At this point, it's no secret that Portland is a heavy-metal town. Since the once—well, still mostly—maligned music genre began garnering mainstream critical attention in the mid-2000s, ears began turning toward Oregon, thanks to the work of boundary-pushing bands like Portland's Agalloch and Eugene's Yob, whose music makes mainstream metal acts like Metallica sound like the Monkees.
In recent years, we've seen something more meaningful. Heavy metal is making Portland its cultural home in a way that's moving past tiny venues and record stores and into our pizza places, brewpubs and yoga studios. Portland is the heaviest city in America.
Certainly, we have plenty of music. Relapse Records, the comparatively huge label responsible for bringing almost-mainstream bands like Mastodon and Neurosis into the limelight, set up a second headquarters in Portland in 2009. Going deeper into the crypt, small labels like Fallen Empire Records and Vrasubatlat garner attention from tastemakers such as the BrooklynVegan-owned Invisible Oranges blog, not to mention outlets like Stereogum and Pitchfork. New record store/label Devout Rcrds is easily one of the best extreme music shops in the country, carrying vinyl, cassettes and CDs you would be hard-pressed to find anywhere else in North America.
But it goes way beyond leather jackets and record stores. There's Sizzle Pie, the wildly successful pizza chain started by Relapse founder Matt Jacobson that serves slices named after grindcore bands to fanny-packed tourists, late-night party dudes and degenerate heshers. Our micro-festivals, whether it's the psychedelic Sabertooth, headbanging nightmare Famine Fest or black-metal Eternal Warfare, bring cult bands from around the world to local venues. There's also the entire industry of craft beer: Metal is the unofficial soundtrack to an enormous swath of breweries and brewpubs.
Then there's Kali Giaritta's Mystical Hug Yoga.
At a January class in a small studio on Northeast Broadway, I moved between warrior and downward dog to the mournful sounds of Pallbearer's award-winning album, Sorrow and Extinction. I would have been the lone metal aficionado if not for the bearded guy in the black hoodie on the other side of the classroom. Giaritta introduced a group of mainstream yogis to one of the most celebrated metal bands of this decade, and her classes have been selling out. Back-patch and bullet-belt day care is just around the corner.
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