Savage salvation

Let's set aside the fact that heavy rock, metal and hardcore are sort of all-encompassing terms often used to lump together bands that sound nothing alike. Let's instead just have the sonic assault overwhelm us. Let's realize that there are currently some wildly fruitful heavy rock/metal/hardcore undergrounds bubbling over.

The recent Ipecac Geek Show tour, which featured Tomahawk and the Melvins, banged heads all over the country with some sludgy, stellar heavy rock. Hardcore noise warriors The Locust and Lightning Bolt were part of last summer's bizarro Oops! Tour, and neither band is showing any signs of turning the volume down. And now, some local promoters are entering the noisy fray with the Redemption Fest, which will include about 30 heavy rock/metal/hardcore bands.

This festival is about as DIY as these things get.

"Right now, it's all out of pocket," promoter Joshua Adelman tells me when I ask him how the festival is being funded. "It's about $8,000. We'll recoup a lot of our costs ... . We're releasing a double CD."

Adelman says his goal is to use the festival to foster a scene and get the word out about his new music/promotions company, Step One Media. One of Adelman's partners, Charles Chaussinand, agrees.

"If anyone comes, I will be happy," Chaussinand says modestly. "I would just like to be able to break even. I don't care about making any money on this at all. I just want kids to come, have a good time and leave saying, Ã?Wow, there were 30 bands here I didn't know much about, and they all blew me away.'"

The Number One band to watch at this festival is Mastodon, who play on Sunday. Among the best and most forward-looking heavy rock/metal bands going, the group combines Maiden-like metal with a little punk and some expansive prog-rock elements. Drummer Brann Dailor's furious pounding may remind you of Slayer's Dave Lombardo, but Dailor says he really loves Peter Gabriel.

"We're trying to actually write songs," Dailor says. "I guess that in noise and chaotic, technical metal, song structure and songwriting gets lost. You've just got a jumble of riffs that don't make much sense. I'm fond of writing an actual song."

Dailor says he thinks Mastodon is attracting some young nü-metal fans who want something more challenging, and he says he's ready to present just that challenge.

"We need to put out a really kickass new album and just kind of hopefully break through," he says of the group's "career plans." "We need to become maybe more mainstream, not mainstream in terms of the music, but just playing bigger and bigger is what we want to go for. We've got to make some money. We've got to make a hit record. We need to rid the world of all the fevered egos."

Two other notable bands on the bill are Showbread and As I Lay Dying, who are both Christian-themed metal acts scheduled to play Sunday. Both bands combine deeply personal -- perhaps hypersensitive -- faith-based lyrics with chunky speed-metal riffs and screams. Both bands sound like they could eat Stryper.

"It's hard to separate our faith from what we do," says As I Lay Dying singer Tim Lambesis, adding that there seems to be much less of a stigma with being a religious band than there has been in the past.

"There were some bad Christian-rock bands that ruined things," he says. "But I think people can relate to our emotions and can see that bands like ours are the ones on the road trying hard to build a following. They can see our passion."

And if you really do pay attention to lyrics, you'll notice that the words can seem more emo than emo. (Sample As I Lay Dying line: "My hope has been beset by your absence, I decay from inside/Underneath it all there is still life, despite it all there is still love.") This is neither good nor bad, of course. It's just proof that this is all about making people react.

Says promoter Chaussinand: "Being at a hardcore show and seeing a band that drove from 1,000 miles away to play for 30 kids and $20 is incredible. There isn't anything that compares to seeing a band like that. Those are the kids who are really about the music and the scene. It's a feeling of instant bonding and friendship that never goes away, especially in the straight-edge scene."


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