Denver has become a dark garden for heavy metal bands. It’s a scene that’s growing in the sub-culture, a black mold flourishing beneath the colorful flashing lights of all our alternative rock bands and the glitter-coated, glow-stick waving world of EDM, oozing up from the underground, rising like Beelzebub himself.
Have you seen it? Have you even heard of it?
It’s there, rest assured – whether you know about it or not, whether you want to know about it or not. And it’s only growing. As more local, Colorado metal bands start to erupt out of this fertile crescent and into the stratosphere of national and even international metal stardom, this place is only going to get heavier: Vale of Pnath, Allegaeon, Havok, Tethys, Apotheon, Cephalic Carnage, Ancient Collossal, Pile of Priests… the list grows on.
“If you look at our track record for the size and population of Colorado, you cannot call into question how successful Colorado is on the metal circuit,” says Greg Burgess, the lead guitarist for Allegaeon. “Per-population we have a lot of successful bands coming out of here.”
Photo credit: Greg Burgess' Facebook
Burgess has been involved in Colorado’s metal scene for well-over a decade. Allegaeon came up in Fort Collins, a home-grown, grass-fed metal band that shredded their way up and out of the sludge of the many, one show at a time, one album after another, to perform with the few. They just wrapped up with the Summer Slaughter tour and only just returned to Colorado from Canada.
Summer Slaughter came through Colorado in July. The annual heavy metal music festival tore the Summit Music Hall a new back door, drawing hordes of angst-ridden metal heads to mosh, mash and rage before the stage. It was a brutal gathering. Not just because Burgess and Allegaeon opened for bands like Veil of Maya and Between the Buried and Me, but also because it was such an epic congregation of metal fans. They crawled out of the woodwork for that show.
Why? What could have possibly spawned this morbid music scene in a place as beautiful and pure as Colorado?
Maybe it’s just because people in this state have a more refined taste in music. It could also be that we’re a bunch of Satan-loving degenerates that like to get bent on distorted guitars, wicked licks, blast beats and breakdowns.
We may never know for sure.
Whatever the reason, Colorado is becoming solidified as one of the premiere places to tour as a heavy metal band. Put on a show here, and you’re going to pick up a few new fans. Not only that, but you’re going to find a crowd that’s ready to get down.
“It must be something in the water, or perhaps the local flora, but crowds in Denver from my perspective are always so alive and excited, some of the best shows in the country will happen there,” says Eric “Rainbow” Brown, the drummer for the melodic death metal band, Nekrogoblikan. While the band is based out of LA, Brown calls Denver home – it’s his high-country heavy metal haven.
Photo credit: Nekrogoblikan's Facebook
“It’s kind of an oasis in the middle of nowhere,” he explains. There aren’t many metal-friendly cities to put on shows in the surrounding states, which means that everyone and their mother comes through Colorado, and Denver specifically, when they’re on tour.
Nekrogoblikan will be playing at Denver’s Marquis Theater on October 23rd. It’s one of Brown’s favorite venues in the state, he says (even though they recently cut their club capacity by half). So, if you’re trying to throw down to some melodic death metal, you better buy a ticket fast, before it sells out. Or, if you can wait to let your inner goblin out until November, they’ll be touring next with the rock band, CKY throughout the fall – and no doubt they’ll be coming to Colorado again.
Don’t let all this give you The Fear, though, good people. Because, even though they sometimes scream songs about stealing people’s skin and turning them into coats, even though their crowds are full of sweating counter-culture fiends dressed in black, pit moshing and crowd surfing, metal music fans are some of the nicest, friendliest people you’ll run into at any live show.
Yes, it sounds like a contradiction, and maybe it is. But regardless, at least in my experience, and at least in Colorado, metal heads are an extremely congenial bunch. If you fall down in the mosh pit, someone’s going to be there to pick you up and ask if you’re alright. If a guy is bothering a girl at a show, you can bet someone’s going to be there to tell him to fuck off. Fights are rare, and true evil is even rarer. This is a community, and a tight knit one at that. Show-goers know each other, the musicians know their fans, know other metal musicians, and know the scene. Tolerance runs high in this circle – everyone is a misfit of some denomination, and everyone is there for the same music.
This train is gaining steam, too. As new sub-genres of metal start to emerge, people everywhere are starting to hear more of what they like coming out of metal: black metal, death metal, Viking metal, doom metal, melodic death metal, symphonic metal, thrash metal, Latin metal, avant-garde metal, power metal, and even folk metal… if you like music, chances are, there’s a type of metal out there that you could get into.
“I think as Metal as a whole becomes more broad and innovative, as it has been, it's branching out more and getting more people interested that weren't already devout card-carrying Metalheads,” says Brown. “Acceptance is more common since the shock value of ‘devil music’ has worn off and people can still play heavy music with lyrics about any old topic instead of pigeonholing themselves into themes of gore, violence and Satan.”
It’s evolving, this heavy metal scene. And in Colorado, it may have found the perfect habitat to do so – like an invasive species that’s dug in, that’s burrowed into the culture here and isn’t going anywhere any time soon.
It’s found a home, and it’s welcome to stay.