AZTEC — A band from this town is trying to create a "black metal" scene in the Four Corners.
Aetranok formed last year and released an eight-song album in September that they recorded themselves. Tonight, the band will bring their thundering, demonic sound to a live show at Studio 18 in Farmington.
The band formed last year to make black metal's signature sound, which is played at blisteringly fast speeds with heavy, head-bangingly slow parts. The band is comprised of lead singer and guitarist Logan Drake, whose stage name is "Meretrix," guitarist and singer Wolfgang Wisniewski, or "Apophis," and drummer Chris Skidmore, or "Maelum."
The band members are mostly in their early 20s — Skidmore is a senior at Aztec High School.
Nevertheless, the band will officially welcome new member Darrell Riddle, 42, who plays bass and goes by the name "Rattlesnake," at the show.
"It's tough finding bass players in Aztec," Wisniewski said.
The metal sound is characterized by dissonant, tremolo-picked guitars, shrieking or screamed vocals and blazing-fast drums — enhanced with atmospheric, lo-fi spooky sounds that might be heard in a horror movie.
The metal subgenre has its roots in the early 1980s with metal bands such as Venom and Celtic Frost, which are considered the tamer thrash metal today. A second wave of the demonic metal sound emerged in Scandinavia in the 1990s and some of those band members were linked to church burnings and murders.
And while the members of Aetranok are aware of the music's controversial history and satanic overtones, they say it is the sound that attracts them.
"I'm an auto-theist," said Wisniewski, who grew up in Appalachia and wrote most of the songs on the band's album, "Grande Invokation." "You are your own god. It's not so much anti-Christian as it is anti-religion."
They embrace the ghoulish face paint and wear a lot of black, gauntlets, bolt belts, chain mail — Wisniewski makes his own — and spikes, but the members consider the look secondary to the music.
Aetranok will play at Studio 18, County Road 5364 #20 (two miles east of Sun Ray Casino), in Farmington. The show starts at 7 p.m. Aetranok plays at 8 p.m. Admission is $3. For information, call 505-486-7470.Also playing are Born of Winter, a melodic black-metal band from Flagstaff, Ariz., Heavy Metal Blood Drive, a thrash-metal band from Kayenta, Ariz.; Fail the Earth, a death-metal band from Farmington; Mortality, a black-metal band from Shiprock; and Fatally Dying Within, a death-metal band from Dulce.
"It's to look corpse-y, not to be like (rock group) Kiss. It's like your war paint, a way to represent your inner demons," Wisniewski said. "When I see a show and the dude playing looks like he just got off the couch eating a bag of chips, it's pretty awful."
The rapid proliferation of heavy metal subgenres — thrash, speed, doom, extreme, core, black, death and more — shows both the popularity of the music worldwide, Wisniewski said.
Group members cite death-metal bands Dark Funeral, Marduk, Emporer and Dark Throne as inspiration but eschew the splinter "necro" and "core" bands' sound in favor of an even more dissonant sound.
Wisniewski, who took music theory classes at San Juan College, likes to infuse the band's sound with inspiration from Norse mythology as much as he does classical composers like Hayden and Bach. He taught himself how to play Bach's "Minuet in G major" on classical guitar.
"If it sounds cool, we're gonna use it," said lead singer and guitarist Drake. "There's some (bands who play) depressive suicide metal with pixie dust. It does get silly. We try to stay with the genre, but also change it."
Wisniewski added: "We might do 'I Will Always Love You' by Dolly Parton, but make it all 'kult' and evil."