‘Throw some dirt on it’
Paradise death-metal crew at the center of gritty Ridge metal scene
“I hate being in a small town,” said Jake Hollingsworth, guitarist for Paradise death-metal band Aberrance. Hollingsworth wasn’t whining about his rural life on the Ridge. Rather, as he and his bandmates sat around the Paradise living room of drummer Dave Hordienko to talk about their new five-song EP, Dust, and the upcoming CD-release show at the 1078 Gallery (Aug. 7), he was pointing out how the common small-town frustration is the motivation behind why he and his young friends have come together to make huge of amounts of exciting noise.
Before they played in Aberrance, when they were still in high school, the guys were rabid followers of all of the local metal crews—both on the Ridge and in Chico. “We were kind of the groupies to the dudes in Helm of Cerberus—followed them around and went to their shows,” Hollingsworth said.
Wanting to join the fledgling Paradise/Magalia scene at the time—which also featured seminal bands Writ, Iron Fish and From This Ground—childhood friends Hollingsworth and Nick Rahming got together with Hordienko and the band’s first vocalist, Charlie Murphy, and started practicing in 2008. They played their first show a year later. (“Michael Jackson died the day before our first show,” Hollingsworth recalled. “[He] passed the torch,” joked Hordienko.)
With an intention to emulate the hugeness of some of their favorite death metal bands—Cannibal Corpse, and especially Gojira—but with a drummer who dabbled in proggier realms as well, Aberrance ended up creating a sort of groove-metal sound. It’s always heavy, but the speedy blast-beats are broken up with occasional groovy breakdowns.
After an early album and EP and replacing their original vocalist with the young Ed Vance in 2012, Aberrance has kept the grooviness but picked up the speed even more, capturing their ramped-up hectic sound on the new five-song EP recorded over the course of the past year with local engineer Matt Franklin.
“It’s a lot better than anything we’ve ever done,” Hollingsworth said.
Aberrance is now an integral part of the Ridge metal scene—which currently also includes Astronaut and Epitaph of Atlas, plus Aberrance offshoot bands Chemical Burn (Rahming), and Smak City (Hollingsworth, Vance)—which has been doing its work for the past several years under the umbrella of the loosely organized Red Dirt Collective.
“It’s just a name for all the bands up here,” Hollingsworth said.
“[It’s] no-coast dirtcore,” Vance added.
The guys in the band pointed to their friend, Paradise multi-instrumentalist and metal instigator known simply as “Sebass” (pronounced “sea bass”), as the person who has most energetically fostered the Red Dirt/dirtcore aesthetic. Sebass currently plays drums in death-metal crew Chemical Burn as well as Chico punks Badger, and when asked about the genesis of Red Dirt (named for the reddish-brown soil of the Paradise-Magalia Ridge), he said that the aim was to bring together the area’s “outcasts and music obsessionists” who were into “brutal or kick-ass music” and form a low-budget musical equipment collective.
In addition to being young and needing to pool their resources, the Red Dirt crew also had a shared love for music that wasn’t overproduced. (As Vance put it, just take whatever style of metal you want, and “throw some dirt on it!”) It’s part inside joke and part point of pride in their particular corner of the greater Nor Cal metal scene—where they strive to be a more raw alternative to “cleaner” Chico as well as the often overpolished world of metal in general.
But the Red Dirt bands are no longer the upstarts. Over the last five-plus years, they’ve fully integrated into to the area scene, in Chico and beyond. After their CD-release, Aberrance will join S.F.’s Ion for a couple of shows in Washington before returning to Chico to open for old-school Cleveland heavyweights Chimaira at LaSalles (Aug. 18),
Even though they have cemented their place on stage now, the Aberrance dudes are still regulars at most local shows. But they say there is a fresh crop of Ridge youngsters who have taken their place whipping their heads up front. At every show there is the same trio of Paradise-area high-schoolers, Hollingsworth said. Even if it’s just a house party, with no one else there, Vance added that he’ll look out and see “these three kids just rocking the fuck out—and it’s badass!”
Those kids are already in their own band now, a “funk-metal” trio called Ununoctium. And reading their self-description, they seem ready to represent: “We are a metal band born in the depths of the Dirts.”