w/New Mexicans, Assailant
Thurs Oct 30, 2nd Avenue Pizza, 6 pm, free (all ages).
w/JR Ewing, Panthers
Mon Nov 3, Graceland, 8 pm, $10.
There are different types of heavy bands out there. Some are heavy like an invisible semi parked on your chest. And then there's heavy like standing too close to the speakers at a club and feeling like spit wads of wet cement are being hurled at the back of your head. However you want to break it down, there's nothing like a really obese musical force lumbering toward you, the kind of band that drops from the sky like a lead-packed parachute but still has the skill to land exactly on target.
There's no shortage of Seattle bands throwing their musical weight around, but one that's really been cracking through local consciousness is Akimbo, a trio playing a skilled hybrid of hardcore, metal, and classic rock.
Akimbo's musicians are a bit on the obsessive side. Guitarist Jared Burke Eglington has collected guitars since he was 12, and he currently owns 34 of them. "I have a lot of late-'60s, early-'70s stuff. I'm kind of a nerd--I like all the vintage guitar magazines and the guitar guides," he says. On the band's new release for Amalagate, aptly named Elephantine, Eglington used a half-dozen of his prized possessions to create specific tones for the songs. "I'm into different textures of sounds, so I'll use seven or eight different guitars and like four different amps to mix stuff," he says. "It's not uncommon that I'll play a different guitar on every song." (But only in the studio; live, it's one instrument per member.)
Drummer Nat Damm is obsessed with his calling--his first big influence was Animal from The Muppet Show, and he's been behind a kit ever since. Not only can he name nearly every obscure recording technique rock drummers used back in the day, but he also uses his other profession as a silk-screener to create portraits of his favorite drummers, 10 in all. So far he's done John Bonham, Keith Moon, Bill Ward, Dave Grohl, and Chuck Biscuits. (The series will end with a likeness of Animal, of course.) Unlike Led Zeppelin, who, Damm says, once recorded with Bonham at the bottom of a stairwell, the Akimbo beats were committed to tape at a church--the old Paradox club--where his expert groundswells could expand through the room.
As for bassist/singer John Weisnewski--well, he says he's obsessed with the bass lines in No Means No songs, but he's also been a serious shark scholar since the age of four, and the Jaws theme comes up often throughout Elephantine. Three songs on the album are about "Carcharodon megalodon, the predecessor to the great white shark. No one knows how big they are, they just speculate that you could drive a car through their mouths and that they ate whales," he says, grinning.
I guess if you're going to name the record Elephantine, your lyrics had better invoke creatures bigger than bunny rabbits. Except that most of Weisnewski's words are hidden within the lyric sheets, vocally tucked into the songs like another instrument, producing a gale of venom that's impossible to discern if you don't speak Satan. The band's larger emphasis is on the protractor-sharp angles of melody and aggression, a dynamic carefully balanced from start to finish. The connections between guitar, drums, and bass are wound tighter than a tourniquet and each instrument pushes or slackens depending on the force of the other two. Repetition of riffs cascade into beautifully stifling moments, which clear out for a slow, singular bass line or a rumbling drum solo. It's equal parts Black Sabbath and ominous math rock.
The band spent five days on their second record, the follow-up to the snickering slang of Harshing Your Mellow. Although both contain elements of hardcore and metal, everyone in the band agrees it's an overwhelming historical aesthetic that drives their sound. "When we make a record, we're really finicky about trying to keep a vintage sound," says Eglington. "We record all analog with tape and we strike for a good '70s classic rock tone. We don't use any rack effects or solid-state amps--only vintage guitars and old tube amps. We try to make it more classically heavy."