Wilmington’s Beard of Antlers are a heavy-metal five-piece straight out of the Cape Fear’s own boggy marshlands. It’s homegrown music, with good riffs and plenty of low-end. They are scheduled to light up the stage at Reggie’s this Saturday.
It’s interesting how some bands are created for the purpose of touring the world and signing to the biggest record label they can, while others would rather play in their hometown in support of those more ambitious bands. Such is the case for Beard of Antlers. According to bassist Will Poole, the sole reason Beard of Antlers ever came into existence was to open for doom-metal acts Dark Castle and Bloody Panda. The band formed in 2009 and originally consisted of Victor Marriott (guitar, vocals), Dan Todd (guitar, vocals), Ryhan Wishnia (vocals), and former drummer Max Sweeney. Carlos Denogan replaced Sweeney on drums when the group decided to take their music a step further by releasing their first and only EP, “Essence of Wilderness,” in June of that year.
“This band is great for the fact that it’s a genre we all enjoy but don’t take too seriously,” Poole says. “As Carlos put it, ‘We take it lightly but give it to you heavy.’ Plus, it’s fairly straightforward, riff-centered music, so it tends to be easy to remember when you haven’t practiced in a while.”
Beard of Antlers play primarily doom and sludge metal, terminology that basically means heavy, distorted guitar, dramatically slower tempos and a big, encompassing overall sound. It’s not the most technically demanding music, as Poole points out, but it has been gaining momentum, especially in the Southeast. Wilmington’s very own Weedeater, for example, are true heralds of the genre, taking their riff-laden music all over North America and Europe.
As with most bands around the Wilmington area, Beard of Antlers’ lineup features recycled musicians of other great local bands. Marriott, Denogan and Todd, for example, all play in Salvacion, while Poole has another group he plays in called The Alibis. The product of such intertwining (or conflicting) schedules and camaraderie amongst these musicians could be equated to a neglected child—or just a band not out to make it, rather to have fun doing what they do best. “We’re basically The Traveling Wilburys of Southeastern North Carolina,” Poole quips. “We’re Wilmington’s premier stuporgroup.”
Beard of Antlers’ sound will instantly appeal to fans of Electric Wizard, Sleep, Elder, and other bands of that vein. The opening track, “Keeper,” sounds like an invocation as it begins to awaken, and evolves slowly until the vocals finally come in right around the 3-minute mark. It’s a song that takes its time, and the band is in no rush to get through it either.
The next track, “Iron Monger,” has a catchy guitar riff and lots of melodic harmonies to add flavor to the mix. “Swing Low” has a faster pace, featuring clean vocals. The track, “Cerberus,” is where the EP truly picks up. Poole’s bass leads the fray with a fuzzy, beefy tone as the guitars join in unison. When Denogan’s drums join, the band jumps in full swing, and the chugging riffage ensues. The droney, sludgy music can be redundant, but Beard of Antlers realizes this, and keep the songs at a reasonable length, sprinkling little hooks where need be in order to keep it fresh.
There is something to be said about being readily available. One of Beard of Antlers’ shining moments was back in 2012, when they had the opportunity to open for Japanese doom-enthusiasts Church of Misery at the now-defunct Soapbox Laundro Lounge. Church of Misery formed in 1995 and are considered a hallmark of the genre. Mixing elements of the psychadelic with their metal roots, Church of Misery’s sound offered a perfect combination for that of Beard of Antlers.
“It was great,” Poole comments. “I couldn’t understand any of the lyrics and the bass player wore a Hank Williams Jr. T-shirt.”
It could be said that the Wilmington sludge lords are mere opportunists, jumping onto shows that will guarantee a high draw. That, or they just have a knack for being at the right place at the right time.
Don’t miss their performance this Saturday with Revolving Beast, Children of the Reptile, and Starved Out at Reggie’s.
Beard of Antlers, Revolving Beast, Children of the Reptile, and Starved Out
Reggie’s 42nd Street Tavern
1415 S 42nd St.
Saturday, March 7, 9 p.m.