Wednesday, April 22, 2015

St. Louis' Thriving Metal Scene is Catching International Attention

Posted By on Wed, Apr 22, 2015 at 2:30 PM

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Rick Giordano, Scott Fogelbach and Erik Ramsier of the Lion's Daughter. - COURTESY OF THE BAND
  • Courtesy of the band
  • Rick Giordano, Scott Fogelbach and Erik Ramsier of the Lion's Daughter.

Historically, St. Louis has been a breeding ground for forward-thinking heavy music. In the late 1980s, local outfit Anacrusis infused the thrashy sounds associated with Slayer and Metallica with elements of brainy progressive rock. Its albums have since become cult classics in the international metal underground.

Later, the Dazzling Killmen spent the early '90s developing an eclectic, complicated form of noisy punk and refined its craft on the road with pioneering metal outsiders Neurosis, Sleep and Helmet. And at the turn of the millennium, Love Lost But Not Forgotten and Lye By Mistake gained cult followings for their dangerous intensity.

To some extent, the unrest that has gripped the region in the last year has provided a framework for outsiders to understand the area's metal scene.

"I don't think this is entirely the reason," says Rick Giordano of the Lion's Daughter, "but when you think about what people outside of St. Louis know about here, it's pretty miserable. Obviously Ferguson, it doesn't matter where you are, you know about that. The guy in France who runs our label knows about what's going on there. And bands just hear about other bands getting robbed here all the time," Giordano continues. "It's like how hardcore thug bands coming from Detroit makes sense. Maybe fucked-up scary metal music coming out of St. Louis will start to make sense to people."

Despite the city's rich heritage of heavy music, Giordano had low expectations when the Lion's Daughter started playing shows in 2007. "We started up around the same time as Fister," Giordano recalls. "Kenny [Snarzyk] and I had an ongoing joke that we were making music for each other to listen to because nobody gives a shit about this kind of music here."

He goes on, "When people actually started coming to shows, we were so surprised that anybody cared. Anytime somebody afterwards would be like, 'You guys were awesome,' I'd be thinking, 'Are you sure? That doesn't sound right to me.' We expected nobody to like it; that was kind of the fun of it. We had the freedom to do whatever we want because there isn't some scene here that we were trying to fit in to. If we were in Chicago, we might feel pressured to sound like a Chicago band, but that isn't the case here, which is kind of cool."

Giordano handles guitar and vocal duties for the Lion's Daughter alongside drummer Erik Ramsier and bassist Scott Fogelbach (formerly of Love Lost But Not Forgotten). Describing the band's horror-obsessed take on metal is difficult, involving clumsy combinations of hyphens, slashes and overly specific genre tags. In simpler terms, the Lion's Daughter plays the kind of intense, filthy, apocalyptic music that the average person assumes must be hiding satanic messages.

To date, the Lion's Daughter has released a stunning full-length and a solid EP. But no release has received the attention of A Black Sea, the band's collaboration with local folk outfit Indian Blanket. The word "epic" barely contains the record's juxtaposition of Neil Young-style damaged tenderness with enormous walls of distortion. RFT's Christian Schaeffer complimented the album's "brutal beauty," stating, "The common ground the bands share isn't exactly musical; it's emotional. Both bands mine the raw terrain of unflinching self-doubt, though they approach it with distinctly different decibel levels."

A Black Sea caught the attention of Michael Berberian, owner of French metal label Season of Mist. Giordano had previously sent the label an unsolicited email and received no response. Unaware that friends in the band Pig Destroyer had put in a good word, he was floored when Berberian sent a message to the Lion's Daughter's Facebook page last year.

"I had just gotten home at 2:30 on a Saturday night, and out of the blue there was this message from Mike," Giordano says. "It was kind of unspecific and kind of obvious that English is not his first language, like, 'I listened to these songs on Internets. Is this new record? Is there more happening?' So I sent this rambling drunk response, which luckily didn't scare him off."

Giordano was concerned because Berberian was initially enthused about A Black Sea. "I had to explain that it was a weird project with us and six other people and isn't representative of what we actually sound like," Giordano says. Since Berberian was curious about the band's new material, the Lion's Daughter quickly recorded demos with A Black Sea producer Gabe Usery of Encapsulated Studios and sent them to the label. A week later, Season of Mist offered the band a record deal.

Giordano was surprised by how quickly the label committed. "Communication was very minimal," he says. "I was expecting a bunch of questions: 'Are you guys going to tour? How old are you guys? Who's in the band now? What gear do you use?' There was none of that stuff.... It was more like, 'These songs are good. We'll put out your record.'"

For the Lion's Daughter's debut on Season of Mist, the band reached out to Sanford Parker, a producer/engineer from Chicago. Giordano's eyes grow large when he talks about his love for Parker's work. His cadence quickens, and he uses words like "creepy" and "disgusting" in the most complimentary ways.

"When we did our very first recording with Brian Scheffer at Firebrand Recording, we played him albums that Sanford Parker had produced as a reference for what we wanted our shit to sound like," Giordano says. "So he was always the dream guy to work with. The fact that he was the first person we asked and we got him was pretty fucking cool. I didn't think it would happen."

Giordano is excited about the Lion's Daughter's progress, but at 35, he is wise enough to know that a record deal doesn't automatically translate into private jets, fortune and fame. In a way, too, the band makes music that reacts against these traditional concepts of success, opting instead for the path less chosen, one that embraces the dirt below foot and makes heroes out of medium-profile producers out of Chicago or somewhat obscure French record labels.

"You'll see these awful bands sell out venues, just shoving this commercial, manufactured, plastic falseness down people's throats," he says. "I don't know how people aren't insulted."

He says, "I can't imagine playing in St. Louis to a crowd of 200. I mean, it'd be nice to get more people to come to shows." Then he finishes the thought in a typically metal gesture of defiance. "But I'm not going to change what we do just to make that happen."

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