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Courtesy 2:30 PublicityInSeattle,allowingthe"grunge"tagtosticktoyourband is about as cool as sporting a Von Dutch cap, a faux hawk and a white belt—it's a dated motherfucker of an association. So while lesser acts chase the early-'90s rock nirvana with triple-processed Alice in Chains licks, you can still find Northwest bands who sport roots in the sound that first inspired grunge: metal.
Not the kind of testosterone-addled, 15-minute-guitar-solo breed of hesherdom, either. The Northwest is an area of endless gray-skies-turning-to-partial-showers-turning-to-rain again. A region where black hoodies run into black-inked arms, where black metal bands and indie-rock dandies bus it to Ozzfest, and where DIY is king. So appropriately enough, some Northwest metal strains come in varieties muddier than I-5 ditches, sludgier than the refuse in the bottom of a bong and heavier than felled lumber.
Local champions such as the Melvins, Green River and Mudhoney—not to mention Melvins/Thrones' Joe Preston, who now plays with High on Fire—dragged a swampy dirge to the surface with more Sabbath than Halford at their core. Today, the local punk-metal spectrum leaves no gap unplugged, with young lifers such as Akimbo and Harkonen battering classic hardcore into heady artillery for metal's future and reputable clubs offering death/speed metal DJ nights. At the forefront of the new Seattle metal generation is Big Business, one of the best acts to rumble your midsection like the indigestion of the gods. But you should expect no less from a duo whose members whooped ass in Karp, Tight Bros from Way Back When and the Whip (bassist Jared Warren); the Murder City Devils; and Dead Low Tide (drummer Coady Willis).
In their year and a half together, Big Business have released two heavy-on-the-low-end CDs (a TourEP on Wäntage USA and a full-length, HeadfortheShallow,on Hydra Head). They also commissioned a CD-release performance with white-robed "angels" harkening their appearance and a costumed orchestra "conductor." While the music may be serious, Warren and Willis display definite comedic chemistry. When asked for his thoughts on Northwest metal, Warren quips, "There's a ton of crazy hardcore and grind bands. Unfortunately, a lot of them have long bangs and lip rings. And those military hats—what up?"
Willis says of the band's Seattle heritage, "When the rich bouquet of diesel, sawdust and meth lab wafts in from the I-5 corridor and hits salty ocean air, a Level 5 mage appears and bestows you with 'Ultimate Drop D.' I thought everyone knew."
Shallowmay follow that tone and open with a lighthearted lonesome cowboy whistle, but the band immediately and deftly plow all kidding aside from there. "O.G." offers blasts of distorted bass over a pummeling barrage of beats other bands have to double-track to achieve, with Warren's phlegm-webbed howl leading the charge. "Focus Pocus" sharpens Warren's aggression, as he warns, "Take my advice, don't come any closer" over Sabbath/Motörhead-style riffage that could rattle granny's diapers into some serious spillage. Warren claims they didn't get too outrageous in the studio for Shallow—theirvoluminous heft comes from "Black Magic! You can get it at Guitar Center for an inflated price, but as with everything else, you only find the good shit on the street"—but they did experiment a little.
"Coady banged on pieces of metal for one song. They were weird scraps designed by world-famous drum builder Greg Keplinger," Warren explains. "They were lying on the ground, and they'd bounce around like crazy while Coady was hitting them like a Whack-a-Mole game. They sound freeeeeeaky!"
Willis adds, "[Producer] Phil [Ek also] put weird effects on the mic, and Jared would just make these really disturbing sounds. With his mouth."
Big Business' beefy, buckle-the-concrete drive is one both musicians have been honing over the years, one Warren was working on with his previous band, the Whip (with Joe Preston and Scotty Jernigan). Tragically, drummer Jernigan was killed in a boating accident in 2003, but a simple phone call between Willis and Warren gave this new project its start. Since then, the power pair has been blowing out amps at all-ages venues and nearly killing pals around the country. "In Arcata, we were sound checking, and one of the PA speakers fell from the ceiling and came two feet from crushing a few of our friends," says Warren. "Hilarious!"
With their vertiginous heft locked and loaded, the boys put the weight of their collective rock history behind them to amble forward with a tonnage heavier than a FatActressmarathon. And that, says Willis, is a good feeling. "[Now] when I wake up in the morning, look in the mirror and say, 'Hey, buddy, you're doing a good job; everything's going to be okay,' I'm not lying."
BIG BUSINESS PERFORM WITH THESE ARMS ARE SNAKES, OXES AND MORE DOGS AT CHAIN REACTION, 1652 W. LINCOLN AVE., ANAHEIM, (714) 635-6067; WWW.ALLAGES.COM. FRI., 7:30 P.M. $9. ALL AGES.