It was a summer in the late 1980s, at the now-defunct Club West on Alameda Street, when a local band known as Logical Nonsense flipped a definable switch on the future of Santa Fe’s underground sonic landscape.
Sure, local metal and punk outfits had already played shows at various venues throughout the city, but none took their ear-bleeding brutality to the heights that Logical Nonsense did. Eschewing the typical cultural divisions and cliquishness that frequently separated Santa Fe metal and hardcore-punk audiences during the '80s, Logical Nonsense presented an uncanny blend of groove, powerviolence, metal and extreme hardcore that brought these two audiences together.
Years before Logical Nonsense joined the Alternative Tentacles family—putting it in the company of some of punk's finest (7 Seconds, Butthole Surfers, D.O.A., Dead Kennedys)—New Mexico already had a brutal-music hero: Albuquerque native Randy Castillo, who hit the skins for Lita Ford and Ozzy Osbourne beginning in the mid-1980s. Even after he lost his battle with cancer in 2002, Castillo inspired numerous young, local musicians to form metal bands of their own.
Around the time that the Warehouse 21 Teen Arts Center opened in the Railyard in 1997, the local hardcore-punk scene was on a fast wane. Top-tier touring bands weren't stopping in the city for one-off shows anymore, and local punk outfits simply gravitated toward larger metropolitan areas for better exposure outside the all-ages scene. Curiously, metal stuck around.
Some look to the inevitable synthesis of metal and hardcore—a genre crossover that began churning out stellar thrash- and death-metal albums in the mid-80s—to answer the question. (Cue Metallica's game changer, Master of Puppets, and Slayer's ear-punishing Reign In Blood). Even then, however, Santa Fe's metal community was beginning to look inward for a style to call its own.
In the early 2000s, W21 became ground zero for a fertile SF metal scene, one with a distinct identity steeped in youthful rage, a more focused ear for technical discipline and, most importantly, an ever-present sense of place. If there is one instance where this city's multi-culti history doesn't sound like a broken-record marketing campaign, it's when discussing its influence on the metal bands that keep the music coming—not that anyone outside the scene would really notice. Still, underground music scenes in medium-sized, venue-challenged towns like Santa Fe are notoriously incestuous when it comes to band member switchups. When it comes to metal, the resulting "begets" are arguably more plentiful in Santa Fe than those found in the Book of Genesis. Case in point:
Despite more than 30 years of watching live shows here, my personal entry point into the new face of Santa Fe metal didn't occur until 2007, when, as a cub reporter for a local arts weekly, I somehow convinced my editor to let me photograph and interview a band called Fallen Hope, later known as CassoVita. Original members Jacy Oliver (guitar), Steve Hilson (guitar), Zac Hogan (bass), and Ben Durfee (skins) had already amassed various personal histories within the local metal scene, but there was something ripe in their collective approach. Classical melody and a punishing polyphonic approach gave these 18- to 21-year-old artists an edge that few others had to offer.
CassoVita may have been the hook that nabbed me, but there were plenty of other metal bands cutting new and exciting trails into the otherwise flat expanse of Santa Fe's more tame aural landscape. I began and continue to document the killer metal findings that exist just below the surface: This Days Light, Obelisk, Drought, Torn Between Worlds, Savage Wizdom, Creature of Ruin, Oscillation, Fields of Elysium, Carrion Kind, Colossal Swan Dive, Disasterman, Sleeptaker…
Some of these bands still exist. Others have gone the way of shuttered venues that supported a more open and honest representation of Santa Fe's live-music scene (read: Corazón, The Paramount, Club Alegría). Regretfully, I allowed the variances of workday life to interfere with my documentation of a local music scene that has forged its own way under hostile and indifferent conditions—internally and externally—for more than three decades. The record of its metal-urgists is spotty and protracted. I'd like to change that, but I need your help.
It's fitting that CassoVita, which is now a two-piece featuring original members Jacy Oliver and Ben Durfee, is poised to celebrate 10 years of shredding on June 11 at Warehouse 21, with ALL original Fallen Hope/CassoVita members on the stage. It symbolizes, for me at least, a recognition that whatever scene there is today owes as much to its past as it does to the incredible work being created by musicians in the now.
Cobbling an exacting chronology of Santa Fe metal is an impossible exercise. Memories fade, and humans are predisposed to false histories. But celebrating what was and what is in words, pictures and other ephemera is a worthy endeavor—especially when it highlights the tenacity and artistry of a younger generation of musicians that, for over a generation, has always taken care of its own.
In an effort to make sure than no more of metal's enduring impact on our city is lost, I have created the Blood and Sand: Santa Fe Metal Facebook page, where you can share your stories and photos of the scene. Barring a catastrophic asteroid strike, a prolonged solar storm or a complete breakdown in net neutrality, you can hit up bit.ly/bloodandsand for an ongoing narrative filled with more polished insider information and images. Keep it metal. m / m /
All–Ages Metal Showcase feat. Fields of Elysium,
Carrion Kind, and Sleeptaker
6 pm Wednesday, May 7. $5
1614 Paseo De Peralta,
CassoVita/Fallen Hope Reunion Show
7 pm Wednesday, June 11. $5
Also at Warehouse 21