The tempo of doom
After years of lurking in the background, Chico’s Amarok finally hits its stride
Monstros Pizza & Subs628 W. Sacramento Ave.
Chico, CA 95926
Jeremy Golden makes no secret of it that he was put on this planet to make music that can slow heart rates, vibrate a bottle off a table, and make some people physically ill. Not everyone can hack it, as evidenced by local doom-metal outfit Amarok’s revolving door of musicians early on.
The band’s journey has been as glacial as the music itself. Amarok—“wolf” in the Inuit language of the Arctic—lumbered along for the past two years before finally playing its first show in March. Golden’s return to music has taken even longer. He was a founding member of the first incarnation of The Makai, a band he formed with friend and current vocalist Brandon Squyres in late 2001. After months of trying to put together a stable lineup, Golden finally bowed out.
“It was almost a Spinal Tap type of thing,” recalls Golden. “We were flying through drummers. It was like, ‘That was fun, but it’s not going anywhere.’”
The Makai eventually did continue on, of course, with Squyres taking charge and putting together a lineup bolstered by guitarist Zeke Rogers and drummer Jesse Shreibman. Meanwhile, Golden continued to try to assemble a crack doom unit. But it didn’t seem to be in the cards. Members came and went. Songs were scrapped. And the project was again put on the backburner.
“I finally came to terms that I play slow and sludgy. I’m not technical,” Golden explains. “It was hard to find people who loved it, or related to it. I got a lot of looks like, ‘this sucks.’”
Not helping matters was the fact that Golden sat back and watched as The Makai and the Abominable Iron Sloth went on to re-ignite Chico’s metal scene like a flamethrower. Golden and Squyres’ friendship became strained in the process. The story could have ended there—and it almost did.
It wasn’t until years later, in 2008, that Squyres approached Golden about forming a new doom project. Baggage was set aside, differences were worked out, and the two began writing material. Things looked as if they might stall again before a guitarist named Kenny Ruggles stepped in armed with a beard, a denim vest and an arsenal of riffs. The two guitarists clicked (and bonded over a mutual love for North Carolina sludge masters Weedeater). Squyres took on bass duties, and after dealing with more drummer woes, Makai guitarist Zeke Rogers finally settled in behind the kit.
“[This band] had every opportunity to die, but we never let it,” says Golden, who plays guitar and shares vocal duties with Squyres and Ruggles. “We looked at each other and it was like, ‘Is this it? This is it.’”
The name Amarok came only days before their first show, and the band had only two songs—both of which easily filled a half-hour set. And that was no exaggeration about how loud this band is. Audience testimonials maintain that Amarok’s detuned sludge has the power to make skin quiver and guts rumble (are diapers handed out with earplugs?). Simply put—Amarok’s plainly titled songs (“I,” “II,” “III” …) would provide the perfect soundtrack to watching a tsunami lay waste to an entire city … in slow motion, of course.
Amarok is currently working on new material, which should find its way on to a three- to four-song (?!) LP soon. In the meantime, the band is gearing up for some dates in the Pacific Northwest before it returns to Chico for a show at Monstros next week (May 14).
It’s been quite a turnaround for Golden, who over the past few years has dealt with his own personal issues including losing his mother to cancer.
“Things are working, life is moving again, and all that old shit has turned to ash,” says Golden, almost as of he’s thinking through it out loud. “It’s become part of my character, but it’s not a negative thing anymore.”