A-game, brought

Expecting big things: Although many fans and critics alike could argue about who started symphonic metal and when, most can agree the genre has made great strides in both the United States and abroad in the last 10 years.

Just look to Graveshadow, one such band with a growing fan base, not just in Sacramento, but also across the country and overseas. The group recently released its debut full-length record, Nocturnal Resurrection, on the Belgium-based Mausoleum Records and celebrated with quite the raucous crowd.

One might think that a local five-band CD release show on a rainy Sunday night would be destined for failure. But the band brought its A-game and drew upwards of 200 fans. More importantly, it also delivered a ferocious set replete with fan favorites including the infectious “Blink,” “Namesake” and album closer “Blood And Fire.”

Singer Heather Michele held court center stage with one foot often resting on her monitor while the able guitar duo of William Lloyd Walker and Matt Mitchell provided distortion and riffs steeped in progressive and symphonic metal. Bassist Ben Armstrong roamed the stage like a crazed madman playing his five-string bass, which complemented the double-bass drum quandary coming from Roman Anderson. Keyboardist Valerie Hudak was also a formidable force, providing some key headbanging along with, more importantly, impressive keyboard skills.

Score one for the locals.

—Eddie Jorgensen

Funky fresh: Meet Union, Dave Jensen’s brand new project. Then prepare to say goodbye, because you may never see Union again.

Jensen should be a familiar face. He previously drummed for Ideateam, James Cavern & the Council, Saint Solitaire and other bands around town. Earlier this year, he applied to the Berklee College of Music and also for a composition scholarship. That meant he needed to start composing.

He submitted three songs for the application, including the 20-person orchestral piece “Shadow of a Doubt,” which features many other familiar faces. But Jensen had so much fun that he decided to keep going. As Union, he’ll release his first full-length record at Harlow’s Restaurant & Nightclub on Friday, December 25. Tickets cost $10.

The first single “Be There For You” is a polished, fun and funky track, featuring bassist Andrew Barnhart (Saint Solitaire), guitarist Justin Butler (Ideateam), saxophonist Chris Ryan (Zuhg, Ideateam) and singer Ryan Hernandez (the Big Eyed Fish). Jensen takes on drums, alternative percussion, piano and synth. But the assemble varies, as does Union’s eclectic style.

Good news: Jensen got into Berklee and got the scholarship, which means he’ll move to the East Coast in January. Oh wait, maybe that’s bad news. He insists that won’t be the end of Union though. He may form a band there, or he may just play Sacramento gigs when he returns next summer. Who knows? He’s got a lot on his mind.

“It’s definitely a new experience being the guy taking helm,” he says, laughing. “Usually I just show up and play drums.”

Three for three: Local singer-songwriter Andrew Castro is still on track to release four EPs within 12 months. His third, Red Hearts, quietly dropped earlier this month—and the barely promoted record-release show at Old Ironsides was his third consecutive sell-out. The people love him.

Whereas Inside Out channeled Jason Mraz and John Mayer, Castro honed a much more Justin Timberlake-esque sound with Red Hearts. It suits him well: his deeper, smokier style contrasts nicely against his falsetto and sparse instrumentation. What really sets Red Hearts apart, however, from other local singer-songwriter releases is Castro’s hip-hop influence, which comes through and shines thanks to guest spots by rappers Ky Romias and Kintessa Quintanar.

—Janelle Bitker