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SUMOKEM, Iron Cathedral, hUGg @ The Vanguard Theater Tulsa, Oklahoma (USA)

SUMOKEM/Iron Cathedral/hUGg
in Sunday, 17 June 2018 at The Vanguard Theater
by Dave Nowels

Prior to SUMOKEM taking the stage, we were treated to two local Tulsa Bands. First up was hUGg. A three-piece band that I’ve had a difficult time finding much information about. With that said, they somewhat pleasantly surprised me. They seemed more of a straight forward Punk styled band than anything else and played a rapid eight songs in their allotted 30 minutes. I’d definitely be interested in seeing them again given the opportunity.
Next up was IRON CATHEDRAL. Citing influences of SLEEP and SABBATH, these guys presented a high energy captivating set. A five-piece band, they’re off to a fine start. Featuring dual guitar from Brad Hallacy and Corey Campbell, and rounded out with Matt on drums, new addition Carson on bass, and the high energy vocals of Cam.

I really enjoyed their set as well, and have now been spending some time diving into their self-titled EP. Highlights of their set for me were “Failure of God”, “Perils of Dust” and “Witch Banger”.

They had great presentation, with effective lighting and even fog, plus all kinds of fuzzy goodness! I fully expect to see this band begin opening for more Doom/Sludge shows in Oklahoma, and really look forward to catching them when I can.

And now to the headliner. First and foremost, if SUMOKEM is somehow not already on your radar, they should be. They need to be. They are a band that is innovative and original while maintaining a classic vibe as well. Based in Little Rock, Arkansas, SUMOKEM is a Progressive Sludge/Doom/Stoner band featuring Jacob Sawrie on vocals and rhythm guitar, Drew Skarda on drums, Dustin Weedle on bass, and Tyler Weaver on lead guitar.
It’s my belief that SUMOKEM is a band on the precipice of being a major force in the genre, and should they hit your city or town, they are a must see. Believe me, there will come a day that you will want to be able to say that you “saw them back when.” As I said, a definite must see live.

Sunday night saw the band ending their weeklong tri-state headlining tour in Tulsa, Oklahoma at the Vanguard Theater. Hitting the stage at 9pm, the band treated a surprisingly small crowd to a five song set that clocked in just a bit over an hour. The meat of their set relied exclusively on their masterpiece epic full length debut release, “Guardian of Yosemite”, on Cursed Tongue Records. “Ogama”, “War Pipe”, and the thundering “Attack of the Mammoth” were all played to absolute perfection. Each and every note of Tyler Weaver’s solos were extraordinarily spot on, and played with intensity, fury, and purpose, while the unsung heroes of the group, Dustin Weedle and Drew Skarda, held down a thunderous rhythm section. Skarda, in particular, is so essential to this band. Maintaining a non-stop breakneck pace while throwing in crazy good fills behind the kit, and all while having a great time, well, it’s indeed something to watch. But the band wouldn’t be who they are without Jacob Sawrie. Switching between menacing roar-like and clean vocals, and playing the heaviest of heavy power chord rhythm riffs, it’s obvious SUMOKEM is his band to lead, yet the band is such a collective unit of great musical talent. These are brothers of the music. They watch each other intently, and seemingly know where one another are going with each note of music a mere moment before it’s actually played. It’s obvious the year on the road supporting “GoY” has turned them into a well oiled machine. They make it look easy.

Not content to rest on their laurels, the band was also ready to road test some new material, and had in fact, teased the fact that they’d be debuting two new songs on this small tour. Sawrie introduced the first of these new songs right away. Titled “Khizer”, it shows a band experimenting with new directions, while keeping their signature sound that is key to the band. Utilizing synth, “Khizer” is a sludgy riff perfect song of epic potential. In fact, both of the new songs debuted were simply outstanding to my ears, and left me very eager for more. The second new song, “Parak-Dar”, was the final song of the set, and again saw Sawrie playing occasional synth, while Weedle did double duty on bass and his Moog. Hearing these two new songs has me really eager to see what SUMOKEM ultimately has in store for us with a new album. The guys indicated that they’ll be headed into the studio in late summer/early fall to begin work on this future album, following a short north east tour with fellow Arkansas natives PALLBEARER in July.  If pressed to single out a critique, it would be a selfish one indeed. A longer set. That’s it. Everything else was perfect, but it was over far too soon. As they say, I suppose there is something to be said for “leave them wanting more.” Mission accomplished!

This was my second time seeing SUMOKEM this year. The first occasion, they were also opening for PALLBEARER back in January in Oklahoma City. They impressed me so much that first night with their set, I had a hard time concentrating on PALLBEARER, the band I had initially came to see. The few months in between these shows left me shocked thinking about how much the band has grown in confidence and cohesiveness and it really leaves me really excited about their future.
All told, it was a great Sunday night spent in Tulsa. Well worth the hour and a half drive up from OKC!

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