Metallurgy ignited

BY ERIC ANDERSEN | JUNE 25, 2009 7:21 AM

The members of Iowa City’s Identity Crisis were tired of hearing the same jam bands and indie-rock groups play shows around town, so they decided to do something about it by putting together a metal show.

“Local metal — it’s alive, but I think there’s a lot more room for it to flourish,” six-string contrabass player Wes Smith said. “Especially in college towns. People are more interested in jam bands and indie rock. It’s great if you want to have a tightly knit community, but I would like a little more variety.”

On Saturday, Identity Crisis, Dark Mirror, Ageless, and Awaiting Punishment will bring Metal for the Masses — one of the summer’s few metal shows — to the Industry, 211 Iowa Ave. The show will start at 9 p.m.; tickets are $5.

Identity Crisis formed in October 2006, and since then, the group has been perfecting its own blend of Swedish melodic death metal and progressive rock. In 2008, female vocalist Tasha Hoffman joined the band, freeing up the rest of the group — Smith, drummer Edward Bonnett, and guitarists Jonathan Finney and Josh Starr — to play more intricate riffs and melodies.

“Everyone loves Tasha,” Smith said. “I love her energy, and people are just surprised every time they hear her sing and scream.”

He thinks people need to see Hoffman in action before they brush off Identity Crisis as just another band with a female singer.

“If anything, I think that more women should be in metal,” Smith said. “It’s mostly kind of a sexist, male-oriented genre of music. People considering it a trend need to realize that women can rock out just as hard as men.”

Identity Crisis plans to release its first EP with Hoffman on vocals this summer, which Smith feels is the most melodic and intricate album from the band yet.

Co-headlining for the night with Identity Crisis is Des Moines metal band Dark Mirror, which has been around since winter of 2005. The group already has a number of albums, including a début LP, Visions of Pain, and the EP Immortalize. Dark Mirror is also finishing up its latest album, Portrait of Evil.

“If you’re going to talk genres, I have narrowed our sound down to progressive power thrash,” guitar player Dustin “Blitz” Creagan said. “I’d say we sound like a mixture of Iron Maiden and Megadeth.”
Creagan and drummer Clint “The Leg” Blomker joined the band in August ’08 after half of the group’s lineup left for various reasons. Many groups would have called it quits after that, but Chilean vocalist Alonso “Zo” Donoso and bassist Mark “Battaglia” Andersen stayed together and kept playing.

The band has performed with high-profile metal acts Exodus, 3 Inches of Blood, and Overkill. With Portrait of Evil, the band members said, they hope to take the heavy-metal community by storm.
“We’ve got a distribution offer in Germany,” Creagan said. “What we’re really hoping is our album can become popular overseas so we can tour there.”

Davenport’s Ageless is an up-and-coming symphonic black-metal band that has already seen more controversy than some groups see in a lifetime — including an incident with a drummer’s mother who Ageless’ guitarist Derek Ahrens said was “a crazy evangelical conservative Christian.”

“She got wind that we planned to burn a bunch of Bibles at the show,” Ahrens said. “She literally called up the venue and left an anonymous threat saying that the cops and media would be alerted if this happened. We ended up using those Bibles to burn in promo pictures, so that worked out well.”

The members of Ageless all dislike organized religion, he said.

“We are definitely coming from an anti-religion standpoint,” he said. “We realize the publicity shock value it may bring, but from a personal standpoint, it actually just feels good.”

Ahrens, keyboardist Alex Clewell, bassist London Ehlers, and drummer Timothy Holt recently released their first recording, an EP called Hellspawn.

The group completing the Metal for the Masses quartet is Waterloo thrash and death-metal band Awaiting Punishment. The group played its first show on Halloween of 2007, but 35-year-old guitarist Tom Marquez has been involved with music since the age of 14.

“We’ve all got full-time jobs, and houses, and responsibilities, and we try to keep [the music playing] on the weekends,” he said. “I enjoy playing, and it gets me jazzed up to go out there and show people what we can do.”

Awaiting Punishment has three demo tracks recorded, and the band hopes to release an album soon.
The Metal for the Masses show will be the largest grouping of metal acts that Iowa City has seen so far this summer. All of the bands are hoping for a large turnout.

“Five bucks to see a damn good metal band?” Dark Mirror’s Creagan said. “Man, c’mon! Or four good metal bands for that matter. There is no reason to miss this show.”

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