The air is still. One can hear the leaves scraping across the pavement outside like a rake over cement. Small animals run across the braches on the tree just outside the window of the small apartment located in Castleton corners. All seems normal, until a slight vibration suddenly becomes noticeable in the air. It feels like a disruption in the flow, yet it doesn’t do much to the listener.
Then, it gets louder.
Soon the trained ear notices that it is the reverb that comes from a bass after one of the strings have been tapped, but what does this mean? The unfamiliar may be confused as to what is about to take place. For the two metal heads, however, they wait in silence.
They wait for that which is a tribal right of passage for them. Suddenly a guitar is heard, at first in the background, but quickly rushing to the forefront, as a machinegun assault of kick drums comes smashing through in what is known as the “blast beat.”
The drums now pick up intensity. How could someone drum this fast? Then without warning the guitar bottoms out into a wall of furious and unrelenting sound, but the true terror has yet to come. The metal heads brace themselves for the final lead, their blood pumping through their veins, causing their skin to redden.
What is about to happen? What is this nightmarish sound emanating from the speakers? Before it can be answered, it is heard, an inhuman roar that sends a chill down the spine of the faint of heart, and infuses the metal heads with savage power.
They begin to bang their heads up and down in a furious fashion, saliva whipping through air as they bare their teeth in a declaration of might.
Are these two hedonistic hell spawn? Is this music the dark quire that is the fallen angels of the dark underworld?
No, they are just a couple of metal heads rocking out to some Death Metal. Just another Wednesday night for Nate Ziddo, and Steve Hartmen.
Ziddo and Hartmen represent a rare breed for the greater Vermont area. They and select others find themselves on the fringes of the music scene in the Castleton and Rutland area.
Castleton alone plays host to many different styles of music like jam bands, reggae, punk, Hardcore, and emo. Yet death metal, and metal in general, is almost non-existent. Why is that? How is that one of the most, if not the most powerful forms of metal, cannot breach the walls of Castleton. And what is death metal exactly?
Ziddo explains that it is metal taken to its limit, and then beyond.
“The instruments are tuned very low, played fast and aggressively, and the vocals are deep and guttural, like a growl or roar,” he explained.
Bands performing death metal have names like Hate Eternal, Cannibal Corpse, Morbid Angel and Dying Fetus.
Ziddo and Hartman are two death metal guitar players who say metal is indeed in Vermont, but death metal is another story.
“There is no death metal scene in Vermont,” says Ziddo. “Also scene is a term used by idiot journalists to describe a community.”
Asked what could be done to change this, Hartman explained, “more people need to start bands in the area.” And clubs would have to open their doors, and their minds to this music, so the up and coming bands could have a venue to get their music to the masses.
This is a sentiment shared by others. Ted Washburn, a produce associate in the Rutland Price Chopper, feels that metal, especially something as brutal as death metal, would need to first evolve within Vermont clubs and venues rather then invading it.
Washburn got into metal at age 13, but wouldn’t discover death metal until he was 17. As a fan of punk rock, he feels that death metal should follow punk’s lead in Vermont.
“We need something that is ours,” Washburn says.
He also believes that certain trends that metal heads regard as inferior and unworthy of existence, like emo, exist in Vermont because there is no metal scene.
“The emo scene is horse s***,” Washburn said shaking his head and gritting his teeth. “Kids are depressed because of emo.”
Asked how and what they should do to embrace metal and getting over their self induced depression, he said forcefully, “You have a bad day, you suck it up, and get exposed to this s***!”
How to start a metal scene
Still the problem remains, if bands don’t just start cropping up on their own, they are going to need a little motivation. Some suggest that the way to accomplish that is to get already established bands to come play in Vermont. But where? There are no venues outside of Burlington for this type of music because promoters are afraid that it will create a bad element.
So how does the death metal community convince promoters that there is nothing to worry about?
Well, according to Washburn and Hartman, getting the local law enforcement involved is the best way to go.
“Invite them to the clubs to watch the shows,” Washburn said. “Once they see that they are not trying to kill each other in the mosh pits they’ll back off.”
Hartman said the venues should higher off duty police officers to act as bouncers for the clubs. This would offer protection and an opportunity for them to relay back to the community that there is nothing wrong taking place.
Now, assuming all this works, it still leaves the question of what kind of bands should come in first. Death metal right off the bat may be too extreme initially. Some say transitional metal bands, like the metalcore bands of Boston, need to come first. Metalcore is a hybrid of metal and hardcore.
Terry Badman got into metal in high school like many others and naturally progressed into heavier genres until he finally reached death metal while working at an apple packing plant from a fellow associate.
“Death metal is a hard sale,” Badman says.
Still, like Washburn, he feels that it could convert the emo community by showing them that they can turn their pain into power.
“Others like the jocks would need something trendier,” he states. “Killswitch Engage could totally make it here.”
Killswitch Engage is a band that falls into the category known of metalcore. Metalcore does very well for itself in Vermont as far as listeners go. Badman and others agree that it would take a band like that coming to this area of Vermont to break the ice.
“It goes step by step,” Badman says.
The metal community feels that it is the elitist attitude that certain metal heads take that is preventing death metal from being excepted here. They fear that if it gets popular, then it will no longer be theirs. Others like Badman, feel that such an attitude acts as a hindrance to the movement.
“To the elitists, if it’s popular, you’re not doing it right, and I hate that,” he says in an irritated tone.
What about the promoters?
Many have already stated that there aren’t any places in the Castleton-Rutland area that showcase bands of this genre. But what about venues like the Paramount Theater in downtown Rutland? What is stopping it from joining the ranks of Higher Grounds in Burlington or Northern Lights in Clifton Park, N.Y.
These venues have sold out shows when death metal bands like Suffocation, and Decapitated play. Couldn’t the Paramount do the same?
Not really, according to General Manager Tim Marceau.
“We are a performing arts center, not a bar,” he says, adding that he’s not opposed to death metal.
Marceau said the way the Paramount is set up would make it hard to play host to concerts of that nature, given the fact that it consists of seating rather then standing space, which is the norm at any kind of metal show.
Asked if there was any place in Rutland that could match the other above-mentioned clubs, he was quick to say, “The Red moon would be the most similar to Higher Ground,” in reference to its standing space.
He also suggested converting the Castleton Field House, when not in use, as a venue to play more aggressive bands.
He said an important element with these kind of shows is space for people to move around and try to get as close to the stage as possible.
But recognizing a need for diversity, Marceau said steps have been taken to bring a more rock oriented crowd by creating the Break Box, which is an open air concert space in Center Street Rutland, where younger bands can come and play.
“We’ve had great turn outs with the Break Box,” he said.
Marceau said unless these kind of venues become a available in the area, the management for these bands won’t let them play here.
“I tried to sign Avril Lavigne, but her manager pulled out because he didn’t think our venue could handle the kind of show she put on,” he said.
He continued with the notion that if the management of a pop act felt the Paramount couldn’t handle it, then the management of a death metal band, would more then likely feel the same way, given how much more aggressive the music is.
Despite all this, Marceau said he still feels that the area could sustain bands of this nature if the right venues crop up, or existing ones are modified. He would even be willing to allow them to play the Paramount, if he feels there is indeed a strong enough demand for it.
Asked how people could get the word out to the Paramount, he immediately responded by saying, “Our web site has an input section, and they can call me to.”
He goes on to say that he keeps all these requests in a “big fat folder called ideas.” At the moment, they’ve been getting requests predominantly for blues, and classic rock.
What about the other half
One of the big questions still out there, is how would people not affiliated with this kind of music deal with it if it took up residency in their backyard?
Adam Repash, a senior at Castleton State College, and a self-proclaimed fan of brit rock and pop, admits that he doesn’t really know anything about Death Metal. Asked what comes to mind upon hearing the term, he simply replies, “really heavy, and darkness.”
Despite his lack of knowledge on the genre, he admits that he wouldn’t have a problem with it, and even went as far as to say that he would probably go to a show to check it out.
“Castleton really needs a change in climate,” he says in relation to the music scene. “It’s all jam bands and college rock bands.”
What’s the lure
All these different attitudes, seem to all point to one question. Why death metal? Why do these individuals feel so strongly about this particular style of heavy music.
“Death metal is like the super saiyen of metal,” Ziddo stated with a sheepish grin. “The first generation found Black Sabbath, then the next found something heavier with Sepultura. Now this new generation has found death metal.”
It would appear that death metal has a presence here in Vermont through these elite few, but if it were to truly come here, how would it affect the community?
“Death metal would spark controversy,” says Washburn.
He feels that the area, especially Rutland, would not be accepting of it because of its citizen status.
“Rutland is an old town,” he states. “There’s a f*** load of old people here, and they don’t understand metal. Younger people understand metal.”
As far the current music scenes go, many do not feel that it will affect or change anything, rather they feel something like death metal would just become another staple in the already existing music scene here in lower Vermont.
Despite the fact that death metal seems to be non-existent in Vermont, the people seem to say otherwise. Some like Ziddo with his long hair, and Hartman with his shaved head and attire, may stand out by looking the part, but there are many others out there that dress in a manner that is not befitting of the stereotypical metal look.
Badman, and Washburn both fall in this category with their barbershop haircuts, and button up shirts. Both explain that they once dressed in a way that fit the “metal look,” but have since decided to change their look due to changes in taste in attire.
However, their love for the music hasn’t changed at all, and when asked if the changes in their outward appearance have changed the personalities that made them death metal fans to begin with, Badman was quick with his response.
“I’ve changed so much, but I’m still an a**hole.