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03.19.08

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Mūz

Metal nostalgia band Archer rocks Henfling's to within inches of its life.

By GARRETT WHEELER


BULL'S-EYE
"These guys were born 20 years too late." The comment comes from my friend, his observation aimed at the night's headliner, the heavy-metal trio Archer. In some ways, he's absolutely right--Archer would be more at home in some sweaty Midwestern bar circa 1986 than at Henfling's. After all, the glory days of heavy metal were dead and gone by the time Metallica's self-titled chart-topper hit the shelves in 1991. But too late? I'm not so sure. I, for one, am rarely opposed to throwback movements of any kind, and certainly revisiting a genre characterized by a combination force of excessive speed and volume can't be a dull enterprise. Besides, any guy who can still look cool in leather pants and shoulder-length hair (i.e., frontman Dylan) deserves serious props. The band's sound overtly recalls classic thrash metal, though there's nothing that would bar general hard-rock fans from appreciating it. To be sure, any guitar lover will be amazed by Dylan's instrumental ferocity; the guy is gnarlier than a Mavericks closeout and just as powerful. His weapons include squealing harmonics, lightning-fast speed-runs and crunching power riffs, not to mention the gravely vocal chords that are a requisite for any respectable heavy-metal crooning.

Archer's set included a solid batch of original numbers, interspersed with fan-pleasing covers that included the other Dylan's "Knockin' on Heaven's Door" and Ozzie's "Mr. Crowley." Structurally, the original songs were about as solid as the 100-year-old redwoods that surround the Ben Lomond tavern, and the performance side of things was just as uncompromising. Wild headbanging was in full effect thanks to Dylan's flowing locks, while he and bassist Isaiah occasionally teamed up for some classic stage maneuvers like the back-to-back shred and the kneeling guitar solo. If there was anything to criticize, it was the apparent inexperience of the drummer, but given it was only his second gig with the band, he did a pretty good job keeping up. As obvious masters of a resurfacing genre (see Wolfmother and The Sword), Archer could realistically incite the attention of a major record label and subsequently become objects of a renewed interest in classic metal.

TRIBUTARIES
Saturday night found the Mūz crew at Ben Lomond's famed biker bar once again, this time to check out classic-rock outfit Superior Olive. Having done a quick background check on the band's MySpace page, I was confident I'd hear some fresh takes on '60s-style rock, with maybe a cover or two thrown in the mix. Boy, was I wrong. By the fifth consecutive cover song it became evident that the opposite would be true. Instead of a set of originals, I was greeted with a full-on tribute hour. But that didn't stop the few dozen crowd members from getting down on the dance floor, and everyone seemed delighted to hear the timeless refrains of Steppenwolf's "Born to Be Wild" and Tom Petty's "American Girl." But I wasn't satisfied until someone requested the song advertised on Superior Olive's promo poster as a " No. 1 radio hit," "So Deep Within You." The catchy blues-based affair proved Tom Savell and his group have a definite knack for songwriting, if only for a fleeting moment. As soon as the song was over, it was back to tribute time, but hey, nobody else seemed disappointed.


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