The average person might feel a bit uneasy at a concert where the bands are wearing black and white face paint and intimidating leather outfits coated with metal spikes. The goat skulls, screaming lyrics and theatrical rituals don’t really help either.
However, that’s precisely the crowd Empyrean Throne--“a Clandestine Order of chaos gnostic Black Metal practitioners,” as described on their website--hopes to see at their show this Friday, at Recuerdos Bar in downtown McAllen.
“We like to think that we’re not just for the die-hard metalheads,” Empyrean Throne lead vocalist, Andrew Knudsen said. “It’s for people that want to go to a concert to see something different or unique whether they listen to the music or not. There’s all types of people who come out,”
The southern-California-based band has never toured in Texas before, let alone as far south as the Valley, or “uncultivated lands,” as Knudsen calls it.
He hopes the band can “bring in some new disciples,” and expose the Valley’s metal scene to some one-of-a-kind symphonic black metal.
The band is known for being on the more theatrical spectrum of metal. One can expect to see some banging heads, unorthodox rituals, and if all goes well, a moshpit.
“With every live ritual that we put on we want to leave a lasting impact with those who come to our performance,” Knudsen said. “That’s all part of the package… you can’t ask a carpenter to create something without his tool.”
What some people might dismiss as empty and aggressive verbiage actually has more meaning than meets the eye. During a given show the audience gets to release their “animalistic side that people tend to suppress or put a facade over in their day-to-day life,” as Knudsen puts it.
Because of the Valley’s geographic isolation, it can be a challenge bringing bands from far away down to the area. But when they do come, the crowds don’t disappoint.
Nathan Salinas, owner of Death by Hanging Productions, said the last time he brought down a death metal band over 150 people came out, and they’re expecting a similar turnout this Friday at Recuerdos.
“When I announced that there we were having an Empyrean Throne and Wolf King a lot of people were really excited because there’s a big death metal following here,” he said.
Salinas said society’s perception of metal music hardly correlates with the experience of those who follow it.
“A lot of people see death metal as an anomaly; it’s kind of not accepted in society, people think it’s weird,” he said. “For a lot of people as soon as they hear screaming, they get turned off. But it’s kind of like an oxymoron, the music seems really aggressive but when you listen to the words it’s all just pain or suffering. It’s just real. It’s real emotions that you wouldn’t really hear in a pop song.”
“Normal people would never understand the beauty of music like that,” he said.
There’s a reason for all the screaming and unorthodox theatrics. For some, there are words that are better screamed than said. The release of energy can be cathartic, Salinas said.
“The reason that there’s a need for screaming is because they don’t feel that they can just talk about what they’re feeling, they feel that they need to scream it out,” he said. “With the uprise in anxiety and depression right now I feel like people are screaming inside but we put on these fake smiles and act like everything's fine. With metal music you get that out.”
He describes listening to metal music “like reading the bible,” because “you’re reading all these stories and you’re learning from it. And sometimes when you’re going through a hard time and you listen to a certain band or song and it speaks to you, but when you go to a show and see it in front of you it becomes real.”
And for some, the only place they can truly feel accepted is amidst the chaos of the metal show, away from the prejudices everyday life brings with it.
“It’s like home,” Salinas said.