Saviours: Heavy Metal’s Salvation

The “reemergence” of underground metal has been hyped in recent years, though ironically, it never went away. The ubiquitous “hipster metal” tag has been used by diehard heavy-music fans fearing the bastardization of their community. After all, who wants to be in the club when everybody is allowed to join?

And if watching swarms of indie rockers intermingle with bikergang types at an Om show wasn’t odd enough, what has really been mind boggling is the amount of visibility bestowed upon many of these traditionally underappreciated artists from the most mainstream of outlets. In 2007, Rolling Stone ranked Sleep/High on Fire axeman Matt Pike as one of their “Top 20 new Guitar Gods” (after John Mayer, of course), and Mastodon’s “Colony of Birchmen” was nominated for a best metal performance Grammy Award. Extreme music publication Decibel Magazine appeared at train station newsstands, offering commuters a good read outside of Vanity Fair. Perhaps this attention is a testament to the work ethics, drive, and talent of these bands, or even better, a sign that American audiences are thirsting for music that feels raw and alive, having grown dissatisfied with hard rock songs that sound as if they were conceived in a boardroom. (I’m looking at you, Nickelback.) Or maybe not. Either way, it’s a damn interesting time to be a metal band.

Enter Oakland’s Saviours, who have unleashed their beast of a second record, Into Abbadon (Kemado), this winter. The tough-as-nails four-piece draws from classic sounds of the new wave of British heavy metal (NWOBHM) Bay Area thrash, doom and punk rock, branding it with their own intense rebellion and hedonism. Their blistering live show is a sweaty mess of long hair, tattoos, and unbridled energy. In essence, Saviours recall a time when metal was genuinely feared.

Saviours are one of the latest greats to emerge out of a local legacy, which includes heavyweights like High on Fire, Neurosis, and Acid King—acts that have prompted curious music fans to wonder if there is an overabundance of heavy metals in the Bay Area waters. Despite the wealth of talent and creativity in their own backyard, Saviours was born out of a general dissatisfaction with modern rock acts. “We were at the point where we had been playing music for a while and were disgusted by the way things were with going with heavy music. So much of it is total dog shit,”says drummer Scott Batiste.

To Batiste and longtime friend, musical collaborator, guitarist, and singer Austin Barber, their mission was clear: Embark on a “vision quest” to create the ultimate heavy band. Barber left town to support another band on tour, compiling lyrics and ideas for Saviours along the way. Back home, Batiste assembled the rest of the band, recruiting bassist Cyrus Cominskey from heavy bluesbased rock band Drunk Horse and guitarists D. Tyler Morris and Mag Delena (Delena left the band in 2006). As soon as Barber returned to Oakland, the band got to work and began to play out almost immediately. “Since then we’ve never really stopped. Things have been pretty good,” says Batiste. The name “Saviours” was determined even before their first practice session. Although Batiste laughs at the suggestion that the name derives from any notion of “saving” heavy music, he counters, “There is an occult edge to it. It involves lots of drugs.”