Down and dirty

Dirt Communion

Ready to rock the stairwell: Tony Ashworth, Logan Spurling, Eric Stangeland, Mark Earnest and Dan Bishop of Dirt Communion.

Ready to rock the stairwell: Tony Ashworth, Logan Spurling, Eric Stangeland, Mark Earnest and Dan Bishop of Dirt Communion.


Heavy metal was the first music I ever really cared about. As a young teenage boy from the suburbs, I didn’t have the sophistication to understand the musical complexity of jazz or classical music, or the delicate narratives of a folk song, the impassioned yearning of a soul song, the political aggression of a hardcore song, the lyrical flow of a rap song or even the melodic hooks of a pop song, but I could understand the monster riffs of Black Sabbath. This was music I knew was good as soon as I heard it.

For a 13-year-old, it can be hard to tell the difference between Bob Dylan and James Taylor—you don’t trust your own ability to discern the classic from the suckage. But from the opening riff of “Paranoid” on, you know that this music is undeniable and, what’s more, awesome.

Though after years and years of obsessively listening to music, I have learned to appreciate all those other styles of music, there’s still a part of me that finds nothing else quite as satisfying as a heavy, distorted guitar riff.

And this is the craving that Dirt Communion satisfies.

“We write as fans,” says guitarist Tony Ashworth. “We write what we want to listen to.”

Dirt Communion’s music relies on head-banging heaviosity rather than breakneck thrash speeds. In other words, if Dirt Communion was a dinosaur, it would be a brontosaurus, not a velociraptor. Though that’s not to say vegetarian—this is red meat music—but it’s the sound of rumbling and lumbering through the Jurassic swampland.

Drummer Logan Spurling calls it “dirty Southern metal,” slow and sludgy in the style of bands like Down and Eyehategod. Spurling is from North Carolina, Ashworth is from West Virginia, and both band members are proud of their Southern roots.

Many of the band members have other projects. Bassist Dan Bishop plays in a prog metal band called Puppetree, Spurling performs with the thrash band Otis, and vocalist Mark Earnest also performs as the music-journalist-turned-indie-rock-troubadour Mr. Vague.

The band members are quick to admit that, with Dirt Communion, they’ve chosen a funny band name.

“It’s a metallish sounding name, but just a little off, just odd enough,” says Earnest.

“People always give me a weird look when I tell them,” adds guitarist Eric Stangeland, an acclaimed veteran local musician and music instructor at Maytan Music Center. “This is the first band I’ve ever been in where it doesn’t feel like I’m doing the work.”

The other band members agree that, in this band, everybody puts in the extra hustle for the extraneous elements of being in a band: booking, promotion, updating the band’s website, and so on. The group effort also translates to the music: There’s no one guitar hero, but instead a nice tight blend.

The band is currently recording an album which they hope to release by this summer.

“I’m excited to see what happens,” says Earnest of the band’s future. “People don’t always realize it, but there are a lot of colors in metal.”

And any listener who appreciates pure, unadulterated, classic metal riffage, can’t do anything but bang his head with approval.