Lower the doom

Amarok pushes limits of one of metal’s heaviest subgenre

Amarok rattles the ovens at Monstros Pizza.

Amarok rattles the ovens at Monstros Pizza.

Photo by Michelle Camy

Amarok is the doom band that will never die—dark lord knows there have been plenty of instances when the members could’ve let it.

Since forming back in 2010, Amarok has gone through several drummers, and the band itself has been shelved or gone on hiatus at various points. It was the departure of founding guitarist Jeremy Golden in 2015 that perhaps left the biggest black hole in the band. But the idea of dissolving Amarok never even crossed the minds of guitarist/vocalist Kenny Ruggles and bassist/vocalist Brandon Squyres.

“We have put so much time and effort into the band over the years, it seemed like a shame to give it up now,” Squyres said. “Kenny and I have been in Amarok together since the beginning and we both still believe in the band and the music.”

As a matter of fact, Amarok might be positioned to make more noise in 2017 than ever. The four-piece—rounded out by drummer Nate Daly and guitarist Nathan Collins—recorded a new album in Los Angeles in February with Sanford Parker, who plays with psychedelic doomsters Minsk and Wrekmeister Harmonies. Amarok plans to shop the four-song album to labels in the coming months.

Parker is no stranger to recording loud bands, having produced records for heavy hitters like Yob and Voivod, but the six-day recording session at Big Bad Sound LA proved that Amarok may be the loudest of them all. It didn’t help that the studio is nestled in a residential neighborhood. On a night the band was tracking bass and guitars, a neighbor said he couldn’t hear his television over Amarok’s death rattle—a block away.

“The owners of the studio were astonished and embarrassed to have to ask us to turn down for the remainder of the night, which was fine,” said Squyres, jokingly adding, “that was the moment when we all realized we were doing something right with this recording … and that they should probably move their studio.”

Amarok is notoriously loud and pummeling, in all the right ways, as evidenced by its live sets and epic two-song (and 29-minute-long) 2013 debut. The band’s music, like the doom genre itself, can be alienating to some ears. It’s glacial in pace and supremely intense, both in mood and in volume. For Squyres, it’s the ultimate in heavy music.

“Usually with doom, it’s the embodiment of a sound that conveys sadness or despair—although, doom never makes me sad. It’s just everything I love about metal broken down into its purest form,” he said. “The main idea for us has always been to try and find the fine line that makes it both enjoyable for those watching us and yet satiates our need to play slow.”

Squyres has played a huge part in Chico’s heavy music scene for some 15 years in other projects like The Makai and Cold Blue Mountain. He’s also involved in a new project called Blasfema with West By Swan drummer Daniel Taylor. The other members of Amarok also play in various projects—Ruggles shreds with metalheads Voyeur, and Daly plays in Sex Hogs II and Royal Oaks.

Squyres insists that dipping their devil horns in other musical outlets isn’t about to take away from Amarok. Quite the contrary. Seven years in, the band might be hitting its stride.

“There’s no rule that you have to completely abandon something in order to start something else—I feel like we all put everything into any project that we are doing,” Squyres said. “That being said, we have definitely been inspired with Amarok lately, and have been putting a little more time into our sound and songs than recent years. It just feels like it’s clicking musically right now and so we are embracing that.”