August 22, 2017

Shadow Woods Metal Fest 2017. A preview, from A to Z

By Kaptain Carbon. This will be my third Shadow Woods attendance and perhaps my third preview article for the event. I have always loved this event not just for its diversity but also the support for local and regional talent.
By Kaptain Carbon.

Artwork by Brian Sheehan.

This will be my third Shadow Woods attendance and perhaps my third preview article for the event. I have always loved this event not just for its diversity but also the support for local and regional talent. Going to a festival where the headliners are still slightly obscure, with a supporting bill of bands that may or may not have a Facebook page, is a fantastic way of discovering new music. For a few, the concept of spending the price of a ticket for three days of unknown music seems absurd. For others, it is uncharted entertainment for a weekend that is both relaxing, exciting, mystic, and wild. I look forward to seeing various acquaintances descend on a small children's camp for a weekend of music, art, and maybe irreverent shrieking after hours.

Below is a preview of nearly every band playing. As stated before, one of my favorite things about Shadow Woods is discovering local and regional talent and thus I wanted to listen to everything. Since there are over 35 bands playing throughout the weekend, a short and hopefully funny description follows to guide anyone willing to read over 35 descriptions. If any of the bands or fans have a problem with their description I'll buy you a coffee or beer or run a D&D session at my campsite. We can settle our differences in a world of fantasy under the glow of a campfire ... and by campfire I mean a headlamp strapped to a jug of water.


Aerial Ruin - Portland, OR.

From a very long history of heavy electronic music, Ariel Ruin is an acoustic act that has very little to do with heavy metal other than the haunting and melancholic lyrics that hang in the air like ghosts. I saw this artist open for Agalloch years back and actually did an interview with him for his 2011 debut Valleys of the Earth. It is odd and exciting to finally see him, perhaps illuminated by torch light, in the middle of the woods.

All Hell - Asheville, NC.

Oh shit, what is this? Horror punk/metal that marches to the beat of Motorhead in a room full of writhing corpses? All Hell is from the cool part of North Carolina as the rest of the state might not appreciate drinking moonshine while the dead approach to music. Maybe they would. Who am I to judge? Perfect way to experience this music is by moonlight during a blood ritual, which is what you will be doing anyway.

Review of All Hell - Grave Alchemist.


Bearstorm - Richmond, VA.

Bearstorm has a lot of things going on, and that is not even approaching discussions of their name. Somewhere between progressive metal, death, thrash, cheeky humor and artsy design lies a band that is figuring itself out much in the same way a human struck with lycanthropy does before a full moon.

Review of Bearstorm - Biophobia.

Black Table - NY/NJ.

This will be Black Table’s second appearance at Shadow Woods as its inaugural event was pretty much kicked off with a preface by this New York black metal band. I say black metal since it is easier than trying to hammer down the right mixture of post metal, sludge, doom, post black, and shadows of hardcore that embody this deeply complex and disturbed band.

Review of Black Table - Obelisk.


Castle - San Francisco, CA.

Castle offers something very special for people who are not only into doom but probably have a collection of incense and maybe tapestries with some printed occult symbols. Mysterious and hazy, Castle is the work of three musicians who attempt to conjure 1979 by means of alchemy and necromancy.

Review of Castle - Welcome to the Graveyard.

Churchburn - Pawtucket, RI.

I really hope Churchburn is during the day, since I want to see the nice September sun blot out in misery. Caught between doom, black, and death, Churchburn is teeming with negative energy that has the ability to eclipse any gathering with a body of fucking pent up emotions. I'm expecting it to bum everyone out except for maybe me in the back.

Cut the Architect's Hand - Richmond, VA.

To be honest, the progressive post metal tag threw me for a loop but after being soothed by some grimy production that smells like broken beer bottles, Cut The Architect's Hand sounds less like a deeply introspective studio project and more like a bonfire on a tenement roof.


Dark Water Transit - Baltimore, MD.

It's funny that a festival bringing some of the weirdest acts would have an outlier of angled instrumental rock. From the altar of bands like Polvo and Slint comes a project that is less heavy than it is twisting through catacombs of thoughts and reflections. I only hope this is early in the morning and is used as a bleary eyed wake up for everyone.

Dead in the Manger - coast to coast.

Dead in the Manager takes a lot of pride in their anonymity and the fact they are on 20 Buck Spin, which gives me the impression they have at least someone of importance in their band. Maybe this is not the case and they are just a group of well tuned black/grind musicians with a pretty gnarly name. While their name could imply cheesy brutal death, the reality of this band is much more crushing.


Earthling - Richmond, VA.

For some reason, I thought Earthling was stoner doom obsessed with planets and aliens. What Earthling is really about is more complex as their combination of groovy death / thrash with a crusty exterior is less easy to define. I am sure there will be space here but I expect even more in the 2000 AD style of lasers that cut through flesh and bone.

Elagabalus - Baltimore, MD.

Wow...what the fuck is this? If you were looking for a reason to get weird and your only course for reaching that is a bass / drum combo with heavy synth then Elagabalus is for you. With equal parts sci fi horror and weird fiction, this group is sure to be the strangest thing going on at the time.

Erlkonig - Baltimore, MD.

Had I not known about this project through word of mouth, I would be confused. The near no-fi production of Erkonig's demo is bizarre and their Bandcamp is even more confusing, but with connections among the Baltimore metal scene and the existence of unfiltered aggression, this group of psychedelic warriors is sure to light up the canopies of the woods.


Foehammer - Annandale, VA.

Foehammer has been a household name for anyone familiar with Baltimore’s Grimoire records. Though Grimoire is varied with their catalog, the sound of sludge doom, which sounds like rotting flesh and old pot smoke, seems to be at home at the label. This sort of bizarre mixture is just what one comes to expect and gladly accept.

Review of Foehammer - Foehammer.


Green Elder - Johnson City, TN.

Neofolk / DIY Appalachian ambient is not a far travel from heavy metal. Even if this wasn't a woodsy outdoors festival, Green Elder wouldn't be out of place at a metal festival. The fact that they will most likely be playing an acoustic set in the woods makes the prospect of this raw folk ever more exciting. Caught between relaxation and nostalgic mysticism, Green Elder is certainly going to be interesting.


Heavy Temple - Philadelphia, PA.

Heavy Temple has been a name floating around the tri state area, and with their 2016 EP on Tridroid Records, it seems like these dead eyed blues rockers are gearing up for a full length release. If anything suits a doom filled breakfast over a campfire, it is the sound of Heavy Temple.

Hexis - Copenhagen, Denmark.

Hexis is one of the international guests at Shadow Woods and much in the same fashion as previous installments, the choice for high profile guests are still unexpected surprises. Hexis made an underground splash in 2014 with their album Abalam and since then, they have taken their twisted and tortured style of black/post metal in even more distant directions. I, for one, am preparing to be amazed and perhaps made to feel strange feelings.

Review of Hexis - Abalam.

Human Bodies - Boston, MA.

Oh fuck yes. If there is anything you can count on it is me being excited by the still frontier realm of black / punk. From speed black to crust to hardcore with shrieking vocals, the grimy underbelly of the two genres collide in interesting ways. Human Bodies is an great example, as no matter what time of day they play, it is always going to be a party like a mortuary fire.


Infera Bruo - Boston, MA.

Infera Bruo is slightly confusing since their name and album cover don't really convey the complex relationship this band has with heavy music. Black, progressive, hardcore, post black, jangly electronic, and probably a handful of other genres all mix to create something undefinable but undeniably interesting.

Review of Infera Bruo - Desolate Unknown.

Atmosphere from last years Shadow Woods. Photos by Kaptain Carbon.


Kyoty - Dover, NH.

I think more than anything I want to be Kyoty’s graphic designer, as this band has fully embraced the beauty of minimal art. In place of rotting skeletons or necrotic beats, cool abstract covers grace albums that are full of sleek sludge doom. This is not doom that fishbowls a crypt rather is the introspective longing one has on a misty cliff in the middle of nowhere.


Mome - Portland, ME.

Alright, it is time to get weird. It is not like Shadow Woods hasn't been home to some off kilter bands in years past but Mome may be up there as the weirdest. Now, before you guess ritual ambient or noise since all of that is old news for people, the sound of krautrock inspired bedroom doom synth will truly get you in that special headspace for the weekend.


Nechochwen - Wheeling, WV.

My only disappointment is that I am not going to see a full electric set from Nechochwen, which is sad since their 2015 record Heart of Akamon was the toast of the underground ball. Nechochwen caught everyone by surprise with their mix of classical guitar, native american themes, and chilling black metal. My only solace in the proposed unplugged set will perhaps be a once in a lifetime event given the venue and atmosphere.

Night Raids - Philadelphia, PA.

Oh yeah, this feels like a gut punch. How much noise and disaster can two people from Philadelphia really create? The answer lies at Shadow Woods during Night Raid’s set, which I am sure is either going to end in headaches, fire, or both.


Obsidian Tongue - Medford, MA.

Obsidian Tongue is somewhat related to US atmospheric black metal band Falls of Rauros as well as the Canadian folk / black project Thrawsunblat. Though Obsidian Tongue is not entirely like a mixture between the two, it is in the same ballpark and will be sure to catch the interest of people who enjoy the idea of animal skeletons in the woods.


Panopticon - KY/MN.

Panopticon is perhaps the headliner for Shadow Woods. Along with Vastum, Panopticon is the name that draws the most amount of acknowledgment from people, as this project is one they most likely have heard about. The chance to see this project live is a big deal as the competency with atmospheric black metal, American folk, and hateful transcendence is surely something that will be the highlight of the weekend.

Review of Panopticon - Autumn Eternal.

Percussor - PA/DE.

Percussor worships at the altar of death metal. Obvious connections can be made to bands like Morbid Angel, Deicide, and Bolt Thrower as this band swings for the fences in terms of grindy death metal. I have always loved the death metal sets to offset the black and doom ones and I am picturing this set being a perfect afternoon performance.


Seasick Gladiator - Washington, DC.

Seasick Gladiator has a strange name to match their odd music. If hammering down the sound, it would be instrumental progressive metal with a prominent violin. Add to this the celebratory art pieces for each of their songs and one has a bizarre and immersive hallucination.

Sloth Herder - PA/VA/MD.

Sloth Herder has been a mainstay around the local area and having them at Shadow Woods is going to be exciting. Though their name sounds like slow stoner doom, Sloth Herder’s delicate mixture of black metal, grindcore, and noodling chaos makes it the perfect mess to get really into during the weekend. Expect nothing less than a liquor store robbery by masked men while wielding torches.


Take to the Woods - Baltimore, MD.

Take to the Woods is an acoustic neofolk project from Baltimore. This is most certainly going to slot into the more quiet projects of Shadow Woods. With both an occult and dark undertone, combined with some great bedroom recordings from the artist, this will be an act that will speak to a select group looking to commune with the spirit of old.

The Owls Are Not What They Seem - York, PA.

The Owls Are Not What They Seem has been a Shadow Woods institution since its beginning. It is most certainly going to be late at night as the sound of ritual ambient and dark tribal is perfect for those times between the cusp of sleep and the middle of consumption. Be prepared for some of the strangest soundscapes similar to the machinations of the mad.

Toke - Cape Fear, NC.

I'm going to give you one guess as what type of music Toke plays. If the dayglow pot leaf on the cover of their record was not enough indication then the sound of blistering stoner doom should be a big tip off. What was surprising about this North Carolina band was how spite fueled their music really was. Similar to the disdain exhibited by bands like Eyehategod, Toke is here to smoke your weed and call you names.

Review of Toke - (Orange).


Vastum - San Francisco, CA.

Out of every band, I believe I am most excited about this one. This is not because I adore cavernous death metal that seems like it was raised by wolves, rather that Vastum's music has a certain viciousness that is not held by convention or trends and is something that seems innocent until it leaves deep gashes.

Review of Vastum - Hole Below.

Voarm - Richmond, VA.

I am happy to see more Richmond based bands as I want to expand my circle of metal from Baltimore to Richmond. Voarm plays a delightfully rotten variety of melodic black metal, which combined with its doom undertones is certain to amplify those negative emotions that have been clouding your thoughts.


Withered - Atlanta, GA.

I feel strange writing that I haven't checked out Withered, as this Atlanta based black/death band seems right up my alley. Instead of laying out the black/death aggression on one level, this band seems to channel that sound into deep production, which is well produced without any loss of brutality. Both chaotic and disturbed, this band is as surprising as they are effective.

Woe - Brooklyn, NY.

Woe continues to carve out NYC black metal, as their distinct brand of aggressive and grinding black metal feels like the cold touch of concrete and dirt. The band also has a brand new record for 2017, which will probably be on sale for the weekend by light of a campfire.

Review of Woe - Hope Attrition.

Worthless - NY/NJ.

Worthless is from New Jersey and maybe also New York and somewhere in that grey area lies some impressively depressive black metal that has all of the right tones of stinging rain.


Zud - Portland, ME.

Zud, by now, can be considered an alumni to Shadow Woods as they are returning for their second, or maybe third, appearance. Zud has historically played last which is strange given their biker bar style black n roll would be perfect for anytime of the day.

Kaptain Carbon moderates Reddit's r/metal as well as writes reviews for lesser known black, death, and doom metal for Tape Wyrm as well as Dungeon Synth, Tabletop, and Movie Reviews for Hollywood Metal.

[Besides the 36 bands listed here Fiakra (heavy metal from Freehold, NJ) and Dee Calhoun (acoustic set from Iron Man vocalist) are also performing.]
  1. Night Raids- Thank You!

    1. You're welcome. Sorry your original comment was deleted, I had to republish this post.