A mighty roar

Half A Tusk

Marc Moxley, Mike Vargas and Hector Acavedo are survivors of Half A Tusk's revolving door.

Marc Moxley, Mike Vargas and Hector Acavedo are survivors of Half A Tusk's revolving door.

Photo/Kent Irwin

For more information, visit www.facebook.com/HalfATusk.

Imagine hiking in the woods when an elephant bursts out of the foliage. As it trumpets forth a mighty roar, it appears that one of its tusks has been broken off. This is a beast to be feared, because it’s seen immense brutality, but has survived with enough strength to crush you underfoot.

True to its name, Half A Tusk is a fragmented band. They’ve cycled through their fair share of members, many of whom left the band on rocky terms.

“I’m no Buddhist,” says vocalist Mike Vargas. “I try not to hold grudges. But it almost came to blows at times.”

“Shit has to get bad to get better,” adds guitarist Hector Acavedo.

The four-piece outfit includes guitarists Acavedo and Vargas, a drummer–Marc Moxley–and a bass player–Daniel Williams. Prior to Moxley and Williams, the band cycled through a handful of drummers and bassists.

“We’ve had to retrace our steps and teach everyone the songs again,” says Acevedo. “It’s forced us into learning patience.”

With Moxley and Williams aboard, things began to pick up speed. In addition to holding the drum throne, Moxley has also written a share of lyrics on the band’s recently recorded album, Daedalus Design. The band’s debut is a five track excursion through a wilderness of crushing death metal riffs, eastern scales and labyrinthian song structures.

Half A Tusk songs are linear in nature, not cyclical. They begin with a set of riffs, but constantly charge forward through a shifting landscape of motifs and themes. A song may come out of the gates with twin guitar melodies, then burst into an assault of double-bass, chugging riffs, and Vargas’ primal growl. Then it could suddenly shift into flamenco-tinged scales on classical guitar. One thing that’s guaranteed is, once a piece has ended, it’s left its listeners in an entirely different place.

In addition to metal influences, Half A Tusk are vocal about their reverence for other genres, such as jazz, classical, Indian music and Spanish flamenco. Vargas may not claim to be the Dalai Lama, but he and Acavedo do find inspiration in eastern religion and philosophy. The name Half A Tusk is a nod to the Indian god Ganesha, often portrayed as a man-elephant hybrid. As their interest in Hinduism might suggest, it is fitting that the music is so polytheistic in its range of influences.

The exotic spices in Half A Tusk make for a unique sound, but don’t necessarily help the band find a ready-made crowd of devoted followers.

“We’re just waiting for the right ear to hear us,” says Vargas.

If Half A Tusk is intimidated by breaching the established metal crowd and forming their own audience, it doesn’t show. When asked about performing, their faces light up.

“We go to see some of our favorite bands, and we have the time of our lives,” says Acevedo. “When we see the crowd reacting to us as we do to our idols, it’s intoxicating.”

“A good show is the best feeling ever, second maybe to sex,” says Vargas.

Playing live has been tough, providing the band with a fried engine on the way back from out of town and countless broken equipment. On top of it all, the band’s cerebral edge doesn’t mean the shows don’t get bloody. A degree of violence is expected in metal, but on at least one occasion it got out of control. They’ve taken a lot of blows, to be sure, but Half A Tusk are adamant about stampeding forward.

“We’re ready to unite and conquer,” says Vargas.