By Mike Thomas
February is a brutal time of year. In this, the most dead of winter months, holiday revelries are a distant memory. The weeks spent trapped indoors, barred from the chilling cold, begin to take a psychological toll.
Then, in an absurd ritual that could only have been conceived by a winter-ravaged mind locked deep in the throes of cabin fever, a fortune-telling rodent named Phil emerges from his subterranean lair to doom large swathes of the population to further icy tortures. It is in the spirit of this pseudo-holiday that Spacebar hosts its Feb. 2 “UP THE PUNXUTAWNEY PHIL PARTY”–featuring the talents of hard-rock and metal outfits spanning several genres and headlined by Columbus’s own sludge-metal group, Weed Demon.
As its name suggests, Weed Demon is an example of that particular branch of hard rock that is called almost interchangeably by the descriptors “doom,” “sludge” or “stoner” metal. Though the particulars that define and separate these various categories could be argued, they all speak to some common features: howling, quasi-unintelligible vocals, tempos that typically fluctuate between slow and really freaking slow, relatively simple and repetitive chord progressions and, of course, a healthy aesthetic preoccupation with cannabis.
Weed Demon’s sound certainly checks off all of the boxes for the loosely-defined genre of stoner-metal, but their inventiveness and willingness to rise up out of the muck for some old-school shredding gives their performance the variety needed to fend off total monotony. The weed-addled brains of the audience ride sonic waves, as songs build and swell from droning refrains to crashing, up-tempo guitar solos, only to recede back to plodding rhythms.
For fans in this particular vein, the vocals of singer/bassist Jordan Holland are everything they should be: hoarse, drawn-out and almost inhumanly deep. For those whose tastes lean toward less extreme sounds, hints of bluesy guitar work shine out occasionally through the smoky haze. By varying their sound more than some stoner-styled groups, Weed Demon commands attention through some truly long pieces of music, including a closing number that clocks in at around nine minutes.
Maybe it goes without saying, but this is not radio rock. Stoner-metal, doom or whatever esoteric label is applied in a given situation probably falls into a fairly narrow band of taste even within the overall community of metal fandom. That said, for those who do appreciate this particular sound, chances to sludge down as part of a live audience can be few and far between. Thankfully for fans in central Ohio, Weed Demon delivers the goods, providing the genuine article in stoned-out hard rock that perfectly fits the bleak winter hellscape in which all are trapped–at least for a few months longer.
You can catch Weed Demon on March 8 at the Grog Shop in Cleveland Heights and back at Spacebar with Maharaja, Spirit Division and Pale Grey Lore on April 14. Its EP Stoned to Death and full-length album Astrological Passages are available on all major platforms.