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Friday, March 20, 2009

Ron Holzner Digs an Earthen Grave

EARTHEN GRAVE, the new six-piece doom/thrash metal band featuring Mark Weiner on vocals, Ron Holzner on bass, Jason Muxlow and Tony Spillman on guitars, Scott Davidson on drums, and Rachel Barton Pine on an extended-range electric violin, will unleash its dark intensity on Chicago’s Nite Cap (5007 W. Irving Park Road) on March 27 at 11:00 pm.

EARTHEN GRAVE is a force of nature driven by the unique alchemy of its members and boasts an undeniable collective metal and musical pedigree. Ron was a member of the seminal and seismic doom pioneers TROUBLE, with whom he played for over fifteen years. Jason is a gifted guitarist and composer who has lived the music, both as a member of the well-respected band THE LIVING FIELDS and as the founder of Deadtide.com. Scott’s dedication has manifested as a drummer in numerous metal bands, booking shows and running radio station Rebel Radio. Tony has been in and around the metal scene for many years, and has worked with such bands as TROUBLE, PRONG and MINISTRY. Mark has performed and recorded with several bands including TRIFOG. And while Rachel has never been in a metal band per se, her status as an internationally acclaimed classical violin soloist has taken her all over the world as both performer and music ambassador. While on tour for classical performances, Rachel often visits rock radio stations to perform metal songs and discuss the music’s intensity and compositional complexity. In fact, EARTHEN GRAVE may just be the only metal band with a member who has been on the cover of leading classical magazines Strings and Strad.

The band is dedicated to exploring new possibilities for the genre. Jason says, “It’s not about being the heaviest band or the slowest – it’s about having good songs and playing them live.” “Scott, Tony, and I played doom metal before it was even called that,” Ron continues. “And for Jason, the music we pioneered was his influence. We’re bringing the strands of the music together – and with Rachel being the first violinist to be a core component of a metal band, we’re taking the genre on a new journey.” Rachel points out, “I grew up studying classical and listening to thrash and speed metal, and Jason also loves death metal. We all come from doom, but we’re not limited to it.”

Naming groups like BLACK SABBATH, JUDAS PRIEST, SAINT VITUS, TROUBLE, PENTAGRAM, CANDLEMASS and SLAYER as influences, EARTHEN GRAVE is undertaking songwriting in earnest, promising sophisticated pieces with a lot of different tempo changes. Ron says, “We’ve written a few songs with Jason as the catalyst, and the next songs we’re working on are more of a band effort. We’re going to spread this over the Internet as fast as we can, continue playing shows to build momentum, and find the right label.”

EARTHEN GRAVE emerged late in 2008, as Jason was working on another project. He recalls, “I had just finished writing THE LIVING FIELDS’ new album and was on a SAINT VITUS (the pioneering ‘80s doom metal band from Los Angeles) kick, and I just started writing these doom riffs. I was wondering who I could play this stuff with, so I reached out to Scott and asked him what he thought, and things just snowballed.”

Enlisting Ron in their project, the trio soon had their first jam. Jason says, “The first rehearsal was tough, but after we sorted out some issues with downtuning, things really jelled.” The band put out an ad looking for a vocalist, and Mark responded the very next day. He recollects, “I saw Scott’s name in the ad, so I knew it was serious. I knew of Ron from TROUBLE. The minute we played for the first time, it felt right. I knew immediately that I wanted to be in this band.”

Then Scott, who had known Rachel for many years through the local metal scene, invited her to a rehearsal. Rachel brought along her new instrument, an amplified six-string Viper, an extended-range cousin of the electric violin. She says, “I’ve been listening to metal for most of my life. And for fifteen years I had been playing metal on acoustic violin. But the first time I jammed with EARTHEN GRAVE, it was so much more intense than anything I had previously experienced – playing metal loud felt amazing.” Jason adds, “We knew from that rehearsal that we definitely wanted Rachel in the band. She brings a completely different dimension to the music. Violins have often been a part of metal, but usually playing parts underneath or above the band. This is the first time a Viper will be woven into the DNA of the band as a core instrument.”

Tony was the final piece. As he puts it, “I went to practice with them, and immediately I could tell they had something really interesting happening. Yes, the doom thing is there, but with a fresh twist, with different melodies and tempos. And what Rachel brings is just totally new.” He continues, “But what made the decision to join easy for me is the integrity of the people in the band, and the love with which they play.”

EARTHEN GRAVE has become a band to be reckoned with for the purest of reasons. “We all have a deep passion for music and for metal,” Ron concludes. “That’s the basis of every note we play.” With their collective experience and talent, this band is dedicated to leaving their mark on the metal world.


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