Contributed by Jake Holmes
Dear readers, I must confess I have been on a massive doom metal binge lately. I’ve been cranking the hell out of a ton of The Gates of Slumber, Hour of 13, Saint Vitus, and Austin’s own Old and Ill (who put on a killer show at The Grand last Monday — SUPPORT!) to name a few, and it just happens to be my luck that there is never a shortage of doom metal shows in Austin. Friday’s show at The Lost Well (formerly the Frontier Bar) proved to be the perfect way to feed my doom fix, with performances by three slow-riffing bands that showed different takes on the school of “Tune Low and Play Slow”. A friend and I arrived right around the time that the first band started playing, an enthusiastic group of ‘bangers by the name of Fogg.
Dallas’ Fogg clearly worship at the altar of Tony Iommi (and who doesn’t?), and their unashamed Black Sabbath devotion just so happened to hit the spot with me, having grown up on the classic catalogue of the Birmingham metal gods. The free-flowing nature of the first Black Sabbath album in particular was apparent in the Fogg’s riffing and soloing (see “Wicked World”, “The Wizard”, etc), with a guitar tone that was a dead ringer for Sir Iommi’s (I don’t even think he’s been knighted but the British government should get on that ASAP) and several bass solo sections that used a distorted, higher-end sound. In fact, right as I walked in to watch their set I was treated to a faithful rendition of “Lord of this World” (with trade-off vocals from the bassist and guitarist on the chorus), from Black Sabbath’s “Master of Reality”, one of the more powerful odes on that album. The drums were played with great energy on a relatively small kit, and Fogg’s drummer made the most of every piece of his arsenal (my friend also gave kudos to his Utah Jazz shirt). The band managed to be instrumentally tight and yet loose enough as to not fall into sloppiness nor overly-tight sterility — a balance that is very important to the type of bluesy doom that they played. Parallels to the “Satori” album by Japan’s Flower Travellin’ Band could be made in Fogg’s jamming style, and the overall impression I took away from Fogg’s performance was a positive one, bringing me back to my nascent times as a metalhead when I was just discovering the greatness of Black Sabbath. When the old-school heavy metal of Fogg ended, the monumental Solomon emerged to bulldoze the audience into dust with their furious frequencies.
The minimalist doom of Solomon took the tone of the evening into a suffocating aura that was practically deafening to anyone in witness. The band features Miguel Feliz, former bassist of The Roller, an Austin doom/sludge band who hold the distinction of the second-heaviest band I have ever seen live in terms of overwhelming sound (the first being Tom G. Warrior’s Triptykon in 2010 that started off with a bowel-rumbling rendition of “Procreation of the Wicked” — UUUGHH!). Solomon’s sound could be said to be a continuation of The Roller’s steamrolling doom with long-held chord passages and a massive tone from the stringed instruments that washed over the crashing of the pounding drums. In addition to providing gut-turning bass drones, Feliz also sang in a raspy, echoed tone, with a presence akin to the mystic Scott Wino, one of the most revered names in doom. The band grew increasingly intense as the set went on, culminating in Feliz swatting the microphone stand and smashing his bass against the floor. This unexpected instrument bludgeoning came as a surprise to the audience, but did leave a powerful impact with the sudden violence. The destructive doom set did fly by quickly, clocking in at around fifteen minutes, a blink of an eye in doom-years. Our first impression was that we had walked in late and missed some of the set, but a conversation with an audience member confirmed that the set was indeed a short set. Regardless of set length, Solomon left a positive impact with their monolith of distortion, and I will certainly be keeping my eye out for future shows. Once the carnage from Solomon’s set was cleared out, Mala Suerte took to the stage to deliver doom damnation.
Austin’s long-standing doom icons Mala Suerte were the headliners of the night, providing a 45-minute set of well-composed sludgy doom that brought the evening to an ideal conclusion. The band has been a fixture in the Austin doom scene since their inception in 1999, and these headbangers have not lost one ounce of live power over the years. Not content to keep within the confines of churning doom tempos which could run the risk of repetition in the hands of less-skilled songwriters, Mala Suerte mix things up by throwing in speedier influences that force the listener into a fast headbang before inducing whiplash by returning to a rumbling dirge. Gary Rosas’ vocal stylings are gruff and lower in tone than the classic doom singing of Ozzy Osbourne or Bobby Liebling, and his bellowing fit perfectly within the context of the growling guitar riffs and thunderous rhythm section. Additionally, Rosas is an animated frontman, gesturing and moving around onstage and keeping an active rapport with the crowd, instead of staring at them in silence as some frontman are known to do. Songs such as “Rivers to Ruin” and “Labyrinth of Solitude” conveyed tales of misery and woe (the band’s name does translate to “Bad Luck” after all) to the accompaniment of tasteful instrumental passages with several standout sections. The four instrumentalists of Mala Suerte were clearly on the same wavelength, locking in with uninterrupted groove to effectively present their hymns of sorrow to the audience. The band’s last song of the evening, “The Recluse” was one of the highlights of their performance, allowing the band to close the forty-five minute set with a song that encompassed the sound of Mala Suerte. It should go without saying that anyone in the Austin area who enjoys doom metal should witness a Mala Suerte performance at least once, and Saturday’s show proved that Mala Suerte are completely worthy of respect.
If you had a doom metal itch that needed scratching, you could no better in Austin than to check out this show, and I left with a one hell of a sore neck — the eternal testament of a good metal show. Hails and horns to Mala Suerte, Solomon, Fogg, and the Lost Well for their roles in this show, and I look forward to the next one! See you around!
Jake Holmes is a Central Texas heavy metal writer who lives by the pen and will (likely) die by the sword. Originally from a suburban town outside of North Austin, Holmes moved to San Antonio during his college years. After several years and thousands of miles driven to see shows in San Antonio and Austin, he returned to the Austin area due to his graduation and continued to see as many shows as humanly possible. His interests include going to shows, blasting Carnivore as loudly as possible on the way to shows, and sleeping upon his return to his home from shows. His “dislikes” include hearing loss, traffic, and unnecessary bonus tracks on album reissues.