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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.