Photo: Peter Anderson
This July 8 at the Urban Lounge, SLUG’s Localized is serving up a heaping pile of doom and sludge, courtesy of old-school heavyweights Muckraker, the newly returned Maraloka, and openers Dwellers. The show starts at 10 p.m. and is only $5, so get your metal pants on and join us!
Russ Millham - Guitar/vocals
Jeremy Sundeaus - Bass/lead vocals
Bob Sutton - Drums
For Russ Millham, Jeremy Sundeaus and Bob Sutton, heavy metal is a way of life and has been for nigh thirty years. This epic trio is not only a part of Irony Man (a local “Black Sabbath experience”), but within the last year, they have started on a unique journey with Muckraker, a band whose sound is a testament to the giants of the scene who’ve paved the way for metalheads all over the world. “We just started jamming one day, and the songs kind of wrote themselves,” says guitarist Millham. “There has been a distilling and refining process; every band has to go through that and pull in new directions, but we are in a comfortable place with our sound now.”
Muckraker don’t limit themselves, and they claim influences from all over the spectrum—anything from Soundgarden to Fugazi, The Sex Pistols to Motörhead. Their inception sprung from a familiar well. “Learning the first six albums of Black Sabbath for Irony Man has caused that sound to seep into our writing. Muckracker is definitely Sabbath-based, that’s where most good metal comes from,” says Sundeaus.
Muckraker is a band that torches obstacles to their music—like Vikings landing on an undefended shore. Millham is a pipeline worker in Vernal who makes a six-hour roundtrip drive at least once a week to perform. Sutton is a father of four, and Sundeaus and his wife just welcomed their first child seven months ago. Even with these obligations, they haven’t missed a step, playing weekly shows for either (or both) bands and recently finishing their first recording as Muckraker. “Our wives knew when they met us what they married. They definitely know the band is in our blood and if they tell us to quit that, they’re cutting off our lifeblood,” says Sundeaus.
The metal scene in Salt Lake City has been through some ebb and flow through the years, and the members of Muckraker have seen it all. Sundeaus thinks the scene has recharged with the newer generation digging back into their roots, appreciating the ones who came before to pave the way. “I think the metal scene is stronger than it’s ever been. There’s a lot of kids in their 20s that are taking part of the retro-thrash bands,” he says. “When I was growing up and we were listening to thrash metal bands, we had to go out to music stores and dig in and get it. I hear old guys grumbling about this generation saying ‘They don’t know what’s going on’ and I say ‘You know what man? They do. They have the Internet, they do their research, they look these bands up and they pay attention.’”
Millham agrees and, unlike some old-school metalheads, appreciates the technological aspects of the newest generation to refine their tastes. More than that, he says he’s learning from their sound just as much as they learn from the pioneers. “A lot of kids have grown up with Guitar Hero, which has done more for music than any other single force other than the Internet, I think. I’m learning stuff from new bands like Norma Jean, Dillinger Escape Plan, and it seems to have roots that I appreciate as a listener. I love a lot of that stuff. I like where it’s going,” Millham says. “Metal is a religion now. It’s not just for kids—it’s for everybody.”
As far as their own sound, Muckraker has spent the better part of the last year refining and cutting away the fat to find their perfect fit. Millham describes their writing process as organic and relaxed. “All good songs start with a riff. We just go from there, mess around [and] Jeremy will come with some melody lines as we’re writing,” he says. When it comes to his lyrics, Sundeaus says the music always comes first. “I don’t have the lyrics sitting there and put them to the song. Lyrics creep in as the song’s going on. And the mood dictates the lyrics.”
For Millham, writing music is akin to creating a visual work of art. “Songs are like sound pictures—the song looks like something in my head, and that dictates some sort of a mood. Music is very suggestive in that way,” says Millham.
The band has plans to continue their local shows and gradually widen their circle of influence, hitting more Utah venues with shows already planned for areas like Vernal.
Wherever touring takes them, however, Muckraker’s members are musicians to the bone. They live and breathe the scene, and their fans can expect that dedication whether live or recorded.
Charles Bogus - Bass
Elliot Secrist - Guitar/vocals
Mike Collins - Guitar
Ross Lambert - Drums
No one’s ever claimed being in a band is easy work. Finding four or five others who share your level of passion for the music has long been the arch enemy of every act, and Utah has seen its fair share of great bands throwing up the surrender flag. Luckily, there are some bands that never hear that swan song, and Maraloka is one of them. Hailing from Provo, its members confess to being in “billions of bands” over the years, including several line up changes in Maraloka itself. Two of its members are fathers to young children, and all of them work the nine-to-five during the week. Despite all this and an almost 10-year hiatus, the band have resurrected themselves and matured their sound to re-emerge on the Utah metal scene with verve.
During Maraloka’s break, their members weren’t idle. Bassist Charles Bogus and guitarists Mike Collins and Elliot Secrist put their talents into touring and recording an album for Parallax. The members also formed God’s Revolver. And one fine day, the cards fell just right for Maraloka to become a band again, playing an opening slot at SLUG’s Localized approximately a year ago and cutting a joint EP with Denver-based group Cannons. “It just worked out like this. We’ve all been friends for forever,” says Collins of the rebirth.
While the band has kept their old name, which they say is a rough Sanskrit translation for “planet of death,” all the members agree that their sound has matured since their earlier days, which were more influenced by the hardcore-breakdown scene. “We all write really melodic music. We’re trying to make a balance of heavy, sludgy stuff and really pretty stuff,” says Secrist. Their writing process is also a lot more organic than it once was. “We don’t stress writing as hard as we used to,” says Secrist. “Mike and I come in with riff ideas and then just let it go.” Drummer Ross Lambert says, “[We’re] too lazy to play fast anymore … no more double-bass. I don’t wanna run, I wanna play drums. We all write together, but there’s no arguing or anything like that—if everyone likes it, then we play it.”
While the band members have background in and are influenced by many genres like jazz, blues, old country and ‘80s new wave sound, metal is their primary objective, and their first time playing live together set a standard for epic metal shows the likes of which Provo has never seen. In their first performance ever as Maraloka back in 2004, their live energy resulted in multiple injuries. “We turned off the lights, started playing, it built the energy up and by the time we were done, our friend Rick had a broken nose, a guitarist had a dislocated knee … and we decided to turn the lights back on,” says Secrist.
Though their sets might result in fewer trips to the hospital these days, the “beautiful sludge,” as drummer Lambert calls their sound, comes from a distinct and full love for the creation of their music, a love that has maintained and grown despite the challenges and roadblocks all members have overcome. Of his lyrical messages, Secrist says, “We’re all getting older, we have two dads in the band, so we just talk about getting older and all that comes with it.”
Unlike many bands in the scene, Maraloka is not about the big payday or the legendary record deal that will send them on a two-month tour of Europe. For them, it’s all about the love of playing, no matter the real-life challenges that stand in the way. “Most bands that I know take it extremely seriously and probably envision going farther and doing more things, and we’re just trying to have fun and write music that we all enjoy, so it’s much easier than other bands I’ve been in. I could personally care less about finding a big record deal or a big tour,” says Lambert.
Their revival is nearly complete. Maraloka is a rare treat in Utah’s metal scene with their matured doom-and-sludge sound and their love for musical creation after all they’ve endured.