Into the Pit is a new series dedicated to showcasing the Bay Area metal scene in its many forms, spanning artists, genres, venues, and locations. This week features Pittsburg-based Hemotoxin.
“As I find myself growing older and gaining more financial responsibilities, I realize my goals as a musician are becoming dreams,” Mike Chavez, lead singer-songwriter of death/thrash metal outfit Hemotoxin tells me languidly near the end of our interview. As we sit by the Public Market in Emeryville (a hard place to find a metalhead but an easy place to spot one) and discuss his band’s music and the general state of metal in the Bay Area, it’s hard not to be confronted by the grim reality this genre has to offer as a viable artistic profession. Check it: loyal fans but a small market, supportive venues that are almost exclusively located in major cities, and a chronic lack of mainstream radio airplay or recognition (unless you’re, of course, Metallica). In 2016, metal is still the genre of outcasts, misfits, loners and losers, radicals, and straight-up wackos. You have to really love metal to play it, because rewards outside the intangible are mostly nonexistent.
And if you love metal, chances are you’ll love Hemotoxin’s brutal mix of intricate double-bass drum beats, visceral vocals screaming ugly truths too painful to be acknowledged in polite conversation, and soaring guitar solos that manage to resemble something like beauty amid the dark subject matter and grinding bass lines. It’s no surprise that Mike cites both Exodus and Death as primary influences during our conversation: Hemotoxin contains the speed demon fury of the former and the technical wizardry of the latter.
Their new album Biological Enslavement, set to be released early April, combines those influences seamlessly and inventively: cognizant of the genre’s past but determined to forge their own unique present. It’s a terrifyingly explosive blast of frustration and fury, with much of the lyrical content aimed at modern man’s obsession with technology. “I was sitting on BART one day when the inspiration for ‘Forgotten Faces’ hit me,” he claims, a sly smile crossing his lips at the recollection. “Everyone was looking down at their phones or tablets, totally absorbed in them, completely oblivious to their surroundings.” That’s where the enslavement part comes in.
Mike and the band are hoping to tour behind the upcoming LP and spread their music as far as possible. And not all of Mike’s goals are merely dreams. “I just want to make more music and play more shows,” he says, his dark eyes radiating conviction. That’s certainly not all you can hope for as a metal band, but it’s certainly enough. Love will take you a long way with this music.
Among the Torrent, Hemotoxin, Stormbat, Inferos, Aseptic
O’Malley’s Sports Pub
February 20, 2016
8pm, free (21+)