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The Oracle thumb their noses at your elitist metal attitudes

The Oracle from Maryland brings the collective musical influence and experience of four well-established performers to create something unique that they hope will challenge the elitist attitudes of all the metal subgenres they meld together. It’s a little bit sludge, a little bit doom, a little bit black metal and maybe even a little bit crust.

The Metallomusikum podcast team (Derek Beam, Jason Waldmann, and I) met with The Oracle this week at Midtown BBQ and Brew for a chat about their first few shows together as a band.  The Oracle is James Haun (guitar/vocals), Russ Strahan (guitar), Ron McGinnis (bass/vocals)  and Ben Proudman (drums).  James (ex- Sourvein, ex- Ol’ Scratch), Russ (ex-Pentagram), Ron (Pale Divine, Admiral Browning, Trilogy) and Ben (Rhin) collectively bring decades of experience to this new project.  This is evident in the music they produce which fairly defies neat classification.

In performance, The Oracle produce a ferocious wall of sound. James presents a formidable lead vocalist both in height and aggression. Russ lends a quiet class –he even started the set wearing a top hat — demonstrating his well-earned reputation as one of metal’s most skilled and soulful guitarists. Ben lays down a solid foundation that sets the pace for every song, shifting from doom-y drone to black metal blast beat at any moment.  Ron, plucking his signature six string bass, also offers strong supporting vocals to counter James and rounds out the profoundly heavy rhythm section.

For me at least, despite the fact that the music drinks deeply from black metal’s chalice of blood, the tunes remain mostly in the sludge/doom camp.  You can get an idea what the band sounds like on their demo  “Veiled Oblivion” but that recording features the vocals and bass-work Helena Goldberg (Akris), who left The Oracle after nearly two years of songwriting, to raise a family.  The latest incarnation should be experienced live.

Listen to the podcast here.

Check out a gallery of photos from the March 8 show at the Sidebar. PS. Happy Birthday Sidebar owner, Travis Hunt.


Photo highlights of Days of the Doomed III – day 1

Here are just a few of my favorite photos that I took during the first day of Days of the Doomed Fest III in Cudahy, Wisc. at The Blue Pig Tavern. No review now; actually I don’t feel qualified to do that. But I did enjoy every band I saw on Friday, which was a surprise for this black metal wretch.

Countdown to MDF X: (6) Yob

Yob. The name evokes memories of that disturbing Warner Brothers cartoon “Rocket-bye Baby” in which a Martin baby is mistakenly delivered to Earth parents.  Few people under the age of 40 will remember this cartoon.

As a band, Eugene, Oregon’s Yob can be just as unsettling. Grinding, doom-y guitar riffs, plodding and pulsing rhythms and other-worldly vocals make Yob’s sound memorizing. And as most of their songs are around 10 minutes long or much longer, they give you plenty of time to fall victim to their hypnotic charm. It is the perfect stoner metal.  Given the right circumstances (ahem, if you know what I mean), you could still be hearing the sound of Yob for many minutes after a song actually has ended and not even realize it.

Yob is Mike Scheidt ( Guitar, Vocals), Aaron Reiseberg (Bass) and Travis Foster (Drums). They play the 2012 Maryland Deathfest on Sunday evening, May 27. Even without a bong in hand, you will probably enjoy them.

Countdown to MDF X: (14) Rwake

Rwake sounds like the sweet phrase you might  mumble to your lover early in the morning, meaning something like, “Are you awake?” Rwake the sludge band from Arkansas, makes the R silent, and simply says it “wake.”  But this group is anything but silent, sounding more like a massive behemoth trudging through the swampy backwoods of a forgotten landscape destroying everything in its path. And that’s a good thing.

Conceived in 1996, this six piece orchestra of doom includes Jeff Morgan on drums, B. running the moog/vocals/samples,  Kiffin Rogers on guitar, C.T. on vocals, Gravy on guitar, and John-Judkins on bass. There are elements of  Rwake that remind me of Amebix, of Mastodon,  of the Allman Brothers Band, and of nothing I have ever heard before. There is something twangy and definitely Southern about their groove, though I can’t quite put my finger on it.  Maybe it is just the pace. They don’t seem like they are in a rush to get a song over with, but more likely to enjoy playing around the riff for a while.

This group writes progressive, complex and meditative music. Newer 11-minute missives like “It was Beautiful but Now it is Sour,” rise to desperate crescendos and then descend into depths of despair. Earlier recordings like “The Cat and the Snake” tread more within the confines of traditional doom with buzzing distortion and a heavy plodding beat. Lyrically, they remain philosophical and apocalyptic.

Rwake perfoms at the 2012 Maryland Deathfest on Sunday afternoon, May 27.

INTERVIEW: Getting irresponsible with Cough

Among the slowest, sludgiest and doomiest bands to play the 2012 Maryland Deathfest is Richmond, Virginia’s Cough. They take the stage Sunday afternoon, May 27. And I would say they have the right attitude about the whole point of the festival.

“Looking forward to the party! We’re gonna be around for the whole fest so let’s get irresponsible,” said bassist Parker Chandler.

The music of Cough expresses anguish, despair, and utter misanthropic ennui to the nth degree. Just when you think drummer Joe Arcaro has slowed the pace down as slow as it can go and still be a rhythm, he loses another beat. Parker might average three notes a minute on his bass and guitarists David Cisco and Brandon Marcey can sustain a tone for as long as they like, so don’t hold your breath. Vocals are plaintive and desperate.
Don’t let me give you the wrong impression, however. This is powerful, cathartic, and expressive music. They take their time developing the groove and then work around the riff until you can’t take anymore. It’s not speed metal but its not boring either.

Chill out and check out some of these tunes. They have a 40 minute set at MDF. Cough’s average song is 10 minutes long, so they will probably only play three or four songs. But what will be on their set list?

“Without giving too much away, we plan on playing a song we’ve never played live. Other than that, it’s all up in the air,” Parker said in an email.

Cough has shows scheduled before and after MDF. “We’re playing at The Bell House in Brooklyn with Yob on May 23rd. After MDF we start a tour with Dragged Into Sunlight that will take us down to Austin for Chaos in Tejas,” he said.

And don’t forget to stop by their mech table while you are shopping for your 1000th black band t-shirt.

“We’ve got some beer coozies. We’ll also have some vinyl copies of our first record and our split with The Wounded Kings,” Parker said.

Countdown to MDF X: (25) Winter

I love Winter, and I don’t mean the season (although I love that, too.) No, I mean New York’s, slow-as-molasses doom metal band founded in the late 80s. Named for an Amebix song, you can hear some of that band’s influence on Winter, but it is not overwhelming.

While a band like Backslider might be one of the fastest you’ve ever heard, Winter may be among the slowest. Even their faster songs, such as The Hour of Doom, are restrained by the low, echoing vocals of bassist John Alman.  Drummer Joe Goncalves makes every beat deliberate and contemplative and guitarist Stephen Flam marinates every riff in sludge-y goodness. Just when another band might pick up the pace, Winter slows it down even further.

Winter disbanded for many years, reuniting only a couple of years ago to perform for festivals such as Roadburn. Apparently, like another famous (though fictional) New Yorker, Rip Van Winkle, they have awoken from long a Winter’s nap to find the music scene ready to receive them. Let Winter lull you into a pleasant, yet slightly disturbing, dream-like state on Sunday afternoon, May 27, at the 2012 Maryland Deathfest.

Countdown to MDF X: (30) Noothgrush

The best thing about a band called Noothgrush is that you are not going to get a lot of irrelevant links in your search engine results for them. Well, except for that one weird thing that sits atop a toothbrush in the Dr. Seuss book, There’s a Wocket in My Pocket.

This band plays crushingly heavy, misanthropic sludge that rolls over you like a Panzer VIII tank. If they actually follow The Devil’s Blood on Saturday afternoon, May 26, of the 2012 Maryland Deathfest, as the running order indicates, then I will view them as a welcomed relief.

Noothgrush’s music is incredibly powerful, cathartic, melodic, trudging and emotive. And frankly sometimes that just feels really good. Why sweat to all the rush, rush of thrash metal? Why scowl and grimace to all the “serious business” and blast beats of  black metal? Take a break. Catch your breath. Clutch some “invisible oranges” and enjoy a little Noothgrush with me. They released an album, Noothgrush, in the fall of 201l, and I love the album cover (shown right), which is apparently their take on the Seussian toothbrush menace.

Formed in 1994 in Oakland, California, the group’s current line-up includes Gary Niederhoff – bass/vocals, Russ Kent – guitars, and Chiyo Nukaga – drums. The group split up back in 2001 but have since reunited and are playing gigs here and there.  Right before MDF X, Noothgrush will be on tour with Alderbaran in Europe. Check out their Facebook page.

The following song includes my favorite Richard Nixon quote ever.

Countdown to MDF X: (36) Dragged Into Sunlight

Sometimes you hear music that makes your jaw drop. I did that the first time I heard Dragged Into Sunlight (DIS). The second time I listened to them, I knew I would never be the same. Dragged Into Sunlight will perform mid-day at the 2012 Maryland Deathfest on Saturday, May 26. I hope they are playing inside.

I don’t really want to categorize the music of DIS, but I will say this. They are, in a way, crusty, doom-y, sludge-y, blackish, death-like and certainly metal. Hailing from the UK and founded in 2006, the members of this four-person act choose to remain anonymous.
If the YouTube videos are any indication, their live performance will seem creepy and mysterious. The band begins their set in utter blackness while programmed introductory sounds or audio clips build to a deafening crescendo. As they strike their first chords, the candlelit figures are blasted continuously by strobe. Your camera is not going to work.
The band, except for the drummer, never faces the audience. You feel voyeuristic, like you have stumbled onto the rehearsal for some strange ritual. The relentless wall of sound simultaneously compels and repulses.
Pretentious? Yeah, maybe a little, but at least they don’t wear corpse paint, hooded robes, kilts, or rubber alien costumes. If this band’s only “gimmick” is that they choose to play inwardly, toward themselves, and not the audience, then I am down with that. Music written for the musician’s ear is typically 100 times better than music written to please a particular audience’s expectations.
DIS’s most recent recording, Widwomaker, is a 45-minute continuous epic slated for release later this year on Prosthetic Records. Download two crushing songs from their previous recording, Hatred for Mankind, “Boiled Angel” and “Buried with Leeches” here. Prepare yourself. This is some of the weirdest, most powerful and otherworldly shit you will ever hear. Read a more comprehensive interview here.

Countdown to MDF X: EYEHATEGOD

I meant to write about Eyehategod about a week ago, but somehow I got sidetracked, and I know exactly how this happend. When I started to research for the write up on New Orleans sludge rock legends Eyehategod and their appearance Thursday, May 24 at the 2012 Maryland Deathfest, I totally became fascinated with the personality of their frontman Mike “IX” Williams. It’s not hard to do. So, Mike Nine, I apologize profusely. I spent so much time reading about you and your band that I actually thought I wrote the band’s profile, too.

My blogging oversight though, would be the least of Eyehategod’s worries. This band, and Williams, have persevered through drug addiction, Hurricane Katrina, temporary breakups, and now, most recently, a shunning by Scion A/V metal for who-knows-what. Drama, drama, drama. None of that really matters though because Eyehategod engenders the kind of ravenous and hardcore fan devotion that most bands can only drink themselves into believing they have.

And why is that? Well, just listen to them. Taking the best from bands like Black Sabbath, The Melvins and even some punk bands like Black Flag, Eyehategod grinds out distorted riffs and slamming rhythms that hypnotise the audience into a slow stoner sway. Unlike some stoner doom or sludge bands who use clean or traditional vocals, Eyehategod opts for the grindcore like screams and rants of lead vocalist Williams. And they don’t always keep the tempo at a snails pace, but will bust out a punk-inspired bridge in the middle of the slowest drone. Lyrically intelligent, Eyehategod explores violence, social unrest and personal emotional turmoil.

At one time a prolific “tweaker,” Williams now is a prolific tweeter. So if you are into Twitter, you can follow his commentary on society and all things related to Eyehategod and his side projects here. He has written a book called Cancer As a Social Activity. It’s powerful stuff that should be heard, so I have included a link to him reading from it below.

This stoner metal band was reportedly founded on the auspicious date of April 20, in 1988. Along with Williams, the current line up includes Jimmy Bower (guitars), Brian Patton (guitars), Gary Mader (bass) and Joey LaCaze (drums).  According to the running order on the MDF X website, they play after Absu and before Agalloch.

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