METAL MUSIC IS ingrained in European culture. Countless bands exist in every corner of the continent, in addition to the host of giant festivals that rarely end up on this side of the Atlantic. That said, is it any surprise that Europe knows more about local heavy metal than most Portlanders?
DarkBlack deliver classic progressive heavy metal sans the posturing and schtick. For all you heshers out there looking for a simpler description, imagine if KK Downing and Glen Tipton of Judas Priest held down King Crimson, and then Manowar bashed him to death with Thor's hammer—DarkBlack would be what remained. While the skill and talent that exist within this band is immense, Portland seems to turn a deaf ear.
"Whenever somebody writes to us, they are in Europe. Typically from Germany," explains guitarist Anthony Crocamo. "Seventy-five percent of our record sales are in Europe, we don't sell anything at our shows here," adds vocalist Tim Smith.
Both Crocamo and Smith relocated the band to Portland about four years ago from Lancaster, Pennsylvania. The duo recruited Eben Travis (drums) and Rob McConlogue (guitar) to flesh out the band and have been playing locally for about three years now, even opening for the legendary Candlemass in 2008. While DarkBlack has proved themselves worthy of national—if not global—support, the band still struggles to get Portland to understand.
"It's kind of a mediocre town as far as heavy metal goes. Every other genre of metal seems to do okay here," explains Smith. "There's at least over 20 people at our shows now," adds McConlogue with a smirk.
Despite hometown negligence, DarkBlack recently caught the attention of StormSpell Records, an independent label out of San Jose that mostly focuses on re-releases of classic, underground metal. Last September the label released Sellsword, DarkBlack's second full-length. With tracks entitled "Sword of the Morning," "Flame Forest," and "...With Lightning Speed," Sellsword is compiled of metal fit for storming a castle. As Smith, Crocamo, and McConlogue harmonize continuously throughout the recording—tearing through intricate riffs with very precise rhythms—Travis holds it together with a percussion style that is as subtle as bashing your drums with hammers.
Friday's performance will be the first for the band following a recent lineup shift, as Smith exclusively becomes their frontman and Cliff Martin assumes bass duties. Before the band packs it up and relocates to Europe to join the festival circuit full-time, take advantage of DarkBlack while you still can. This band deserves your respect.