Judgement Day Brings String Metal to Giovanni’s
by Alison Meeder
The term “heavy metal” ordinarily conjures a very distinct group of images: things dark and evil, involving studded black leather, Viking sword fights, and fog machines. At the very least, an electric guitar should come to mind. After all, the backbone of every hard-rock band is the chainsaw guitar riff — unless that hard-rock band is Judgement Day, an Oakland trio whose members play drums, cello, and violin. No guitars, no kidding.
Judgement Day’s roots are in a familiar scenario. Growing up with classical musicians for parents, brothers Anton and Lewis Patzner began taking music lessons at age 5. Both excelled as musicians (Anton on violin and Lewis on cello), but as the boys became teenagers, neither developed a real passion for classical. Anton even admits to hating the violin during high school. Inspired by Nirvana and other modern rock bands, he began experimenting on guitar, seeking a sound more relevant to his generation.
When Anton turned 20, a new form of adolescent angst got the upper hand: He was broke. He may not enjoy the violin, but he thought he could make money playing on the street. He had some success and, at his mother’s insistence, eventually invited his younger brother along with him.
While Anton had been performing strictly classical pieces on the street, Lewis had other ideas. The younger Patzner brother had discovered Apocalyptica, a four-piece cello band from Finland that specialized in melodramatic heavy metal. While the average hard-music fan might turn up their nose or even laugh openly at this unlikely music, Lewis embraced it. As a teen cellist searching for answers, Lewis took inspiration wherever he could find it.
So it began on the Oakland sidewalks. Lewis demonstrated the dark capabilities of his cello. Anton improvised along on his violin. A pile of change and $1 bills grew in front of the boys and their idea for a “string metal” band began to take shape. When they decided that they needed a drummer, they recruited Jon Bush to round out the trio. During the next five years, Judgement Day continued to cultivate its sound both onstage and on the Bay Area streets where they began.
That a heavy metal band comprised of string instruments could exist in the first place is out of the ordinary, but that the band would be listenable is truly bizarre. When you hear Judgement Day’s debut album, Dark Opus, it all makes sense. One key factor is that Judgement Day plays with a musical prowess completely alien to the average metal outfit. A big, loud guitar may be a staple of hard rock, but that guitar has usually been “mastered” in a garage reeking of paint fumes, by someone with no musical training. Additionally, stringed instruments lend themselves to this genre with unexpected ease. A cello can provide a perfect gurgling metal bass line, and a violin played just so can invoke swirling, claustrophobic terror — just ask Bernard Hermann and Alfred Hitchcock. Their axes of choice may be unconventional, but make no mistake: Judgement Day makes heavy metal in its full, gruesome splendor.
Judgement Day has received wide acclaim in indie rock circles. Their unique sound earned them a guest appearance on Taking Back Sunday’s album Louder Now, and Anton worked his violin magic on The Faint and Bright Eyes 2005 tour. To see what Judgement Day is about, you can catch the Santa Barbara stop of their tour at Giovanni’s in Isla Vista on Friday, May 26, at 8 p.m.
4•1•1 Judgement Day plays Giovanni’s in Isla Vista Friday, May 26, at 8 p.m. For a pre-show sampler, visit myspace.com/stringmetal.