Symphony of destruction
Judgement Day offers stringed salvation for metal worshipers
Despite the obvious aesthetic differences, heavy metal and classical music actually have much in common: the technical proficiency of the players, a penchant for compositional grandiosity and a certain gravitas amongst fans. But few bands have attempted, let alone succeeded, at combining the two genres the way Bay Area trio Judgement Day has. After all, how many metal bands can you name with no guitarist or bassist? Or conversely, how many classically trained string duets run their instruments through effects pedals, and have a drummer bashing away furiously in the background? Not many, it’s safe to say, but that’s just the start of the epic oddness that is Judgement Day.
At the heart of the band’s unique sound are brothers Anton and Lewis Patzner, on violin and cello, respectively. The duo got their start playing metal-inspired compositions on the streets of Berkeley. After recording an EP and recruiting Jon Bush to play drums, the band began honing the more intense, amplified sound it would soon come to be known for. The Patzners serve up guitar-like riffs with their stringed instruments, while maintaining a songwriting sensibility that more than compensates for the lack of a vocalist.
The band eventually recorded a full length and began playing larger and better shows throughout the Bay Area and beyond. It was around then that Judgement Day also made its first trip northward to Chico, which has since become a regular tour stop, and as violinist Anton Patzner tells it, a place they’ve grown quite fond of playing over the years.
“It’s one of our favorite places to play,” says Anton, over an intermittent cell phone connection backstage. “The Secret Stolen were the friends of ours who initially brought us to town, and our first show was with them and Red Giant, and we just totally hit it off. And kids in Chico seem to be really responsive to what we’re doing, so yeah, it’s just become one of our favorite places to play.”
Their affinity for the local scene and local bands is no small honor. Over the years, the Patzner brothers have recorded and toured, both separately and together, with some of the biggest bands in rock: Bright Eyes, Mates of State and even Slash.
Lewis Patzner completed his undergrad studies at the Peabody Conservatory of Music in Baltimore in 2007, and his subsequent move back West allowed Judgement Day to begin moving full-steam ahead, releasing an acoustic EP in 2008 and hitting the road with Torche and Dredg, among others.
The current jaunt is in support of the band’s recently released 7-inch on Bay Area label Third Culture Records, Out of the Abyss: Live on Tape, which, as the name suggests, was recorded entirely live onto analog tape.
“The label who put out the 7-inch, they’ve been doing a bunch of 7-inches for Bay Area bands and they record them all in this analog studio,” recounts Anton. “We recorded onto tape, so the process is different; you can’t punch and cut things up on tape like you can on computer. For the A-side, ‘Out of the Abyss,’ we ended up just doing one take. [Analog] captures a kind of spontaneity that you don’t get on digital recordings.”
It also helps when the band being recorded spontaneously is known for its incendiary performances. But Anton adds a disclaimer to the notion that this live recording is a completely faithful representation of the band’s live show: “The one difference is that during a live show, I’d probably be jumping around and climbing on stuff.”