The endurance trial of seismic shifts, dinosaur stampedes, and lightning storms continued in what is still an unassuming venue in Lawrenceville’s Cattivo. Who would be left standing come 1 a.m. was a question that was on the minds of performers, attendees, and observers such as myself.
Day 2 saw a more eclectic lineup than Day 1.
Pittsburgh’s Urns fired the opening shots of day 2 with a slow, atmospheric set of death-infused black doom. Intelligent, melodic guitar solos, and eerie vocals both clean and harsh complimented the monolithic riffing, making them an ideal first course.
Also native Pittsburghers, Jakethehawk took the Riff Relevant stage next with their loose cannon bluesy stomp. At times jangly and emotive and others rip-snorting and surly, Jakethehawk boogied on down the interstate like Black Sabbath Oak Arkansas with George Thorogood and Billy Gibbons backseat drivin’, Graveyard blastin’ on the stereo.
Thunderbird Divine, a Philadelphia act made up of Wizard Eye and Skeleton Hands alumni, started off as typical Southern-spiced groove doom but quickly stood out from the masses with innovative sound effects courtesy of band leader Erik Caplan, who often channeled Robin Trower and Frank Marino throughout the set when guitaring instead of experimenting with the theremin, those electronics not unwelcome, mind you.
River Cult were yet another stormy power trio with psychedelic wisps and softer moments permeating their quaking, reverb-loving jam.
Local metal journeyman Justin Gizzi multitasked, playing bass for Urns earlier, and after the gloriously indulgent River Cult, did axe duties for the pleasurable doom of Molasses Barge. Argus and ex-Penance larynx Brian Balich expertly sang over the undulating riffage and Sticks Downey’s Bill Ward bash, his enthusiastic command of the stage being an inspiring sight and sound that is always a joy to take in.
Worshipper followed, acid-rocking into dusk, chords groaning and drums crashing and drifting towards infinity. And just when you thought things were getting a tad too leaden and uniform, Worshipper spiked the punch with some catchy Witchfynde sorcery, Electric Wizard fumes, and dirty little AC/DC tricks as well as Dave Murray soloing before hitting another granite-crushing Memento Mori-ish, Troubling tride.
Indiana’s Wolftooth, the group I anticipated more than any other on the card, lived up to their hype. Their blistering, double guitarwork was a battle, delving into freight train thrash before returning to incinerating, blast furnace doom. Killer instincts prevailing and blessed with uncanny musicianship, Wolftooth smashed all comers.
The devout, earnest throwback power/speed metal of Ironflame, may have made the band seem as if they were out of their element, like ninjas dropped into a gladiatorial spectacle, but it was welcome rather than ill-fitting, Ironflame holding their own and winning converts. The purist pipes of Andrew D’Cagna and shining axe of Quinn Lukas (both also currently of exemplary traditionalists Icarus Witch) fired off shafts of heroic light through the gloom and muck. Jesse Scott filled out the guitar duo making them seem as if they were Tipton and Downing or Faulkner and Sneap, starpower blazing for 10,000 miles.
Twosome Cavern had a trippy, post-metal, lyricless thing going, continuing the break from absolute doom. Programmed Mellotron soothed souls in between instrumental explosions. Being candid, they didn’t interest me greatly even if I respected their uniqueness and bravery.
Toke whipped the Fest back in line with a death/black-inflected doom wedge that was primal and malevolent in nature, playing with a ferocity that almost seemed borne of a need to remind the flock what Descendants of Crom was truly about. Shattering the place, Toke belied their hippy, ganja-addled name with somnambulant violence — a nightmare if thou wilt.
Forming The Void jolted us awake, their more disciplined, timeless doom. Blustery yet pristine, Forming The Void were not unlike Khemmis or Spirit Adrift. Sonorous, subterranean and reverently Scandinavian in vibe a la Candlemass, one would never think they hail from Louisiana, their drums and bass possessed with Thor’s thunder.
Redneck cavemen Geezer clubbed and stomped and growled their way near the top. Groups such as Lamont and Down came to mind as they tread on snakes and snapped off rounds of Southern metal buckshot even though they hail from New York State. Corrosion of Conformity were also an obvious comparison, that riffy infectiousness and fabulous gunslingin’ guitar soloing serving as a telltale sign.
Virginians Freedom Hawk showed that they are stuck in the seventies and proud of it. The weirdness of Budgie have been crossbred with the acrobatic hipshake of Pat Travers and the LSD bombast of Iron Butterfly. The quick chug of Montrose, the hammers of Pentagram, the epic gallop of Angel Witch, the tightness of Rainbow, and the mystery of early Scorpions were all there like an
open history book. If only they’d been around when Nixon was president and touched the ears of one Sandy Pearlman…
Mos Generator were next to last and were essentially Foghat with Alabama Thunderpussy’s grit. Raucous and lookin’ for a fight, the groove of Clutch and the nastiness of prime Nazareth was present as well, not to mention a few rounds of Sabbath to remind us of what they were packing, this band of outlaws not pretending one iota, each member wearing an era of hard rock on their chests like badges of courage.
Straight out of Austin, Duel, featuring former Scorpion Child personnel, closed out Descendants of Crom is exemplary and authoritative fashion like arena luminaries despite the dwindling flock. Immediately evoking and melding the spirit of Hendrix to that of Fu Manchu, Duel did nothing novel and didn’t intend to. They merely kept torches burning for a whole decade of heavy music with a religious bellyfire of love and respect and excellence that was meant more for the live experience than it ever was for a turntable and headphones.
Ears buzzing, lower backs and feet aching, the thirty of us that remained humbly staggered out of the venue and into the then quiet streets.
Shy Kennedy’s Descendants of Crom is a worthy event that deserves to grow into something larger. That bands and fans from across the nation traveled here proudly to be a part of it is encouraging. It should be a phenomenon someday, and it will hopefully gain the necessary traction and mystique for that to happen. If Maryland Doomfest can become what it is by serving a niche in the metal scene, so can Descendants of Crom. Besides, the Hyborean Age name is bit more spine-tingling.