Arts Desk

For Northern Virginia Metal Band Salome, Not All Hope Lies in Doom

Doom metal—that slow, sludgy, Black Sabbath-influenced brand of extreme metal—is nothing new to the D.C. area. Two of the originators of the genre—Saint Vitus and Pentagram —hail from Maryland and Virginia, respectively. Scott “Wino” Weinrich, who joined Saint Vitus in 1986 and is responsible for other major stoner and doom metal icons like The Obsessed and The Hidden Hand, is still active in the local scene.

So why are Northern Virgina upstart doom metallers Salome—drummer Aaron Deal, vocalist Kat Katz, and guitarist Rob Moore—getting so much ink in the metal world, not to mention fawning write-ups in The New York Times and on NPR Music? A cynic might argue it’s the novelty factor: Salome has no bassist and an unusual membership. Deal is the bearded, tattooed metalhead; Moore is clean-cut and bespectacled (although he performs live sans glasses, presumably because he's rather not donate them to the audience in a fit of head-banging); Katz is a petite blond, and a yoga instructor.

But it’s just as easy to argue that Salome is noteworthy for the trail it's blazing for the doom-metal genre. Deal and Katz started the band in 2006, and it has informal ties to many in the D.C. doom scene. But Deal doesn’t consider those folks to be a direct influence on Salome’s music. The band draws inspiration from outside the style: Deal cites D.C.-area metal bands like Darkest Hour and Clutch, but says Jawbox and Fugazi are favorites, as well. While these diverse influences may not have been entirely obvious on Salome’s crushingly heavy and very straightforward debut album (according to Deal, that one was mostly just the results of “us jamming and doing minor tweaks when we started playing together”), they're becoming clearer with the release of the trio’s new record, Terminal. It comes out tomorrow.

In contrast to the debut, intentional songwriting played a bigger role with Terminal, which still boasts the visceral strengths of that first album but contains an innovative spark that transcends the doom subgenre. Amid the style's signifiers—thick riffs and howling vocals anchored by methodical drumming—are all kinds of new things. The opening cut veers off in unexpected directions several times: short blasts of noise and fast-paced, almost grindcore-like passages are interspersed with the usual plodding riffs. Similarly, the title track starts off with an uptempo and very un-doomy guitar riff before kicking into the band’s more usual slower gear. And the 17-minute “The Accident of History” which feels much closer to the long-form noise of Merzbow than the assault riffs of Sabbath. The nexus between doom and noise isn’t new, of course—see Sunn O)))— but here it still feels different and exciting.

“The whole focus is to keep things interesting with minimal instrumentation,” Deal says. “I wanted to try to make Terminal simple with more under the surface as the songs and album unfold, simple but clever. Hopefully it worked.”

It works pretty well on the record, and given Salome’s increasing reputation for one of the most intense live shows in metal, it will probably work even better on stage.

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