A stacked line-up demolished the grungy yet quaint Voltage Lounge in Philadelphia last week. Mondo Drag, The Well, and Crypt Trip were on tour with local heavy-hitters Heavy Temple and Holy Smoke opening. This was a wicked cauldron of doom metal and psychedelia.
First up was Holy Smoke: a simple name with a double meaning. Singer Dave McNally had a long skirt on and kind of reminded me of a local celebrity known as Philly Jesus. They had a pleasant, retro brand of psych rock. I was bopping my head most of the time. They didn’t wow me, but I was entertained at least.
Next up was Heavy Temple, who are coming out with their second EP next month. The power trio has quite an array of styles at play. I love how they can go from earth-stomping doom to speed metal in the same song, and it all just clicks. I can hear a wide variety of influences like Hawkwind, Budgie (and maybe a little bit of Jex Thoth), but at the same time they transcend those their predecessors and do their own thing. They have some tasty jams too. Frontwoman High Priestess Nighthawk wields a powerful, smokey voice and I like how she backs away from the mic at certain moments while singing, compensating for her insane volume. Great things are ahead for this band.
Crypt Trip from Texas hit the stage next. At this point, I’m starting to get tired of bands trying to sound like Black Sabbath. Don’t get me wrong, most of the bands I listen to were highly influenced by Sabbath, but it’s getting a bit tiring seeing countless groups that look and sound like they were vomited out of 1971. I don’t think Crypt Trip were bad, but they felt like a poor man’s Radio Moscow. There was a lot of jamming, but the guitar had way too many effects on it and was overly distorted. They unexpectedly, but faithfully covered Sabbath’s “Rat Salad” in the middle of their set, and that made me a happy camper. At least they weren’t hiding their influence.
The Well, who just came out with a new album Pagan Science, played penultimate. I listened to them a bit here and there before, but never became a super fan. I was definitely converted after their first few notes. They have plenty of delicious riffs of their sleeves, really catchy and heavy stuff. A perfect blend of bluesy doom and psych rock. Their playing was tight, well oiled machine. Very few bands, much less doom bands, have both male and female lead vocalists. The harmonies of guitarist Ian Graham and bassist Lisa Alley made for a unique androgynous tone. Earlier this year, they made the theme song for the motorcycle show Ride with Norman Reedus, and I can definitely see why. I had both of their albums on repeat after this show. This is a band to look out for.
And now, the feature presentation: Mondo Drag. I saw them less than two months ago at Psycho Las Vegas, but I needed a refill on their psychedelic amazingness. Their set at Psycho was unfortunately plagued with sound issues, but it was smooth sailing here. I sat down and really paid attention their grooves. Their sound is so entrancing. I was really noticing the variety of styles, as mentioned in my interview with them. Outside of the obvious, I can totally hear jazz, soundtrack music, all kinds of elements at play. That’s what I love about them; every song is different. You got some of the more hard psych vibes, but then slow and moody movements. It’s always a kaleidoscopic grab bag with them. The use of multiple keyboards adds all kind of effects. John Gambino‘s voice has this trippy resonance to it that I really dig. The band ended their set with two Hawkwind covers, one of them being the Lemmy-induced “Master of the Universe”. An excellent way to end an awe-inspiring set. If you’re at all into psych rock, you need to check out Mondo Drag.