Doom’s Day: ST. VITUS, THE SKULL, WITCH MOUNTAIN, CRYPT SERMON In Philly

October 11, 2016, a year ago

Mark Gromen

gallery heavy metal st. vitus the skull witch mountain crypt sermon

Think all doom sounds the same? Check out this tour when it comes through town, as each acts offers a different take on the stereotypical slow, bludgeoning noise. Philly's own Crypt Sermon (whose Out Of The Garden debut made my Best Of 2015 list) was a welcome addition. In fact, might have been the second best band on the bill, behind the headlining St. Vitus. As part of Project Pabst, only two kinds of beer available tonight PBR and Old Tankard Ale (somewhere in Frankfurt, Germany Gere is smiling, his band inadvertently immortalized in beer!): a 24 Oz. PBR can was a bargain, at just $7. Last concert of the year for the Sermonites, getting ready to record their sophomore effort. "Temple Doors" opens. Brooks Wilson is an expressive frontman, his bandmates sporting Candlemass and Dark Angel t-shirts. Kind of an interesting mix, since the Crypt Sermon sound is more expansive than most so-called doom acts, with bits of speed, melody and plenty of heaviness. Lots of red and blue for "The Master's Bouquet" finale. I'm not a homer, but these locals are worthy of investigation, if you've not discovered them yet. 

Witch Mountain is a one guitar foursome, with female vocalist. Theirs is a more sludge/stoner vibe. Kayla Dixon writhes around, with a dynamic voice that varies between demonic and soaring. Between songs, she's demure, then all of a sudden, "How the fuck are you doing tonight," a guy’s worst nightmare! 

Always been a huge fan of Trouble (had them co-headline back-to-back BW&BK 6-Pack Weekend, in the early 2000s) and Eric Wagner was the voice of the Chicagoans. Now reunited with original bassist Ron Holzner, The Skull is a like-minded outfit. The singer remains a man of few word, gray now the predominate color in his curly, center parted mane. He still lights cigarettes, while onstage, and when someone give him crap, with a smile, he sarcastically responds, "Fuck you." Although a non-smoking venue, a certain smell (as Lynyrd Skynyrd would say) wafts through, about halfway into the set. He was in Lid, you know? When Eric is off, Holzner takes center stage. After successive Skull (the band) material, Wagner announced "Me and Ron used to be in a band called trouble," cue the finishing trio of classics: "Pray For The Dead", "End Of My Daze" and "The Tempter", which vacillates between Wagner's voiceover and near thrash intensity. "You guys can yell for all the songs you want. We can't please everybody. We're gonna play these three. They're the only ones we know."

A little tight, but amazingly, was able to get into my original St. Vitus '87 Born Too Thirsty t-shirt, for the night. Each member of Vitus is an entity unto itself. Frontman Scott Reagers' voluminous hair moves whenever he grimaces, screams and headbangs, while bassist Mark Adams is a picture of conservative motion, practically stationary. On guitar, Dave Chandler, gray hair sticking out from his headband, in all directions, wails away on his axe. Early on, the lights appear to be stuck on a green tint. Chandler wearing a cut-off ECW t-shirt. "War Is Our Destiny" smokes. Reagers makes a reference to the upcoming election, then quickly adds, "Want to forget about those two assholes for the next one and a half hours. Still want Pat Paulsen (60s counter culture comedian who launched faux campaign on the Smothers Brothers TV show). Reagers pops a beer can, for a toast. Later he dedicates "White Stallions" to Scott "Wino" Weinrich, who fronted the band for many years and who had been visible in the audience (The Obsessed scheduled to play down the street, two nights later). Talk about nerve-wracking, can you imagine David Lee Roth watching Van Hagar?

After their signature track, Weinrich joined Vitus onstage for an evening closing encore, "Born to Late", the two vocalists sharing the same mic and popping a couple of onstage beers during the guitar break. Some people (wrongly) assume doom is depressing. Nights like this prove it can be very uplifting.  

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