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As Sacramento continues to grow and undergo an artistic renaissance, our city is experiencing an expansion in the development of music genres outside the mainstream. One of the strengths of the Sacramento music scene, as mentioned in previous articles here on Music Monday, is its diversity. We have a lot of talented artists in this town and not all of them are ones that you’ll see making it to the Sammies. Perhaps one of the most interesting scenes, and often overlooked, is Sacramento’s growing metal scene. One of the most fascinating bands emerging from this scene in recent years is Church who, prior to releasing a full physical album, has risen to the forefront of Sacramento’s growing metal scene. I got together with Eva, Chris, Shann and Ben, four-fifths of Church, to find out more about the band, the local metal scene, their LP “Unanswered Hymns”, and what their music means to them.
After opening for Portland metal titans, YOB, earlier this year, the band attracted the attention of Arizona based Battleground Records and made a deal to release their LP “Unanswered Hymns” on vinyl with the label.
“We wanted to put it out on CD, (the representative from Battleground) said fuck that. Don’t put it out on CD. Nobody gives a shit about CD’s.” Already available in digital format, Church decided to forgo the CD release of their album and instead is putting their LP out in vinyl on Battleground, alongside a tape-deal made with Transylvanian Tapes out of Oakland.
Church’s brand of doom heavy metal is perfectly suited to vinyl. With songs often ranging in the 15-20 minute range and carefully arranged sonic assaults harkening to the heavy sounds of 1970’s progressive rock and early metal, Church has created a unique style that builds upon waves of amp fuzz and delicious riffs. This wall of sound is overwhelming in the best way possible. When listening to this music you can’t help but lose yourself completely in it. It can easily become a pure sonic meditation.
Shann tells me, “The record is really an emotional type of experience. It allows (you too) create your own feeling towards it. You’ll create your own story as you go along through the entire thing.”
It’s clear that Church put a lot of time and energy into this emotionally charged record. The band is meticulous in their work, paying close attention to detail and demanding perfection from themselves. Although they have been together for about two years as a band, they only began playing live less than a year ago.
“We definitely wanted to get (things) nailed down. Like, this is how we want it to be played instead of ‘hey, we wrote a song let’s…test it out.’ We got our shit nailed down pretty hard,” Ben says. “We had started writing the third song (on “Unheard Hymns”) before we started playing shows and never played it until probably our tenth show. We definitely spend a lot of time nitpicking and making (every song) as perfect as it can be.”
“There are too many bands that will go out there, write some songs, and immediately be like ‘let’s play shows!’” Shann adds. “To be honest, that could be your demise really quick.”
As part of this attention to detail, the band has specific views on how each element of the music comes together to create a personalized experience between the listener and the music. When it comes to the vocals, Church regards Eva’s voice as another instrument, just as much as the guitar, drums, and bass. With this in mind, they have chosen not to release any of their lyrics.
“It’s just not important,” says Chris.
“We’re not trying to convey any messages; you know what I mean? The vocals are used as a melody to create an atmosphere.”
“It’s not like it’s a big deal, but I think we all feel that the music really invokes a lot of emotion, and kind of speaks for itself,” Eva explains. “The vocals are kind of just, like, another added part of that principle. I know that a lot of times people can get wrapped up in lyrics and analyzing what that means and then putting their own connotation onto the band.”
“I’ll tell you right now though,” says Shann, “if you figure (the lyrics) out, they’re bad ass.”
From the deep, full sound that Eva’s vocals carry to the high melodic screams that she’s capable of flawlessly executing, it’s clear that Church is doing something right by utilizing the full range of vocal power as an atmosphere builder.
This atmosphere is growing along with the scene. Church, and other bands emerging in the metal and heavy rock n roll scene are drawing people to these shows in a way that never used to happen in Sacramento. Chris echoes this sentiment saying, “I’ve been booking shows forever, and I’ve never been so stoked to have so many shows. Like five years ago, if I had as many shows as I do now, I never would have been able to get people to come to them. But people go out of their way to come to Sacramento now. It’s crazy.”
Shann adds, “In the Bay Area, and the West Coast, all these younger punk kids grew into adulthood and started to realize and appreciate actual metal for what it is and enjoy it. And that’s where the scene is coming from. There are more fans because all these younger kids have grown up to appreciate it and respect it.”
I can think of no better testament to this band than the drawing together of a growing scene. As Church seems to have ignited overnight, I for one am excited to see what the future holds for one of Sacramento’s biggest rising metal acts. You can definitely expect to see me at their upcoming shows, and I’ll be picking up a copy of “Unanswered Hymns” when it lands on vinyl later this year.
You can hear the band’s music and find more information here.
Be sure to catch them at Press Club with Ufomammut, Usnea, and Lycus on June 4th!
Photos | Susan Yee
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