[DOOM METAL] Growing up, my biggest beef with superhero comics was that they had to reintroduce things we comic fans already knew. Like when Wolverine pops his claws, it'd read: "Wolverine pops his adamantiam claws, adamantiam being the strongest alloy in the universe," and we were all like, "Duh." This is called exposition. Which brings us to doom metal—the primary genre proffered at March Into Darkness. See, your average doom-metal fan will take one look at this three-day fest's lineup, get psyched and go buy tickets. But to anyone else, it seems pretty unapproachable. So here's some exposition.
Doom metal, in a nutshell, was born (let's say spawned—it sounds cooler) when Tony Iommi, the guitarist of Black Sabbath, lost the tips to two of his fingers, replaced them with thimbles and tuned his guitar to the ungodly depths of C. Shit's never been the same. Doom, the genre, is more derivative of Sabbath's eerie "Electric Funeral" than, say, heavy metal standard "Paranoid"—that is to say, it features super-heavy, slow post-blues riffs that soundtrack the end of pretty much anything happy in the world, ever.
Nathan Carson, organizer of March Into Darkness and drummer for local doom-wizards Witch Mountain, is way into the genre. He grew up in Corvallis, and the first show he ever saw was Huey Lewis; the second was industrial metal band Neurosis, and that sealed the deal. Soft-spoken and totally not scary, Carson makes the argument that doom metal is quite unlike its hesher-stoned brother, heavy metal. "For the uninitiated, names like Asunder and Agalloch and Middian may seem mystical and impenetrable," he says. "And, to a degree, that's the intent. This is slow, melodic, gorgeous music. You won't hear the shrieking vocals, guitar noodling or incessant double bass drums like at other metal concerts." When it comes newbie advice, Carson, 34, offers: "Just bring an attention span. The songs tend to be long...and spiritually rewarding."
For anyone interested in the outer limits of heavy music, MID might be the best introduction. And the main draw is Agalloch, a mostly local band that combines pagan-folk creepiness with dark, shoegaze grandeur (and counts MID as one of two U.S. dates this year). "No need to be frightened off by the fans," Carson jokes. "They're too stoned to cause any trouble." Phew. Next time we can skip the exposition and just talk about the riffs.
MID takes place Friday-Sunday, March 21-23, at Berbati's. See music listings for lineups and show details.