Photos by Charles Nickles
The third installment of Shadow Woods Metal Fest, aka sleepaway camp for metal heads, is in the books. You know what it is. Unfortunately for you, me, planet earth et al., what I didn’t realize when I wrote that outstanding preview piece was that this year’s installment was destined to become the LAST SHADOW WOODS EVER! A sad truth*, confirmed to me by organizer Mary Spiro.
*The last one UNLESS and UNTIL someone else decides to take up the Shadow Woods mantle, or create something else like it. More on this later.
Thankfully, your humble author and trusty CVLT shutterbug Charles Nickles made a point to catch every single act at what has easily become the best metal camping festival in the U.S., at least in the opinion of seemingly every person that has ever attended.
Here is a recap of day 2 (Friday, September 15), the first FULL day of music. Make sure to check out the already-published Thursday review, and stay tuned for a recap of Saturday, including Panopticon’s spellbinding performance in the forest.
Keep those eyes peeled for some mind-altering interviews in the near future with Withered, Woe, Castle, Nechochwen, Black Table, Obsidian Tongue, Toke, Zud and Take To The Woods. I had some special questions in store for everyone, and their answers are disturbing, enlightening, shocking, all of the above.
Shout out to Youtube user Becky (presumably with the good hair), the Sludgelord and others for some awesome videos of the 2017 rituals, which I have linked where applicable. If anyone has videos of the artists that I was unable to locate, drop some links in the comments section!
Coffee wasn’t necessary on Friday morning. Chile’s Unhallowed dragged campers out of their tents by their eyelids with some old-school blackened filth at high noon. One of two last-minute additions to the festival lineup, Shadow Woods was just one stop carved out on their path of devil-worshipping destruction.
“We like to write songs about stuff that happens to us. This next one is about the time we killed frost giants with our penises.”
And that quote from Fiakra’s front-man pretty much sums them up. Tartan duds, soaring riffs, choreographed shredding, battle songs & epic banter. Truly a fantastic sight to behold.
MoMe was one of a few bands at SWMF this year that looked like they could’ve fit in at most other music “festivals,” which is to say they look like a bunch of DAGGUM SURFIN’ HIPPIES! Hippies whose amazing blend of prog-metal, surf, garage, and tripped-out post-punk drew a swarm of metalheads to an indoor venue in the early afternoon. MoMe is the soundtrack you didn’t know was playing in the background during every acid trip you’ve ever had, good and bad. Don’t judge a book by its cover, and so forth.
Not to be mistaken with the “actual” sloth moshing during their set (with Chicken man, no less), Maryland’s Sloth Herder describes its sound with the label “power-slob.” The word “slob” implies some level of messiness, but the riffs Sloth Herder churned out for the forest critters in attendance were CLEAN AF.
A band named after Tolkien weaponry is likely to be near and dear to my heart no matter what style they play, but the boys in Foehammer could call themselves Mickey Mouse and I would still be in love with their crushing, Oliphant-march-tempo doom. I wasn’t the only one itching to hear Mordor war riffs in the forest, though. Upon hearing a tempo he/she could relate to, a turtle was seen crawling towards the front of the stage. Thankfully, I am told our forest friend was safely removed from the path-of-squashing shortly after the first song. Watch out for some new Foehammer tunes in the near future, precious.
“They’re playing my song!” -Turtle
One of a handful of 2-pieces at SWMF 2017, the brain-melting synth vibes being dished out by the multi-instrumentalist duo Elagabalus were yet another surreal experience for anyone lucky enough to catch them.
2-person wall-of-grind on a sunny day at sleepaway camp?! Oh, fuck yes. Philly’s Night Raids put the field stage through a meat grinder. Get learnt.
I am told that the singer of Dark Water Transit cautioned listeners not to confuse him with Jerry Garcia – most likely because of his uncanny general resemblance, but also because the contrast between his appearance and his gnarly, angular riffing might cause most peoples’ heads to explode. This is metal for the true thinker, for the musician’s mathe-musician. Funky time signatures, syncopated shredding, DWT is a bit like what might happen if Meshuggah tried to play Scarlet Begonias – and wound up liking it.
Erlkonig has an image on its bandcamp of what appears to be a demon crawling forth from the mouth of a king. Above that image is a picture of what appears to be a tab of acid on someone’s tongue. This juxtaposition pretty much sums up Erlkonig, and the devastation they brought to the Hall stage was something you could feel from all corners of the forest.
I am pretty sure that at least two of the dudes in this band ALSO played in Unhallowed earlier in the day, putting them among the handful of musicians pulling double duty at SWMF. Somehow, their second set was just as fast, nay, faster than the first. There’s something black in the water in Chile, and I think it’s called pisco. Hails!
Thank the dark lord for Heavy Temple. A reviewer on the group’s bandcamp page argued that there isn’t a single member of the group who doesn’t “ooze pure raw talent.” I couldn’t have said it better, and this incredible 3-piece Philly doom outfit let SWMF know they mean business. Easily one of the most engaging live sets of the weekend (or ever), the sirens comprising the metal monolith that is HT drenched the forest in their patented brand of “evil honey from a magic mountain.” One SWMF attendee claimed on Instagram that they were lucky enough to have had Heavy Temple play at their wedding. Consider me VERY jelly. Do NOT Sleep on this band (pun intended).
All. Black. Everything. Hooded black metal spectres, entertaining the lowly with riffs of despair, and an early-evening bone ceremony… which, as one Instagram user succinctly put it, was “totally grim.”
According to the group’s Facebook, “Dead In The Manger play music with the intention of leaving a feeling of unease and despondency.” Exactly the kind of tunes we needed as we traded daylight for shadows. Anonymous and abrasive, pull up your hood and get bleak.
Welcome to the graveyard. Castle needs no introduction, and their packed-to-the-brim performance in the fading light at the Woods stage was one of the most visually striking, neck-breaking sets I’ve ever experienced. Keeping in their tradition of being the ultimate road dogs, Castle wrapped up their set and immediately bee-lined it to the merch table to handle their own goods… just before packing up and heading north to Boston that same night. Fucking legends. My forthcoming interview with Castle is tailored specifically to CVLT readers, and I guarantee you will learn something about these incredible musicians that you didn’t know before.
Break out the BDSM gear and crusty black metal records. I generally don’t like things from Massachusetts. One big exception is Converge, and Human Bodies has now catapulted its way towards the top of that list. Some of the boys from Woe, who played the final night, suggested that maybe Human Bodies just play a second set instead. Feral and black, Human Bodies definitely fucks with that Gimp shit.
I was expecting big things going into this set. When the lights went out and New Hampshire’s K.Y.O.T.Y. began its unhinged opera of instrumental devastation, I found myself half expecting the roof to collapse – if not my very grasp on reality. Keep your opinions to yourself.
Ending a day at Shadow Woods with a band like The Owls ANWTS is like ending a 24-hour whiskey binge with a round of Jager shots laced with ayahuasca. This is music straight out of the red room. Cranking out experimental soundscapes that seem to combine all of the day’s musical genres into single songs, this fantastic video of their full set is worth a watch, sober or no.