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Santa Cruz metal is not dead, it just banged its head.

By Curtis Cartier

Heads banged, hair flew, throats gurgled and devil horns shook at Caffe Pergolesi this weekend when three bloodthirsty metal bands unleashed hell in front of a packed room of heathens Friday night. And though music of the metallic variety is something of a rarity in Santa Cruz, two of the groups that rocked the room are focused on uniting the scattered metal tribes and forging a new local alliance of domination that will strike fear into the hearts of venue bookers everywhere.

Santa Cruz black metal trio Fell Voices kicked off the night with a short set of atmospheric intonations that sounded like the "Mordor Party Mix" on Lord Sauron's iPod. The feisty young crew revels in moody, orchestral soundscapes that, if pared with a few cellos and violins, might be welcome in any symphony hall that was OK with scaring the bejesus out of its audience. Though having rocked together for only about a year, Fell Voices has already released a limited cassette tape album and is currently working on a vinyl LP slated for completion this spring. Frontman Michael Rekevics caught up with Mūz from his recording dungeon somewhere in the twisting nether.

"It's a struggle to find venues in Santa Cruz that allow loud music," he said. "I think the metal scene in town is pretty much nonexistent. But being an outcast is kind of part of being into metal. There are all kinds of albums being made by alienated weirdoes and it's great. I really hope we can work with more bands and organize something that lasts."

San Jose speed metal squad Lacerated took the stage (or should I say the corner of the room) next, and the mood quickly changed from slow, morbid decay to fast, gory slaughter. With blistering blast beats and wicked chord thrashings, the group, whose name is a medical term for a tear or rip in the flesh, gave audience members a chance to loosen up their neck muscles for a night of self-induced whiplash that was just getting started.

As Lacerated's victims recovered, SC's favorite storage room rockers, Fiends at Feast, stepped up for their headlining spot. Bringing all the brutal chaos that Lacerated supplied plus a hefty dose of virtuoso guitar work, the Fiends in no time flat had every noggin in the room slamming to and fro. Like Fell Voices, Fiends at Feast is a fledgling band that's struggling to make it in the reggae- and folk-soaked Santa Cruz music scene. After shredding his guitar's fret board into tiny hot embers in a performance that saw the packed room beg for an encore, Sammer abu Alragheb told Mūz that despite the adversity he's faced while trying to get gigs, he's committed to resurrecting the local metal scene into something Santa Cruzans can be proud of--even if they can't tell their mothers about it.

"I'm just trying just to get my band playing as many shows as possible right now," he said. "A lot times it seems like venues don't care unless they already know who you are, though. I've left like five messages with the Catalyst, and nothing. ... But I'll keep at it. What else can I do?"

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