The air outside was arid and the overall climate broiling, making the gentrified neighborhood of Pittsburgh’s Lawrenceville seem as if it were a battlefield in a hellscape of a forgotten world and therefore appropriate for the conclusion of a music festival that Robert E. Howard himself may have dreamt up had he lived in our era.
White Alice broke the champagne bottle with a set of Sunn O)))-like sounds in the vein of yesterday’s opener Old Dream. The singular project served as a tranquil sundown for the long, harsh night that lay ahead.
Local death/thrash Morlocks Riparian added a bit of speed, tearing sonic diversity to the heavy happenings. Blastbeats, acid-throated vocals, impossible musicianship, and a saber-toothed ferociousness left scars on our brains, burning a pathway for the mammoths to follow. With a demon-possessed maniac at the mic, Riparian deserve to tour with Cattle Decapitation, Carnifex, Rings of Saturn, and their ilk, the band’s sense of groove and heft helping them to stand out in a loaded subgenre. They are too inhuman.
Pale Grey Lore melted down Kyuss, Mothership, ZZ Top, Mastodon, and Thin Lizzy and turned them into a belt buckle as ghostly vocals warned of and lamented danger even as they dive straight into it. Rollicking riffage sped down the road towards disaster with no transmission and an engine aflame as a theremin mimicked police sirens.
Killer of Sheep’s hardcore woke up sleepyheads hung over from last night. Not being an ardent student of punk, I can only guess that Cro-Mags and Terror are an influence on these revered hometown agitators, but I’m sure they’d tell you that it’s really life and the status quo, even as I heard a bit of Jane’s Addiction in that deft racket. Their frenetic frontman was a human blur. I wanted to dance-hard-or-die as he did! I felt the spirit!
Hour of 13 and Corrosion of Conformity alumni conspired to bring us Lightning Born, a colossus of snaky Iommi/Montrose/Sykes riffs and solos helmet by a throat blessed by Saints Aretha Franklin and Ann Wilson
Spacelord is a misnomer for those expecting Monster Magnet-level cosmic psychedelia. Rather, these Buffalo killbillies brought a Blackfoot-meets-Black Oak Arkansas type of contraband to the party, and everyone got high on it, vocals piercing like Dave King during his Fastway period, mule-kick riffs hitting us in the proverbial gut.
Boston’s Leather Lung are yet another bunch of Yankees who do up Southern stoner metal better than many Southern stoner metal bands. Their injured (dislocated shoulder?) Jizzy Pearl-and Kory Clarke-proud singer possessed as much presence and swagger as David Lee Roth and Jesse James Dupree with a backing band that soaked Electric Wizard and Red Fang in whiskey and cooked ’em down low and slow, stompin’ heads all damn night.
Frayle hypnotized the audience with their occult doom and a thorn-crowned vocalist who is the second coming of Coven’s Jinx Dawson. A funeral procession towards a misty final resting place, Frayle would be very much compatible with Migration Festival, their heaviness flanking a spectral, gothic, bejeweled, death-angelic front-woman who cries out like a banshee for deserved underground stardom. As enchanting as they are dire, Frayle are anything but frail as evidenced by their stand, during which beauty and tragedy collapsed into one ideal performance.
Brimstone Coven’s Andy D’Cagna once again did double duty, playing last night with Icarus Witch, and like Frayle, took an occult turn except with a bit more rock & roll to it as they are wont to do. Stripped down to a power trio, Brimstone Coven missed not a beat, boogieing with Baphomet on an expressway toward Hell’s most entertaining level, Corey Roth and Andy D’Cagna bantering and bickering jovially the entire time. And damn, do them riffs ever smoke like hickory as they so often do. I’ve seen them half a dozen times and still have yet to tire of them. A smoldering rendition of “Children of the Sun” raced the band to a photo finish.
Backwoods Payback slammed with a sludgy set of nasty, bucolic Sabbath strains, Peppering the place with bricks of COC as if we all owed ’em money. Slamming as hard as Agony Column at times, Backwoods Payback earned the right to their accursed name, throbbing like Clutch and robbing like Down on a methamphetamine high.
New Jersey stone-throwers Solace evolved from an earlier band, Godspeed, who covered a certain Black Sabbath tune for a certain high profile tribute album back in the 90’s with a certain Iron Maiden frontman. But the song remains the same as they say, their grungey, Kyuss-ish, knuckledustin’, Spiritual Beggin’, Mahogany Rushin’, mallethead groovefest makin’ those who stuck it out near the festival’s conclusion move, their frontman unique in his booming, boozing, resonating, desperately wailing voice and unhinged punk attitude, wielding his mic stand like a billyclub. If only The Sword had half of Solace’s “it” factor. And sweet Belial, did they ever jam in between verses and choruses, endlessly and breathlessly, I might add, the band’s insanely delicious, judicious guitarwork scrambling grey matter and eardrums. One thing was a definite takeaway for me: Solace should be playing to bigger crowds. They have played DOC before, but if they appeared annually, I’d have no qualms about them breaking the fest’s “no-back-to-back” rule.
Brown Angel’s indescribably ugly drone ended the affair in nightmarish fashion, Night Vapor (among other bands) drummer John Roman doubling out as Andy D’Cagna did with Icarus Witch and Brimstone Coven. The doom spirit was there as well, though, lurching into dreamspace with tentacles of ill-will and disgust as frequencies of fear filled lungs with vile noise.
Clea Cutthroat of local erotic terrorists Hot Pink Satan emceed the second day as expertly as the first and made it feel like a true event with her engaging, subversive, sex-positive, and playful persona. All metal festivals need someone like her as a presenter and mouthpiece for the bands as well as a conduit for the concertgoers. It keeps the festival moving and increases the anticipation for each act.
Descendants of Crom is a thesis on the family tree of heavy music. Shy Kennedy is to be commended for such an undertaking. Whether you love doom or stoner metal or any other subgenre of metal, you owe it to yourself to attend the next DOC when and if it happens. The Pittsburgh scene can only be better for it.
Images of Descendants of Crom by Amanda Baker