On February 10, heavy metal gods Visigoth and the mighty post-metal Huldra play SLUG Magazine’s Localized at the Urban Lounge. Nevertanezra’s death doom majesty opens the show. Localized starts at 10 p.m. and, as always, only costs five bucks.

Jake Rogers – Vocals
Lee Campana – Guitar
Jamison Palmer – Guitar
Matt Brotherton – Bass
Mikey T. – Drums

Longtime friends Jake Rogers and Lee Campana started Visigoth in a two-week dorm room recording session on the University of Utah campus. Driven by a mutual desire to be in a “serious band,” the two started writing traditional heavy metal riffs. “Jake’s voice works really well in B-tuning. So, we tuned way down, and started playing this really heavy stuff,” says Campana. Despite its humble beginnings, Visigoth’s Vengeance demo is a solid prototype for the band that would soon begin raiding venues across the Salt Lake valley.

However, they’re careful to note that this was not a two-man project, even at the start. According to Rogers, guitarist Jamison Palmer was involved from the beginning, whether he realizes it or not. “We knew we were going to force him to play guitar for us,” says Rogers. Later, Matt Brotherton found himself “absorbed” into the band, joining after playing as the band’s temporary bassist. However, the band struggled to find a consistent drummer.

When Mikey T.’s previous band, Killbot, split up, they had to cancel an opening gig for Holy Grail. He decided to attend the show anyway, where Visigoth was called in to fill Killbot’s set. After seeing them play, he approached them and offered to play drums as a consistent member. “At that point, every show for the past three shows had been with a different drummer,” says Campana. Palmer recalls his empathetic response to T.’s proposal: “Very yes.”

Each member of the band has roots in Salt Lake City’s metal scene. Campana and Palmer collaborated on the high-speed power metal of Destructinator, later joining on with Rogers to play doom metal with Savage Sword. While both of these bands are no longer active, Brotherton’s post-metal band, Huldra, will also be performing at February’s Localized show. “It’s probably going to be the peak of my popularity as a musician,” he says. “I’ve really gotta cherish this moment.”

The band focuses on keeping their live performances fun and charismatic, and their spirited stage presence is an aspect they share with much of their traditional metal influences. “Iron Brotherhood,” one of Visigoth’s better known songs, is intentionally written as something easy for the crowd to sing along to. “Heavy metal is unpretentious. The song is about going to a show with your friends, and it rules because you’re all enjoying it together,” Rogers says. “That’s what metal should be about.” Campana agrees that the song was written simply to be “fun to listen to,” and that his focus is on writing songs that have “something to offer that feels good.”

In many cases, this involves dipping into the band’s large list of non-musical influences. “The Brothers’ War” is a newer song, written as a reference to the storyline of Magic: The Gathering, a popular trading card game. They have recently begun incorporating an intro that covers the theme of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, which features Rogers on the flute, one of the first instruments he learned to play. Rogers says fantasy books and video games influence his lyrics—“the stuff we grew up with that was cool to us.”

But growing up isn’t easy for metalheads in the Beehive State. “There’s nowhere for kids to play,” Rogers says, referring to the pitiful state of Salt Lake City’s all-ages venues. “So they start a band, play in their parents’ living room for a couple of weeks, and then just fizzle out because they can’t get any kind of recognition.” Even newer venues like The Complex are “so big, they’re beyond local,” according to Palmer. Though Kilby Court recently lifted its ban on metal shows, it hasn’t stopped underage kids from turning to unofficial shows. “Those have always been the best,” Rogers says. “Kids [can] actually come.”

Along with recording their next release, Visigoth is considering a series of short weekend tours this spring. Campana says they are keeping the tours short to “cut our teeth on going somewhere, driving there, getting back and not losing anything.” Considering the stress that touring can put on even experienced bands, such a move might be wise before making a longer commitment.

Though critical of the venue situation, Visigoth’s members are adamant in their belief that Salt Lake City’s metal scene is very much alive. According to Rogers, Salt Lake City has, “Everything from death to black metal, all the way to power metal with keyboards. We do have a decent scene. It is very small, but it’s here.” Palmer agreed, adding that, “The only people who say that [metal is dead] are the ones who are not paying attention at all.” Especially when one looks outside the borders of Utah, the tide of traditional heavy metal is an undeniable phenomenon, from Sinister Realm and Argus to Spellcaster and, of course, the mighty Visigoth, the star of true heavy metal is on the rise.

Eric Smith – Guitar
Chris Garrido – Drums
Levi Hanna – Guitar, Vocals
Matt Brotherton – Bass, Vocals
Scott Wasilewski – Synthesizers

Taking themselves only as seriously as they have to, the members of Huldra are fond of beer, tacos and joking incessantly. Though it poses an odd contrast to the somber cadence of post-metal, an attitude of positivity certainly comes through the complex turns in their music. Guitarists Eric Smith and Levi Hanna began working on Huldra almost three years ago.

Through a complicated interaction between various members’ Craigslist ads, Matt Brotherton of Visigoth joined them on bass, followed by Monarch’s Chris Garrido. Scott Wasilewski later joined the band, allegedly seeking simple companionship. Promoting the recent release of their Signals From The Void EP, Huldra has stepped up their efforts to build up a local scene with fan participation. They’ve discussed collaboration with bands both in and outside of Utah, including an upcoming split with Ogden’s Dustbloom, and tentative plans to release a full-length album within a year.

Though their early influences are disparate, Smith contends that Huldra’s origins lie in listening to Cult of Luna. “[Huldra started] when Levi came along. That was when I could have somebody to side with me on stuff.” Hanna, however, claims the band’s current incarnation didn’t solidify until the recording of Signals From The Void. “It was nice to finally get something [that was] professionally recorded out there. It felt like we became a legitimate band at that point,” he says.

The EP was recorded, mixed and mastered by local audio wizard Andy Patterson. Patterson’s work on the Signals From The Void EP gave it a professional and considerate sound. He made each instrument distinct in the mix.  The high production values serve as a complement for the quintet’s strong, unique songwriting. The band’s heavy groove is always evident, regardless of its intensity, which makes them much more listenable than many of their more repetitive contemporaries.

One of the unique features of Huldra’s EP is Wasilewski’s distinctive clean piano sound. He describes his live sound as a blend between processed synthesizers and a more traditional keyboard. “I’ve always played the two at the same time for live shows,” he says, but the decision to tone down his live sound was his. “If I had gone wild [on the EP], it would have detracted from other things.”

Hanna remembers their first jam session, saying that hardware limitations originally introduced the clean piano sound to Huldra’s music. “[Wasilewski] didn’t have a synthesizer, he only had his ghetto keyboard and he only played piano through everything we played.” Hanna describes the turn towards the instrument as, “a natural thing, where some parts just felt better with the piano. So they stayed.”

In addition to playing bass, Brotherton also writes the lyrics that are used for Huldra’s songs. “I don’t really have much of a process,” he says. “I’ll get fixed on one idea or one phrase and then just kind of build off that.” The urge to write might hit him at work or on a run, but his lyrics show an undeniable amount of thought and care, covering abstract topics such as media and religion as well as more concrete topics like owls and kings. Yet, when he’s playing live, he says he’s mainly concentrating on kittens. “Matt thinks a lot about kittens and we have to hear about it. And it’s not just the day of, it’s like three days before,” Wasilewski says.

More immediate concerns involve how to build up the local metal scene and get fans to attend their shows. Unfortunately, the band perceives obstacles in their path. While Hanna is inclined to view lack of fan participation as a problem of having, “so many places to play,” and not enough dedicated metal venues, Brotherton sees things differently. “There’s so many people who are willing to dish out a hundred bucks to see Lady Gaga at the E Center or something like that, but won’t spend five bucks to go see a local band.”

“If Lady Gaga is playing, let’s not double-book the same night,” says Wasilewski. “Because I’ll probably be busy.”

Speaking about future goals for Huldra, Hanna says, “We’re starting to write material, we’re trying to possibly get a split with some other, more national or even international bands.” Their next major goal is to write and record either a split or a full-length, a goal they are close to realizing as Huldra is working on a split EP with Ogden’s Dustbloom, currently scheduled for an April release. In the meantime, check them out at Localized this February 10 along with Visigoth and openers Nevertanezra.