I won't lie; I like most styles of music. From Americana and blues to country and metal and even pure pop, I can get into it if it's done well. Call it open minded -- or empty minded, whatever the case may be. My biggest problem over the last few years on the local music scene, however, has been finding a few really good metal bands.
Yes, I know there's a metal movement out there, simmering just below the mainstream surface, but by and large, many of those bands just aren't particularly good. In fact, I'd even go so far to say that many of them just flat suck. I know there are good ones out there, but I'm not looking for just another dropped key "chugga-chugga" band with Cookie Monster vocals.
I'm also not looking for a band that still hasn't escaped from the early '80s and the Priest and Maiden catalogs. I'm looking for something in the middle that is progressive enough to stay current, yet incorporates enough classic elements to remain distinctly metal.
A few weeks ago, it seems that band finally appeared. Of course, most of Tulsa missed it as the masses were at Free Tulsa, but on July 27 The Quickening made its debut at "Freak Tulsa" at the Crystal Pistol with a lineup that catered to the hard rock and metal crowd.
When you dig a little deeper, you find the members aren't new to the local scene. In fact, the band itself isn't new, having spent nearly two years fine tuning its lineup and songs before debuting to the public. The music itself is heavy and progressive with more screaming than I expected, but melodic vocals as well. And if you want guitar histrionics, this group is a Guitar Hero dream -- or nightmare, depending on your skill level.
So where did it all begin? The nucleus of The Quickening is drummer Steven Davidson and guitarist Charles Ireland, who decided to soldier on with a new project after Mercy Street dissolved with its members going opposite directions (singer Brandon Davis moved to Los Angeles to join Accident Experiment and guitarist Matt McHan is now touring guitarist for Caroline's Spine and bassist for Violence to Vegas.
Even so, starting The Quickening proved a struggle, with Ireland and Davidson agreeing that the biggest hurdle was learning how to communicate properly in order that they could achieve what they wanted to hear and find a lineup that could accomplish that vision.
Along the way, the group has had three guitarists, is on its third bassist and went through 14 vocal auditions before finally settling into its current formation with guitarist Jonathan Wilkerson (previously of Suffer the Masses/My Dead X and Mercy Street), bassist Tim Houser (Hospice) and lead vocalist Kyle Williams (With Smoke They Gave Their Offering/80 Proof). Once the pieces finally fell into place, though, the chemistry was undeniable and the music continued to evolve.
What took so long, you might ask? According to Davidson, "We have a really hard time writing normal songs. There's definitely a rock element to it, but there's also a lot of heavy stuff in it and time changes and stuff."
According to Ireland, "We just couldn't find the right singer. We have some odd time signatures, which are not easy to sing over."
"We had a lot of singers/screamers that wanted to audition," Davidson said, "but we'd send them the demos and they'd bow out, saying 'I can't sing over that -- I don't even know what's going on!'"
In the end, most of the candidates could sing, but not scream or scream and not sing, the two agreed. Finally, the answer came from an unexpected source, in the form of Kyle Williams. By most accounts, Williams is more of a screamer than Davidson and Ireland were originally looking for, but he's been a strong addition to the band and has grown vocally, even since auditioning and joining the band.
That audition process was extended, even for Williams, stretching for nearly four months before he was officially part of the group. "I was like 'Well, am I in the band or not, guys?'" he said while laughing with his band mates after rehearsal a couple of weeks ago.
"It's been a rough road for Kyle," Davidson admitted with a laugh. "We gave him a long work out."
Ultimately, Ireland said, "we went through a lot of people that just couldn't cut it. We wanted to really be sure this time before making anyone a member."
"Yeah, it was months before we put him on the list of members," Davidson added.
In the end, however, Davidson shared that "This band is a lot more close knit than any other band I've ever been a part of," a sentiment that was shared by all of the members.
Although, Davidson and Ireland are at the core, The Quickening is definitely a combination of all the members' influences. The initial eight songs, which the band is working on mixing down and mastering for a potential release by the end of the year or early 2013, were all written by Ireland and Davidson, but Davidson shared that the new songs being written are even heavier due to guitarist Jon Wilkerson's dropped tuning and Williams' input on the vocals and lyrics.
The band continues to evolve in the initial songs as well, with Ireland beginning to sing and cover the vocal passages as originally envisioned now that Williams has earned his spot and settled into place.
Although plans were originally to finish the debut disc, the group decided it was finally time to unveil itself with the opportunity to play Freak Tulsa in July. Response was positive from the outset as Davidson shared that the band took two dozen new shirts and 50 burned CDs to the show and distributed all the discs and sold more than half the merchandise. In fact, response was so strong that the group was offered three additional shows following their debut, but turned them down in order to remain focused and complete the new disc.
The Quickening will be making its second appearance this Saturday night, September 8, however, as it takes an opening spot on the bill with Texas Hippie Coalition at Cain's Ballroom. Although it's a heavy lineup, The Quickening will likely surprise the room and be a step ahead of much of the crowd.
This isn't just groove oriented heavy rock -- it's progressive metal with counterpoint guitars, time signature changes, polyrhythms and vocals that can peel paint off the walls. Even so, there are passages within the songs that touch on blues and even country that challenge even my preconceptions of what metal is supposed to be.
If you want a preview of what's about to emerge from Tulsa's metal scene, don't miss the TC show at Cain's Ballroom. The lineup also includes Southern Lush, Severmind, Soul Rider, and London's Dungeon, but The Quickening is sure to change your opinion and expectations of local metal, much like it has mine.
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