Metal trio Judgement Day doesn’t have a single guitar or bass. Rather, brothers Lewis and Anton Patzner shred the cello and violin, respectively, in place of the usual instruments. Drummer Jon Bush rounds out the band’s sound with ferocious blast beats and unbelievably intricate fills. Judgement Day creates crushing and epic “string metal” (a term coined by the Patzner brothers) masterpieces rooted in classical music, and steeped in mathy time signatures and, occasionally, ambient soundscapes. As a result, this Oakland, Calif., band sounds different than almost anything I’ve heard and comes to Santa Fe with one goal: to slay. I recently spoke with Anton about Judgement Day and its must-see show.
SFR: You guys crush it! How did you decide on this sound?
AP: Lewis and I started off as buskers, which played a huge role in how we evolved. We’d play the things that got us the most tips: pieces that were fast and loud. These were just improvised pieces, but people loved it, and the response was so awesome that we started writing songs and got a drummer and really went for it. Once you plug a violin or cello into an amp and add distortion, it does get pretty heavy. I don’t know if we’re straight-up going for metal or actively trying to write metal. In some cases, we’ll add the double kick on the drums, and that kind of automatically makes them metal. Maybe, because we have these classical instruments, it kind of happens naturally, but we don’t sit down with a specific plan. We’re just making the music we like, and you can call it whatever you want. Sure, some of the songs are pretty brutal, but some aren’t.
JD uses a lot of vintage equipment for recording, as well as shows. Why?
We’re constantly looking for tones and sounds that nobody has ever used. I collect a lot of vintage effects pedals because I just like the sound more. As for the recording, we wanted to give it a shot for our last 7-inch and recorded it in one take.
Are there other acts like yours?
String metal is a pretty new thing that’s popping up and, hopefully, could be the next big thing. Through this tour, I’ve been meeting a lot of self-taught string players that write metal, and it gets me really excited. In reality, though, there aren’t a whole lot of bands like us. We’ve been compared to Apocalyptica, I think only because we both have strings. I suppose we’re both playing dark music but, other than the minor chord progressions, we don’t have much in common.
Does it shock audiences when you show up with these string instruments only to destroy their souls?
[Laughs] Considering the music is instrumental without guitars, we’ve been very lucky to get lots of people commenting on how they love it. Metalheads are usually apprehensive about us, but then get really into it. We don’t only play at metal shows, though. We’ll get booked with rock bands or bluegrass bands or whatever. The audience is usually very into it regardless of the bands we’re playing with. I think our biggest fans are the people who work in the clubs and are sick of the same old stuff they always have to hear.
You toured playing violin for Bright Eyes, from which Judgement Day is quite a departure. Have you always been a repressed metal maniac?
I’ve always been a fan of pop music and I like touring with pop bands, but your job as a violin player is to lay back and wait your turn. Judgement Day gives me a chance to shred hard and come to the forefront for once. I’m just so happy with how it’s been going, and I really hope Santa Fe will like it.
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