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UZALA Launches Drone-slaught at VAC

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You don't often get to hear Townes Van Zandt or Neil Young music at a metal concert. You don't often get to see footage from a '40s experimental film, either.

But about 30 people heard and saw exactly that when they attended UZALA's CD release show at Visual Arts Collective on Tuesday, Oct. 15. The performances by the headlining local band, Eugene, Ore.-based musician Mike Scheidt and Portland, Ore.-based duo Muscle and Marrow, made for a meditative but invigorating concert.

The audience turnout seemed sparse, considering UZALA's growing popularity. The band's latest release, Tales of Blood and Fire, was produced by grunge pioneer Tad Doyle, and The Sleeping Shaman webzine called it "one of the best doom albums released this year." What's more, the Oct. 15 show marked the third stop on UZALA's 20-date, cross-country fall tour with Scheidt, who fronted doom metal band YOB.

Muscle and Marrow opened the VAC show. The duo's stately tempos and somber tunes were enlivened by Kira Clark's loud, clanging guitar and Keith McGraw's nimble drumming. Clark's subdued, melancholy wail and some eerie, Popol Vuh-esque intros enhanced the music's spare, hypnotic power.

Mike Scheidt played a solo acoustic set next. Like Scott Kelly of Neurosis, Scheidt has chosen to unplug and dabble with folk recently (he told the Portland Mercury last year that seeing Kelly play solo inspired him to do the same). His sensitively handled cover of Townes Van Zandt's "Rake" and his version of Neil Young's "Helpless" showed his comfort in changing up genres and instrumentation. The mournful melodies and slashing riffs of Scheidt's original songs wouldn't have sounded too different from YOB if he'd played with a full band, but his strong, aching vocals made for a unique experience.

As enjoyable as the two openers were, UZALA's headlining set proved most powerful. The doom metal trio's thunderous drones, snarling guitar solos and steady, propulsive drums sounded even better here than they did at The Shredder's Chelsea Wolfe show back in September. Darcy Nutt's clear vocals soared above the music's tumult, while some ominous black-and-white montages--which incorporated footage from Sergei Eisenstein's Ivan the Terrible and Maya Deren's Meshes of the Afternoon--added a touch of arty sophistication.

The set wasn't without some levity, though. After one lumbering number, guitarist Chad Remains smiled and shook his head.

"We have to do that one again," he told his bandmates. "That was too fast."