Absent in the Grove

Soma from Absent Me

Soma from Absent Me

The metal scene always has been something of a black sheep in Sacramento. This is despite the fact that Tesla, Deftones and nearby cousins Papa Roach are some of Sacramento’s most famous exports. It is rare that a metal act is allowed to raise its headbanging sensibility anywhere near the Midtown grid.

Of course, there are venues in the outskirts that revel in the metal scene. These venues have provided a place for younger fans that—figuratively and literally—is about as far from the Midtown under-21 scene as one can get. Orangevale club The Boardwalk has been opening its stage to metal shows for years. The Colonial Theatre holds periodic headbangings, as well. But perhaps the most interesting recent addition is in the form of a tiny coffeehouse in a strip mall in Elk Grove.

For the kids of Elk Grove, and for metal fans everywhere, Sweet Bean is like a bandage for an open wound. No longer do the metalhead kids of the Grove have to wander around the Central Valley looking for metal. Now, it comes directly to their neighborhood. Case in point: last weekend’s show with Absent Me, Paralyzed and Ossifer, a bill that had the mostly teenage crowd bobbing and banging into a sweaty froth.

The most effective act on the bill (and the one that drew the most teenage smokers from outside) was headliner Absent Me (www.absentme.com). The band presents a particularly solid rhythm section in Job (bass) and Butch (drums)—offering a sense of rhythmic complexity that one doesn’t often see on the small stage. (Job’s manic stage presence is something like watching a hopped-up Muppet suffer some kind of mental breakdown.)

Singer Soma presented a nice mixture of growling and screaming along with longer, sweeter passages. But at times, I wondered why he doesn’t employ his eight years of classical voice training to greater effect and remains instead within a relatively short range of notes. Vocal hooks that could have been there were missed. The same criticism could apply to the band’s guitarist, Loki, who clearly could play some interesting, melodic lead lines but spent much of the evening doubling Job’s bass lines with metal crunch power chords. The most emotional piece of the evening, a slower grind called “Stepchild,” broke this trend, allowing Loki to step out for melody lines that lifted the song far above the rest of the band’s material.

Nonetheless, Absent Me proved to be a band of solid musicianship and capable performances. Particularly interesting is the presence of Skully, the band’s keyboardist, who added a fine, spooky quality to the band’s material—when she could be heard. Moving her playing up front and expanding the potentially melodic roles of Loki and Soma will be central to Absent Me’s evolution.

For more information on local, off-the-radar metal shows, fans should look to the Sacto Music Station home page at http://groups.msn.com/ sactomusicstation/ or to the www.CaBands.com show lists. Or, check out Saturday’s afternoon benefit show at Pipeworks Gym (116 North 16th Street) in Sacramento with Thend, Brand X Savior, Rezyn and Bionic Gorilla Project. The show starts at 4:30 p.m.