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Live Report: Backwoods Payback, Yatra, Decap Attak, and Dour @ Philly

The three-song Bandcamp demo from Dour touches on the usual Crowbar sludge-core (and does it pretty well), however while live at the Century Bar, the group seemed a lot more dynamic. This was mainly due to bassist Cory Casey whose dexterity did much more than provide a guttural bottom-end that the Scranton band clearly reveled in; he also added interesting textures to the mirk, raising it ever so slightly from the darkness.

Contrasting the muculent grime of the openers was Decap Attak. The South Jersey trio was fast and frenetic, a thrash party band of sorts. It’s exactly what one would expect from a band whose bio simply states, “we come to steal your women, drink your booze, and melt your fuckin’ brain.” Pat Boyle, the guitarist, has a unique sound that employs a liberal use of wah-wah pedals, adding psychedelic allusions to what otherwise would be straightforward riffs and solos. Possibly that is the “brain-melting” component in the band’s music. It’s a safe bet that bassist Nick Macklin is the one who drinks your booze though: he was a character who pogoed during songs and cracked wise between them.

Yatra was the only band on the bill to travel from beyond the tristate area. Their debut record Death Ritual, which was released right after the new year on Grimoire Records, sounds like if Matt Pike decided that evolution was for nerds and kept churning out the masterful Stonehenge riffs with sloth-like pace that was heard on High On Fire’s The Art of Self-Defense debut.

In concert, Yatra lived up to such expectations as Dana Helmuth’s gristly growl approximated Pike’s early Lemmy-gone-doom intonations, especially on the lethargic and sprawling “Black Moon.” His guitar tone is also thick and buzzing, though his style is a little more groove-oriented than Pike’s, even going back to how he sounded at the turn of the century. Helmuth is backed with a very solid rhythm section — Mike Tull on drums and bassist Maria Geisbert – which is essential for a three-piece band to have. The bass intro to “Four Directions” gave way to the heaviest, most Sabbathian riff of the set-list and they make the set-closing dirge “Smoke is Rising” seem like a long-lost cut some Delta bluesman traded his soul for at a crossroads back in the day.

Maryland has an exemplary pedigree for doom metal. It was the launching pad for Pentagram, The Obsessed, and Earthride, among others. Even with that kind of legacy to live up to, Yatra more than holds their own.

At one point during Backwoods Payback’s set, the Decap Attak bassist interrupted. “I thought you were gonna be more stoner rock shit,” he enthused loudly and hilariously, “but you’re rock and roll!” It was probably the best review of the band. There was no shortage of reasons to assume the trio from 40 minutes down the road in West Chester would not be stoner rock: the general vibe of the evening, their own Facebook and Bandcamp pages say it, and singer/vocalist Mike Cummings looks the part, decked out in a trucker hat and flannel with a scraggly salt and pepper beard growing from his cherubic face.

They had the big riffs of stoner metal, but it was in a much brighter package. This was partially due to bassist Jessica Baker who bounced all over the floor like she was trying to reach a new personal high with her Fitbit, almost always with a huge smile on her face. It was also partially due Erik Larson’s foundation that could never be accused of plodding. It all culminated in way more fun than lumbering riffs ever usually are.

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