Merry Riffmas indeed. Philadelphia-local Serpent Throne and Ruby the Hatchet along with Brooklyn-based The Golden Grass decided to play a lone show two weeks before Christmas, December 11 (which happens to be my birthday). What a present the metal gods have granted me. Each band brings their own unique flavor to the doom metal and psych rock scenes. To top it off, the show was at the multi-leveled Johnny Brenda’s, which I had been interested in returning to after seeing Pentagram there last year.
The show commenced with The Golden Grass. I saw them play with Ruby earlier this year and they stood out amongst the other openers. Their flower-powered, feel-good tunes are a contrast to the usual doom and gloom you get in the occult-tinged niche of modern heavy psych. And it works highly effectively. They have a new record coming this April and they decided to play it in its entirety.
With a new bassist, the group jammed to a moderately sized crowd. This time around, it felt like they had a slightly more 70s hard rock edge to the new material, though they kept to their blues/psych roots. Guitarist Michael Rafalowich and drummer Adam Kriney traded lead vocal duties, but their mics were unfortunately at low volume. Their musicianship had a certain finesse and playful confidence to it. I’ll have to give their upcoming album a good listen to fully absorb their new music.
My absolute favorite local band Ruby the Hatchet went on next. This is the fourth time I’m seeing the band this year alone and the group never disappoints. Their recent album Valley of the Snake is my favorite record of 2015. If you are at all into psych/doom, you have to give it a listen. The riffs along with the atmosphere paint a strange picture of wonder and desolation.
They played their standard set: most of the tracks from Valley of the Snake, as well as a new one: “The Fool”, which I have gradually come to appreciate. “Tomorrow Never Comes” continues to be my favorite song of theirs, and it really packs a punch, evoking Black Sabbath‘s title track. The five piece continues to nail it in every aspect. Jillian Taylor‘s vocals lead the brigade of instruments, Johnny Scarps‘ guitar plows through the dreamy soundscape, Lake Muir‘s bass thumps and anchors, Owen Stewart‘s drums are on point (not to mention his backing vocals), while Sean Hur‘s keyboards add a perfect layer of kaleidoscopic curiosity. The group is tight-knit on stage and simply has an amazing sound.
I witnessed Serpent Throne last year, who played with the now seemly defunct Mount Salem. The instrumental doom troupe has been at it for ten years now. While they aren’t in my top band in the genre, they still have a number of thrills up their sleeves. I particularly enjoyed their closing song, “Wheels of Satan”. Such a great track with riffs that make me feel like I’m being hunted by a motorcycle gang. A lot of their material is hit and miss for me. While they have some cool riffs here and there, a good bunch of it borderlines on mediocrity and at times is too similar to Sabbath (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing).
As a last show of the year, it was pretty damn good. The doom scene in Philly is alive and well.
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