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Spotlight Iowa City: Still mining that metal

BY REBECCA KOONS | NOVEMBER 06, 2009 7:20 AM

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Inserting a heavy-metal CD in the stereo, Larry Sievers, 64, appears to be a fraction of his age.

The man’s face lit up with a youthful glow as the Mob Rules started — triumphantly dark sounds Sievers passionately describes as “knights riding into a castle.”

“This kind of music is a part of me,” he said in-between head-banging and playing the air guitar. “I escape into the world of sound.”

After roughly four decades, Sievers has amassed what is, arguably, the largest personal collection of primarily heavy-metal music in all of Iowa. Though the Iowa City native doesn’t have an exact count, he estimates the assemblage totals approximately 800 albums, many of which he eyes in Decibel magazine and purchases from Real Records in Iowa City.

“I try to roll with the punches,” said Sievers, wearing large-framed glasses and a flannel shirt over a Metallica T-shirt. “For instance, when death metal first came out, I hated it. But when it started to get more progressive, I thought maybe this can go somewhere.”



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If owning hundreds of metal albums doesn’t make Sievers a true metalhead, a quick glance around his apartment should erase any doubt. Posters and pinups of his favorite metal gods decorate the walls, with a framed photo of Ozzy Osbourne adding a finishing touch — sitting atop a stereo surrounded by stacks of jewel cases that have replaced the former vinyl copies.

Having grown up with jazz and the earliest rock musicians, such as Elvis Presley, in his ears, Sievers can easily recall his first official introduction to heavy metal. In 1970, after hearing Black Sabbath on the radio for the first time, he immediately proceeded to purchase the band’s first two albums, Black Sabbath and Paranoid.

But the ’80s were the real turning point for Sievers’ fixation. As thrash began to emerge, he found his affinity for the more ferocious side of metal, and power metal, to be the strongest.

Aside from being a listener, Sievers composes his own music. With some high-school training on the piano in his repertoire, Sievers purchased a Kawai synthesizer/keyboard in 1993. Now retired, he’s able to devote more time to his musical projects.

And one of those is a one-man-band act, with appearances at local venues and radio gigs.

He’s garnered plenty of recognition over the years.

Sievers’ friend Samuel Locke Ward, who works the sound at the Mill, has grown quite familiar with Sievers’ original style of performance.

“We call him ‘Wizard’ because of his wizardry on the keyboard,” Locke Ward said.

Sievers’ genuinely kind nature really makes him stand out. Ross Meyer, the owner of That’s Rentertainment, knows Sievers quite well as an almost daily visitor of the store.

“It’s pretty amazing how much he loves the music,” Meyer said. “He’s like a kid or teenager with how enthusiastic he is about it.”

Sievers’ love for heavy metal has not diminished one bit since he had his first taste of it nearly 40 years ago. As the genre expands and changes, he will be right there, enjoying every minute of it.

“As long as these bands keep their influences from the roots of metal,” he said, “I think it has the possibility of going on forever.”


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