If you’ve read anything I’ve written over the last several months, you know I’m a recent Denver transplant who sings toe-curling praises about this mountain town’s Metal scene.
Here, long-drawn, Mary Jane-inspired riffs reverberate out past the vast expanses of breathtaking natural aesthetics, and leave a heavy-handed sonic impression on scenes across the nation.
And if you’re a fan of the best in “underground” Doom-driven Metal, you’ve likely heard of locals Primitive Man, In the Company of Serpents, and Khemmis.
Now, add to this list Smolder & Burn, a band whose hot and heavy, stony Sludge is driven by guitarists Jess Ellis’ and Pat Devlin’s hearty riffs, vocalist Chris Chango’s throaty vox, and bassist Chad Roth’s and drummer Marc Brooks’ captious low-end, a pointed mélange with solid grooves and a searing after burn.
“I had been wanting to start a side project for a while away from my other band (Chingaso), where I just focused on vocals and not on both vocals and guitar,” said Smolder & Burn vocalist Chris Chango of the band’s formation. “I was at my friend Benny’s house for a BBQ, and he was looking to get back on the scene after a long hiatus. He introduced me to [Smolder & Burn drummer] Marc Brooks. We knew of each other, but we didn’t exactly know each other, so I was asked if I knew of any other musicians that might want to get in on the action—I called [guitarist] Pat [Devlin] and [bassist] Chad [Roth]. We had a few rehearsals that went well, then some things came up, and Benny dropped out. I asked [guitarist] Jess [Ellis] to come in, and that’s when things got kicked into overdrive.”
Now, fourteen months later, Smolder & Burn is set to release their début EP, a four-song flex of desert Rock-infused Doom—think of a ballsier Queens of the Stone Age with bigger beards and way more booze.
The tracks are capped by Chris Chango’s clean vocal croon, a distinctive stamp that characterizes the band’s already inventive tunes.
“[Chango’s vocals] are what really got me psyched about this band,” said Devlin. “I listen to a lot of music, and I’m of the opinion that the voice should be used as another instrument. I’m not knocking guttural stuff at all—I’m a fan! But I want to make music with multiple layers, and having clean vocals from the get-go is much better then to trying to introduce them later.”
“I always wanted and preferred more of a singer [too],” added bassist Chad Roth.
“When I was writing the lyrics for the first songs we came up with, I was going to try and be a more guttural with the vocals, but the strange thing is because of the actual low tuning we’re in, [I was forced] to go higher in range in order to hit the notes being played. People heard it, and they liked it, so it just kind of worked its way into what it is,” said Chango.
Smolder & Burn recorded the EP at the Crash Pad, a recording studio over in suburban Denver, where they tapped engineer Bart McCrorey to capture their big sound over a two-day live recording session, the result of which is an impressive debut from one of Denver’s most impressive new bands.
What kind of stuff do you guys talk about in your songs?
“I’m a straight-up fuckin’ nerd, so I’m really influenced by Sci-Fi and comic books—Silver Surfer is one of my top five favorites,” Chango said. “So a lot of the stuff I write is pretty much about traveling the universe, loneliness, isolation, lost love, uneasiness in regards to never truly knowing who you are or why you’re here.”
What do you think makes the Denver music scene tight and different from that of other cities?
“There’s a lot of real motherfuckers here,” Devlin said. “People in this music community can sense bullshit a mile away. Granted, there’s a few assholes everywhere, but overall this place rules.”
Adds guitarist Jess Ellis, “I agree that this is one of the strongest, tightest scenes I have ever encountered. I believe what sets us apart is the fact that we are pretty isolated here. I believe that holds people to be accountable and respectful of each other, or you’ll get your ass run out. Most the bands in this city, regardless of genre, are incredibly supportive of each other.”
Fun stuff: Who are some bands you’d love to tour with?
“I will play anywhere, anytime, with any band. But I’d personally like to tour with The Sword, Lo-Pan, Clutch, Fu Manchu, Cake, Baroness, and C.O.C.,” Devlin said.
“If we’re talking dream tour, I’d give my left nut to play with Neurosis, Pelican, or be the opening act for KISS in 1976 on the Destroyer tour,” Chango added.
Speaking of touring, do you have any plans to play shows outside of the city?
“Nothing as of yet,” Devlin said. “But I’ve been planting a seed with some of the bands like [Denver locals] Cult of The Lost Cause and The Worth about doing some Midwest shows together, just to show everyone the musical diversity Denver has.”
Anything else you’d like to add?
“I’m honestly blown away and very thankful for the reception that we have received as a ‘young’ band. It always makes me jazzed when a friend’s band who I respect and really dig asks us to play a show [with them],” Devlin said. “And the fact that you dig us enough to give us a chance in your magazine— we are extremely lucky guys!”
Those of us stationed in Denver are lucky as well—were able to see the band live Friday, May 6th, over at the Three Kings Tavern. This CD-release show for the band also features fellow Doom-dealers In The Company of Serpents, Valiomierda, and Aeraco. It all kicks off at 8:00 p.m., and copies of the Smolder & Burn EP will be available for purchase. You’ll also be able to download the mixed and mastered version of EP over at Smolderandburn.bandcamp.com.
More information on Smolder & Burn can be found at www.Facebook.com/Smolder-Burn