Popular Culture

By pushing the boundaries of cool, Throat Culture revisits -- and revitalizes -- heavy metal in Denver.

"I think it has become a gimmick, a DJ," says Fisher. "If you look at a lot of these [rap-metal] bands, they were all death-metal bands or thrash-metal bands, and that's not 'cool' anymore, so then they get a DJ or start rapping a little bit. They're basically playing the same style of music. In the next couple of years, people who jumped on the gimmick and really didn't do too well at it are going to jump to another style."

"The only bands [in rap metal] that are going to stay around are the originators, like in every genre," adds Brown.

Regardless of staying power, rap metal has had a positive impact on American youth culture, says Begay, Throat Culture's bassist and lone female member. In the cliquey '80s, she remembers, "there was such a big issue. If you were a rapper, you were a rapper. If you were a metalhead, you were just a metalhead. That was just a wrong thing. I think it was pretty neat when Anthrax started doing their stuff with Public Enemy. I thought, 'What if something actually good came out of this, where everybody was really into it?' It's happening. It's happening right now."

The members of Throat Culture (from left, Cassie Begay, Chris Vigil, Nick Jackson, Rod Brown and Brian Fisher) have seen their popularity swell like a couple of lymph nodes.
The members of Throat Culture (from left, Cassie Begay, Chris Vigil, Nick Jackson, Rod Brown and Brian Fisher) have seen their popularity swell like a couple of lymph nodes.


9 p.m. Saturday, August 26



with Blister66, Rogue, A Band Called Horse and Apathy

Pappy's Pub, 2648 South Parker Road, Aurora

One obvious example of these blurred subcultural boundaries: the July 3 melting pot at Heimmie's. On the third song in its set, "Follow Me," Throat Culture snaps from Fisher's spacey, swirling keyboards into Begay and Jackson's industrial-strength guitar-and-bass riffs. Brown's adept, zero-to-sixty drumming style provides science behind the chaos. "Let's get it on, motherfuckers!" barks Vigil, then the keyboards once again take the lead, sounding very much like Beelzebub's very own music box. "Aggressive" and "foreboding" are apt adjectives here, but they're also understatements. Like a single-minded cybernetic cobra, Throat Culture's music slithers and strikes, spewing venomous angst and sonic dementia.

Later that night at Heimmie's, Vigil takes a bullhorn-into-the-microphone approach as the beat warps toward techno speed on "Walk in the Park." "What's your God?" he half-asks, half-rants, a question of faith through a fast-food fuzzbox. The searing rhythm sends the all-ages audience into its most frantic mosh of the night. After the set, Vigil calls out to the "Throat Culture Babes" and the "Throat Culture Dudes," receiving a good callback from the former.

Throat Culture, per headbanging tradition, sees its relationship with the fans as a reciprocal experience. "Seeing a pit at your show is so incredible," says Brown. The band also sees the energy of the under-21 crowd as a key audience ingredient.

While the summer 2000 Throat Culture magazine was a no-show at Heimmie's, the printer got the shipment out later in July. Kicked off by Brown two years ago as an eight-page, fold-and-staple fanzine with a circulation of fifty, the mag has taken on a life of its own since Jackson, a graphic designer by day, came into the fold. The summer issue -- which had a run of 5,000 copies -- is 68 pages full of interviews with local and national metal bands, reviews, ads, letters to the editor and cartoons, packed inside a slick, glossy cover. Despite its growth, the magazine remains a break-even (at best) proposition for Throat Culture in terms of dollars and cents, but the quintet sees it as both a self-promotional tool and a local forum.

After early-'90s grunge nearly wiped metal clean off the pop-culture map, the local scene was in dire need of exposure to survive, Jackson notes. "The magazine has helped a lot," he says. "It helped inform a lot of people about local bands and just got everyone aware of what was going on."

Adds Begay: "When Rod started the magazine, it was amazing how many bands started appearing. The magazine did a whole lot of good, because it united a lot of them, too. We're part of something here. We actually have something here."

Throat Culture attributes the recent local revival to a less segmented fan and band base, as well as to several local venues that have welcomed metal with open arms. Brown credits the now-defunct Blitz Room, an edgy venue open from 1998-1999 at the Comfort Inn on I-70 and Chambers Road, with giving the scene a shot of adrenaline; he says the spot was a much-needed outlet at the time. The band also cites the acceptance of metal at Heimmie's and the Bluebird Theater (via a love of metal in the offices of nobody in particular presents, the local promotional company) as catalysts for local interest. While Heimmie's run as a metal-oriented club looks to be at its end because of a falling out between the bar and its shows' producers, Erebus Music (Backwash, July 20), Throat Culture thinks Denver's metal scene has already outgrown it.

Recruiting Throat Culture babes and dudes outside of metro Denver is next on the band's agenda. The players plan to venture out on a regional tour in the fall that will probably encompass Albuquerque, Phoenix, Tucson and Salt Lake City. Also this fall, the band will release its second CD (the first recorded with Fisher), titled La Fin De Monde.

Jackson sees a world of potential beyond the friendly confines of Denver, explaining, "I think we have a broad sound that a lot of different people can get into," whether they're metalheads or not.

"That's why I think metal won't die, because people are more open-minded these days," says Brown. Maybe metal is immortal: Kids are always going to want to get crazy and bang their heads.

Some things never change.

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