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Nate Daly plays drums in Chico, California’s Amarok. This is his story.

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I’ve played drums in Amarok for about a year, which is about as long as I’ve been a metal dude.

I’m actually pretty damn far from being a metal dude at all. I have a keyboard-jockey day job, two kids and I think the Talking Heads are the greatest band of all time. My favorite heavy bands tend to turn to the noise rock side and with the exception of one Hawkwind-ish band during my late 20s, I've never played anything resembling metal, much less slow, crushing doom.

Although listening to doom may not be “my thing,” Brandon (bass), Kenny (guitar) and Nathan (guitar) are solid dudes (in addition to former guitarist Jeremy), they have their shit together and I thought it would be a challenge to play this glacially slow. Finding the space in the music while still making my parts interesting makes this band work for me and that’s “my thing.”

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November 12: San Diego

Prior to tour, I take my family on vacation to Los Angeles to visit friends, cousins and do Disneyland. Shortly after dropping them at the airport to fly north, the band picks me up in Long Beach to drive south to San Diego. This is my first tour since 2006 and I’m eager to sleep on some dirty floors, eat food and meet some weirdos.

We arrive early and hit Ocean beach for some get-naked-in-the-parking-lot action and the most metal surf wading to ever occur in the Pacific before sitting in traffic for a bit on the way to the spot. Along the way, Nathan comes up with a plan to start a Tinder profile to trick people into coming to our show.

We kill some time at Pack Ratt next door to the gig where we shoot the shit with the owner and check out belt buckles, mega-fringe vests, records I can’t afford and a rad vintage skateboard museum. Next comes Pho King [Pronounce it correctly and you’ll get the joke - Ed.] up the street for dinner, which is delicious and has clean shitters.

We play at the Til Two Club with Garth Algar, NorCal buds Chrch and Cincinnati's Beneath Oblivion with whom we play several shows on this west coast tour. Despite quality earplugs, I know I’m going to lose a few frequencies by the end of this tour. The show is a bit sparse, but it feels good to kick the rust off after two days with princesses and Goofy.

Kenneth harnesses tone from the lord.

We crash at Blaine from Age of Collapse’s house, and he makes us tacos. Remington the cat spends the night sleeping on top of my stomach.

November 13: Garden Grove

The Beneath Oblivion dudes arrive during the previous night before while I sleep, but I get a chance to talk to guitarist Allen on the front porch for a bit. They are on a 35-day tour from Cincinnati with a recording session booked with Billy Anderson mid-trip. They also have a Nate in the band who is filling in on bass. To keep things straight, he becomes CinciNatey. The band also consists of Scott PowerBottom, roadie Cash and JimmyChad. (I feel a little bad about that one. We didn’t properly learn each other’s names for a couple days, so I started calling him Chad and it stuck. We’re all Chads now.)

We plan to meet up at Ranchos and quickly learn that Oblivion's sloth-like musical pace is only rivaled by their ability to get from point A to point B. We’re finishing breakfast when they arrive.

Waiting back at the van, a lady stops to asked us if we are posing for an album cover. After playing music for over 25 years I guess I’ve finally made it. Honestly, Kenny has enough rock star packed into one dude to make up for the whole band.

On the drive north we hit Carlsbad State Park for more heavy metal swimming and beer drinking while Brandon makes friends with a bubble man on the beach and Cash trots around with his pasty gut hanging out looking like some horrible Baywatch/X-Files hybrid. SoCal envy is high when school lets out and the beach is overwhelmed with kids enjoying post-curricular surfing.

The show tonight is at Nothing but a Nightmare’s rad warehouse record store space with crusty punk bands Reality Lost and Damnatösque. After we sort out some power shenanigans, this is a fun show and I enjoy playing with faster bands. My friend Mike brings an audiologist friend who tells us that we cleared 110 decibels and our ears are fucked.

November 14: Long Beach - Midnite Communion III: Midnite Masquerade

We’re lucky enough to stay at my friend Mike’s Long Beach apartment for a couple days. We make a pile of breakfast burritos before riding bikes south to Seal Beach where we do some heavy metal body surfing while dodging seagull attacks. Tour is hell.

Heavy metal beach day

After a mellow afternoon and some burgers made by Kenny, we do an early load into The Prospector where I am stopped by a guy who says, “Holy fuck, that's a lot of speakers.” Better run, dude.

Before heading over to the main Midnite Communion show at Breakers, we walk over to check out the concert in the park across the street from Mike’s apartment. There is a semicircle of about 30 people around the band and one couple has set up their blanket at the foot of the stage to celebrate a birthday with a grope-y make-out session, ruining the sax jams for everyone.

At Breakers, there is a typo reading “Midnight Collections” on the door of the hotel, leading me to believe that we’ve stumbled into a doom metal version of Repo Man. “Look at those assholes, ordinary fucking people. I hate 'em.”

We watch Beneath Oblivion, Fórn and check out the strangely hidden art show in the basement of the hotel before going back to Prospector. Jason Barnett’s grimey, occult paintings are my favorite on display landing somewhere between Bosch and Giger. Great, creepy stuff worth checking out. Seems like there should have been more knives for sale. Everyone likes knives.

BYO skulls, Photo by Alexander MacDonald

Back at the Prospector, we play with Two From the Eye, Our Place of Worship is Silence and Ancient Altar, the latter who were probably my favorite band of the tour. Their desperate and bleak songs are really held together by guitarist Barry’s terrific, clean singing. During a full tour of growling and screams, his vocals are a pinnacle.

You can watch videos of most bands from the Midnight Communion at Pit Full of Shit.

November 15: Los Osos

I wake up too early after a late night, but am doing shockingly well for 3am tequila. Mike’s toilet is broken so, like a dolt, I need three trips to the hardware store to fix it, ultimately trading one leak for another. I’m not a metal dude and I’m not a plumber dude, either.

Before we leave town, we nab a photo in front of the excellent tiger unicorn mermaid around the corner. A couple of bums in front of the mural asked if we like heavy metal. We confirmed and asked if they did, too. One guy then showed us his chest hair to somehow prove that he’s a total metal dude.

After a stop at Amoeba Records and a diner, Nathan practices his bo staff moves in the parking lot before we drive north to Los Osos to play Sweet Springs Saloon. I went to college In San Luis Obispo and used to play here frequently with a cock rock band called Hotwheelz. The smell is the same and the shuffleboard table is in even worse shape.

The show with Beneath Oblivion and Disgusted Geist is sleepy and afterwards we all cram into a tiny front room of a house.

I ate fried chicken twice today.

The author with fantasy pet, Photo by Alexander MacDonald

 

November 16: Oakland

I wake early and spend a couple hours wandering around SLO. Happy to see a bunch of the old haunts like Boo Boo Records, Linnea’s coffee shop and Frog & Peach. We get breakfast/lunch at Gus's Grocery where I have a nostalgia sandwich from my college days. Beneath makes it to the sandwich shop before we finish eating! They’re getting faster.

Throughout our dates with BO, they remind us of the need to rip on Cash. He looks like a creep, smells bad and is a shitty driver. At first, it doesn't feel right to be mean to someone you barely know, but the fact that he can't sell merch to save his life and loses the merch cash all prove that he is probably the worst roadie in the world. Even his jokes are terrible.

At the Camp Roberts rest area, they have a vending machine that dispenses ice cream novelties with a suction powered robotic arm, a striking reminder that we are living in an age of wonders.

Before the Oakland show, we hit up the Vivarium to look at lizards and then wander around the Berkeley Marina. I miss living in this area, but not enough to move back. Although it was only 10 years ago, it feels like so much has changed. I remember the Golden Bull where we play as a dingy local bar serving mostly old Asian dudes from Oakland Chinatown. Five years ago, I would have had a dozen or more friends at this show, but only three come. So many people have moved away. I blame that partly on the Bay Area housing situation, but people move on. I did too, and that’s OK.

While not heavily attended the Oakland show was fun. Devoid open up followed by Leucrota from Santa Cruz who were rad. Beneath Oblivion sounded great tonight and it was terrific catching up with a few East Bay buddies.

After the show, we decided to drive home to Chico and see this van:

If seen, avoid eye contact with driver

November 17: Chico

After getting to bed at 4am, my kids wake me at 7. While seeing them excited to see me is a great feeling, I could use some more zzzzs. Driving all night probably works well for the rest of the guys in the band, but I fall behind on sleep and never quite catch up for the rest of the tour, living in a bit of a daze.

Stopping mid-tour in your hometown is a strategy all bands should employ, though. The figure-eight route means I get to take my dog out for a long walk, cook dinner for my family and go out for a beer with the missus before the show.

The Chico show at 1078 is super fun. I miss new band Katattack, but get filled in on their rad song names: "Underwater Boner," "Badgergasm" and "Tramp Stamp Torpedo" are a few highlights. Unlike me, the Beneath dudes slept all day. The look refreshed and their set is the best yet. Local buddies Shadow Limb kill it. I could watch their drummer play all night long.

November 18: Ashland

Another morning at home, taking the kids to school and the dog out for a long walk (and not sleeping). We were originally scheduled to play in Salem tonight, but the show fell through getting moved to Bend and Grants Pass before finally getting finalized in Ashland. We’ll do our Two Gentlemen of Verona set.

North on 5 is always rad driving into the shadow of Mt. Shasta. She has a touch of snow and is half shrouded in clouds and looks beautiful. We listen to a Radiolab episode about searching for patient zero of the latest Ebola outbreak to put us in a warm virus-y mood.

We load in early at “Live Music Cafe Club 66” and have a lot of time to kill, shooting hoops, playing foosball and eating cheap ass chili and Tecate.

This is our last show with Beneath Oblivion and it’s a bummer to play to an empty bar, but our spirits our lifted by shredding duo Urinator who charm the piss out of us with their songs "Urination Station," "Asparagus Piss" and "Urine for It." Imagine a death metal band based on the concept of a failed He-Man villain. During our set, Brandon does a slow-motion fall off the stage during the first ten seconds.

Amarok and Beneath Oblivion dudes, plus one bonus Urinator

We again do the late-night drive thing up to Eugene, which sounds great on paper. Rain, however, makes the drive go long. Brandon is a terrific driver and big thanks to Nathan for staying alert in the front seat with the shotgun chatter. Our host Adam is waiting with pizza and a 12-pack when we arrive early in the morning. Totally rad. We want to eat and crash, but two people show up to party, which apparently means they stare at you and ask if you want to play a card game until you feel uncomfortable.

November 19: Seattle - No Quarter November

“Is that a Shit & Shine t-shirt?” Jimmy says with a grin. We talk about psychy noise rock bands.

On the drive to Seattle, Kenny cuts off the sleeves from his new Beneath shirt, explaining that he needs the shirt to fit and feel right, and that short sleeves bug the crap out of him. As far as I can tell, none of his t-shirts have sleeves. He's like my 5-year-old daughter who can't wear socks if the seam is in the wrong place. Total clothing devastation.

Show at The Highline for the second night of No Quarter November with Hissing and Bädr Vogu is great and their food is highly recommended. I missed Addaura to run around the corner to hang out with an old friend [A mistake! They were stellar - Ed.]. My tolerance for the metal onslaught is running low, but I feel like I’ve done a good job of checking out all of the bands we’ve played with, thus far. The Beneath dudes come up after their Tacoma show, so we get to hang out a bit more before saying goodbye.

Thanks to Jesse and Dylan of Bell Witch, and Baylee for the place to sleep.

November 20: Portland

Who let the dog out? I did. Whoops.

After a cold morning walk, I eat breakfast on the back porch. Baylee tells me to not let the dog on the railing because she’ll use it to jump right over the fence. That dog is sneaky. Luckily, I find her a block away waiting near the alley and she comes straight over when I call. I put her on leash and we go for a chaperoned walk, instead of a jail break escape chase.

A few of us head to get a pedal fixed by Ben Verellen and I take the opportunity to wander around the canal for a bit. I remember touring the locks with my Cub Scout troup. I think I’ve lived in almost every town we play on this tour. By the time we leave, traffic out of Seattle is bonkers and it takes us a good three hours to Olympia, normally a 80-minute drive. Again, Brandon saves us all with a swerve to avoid a stop in traffic. He’s a good driver.

Along the freeway, we see a camouflaged van with slits for windows, excessive antennas, a Ben Carson sticker and a general air of creepiness. Later on at a truck stop where we stop for Cinnabon samples, we see camo van pull up and unload about a dozen kids out the back, who all immediately head to the bathroom. They’re a bit too casual, so I guess it’s not all that creepy.

The Portland show at the zombie escape-themed Panic Room is a great one with Diaspora releases, psych-metal band Tsepesch and once again Bädr Vogu, who are awesome. Although we hung out a bit the night before, I was a bit too drunk to fully remember their Seattle set. I’m glad we got to play with them twice. Good dudes!

Several Chico buddies are in the house as well as some friends from New Mexico who deliver a care package from my friend Joe at Ocotillo Records. The venue also has free food for the bands and tall cans of Tecate. Portland, you’re pretty great.

November 21: Eugene

We lock the keys in the van, so the morning begins with some creative wire hanger bending before we give up and call a locksmith. We eat breakfast at the magnificent Pine State Biscuits. Despite my aversion to standing in line for food, it’s super tasty and the coffee is excellent. We collect farm windows from a friend (for Brandon’s wife) and then hit the road to Eugene.

When I was a Bay Area resident in the ‘00s, my drum shop was always Sam Adato’s in San Francisco. Sam is simply one of the best dudes, with a great selection and he’s always willing to help fix hardware, cut cymbals or do anything else you need. We stop by to say hello and I find a ‘64 Ludwig snare that I’ve been looking for to complete a kit. This tour automatically gets four times more expensive for me, but it’s a great score.

Eugene is full of ducks, pushy people on the street and video game parlors. While walking to get bánh mì from Bon Mi, we’re hit up by at least half a dozen spare changers in a couple blocks. I don’t mind getting asked for change, but the requests come with a weird sense of entitlement that is off-putting. You’re weird, Eugene.

We load into the Black Forest early and I talk to some smashed hockey fans who are yelling at the TV before wandering off to play some video games at a bar. Dark ambient electronic dude Randal Collier-Ford opens before we smash through our final set for a small, but very enthusiastic crowd.

After the show, Brandon makes yet another heroic late-night drive, this time through thick fog to his family friend’s house in Talent, Oregon. The next morning, we get fed and hit the road home.

For my first tour since before my kids were born (2007), it’s a damn fun one, catching up with some old friends and meeting some new bands. I’m still not a metal dude.

—Nate Daly

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Follow Amarok on Facebook and on Instagram at @AmarokDoom.

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