Stoner rock has a local champion with record label Oppressive Sound System Releases | Music | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Stoner rock has a local champion with record label Oppressive Sound System Releases

With marijuana so trendy with the kids lately, it's ironic that stoner rock (or its alter ego, doom metal) remains an acquired taste, even as current bands like The Sword and Baroness repopularize the genre which Kyuss spread in the early '90s. Local expert Mike Clements, proprietor of the Oppressive Sound System Releases label, settled on his preference long ago. "A lot of people will hear [stoner rock] and be put off by it because it's harsh or abrasive, but I call it 'the beauty of sadness.'"

Clements, 41, entered the punk milieu around 1983, with his first gig a doozy: Black Flag at the Electric Banana. After trying his hand for years at music and never quite getting it, Clements found other ways to support the scene: recording shows, concert promotion, even being a roadie.

"Even back in 1984, there were bands like St. Vitus who toured the U.S. before anyone ever heard of doom metal," he says. "When I was into hardcore punk, I didn't like metal because I wasn't hearing anything good at the time. But as I grew older, I fell more in love with it. Hearing the songs that people can write in that state of mind is really moving."

Plans for the OSSR label were formulated in 2005, and its debut release, local stoner kings Satanic Bat's Tales From the Southland came out two years later. Despite solid distribution from's All That's Heavy online catalog and orders from as far away as Sweden and England, Clements has found running a label a labor of love. Nonetheless, he soldiers on with mostly out-of-town releases for the rest of this year. On Aug. 1, he unleashed The Sunless Citadel by Virginia doom-metallers Ol' Scratch, whose heavy sound reflects the influence of Earthride and Pentagram. 

"My interest in the [doom] genre is like a non-player character," he says. (Yes, that's a Dungeons & Dragons reference!) "If I like a band, I get to know them and see if we'd be a good match working together. It doesn't always end up that way."

He keeps one eye on the Pittsburgh scene, and mentions promising bands Vulture, Bastard, Argus and Liquified Guts. "The most promising idea would be doing a Bastard EP or a split between them and Iron Crown. But in the fall I'm going to do a reissue of 1994's Orion Chronicles by New York sludge pioneers Negative Reaction, who've been around for nearly 20 years."

That same Negative Reaction will play the Bloomfield Bridge Tavern with locals Chrononaut at 9 p.m. Fri., Aug. 29. For more information, visit

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