Nine Bands You Need to Know from Indiana
Most people probably don’t associate Indiana with metal. In fact, most people’s knowledge of Indiana music likely begins and ends with John Mellencamp. More metallic claims to fame include David Lee Roth, Axl Rose, and Izzy Stradlin. Punk legends Sloppy Seconds also hail from the Hoosier state. However, given that Indianapolis ranks as the 2nd largest city in the Midwest (behind only Chicago), and given the strength of Indy’s stoner/sludge/doom scene, it seems like there would be more metal bands from Circle City on the national radar.
Realistically, only two Indiana bands in the last ten years have gotten enough notice for most metal fans to recognize them by name, and both of them have split up: The Gates of Slumber and Coffinworm. Those whose memories stretch back far enough might remember early Willowtip signees Harakiri, or death/thrashers Demiricous, whose drummer Dustin Boltjes now plays with Skeletonwitch.
When it comes to the current Indiana metal scene, the conversation has to start with former The Gates of Slumber main man Karl Simon and his new band Wretch, whose self-titled debut came out back in August. Wretch covers a lot of the same musical territory as Simon’s previous band: slow, bluesy, and doomy. The main difference between the two bands lies in the lyrics; whereas fantasy subjects dominated the TGoS catalogue, Wretch’s lyrics focus instead on a more depressing reality. Simon described album-closing track “Drown” (which Invisible Oranges premiered here) as a song about drinking oneself to death. Strong Sabbath influences on this one, and Simon’s weathered voice bears more than a passing resemblance to Scott “Wino” Weinrich (ex-St. Vitus, The Obsessed). Fans of more traditional American doom like The Obsessed, Pentagram, or Trouble would do well to check them out.
Apostle of Solitude, whose guitarist/vocalist Chuck Brown played drums in an early iteration of The Gates of Slumber, probably has the highest profile of any band from Indy right now; they’ll soon head over to Europe to play a run of shows with The Skull, including a couple of festivals. Starting off in a more traditional doom vein, Apostle have gotten progressively less Sabbath-influenced with each successive release. The band really hit their stride with the addition of guitarist/vocalist Steve Janiak for their most recent record, 2014’s Of Woe and Wounds. Heavier and a bit more focused overall than its predecessors, the album boasts killer riffs from front to back. The ending section of “Blackest of Times” in particular absolutely crushes.
Speaking of Steve Janiak, he also plays guitar and handles vocals for Devil to Pay, whose fifth full-length A Bend Throug Space and Time also came out back in August. Devil to Pay skew a little sludgier than either Apostle or Wretch, with a sound that splits the difference between Crowbar and Kyuss. Lots of great riffs here, too, but Janiak’s voice, easily the most expressive and versatile this side of ex-Acid Bath frontman Dax Riggs, really separates the band from their peers.
A bit newer to the scene, Astral Mass, whose bassist/vocalist Mike Naish recently joined Apostle of Solitude, accentuate their stoner/doom with more outer spaced-out elements, and should appeal to fans of Kyuss or Orange Goblin. They only have one 3-song EP to their name thus far, but those songs nicely represent how they sound live: heavy riffing with a super-tight rhythm section, burly lumberjack vocals, and some tasty echo-laden, almost psychedelic guitar sections. Expect a full length sometime early next year.
Void King guitarist Tommy Miller also worships at the altar of the fuzzed-out riff, but his playing has more grungy overtones than one would usually expect from a stoner metal band. Vocalist Jason Kindred kind of has a Danzig thing going on, which also makes them sound unique. Their killer debut There is Nothing came out back in June. Their up-tempo stuff rocks, but the band truly shines on the slow burners like “Release the Hawks.”
Arguably the most buzzed about band in the scene right now, Drude fall on the progressive sludge/post-metal end of the musical spectrum. Formerly known as Burn the Army (under which name they released the excellent The Tide to Sink the Summit in 2014), the band writes lengthy compositions full of interlocking sections and shifting dynamics, and all three members share vocal duties. They absolutely slay live, too; guitarist Jordan Smith plays a lot like Mike Sullivan of Russian Circles in the way the he samples and loops himself to add textures and build tension. There’s a definite Neurosis influence to their sound as well. They have a new full-length coming out in a couple of weeks; the outstanding pre-release track bodes well for the rest of the album.
Moving away from all things smoked out and riffy, former members of the recently disbanded blackened sludge outfit Coffinworm just put out their second album with Kvlthammer. An exhilarating blast of whiskey and misanthropy-soaked black-and-roll, Oath doesn’t stray too far from the Mötorhead/Venom template, but the flawless execution more than makes up for any lack of originality. The crusty production perfectly matches the gnarliness of the tunes.
Grinders Handsome Prick call the NW part of the state home, and their gloriously offensive (“Wet Mouth and a Paycheck,” “Abhor a Gory Phallus”), sophomoric (“Chlamydia Home Remedies,” “Plus Size Model Citizen”), and just fucking weird (“Cimmerian Night Frolic,” “Pamplemousse Bouquet”) debut full-length Enlarged to Show Texture sounds like a welcome throwback to albums like Agoraphobic Nosebleed’s Frozen Corpse Stuffed With Dope and Anal Cunt’s I Like it When You Die. The Prick play serious grind that doesn’t take itself too seriously.
Finally, for the power/thrash crowd there’s Fort Wayne’s Zephaniah. Any readers who have ever listened to a band like Exmortus and wished they sang less about swords and riding into battle and more about the original Mad Max trilogy should check out Zephaniah. Their second album, Reforged, came out earlier this year, will appeal to listeners who like their metal completely over-the-top and more than a little bit cheesy. They bring a lot of fun to their live show as well, where they can shred with the best of them, and their drummer does really bad magic tricks between songs.