Everyone has their own personal bucket list of bands they’d like to see in a live setting at some point. I am no different. With this show, I was going to knock off two bands from my own, with a little irony in fact.
See, Stonecutters hail from my hometown and home state, based in Louisville, Kentucky. Despite that, I’d had no luck trying to see them in recent years. It was not for lack of trying either, as there’d been a couple close calls, yet something always intervened and prevented it happening.
The other irony is Swallow The Sky are from a region mighty close to where I live now. Much like Stonecutters, I had tried to see them a few times in the past, unsuccessfully so. Thankfully, these situations would finally be remedied on this night… and with some added bonuses to boot.
Those bonuses came in the form of West Virginia’s Horseburner, who I have seen at least three times before. The other was another regional favorite, Indighost, who I’d never seen, but was already quite well aware of. The setting would be at our beloved Hideaway in Johnson City, Tennessee. The last bonus would be first as Indighost opened up the festivities.
Indighost truly are a band that must be heard to comprehend what they have going on. They mix elements of alternative rock, psychedelia, and stoner in such a way that it is fully cohesive and unique. Tinges of electronica enhance their music and the result is a powerfully appealing, even enthralling high-energy, yet hypnotic aural amalgamation.
Bolstered by a backdrop of visuals that would nicely accompany a LSD trip, Indighost‘s guitarists Dan Fehr and Cody Gilmer provided some incendiary guitar antics, as well. While doing so, bassist Quentin Garrett and drummer Taylor Cogdill kept things well anchored in place; Cogdill being a powerhouse drummer with a solid batting style. One of the band’s strongest traits is singer Randi Denton‘s bluesy vocals-by-way-of-classic rock greats like Stevie Nicks or Janis Joplin.
It was easy to see and hear why Indighost have such a large cult following in our region, as they unfurled a set of six songs. Four of them, “Sphinx Ride“, “Smoke & Mirrors“, “Sloth Machine” and “Right Hand Man” were all-new cuts being tooled for an upcoming release. The band, who by the way were celebrating guitarist Cody Gilmer‘s birthday, were especially tight on these tracks… assuming due to familiarity as they’re works in progress. By the band’s performance and crowd enthusiasm, these four new cuts, along with staples “Space Cash” and “Hexensohn“, are as equally fun to play as they are to hear live.
Things would veer into the heavier side of the night with West ‘By God’ Virginia’s Horseburner taking over the stage next. Every time I’ve seen the quartet of Adam Nohe, Chad Ridgway, Jack Thomas and Zach Kaufman in the last year or so, they never fail to impress. With insanely frenetic energy, these guys tore through some devastatingly heavy metal-tinged sludge. They untethered tracks like “David“, “Replenishment“, “The Soil’s Prayer” and “Eleleth” from their massively embraced 2016 album Dead Seeds, Barren Soil.
They brought them down to bear with a relentless frenzy of stage domination and activity. Watching their dual guitar antics was a neck twisting exercise as fiery leads and riffs bounced from stage left to center stage and back. All while the pounding bass lines and insanely animated drumming shattered the airwaves emanating from the fearsome foursome. I’m pretty sure we were treated to a new song as well, one titled “Worship The Wizard“.
With the way Horseburner evolves in their live presentation from each time to time that I see them, it’s hard to imagine how bad-ass they’ll be by the time Riff Relevant catches them at the Descendants Of Crom fest in Pittsburgh come September.
Kentucky’s Stonecutters were up next and what they unleashed upon the stage was jaw-dropping and intense. These Bluegrass State heavyweights wield a volatile blend of metal, thrash, punk and hard rock in their music.
When they bring it to the live setting, let me tell you, it is loud and in your face… literally thanks to guitarist Nick Burks‘ inability to keep it onstage, heh. One minute he’s there, next he was up on a riser, and then next out he’s on the floor in the crowd.
Meanwhile, guitarist/vox Brian Omer was just as well animated himself at times as the guys played a lot of material from their latest album, Blood Moon. The rhythm section of bassist Kevin Redford and drummer Johnny Wooldridge put on their own juxtaposed show, as well. The former anchored into place, dominating his bass. The latter all over the kit like a man possessed.
The songs rendered from the aforementioned release were “Sound The Trumpets“, “Sign of The Pentagram“, “Carbon Footprint“, “Death Awaits You“, “Pagan Warrior” and “Little Insect“. After the first song, the band revisited their two earlier releases with “Black Zion” from 2009’s Christhammer, and “Revere What Thou Hast Burned” from their 2013 effort, Creatio Ex Nihil.
We were also treated to two brand new tracks from the Stonecutters with “Vile Maxim” and “Carved In Time” and the latter was an especially powerful, expansive track. The guys packed a lot of musicality into the song with its diversified contents and it, as well as the band itself, clearly went over well with the folks in attendance… myself included.
Headlining tonight’s fourfold aural assault would be our region’s own outer-sound pummelers Swallow The Sky. The trio, bassist/vocalist Michael Peck, guitarist Josh Basham and drummer Chris Bryant, have a truly unique style of progressive metal. Not only is it forward-thinking, but heavy and widely multifaceted as it imparts its varied textures.
One minute sedate and atmospheric, the next explosive and crushing and the guys channeled it all quite well in their set. This was my first time getting to see Swallow The Sky (finally), as I’d been trying for at least a year now. I’ve interviewed them in the past and reviewed their phenomenal 2016 album Result Of Infinite Series so seeing them had been a long time coming. It goes without saying that they did not disappoint, as they delivered their sonic decimation with raging intensity.
This was the pay-off for tonight’s festivities for sure, the reward for the diehards that endured unto the end. A survival of the fittest, if you will, where Swallow The Sky channeled myriad alternating tones and tempos within their tenacious hold upon this stage. They delivered a rousing display as they unfurled tracks like “Boy King“, “Crow Attrition” and “Narwhal” (one of their most powerful songs bar none) from the album mentioned above.
We were also treated to some other intricate compositions such as “Through Cough And Bloom“, “Whole Of Sorrow” and “Frank Barber’s An Asshole“. I say intricate because this trio’s music is of a most definite intelli-metal nature, hence the forward thinking tag as it is cerebral both musically and lyrically. Add to that the fact it is delivered with an intensive energy onstage and it all makes for a searing, lasting impression upon those of us that have now experienced it.
In closing, allow me to extend my gratitude to the bands for their dedication to their art and bringing it to us to enjoy. This show was a sort of showcase for the diverse talents and musical styles being explored in our overall region. Virginia (and TN too) with Indighost, West Virginia represented by Horseburner, Kentucky repped by Stonecutters, and Tennessee with Swallow The Sky. Each unique in what they do and bring to the table. Thanks also to Tarvo and The Hideaway for providing us all that figurative table to sit at and enjoy the aural art of our beloved underground.