Richmond We’ve got a super-short drive today, so we wasted as much time as possible before hopping back in the van and firing up The 40-Year-Old Virgin. Josh brought along a bunch of brainless DVDs, so between those and Michael’s unwavering dedication to picking on Josh, it went quickly. Richmond is a great city and tons of awesome people call it home, so we were all really looking forward to the show, especially since hometown hessians Battlemaster were due to play. We killed off some time with gargantuan milkshakes and a badly needed Kroger run (we were all on the brink of scurvy), then sluggishly hauled everything through Strange Matter’s heavily-stickered doors and into a towering inferno. Summer in Richmond is no joke, and the lack of air conditioning dragged morale down a few notches (though we were very grateful for the healthy food they kindly stuffed down our grease-slicked gullets).
Lord Mantis hadn’t been able to squeeze onto the bill, so they were watching hockey somewhere near Philly while Cobalt carried on their Virginia campaign. A new local black metal band called Crater opened and Asheville’s Shadow of the Destroyer pummeled punters with a blast of cold, abrasive black metal before Battlemaster took the stage. Andy Horn is one of metal’s best frontmen, and his band’s bizarre world mix of sci-fi, fantasy and epic nerdery, coupled with blistering black/thrash, is always a joy to witness. The crowd ate it up, but thinned out as it got later and later. Technical difficulties plagued the somber acoustic interlude “Throat” and threw things off course for a few minutes, but the band quickly recovered, and the remainder of the performance went off without a hitch. We crashed at Tim from Forcefield Records’ place, ensconced in a circle of oscillating fans.
Philadelphia Phil ended up in the backseat with Michael and I today, and felt comfortable enough by now to open up about his job and his life with the Army. He’s a very private person, so details are unnecessary, but suffice it to say, he’s seen some insanely brutal shit and been through unfathomably intense experiences, especially during his time as an Army scout in Iraq. Phil’s a genuinely nice, respectful, trustworthy guy, and fixating upon his military career does him a disservice; his reluctance to talk about those things in interviews or to fans makes sense. He did mention, grinning, that he likes to blast Angelcorpse and Krisiun at his soldiers during training to keep them rattled, but beyond that, seems to keep his metal and military lives very much separated.
Now that he’s back stateside, he works as a drill sergeant. He wakes up at 3 a.m. every day, spends every waking hour making life miserable for new recruits, breaking them down and building them back up, turning snot-nosed high school kids into war machines. He’s done with work at 10:30 p.m., goes home to spend time with his family, then gets up and does it all over again. It’s a small miracle that he was able to take time off to do this tour; he put in the request three months prior, and is headed back to Georgia to get ready for work Monday morning. Half-joking, I asked him when he has time to sleep. “I, uh... don’t.” He was serious. As he said, his entire life is “family, music, Army.” There’s not much room for anything else, and that he’s carved out this week’s worth of time speaks volumes about the depth of his commitment to Cobalt. He keeps saying how humbled and appreciative he is that people care enough about their music to come and watch them play, but that he isn’t really enjoying the act of touring. You can tell that all he really wants is to be home with his wife and his Vlad Tepes records, but instead he's here. One hopes that their fans can appreciate that kind of sacrifice, if nothing else.
He changed the subject soon enough, anyway, and just like that, we were back to chattering about farts and black metal. Baltimore traffic slows us down, then DC traffic does a real number on us, so we rolled up later than expected... to absolutely no consequence. The other bands were still loading in as we arrived, and the show itself didn’t end up starting 'til late, since “punk time” is alive and well in West Philadelphia. The Millcreek Tavern was an odd choice for this show, but we got to see the best new band in Philly, Hivelords, smear a gnarly blend of whacked-out doom and filthy black metal all over the joint, and a decent number of diehards stayed out to rage ‘til nearly 2 a.m. The band has really gelled by now, and seem totally comfortable onstage; it’s a shame I’ve got to leave them tomorrow, because those NYC dates will undoubtedly be the best yet.
Judging from what Phil’s said, this will be Cobalt’s first and last tour, so if you missed them this past week, you missed them forever. Cut 'em loose, and watch 'em fly.