Tuesday, 18 September 2018

ALBUM REVIEW: Sumac. "Love In Shadow"

By: Charlie Butler

Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 21/09/2018
Label: Thrill Jockey Records

With “Love In Shadow” Sumac take further giant steps into the heavy unknown with glorious results. No-one else comes close to achieving the balance of razor-sharp precision and intoxicating chaos on display here which edges the band closer to being the finest project in these incredible musicians’ illustrious careers.

“Love In Shadow” CD//DD//2LP track listing:

1). The Task
2). Attis’ Blade
3). Arcing Silver
4). Ecstasy of Unbecoming

The Review:   

The dust has barely settled from the sensory overload of Sumac’s intense improv blow-out with Keiji Haino earlier in 2018. Now the fearsome trio are back with their third proper full-length “Love In Shadow”. 

This is a dense and initially daunting record. Comprised of four mind-boggling complex tracks, ranging from the relatively brisk twelve minutes of “Arcing Silver” to the massive opening statement of “The Task” which slowly unfurls over twenty-two hypnotic minutes, “Love In Shadow” is not an easy ride but hugely rewarding. Every listen reveals new details of these mammoth compositions and it is easy to imagine more coming to light countless spins down the line.

The Task” immediately finds Sumac in full flow, negotiating a tumbling noise rock landscape, crushingly heavy with a coarse serrated edge. The track evolves reverse to expectations, beginning with a clanging cacophony then slowly getting quieter and quieter until it reaches its conclusion. This makes for an intriguing journey and finds the band breaking exciting new sonic ground. As the volume and complexity dwindles, the music becomes more captivating as it moves into a sparse one note dirge, led first by Aaron Turner’s crackling guitar then by Brian Cook’s seismic bass. This acts as a backdrop for Turner to take an extended, improvised clean solo that has a disorientating jazz feel reminiscent of the weirder moments of their collaboration with Haino. This is the first instance of Sumac allowing their growing power as an improvisational force come to the fore on “Love In Shadow” to great effect. Just when you think “The Task” has nothing left to give, it moves into a haunting end section comprised of just keyboards and Turner’s lone wounded bark. It is the most affecting moment on the record and brings to mind Harvey Milk at their bleakest.

Attis’ Blade” kicks off in classic Sumac fashion with Turner clanging out a driving one chord attack that sets the tone for a pummelling rhythm section accompaniment. The band’s focused onslaught is interrupted by a shift into a passage of electrifying free-form molten improvisation. Throughout all of their albums to date, the superhumanly tight musicianship of Sumac as they navigate labyrinthine riff constructions has been almost terrifying to behold. This is still evident throughout “Love In Shadow” but it is the uncanny almost telepathic connection between these three players as they destroy conventional forms that yields the records highlights. Nick Yacyshyn somehow manages to lay down rhythms that work as a solid foundation for Aaron Turner’s wild unhinged guitar outbursts while simultaneously shifting and lurching to their own unpredictable tempo. Brian Cook operates in the middle ground between these two mighty forces, relishing the freedom to lay down a thick layer of restless low-end carnage. The track shifts back into a menacing noise rock grind as it winds its way to its conclusion, all the more effective in contrast to the roiling din from which it was born.

Cook’s relentless one note riff jerks “Arcing Silver” into life, an uneasy, menacing groove that somehow manages to keep building up tension throughout the majority of its duration. When it finally breaks into furious blastbeats and feral roars at its climax, the effect is exhilarating. This demonstrates Sumac’s ability to judge when it is best to take a direct, bludgeoning path rather than opt for the more torturous route. Another example of this is in “Ecstasy of Unbecoming” when Turner’s searing solo fretboard meltdown is mowed down by the band ripping into their approximation of driving dumb punk rock. 

With “Love In Shadow” Sumac take further giant steps into the heavy unknown with glorious results. No-one else comes close to achieving the balance of razor-sharp precision and intoxicating chaos on display here which edges the band closer to being the finest project in these incredible musicians’ illustrious careers. 

“Love In Shadow” is available here

Band info: bandcamp || facebook

Monday, 17 September 2018

VIDEO PREMIERE: ALKYMIST unify crushing tones & dynamism on the colossal "Ghost"

Copenhagen, Denmark based ALKYMIST is a new name in doom and one that is certain to pique the interest of even the most hardened traditionalist of the genre.   Unifying the crushing tones of Meshuggah into a slow punishing force, ALKYMIST layer their riffs with texture to ensure their compositions are both crushingly heavy and dynamic. 

The band was formed in 2016 by guitarist Stefan Krey (Gas Giant) and bass player Kaspar Luke (Düreforsög) with the intention of creating the heaviest possible music within a progressive and atmospheric universe.  In 2017, the line-up was completed by singer Peter Bjørneg (Detest) and drummer Philip Kjær Morthorst (The Ritual) and, subsequently, the quartet recorded the debut EP ‘Element’, which was released in January 2018.

Now ALKYMIST are ready with their debut self titled album and it is set for release via Indisciplinarian on 05/10/2018. Consisting of six sprawling compositions over 44 mind bogglingly minutes, today at THE SLUDGELORD you can check out the brilliant new video for the track “Ghost”, so crank up the volume & prepare to let your speakers die.  

Band info: facebook  || bandcamp

Thursday, 13 September 2018

RECORDS OF THEIR YEARS:...with KEN mode guitarist/vocalist Jesse Matthewson

Brenna Faris (c)
Winnipeg trio KEN mode made a welcome return with new LP "Loved" at the end of August and is is by far the nastiest entry in their impressive body of work and all the better for it.  Almost 20 years into their existence KEN mode has set the bar for riff-heavy noise rock in 2018.  With the release barely a few weeks old and with the band set to hit the road in support the album we hooked up with guitarist/vocalist Jesse Matthewson to discuss some of his favourite records.  Welcome to RECORDS OF THEIR YEARS...

SL: Favourite album from the year you were born? 

Black Flag, "Damaged" (1981)

Jesse Matthewson: I’d probably have to say Black Flag – "Damaged". There’s no way it’s not the most influential, and even if I don’t listen to it as much anymore compared to other Black Flag records, it probably edges the Birthday Party’s   - "Prayers on Fire" by a smidge in terms of pure enjoyment for my own personal taste. That’s tough though. 

SL: First record you bought with your own money?

Green Day, "Dookie" (1994)

JM: I think it may have been Green Day’s "Dookie". It was pretty much the most popular thing going on at the time with teens/pre-teens, and it sounded fun. I know I ended up selling it maybe a year later because I found it boring…a pretentious piece of shit even at 13.

SL: Favourite non metal / rock album?

Badbadnotgood, "III" (2014) 

JM: Lately, maybe Badbadnotgood’s "III" record. It’s just such a fun sonic mix of jazz, some hip hop, trip hop, whatever. I had a hard jazz kick a couple years ago, and this got way too much play, and has ever since. 

SL: Album that most disappointed you?

KEN mode, "Success" (2015)

JM: I always struggle with questions like this, because it exposes the inherent entitled nature of music listeners. “The piece of art you made this time didn’t connect with me in the same way as that one from a few years ago that fit what I was looking for perfectly; and I expected it to!”

I dunno. I don’t want to throw anyone under the bus on this one. How about this? I’m most disappointed in KEN mode’s "Successbecause it wasn’t what people who like us necessarily wanted to hear as much and we worked really hard on it. How’s that?!

SL: Favourite album of all time or if you prefer album (s) you’d run back into a burning building to rescue

JMN: I don’t have a single record…at this point it’s more of a top 10 maybe. Nirvana’s "In Utero" was a milestone, Melvins, "Ozmaanother…Kittens, "Bazooka & the Hustler", Dazzling Killmen, "Face of Collapse", Today is the Day, "Willpower", Zeni Geva, "Desire for Agony", Tad, "Salt Lick", the Jesus Lizard. "Goat", Rollins Band, "Hard Volume"Drive Like Jehu, "Yank Crime". Maybe it needs to be a top 20. I don’t know. The older I get, the more I hate this kind of question. 

SL:Favourite album (s) of 2018?

JM: Tomb Mold – "Manor of Infinite Forms"
Not Of – "Hypocritic Oath"
Pig Destroyer – "Head Cage"
Nightmarer – "Cacophony of Terror"
The Lion’s Daughter – "Future Cult"
Imperial Triumphant – "Vile Luxury"
Hot Snakes – "Jericho Sirens"
Craft – "White Noise and Black Metal"

SL:..And finally The last album you bought? 

Imperial Triumphant, "Vile Luxury" (2018)

JM: I ordered the Euro pressing of Imperial Triumphant’s, "Vile Luxury" from Throatruiner because I wanted their exclusive coloured vinyl variant. All the cool colours were already sold out at Gilead Media in the US, so screw it…I’ll pay for the extra shipping from France.

"Loved" is available to preorder/buy HERE & HERE

Band info: bandcamp || facebook

ALBUM REVIEW: Clutch, "Book of Bad Decisions"

By: Victor Van Ommen

Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 07/09/2018
Label: Weathermaker Music

Clutch just keeps releasing one quality album after the next, each one incomparable to the one preceding it. Each album has that classic Clutch sound, yet each album looks forward and takes the listener out for one helluva good time. This new album, Book of Bad Decisions is no different. It’s a rip roaring, rock and roll party. And you’d better get yourself on the guest list.

Book of Bad Decisions CD//DD//LP track listing:

1 Gimme the Keys                          
2 Spirit of '76                     
3 Book of Bad Decisions                               
4 How to Shake Hands                  
5 In Walks Barbarella     
6 Vision Quest                  
7 Weird Times                  
8 Emily Dickinson                             
9 Sonic Counselor                           
10 A Good Fire              
11 Ghoul Wrangler                      
12 H.B. Is in Control     
13 Hot Bottom Feeder                               
14 Paper & Strife          
15 Lorelei

The Review:

There are two types of people in this world; those who love Clutch, and those who don’t know Clutch yet.

If you know Clutch, then you also know that last Friday, September 7th, was marked in everyone’s calendar as a holiday. After all, this was the date that Clutch released their umpteenth album, Book of Bad Decisions. And because this is a Clutch album, you know it’s going to be good.  And for those who don’t know Clutch yet, listen up: check out this new album. It’s just as good of an entry point as any into the band’s vast discography.

Sure, there isn’t a single Clutch album – in my humble opinion – that lacks in quality. Once upon a time these boys from the great state of Maryland got together in a jam room and made some tunes. They spent some time finding their voice and sound. Then they changed the face of stoner rock with the release of Blast Tyrant. It was at this moment, sometime early on in 2004, that these beasts from the east really found their stride. Robot Hive/Exodus and From Beale Street to Oblivion followed, making for a 3 album run the likes of which haven’t been seen since Led Zeppelin made the scene.

Am I talking the band up too much? Maybe. But I’m one who can throw on any Clutch album at any time and dig in. So let’s rap about this new one.

Before the album’s release, Clutch released 4 singles. And man, if these singles don’t rile you up, then what will? Anyway, “Gimme the Keys” led the charge with that famous Clutch march. A great song that walks that fine line between aggressive rock and a downright, dirty party. Singer Neil Fallon spits rhymes and wails away behind the mic in top form. Preaching? Sure is. Preaching the rock!

Then came “How to Shake Hands”, a song that’s as much a rager as it is indebted to John Lee Hooker. Wild lyrics fly around, the beats are pushed forward and the guitars are tastefully crunchy. The subject matter might seem questionable, but when you hear Fallon’s plans to put Jimi Hendrix on the 20 dollar bill, there’s nothing else left to do than to throw your fists in the air, jump around in the mosh pit, and sing along.

My favorite single came next, the tasty “Hot Bottom Feeder.” Here, Clutch shows that they can literally read out a recipe and by doing so, knock yet another song out of the park. Not long after, came the single “In Walks Barbarella;” a rompin’, stompin’ barn burner of a song, complete with horn section, comic book references and a hook so big that you could take this song fishing and catch a whale.

But then I wondered, has Clutch blown their load on these singles? What’s left of their story to tell?
Well, the album’s 15 songs long and there’s not one moment in which the energy drops. “Spirit of ‘76” is a short, sweet ditty with a sticky chorus. The title track follows, stomping along in true blues style as Fallon paints a pretty vivid picture. And that bass line, man, listen to that!

Vision Quest” and “Weird Times” are in the 6 and 7 spot of the track list, and break things up nicely. “Vision Quest” rides a sweet roll on the piano, an element that really rounds out the song. “Weird Times” has a cool call and response chorus, and I gotta say, if Fallon can pull this chorus off with as much gusto in a live setting as he does he on record, then things are going to go nuts.

More hits follow in the second half of the album. The slower “Emily Dickinson” is about just that, and it’s no surprise that “Lorelei” tells a mythological tale. “Ghoul Wrangler” makes its mark with the “woo!” that starts the chorus, and “Sonic Counselor” really puts Clutch in that gospel church setting. “A Good Fire” is going to be off the hook when taken to the stage, as will the groovy “H.B. Is in Control.” So yeah, hits, hits and more hits.

Yeah, I’m a fan of Clutch. Seen ‘em take to the stage over 30 times. Sometimes, I spend more time sitting in a car getting to and from a Clutch gig than the gig itself lasts. And there’s not been one single time that I’ve regretted doing so. This review is written as a fan of the band. A fan who hasn’t stopped listening to the album since its release last Friday. Who knows, maybe you want to take this review with a grain of salt.

But hear this…

Clutch just keeps releasing one quality album after the next, each one incomparable to the one preceding it. Each album has that classic Clutch sound, yet each album looks forward and takes the listener out for one helluva good time. This new album, Book of Bad Decisions is no different. It’s a rip roaring, rock and roll party. And you’d better get yourself on the guest list.

Book of Bad Decisions is available now

Band info: facebook || official

ALBUM PREMIERE: Hessian take cues from the old guard of classic rock and deliver "Mercenary Retrograde"

On September 14th 2018, HESSIAN will release their new album “Mercenary Retrograde”.

It took five years for Hessian to get their Bachelor of Black Arts, now it’s time to accept their Master’s diploma. The Portland, Maine-based heavy metal band garnered a substantial amount of recognition for their EP and debut album - including a coveted spot as Fenriz’s Band of the Week.

Mastermind Angus McFarland oversaw every stage, from sitting at the kitchen counter studying heavy metal harmonies of “the Old Ones of heavy metal” to touring nationally and playing festivals in Sweden and the UK. After a complete upheaval in line-up, Hessian are now ready with their second album “Mercenary Retrograde”.

“The title of the album reflects the history of the band at the time of writing. Mercenary because the band consisted of hired guns, and Retrograde because we are always looking back to the Old Ones of heavy metal for inspiration.”

While Thin Lizzy are held in exceptionally high regard around Camp Hessian, there’s appreciation for any of the old guard in early metal and heavy rock - even some thrashier material as well
Hessian have been through the wringer, but perseverance and a wholehearted belief in heavy metal have allowed them to prevail. “Mercenary Retrograde” is a triumphant record that looks proudly at the past and future simultaneously. You can check out the album in full below and preorders are available HERE

Band info: facebook || bandcamp

Tuesday, 11 September 2018

ALBUM REVIEW: Brant Bjork, "Mankind Woman"

By: Victor Van Ommen

Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 14/09/2018
Label: Heavy Psych Sounds

The new album is an experience and should be taken in as a whole. It’s an album that flows, jumps, and jives. It’s what Brant wants to do. It’s the Brant we know. It’s the Brant we love. Long story short, this album is a fine extension to his varied discography.

“Mankind Woman” CD//DD//LP track listing:

1. Chocolatize
2. Lazy Wizards
3. Charlie Gin
4. Mankind Woman
5. Pisces
6. Swagger & Sway
7. Somebody
8. Pretty Hairy
9. Brand New Old Times
10. 1968
11. Nation Of Indica

The Review:

Brant's a cool dude. That's a fact, Jack. Be it his cool blues of 'Saved by Magic,' or the cool drummer-dude-from-Kyuss-on-a-solo-trip with 'Jalamanta,' all the way to the cool-guy-on-a-couch vibe of 'Local Angel.' No matter which album you pick up, one thing’s for certain; Brant's cool. Always has been. And if his new album, 'Mankind Woman' is anything to go by, Brant will remain cool.

This time out, Brant's joined by Bubba DuPree on the songwriting credits. You know Bubba as the guitarist on Brant's last 2 albums. Brant has also opened the studio door for his 'special guest' Sean Wheeler, who steps behind the mic on 2 tracks. By opening up this release to the influences of his friends, Brant is also opening up his mind to a new songwriting approach.

Don't fret, Brant's box riffs and blues solos are still here. The 60’s and 70’s are still very much at the forefront. As is Brant’s desert home. It’s just that this time out, Brant’s given his riffs even more room to breathe. This is found in his slow, almost reggae like approach to how he performs these songs. And it’s also abundant in the album's production. The space creates a much more open atmosphere this time out. Certainly in comparison to his 3 album run over at Napalm Records. With this approach, Brant brings the listener directly to the studio. Don’t be shy. Come on in, the door's open!

Given that riffs have more space to breathe, so do the songs. The general pace on this album is slower but no less ripe for some good time live jamming. Yeah, there's a scorcher here and there, but for the most part, Brant has cooled down considerably and is playing it cool. And that's cool by me.

There's no sense cherry picking songs for this review. The new album is an experience and should be taken in as a whole. It’s an album that flows, jumps, and jives. It’s what Brant wants to do. It’s the Brant we know. It’s the Brant we love. Long story short, this album is a fine extension to his varied discography.

So if it's cool you're looking for, dig in to 'Mankind Woman.' The world's tense enough as it is nowadays, certainly for Brant as an American artist, so why not give yourself the opportunity to enjoy the things you love. Be it your partner, your weed or your rock and roll, there's something on this new Brant album that'll help you put things into perspective. Just be cool and let it happen.

“Mankind Woman” is available here

Band info: Facebook || Bandcamp

ALBUM REVIEW: Satan, "Cruel Magic"

By: Richard Maw

Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 07/09/2018
Label: Metal Blade Records

Satan have produced another fantastic heavy metal album, packed full of riffs and great songs sung by a wonderful singer. This should come as no surprise to anyone, though- the devil always did have the best tunes.

“Cruel Magic” CD//DD//LP track listing:

1. Into The Mouth Of Eternity
2. Cruel Magic
3. The Doomsday Clock
4. Legions Hellbound
5. Ophidian
6. My Prophetic Soul
7. Death Knell For A King
8. Who Among Us
9. Ghosts Of Monongah
10. Mortality

The Review:

Satan are one of the more revered NWOBHM bands and also, unusually, have gone on to create fantastic albums since reforming. Both “Life Sentence” and “Atom By Atom” are heavy metal greatness in recorded form and the band are excellent live. They occupy a special place in heavy metal heaven, as they define the NWOBHM sound, in terms of what it should sound like when done absolutely right!

Brian Ross' vocals have always been a strong selling point of this Newcastle band and, for those unaware, the city has more metal to offer than Venom alone. This is their third full length in five years and their return has been welcomed by anyone who ever heard “Court In The Act” and loved it. Musically, then, the band sit firmly along the Angel Witch/Di'Anno Maiden era trajectory with hard rock tropes fitting nicely alongside the metal on offer throughout.

The initial fast pacing of “Into the Mouth of Eternity” sets the album roaring out of the gate and by the time a cowbell crops up in the title track, you know what you are getting: heavy metal. Resolutely old school heavy metal of the highest quality. It says a lot about the times we find ourselves in when I am surprised to not find doom-inflections in Satan's latest offering. This is not doom, or thrash or any other sub genre currently in favour. It is traditional heavy metal, that's it.

Most tracks are pacey, of course- “The Doomsday Clock” is rapid, but possessed of fleet-footedness a la Maiden's “Killers” album rather than the leaden foot of retro thrash. Elsewhere the riffs come fast, “Legions Hellbound” is heavy metal heaven for those listeners out there who either were at The Marquee in 1980 or wished they had been.

The weighty “Ophidian” is a change of pace and brings into focus the fact that the band have opted for the traditional ten track format here. That is absolutely the right move as all songs are focused and tight, devoid of filler and don't stretch beyond the six minute mark. That is not to say that they don't sound epic though, as they often do. Satan have mirrored the trick that Maiden used to do so well, which is to pack in an entire theme into a relatively short space of time and capture the essence of the subject matter (for Maiden, think “The Trooper”). “My Prophetic Soul” sounds like an epic track with its anguish and multiple changes but it packs it all into only four and a half minutes.

Down the backstretch, the album is no less metal, no less accomplished and features material delivered with absolute conviction. “Death Knell For A King” is heavy metal writ large and classic- fantastic track. “Who Among Us” is larger in scale and quintessentially British in its metallic delivery. “Ghosts of Monongah” is another winner; Priest-esque chugging combines with Priest-esque guitar work in general. Excellent stuff.

By the time of closing epic “Mortality” there is no doubt that the band have done it again: Satan have produced another fantastic heavy metal album, packed full of riffs, leads, frenetic bass playing, drums that don't just consist of frantic double kicks and great songs sung by a wonderful singer. This should come as no surprise to anyone, though- the devil always did have the best tunes.

“Cruel Magic” is available here

Band info: bandcamp || facebook

Friday, 7 September 2018

INTERVIEW: Shadow Woods Festival founder Mary Spiro

By: Mark Ambrose

Last September, hundreds of metal fans took to White Hall, Maryland for the third, and what was quite possibly the final, Shadow Woods Metal Festival.  A three day mashup of camping, workshops, and, most importantly, true underground heavy metal of all stripes, it has quietly become one of the most highly regarded music experiences by those lucky enough to have attended.  When I spoke with festival founder, overseer, music writer (at www.metallomusikum.com) and all around genre veteran Mary Spiro, she was content to lay the Shadow Woods experiment to rest for the time being.  However, in the last year, despite venue changes, date and lineup adjustments, and the myriad headaches of producing a truly independent festival (i.e. NO corporate sponsorships), Shadow Woods IV returns to White Hall Maryland this September 13-16.  Today, THE SLUDGELORD finally presents our interview with Mary from last year’s festivities, as well as her top reasons for attending this year’s festival.

Sl: What made you decide to undertake the massive effort to create a festival like this THREE times, let alone once?

Mary Spiro: Sheer stupidity.  I had attended Stella Natura in 2013.  I had always liked the idea of listening to music outside anyway.  Years ago I had attended a bluegrass festival that had camping and bluegrass in Winfield, KS.  Stella Natura was a nice experience except the year I went it snowed in the middle of it.  Which is still held in September but it snowed in Tahoe National Forest so they lost a day there.  My original idea for this wasn’t something as big as this.  It was more, “Don’t I know somebody who potentially has some property who would let me set up some bands?” or someone with a barn… Just a kind of DIY kind of thing.  Apparently, I don’t know anybody like that so I started hunting around for campsites that you could rent in their entirety.  I just thought it would be fun to get a few bands together.  The tipping point came when I realized I wasn’t going to get this property for a low amount of money.  In order to draw enough people to pay for the expensive property, I was going to have to get bigger bands.  I had done shows in regular venues, but to have an outdoor thing… over the course of eighteen months of planning it just became evident it was going to be a lot more expensive than I’d realized.  You end up realizing you have to get a band that is going to attract a lot more people.  So Midnight was like the Holy Grail band for the first year and we got them!  Every year I feel like the lineup has been amazing.

SL: You said elsewhere that this is an experiment that has run its course.  Has it become too much of a logistical nightmare or do you see it as something you could scale back on?  What’s the future of Shadow Woods?

MS: It’s a number of things.  Superficially, this property is for sale.  If the people who buy it don’t want to host it, that’s a major issue.  Logistically, it is very time consuming and I have a full-time job.  I do this for fun.  I’m not trying to make a name for myself, I’m trying to have fun.  I’m trying to recreate an experience I had at other outdoor music festivals and do it in a way that was appealing to me.  I just literally did it for myself [laughs].  But there’s also another thing… it takes a while for anything to catch on, but I’ve just kind of been amazed that people who live within 30 or 40 minutes aren’t willing to just come out for the day.  They can go home and sleep in their own beds, they don’t have to camp!  And metalheads, American metalheads don’t seem to be very hearty.  They like their creature comforts and hairdryers.  This, to me, seems like backyard camping, while Stella Natura was very rustic.  There were no showers, no running water.  It was rough.  We were in the mountains and then it got cold and it snowed.  And then with the bluegrass festival it was very rustic.  I think it had centralized bathhouses but there were no showers.  And it wasn’t in a very pretty place.  But this is like backyard camping!  There are electrical outlets! 

SL: The setting here is so idyllic, too.

MS: Yeah I’ve come to understand maybe metalheads aren’t all that hearty and just want to go to a fest and stay in a hotel, like Death Fest.  I’ve heard there are some camping fests in the Midwest, like Minnesota.  I guess I was just surprised… We’ve got bands that are singing about nature and trees and shit and people aren’t willing.  Come on, now.  But the local people not willing to come out is just weird to me.  I’m surprised that more people haven’t come, but maybe my expectations are too high.

SL: What do you see as your comfortable level of involvement going forward?  Or are you just focused on getting through this weekend?

MS: I’m hit up all the time by bands who want to do shows in the Baltimore area, and if I like the band I’ll do it, and if I don’t I pass it off to someone more interested.  I’ll still do shows and maybe something like this on a much smaller scale, like on a Friday to Saturday, but it is so expensive.  And I have lost money.  The first two years I’ve lost quite a bit of money so I have to catch up on that.  But on the other hand I’ve had private individuals contribute a lot of money.  So that’s shocking to me that people would be willing to do that sort of thing.

What were your “gateway bands” for heavy music?

MS: So, I’m very old.  I’m 53 years old.  I’ve been listening to music of all kinds for a really long time.  The original band when I was 13 was KISS.  Is that corpsepaint?  I don’t know.  And I got into Metallica when they were popular, when they were coming around in the 80s.  I’ve went along with it, but I also had a family and raised kids and had to scale back my involvement.  In the last ten years… Enslaved, I’m a big fan.  I love Craft.  And I like very unusual bands like Oranssi Pazuzu.  I like anything that catches my eye.

I think something that’s very interesting to me, a lot of people when they go to music festivals want to see all their favorite bands in one place.  The concept of Shadow Woods was always the opposite of that.  This is where you come to learn about new bands you’ve never heard of before that you didn’t know about.  I think that particular strategy is very difficult for a lot of people.  They think, “Why would I go see a bunch of bands I don’t know?”  I think there are a lot people who aren’t willing to discover new music like that.

SL: For people willing to discover, you end up getting a lot of excellent stuff.  I had never heard Sloth Herder or Erlkonig before but you put them on an equal footing with bands like Panopticon or Vastum or Woe and suddenly I’ve found two great bands I would have never discovered before this weekend, even with all the stuff we get at the site.

MS: It’s selfish really [laughs].  These are all bands I wanted to see.  I think what’s also cool is I’ve made lifelong friends.  There are people here who think like me about music.

With Shadow Woods IV on the horizon, Mary also took the time to send me her top 3 reasons to attend this year’s festival:

MS: 1. Discover new music. 2. New music handpicked from the best of the underground. Not necessarily trendy or trending but great bands. 3. The "camp" atmosphere. People unleash at SWMF. They reclaim the wildness of childhood and can do so without judgement because everyone is doing it.

The End

Shadow Woods IV opens September 13 at Camp Hidden Valley in White Hall, Maryland.  This year’s acts include Abigail Williams, Xasthur, Cloak, Wolf King, Imperial Triumphant, Ghost Bath, Heavy Temple and many, many more.