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Cello of the Gods

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.

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