Shadow Woods Music Festival was formed in 2015 with the goal of presenting various bands from the underground community. Sadly, 2023 will be the final year that the festival will be held. 13 bands from around America convened at Lovedraft’s Microbrew in Mechanicsburg, PA for one final send off for Shadow Woods. And with the lineup they got, I knew it’d be worthwhile to make the trek northwards and join in the fun.
Festival: Shadow Woods Music Festival
Dates: October 20 – 21, 2023
Location: Lovedraft’s Microbrew, Mechanicsburg, PA
Promoter: Shadow Woods Productions LLC
Originally written for: Dovendyr – Heavy Metal Historian
So I actually didn’t know about this festival until earlier in 2023. It wasn’t until I reached out to one of my favorite bands, Panopticon, that I learned about Shadow Woods. I was inquiring with Panopticon about a possible show in Baltimore, as their shows earlier in the year just weren’t feasible for me. I got a response mentioning that Panopticon would be performing at Shadow Woods this year and that this show would be the closest they get to Baltimore in 2023. I looked up Shadow Woods and managed to snag a ticket for myself. I was so excited that I was finally going to get to see one of my favorite black metal bands ever!
I made the trek up to my hotel near the venue. Previously, the festival was held at Camp Hidden Valley in White Hall, MD. This time, Shadow Woods was being held at Lovedraft’s Microbrew, a small brewpub in Mechanicsburg, PA. After checking into my hotel, I made my way to Lovedraft’s, getting there just in time for the first set. And I was ecstatic that I made it there when I did! Because opening the Shadow Woods Reunion was York, PA’s very own Verminoth! I had missed their set at Death of Summer IV when I went to get food. So I did not want to miss out on their set for a second time. And man, Verminoth did not disappoint!
Verminoth got the festival off to a banging start with some killer death metal. Their set was intense and they sounded fantastic! Their vocalist was energetic throughout their set too! Verminoth’s style is in the vein of old school death metal. It has slower, brooding moments as well as faster, more intense ones, which I think makes Verminoth more enjoyable. Verminoth even played a new single for the first time live, which people in attendance seemed to really enjoy! What else was cool was that I got a to interview Verminoth’s guitarist, Jeff Kormos, later on in the night:
Dovendyr: How does it feel to be opening at Shadow Woods Reunion?
Jeff Kormos: It feels surreal to me. I have been a long time fan of this fest and never thought this would be the first and last time my band would play this. Mary does an amazing job of putting this together.
Dovendyr: What got you into heavy metal and inspired you to be in a band of your own?
Kormos: I have to credit my friend, Brady Seitz, for getting me into death metal. At first I didn’t like it, but the more I listened to the classics, the more I fell in love with it.
Dovendyr: You guys have released an EP and single this year, as well as hot sauce. How have these been received so far?
Kormos: I never expected what we have accomplished to be so well received. I never thought in a million years we’d have our EP reviewed by Decibel Magazine and to get a 7/10. The hot sauce really made waves for us and lots of people have been inquiring about it.
Dovendyr: You guys formed in 2020, during the Pandemic. What impact, if any, did COVID make on Verminoth’s early days?
Kormos: This was the first time in 12 years that I have been in a band. The pandemic allowed us to work on songs and craft our own style which I feel we’ve reached that level already. I’ve known most of the guys in the band for almost 20 years. This time allowed us to work on songs without any restrictions. Most of the riffs on Primordial Tomb were written by Zach and Bobby for a side project called Worm March, and the rest of us reworked some of those riffs and added our own flavor to it.
Dovendyr: What are you and Verminoth most excited for moving forward?
Kormos: I’m excited for writing new songs and putting more music out there. We collectively found our sound and want to improve on that. The next release will be a full length.
Dovendyr: Just for the hell of it, what’s your favorite Star Wars movie?
Kormos: The Empire Strikes Back, hands down. When it was re-released in the 90’s, I remember going to the theater to see it. This will always be my favorite Star Wars movie.
Thank you very much to Jeff Kormos for the interview! Jeff is a great guy and I can’t wait to see (well, hear) what Verminoth does next. Check out York, PA’s Verminoth; they are not a band to sleep on.
After Verminoth’s set, Unendlich (from Maryland) took to the stage. Now, Metallum lists Unendlich as a one-man black metal act. But, based on their set at Shadow Woods, I thought they were more of a black/tech death blend. And after checking their bandcamp page, their black metal style incorporates more proggy elements. Regardless, I thought Unendlich’s set was pretty solid. Part of what makes festivals like this cool is discovering new bands and new sounds. I think blending black metal with prog is a neat combo, and, based on their set at Shadow Woods, I wouldn’t be opposed to seeing Unendlich again.
Not long after Unendlich’s set, I got some food and beer. Lovedraft’s has this one beer called “Bringer of Light”, a Belgian witbier. I tried it and thought it was really nice, crisp, and light. Other beers there seemed equally as interesting, so I knew I’d have to try more while attending Shadow Woods. But I decided to save that for day 2. While waiting for my food, I walked over to the Nechochwen merch stand. Nechochwen was one of the bands that I was interested in seeing at Shadow Woods. I got a patch for Nechochwen and talked briefly with guitarist Aaron Carey. Aaron mentioned that he was a classical guitarist and I really enjoyed talking with him.
I got my food and got a seat outside to eat. While I was eating, the next band, Geryon, began their set. Eventually I made my way back inside to see their set. Geryon is a two-man avant-garde death metal act from NYC and is predominantly instrumental. Geryon is composed of Nicholas McMaster on bass and vocals and Lev Weinstein on drums. Honestly, I thought that their set was alright. I don’t think they’re bad – far from it. For me, I don’t personally like avant-garde type music. I can understand how people enjoy it, but it just wasn’t for me. Regardless, I’m glad that Geryon got to perform at Shadow Woods and reach a wider audience. Others in attendance really seemed to enjoy their set, so I’m happy for them.
Following Geryon was IATT, a Philly-based progressive melodic black/death metal act. IATT was down one member, but even down one member, they still were incredible. I really liked how multifaceted their sound was. You could hear distinct moments of black metal, death metal, and prog metal throughout their set. And everyone in attendance seemed really invested in their set. When their set wrapped up, I told their guitarist that they sounded like a better version of Tool. IATT’s guitarist got a big laugh out of that! I think IATT was the most surprising band to perform on day 1 and I’d certainly like to see them perform again. Much like Verminoth, I can’t wait to see what these guys do next.
And closing out day one was Nechochwen, a folk/black metal act from West Virginia and Ohio. Nechochwen was a ton of fun! They played using bass and an acoustic electric guitar, and it was certainly different from the bands earlier in the day. I wasn’t the most familiar with their sound prior to the festival; I mostly knew Nechochwen by name. So, this was really my first time hearing their sound. And quite honestly, I really like Nechochwen’s set! The acoustic sound was unique and hearing black metal on an acoustic electric guitar was really cool! There was something of a medieval sound to their set, which I don’t hear often in metal. I don’t know how often Nechochwen performs, but I don’t want to miss out the next time they perform nearby!
I returned to my hotel and got some sleep in preparation for day 2 of Shadow Woods Music Festival. After getting some food, I got ready and made my way over to Lovedraft’s. I got there in time for the opening act Darsombra. And, honestly, I’m still making heads or tails of their set. Darsombra is a trans-apocalyptic galaxy rock duo from Baltimore, MD and their set was just weird. Like there were ambient moments, psychedelic moments, and it was just kind of a lot to take in all at once. Others in attendance seemed to enjoy their set, so maybe I just wasn’t getting it or something?
After their set wrapped up and the next band was setting up, I went to check out merch. I made my way to the Panopticon merch table and got to talk to Austin Lunn. I got to show him a Panopticon patch that I hand embroidered and he was impressed with it. We talked briefly about how I got into making embroidered patches and I mentioned that I had made a patch for one of my favorite Korean metal bands, Sahon. I was surprised that he knew Sahon, because it’s rare that I find anyone else who knows them. I got a shirt and a picture with Lunn before getting a spot for the next set. Lunn is such a kind dude and I’m really glad that I got to talk to him.
(Quick aside: Sahon has a new album coming out in Feb 2024, and I’m so excited for it! I plan to give it a review when it comes out.)
The next act for the day was Inanimus, a three piece act from Raleigh, NC. Inanimus is a sludge/doom act, which is not normally something I listen to. I’m not generally a fan of sludge metal. But, I actually found myself enjoying their set. I liked the doomy sound that they had, combined with sludgy stoner elements. What else was cool was that I noticed some black metal vocal moments during their set. There was a lot going on in their sound, which makes them stand out more to me compared to other sludge bands that I’ve listened to.
After Inanimus was A Sound of Thunder, from DC. A Sound of Thunder is a hard rock/heavy metal act, and is a band that one of my friends highly recommended. And man he recommended a great band! The blend that A Sound of Thunder has works phenomenally and had an old school 80s metal vibe to it. I remember them performing “Queen of Hell” and “Tremble” during their set. I also saw the use of the Theremin, which I have never seen in live music before! Even with this being their drummer Chris’s final show, they were energetic and fun to see. I’m certainly glad that I got to see A Sound of Thunder at Shadow Woods!
A Sound of Thunder wrapped up around 7, so I opted to get some food and beer. I tried this one brew called “Treats” which was nice and light. I ate outside to sit down, and in doing so, missed like half of Spiral Grave’s set. Luckily, I came back to catch the rest of it. Spiral Grave is from Maryland and Virginia and is listed on Metallum as a doom metal act. However, I heard more of a groove metal sound to their set. Overall, I thought Spiral Grave was alright, based on the few songs I heard. Honestly, I think I was more focused on getting food at that point in the night than anything. So, I’ll have to give them another listen to make a more fully informed opinion of them.
Following Spiral Grave was All Hell, a three piece black/thrash act from Asheville, NC. Their set had some bewitcher vibes to it, and overall, they did pretty well. I did notice that there were points in All Hell’s set where the bass was a touch overpowering. The bass was louder than the guitar, so picking apart the riffs was a touch difficult. The only times I could clearly differentiate the two was during tremolo picking sections of the guitar riffs. Part of me wonders if adding a second guitarist to their mix would be beneficial. But even if they don’t add a second guitarist, All Hell still has some good black/thrash to offer. (For those interested in checking them out, they released an EP earlier this year via Terminus Hate City).
My feet were killing me at this point in the day and the day is taking its toll on me. So, I snagged a seat at the bar for the next act – Cemetery Echo. Cemetery Echo is a Gothic metal act from Buffalo. However their bandcamp page has them listed as haunt n roll, which is a genre I’ve never heard of until Shadow Woods. As their set started, I was just out of it, focused on getting off my feet. I got some soda from the bar and that seemed to kinda do the trick. I was more invested in their set after that and started enjoying their set more. I’m not usually a fan of Gothic metal. But much like with Spiral Grave, I may need to give them more of a listen in the future.
I gathered up what energy I had remaining for the final two acts of the festival. Second to last for the night was Úzkost from Pittsburgh, PA. These guys are blackened and Doomed Death metal, a combo that I don’t think I’ve ever seen. I vividly recall a good amount of shrieking vocals and their bassist being very active on stage. Overall, Úzkost’s set was good. Admittedly, their set went by a lot quicker than I thought.
And finally, closing out Shadow Woods Music Festival, Panopticon took to the stage. Panopticon, the atmospheric black metal act, now based out of Minnesota, was the main headliner, and I was stoked to see their set! And from the first moment of the intro – “Tamarack’s Gold Returns” – I was captivated! There is a unique intensity to a Panopticon performance that seizes your attention. This set was everything I could’ve hoped for! Songs from “Autumn Eternal”, “Kentucky”, “…And Again Into the Light”, and “Roads to the North” were played and I was enjoying every second of it. I don’t think I’ve been this hooked on a band’s set since I saw Avantasia at Wacken Open Air in 2022. This was easily one of my favorite sets of 2023 if not my favorite.
Shadows Woods Reunion Festival was a great experience. I got to see some new bands that I would never had known about otherwise. And I got to see one of my favorite bands perform live for the first time! To Lovedraft’s Microbrew and the Shadow Woods Festival organizers, thank you very much for putting this festival together. While I am sad to see Shadow Woods go, I’m glad that I was able to join in the fun at least once. Shadow Woods will certainly be missed!
All of the bands that performed at Shadow Woods Reunion Festival can be found at the following (listed alphabetically):
A Sound of Thunder