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Ancient Future 2019

  • Crucible 3116 Commercial Avenue Madison, WI, 53714 United States (map)

The heavy, trippy local festival's excellent third year features Sabbath Assembly, Treatment, and more. Info/tix

Sabbath Assembly. Photo by Justina Villanueva.

Sabbath Assembly. Photo by Justina Villanueva.

Madison's day-long Ancient Future fest celebrates the long and varied interplay between heavy metal and the psychedelic side of music. Organizers Jason Hartman, guitarist for Madison band Vanishing Kids, and Jeff Bach, a frequent metal booker in the Madison and Milwaukee areas, have kept a consistent backbone of doom metal in each of Ancient Future's three editions so far, but have also kept their ears open to everything from death metal to electronic music to the gothic country of Those Poor Bastards, who played last year's installment. After a promising start at the Frequency in 2017 and at the High Noon in 2018, it now moves over to Crucible, which could be the ideal venue for something like this—it's gothy but welcoming, it sounds good, and its capacity of 325 seems like a nice happy medium, intimate but not too small. This year's 10-band lineup is maybe the most all-around, well, heavy one Ancient Future has presented yet.

Sabbath Assembly, whose members are split between NYC and Texas, plays a headlining set here behind the 2019 album A Letter Of Red, which blends slashing riffs with magisterial, eerie occult themes. Vocalist Jamie Myers brilliantly steers the song "Ascend And Descend" from sharp, lunging verses to passages of yearning reflection. And even in the chunkier moments of "Hymn Of The Pearl" and "Worthless," guitarist Ron Varod, bassist Johnny DeBlase, and drummer David Nuss (perhaps best known as a member of the avant-garde ensemble No-Neck Blues Band) leave plenty of space for something more graceful to develop, sometimes in the form of a synth line from guest player Toby Driver of Kayo Dot. Fun fact: Sabbath Assembly's founding vocalist was Jex Thoth, who is currently based in Madison and leads an excellent band under her own name.

As at previous Ancient Futures, Vanishing Kids anchor the lineup, bringing along plenty of other bands from Wisconsin and around the Midwest. VK's 2018 album Heavy Dreamer is a high point for a band that has explored varying combinations of post-punk, metal, and psych-rock since 2000. A lot of the band's previous work has a mix-and-match charm, but Heavy Dreamer is cohesive, descending into a sound-world of charismatic gloom where Nikki Drohomyreky's soaring vocal hooks and Jerry Sofran's sub-rumbling bass set the boundaries. The newer bands on the bill here include Milwaukee's Universe Machine, which sets the controls for Hawkwind territory on the recent single "Universe Machine," and Madison's Treatment (on first, at 4 p.m.), which melds punk aggression with sinister psych on the 2019 album Ladies And Gentlemen, We Are Burning In Hell. Other highlights include the at once scuzzy and folky Milwaukee band Lost Tribes Of The Moon and delightfully weird Madison doom duo Twichard. There will also be a record show from 3 to 4 p.m., before the bands get started. —Scott Gordon