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Heavy Metal Thunders through Plattsburgh

Heavy Metal may not get much radio play, but a fan base still exists in Upstate New York

Story by Arthur Cleveland
Photos provided by Terraform and Mythology

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The Black Metal band Mythology has a theatrical flair.

It has been more than 40 years since heavy metal was born. Since then, the genre has grown and separated into almost-incalculable amounts of sub-genres: black, death, thrash, speed, grind, doom, Viking, and hair metal are just the tip of the ice Even though heavy metal has received little radio play due to the aggressive sound and sometimes controversial lyrics, it has many devout fans and followers. Many small metal bands form in garages and dorm rooms across the country; this is true even for upstate New York, with many aspiring metal musicians trying to start here.

The Bands

“Lately, it seems like Plattsburgh is taking a stride more in the hardcore direction," says Thomas Wheelock, member of the band Terraform. “There are various other genres here too.”

One long-running, local metal group is the black metal band Mythology. Started in 2004 by drummer Dustin Morris, the band has released several demos and has toured regularly. After several sessions, the band decided on the name Mythology, based on the lyrical content written by lead vocalist Chris Matott. The band’s lyrics tend to
focus on war and history but are done with a theatrical flair.

“Lately, it seems like Plattsburgh is taking a stride more in the hardcore direction."

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Stacy Senecal, the female lead singer of Terraform.

Terraform is another band in the local area. Wheelock, a member of the band, finds it difficult to describe their sound. “It’s kind of hard to explain,” Wheelock jokes. “It’s almost like a tongue.”

Fronted by a female lead singer, Stacy Senecal, the band's sound is a combination of hardcore metal and the progressive sound elements of bands like Meshuggah. Started in January 2011, the band is planning to record and release their EP soon.

Other bands in the area include Long Cat, Signals, and Motion of the Ocean, but there are many more.

Finding a Gig

Even if there are only a few metal bands in the area, bands need a place to play.

“It’s kind of unfortunate. There aren’t a lot of places for bands to play around here,” Wheelock says. “The only venues that are in the area are Therapy, which slowed down a lot in the metal scene, but they are slowly bringing it back. There’s also Cocktails over in Morrisonville and The ROTA Gallery.”

However, places have closed down or been cut off from bands. The Coffee Camp, where several bands played, closed its doors two years ago.

Matott also says Mythology used to play shows at the Trinity Church in Plattsburgh.

“It was a pretty nice place because of the space and what not, but someone split their head [open] all over the sidewalk from a confrontation at one of the shows,” Matott says, “so, unfortunately, it stopped after that.”

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If few establishments to play at weren’t a big enough problem, there’s also the way the bands are lined up.

“It was a pretty nice place, because of the space and what not, but someone split their head [open] all over the sidewalk from a confrontation at one of the shows.”

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Terraform performing at Higher Ground in Burlington, Vt.

Wheelock prefers smaller shows, which would have fewer bands but with each band playing longer.

While the metal community in Plattsburgh may have its issues, it still is thriving in comparing to heavy metal scenes in the smaller towns of the Adirondacks. Heavy metal will continue to be played all around; it’s just an issue of spreading out further.

What is the heavy metal scene like in your town?

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Metal Subgenres

Black Metal - Common traits include fast tempos, shrieked vocals, highly distorted guitars played with tremolo picking, blast beat drumming, raw recording, and unconventional song structure. Lyrical themes range from historic to misanthropic to anti-Christian. Examples include Emperor, Mayhem, and Immortal.

Thrash Metal - Characterized usually by its fast tempo and aggression, songs of the genre typically use fast percussive and low-register guitar riffs, overlaid with shredding-style lead work. Lyrics tend to focus on social issues, usually in a direct and denunciatory fashion. Examples include Slayer, Megadeth, Anthrax and Metallica.

Viking Metal - Characterized by its galloping pace, keyboard-rich anthemic sound, bleakness and dramatic emphasis on lyrical themes of Norse mythology, Norse paganism, and the Viking Age. Examples include Amon Amarth, Bathory, and Turisas.

Speed Metal - Thrash Metal’s older brother, although it was closer to the dueling melodies of its predecessors. Examples include Motörhead and Venom.