Secrets of the American Hard Rock Underground

“But then the barking of dogs fills the air, and the host of wild souls sweeps down, fire flashing from the eyes of the black hounds and the hooves of the black horses.”– Kveldulf Hagen Gundarsson (Mountain Thunder)

From the grateful troubadour persona of Fatso Jetson, to the ominous vibrations of Sun O))), Such Hawks Such Hounds delivers a potent concoction of mind-bending riffs. The film, originally released in 2009, explores the abstract quality of “heavy”, banters through a discussion of terminology, and provides a respectful nod to the early pioneers of doom and stoner rock. Such Hawks Such Hounds ignores the tired clips of early Sabbath playing amidst 70’s psychedelics and reveals the seething underbelly of the American Hard Rock Underground, one that thrives and flourishes on the strings of bands such as Dead Meadow, High on Fire, and Comets on Fire.

Producer John Srebalus clearly demonstrates an affinity for all things heavy. Members of bands, past and present, appear comfortable and honest, which is a chemistry that could not be created by the mainstream media. Most notably, Scott “Wino” Weinrich tours his Maryland paradise, complete with wife, young children, and some homegrown leaf.

In addition, Srebalus tantalizes with his own touch of modern psychedelics, by layering concert footage with smoky, colorful goodness. Unfortunately for some of the bands in the scene, the interviews reveal a consistently inconsistent role of drugs in the music, a genre often synonymous with drug-induced alternative realities. As Jason Simon of Dead Meadow states, “By altering perception you can see things slightly different…”

Such Hawks Such Hounds does not deliver tales of excessive wealth, private jets, and expensive women. In fact, most of the interviewees share their day job experience and relative satisfaction with a life devoid of materialistic desires and drives.

As with most documentaries that focus on an “underground” scene, those involved are happy to keep it there. Don’t go looking for High on Fire to play arenas or for Dead Meadow to appear on Jay Leno. And that’s just how it should be.

What other bands do you think are lurking in the American Hard Rock Underground?

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