It’s interesting how our tastes change as we get older. What do I mean? Well, since I talk about music pretty much every day on here let’s use that as an example. It seems to be the norm that when you’re younger you’re into more extreme music, and as you get older your tastes mellow out somewhat. When you’re 20 you’re pumping The Descendants, Slayer, Overkill, and Death Angel through your car stereo. The louder, brasher, and more combative the better, right? If it’ll make the guy next to you at the stop light in his Honda Accord feel uncomfortable then you’ve got the right music playing. But, as you get older you begin to turn the music down a bit. Maybe even trade in the music for talk radio. Or if you prefer to think for yourself NPR. When you do listen to music it’s more subdued. You move from grindcore and classic punk to adult alternative and singer/songwriter fare. That’s just how it works. It’s the natural progression, man. The circle of life. Well, for me, when I was 20 I was the guy in the Honda Accord. I listened to The Beatles, The Kinks, power pop, and an occasional thrash album when work had me all uptight. Relieve some stress with some headbanging in the car out in the parking lot as Anthrax pummeled my cranium with “Caught In A Mosh” and I was good to go. It was back to Gerry Rafferty’s “Right Down The Line” on the local FM sh*t spreader.
Okay, I wasn’t that lame. But at 20 years old if you were to ask me to give an opinion on a band like Midland, Michigan’s Beast In The Field I’d a told you I had no opinion, other than it was painful and I never wanted to hear it again. A funny thing happened on the way to 40 years old: I’ve grown a taste for doom metal. Something got switched in my brain over 2013. My love for power pop and serious singer/songwriter fare is still there, but I’ve grown this deep adoration for the darker side of metal as well. Psych, space, stoner, and definitely doom have become adjectives I’ve started using quite regularly in my everyday vernacular. “Hey, these are some great psych fried eggs and stoner hash browns, dear.” All right, not that much. But 2013 opened my ears and mind to the beauty(yes, I said beauty) in these extreme forms of rock and metal. It began with my discovery and love affair with New York City’s White Hills. A mix of psych, space, and fuzzed-out Sabbath, with frequent trips into the dark realms of ambient music, White Hills are Dave W and Ego Sensation and their albums are like soundtracks to fever dreams. Earthless is another band that are full-throttle power trio psych goodness. More along the lines of The Jimi Hendrix Experience and Cream thanks to this bands prowess on their individual instruments, they create long, expansive improvisational jams and put them to tape for us all to savor. Sleep found its way to my turntable in 2013 as well, which gave me new appreciation for doom metal(Sabbath are the original DNA strand used to create an army of bleary-eyed, Gibson-abusing stoners.) Doom metal is slow, gurgling, and at times even bluesy with more than a hint of the occult, the macabre, and the just plain evil. Sleep led me to High on Fire, which led me to Electric Wizard, which led me to a whole slew of doom and stoner metal. Some worth mentioning(I just did), and some not worth mentioning. One band in the doom/stoner category worth mentioning is Beast In The Field(yeah, I mentioned them already.) They’re a two-man outfit consisting of Jamie Jahr on drums and Jordan Pries on guitar. Yeah, like the Black Keys…if the Black Keys were eating placenta sacs on stage and belching hellfire out of their speakers. Now go grab another Miller Lite and stay out. Beast In The Field is the kind of two-man band that sounds as if those two men devoured four other men and were empowered by their blood and flesh; evoking a noise from a veritable wall of speakers that even Hell itself wouldn’t condone. It’s this musical cauldron of grooves, riffs, fuzz, and THC mixed with a healthy dose of lamb’s blood and served with goat’s head soup. A stein of the heaviest stout you can find with broken glass and busted teeth floating within it is mandatory.
A friend of mine over an evening of conversation and beers asked me if I’d ever heard this band called Beast In The Field. I hadn’t, so I looked them up the following Monday morning. To my surprise and delight I found a hidden gem amongst the piles of stoner/doom knockoffs(don’t waste your time with Belly Scratcher, Toke, Devil Lips, and High as F*ck….sooo lame.) Jahr and Pries stick to basics of the genre, which are sludge-y riffs, abused toms, and a slow build to demonic copulation. But within the doom perimeters they make something. They make something vital. They also make something really f*cking loud. I have not seen these guys live, but legend has it they have one of the loudest and most aggressive live shows around. Here’s what some folks have said about their live show, “I saw them at dirtfest this year and they were FUCKING LOUD!”, “I saw them in Mobile with the Black Dahlia Murder. Loudest band I’ve ever heard”, “I can’t stop listening to this. These riffs are the thickest and heaviest I’ve ever listened to”, “WHEN DRUMS STARTS MY CATS RUN SCARED”. You get the idea. They are loud. But they don’t hide behind volume. It only goes to enhance the intensity of the music. And while most doom seems to slink its way slowly across a song, much like a slow moving freight train, Beast In The Field can pick up the pace. Check out “Deep In The Caves” for proof of that. Jahr and Pries have released a handful of excellent doom metal albums with Saw Her Ghost Records since 2007. I’ve listened to World Ending and the title track to The Sacred Above The Sacred Below and I’m convinced these guys will be doing tours with Sleep very soon.
I think another aspect of their music that is unique only to them is where they come from. When you mention Michigan most people think of the lake, Detroit, the automotive industry, and the U.P. Living close to Michigan and going there quite often there’s a certain darkness that lingers over “The Great Lake State”. As an 18 year old I used to head up to Niles, Mi to a place called The White House. It was this dumpy house in the middle of nowhere that was turned into a rock club. At 18 we could get into the bar and watch shows. It was mostly South Bend, IN and Michigan rock bands doing their best impression of Seattle grunge with a few hair metal leftovers to amuse us music snobs. Going up there I always got the impression I was in the midst of some dark history. Even as I got older and my wife and I would visit South Haven for holiday you could feel this invisible veil that separated the tourist-y aspect of the town with the real, working class and working poor part of the town that the city wanted to hide from people like my wife and I who wanted to come up for a nice little getaway. I would also venture up to Club Eastbrook in Grand Rapids to see Primus and the Melvins and always got this heavy feeling of history, both good and bad. Michigan always felt to me like this once wondrous and beautiful place that went from a new dawn to nuclear winter in six seconds flat.
Economics, social plight, crime, and a sense of abandonment were the seeds of the sound Beast In The Field creates. Whether Jahr and Pries have felt these things personally I don’t know, but like it or not it’s seeped into their sound. It bleeds from every riff, every drum beat, and every ear that hears them live. This is the very definition of doom metal. The dark side of reality, the twisted psyche of the failed, “nothing left to lose” youth. These are the battle hymns of the bored and wasted. Take heed, people. Take heed.