Band – Wasteland Coven
Album – Ruined
Country of Origin – USA
Genre – Doom Metal
Release Date – April 17, 2020
Label – Transylvanian Tapes
Author – VUK
Every city has a budding underground Metal scene. Some are better known nationally than others. Some even internationally. But one thing they all have in common is major home-town pride and support. Toledo, Ohio is no exception, as this writer can personally attest. Because Toledo is so geographically close to Detroit, many bands find their success in the Michigan underground. Nothing wrong with that, I say! But you can bet your ass that any fan from Toledo is going to make the connection, and they’re going to make it loudly!
Let me say right up front, I have known Susan Mitchel, singer and bassist for Toledo’s Wasteland Coven for many years. As an acquaintance, I was excited to listen to her newly formed, traditional Doom outfit. Susan and her mates (Bill Anderson and Brandon Collins on guitars, and Jason Wilcox on drums) put out a three-song EP called “Ruined” on April 17th, right smack in the middle of the COVID-19 outbreak that took every band in the world out of commission. Released at the perfect time, if you ask me, because DAMN! What a monstrous statement these three songs make!
“Ruined” is a mountain of Doom, with a down-tuned quadruple gut-punch for a rhythm section. Heavy on the bass, spaced out melodies, slow building, fuzzed out riffs, and a percussion attack both vicious and complimentary, Wasteland Coven pretty much dismantle any potential debut criticism during the first moments of the opening track. “Midsummer Days”, for those who care to follow along. Mitchel’s vocals – in at around the three-minute mark – are immediately impressive. Low to the water, so to speak, then soaring up beautifully into the thick fog of the music.
The second track, “Great Colossus”, every bit as beefy as the first, charges in on the lyrical front with stories of war, worship and wanting, the likes of which conjure images clear as a New Zealand lake, yet as murky as nearby Erie. “Grey smoke is pouring from your head,” she sings, “A roaring engine giving life – With a war-fueled yearning to destroy.”
Closing out the EP’s journey is “Endless Night”, which is my personal favorite of the three. The thing sounds like an unreleased Kyuss tune, and like all great album closers, it makes you want to turn right back around and replay the whole experience.
I had a great time on that first listen, so I listened again. Then one more time, just for good measure. I had a bunch of questions, which the band was gracious enough to answer. Although, in an admittedly unorthodox fashion: Facebook Messenger! Stay tuned below the music to read the interview.
VUK: I took another listen to the EP last night and was struck by how consistent the production is, particularly how the guitars and bass play off each other. Was that sound something you guys put a lot of energy into as a band, or was it more organic?
Bill Anderson: Brandon and Susan had their sound before I joined in. I use a Digitech GNX4 multipedal, which is a little unorthodox. It took a little tweaking to get a sound that I liked and complimented their tone. It takes time to learn all the possibilities it can do even out of the box. It’s like having a Swiss Army knife of pedals.
VUK: Always good to have one of those in your pocket! Do you and Brandon both do the leads? They seem to vary.
Bill: Yeah. We bounce ideas back and forth. Sometimes we switch to see if it works out better. We will try a lot of different options. Sometimes we discover something just messing around and the other will go, “What was that?”
VUK: Haha! Those are the best moments! Happy accidents.
Bill: For sure. I have a bunch of riffs and passages I record when the idea hits me. I’ve woke up in the middle of the night to hum something in my phone to record for later. My wife thinks I’m nuts. She’s right, of course. Haha!
For the record, I found this quite hilarious. Because wives
routinely think their husbands are nuts… and they are
VUK: Were the lyrics on the EP a band effort? They are quite good. Very dark, poetic… story-like. Which, at least to me, begs the question: Are these songs intended to tell a story? Collectively, I mean. Or does each represent its own thing? Just a quick read over the lyrics, coupled with the cover image, I can see a possible outline involving the destruction of earthly things by machines, or overzealous industrial companies. Ending in some form of surrender, which leaves wide open the possibility of a developing narrative.
Brandon Collins: For the tracks we have on the EP, Sue and I worked on the lyrics. They were written individually without any connection to each other, but arranged in a way so that the listener can interpret more. I like the way you lay it out!
Susan Mitchel: I think they all have a common thread of a dystopian world.
VUK: What was the recording process like? It seems to me you all put a shit load of time into it.
Brandon: It probably took less time than you might think. It was mostly done over the course of two weekends, with a few return points later. We all went to Lakebottom Recording House where JC Griffin showed us how things are done. It may have been too much fun for the melancholy mood of the music, but it was an awesome experience.
VUK: Maybe it’s the fun you guys had that helps the overall vibe. Those happy accidents, the collaborative writing process, connections with friends. How did you guys get involved with Transylvanian Tapes?
Brandon: I collect cassettes and I thought this would be the kind of thing that I would like to own on tape (and hopefully other people will think so too). So I reached out to a few different cassette labels. Thankfully, James from Transylvanian Tapes wrote back saying he dug the EP and wanted to help us put it out. COVID-19 stuff has delayed production a bit, but I think we’re back on track now and it should be out in the coming months.
VUK: Ugh! The COVID stuff! That has taken everybody out in one way or another. I know you guys were able to play at least one gig, but how did all of this shut down BS effect your summer plans? Seems like you were just getting started.
Bill: We were excited for out next show, but it was cancelled due to the virus.
Brandon: Ruined most of the fun I wanted to have, personally. But yeah, show cancelled, can’t even plan for more at this point. But we’re still kinda chugging along. Just slower, waiting to get back to it when we can.
VUK: Any way you could pull off an online performance? Those have been pretty successful.
Brandon: We don’t really have plans for an online performance right now, but if shutdowns stretch on, we probably could.
Bill: I’ve been working on some new songs to keep my mind off the stress.
VUK: That’s always a good way to pass the time. Productive.
Susan: I’ve been sick since the beginning of April. Brandon, Bill and Jason went back to practice last week, but I need to get well and then stay in quarantine a few more weeks. I’m sure I’ll be a little rusty by the time I get back. I’m really glad they’re carrying on without me!
VUK: They might have a bunch of songs waiting for you when you get back.
Susan: Oh, I’ll bet! I can’t wait!
VUK: Okay, so full disclosure, I am not a Doom aficionado. I enjoy Doom, but I don’t have a vast database in my brain to come up with who some of your influences might be, other than the obvious… Sabbath, Electric Wizard, Sleep… that kind of thing. Most recently, at least to my ears, Marrowfields and Frayle have released great records.
Brandon: The obvious ones are a good start, ‘cause they’re all awesome. But Candlemassis a big one for us. Saint Vitus is another. Both of the other releases are really awesome. My Frayle record came in the mail yesterday.
VUK: They recently did a streaming performance, which was incredible! Building on that, Frayle is on the Women of Doom compilation (which I still need to dive into deeper), and your Spotify profile has an artist recommended Female-Fronted Doom playlist. Personally, I think the female voice with Doom riffage and rhythm is brilliant! Although, it’s a tough thing to navigate from time to time. Because a band is a band, right? No one says “male-fronted”. Or are men the only ones who ever bring that shit up?
Susan: Well, that is true, but that’s been the norm for so long, it’s just kind of assumed. Before this band, I always loved Metal and hard music but I didn’t really know one genre from the next. I just knew I loved heavy music. But getting to know Brandon and Jason and Bill led me to a much broader understanding. The past few years have been a wonderful time for musical exploration for me. Pretty much every practice they talk about cool bands, and I’m sending myself notes on my phone. Even this illness has been a great time for music for me. Many days I laid in bed just listening to the music feed on Bandcamp. I’ve bought about 300 albums in the past few months!
VUK: Bandcamp and good conversation (online and otherwise) during this whole time has been AMAZING! Hard to keep up!
Susan: It is!
[NOTE: Susan is currently on the mend from her COVID-related illness, which is great news! Wasteland Coven’s Ruined EP is currently available on CD, for download on Bandcamp, and most streaming services. The cassette is due to be released by Transylvanian Tapes on June 26th.]