NorCal Underground Metal Report - December 2001

By Mario Perotti, Contributor
Friday, November 30, 2001 @ 2:30 PM

A Round Up Of Northern Califor

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And so the holidays roll through and eventually dump us on the doorstep to another year ended with the NorCal Underground Metal Scene continuing to stir, grind and create all kinds of frenzied activity. Well, this past month was not any different from any other month as a whole host of details from the very minute to band altering surfaced in the past thirty days. It is certainly no secret that this region and underground scene pumps out more new and exciting music every year, but with the continued amount of bands making the leap to the national radar, it almost certainly spells more exposure for the rest of the up and coming acts making their way through this lively scene. Enough banter, let’s roll with it.

Probably the biggest news of the NorCal Underground came from the East Bay this past month as the funk meets contemporary hardcore sound of Fingertight has signed a recording deal with Columbia Records on the strength of their live show and their independently, well received disc Meantime Between Failures. Terms of the deal were not disclosed but this will certainly give these guys a chance to shine on the national level in the next year. With a style that mixes clean guitars with some heavier distortion all set to their front man Scott’s eccentric on stage personality and multi-level vocals, Fingertight works both in the heavy side as well as the accessible, friendly sound. Watch for much more from this band down the road.

Sticking with the East Bay, a couple of notable bands from two different genres made some significant line-up changes in the past month. First off, the ultra-popular Unjust parted ways with longtime guitarist Russell Tabayoyon after many years, countless shows and two full-length discs including 1999’s Thin Line Emotions and 2001’s Makeshift Grey. The band followed up Tabayoyon’s departure with the announcement that South Bay guitarist Mike Merino (formerly of Sora) has stepped into the band to round out the line-up. Merino debuted on stage with the band in late November.

In the death scene, Impaled surprised many with the announcement that guitarist/vocalist Leon Del Muerte had indeed parted ways with band after some initial speculation. Del Muerte leaves Impaled after a long career with the band and several recordings including the band’s impressive The Dead Shall Dead Remain. At the time of this writing the band had not named a replacement. In other band movement, Fellatia parted ways with their long time drummer Brandon Harper and replaced him with young upstart drummer Nick Benigo while the gritty metal sound of Bearing has added former Zero Control bassist Dave Hammerstone and guitarist Nick Kavas to their line-up and have been performing on the live show circuit with the new members in tow. Finally, Nothing has welcomed bassist Jake Garcia and guitarist Kevin Ontai into their line-up.

In recording news, several bands have started making noises with already or soon to be released material about to hit the streets. Right off the top, the Oakland-based speed/thrash metallars Down Factor finally unleashed their debut recording on Scourge Records entitled Pure. Featuring ten tracks of pure brutal metal power, guitarist/vocalist George Anderson and company have snapped off a solid disc to add to the NorCal metal collection. Along the same lines, the dirty, street-sludge rock sound of Totimoshi have come off their second full US tour and have completed work on their forthcoming disc entitled Mysterioso. The band inked a deal with Berserker Records and will release the effort in April 2002.

Keeping with the recording theme, humor metal act Starch is anticipating releasing a new recording in early 2002 which will include material from their previous effort Heavy Metal For Dummies as well as some brand new material. Similarly, Phayn has unleashed their newest recording and should be hitting the live show circuit in support of their new disc.

Jumping up into the Sacramento region, two bands made some notable vocalist moves in the past thirty days. Straight away, the popular heavy sound of Impulse 120 announced the departure of vocalist Sam McLeod after just about nine months with the band. McLeod joined the band in early 2001 after his former band Severance fell apart in late 2000. McLeod’s time with Impulse 120 included the recording of one EP entitled Undefined. Along the same lines, the heavy groove, slightly hip-hop tinged act of Stepchild announced that longtime vocalist James Alexander had left the band after over five years and countless shows. Alexander’s time with the band spanned several EP recordings as well as a move from the South Bay to Sacramento in the late 90’s. Finally, Logicseed recently announced that their bassist, simply named “b”, will be leaving the band. At this time, no replacement had been named.

Sneaking over to the Central Valley for a peek at the happenings with some of the heavy bands in that area, both Rebel’s Mother and Disharmony produced some tidbits on the newswire. First off, Rebel’s Mother announced the departure of guitarist Frank Leon and replaced him with former Judah Tribe guitarist Henry. The band is also hard at work putting together their next recorded effort, their follow up to 2000’s Sanctify. Speaking of recordings, the black/death/gothic metal band Disharmony has committed their sound to disc finally with a brief two banger EP that provides their ticket to the underground. With their punishing, multi-tempo sound, Disharmony has been winning new fans quickly throughout the scene.

Keeping with the Central Valley, the strong, accessible sound of Fe9d hit the studio to lay down some tracks for a new recording. This is the first time the band has recorded with guitarist Jeremy Wright handling the vocal duties as well. Finally, the aggressive, sick, twisted wound of Habeas Corpus plans to hit the studio in late January/early February 2002 to record their next full length disc. Keep an eye out for their next lesson in brutality.

Finally, down in the always active South Bay scene, many different bands popped up on the radar with news making events. Right off the top, in response to their former guitarist Merino (mentioned above) leaving for Unjust, Sora announced the addition of guitarist Travis Jones (former Chromosome-6) with guitarist Isaac Raymond moving over to handle the vocal duties as well. The band also parted ways with original drummer Erick Caceres with another former Chromosome-6 member, drummer Derek Alviso, stepping into the skin beater role. Along the same lines, the volatile line-up of Clearing Autumn Skies had another shake up as guitarist Mike McClatchey and vocalist Jason Ingram both left the band for undisclosed reasons. No replacements had been named as of yet.

In other movement news, g9 announced the addition of bassist Daniel Geiser as their new bass player just as the band intends to release their debut full-length disc in February 2002. Finally, after some legal trouble, bassist David DeSilva parted ways with Dead Syndicate. No replacement has been namd at this time.

In recording news, Depths of Depression (who recently changed their name from Fleshole) are hard at work putting together their debut, full-length recording entitled The Great Depression. No release date has been set as of yet, but definitely keep an eye out for this lesson in hardcore melodic metal. Also, Automatic Animal hit House of Faith Studios in Oakland, CA in November and will as well in January 2002 in an effort to put together their newest recording. Look for that in early 2002.

In the death driven South Bay scene, the increasingly popular act Lords of the Manor have unleashed a four track EP which will act as a lead in to their next full length effort the band hopes to put together next year. The Lords have been impressive on the live show circuit in the past few months and have garnered a whole load of new ears. Also, the melodic hardcore act Two Steps Behind has finished up work at Pus Cavern Studios on their forthcoming EP entitled Tomorrow Knows Me Too Well. Expect this effort in early 2002.

In more related recording news, old friends Stitch has unveiled a little bit more detail about their forthcoming disc. The band, in conjunction with GoBig! Records, have teamed up with Alex Newport and began tracking this highly anticipated new recording last month at Tiny Telephone Studios in San Francisco, CA. This effort is slated for an early 2002 release.

Finally, tragedy struck the East Bay/Livermore scene as former Starch drummer Dutton Cratty passed away on Friday, November 2nd, 2001, leaving this world much too early. Dutton was just 29 years old. Our thoughts go to the Cratty family.

With that last piece of information, I will wrap up this months report and leave you for the next thirty days. Have a safe, happy, and very metal holiday.

And always remember, metal is not just music, it is a way of life.

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