Smile Politely

Sludge, grunge, and doom

Anyone craving a healthy dose of decibels ought to check out Error Records this Saturday for a hard-driving musical showcase of talent both touring and locally grown. Four bands of sludge, grunge, and doom will take the stage in a night that is sure to leave no head un-banged.

We live in a musical climate where nothing even close to these sounds would ever be heard along the mainstream. The Foo Fighters would be most people’s idea of heavy music, and that’s a cold reality that Saturday’s show is poised to destroy. These bands are the real deal; a refreshing reminder that heavy music is alive and well, stripped down and dirty as ever.

Baltimore’s grunge rock revivalist group Roomrunner will be making an appearance. Listening to their album Ideal Cities you can almost smell the leaky basement the songs must have been rehearsed in. Their style doesn’t try to emulate the overdone Nirvana-esque rock of the 1990s, but rather picks it up, dusts it off, and moves it on along the evolutionary track towards something familiar yet new and true to themselves. Their use of driving riffs and off-color melody creates a propulsive sound that is meant to be heard standing shoulder to shoulder in a room full of bouncing fans. 

Local act Earth Witch and their thunderstorm of doom will rain down on Saturday night’s crowd. Their slow, pounding, heavy metal sings the soul into a bestial peace driving the listener towards the best kind of dread. The trio’s guitarist and lead vocalist Ivan Catron took the time to speak with me about the band’s sound and told me how it was developed. Catron said:

When we started out we just knew we wanted to play something heavy. From there it kind of organically came from a place where, whether it’s perceived this way or not, we think what we’re doing is something of an early 70’s late 60’s kind of thing like heavy psychedelic rock.

Much like Roomrunner’s ability to be a unique part of a genre rather than mirror the genre itself, Earth Witch channels the cadence of early metal without reaching too far into Ozzy Osbourne’s pocket. Their appreciation of the classics bleeds through each track on their first EP entitled Earthbound, which was released last summer. Catron continued:

We all had our dads who got us into the more classic stuff. Either that or we found it later. Even though we like punk rock or other kind of alternative, experimental music we all kind of appreciate the older stuff.

Catron’s previous work had been with a number of punk bands and he mentioned how the other members of Earth Witch also enjoyed heavier punk music. As different as the two styles may sound, punk and metal share somewhat similar ideals. I asked Catron how much of Earth Witch’s style comes from an embodiment of the punk spirit:

I think if there’s any kind of ethos or mentality that we keep from punk rock it would be our approach to doing things ourselves. We recorded the album ourselves with my digital recorder. We definitely took our time which might not be a punk rock thing, but we have the DIY ethic. We didn’t put it in anyones hands. We had a buddy of ours sit in and hit record, but other than that it was just set up the mics and keep tweaking things until it sounds right. 

Earth Witch embodies that DIY spirit right down to their record label. Error Records is owned and operated by the band’s drummer Nathan Landolt. Catron explained to me how it was Landolt who made it possible for their EP to be recorded and pressed at Error, and how Saturday’s show would not have been possible without his band mate’s dedication:

Nathan’s been doing his label for a while. Any klout that Error has is all from Nathan’s work ethic. It’s all his hard work.

Having a band member who owns their own record label and venue has definitely helped Earth Witch get their foot in the door in the local music scene. As someone who practices, performs, records and generally hangs out at Error Records, Catron explained to me what one would come to expect on a typical night:

It can vary from band to band. Some nights you might come in and it’ll be experimental noise music mixed in with some poetry or an art showing. Other nights you might have a crazy punk show with a lot of movement. It’s just a cool place.

Saturday’s show kicks off at 8 p.m. with local band Withershins, followed by Multicult and Roomrunner. Earth Witch will be closing it off at 10 p.m. with a performance that Catron assured me no one would want to miss:

Maybe you’re kind of new to town and you feel like you can really connect with an alternative music scene but don’t know where to start, it’s definitely the place to go. It’ll open up everything for you.

Earth Witch design by Nate Burns.

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