Doom metal—a genre marked by slow, heavy, Sabbath-grade guitar riffs and plodding, bone-shattering rhythms—is exploding. Thanks to the Internet, the underground is not obscure and even National Public Radio heaps praise upon the genre. But for local drummer Jeremy Brenton, who beats the skins for and engineers the music made by Demon Lung, doom isn’t a bandwagon upon which to jump. It’s the kind of aggressive, unhurried rock he’s dreamed of creating for a decade.
“I always wanted to be in a female-fronted melodic doom band,” says Brenton, a long-haired computer savant who oversees information security for Roseman University of Health Sciences. “This kind of music isn’t going to make us money. But if we can break even, maybe tour for a month out of every year, it’s worth it.”
That shouldn’t be a problem given the convenient fact that Demon Lung is the only doom act in Vegas, which has resulted in some high-profile gigs opening for legendary groups such as Pentagram and Jucifer.
“Because of doom’s resurgence, incredible bands have been coming through town lately,” Brenton says. “Since there’s no doom scene here, if High on Fire comes to town and the promoter knows his music, he books us. We take advantage of that.”
Sure, a heavy band with a female lead singer was more original years ago, when Dutch goth act The Gathering (Brenton’s favorite) created the blueprint for women-centered pop-metal acts (including Evanescence). But Brenton never wanted to rely on the gimmick of a vapid hottie. He found his muse, Las Vegas native and Zappos employee Shanda Fredrick, singing in an obscure indie-rock group playing the Bunkhouse.
“The second I heard her voice, I knew she was the right musician,” Brenton says.
The members of Demon Lung are the tech-iest metalheads in town. Brenton moved here in 2003 to work in the IT industry. He convinced Indiana bud, Phil Burns (guitar), to relocate to Vegas where he too got a job at Roseman. Brenton then met another Zappos employee, Pat Warren (bass).
You wouldn’t know their techiness by listening to them. Demon Lung sounds and looks like a satanic ritual. With fog machines and eerie stage lighting—not to mention Fredrick’s strikingly Puritanical dresses that help achieve a Little House on the (Devil’s) Prairie appearance—the band is atmospheric and awesomely musical. Horror film-referencing songs such as “Sour Ground” (the reference here being Pet Sematary) stomp the eardrums. Brenton, Burns and Warren lock into evil grooves as Fredrick melodically intones about burying the dead, only to watch them rise again.
“I love horror,” says Fredrick, who bristles at my suggestion that she’s not a serious horror fan like the dudes in her band. “I literally have over 1,000 horror DVDs and a frickin’ Witchboard replica hanging on a wall in my house. I went to Sundance to see The Descent!”
Demon Lung is set to release its four-song, self-produced, cassette-only Pareidolia EP (pareidolia is the tendency to see the familiar in the unfamiliar) on local boutique metal label Hex Records this week when the band opens for Portland doom trio Megaton Leviathan at Yayo Taco. “I never really enjoyed playing all-ages shows until this band,” Brenton says of the Yayo Taco gig. “The Vegas kids seem to love our music, and it’s inspiring. In other cities the kids just stand there, arms crossed, while bands play.”
Keeping it underground isn’t Demon Lung’s goal. “Convincing a label like Metal Blade to finance a proper studio album is all we need. What’s a record deal in 2012 mean anyway?” As the top dog of Vegas doom, Demon Lung will find out soon enough.