There have been plenty of bands that have made a mark of some sort on the music industry that have come out of Pittsburgh. The punks have Anti-Flag, the classic rockers have Donnie Iris, jazz enthusiasts have George Benson, Alternative Culture Rockers have Rusted Root, pop lovers have Christina Aguilera…the list could go on and on.
But what about all those bands we have fallen in love with that have just as much talent and drop off the radar for a multitude of reasons? Over fifteen plus years ago I used to manage a local Pittsburgh power punk outfit called D-76. They made a fair buzz in and out of the city and played some great venues. One of the bands that we often came across and became fans of was Camp Element. These guys had a hard vibe with some serious rhythm and musicianship. But like many of the tremendously talented bands that do not get signed or supported for whatever reason, Camp Element went dormant due to responsibilities and the real world that make it so hard for bands to carry on.
Many years later I would become friends with the guitar player of Camp Element, Mark Clifford, while we worked at the same tattoo studio. Today Mark is co-owner of Human Production Tattoo Studios in Bethel Park, a tremendous artist, father, musician, and friend. When he told me that he was toying with getting Camp Element back together it really brought me back with some nostalgia. I was a bit trepidacious as to how I would feel about the music. What was in my head was awesome; but was it really as awesome as I remembered it? When I got the chance to revisit the tunes the answer was a resounding yes (thankfully for my friendship)!
Tunes that always rocked us to the core were, “Raise The Sun” which has the back beat of a Deftones type groove yet lyrically and vocally has a gruff edge more Hatebreed style that appeals to the thrashier side of metal. Camp Element always brings a blend of musical stylings with their craft that is by no means entirely unique in the music world, yet is entirely their own signature style. Mark Clifford’s guitar work is of strong note here in that his tone can punch you in the gut one minute and then turn around and caress you the next.
“Hope Burns” is another striking tune that has the atmosphere of a Suicidal Tendencies riff with Jeff Cribbs vocal versatility shining. The driving bass and drum work provided by Rick Link and Scott Schifferli also blend nicely with Clifford’s rhythmic guitar work and has a nice driving effect that defies you to try to keep from moving your head and feet to the beat.
Another strong song on the CD is “Maklin” that employs more of the rap type lyric that was prevalent when the nu-metal era was all the rage. Combining the hardcore and thrash elements that keep audiences enthralled with this genre of metal, the band does a terrific job of bringing their forceful delivery freshly into the modern age.
What is so surprising about all of this music is that it was not recorded yesterday but many years ago. The tunes have not only stood up to the test of time but are relative to and competitive to what is being played to young kids today. Camp Element may have disappeared for a bit but they are certainly as important to the Pittsburgh scene and beyond now. Thankfully Clifford and company have re-released their music and are playing live again. You can check out their tunes by going to the links below and be sure to LIKE them on Facebook. Their next gig is Saturday September 21 at Altar Bar for their big return. Pittsburgh Music Magazine is sure to be there front and center and we would love to see you there as well.