic Christ at The Sidebar.

Black metal is alive and well, it would seem. It’s not what it was in the 80s or 90s, but because there is real evil in the material world, it seems to be evolving into something perhaps more brutal and sinister than its satan-worshipping roots. At my core, I find I need a means to express these themes and philosophies, and the presence of bands like these four is something to be thankful for.

View my gallery of photos below.

Only turning 25 is real or how to properly celebrate your birthday

My friend Hasan turned 25 this past week, and to celebrate, he organized a show at The Sidebar Tavern. Being a complex man, Hasan wisely assembled a group of bands into a birthday show that reflected his diverse taste in music. He also served up some killer vegan chocolate cake with peanut butter icing from Sweet Dukes vegan bakery and brought in some of his home-made vegan mac-n-cheez.

I took a few photos, met up with some old friends and had a great time. I appreciated the spectrum of musical genres represented, even though they were not all my favorite styles of music. Even so, these are all bands you should check out. Here are some highlights.

Dweller in the Valley play thoughtful black metal where the drummer sings. Also, they bring a lot of bones. I dig ’em.

Dweller in the Valley

Dweller in the Valley

Hasan loves Celtic Frost. He’s even met Tom G. Warrior. But since getting Celtic Frost to play his gig was not going to happen, he got the next best (and possibly better) option of the band “Celtic Frosting”, comprised of friend Alex Martin on vocals, Garrett Underwood (formerly of Ilsa) on guitars; Logan Terkelsen (from Curse) on drums and Nolan (from D.O.C) on bass. I hope they keep doing this, if only from time to time, because this was the best “cover/tribute” band I have seen in a while.  The homage was perfect. So many “ughs” and bullet belts. Brilliant name.

Celtic Frosting

Celtic Frosting

Next was Multicult, a band I had never heard of. Hasan described them as noise similar to Unsane. Another friend thought they sounded more post-punk. They were fun, energetic, and very tight. Would love to see them out again.

For some reason after Multicult, I never took out my “good” camera and so the only photos I have are from my iPhone. However, there was a legit photographer there (the lovely and talented Brendan Foster Fieldhouse) so when he later posts pics, I might update this post with links to some of his shots.



The band called Nothing took the stage next. I have seen this band once before, upstairs at The Ottobar. What they play is described as shoegaze. It’s a bit more aggressive than that, in my opinion. If you are a fan of  this genre then you should check them out, because they are good at what they do. They didn’t do it for me live, but I will give them a listen on BandCamp and see how that goes. Shoegaze is just not my favorite genre.

Satan’s Satyrs is a band I have been wanting to see for a while. Doom punk might describe them, with maybe a little surf rock thrown in. They definitely had the doom metal guitar tone. They sounded good and were fun to watch.

Satan's Satyrs

Satan’s Satyrs

I’ve seen Ilsa a bunch of times, but never with their new guitarist Dom Romeo (A389 Records‘ fearless leader and formerly of hardcore outfit Pulling Teeth). Their doom-infused crusty hardcore was on-point, and Orion sounded angrier than ever.   A massive mosh pit erupted as soon as they struck their first chord and persisted throughout their set, almost nonstop. I don’t know why I always forget that this happens when Ilsa plays. By their climax, the crowd had been whipped into such a frenzy that the moshing entity had pretty much consumed all but the fringes of The Sidebar. At least one guy was ejected for improper technique (i.e., karate kicks).  No photos this time. Too dangerous. I wondered if the audience was going to have any energy left for the closing act.

Horrendous ripped through their set with aplomb. I have listened to this group since Hasan told me about them about a year ago, but never seen them live. They did not disappoint, despite the late hour and the thinning crowd. Horrendous plays on the melodic side of traditional death metal, if maybe a bit thrashy. It was nice to see Hasan get up and sing a few tunes with them (as he also did with Celtic Frosting).

Turning 25 can make you feel like you are an “adult,” and you have to put away “childish” things. But a birthday show like this should remind everyone that with each passing year, you ought to focus more and more on the things that matter to you. What matters to Hasan is sharing a variety of great music with his friends and also giving to worthy causes. Proceeds from this show ($400 was raised) went to support some of our most vulnerable human and animal populations: RAINN and the Maryland SPCA.

Here’s to another 25 years Hasan! (All photos by me, Mary Spiro)

Hasan joins "Celtic Frosting" on stage for his birhtday!

Hasan joins “Celtic Frosting” on stage for his birthday!

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