Live Review and Gallery: GWAR Beckons the Return of the Mosh Pit on the Scumdogs 30th Anniversary Tour

It has been a long time since I’ve filled this corner of the internet with tales of the pit. The pandemic has been one helluva gut punch for those of us who thrive on live music. I’ve missed the pockets of folks outside the venue huddled around conversations and cigarettes. I’ve missed that anticipation of finding merch that catches your eye and becomes a keepsake. I’ve missed the vibe you catch when the lights dim right before a band mesmerizes a crowd with that opening tune. After 2020, I’m not taking live music for granted anymore and hope to keep sharing my experiences with y’all.

For years I have been wanting to see a GWAR show. I had only listened to a few of their songs but really wanted to experience their live show shenanigans of onstage theatrics and spraying the crowd in blood, piss, and guts. Yes, their shows have that 4-D goodness where you should expect to get covered in the glory of GWAR. I made it a point to not see GWAR until I could work press for one of their shows as more of a motivational drive to keep pushing myself with my writing. My waiting finally paid off as my first press gig back is covering GWAR, and as icing on the cake, the show was the Atlanta stop on their Slumdogs 30th Anniversary Tour in Heaven at the Masquerade.  I got my vax card and gym clothes in preparation for one of the best metal shows that I can check off my bucket list.

The two supporting bands, Eyehategod and Napalm Death, played their part in the ritual to summon GWAR to the realm of Earth. The crowd, however, was the catalyst in this ceremony with the constant chants of “GWAR! GWAR! GWAR!” billowing from the depths of the pit. The white shirts lined the rail, begging for the gore and mayhem to come. The anticipation in the air kept building as it got closer to the arrival of the infamous intergalactic warriors. This fog of foreplay foreshadowed the foreboding wet frenzy that GWAR had in store. This rabid fanbase was something else to witness, especially a fanbase that is this fervent after 30 years from the release of the iconic GWAR Slumdogs album. These grandpas and dads know how to send it for sure.

I found a spot on the balcony rail to capture the whole show. I know that at the next GWAR show I will offer myself as a tribute to the pit, white shirt and all. When the band took the stage, Blöthar the Berserker decapitated a human dummy to start the blood bath filled with the wailing screams of thrash metal. The stage show continued with multiple other slayings including tits being sliced off, bellies sliced open, scalps removed, and even a look-a-like of Joe Biden at the end for the encore. Blöthar even honored the crowd with a shower of galactic piss that rained down on the blood-stained masses. Through all of this chaos, the crowd kept offering human tributes to GWAR as crowd surfers sailed towards the rail. The energy in Heaven that night hit differently, either from the collective release of everyone due to the pandemic or because it was a GWAR show. Or possibly both. I’m glad I put so much anticipation behind seeing GWAR as my expectations were clearly out of their league.

Now that these space overlords are back to playing shows, I think there is some hope that things are finally getting back to normal. It makes you think that not a year ago, an event like this GWAR show would have been only a dream not only because of the crowd of people but also the spraying of blood, piss, and gore. Thank you GWAR for being heralds of the upcoming after times with live shows and shenanigans.

If you want to catch these guys on their Slumbdogs 30th Anniversary Tour, check out

Photos by Ken Lackner


Album Review: “A Driftwood Cross” by Witchskull

Australian metal trio Witchskull conjure occult imagery atop a fuzzy, distorted musical foundation on its third record, A Driftwood Cross. Cross is a straightforward, no frills album with eight tracks that do not cross the six minute mark. Album opener “Black Cathedrals” is a down tuned galloping rocker with a grimy riff that propels like a motorcycle down a desert road. Marcus de Pasquale’s soulful wails and brief guitar leads energize the track before it concludes with a slow tempo and bluesy solo. “Baphomet’s Child” is a grinding track which is more stoner hard rock than desolate doom metal. “The Red Altar” opens with a simply, creepy bass line before the drums and guitar join in for the ceremony. “Altar” is more doom than the previous tracks with its slow tempo and crunching guitars. The sorrowful solo and minor guitar riffs punctuate the hopeless feeling on this track. Cross speeds back up with “Dresden,” with its military like tempo and pounding bass drum. The Judas Priest and Iron Maiden influence shows on the first half of this song. However, the track slows at the midpoint with a haunting clean guitar chords and Tony McMahon’s chilling bass line. “Nero Order” opens with building drums and psychedelic guitar chords that explode in to a thick, rumbling riff. The title track concludes the album and opens with a sludgy guitar riff and plodding drums before speeding up towards the end. It is a dirty, spacey song that properly sends A Driftwood Cross away.

Driftwood Cross is notable for its brevity as the album is roughly 38 minutes long and the band never jams on this record. Long, slow songs are typical in the doom and stoner sub-genres, yet Witchskull eschewed this convention in favor of dynamic songs that are fairly mid-paced. Thus, the despair and hopelessness commonly associated with doom metal is not prevalent on this record as opposed to a band like Konvent or Crowbar. The band’s gritty sound is not over produced and all three instruments are audible.

Witchskull’s third effort is a solid one and fans of stoner and doom will take to A Driftwood Cross. However, this album is not filled with dirges like a Paradise Lost or My Dying Bride album. This album skews more hard rock but still maintains a degree of doom metal. Witchskull are carving a niche for itself and A Driftwood Cross shows the trio are not drifting away.

Check out the band’s official website here:

CD review: “Death Becomes My Voice” by Ringworm

Ringworm’s eighth release, Death Becomes My Voice, continues the band’s vicious hardcore metal assault over the past three decades. The title track is a pugnacious combination of hardcore drumming and thrashing guitar riffs that grip your jugular for five minutes. HF’s harsh, maniacal vocals stand out on this track. “Carnivores” is another fast number with some brief blast beats thrown in for good measure. The song speeds up towards the final minute before guitarists Matt Sorg and Mark Witherspoon pull out a grooving riff while the track fades. The dissonant riffs and brutal drumming sounds like The Haunted meshed with Napalm Death. “Acquiesce” is an uncomfortable slower track thanks to the apocalyptic main riff and HF’s guttural vocals. The scooping riff on “Do Not Resuscitate” is reminiscent of a hook slicing in to human flesh. Drummer Ryan Steigerwald delivers the punishment on this track as it is pure Slayer worship from beginning to end. “The God Of New Flesh” is the shortest track on Voice, a chaotic assemblage of thrash, punk and grindcore. The band never falters through the constant tempo changes, keeping the listener on their toes until the song concludes. Album closer “Final Division” is a pummeling requiem that ends with a doom riff and sorrowful guitar solo.

Bands playing across extreme musical genres has occurred for roughly 35 years. Metalcore and deathcore have enjoyed varying degrees of popularity in the U.S. for roughly 15 years. Quality is the key issue, and while many bands attempt to meld genres, few succeed. Ringworm are one of those few bands and Death Becomes My Voice solidifies its status in the metal underground. The tracks on this album hit like a bat to the spine and a rusty blade to the lung. The brevity of the tracks and slight diversity makes Voice an interesting listen. There is little monotony due to stellar drumming and above average guitar work.

Fans of Ringworm should purchase Death Becomes My Voice. It is a fun, thrashing record that induces headbanging from the first track. Fans of crossover and thrash will enjoy the band’s speed and demonic guitar harmonies. Thrash ’til death.

Check out the band’s official Facebook page here:

CD Review: “Fornaldarsagor” by Manegarm

Swedish metal trio Manegarm’s ninth release, Fornaldarsagor, is a meld of melodic folk metal and black metal. The opening track “Sveablotet,” commences with dissonant black metal riffing and several rhythm chances before slowing down during the palatial chorus. Guitarist Markus Ande steals the show with his ability to meld hellish tremolo picking with grandiose riffs. “Hervors arv” continues the fast paced tempo of the previous track. Bassist and vocalist Erik Grawsio’s harsh vocals sound like those of a viking fighting on a snowy battlefield. Manegarm’s folk influence is more prominent on this track, especially during the midsection. “Slaget vid Bravalla” is a ferocious track with drummer Jakob Hallegren’s unceasing double drums intermixed with slicing blast beats. The crushing chorus riff is underscored with gargantuan double drums. “Ett sista farva” is an anthemic folk metal ballad with tranquil guitars and soothing female vocals. The chorus is memorable and evokes images of vikings seated around a campfire singing of their victories. “Dodskvadet” is a serene folk song composed with stringed instruments and acoustic guitars. A fitting end to a heavy album.

Fornaldarsagor features eight tracks each with an average length of five minutes. However, the songs do not drag on as the tracks are both catchy and maintain a degree of complexity. The folks elements are not cheesy or insincere, which is evident on “Dodskvadet.” The folk instruments and Swedish lyrics grant a greater degree of authenticity on this record.

Manegarm did its ancestors proud with Fornaldarsagor. Fans of Amon Amarth, Amorphis and Heidevolk will enjoy this record with its heavy, yet catchy songs and folk elements. Long live the Viking Age.

Check out the band’s website:

CD review: “The Door To Doom” by Candlemass

The doom metal luminaries in Candlemass return with the band’s newest release in seven years, The Door To Doom.

The gargantuan riffs on “Splendor Majestic Demon” leave no doubt that the listener is in store for a heavy experience. Original vocalist Johan Langquist makes his triumphant return after a 33 year absence. His soaring vocals have not faltered and carry the same demonic majesty as they did on the band’s 1986 debut Epicus Doomicus Metallicus. “Splendor” features a crushing galloping riff that explodes during the track’s chorus.

“Under The Ocean” commences with a dreary, psychedelic riff before it is interrupted with a colossal riff and ground shaking drums. Drummer Jan Lindh keeps a stomping mid-tempo for the duration of the track. The following track “Astorolus-The Great Octopus” delves deeper in to the seas of doom as none other than heavy metal progenitor Tony Iommi guest stars on this track. This slow, haunting monody imbues a sense of hopelessness as Langquist laments of a great sea monster that will swallow the earth. Iommi’s bluesy solo serves as fitting music as the planet is devoured.

“Death’s Wheel” is notable for its circular, galloping riff like a carriage traveling to hell. Guitarists Lars Johansson and Mats Bjorkman’s riffs drip with sludge and the double drumming during the song’s chorus heighten the song’s heaviness. “House of Doom” is another highlight with its ripping guitar riff and spine tingling organ during the song’s midsection. Candlemass conclude Door with “The Omega Circle”, the longest track on the record, clocking in at over seven minutes. The trudging tempo and mammoth riffs transition to a soft acoustic passage as Langquist sings of a satanic dream before things turn heavy again. A mighty end to a mighty record.

The Door To Doom is not a door, but a lofty gate that once opened strikes the listener with crushing riffs and operatic vocals. The members of Candlemass do not rest on their laurels and prove why the band is so revered. Bassist and key songwriter Leif Edling creates the perfect balance between heavy and soft as the band never over does it. The record’s softer moments are not just rest areas for listeners but good pieces of music. Of course, when the band plays heavy, the earth shakes and the demons listen. Door is forty-eight minutes of doom metal played extremely well. While the lyrics are awkward at times, they barely detract from the quality of this record.

Candlemass has not lost its step since its formation 35 years ago. The Door To Doom is a stellar record that should please fans and those new to the band. Open the door and revere the colossal splendor before you.

Check out the band’s website:

Wintersun in Baltimore 2018

It’s not every day that you get to see musicians from three different continents share the stage on the same night, but that’s what occurred last Friday at Baltimore Soundstage.  Embarking upon their North American Forest Tour, Finnish symphonic metallers Wintersun headlined, accompanied by Australian act Ne Obliviscaris, with the American technical guitar guru, Sarah Longfield, opening up for both.

Sarah Longfield: Facebook | Bandcamp | YouTube

If I’m to be completely honest, Sarah’s participation in this tour is what drew me in.  After having witnessed her in action opening for Marty Friedman on his Wall Of Sound tour at this very venue, I knew I wanted to come check out her mesmerizing fretboard antics once again.  Sarah’s stage show is not what I would call flashy.  Her set isn’t backdropped with strobe lights or a huge banner.  Whether this is because she’s opening or because she wants to focus on the musical aspect when she’s onstage, I couldn’t say.  But I can say that she’s great at what she does, and if others weren’t there to see her at the start of her set, by the end of it she had them yelling for more; notes dancing off her fingertips as she two-hand-tapped her way through songs alongside fellow guitarist Derek Sampson, backed by drummer Cameron Sather.

Be sure to keep an eye out for her new album, Disparity, due out November 30.


Ne Obliviscaris: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Bandcamp

Australia’s Ne Obliviscaris is doubly-fronted band: Xenoyr, the lyricist and harsh vocalist, and Tim Charles, on clean vocals and violin.  Both did a splendid job rousing the crowd in their own ways, with Tim doing the between-tunes talks while Xen reserved itself to explosive bouts within the songs.   The band did a wonderful job mixing the head-banging heaviness of the dual guitar attack, not to mention the intricate basslines, with the eerie hollows filled by the twisting violin notes.  The staccato backlighting was quite transfixing, though it did result in some challenging photo opportunities: either enveloping each member in a blanket of darkness or erupting in a cascade of light.  Ultimately, however, I feel this does a good job of describing the music visually.


Wintersun: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | YouTube

The final band of the night was Wintersun, hailing from Finland.  Fronted by Jari Mäenpää, former Ensiferum member, the crowd was enthusiastic at their arrival.  Knowing that many of their songs are between 5 and 15 minutes, I was worried about how the longer numbers would carry over to a live setting.  Boy, was my worry poorly placed!  While songs carried on for a while, the band kept us all entertained, and I never really cared where one song ended and another began, because what was happening in each moment was enthralling.  One second, everyone’s cell phones were in the air swaying with the rhythm of the music, and the next moment found Jari picking the rhythm pattern on Teemu Mäntysaari’s guitar while forming the chord on the fretboard of Asim Searah’s.  At one point late in the evening, Jari asked the crowd how many more songs they’d like to see.  One person screamed “two,” followed by another who screamed “ten.”  “Ten?! We’ll be here all night,” exclaimed Mäenpää!  The band closed out with “Time,” which the crowd seemed more than willing to continue giving.

While the North American tour has ended, I’d urge you to follow these three acts wherever they may roam going forward.  Wintersun has dates in November in Europe, as does Ne Obliviscaris (and a date in the UK), while Sarah Longfield will be traveling to Taiwan soon for some clinics!

CD Review: “Electric Messiah” by High On Fire

High On Fire pay tribute to the legendary Lemmy Kilmister with its aptly titled eighth record, Electric Messiah. The trio’s blend of Motorhead, Black Sabbath and Slayer is in full throttle throughout the record. “Spewn from the Earth” is a straight trasher replete with frontman Matt Pike’s guttural wails and ground shaking guitar riffs. Drummer Des Kensel’s manic double bass only heightens the song’s intensity. “Steps of the Ziggurat/House of Enlil” is one of two epic songs on this album that surpass nine minutes. A metallic take on the history of Sumeria, “Steps” is a towering piece of riffs that trudge forward, engulfing the listener’s ears. Things speed back up on the title track, which would do Lemmy proud. “Electric Messiah” is a blitzing take-no-prisoners assault of pummeling double bass and lighting palm muted riffs. This track offers little breathing room and forces you to bang your head. The way it should be. The second epic track, “Sanctioned Annihilation,” is composed of a driving triplet drum pattern underneath sludgey guitar riffs. This leads to a disjointed, yet cohesive tempo that is slow but mid-paced. There is little drag despite its 10 and a half minute duration, and it stands as the record’s centerpiece. Album closer “Drowning Dog” is a galloping psychedelic rocker that concludes the album in grand fashion.

Electric Messiah rarely lets up throughout its 56 minute duration. This record pays homage to Lemmy in the best way: playing loud, fast and heavy. Matt Pike’s riffs attack from every angle while bassist Jeff Matz and drummer Kensel easily keep up. The record’s primary weak spot is “The Witch and the Christ” which lacks direction. Matt and company are at their best when they are dynamic and have an end goal. Luckily, this is only one misstep and the other eight tracks more than make up for it. The production is rugged yet clear, and one can hear the band’s pugnacious sound in all its glory.

Matt certainly paid proper respect on Electric Messiah. A heavy, thrilling musical journey that will leave ears bleeding and necks hurting. Fans of the band should pick this up as well as folks new to the group. This is certainly worship music for the Church of Metal.

Check out the band’s official website here:

Live Photos: Judas Priest & Deep Purple in Atlanta August 14

On August 14, Judas Priest and Deep Purple, brought The Firepower Tour 2018 to Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre.

TAM Photographer Chuck Holloway was on hand to capture the evening.

For more tour dates, visit Judas Priest’s or Deep Purple’s websites.

Judas Priest – Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre – 2018

Deep Purple – Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre – 2018

CD Review: “Downfall Of Mankind” by Nervosa

Brazilian death-thrash trio Nervosa deliver a blistering dose of speed on its third album, Downfall Of Mankind. The album’s brief intro is dissonant and foreboding, merely hinting at what is in store. The next track, “Horrordrome,” is a full on thrash assault. This song is rife with sharp riffs and blast beats while guitarist Prika Amaral unleashes a chaotic solo. “Never Forget Never Repeat” is a scathing commentary on human history and how bigotry and hatred leads to war and genocide. The brutality of the music complements the lyrics with its maniacal speed and steel cutting guitar riffs. The relentless tempo feels like you are in the midst of a battle among dead bodies and rubble. On “Enslave” there is a tinge of Swedish death metal fused with a hardcore stomp. The song seamlessly speeds up and slows down, and is sure to induce a circle pit at a show. That hardcore influence reappears in all its brutal glory on “…And Justice For Whom?” New drummer Luana Dametto is merciless on the kit, hitting double beats, blast beats and everything in between. Frontwoman Fernanda Lira’s demonic shrieks heighten the energy on this track, making it one of the best on the album. “No Mercy” is one of the fastest songs on Downfall, giving the listener little room to relax save for a brief breakdown during the midsection. This track certainly lives up to its title.

Downfall Of Mankind shows Nervosa maturing as a cohesive unit. The songwriting is technical and precise, but also brutal and unpredictable. The songs twist and turn, but are never wayward. Nervosa are never overambitious, and keep each track under the five minute mark, thus the tracks never linger. The production is great, with no tinny drum sounds or overly thick guitar sound.

Nervosa hit a home run with this album. Downfall Of Mankind is the group’s best record to date and one of the best metal albums of 2018. The social commentary, hardcore drumming and blistering riffs fuse together for an aggressive, unrelenting yet thought provoking album. This record is a mandatory purchase for fans of both old school and contemporary metal.

Check out the band’s official website: