Profile: Descendants of Crom III (2019)

Shy Kennedy’s Pittsburgh-bred metal band Horehound is releasing a new EP this month. But you shouldn’t expect to catch a preview of that material live at the much-anticipated Descendants of Crom festival, which Kennedy lovingly curates. Horehound, you see, played at the festival in 2018.

“I have a rule: no band gets to play two years in a row – there’s enough to go around,” said Kennedy, the Lawrenceville scene fixture who launched the “heavy underground” festival three years ago, while also helming a band and an indie-record label. “I’m an avid fest-goer. When I go out of town for a festival, sometimes I get annoyed when I’m seeing the same bands over and over again.”

That’s not an issue with Crom.

A total of 38 bands are slated to perform at Descendants of Crom, which kicks off Friday, Sept. 20 at Howler’s on Liberty Avenue in Bloomfield, and continues Saturday and Sunday, starting at 4 p.m. each day, at Cattivo on 44th Street in Lawrenceville. 

There are Crom headliners, of course – Friday: Icarus Witch, Saturday: The Obsessed, Sunday: Brown Angel – but so many more, from Enhailer, Submachine and Motometer on Friday, and Valkyrie, Foghound and Tines on Saturday to Solace, Frayle and Spacelord on Sunday, to name just a few. The major development, though, is that most of those playing this year don’t fly far outside the Rust Belt orbit.

“Last year, there was somebody from every state,” Kennedy said. “This year, it seems, not intentionally or anything, a little closer to home. A lot of people are pretty close.”

Take John Roman. The drummer will commute from Highland Park to Lawrenceville to play this month’s festival in two bands that both have loyal, local followings – Night Vapor and Brown Angel. Though neither of those bands elicit the phrase “doom metal,” Roman doesn’t think that’s a problem.

“I honestly don’t think it’s a very intimidating audience – they’re pretty open and they want to hear good bands,” said Roman, who feels his tastes mirror a lot of what he expects from Crom crowds. “I would rather see someone that really excels at what they do, as opposed to someone who’s trying to go for a style just because they really like that style. I don’t care what you do – I just want to see something done really well.”

And don’t expect theatrics or painted faces at Crom.

“This isn’t costume-y at all. It’s very far from that –people just come for the music,” Kennedy said.

“But there will be a lot of black shirts, I’m sure,” she laughed.

Zach Germaniuk is Cleveland’s Shy Kennedy. The Youngstown native moved to Ohio’s biggest city about 10 years ago, and, in addition to playing guitar and singing in Pillars (performing Saturday), is constantly booking shows there and offering support to local bands.

He balks when asked to describe Pillars’ sound.

“That’s one of those questions that bands get a little queasy about,” Germaniuk said. “There’s the inevitable comparison to other bands you sound like, or genre tags that are becoming increasingly irrelevant. For us, it’s just a fairly big-volume brand of heavy metal.”

“If I had to give you the 30-second elevator pitch, I’d say it’s fairly loud,” he added, with a laugh. “We just really try to represent kind of what it’s like to exist in these times we’re living in.”

And don’t expect any Pittsburgh/Cleveland animosity between Kennedy and Germaniuk.

“It’s a pretty diverse time to be involved in this musical community – people aren’t looking for a jukebox,”Germaniuk said. “We really have a lot of respect for what’s being built in Pittsburgh. It’s a very culturally diverse city and it’s really becoming one of those big meccas for heavy underground music in the Rust Belt, for sure.”

“Pittsburgh’s got it,” he added. “We’re certainly taking notes over here.” – Justin Vellucci, Pittsburgh Current, Sept. 18, 2019

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