Doom and stoner metal still hold outsider status in the music world, even as they gain popularity among underground music scenes. This weekend's Erosion Festival is a striking example of how diverse the genre has become, featuring a lineup of pioneers and newer hard rock doom acts coming out of Portland, Seattle and Missoula. The festival debuted in Great Falls last year with a modest eight-band lineup. Promoter Cory Lynch and silkscreener Wilson Raska are producing the festival's second run in Missoula, this time with 18 bands. In advance of the two-night event, we give you the scoop on who to see and what to know about them.
I can contentedly nod along with the rest of them when it comes to psychedelic doom or the battle crescendos of Viking metal. But when bands mix in classic elements of 1980s hard rock, that's what really makes my ears perk up. Mos Generator is one of the most dynamic bands you'll hear at this festival. Crisp drums and squealing guitar solos evoke a little bit of early Judas Priest. Some people might find Mos Generator's soloing over-the-top—especially in comparison to the thick, low-tuned soundscapes of the festival's lineup—but I think it adds much-needed color. It reminds me of the way bands like the Supersuckers pulled the best instrumental tricks from MTV hair bands and made them cool for a grittier audience. (EF)
YouTube has what looks like a grainy, transferred-from-video, Southern-California-Public-Access-Television-looking piece of footage from 1986 of Saint Vitus playing the Palm Springs Community Center. It's raw sounding and wonderfully filled with the feedback squall of Dave Chandler's feral guitar. It crackles with the electric energy of four dudes destined to do exactly what they were doing at that moment in history. It is also singer Scott "Wino" Weinrich's first show with the band, which is probably why the video has been viewed over a quarter-million times.
In the video, the band has no trouble bringing a thoroughly raging set even though it's a well-lit daytime show in a sleepy town. Saint Vitus is among the first of the post-Sabbath bands to play doom, along with Pentagram, Trouble and a few others. Wino was the band's second singer but due to a preexisting commitment to a reunion with his other band, The Obsessed, Saint Vitus' Missoula appearance will feature original singer Scott Reagers. We could do far worse, but I think unfortunately Wino's the singer you want. Regardless, getting Vitus on this lineup is a pretty serious coup and fest organizers landed a massive fish in the world of all things stony, doomy and metal. (JV)
Acid King serve as a perfect example of how doom metal differs from region to region. The band formed in San Francisco in 1993 and it's easy to pinpoint pieces of grunge, riot grrrrl and Pacific Northwest post-punk that has seeped into their DNA. (If you like 7 Year Bitch and the Melvins, you'll like them.) Still, Acid King were always on the obscure side. Now, thanks to social media and some built-up street cred, they can fill a space with 500 people. (I mean, they're still underground after all.) Frontwoman Lori S. sings with a distinctively hypnotic voice but it's her guitar tone—a 1970s fuzz sound—that gets the most attention among fellow musicians and music nerds. (EF)
Like Saint Vitus, The Skull are also legitimately legendary in this scene, and not just for being old dudes. Formed by members of doom metal pioneers Trouble, they spent a solid decade writing and recording some of the genre's best recordings while laying the groundwork for bands that would follow for the next 25 years. Trouble contributed to some mild controversy in the metal world. They weren't exactly quoting Stryper-style bible verses, but their lyrics were a far cry from the openly satanic content coming out of the black metal community, causing their then-label, Metal Blade, to dub them "white metal." The band has refuted the tag as a bogus marketing tactic and doesn't embrace the handle whatsoever. (JV)
Portland's Disenchanter are, along with Witch Mountain, among the handful of Erosion Festival bands featuring a woman up front singing and, in Disenchanter's case, also playing guitar. Sabine Stangenberg is a shredder whose winding solos add some color to a psychedelic melange that is pretty Sabbathy, but also features other good heavy '70s reference points along the way. I predict that because of their relative youth in a pretty crusty scene, and because they showcase a little bit more rock-and-roll nimbleness compared to some of their peers, Disenchanter will emerge as a sleeper favorite. (JV)
These local heroes feature Phil "P.D." Lear delivering heavy riffs and desperately crazed wildman singing. The band is building a strong following based on blazing, tight live shows. Parsing the difference between "doom" and "stoner" is a little bit of a waste of time, but the main difference is speed, with stoner bands being comfortable with some down-tuned slowness. Stone Elk come down more on the stoner side, to me, with big riffs providing the central scaffolding around which the songs are built. But they're also comfortable using full stops and having rollicking rock and roll in their repertoire. Folks traveling to Missoula for the headliners will do well to sidle up to the stage when Stone Elk plug in. (JV)
The moody intro to "Terrible Purpose," off Shramana's new album, Mythos: Logos, is a perfect example of what I like about this Missoula band. Shramana takes time to set up the song, fingerpicking a warm minor key melody that you could listen to during a relaxing massage. But as the drums begin to gallop and the guitar starts to shift into a high-gear frenzy, you know some kind of instrumental storm is coming. Speaking of storms (and regional influence), Shramana really pays tribute to wintry metal—the kind that perhaps originated in the 24-hour dark days of Scandinavia and migrated to Montana. Their subject matter is ingrained with social and environmental justice issues, so read the lyrics beforehand on their Bandcamp page and you'll get that much more out of their performance. (EF)
Erosion Festival runs Fri., Oct. 14, and Sat., Oct. 15, at Stage 112. Doors open at 5 PM, music starts at 6 PM nightly. $40 full-pass/$25 single day pass.