Metal in the Mountains
Head Banging with Durango's Sacred Sun

The members of Sacred Sun partake in a pre-practice carbo-loading  session at the Ranch last week./Photo by Ben Eng In the world of music, Durango can sometimes be a strange place. With only a few exceptions, it’s an area dominated by bands running the post-Dead route or rolling on the “Oh Brother” wave. Mention the phrase “heavy metal” and the average music fan may conjure up thoughts of CC Deville wearing enough eyeliner and lipstick to make a Colfax hooker proud and memories of spending Saturday nights watching “Head Bangers Ball” on that silly cable music channel.

But think back to the late ’70s and early ’80s. In those glorious days, heavy metal meant long hair and leather, dry-ice machines, Gibson Les Pauls and Flying Vs, Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden and Randy Rhoads. Then, unfortunately, someone lumped bands like Poison and Warrant into the heavy metal realm once dominated by the likes of Judas Priest and Cliff Burton-era Metallica, and things went downhill.

But metal never really went away. While MTV was pushing “glam-metal,” bands like Motorhead and Slayer remained where they had always been: flying just below the radar keeping legions of followers satisfied by blasting power chords out of a Marshall stack, piercing ear drums and damaging hearing all over the world.

With the coming and going of the Seattle scene and hard rock becoming more diverse with influences of punk and rap, it may seem metal is still flying below the radar. However, here in Durango, metal lives through the work of Sacred Sun, a band that carries the hard rock torch but still reaches out to other styles of music.

The seeds of Sacred Sun were planted in August 1997 when childhood friends Russ Hallock and Uriah Miller relocated to Durango from Flagstaff, Ariz. It was here the two decided to play music together. Hallock had played guitar since he was 14, and a trip to the pawn shop soon led to Miller owning and learning how to play bass. And, in February 1998, Sacred Sun was born.

Guitarist Hallock takes off. /Photo by Bryant Ligget“When I met Russ we were into the same type of music, so the way he wanted to go is the mix I wanted to go with,” said Miller. Hallock said that musically, the two have always had a special connection and similar goals.

“We always wanted to be in a band together growing up,” Hallock said.

However a metal band was not their first intention. The two started out playing various styles of music, from rock to reggae. “When we first started we didn’t intend to be a metal band because our first drummer was more into punk rock,” said Hallock. had no identity. Then my influences started to come in.”

And those influences read like a who’s who in ’70s and ’80s rock music, including Metallica, Led Zeppelin, RUSH and the Police.

But Hallock said it wasn’t until he started putting pen to paper that the band’s true focus revealed itself to him.

“As I started writing, songs started getting heavier and heavier, and then it became fast and rocking,” he said.

Bass player Uriah Miller keeping the bottom line straight./Photo by Bryant LiggetIn March of 1999. Sacred Sun played its first show, opening for local punk band The Thirteens at the Olde Schoolhouse, in Needles. The show resulted in a positive reaction and high praise from the audience, Hallock said.

“From that moment on, we knew we would be able to do something with it” he said.

Fast forward to March 2002 when the band was in search of a new drummer. Hallock and Miller were approached by Bermuda-born and Santa Fe-raised Aaron Lambardo, who was looking to join.

“I was far from a metal drummer” recalled Lambardo, a former high school band member who didn’t start playing drums until he was 21. However, drawing upon influences by the likes of Neil Peart, John Paul Jones and Carter Beauford, Lambardo soon became a permanent fixture in the band.

Drummer Aaron Lambardo, who joined the band last spring, busts a beat that would make John Bonham proud./Photo by Bryant LiggetAlthough he says Sacred Sun is a heavy metal band at heart, it’s not looking to be labeled.

“A lot of people compare us to old Sabbath, but it’s more melodic,” Lambardo said. “It has groove.”

“And it’s more than playing hard and fast,” Hallock adds.

A typical Sacred Sun set will take listeners through a number of originals, songs that charge ahead at breakneck speed, creating a wall of sound only to stop on a dime and turn into something heavy, just as melodic, but at a slower pace. It’s loud and it’s proud, dangerous and beautiful, fierce and in your face, and that’s just what metal should be. Then there are the crowd-pleasing covers by Metallica and Black Sabbath that make the crowd want to pump their fists and thrash their heads.

Since the band began live gigs, it has played Storyville, the Summit, the now-defunct San Juan Room and even the Country Palace outside Farmington. Sacred Sun has shared the stage with the likes of The Thirteens and Flagstaff metal band Dying Tribe, among others. Future plans include putting money aside to record a demo and tracks for a CD.

But, like metal fans from the ’80s who stuck with bands like Megadeth while others jumped on the bandwagon for glam-metal rockers like Ratt, Sacred Sun plans to stick outside the mainstream, for now.

“It’s just cooler to be in the underground scene,” Hallock said.





News Index Second Index Opinion Index Classifieds Index Contact Index