Cacophonies from the Capitol City: Columbus Metal and Hardcore
Columbus, Ohio in some people’s minds means “flyover country”, godawful local and state government (OK, no lie there), mad dads supporting shitty college football coaches, and to many metalheads, the tragic death of Dimebag Darrell at Alrosa Villa.
I’d rather you to think of it of a place where there’s a diverse population, a big arts community, a restaurant selection that’s as good as San Francisco, as well as a great live music city. Furthermore, Ohio is one of the greatest states in the US for not just metal and punk but for music in general. From the early punk shock of the Electric Eels in 1974 to the deep funk of Dayton to the Akron oddness of Devo and to the free jazz of Cleveland’s Albert Ayler. Back to Columbus – it’s also the home of the popular leftist podcast Street Fight Radio as well as a place that hosts loads of conventions, pro wrestling events along with the usual Midwest fair of hosting the Gathering of the Juggalos in 2018.*
Regarding live music – there’s often really good metal, garage rock and punk shows going on nearly every week. Plus, this is also the city that hosted the Warriors of Metal Fest which ran from 2011-2015 and featured classic bands such as Manila Road and Helstar along with contemporary power/traditional acts like Borrowed Time, Argus and Züül. Columbus also hosted the 2010 Scion Rock Fest which had Cannibal Corpse, Voi Vod, Thou, Brutal Truth, Ludicra, Yob as well as local metallers, Deadsea**. Plus, a plethora of nu-metal and contemporary hard rock bands (for better or for worse) play at Columbus Crew’s stadium every May for Rock on the Range now known as Sonic Temple.
While to my knowledge of the early metal scene in Columbus is a bit hazy, in 1975 there was the proto-metal of Headstones and their rare single “Carry Me On” which represents the 70’s sound for the Arch City far better than the biker-rock dullards, The Godz ever did. Headstones’ track in recent years is featured on the forth volume/”Forth Trip” of the great proto-metal series “Brown Acid” on the Riding Easy label. Said series also has a lotta other heavy rockers from the plastic grass and big hair-era*** from around the Buckeye State. Onward into the 80’s were these weirdos named after a racist governor even though they apparently weren’t – that I wrote about in 2018. Additionally there was the “Sunset Strip by way of North High Street**** fluffy hair rockers, Nasty Action as well as the power/thrash metal of Restless Breed who were around circa: 1988. Restless Breed even had their discography CD selling in Japan. Also of note was the doom mixed with 80’s metal bombast of Wicked Angel who released their two albums in 1995 “Saints and Sinners” and “Heads Will Roll” in 1998 on Germany’s Noise label. They also put out a video filmed in Columbus’ old red light district. Rosie were essentially power-pop by way big hair metal like Poison or Enuff Z’Nuff but in in 1981 (file under: “bands that make you go hmm…”)
Skipping ahead to the mid-00’s along with Deadsea there was also great, bombastic doom band called Teeth of the Hydra who released two albums on VolumeHammer and the TeePee labels.
In our current scene there’s a ton of stuff on going on – especially from these bands:
Minority Threat – Bombastic, heavy as hell hardcore. Their s/t EP is one of my favorite releases of the year. Amazing live band as well with very insightful lyrics regarding racial and social issues. Got to seem them back in April with Pittsburgh’s Killer of Sheep and both bands tore it up big time!
First Bite – 4 dudes originally from Dayton who churn out some dense and intense death metal. Way bombastic sounds with deep as hell vocals and tight guitars, low-end drum parts. You can hear way more of ’em here. I just saw them play at the local venue Spacebar with the also local, atmospheric black metal band Naviūm along with the melodic DM / thrash and LOTR-inspired band Gates to the Abyss.
Pale Grey Lore – make some very nice, big sounding doom with some psych and rock influences. Sounds somewhere between 90’s-era Trouble, Spirit Caravan and the Swedish band, Lowrider. They play around the city around once a month, too.
Toxic Womb – In your face hardcore with great melodic vocals and very nice bass tone. I really wanna see ’em live sometime. They’ve been around a few years and also released a killer Xmas-themed split with the excellent Philly band, HIRS.
Nukkehammer – Japanese/Finnish/Swede inspired crust/d-beat/noise-y hardcore with really upfront and awesome vocals. While their last release “Soviet Rust Belt” is from 2011 and they haven’t seemed to have recorded anything since but holy shiiit are they great live and they still play around and thankfully will still be in 2019.
Malibu Stasi – Fuzzed out noise rawk with catchy vocals and the kinda damaged sound the Midwest is fucking perfect at. Way good live band, too.
Lo-Pan – Long running doom rockers / metallers with a lotta soul ‘ala Goatsnake crossed with maybe AiC. I saw them last month with Amps II Eleven who are another band fronted by Cleveland hardcore legend, pro wrestling knower, and all-round cool dude, Tony Erba. Very catchy songs that should be on the 99.7 The Blitz if that station wasn’t stuck in a fucking rut.
Marantha– Noise rock/heavy as hell hardcore/death metal mix.
Vile Gash – Nasty, hardcore that at times bleeds into power-violence ‘ala Crossed Out. On the Youth Attack label so their records are usually sold in a flash. One of their songs was even covered by a band from Russia called Oblaka.
Natural Selection – tech-death with heavy NYHC touches.
Crucible of Hate – Thrashy, melodic death metal outta the south area of Lancaster, OH.
Fool’s Crown – Solid mix of trad. metal like Metal Church and Heretic (the L.A. one) and some really good crossover that manages to work despite it seemingly so different on paper.
Cult of Frost – Celtic Frost / Hellhammer tribute* (* Minus “Cold Lake” and whatever “Prototype” was) and a damn fine one at that. They even did a show in 2017 with ex-Celtic Frost guitarist Ron Marks.
Takacs play a raw version of crossover / thrash ‘ala D.R.I. and Dr. Know and while they haven’t released anything since 2015 – they do play shows at times at local venues such as the laundromat/bar/arcade, Dirty Dungarees as well as The Summit near the Ohio St. campus.
Goatmill – Tight melodic black/death metal though I’m not 100% if they’re still active.
Red Sun – Unfortunately defunct but awesome sludge-y doom with a hint of AmRep-style noise rock when I saw them in 2017 – 2 of the 3 band members had New Japan Pro Wrestling shirts which reminds me…
Also it’s worth mentioning the Delayed Gratification label have a buncha recent Columbus/Central OH hardcore bands on their roster like Young Machetes and Carev Dvor.
Others of interest:
Mixed Deuce – garage/punk rock with 1/2 of New Bomb Turks and great songs like “Dick Spencer” – a focused diss on ‘ol punchy face Richard Spencer along with their anthem “Alt Right Punks Can Fuck Off” both of which came out in 2017 but they play live a few times a year. Bloody Show – rockin’ as hell and hella rockin, punk/noise rock/hard blues whatever ya wanna call it – amazing live band and some really great people, too. Raw Pony – Rippin’ punk / garage with some nice vocal harmonies. Laura from Bloody Show is also in this band. Red Threads – Funky, post-punky goodness in the realm of Delta 5, Mo-Dettes and the like. Unholy Two – Way bonkers and a glorious mess of noise rock n’ wreckin’ that’s deeply informed by the world of professional wrestlin’ from the bingo halls of Philly to the grand domes of Tokyo. Dana – Wild and free-jazz like punky, no wave I guess? They just call it “Avant-Garage” – it’s wild & quite good. Pink Reason – Psych, noise and folk oddness who started in Wisconsin but are now based and play in C’bus. Their sound often overlaps into that New Zealand trippy stuff like Peter Jefferies or Plagal Grind. EYE – Trippy of heavy psych/prog/space rock jams. Pink Reason – Psych, noise and folk oddness who started in Wisconsin but occasionally play in C’bus and who’s sound often overlaps into that New Zealand trippy stuff like Peter Jefferies or Plagal Grind. Evolution Control Committee – One of the foundations of the”mash up” style who started in the 80’s. They took an influence from the like-minded West Coast sonic outlaws, Negativland and pushed it even further by brilliantly matching the sounds of Public Enemy and Herb Albert on their 1996 single “Public Enemy/Whipped Cream Mixes”.
Obnox – OK, they’re from Cleveland BUT they’re their amazing mix of noise rock/punk/electro/soul and hip-hop is masterminded by Lamont “Bim” Thomas who played in some great C’bus bands like the Bassholes & Flipping Hades. Later he was in several good as hell Cleveland bands (This Momemnt In Black History, Puffy Areolas as well as the Ohio/Texas collaboration, Blaxxx). There was also the label (sadly defunct) Columbus Discount who released a load of great local garage/psych/punk/noise/weirdo music like Psychedelic Horseshit, Cheater Slicks, and Tommy Jay. Copywrite – prolific and to the point hip-hop with lots of good beats and samples. He’s collabed with Ras Kass among many others. Mummula – Pretty solid pop-punk (which I usually not the biggest fan of) and surf mix. The Columbusblood compilation series – since around 2014 this features a buncha punk, indie type bands that are often worth your time. The most recent one “Holidayblood” features the Punxmass band, Figgy and the Scrooges who run the Xmas-season show Figgyfest.
* Ohio is likely the second biggest drawing place for Insane Clown Posse after their homebase in Michigan. You can hear loads more about this from the Street Fight Radio guys. And FWIW right before Halloween I saw a cover show with one band as ICP (who of course brought Faygo) and another band who covered The Fall and along with a band that did all ESG covers which made me very proud of this city’s music scene.
** Granted, I’ve only lived in Columbus for about a year & 1/2 now but I’ve long been into the city’s punk scene via New Bomb Turks, Gaunt and Thomas Jefferson Slave Apartments. I was also clued into Deadsea and Teeth of the Divine by the rad ladies in the San Francisco via Columbus noise trio, 16 Bitch Pile Up. 16BPU I met in 2006 when they were playing with the So. Cal Cimmerian power-violence act, Crom in the Bay Area. Also of note I briefly trained one of the members of the Columbus electronic/experimental band Deathly Fighter as a DJ at KZSU at Stanford as the Bay Area had a number of ex-Ohio people in it though yours truly did the reversed and fucked off to the Midwest. Granted there’s a movement to turn Columbus into tech-neo-liberal hellscape like San Jose or whatever but there’s a decent amount of people fighting against it as well. Plus it only takes about 15 mins to get to most music venues vs. the 45 min. to an hour of the fucking Bay Area (and this was even on Saturday nights) and the pace of life is a bit slower here which I direly needed.
*** Big hair as in ‘fros, big featured styles ‘ala Topps baseball cards of the era. For more on this read “Big Hair and Plastic Grass” by Dan Epstein it’s hugely worth your time. The “Brown Acid” has a buncha proto-metal bands from up north in Youngstown, OH.
**** High Street is the main drag in Columbus that goes from the northern suburb Westerville all the way through the Ohio State Uni campus into downtown and beyond. It’s also where most live music venues are.