What is Heavy Music? Bands of DOC IV Weigh In

In our third installment of Descendants of Crom IV coverage, we focus on the essence of heavy music. If Descendants of Crom is a gathering of the heavy underground, then let’s explore what heavy is.

“If it’s heavy, it’s home” at Descendants of Crom. According to creator & organizer Shy Kennedy, “Heavy music is a great, deeply felt expression of the human experience that emits an energy felt wholly through the body. It’s an outlet of escape from the worst parts of our realities and it’s there for us to hold onto, it’s grounding. Like all music it comes in many manifestations, but true heavy music doesn’t even need to be heavy metal specifically, but it contains all those forementioned emotions and expansions. It fills your body with a healing vibration and the right artist will also provide something that gives your mind a release as well.”

Last time, Shy shared her heavy picks for each band performing at Descendants of Crom IV. Listen to her picks here!

Of Music and Mind playlist on Spotify.

About Descendants of Crom IV

DOC IV poster.

The fourth annual Descendants of Crom, A Gathering of the Heavy Underground, will be held again this year June 3 & 4 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on both floors of Cattivo Nightclub. Featuring over 15 heavy bands, including legendary fan-favorites, the events begin early Friday evening and are followed by an all-dayer Saturday. Descendants of Crom began in 2017 and has been a strong contender among other established underground music festivals.

Learn more about DOC IV and get tickets here.

HEAVY MUSIC

Heavy music is a lot of different things to people. Defining it is an elusive task. As you’ll read below, DOC IV bands describe heavy music in various ways.

For some it’s more about the emotional weight of the song – whether the sound is gentle or crushing, if it evokes strong emotions through the lyrics or the music, it’s heavy to them. For others it’s clearly about the sonic volume and compositional density. If it’s not big, it’s not heavy. And still for others, it’s some blend of all of these things, unable to be truly defined – only able to be felt.

Even researchers can’t define or classify it well, try as they might. One thing they’ve learned, though, is that heavy music is good for you … as calming as a hug. Whatever. All we know is that we like it.

I asked Descendants of Crom IV bands: What is heavy music to you? What does it sound like, feel like, look like? What song and video of yours really illustrates your definition of heavy?

Read / listen / watch below to find out their answers. While you’re at it, find out what you can expect of their DOC IV performances and what excites them most about being part of Descendants of Crom!

Tel

Tel is a sludge / doom / post-metal band from Richmond, Virginia. I talked with Dante DuVall (vocals, keyboards) who said, “Heavy music sounds intense, loud, and dense. It doesn’t really have one specific look aside from amplifiers and drum sets. It feels cathartic and powerful.”

Dante chose their song “Ouroboros” from their debut album Lowlife (Aural Music, 2019) and their video for “Punish” from Vigils (Electric Talon Records, 2021) to really illustrate Tel’s kind of heavy.

Tel, “Ouroboros” on Spotify.
Tel, “Punish” Official Video.

When asked what Descendants of Crom audiences should expect from Tel, Dante said, “Sorrowful, intense, melodic doom metal with passionate clean signing and sludgy moments.” Dante is excited about DOC IV, especially, he explains, “Getting to play Pittsburgh for the first time, meeting some new bands, and being a part of Shy’s roster of what she supports in heavy music.”

Bridesmaid

Bridesmaid is an instrumental band from Columbus, Ohio. I talked with bassist (one of two, by the way) Bob Brinkman about heavy music. He says, “It’s hard to quantify, if there is a breakdown that makes me make a stink face you’re on the right track though.”

Bob chose their song “What’s Love Scott to Do with It” from their album Breakfast at Riffany’s (self-released, 2013) and this live video from Ohio Doomed and Stoned at Buzzbin in 2018 as examples of Bridesmaid’s brand of heavy.

Bridesmaid, “What’s Love Scott to Do with It” on Spotify.
Bridesmaid, live at Buzzbin / Ohio Doomed and Stoned.

Bob is looking forward to “Seeing a lot of friends under one roof, seeing the fruit of Shy’s labor” at DOC. When asked what DOC IV audiences can expect of Bridesmaid’s performance, he replied simply: “Jorts.”

Foehammer

Foehammer is a sludge / doom / drone band from the Washington, DC metro region. I talked with Jay Cardinell (guitars, vocals) about his take on heavy music. “Heavy can mean a lot of things. A piece of music can be heavy without necessarily being loud or distorted. But what makes the heaviest music is when you have loud guitars, amps, drums, along with the emotional weight behind it.”

Jay chose their song “The Seer” from their album Second Sight (self-released, 2018) and this full-set live video from The Pocket in 2021 to explain Foehammer’s sense of heavy.

Foehammer, “The Seer” on Spotify.
Foehammer, live at The Pocket.

When you see Foehammer live at Descendants of Crom, Jay says you can expect “Crushing staggering heavy riffs with a side of ambient drone/gaze.” Jay also shares that “Getting to play in one of our favorite towns with such an impeccable lineup of bands is a dream come true.”

Makeshift Urn

Makeshift Urn is a sludge / post-metal band from the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania area. Drummer Joe Hrehocik explains how he identifies heavy music. “In general, if music evokes some emotion out of me, whether it be exhilaration, sorrow, regret, or joy, it reaches me. This goes for heavy music as well but with a punch to the gut. Heavy music can sound both huge and expansive and also close in on and suffocate you. It can look like a field of blossoms or an abyss depending on what you’re listening to and how it reflects your mood. It really makes me feel a wide array of sentiments.”

To sum up Makeshift Urn’s expression of heavy music, Joe chose their song “The Great Attractor” from their self-titled debut (self-released, 2019).

Regarding their DOC performance, Joe says, “I hope we just bring an interesting element to the audience. I like to keep people guessing; a set list with a lot of ups and downs.” When asked what he’s most looking forward to about performing at Descendants of Crom, Joe shared, “First and foremost the comradery. I like meeting and seeing new people and bands, and also seeing familiar faces. We’re still newer to this scene but I always see a few repeat show attendees and that really means the world to me. That, and this is the biggest lineup we’ve ever been a part of, so it’s really exciting and flattering that we were chosen to do this and represent Pittsburgh’s heavy music scene.”

Witching

Witching is a blackened sludge, death, melodic metal band from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. “Ultimately, heavy music means that it carries weight, be it the message, or simply the sound,” says Witching vocalist Jacqui Powell. “Ours has ‘heavy subject matter,’ the music itself doesn’t have to be heavy all the time. It can be cathartic, angry, sad.”

Jacqui chose their single “THROES” (self-released, 2020) featuring violinist Thuy Nguyen and this live performance from hate5six recorded at Studio 1935 in 2021 to express Witching’s type of heavy.

Witching, “Throes” on Spotify.
Witching, live at Studio 1935.

Expect to hear new material from Witching at Descendants of Crom. “We just wrote and recorded a new record, so we are going to share some new songs at DOC,” Jacqui says. “I’m excited to meet new bands and play a different city besides Philly. Excited to see the grouping of humans that Shy has curated. If she hand-picked all of the bands, I know they are all going to be special performances.”

Horseburner

Horseburner is a progressive stoner metal band from all over West Virginia. I asked Adam Nohe (drums, vocals) what heavy music was to him. “It’s a broad question, but I honestly feel heavy is a vibe more than a sound. Some of the heaviest songs I’ve ever heard are from folk singers. But more to the point, heavy music can be from the guitars or the lyrics. It’s an individual feeling, of course, but it makes me feel almost exhausted … in a positive way.”

Adam chose their song and video for “Eleleth” from their album Dead Seeds, Barren Soil (reissued on Hellmistress Records, 2017) to illustrate Horseburner’s style of heavy.

Horseburner, “Eleleth” on Spotify.
Horseburner, “Eleleth” Official Video.

What can Descendants of Crom audiences expect from Horseburner? Adam says, “We’re too attention deficit to do the straight stoner rock thing or the straight doom thing. So, I’d like to think our music brings some twists and turns that people might not expect. We have a(nother) new bass player, and we’re playing a new song. And we’re probably going to be smiling like idiots the whole time.” Adam explains they are really looking forward to being back in the Pittsburgh area for DOC IV. “I don’t think we’ve played Pittsburgh since before the pandemic. We have so many wonderful friends up there, and there are so many people and bands we love playing both nights of DOC. We’re just as stoked to come and hang out and watch all the bands as we are to play.”

The Long Hunt

The Long Hunt is an instrumental doom / drone / heavy psych band from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I asked my bandmates to explain what heavy music is to them. “Heavy music is any music that elicits an intense emotional response from the performer, audience, or both,” says guitarist Trevor Richards. “Both positive or negative or somewhere in between. Something that gets your heart pumping and puts you in the present moment. It’s music that is active and in your face and hard to ignore.” Drummer Mark Lyons explains, “Heavy music to me could be as simple as the loopy bass lines of a song by The Birthday Party with Nick Cave, or as subtle as Bill Callahan from Smog’s baritone voice … but anything that raises the hair on my neck.”

Both Trevor and Mark chose the song and video for “Night Falls on Black Wings” from The Long Hunt’s latest album Threshold Wanderer (self-released, 2022) to illustrate The Long Hunt’s style of heavy.

The Long Hunt, “Night Falls on Black Wings” on Spotify.
The Long Hunt, “Night Falls on Black Wings” Official Video.

Trevor says that at Descendants of Crom, The Long Hunt will “mostly be playing songs off our most recent album, Threshold Wanderer, which came out April of this year.” Mark adds, “You can expect to see The Long Hunt give its all at DOC. I know we have put a lot of time into these songs.” Both Trevor and Mark are looking forward to being part of DOC. Trevor shares that what he’s most excited about is, “The community. Playing in front of receptive audiences and sharing the stage with like-minded bands. Talking with people who share similar musical interests. Being in a generally supportive atmosphere.” Similarly, Mark is looking forward to playing DOC because “it’s great to see all the hard work people have put into their craft and especially people like Shy who put these things together.”

Quiet Man

Quiet Man is a sludge / drone / noise band from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. I talked to Ross Bradley (bass, vocals) about heavy music. Ross shared, “I think heavy music deals mostly in fear and power. It doesn’t have to be drop tuned to G or loud as fuck, but it does have to help instill a sense of empowerment in the face of something terrifying. Some of the heaviest music is country/bluegrass.”

According to Ross, Quiet Man just went through a name change and a pretty drastic pivot in sound, so there’s no Quiet Man music available for streaming just yet, though they do have a record on the way. To explain Quiet Man’s sense of heavy, he chose a song from their “previous incarnation that has the most in common with our current vibe.” He chose the song “Decay Is a Womb” from their split with Manikineter, The Earth Will Reclaim All It Has Lost (self-released, 2019). He chose this live video from Voltage Lounge in 2018 featuring songs they also perform as Quiet Man.

God Root (former incarnation of Quiet Man), “Decay Is a Womb” on Spotify.
God Root (former incarnation of Quiet Man), live video at Voltage Lounge.

Ross hopes audiences will have a physical response to their performance. “I want our music to be kinda kinesthetic and I want you to be able to feel the weight and movement in your body. So hopefully we can deliver something heavy and psychedelic enough you can really feel.” When asked what excites him about performing at DOC, Ross answered, “I love the Aesthetic of this fest. I’m a big fan of Conan comic books and all that sword and sorcery stuff. Having this community brought together from worlds of punk, metal, crust, hard rock, etc. is just so cool and I’m excited to see so many friends and friends’ bands play.”

Horehound

Horehound is a doom / sludge metal band from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Guitarist Brendan Parrish explains his take on heavy music. “Heavy music is music that is heavy in nature, not necessarily in sound. If it evokes a strong response, it could be considered heavy.”

To illustrate Horehound’s particular brand of heavy, Brendan chose their song “The Heavy” from their single Weight (Blackseed Records, 2019) and this full-set live video from Cattivo in 2021.

Horehound, “The Heavy” on Spotify.
Horehound, live video from Cattivo.

According to Brendan, DOC audiences “should expect the same dedication to performance, and some tracks from our forthcoming album Collapse (releasing May 27, 2022).” Brendan added that he is excited to “be sharing the stage and connecting with all the other great bands and fans in attendance.”

Howling Giant

Howling Giant is a cosmic stoner rock band from Nashville, Tennessee. Drummer and vocalist Zach Wheeler shared what heavy music is to him. “Heavy music is a different feeling for everyone, but for me it’s when a riff or groove physically moves you. Anything can be heavy if you put feeling into it.”

To illustrate this point about Howling Giant’s type of heavy, Zach chose the song “Camel Crusher” from their self-titled EP (self-released, 2015) because it “tends to get the people moving the most at our live shows” and the video for “Cybermancer and the Doomsday Express” from The Space Between Worlds (Blues Funeral Recordings, 2019) because it was “a super fun video to make and provides contrast to the slower music we make.”

Howling Giant, “Camel Crusher” on Spotify.
Howling Giant, “Cybermancer and the Doomsday Express” Official Video.

Zach goes on to say that Howling Giant will be “bringing an all-gas-no-brakes slammin’ good time” to Descendants of Crom. “Dancing encouraged.” He’s excited about “Seeing all of our friends again! It’s been a long 2 years and we’re just glad to be out on the road making music and seeing all of our friends’ bands again.”

PILLÄRS

Pillärs is a sludge / crust / doom band from Cleveland, Ohio. The band – Zach Germaniuk (guitars, vocals), Louis Knight (bass), and Chadd Beverlin (drums) – took time while on the road to share some important insights. “It might be easier to define ‘heavy music’ by what it isn’t than what it is. It isn’t superficial. It isn’t sappy or uncaring – which is not to say that it is humorless, but there isn’t the bubblegum security blanket that uses well-worn music tropes and easygoing aesthetics to lull a person’s mind into a false sense of security.” They continued, “There are many things opposite of sappy unconsciousness that can be classified as ‘heavy,’ because HEAVY isn’t a straitjacket either: perhaps it’s something about the human experience that connects to a deeper or maybe darker level that goes beyond background noise.”

To illustrate Pillärs’ particular form of heavy, they chose their song “Empty Space” off their upcoming album Failed State (releases June 10, 2022). They shared this poignant story. “On the morning of the last day of our 2018 tour Zach got the call that his dad wasn’t recovering from surgery well. We were already in the area on our way to a homecoming show, and we detoured instead to the hospital. He was there for his dad’s last moment on earth. Death in the abstract is one thing. It’s entirely another when you are there watching someone die, hear the doctor call time of death, hear the EKG machine go flat. That song is a memorial to that moment.”

Pillärs, “Empty Space” on Soundcloud.

They added, “We are truly excited for DOC.”

Rebreather

Rebreather is a heavy rock / noise band from Youngstown, Ohio. We didn’t get a chance to talk with Rebreather recently about heavy music, but back in 2019, we interviewed Barley Rantilla (guitars, vocals), Steve Gardner (drums), and Steve Wishnewski (bass) about their incredible stage presence. In this video they talk about what makes their music and performance heavy, and the video gives you a taste of what you can expect from them at DOC IV.

Rebreather, interview with Of Music and Mind.

Thanks for reading / listening / watching what Descendants of Crom IV bands think about heavy music! Coming up, learn more about the creative processes, challenges, and accomplishments of DOC IV bands! Be well!

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